A Family Affair

[Information here given seems to be slightly wrong about the Silvester brothers and when they won their Doggett’s races, please see 12 October 2010 for corrections.] Here is a nice photograph from August 1932 when H.T. Silvester won the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race. He is seen in the middle, raising a jug, looking happy. To celebrate with him is his father, Henry ‘Harry’ Silvester (on the right), who won the race in 1905. The 1905 race seems to have been a fascinating one, according to contemporary reports. One account is given in T.A. Cook’s and Guy Nickalls’s Thomas Doggett Deceased – A Famous Comedian (1908; pp. 141-42), and it reads as follows:

“Henry Silvester, of Hammersmith, won Doggett’s Coat and Badge this year after one of the most interesting races ever seen for this historic trophy. He wore red colours, and drew the fifth station at the start. Among the spectators were members of the European Statistical Society, respresenting ten different nations, who were entertained to lunch in the Fishmongers’ Hall, and followed the race on board the steamer Queen Elizabeth, which started from the Old Swan Pier soon after two o’clock. Some delay was caused by a false start, but at length Pocock, the Company’s bargemaster, got them all away on a tide which was flowing up rather slowly. Silvester took the lead on the Surrey side, which proved a great advantage. He was followed across by all the others expect Moss of Bermondsey, who lost way by having to go round some barges. At Blackfriars, however, he was close to the leader, with Peasley of Richmond a good third, the rest distanced so far that the steamer had to wait, and interest centred in the fight for four place. Johnson of Lambeth overhauled Jones of Bankside, but could not catch Reuben Webb of Woolwich, who raced hard to keep him off past the terrace of the House of Commons, where a number of Members were looking on. Johnson was soon afterwards nearly upset by the wash of a steam tug, but struggled on and finished fourth, after beating Webb very gravely on the post. Silvester won fairly easily in 32 min. 8 seconds.”
The Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race must be the sporting event that has most fathers, sons, brothers, nephews competing for the same honour, truly keeping it a family affair.

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