The other day, Bernard Hempseed sent an e-mail in which he points me in direction of a short story written by Jeffrey Archer. Bernard writes, “It’s called ‘Dougie Mortimer’s Right Arm’ and is partially about The Boat Race and partially about an American at Cambridge who got his ‘blue’ in rowing. Not a bad story which is supposed to be based on fact.” Bernard continues, “despite [Archer] rather public fall from grace, it turns out a good story. He did a series of books of short stories and the one in question is called Twelve Red Herrings. You might be able to pick it up from your library.”
And, indeed, I did! Although, I have read a couple of Archer’s novels and some of his short stories, the one about ‘Dougie’s arm’ had totally escaped me. Archer and his works might not be up for the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he knows how to tell a good story, also in ‘Dougie’ Mortimer’s Right Arm’. You can read it by clicking here.
Of course, what triggered my curiosity after reading Archer’s story is what in this story is based on real facts? I looked into the history of The Boat Race at the time for Archer’s story, and there was a ‘Duggie’ (Douglas Cecil Rees Stuart of Trinity Hall; on the right) stroking the Light Blues in 1906, 1907, 1908, and 1909; being victories for three years, 1906-1908. According to all experts at the time, Cambridge was supposed to have won also in 1909, but that was the year Oxford had a new stroke, Robert ‘Bob’ Bourne, who would become one of Oxford’s and The Boat Race’s legendary strokes.
Duggie Stuart, who is said to have had terribly ‘ugly’ stroke – it was even named after him: ‘Stuart’s sculling style’ (and remember he was not sculling!) –, lived longer than 1914. I do not know when he died, though.
This seems to be an interesting topic for a paper or an essay: compare Jeffrey Archer’s fictional ‘Dougie’ with the Cambridge oar, Duggie.
See also HTBS 8 May, 2011!
Thank you, Bernard, for this thrilling topic!