‘Ducker’ McLean Wrote "Oarsmanship"

Thank God for HTBS’s readers! Through posting comments and sending us e-mails we here at HTBS know that there are actually readers out there who not only silently read the entries that we post, but also give us information when we might fail in our attempts to find the background to a story. Of course, this is what HTBS is all about, to entertain and educate as many people as possible in the noble history of boat-racing, rowing, and sculling.

Malcolm Cook, who has chipped in important information before, sent an e-mail yesterday saying that he had solved the mystery with the pamphlet Oarsmanship. The good Malcolm writes,

“I’ve managed to track down the author of your pamphlet on Oarsmanship. In your blog you quote the pamphlet’s opening paragraph. Thanks to Google, I’ve found that it’s also the opening of a section entitled “Oarsmanship” in the rowing article in The Encyclopaedia of Sport (published 1898). The author of that section is given as D.H. McLean. Wikipedia has a biography of him here.

The relevant volume of the Encyclopaedia can be downloaded or read online here.

The section on Oarsmanship starts on page 271.”

Brilliant information, Malcolm. Thank you!

About the author of Oarsmanship, we borrow from Wikipedia:

Douglas Hamilton McLean (18 March 1863 – 5 February 1901) was born in Sydney, Australia and was educated at Eton and rowed in the school’s eight that took the Ladies’ Plate at Henley in 1882. At Oxford, he rowed in the Blue boat between 1883 and 1887 (winning in 1883 and 1885). The 1887 Boat Race was a memorable one, McLean’s fellow crew member Guy Nickalls wrote in his memoirs Life’s a Pudding:

“Then, ‘Ducker’ McLean broke his oar off short at the button. With the station in our favour and him out of the boat we could have won even then, but ‘Ducker’ funked the oncoming penny steamers and, instead of jumping overboard as he should have done, we had to lug his now useless body along, to lose the finish.”

‘Ducker’ and his brother Hector won the University Pairs for New College in 1885 and the Silver Goblets at Henley. In 1886, they were overpowered in the Silver Goblets final by Stanley Muttlebury and Fraser Churchill. In 1898, ‘Ducker’ collaborated with William Grenfell, (1st Baron of Desborough) writing Rowing and Punting.

‘Ducker’ was also a keen cricket-player and a “fair shot”.

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