Men Of A Certain Breed

In the book Battle of the Blues (ed. Christopher Dodd & John Marks; 2004) the actor and comedian Hugh Laurie writes about his famous father, Ran Laurie, who rowed in three winning Boat Races for the Light Blues between 1934 and 1936, and took the Grand at Henley for Leander in 1934. Ran Laurie also stroked the British eight that took a fourth place in the eight at the Berlin Olympic Games. After World War II, in 1948, Ran Laurie and his rowing partner, Jack Wilson, both came back to England after a career in the Colonial Service in Sudan. They later that year took an Olympic gold medal in the pair at the Olympic rowing event in Henley-on-Thames.

Hugh Laurie writes in Battle of the Blues (p. 79),

“I have a picture over my desk of my father and Jack Wilson receiving their gold medal on the pontoon at Henley in 1948. Jack is loose-limbed and dashing, my father ramrod straight to attention. I think it describes the two of them very well – or perhaps each is describing a part of the other – for these were two really remarkable men. Tough, modest, generous and, I like to think, without the slightest thought of personal gain throughout their entire lives. A vanished breed, I honestly believe.”

Hugh Laurie also talks about his father on the British television-show Parkinson (this was before his “House” days…) how he did not know that his father, who clearly was a very modest man, was an Olympic rowing champion. So when his parents suggested that the three of them were to go on a fishing trip, with his father at the oars, young Laurie very skeptically asked his mother: “Does he know how to row?”

Hugh Laurie, who tried to follow in his father’s footsteps – or should I say wake – at the oars, confesses that he is ‘not made of the same stuff.’ My own father was not an oarsman, though he supported my Swedish rowing club, when I became a member. I came to think of my father earlier today. He and Ran Laurie were of the same generation, and I can only agree with Hugh Laurie, men of that generation were of a certain breed.

Here is a clip with Hugh Laurie on the Parkinson show:

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