HTBS Quiz: Stanley Bruce!

So, dear reader of HTBS, did you come up with the answer to rowing historian Tom Weil’s question which was posed on HTBS yesterday: “Which Prime Minister wrote a pamphlet on rowing technique?”


How many of you said: Viscount Stanley Melbourne Bruce, Prime Minister of Australia between 1923 and 1929? Yes, Bruce was the one! Anyone interested in Stanley Bruce (1883-1967) political career please click here.

The good Tom sends the following information about Bruce’s pamphlet: Rt. Hon. S.M. Bruce: Rowing – Notes On Coaching, London: Printed by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ltd., 1936. 24 pp. 8.75” Printed ivory paper wraps.

Tom has also compiled some more information from different sources about the content of the pamphlet: Bruce’s writes, “These notes were dictated in 1919 […] immediately after I had coached the Cambridge Crew for the King’s Cup at the Henley Peace Regatta.”

It seems that the pamphleteer, Tom’s message says, also dwells largely on elements of the stroke cycle, but includes thoughts on various challenges (“An Ordinary College Crew for Henley with about three weeks to practise”) and types of rowers (“The job with [a good stroke who is a bad oar] is to prevent [him] from rowing himself stupid instead of stroking his boat”).

Stanley Bruce was admitted to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and won the “Clinker Fours” in 1903 and did so well in the “Hall” boats that year, that he rowed in the winning Light Blue crew in 1904. The following year, he was captain for the boat club, and in 1906, Bruce coached the “Hall” eight that went for the Grand at Henley. He came back to coach in 1911 and, in the words of a contemporary paper, “improved the Trinity Hall crew out of recognition” [quote from A History of the Trinity Hall Boat Club (1930) by Henry Bond].

Tom writes that Bruce wrote Rowing – Notes On Coaching while serving as Her Majesty’s Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Bruce said the three things which pleased him most were his Cambridge Blue, his captaincy of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, and his fellowship of the Royal Society (1944).

The HTBS readers might wonder if I knew the answer to Tom’s question. The honest answer to that is: sort of… The only oarsman that I knew had become a Prime Minister was the “Hall’s” Stanley Bruce, which proved to be a good guess. However, I did not know that Bruce has written a rowing pamphlet. So, now the hunt is on to get hold of a copy of his Rowing – Notes On Coaching…

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