Bill East: Doggett’s Winner, Professional Rower And Coach

1887 Doggett’s Coat and Badge winner Bill East in 1906. Photo: National Maritime Museum, London.

In yesterday’s entry, Bill East, the Doggett’s Coat and Badge winner who later became the King’s Bargemaster, was mentioned. I believe he is worthy of an HTBS entry of his own, so here we go:

William Giles East was born in 1866, and the legend says that he was born in his father’s boathouse at Putney, but he was actually born close to Lambert Pier in London. He spent his whole life on or by the Thames, and became a waterman’s apprentice in 1882, which was the year he won the Putney Badge. In 1887, Bill won the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race, and in 1891, he won the Sculling Championship of England. Seven years later, in 1898, he was appointed a waterman to the Queen. In June 1906, he became the King’s Bargemaster (although, an article, here, in the Black and White Budget of 28 September, 1901 claims that he was appointed ‘Royal Bargemaster’ that year). He also stroked in the winning Champion Fours in the National Regattas of 1890 and 1891, and also won the Champion Pairs.

Bill seems to have been a very popular person on the Thames and was early on connected to Cambridge University BC, as mentioned in yesterday’s entry about R.E. Swartwout, to train and coach the crews. In 1904, he published the ‘how-to’ book Rowing and Sculling. Later in life he also kept the Prince’s Head and then the Pigeon Hotel at Richmond. Bill East died in January 1933.

What is not that much known is that Bill East coached Trinity Hall’s famous rower and sculler, the American Benjamin Hunting Howell, to victories in the Wingfield Sculls in 1898 and 1899; the same years Howell also won the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley. Below is a wonderful picture of the two scullers from Howell’s private photo album, now kept in the NRF’s National Rowing Hall of Fame at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut.

Courtesy The National Rowing Foundation

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