Easy To Pick A Crew

The London RC’s eight competing on the Yarra River, Melbourne, in 1934. The crew, who was racing in the Grand Challenge Cup in the Australian Henley, had Dermot St John Gogarty as coach. Gogarty also raced on the Yarra, but when he was in the lead, his shell sunk. The photograph is from Chris Dodd’s book about the London RC, Water Boiling Aft.

In yesterday’s entry on HTBS, Tim Koch wrote about Dermot St John Gogarty’s homage to Rudyard Kipling and his poem “If”. Tim asks for more information about Gogarty. In a comment the same day, Greg Denieffe gives some information about Gogarty. Greg replied that Gogarty was “born in 1908, […] the second son of Oliver St. John Gogarty, the Irish poet, author & Senator (Wikipedia has a good entry on him). Dermot was a well known architect who went to Pembroke College, Cambridge and was a rowing coach at University College, Dublin. He coached their maiden eight in 1933 to wins at Bann and Derry.” Greg also writes that it would be nice with some more information on his rowing connections at Pembroke and UCD.

I am happy to report that I have found some additional information about Dermot St John Gogarty and his rowing and coaching career.

After leaving Pembroke College, Gogarty joined the London Rowing Club and rowed in two Grand races in 1931 and 1932, winning the Cup in 1931. In Chris Dodd’s eminent Water Boiling Aft: London Rowing Club The First 150 Years, 1856-2006 (2006) it states that “The 1930s was a golden age for London at Henley, and a decade marked by expeditions to Paris, Copenhagen, Denmark, Portugal and Australia.” In 1934, for the centenary regatta of Henley-on-Yarra, Melbourne, London RC received an invitation and decided to go. With Gogarty as coach, seven oarsmen plus the cox boarded the Ormonde which set sail for Australia. The eighth oarsman, Donald Wilson, an Australian, was already in Australia and was ordered to get fit.

Dodd tells an entertaining story about the Londoners’ voyage to Australia in his book. On the web, I actually also found an article about Gogarty, published in the Melbourne’ newspaper The Argus on Saturday, 13 October 1934. Under a head-line that reads: “Easy to Pick a Crew” –

“Take four Loyalists, add four Republicans, and you will have the ideal rowing eight. Mr. Dermot St. John Gogarty, coach of the London Rowing Club, comes from Dublin, and the “recipe” is his. “You put the Loyalists on one side of the boat, the Republicans on the other, and the result is a tough crew,” he explains. It is not so easy to select an English eight. Mr. Gogarth did some hard thinking on the way out to Australia. One day – it was in the Indian Ocean – he had an inspiration. It dawned upon him that he had two Australians in the crew. By seating them on one side of the boat it was easy to fix the rest of the crew.

“Gogarty entered Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1927, and obtained a diploma in architecture four years later. He did a great deal of rowing, and although selected in trail crews for Cambridge, he never obtained a seat. As a member of the London club, he rowed in the 1931 and 1932 Grand Challenge Cup races at Royal Henley, being successful in the 1931 eight. For the last Royal Henley, he coached Trinity College, Dublin, for the Ladies’ Challenge Plate, and the crew was defeated in the final by only 3ft. in record time for the race.

“Mr. Gogarth is a keen fisherman, particularly for trout. He will be sculling at Henley in the Yarra Challenge Cup race.”

One thing differs from the information in Dodd’s book and the newspaper article: Dodd has it that only Wilson was Australian, while the article says Gogarty had two Australians in his crew.

So, how did the English oarsmen do ‘down under’? In the Grand Challenge Cup, London beat the Hawthorn Rowing Club in their first heat, Richmond Rowing Club in the semifinal, and won by four lengths over Wanganui of New Zealand in the final. And how did Coach Gogarty do in the sculls? Dodd writes, Gogarty “met with disaster in the first heat when his boat suddenly broke in half when he was in the lead”. Dodd continues to write, “A week later, London won the seven-abreast two-and-a-half mile Victoria State Championships by thirteen lengths in 14 minutes 20 seconds. Second-placed Melbourne University were awarded the state title.”

Some questions remains, though, Gogarty’s rowing connections at Pembroke and UCD, and did he write any more rowing poems?

One comment

  1. Nice work Göran!

    The spelling of Gogarty’s forename is given as “Dermot” in 'St. Patrick's Blue and Saffron, a miscellany of UCD Sport since 1895' by Prof. Patrick N. Meenan. This is where the snippet about his coaching UCD Boat Club comes from. 'The Argus' uses the same spelling and I think Chris Dodd also uses 'Dermot' in “Boating”. The quote on how to select a tough eight does not surprise me given his father's political stance.

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