HTBS’s Greg Denieffe writes:
On 6 September 2012, Göran Buckhorn wrote about the rowing events at the British Empire Games of 1950 held in Auckland, New Zealand. In 1954, the Games were renamed the ‘British Empire and Commonwealth Games’ and were held in Vancouver, Canada. Rowing was included in the programme, as it was in the 1958 Games that were held in Cardiff, Wales. The rowing in 1958 was held on Llyn (Lake) Padarn in Snowdonia, Gwynedd, North Wales, where the necessary stretch of water – 2,000 metres long with four lanes – was available. The decision to award the Games to Wales gave the Welsh rowing clubs the impetus to form the Welsh National Rowing Club whose main object was ‘to sponsor Welsh entries in international events and regattas’.
Railway poster for the 1958 British Empire & Commonwealth Games.
A fortuitous draw in the eights event of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at those Games in 1958 was thought to be something to be continued and in 1962 the first Home Countries International Match was held, as part of the Serpentine Regatta. At the time the News of the World sponsored a sprint regatta on the Serpentine in Hyde Park, London and from 1962 to 1964 this included a four countries International for men in eights, fours, sculls and a relay race. Unfortunately, sponsorship was dropped, and the regatta ceased. The Welsh National Rowing Club was keen to revive it and challenged England, Scotland and Ireland to compete at Monmouth on the River Wye in 1966. Only Scotland accepted and the following year they hosted the event at Loch Lomond over 2,000-metre course when all four countries participated once again and the series as we know it today truly began. A team event for juniors was added to the programme and Ireland won both this and the men’s match.
Enamel badge for an Official at the ‘News of the World Tenth Serpentine Regatta’, 1962 which incorporated the first Home International.
In 1968, Ireland hosted the event for the first time in Blessington. England, by far the strongest of the participants, won both matches. In 1970, a women’s match was introduced when England was the host and Molesey the venue; the host duly winning all three matches. The venue continues to rotate annually between the four nations.
Races for junior women were introduced gradually between 1982 and 1984 (the first official junior women’s match) and since then all four matches have been held annually apart from 1986 and 1994 when only the junior matches were contested.
Over the years household names in rowing began their international careers in the Home Internationals. Steve Redgrave, Peter Haining and Sean Drea all took their first international strokes for England, Scotland and Ireland respectively at the ‘Quadrangular’.
Essentially the Home International is made up of four team competitions for senior men, senior women, junior men and junior women. The winners of each race are awarded medals and four points towards the team event. The runners up in each race get three points followed by two points for third and one point for fourth. The team with the most points in each of the four matches is Home International Champions and awarded the following trophies; senior men, The News of the World Cup; senior women, The County of Renfrew Rosebowl; junior men, The Duncan Trophy and junior women, The Irish Travel Agency Cup.
The statistics bear out England’s superiority in the senior events but they have not had it all their own way in the junior events. Following the 2012 regatta the overall match results are as follows:
Senior Men 48 matches: England 32, Scotland 8, Ireland 7, Wales 1.
Senior Women 42 matches: England 32, Ireland 7, Scotland 3, Wales 0.
Junior Men 46 matches: England 27½, Ireland 16½, Scotland 1, Wales 1. (England & Ireland shared the 1999 match)
Junior Women 29 matches: Ireland 13, England 9½, Scotland 6½, Wales 0. (England & Scotland shared the 2005 match)
The 2012 regatta was held over a 1,500-metre course in Cardiff Bay, Wales, and the host nation made it a memorable one winning their first senior match with 36 points with England second on 25 points. England won the three other matches with Ireland runners-up in both senior and junior women’s matches and Wales taking the runners-up spot in the junior men’s match. The full results of this year’s event can be found here.
On the left: Winner’s medal from the 2012 regatta. Photo, Kevin Coughlan (Ireland Senior Men’s 4x).
There has been one exception to the above arrangements. In 1999, The Irish Amateur Rowing Union (now Rowing Ireland) celebrated their centenary and over three weekends in July, held a national and international festival of rowing consisting of the National Centenary Rowing Championships followed by the Home International and finishing with the Coup de la Jeunesse (European Junior Championships). Belgium was invited to take part in the ‘Homes’ and the following year hosed the event in Ghent.
The HTBS entry of 21 April, 2012, mentions the 1989 Home International and has a photo of the crest used on the ties that the participants, coaches and team managers are entitled to wear. To read the entry, please click here.
Programme from the 1969 match held in Monmouth, Wales.
The 50th Anniversary Programme from 2012.
Winners ‘pot’ from the 1989 regatta. Photo, Dean Abraham (England, Junior Men’s 2-).
Serpentine Regatta 1962 – Bill Barry at the raft with Tom Peters, the Quintin and Polytechnic boatman.
The photograph above appeared, among other places, on the front cover of now defunct Rowing magazine of June 1964 with the caption ‘Tom Peters on the Serpentine Raft with British Amateur Champion W. L. Barry (Quintin B.C.)’, but was in fact taken at the Serpentine Regatta in August 1962, two years before Bill won the Wingfield Sculls. The regatta incorporated the Home Countries International, in which Bill triumphed for England as the single sculler. Photo and details from Quintin Boat Club can be found here.
There is a photograph of Ray Penney, England Team Manager, being presented with a trophy by Sir William Carr, for the International Match at the Open Sprint Championship Regatta, Serpentine, Hyde Park, London on the River and Rowing Museum online collection here.