Greg Denieffe: Bedford School B.C. v Shrewsbury School B.C., Part 2

Greg Denieffe continues here his story about Jack Beresford and Bedford School:

Bedford School, founded in 1552, and their annual race against Shrewsbury School mentioned in yesterday’s HTBS post was celebrated in verse and published in the School Journal, The Ousel. It followed their victory in 1915 by 3½ lengths. The programme for the 1916 race, in which Jack Beresford had stroked Bedford to victory by 8½ seconds, had the results of previous races between the schools printed on the back page. The first race, in fours, was in 1895 and the 1897 race was the first in eights. The 1915 victory was therefore achieved in the school’s 364th year (CCCLXIIII).

The 1919 publication Annals of Public School Rowing (1919) included the results, updated to for the races from 1916 to publication. In 1918, the schools met again over a part of the Henley course. This race also included Eton College, who won by a fifth of a length with Bedford finishing second, four-fifths of a length ahead of Shrewsbury.

There was no private race between the schools in 1919, but they met in the final of the Elsenham Cup at the Henley Peace Regatta. The qualification for which was similar to the Ladies’ Challenge Plate, being open to schools and universities. They both had beaten three college crews on the way to the final which Shrewsbury won by 1¼ lengths. Rowing at ‘four’ in the winning Shrewsbury crew was A. C. (Sandy) Irvine, who was a member of the Oxford Boat Race crews in 1922 and 1923, winning in 1923, the only occasion upon which Oxford did so between 1913 and 1937. He is most famous for being part of the 1924 British Mount Everest Expedition in which both he and George Mallory lost their lives. Julie Summers, who wrote the 2012 Shire publication Rowing in Britain, also wrote Fearless on Everest: The Quest for Sandy Irvine (2000).

Bedford versus Shrewsbury
(With apologies to Lord Macaulay)

[A lay sung at the meeting of Shrewsbury and Bedford, at the Summer Solstice, in the year
Of the School CCCLXIIII.]

Ho! Umpire, sound your trumpet,
  Ho! Third VIII, clear the way!
The boats will ride in all their pride
  along the course to-day.
To-day our School and Shrewsbury
  Will race to win renown
from the rushes near the Main Bridge
  to the island by the town.

Each man is robed in colours,
  the colours of his team;
the gallant light-ship under each
  floats proudly on the stream.
While flows our muddy river,
  while stands our old Cleat Hill,
the Great Race versus Shrewsbury
  shall have such honour still.
Gay is a cricket House match:
  a Dulwich match is gay:
but the proud day, when the light-ships sway
  shall be our greatest day.

“Hear,” said the Irish starter,
  “I will say, ‘will you go,’
and if you are not ready
  hands up – or else say ‘no’;
but if I get no answer
  of course you’ll start away.”
All happened quite serenely
  and the best crew drew away.

Of course, that crew was Bedford,
  with three strokes we’re ahead;
quite easily we held them,
  and all their hope is fled.
They raced us to the Town Bridge,
   but after they were ‘done,’
and Bedford did but paddle,
  for the race was almost won.

The Bedford cox quite neatly
  gave Shrewsbury all the wash,
and near the Locks they spurted:
  a “Tommie” said “By gosh,
Oi wish I’d backed ‘em sonny,
  but now my ‘bob’ is ‘losh.’”

Oh, Bedford finished nicely
  three and a half ahead.
They were not pumped like Shrewsbury,
  And now enough’s been said.

Part 3 will be posted tomorrow!

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