Colonel F. C. Ricardo was Toad?

Colonel F. C. Ricardo coaching on horseback at Henley.

Almost two weeks ago, Tim Koch wrote about coaching crews on the Isis and Cam from horseback.

In my little collection of rowing memorabilia, I have a page from The Sketch of 5 July, 1899, with a photograph of a coach training a crew at Henley from horseback and with a megaphone. Below the photograph it says “Colonel Ricardo coaching the St. George Hospital Four”. I have to confess that I have not heard about a ‘Colonel Ricardo’, so I started a little investigation about this man. Here is what I found:

Francis Cecil Ricardo was born on 3 July 1852 in London and died on 17 June 1924 at his house Lullebrook Manor, Cookham, Berkshire. He was the son of Percy Ricardo (1820-1892) and his wife Matilda Hensley (who died in 1880). Francis Cecil – who was called Cecil by his friends, but in later writing about him as an oarsman and officer was called ‘F. Ricardo’ or ‘F.C. Ricardo’ – studied at Eton where he rowed. He was in the Eton crews that won the Ladies’ Challenge Plate at Henley in 1869 and 1870. In 1870 and 1871, Francis Cecil was Captain of the Boats and Keeper of the Field, the latter in non-Etonian language: Captain of the Field Game. In 1872, he joined the Grenadier Guards, where his older brother, Horace, was an officer. Horace, too, had studied and rowed at Eton and would also reach the rank of Colonel. While in the Grenadier Guards, Francis Cecil continued to row and joined Leander Club, according to his obituary in The Times. He married Marie Annie ‘May’, nee Littlefield, (who died in 1907).

In the 16 January, 1907, The Bystandard had an article about a fire in Colonel Ricardo’s house, The Elm.

In Rudie Lehmann’s The Complete Oarsman (1908), W. H. ‘Piggy’ Eyre writes that in 1877 he rowed in a Thames RC’s eight which beat a ‘strong but not half fit Guards eight […] stroked by F. C. Ricardo.’ This was actually the first heat of the Grand Challenge Cup at the 1877 Henley Royal Regatta. Looking into the Henley record books, in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guard’s crew was two Lieutenant Colonels at bow and 7, four Captains in 2, 3, 4 and 5 seat, and three Lieutenants at 6, stroke (Ricardo) and the cox. ‘The Guard crew led for a short distance, but were caught before reaching Remenham. At Fawley Thames led by half a length, clear below the Point, and won by a length and a half. Time 7 min. 37 sec.’ Piggy Eyre was in 7 seat in the Thames crew which in the final lost to London RC.

In the Ricardo’s obituary, published in The Times on 19 June, 1924, it states that: ‘Colonel Ricardo was active and generous in the service of his neighbours. He gave a parish hall, and was a great patron of Cookham and other regattas. During the war he was acting Chief Constable of Berkshire, and received the C.B.E. in 1920. He was made C.V.O. in 1902.’

There is an entry on Wikipedia about Ricardo where it states that he became the inspiration for Toad of Toad Hall in Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, who also lived in Cookham – remember Toad was a sculler in Grahame’s book, although not very successful one. Like Toad, Ricardo drove round the village in a yellow Rolls-Royce and would offer lifts to any residents he saw.

According to this blog both Toad and Colonel Ricardo were driving a yellow Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

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