Buggy Jerwood: Ideals of English Gentlemanliness

Thomas Merton. Photo: Wikipedia.

HTBS received a nice e-mail yesterday from Meredith Alcock of ZLAC Rowing Club (San Diego). She writes, “I follow your blog and enjoy it very much. My husband Robert came across something interesting recently I thought I would pass along. He is reading Thomas Merton for Lent and wrote up this summary and quote for me, possibly for you to use…”

Thomas Merton attended the English public school Oakham, in the town of the same name located in the county of Rutland in the central England and which Merton described as so obscure that “there were not even any main roads or main railway lines running through Rutland”. The school was founded in 1584 and Merton attended from 1929 to 1932 when he went up to Clare College, Cambridge.

Merton did not row at Oakham, and only briefly at Clare and Columbia, however he left a vivid image of the mania for rowing that one can develop in his description of the chaplain at Oakham during his time there. Merton writes,

Buggy Jerwood, the school chaplain, tried to teach us trigonometry. With me, he failed. Sometimes he would try to teach us something about religion. But in this he also failed.

In any case, his religious teaching consisted mostly in more or less vague ethical remarks, an obscure mixture of ideals of English gentlemanliness and his favorite notions of personal hygiene. Everybody knew that his class was liable to degenerate into a demonstration of some practical points about rowing, with Buggy sitting on the table and showing us how to pull an oar.

There was no rowing at Oakham, since there was no water. But the chaplain had been a rowing “blue” at Cambridge, in his time. He was a tall, powerful, handsome man, with hair greying at the temples, and a big English chin, and a broad, uncreased brow, with sentences like “I stand for fair-play and good sportsmanship” written all over it.

From Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain (Fiftieth Anniversary edition, Chapter Three)

Information on Jerwood, who was bow in the winning Cambridge boat in The Boat Race in 1908 and won a bronze medal rowing for Great Britain in the Olympics that year, is here.

Cambridge crew of 1908, winner of The Boat Race, Olympic Bronze Medallists. In bow, Frank Jerwood.

Warm thanks to Meredith and Robert for passing along this interesting piece of rowing history! More information about the 1908 Cambridge crew can be found here.

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