The gift of Mr. Thomas Doggett: Tim Koch on the 2013 ‘Coat & Badge’

A past winner of the Doggett’s stands guard at Fishmongers’ Hall.

In London on 1st August 1714 it was confidently proclaimed:


‘For ever’ is a long time but, nearly 300 years later, the Fishmongers’ Company announced in traditional style:

The names of the six young Watermen who are to row on Friday, 12th July 2013, in the 299th Race for the Livery and Badge provided yearly under the will of the late MR. THOMAS DOGGETT, a famous Comedian, in commemoration of the happy Accession of His Majesty, George I, to the Throne of Great Britain in 1714, are:

Samuel Metcalf, London RC. Colour: Royal Blue.
Charlie Maynard, Poplar, Blackwell and District RC. Colour: Orange.
Dominic Coughlin, Medway Towns RC. Colour: Yellow.
Nathaniel Brice, Poplar, Blackwell and District RC. Colour: Light Blue.
Stuart Coleman, Poplar, Blackwell and District RC. Colour: Green.
Henry McCartney, Poplar, Blackwell and District RC. Colour: Red.

In slightly more modern style, the boys’ details are on a TwitDoc and for the last three years the event has had a website.

Various ‘Fishmongers’ Halls’ have stood on this site next to various ‘London Bridges’ since 1434. The surrounding buildings are slightly newer. The Fishmongers’ have organised the race since Doggett’s death in 1721.

I have previously written about the history and organisation of this unique event in my reports on the 2010, 2011, and 2012 races. For those who have not heard of it, ‘Doggett’s’ is a single sculling race of 4.6 miles / 7400 metres on the River Thames, only open to those who have finished their apprenticeship to become Watermen in the preceding three years. Historically, qualified Watermen are the only people allowed to carry goods and passengers on the river. While the race is only open to certain members of the Watermen’s Company, for historical reasons it is organised by the Fishmongers’ Company.

In the marshalling area: Dominic Coughlin, Samuel Metcalf and Henry (Harry) McCarthy.

The 2013 race had a unique aspect in that it had a Royal visitor. Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal (formerly known as HRH, The Princess Anne) viewed the race from the umpire’s launch and afterwards met the competitors and visited Fishmongers’ Hall. The Princess is Queen Elizabeth’s second child and she is tenth in line of succession to the throne.

HRH, The Princess Royal is helped onto the umpire’s launch by Bobbie Prentice. As the Bargemaster of the Fishmongers’ Company, he umpires the race. He won Doggett’s in 1973.

The umpire’s launch with a Royal observer in the stern. The gentleman in the scarlet Coat and Badge is George Saunders who won the race in 1959.

There follows my report on the race, much of which I have shamelessly taken from the commentary provided by Gary Anness who won in 1982 (though any mistakes are mine). A map of the course is here.

At the Millennium Bridge. Left to right: Maynard, McCarthy, Metcalf, Brice and Coleman.

At the start there was some clashing of blades between McCarthy, Coleman and Brice, the people commentator Anness called ‘the race animals’. Between the first bridge, Southwark, and the second, Blackfriars, it was Coleman in the lead rating 32 followed closely by Brice and then McCarthy and Metcalf. As with other Doggett’s races that I have witnessed, steering was a major issue. To the concern of the umpire, Coleman was too close to the north shore and at Blackfriars Bridge three of the scullers unwisely cut the corner for the shortest route while the other three correctly went on the outside of the bend for the fastest water.

At Blackfriars Bridge: Metcalf, McCarthy and Brice.

Five minutes into the race, Coleman had a 2 1/2 length lead over Brice but soon spoilt this by again drifting back over to the north shore. At around seven and a half minutes into the race, Brice passed Coleman and the latter’s rate dropped. At this point McCarthy went after Brice.

Approaching Waterloo Bridge: McCarthy and Brice.

At the Golden Jubilee Bridges (Charing Cross) it was very close with Brice in the lead closely followed by McCarthy, Coleman and then Maynard. The leader started to relax at this point and sculled very well though McCarthy was obviously determined to continue his pursuit. At around eleven minutes and thirty seconds the scullers approached the half way mark just beyond Westminster Bridge and Brice (rating 28-30) and McCarthy had put a good distance between themselves and the others.

On the approach to Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament – McCarthy, Coleman and Brice.

Brice was perhaps three or four lengths up on the second-placed man McCarthy at Lambeth Bridge. Eight lengths behind them came Maynard and Coleman and the umpire over took them at Vauxhall Bridge, around seventeen minutes in. Commentator Anness held that between Vauxhall and Chelsea Bridges was the place to attack and that he had seen the race lead change hands many times along this stretch.

McCarthy feels the pain but keeps the work on as an in control Brice heads to the finish at Cadogan Pier by the Albert Bridge.

Despite McCarthy maintaining form and never giving up, a calm and efficient Brice kept a lead which varied between three and four lengths. This was maintained to the finish and Anness’s unofficial time was twenty-five minutes exactly.

The order of finish was Brice, McCarthy, Coleman, Maynard, Metcalf and Coughlin. Brice was a worthy winner but I confidently predict that McCarthy, in his first Doggett’s race today, will cross the line first in 2014 or 2015.

In a gesture typical of this race, McCarthy congratulates the winner Brice.

Nathaniel Brice, aged 24, of Poplar, Blackwell and District RC perhaps contemplates becoming the 299th winner of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge in this his third and final attempt.

Merlin Dwan (2012) and Chris Anness (2011) look on approvingly at the newest member of their very exclusive club.

After landing at Cadogan Pier and meeting the competitors, the Princes Royal went to Fishmongers’ Hall where, among other things, she witnessed an ergo race between two teams from London Youth Rowing.

The Princess Royal watches boys and girls from London Youth Rowing race each other on ergos.

Her Royal Highness seemed a little concerned with some of the noises emanating from the highly competitive young rowers. The brooch of crossed sculls that she is wearing is part of the prize for the Princess Royal Challenge Cup, the women’s open sculls race at Henley Royal Regatta. She did not win it but she did give permission for the event to be named after her.

Many years ago, an unknown waterman wrote this piece of dogrel:

Let your oars like lightning flog it,

Up the Thames as swiftly jog it,

An you’d win the Prize of Doggett
The glory of the River!

Bending, bowing, straining, rowing;

Perhaps the wind in fury blowing;

Or the tide against you flowing
The Coat and Badge for ever!

I was the pride of the Thames
My name was Natty Jerry
The best of smart and flashy dames,

I’ve carried in my Wherry.

In Coat and Badge so neat and spruce,

I rowed all blithe and merry,

And every Waterman did use

To call me Happy Jerry.

In 2013, Nathaniel Brice became the 299th ‘Happy Jerry’.

Twenty winners of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge 1868-1904.

© Photographs Tim Koch


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