The International Cup at Cork Regatta 1902 – The Two Poem Regatta

The Berlin Crew
The Berlin Crew. Photo: The Tatler, 6 August 1902

Greg Denieffe writes:

In my earlier HTBS posts of 17 May 2011 and 24 January 2013, I mentioned Leander Club’s win in The International Cup at Cork Regatta of 1902. In celebration of the Coronation of King Edward VII and the Cork International Exhibition of 1902, a 3½ ft. trophy valued at £250 (or £400 if Georgina O’Brien is to be believed – see below), which had been paid for by public subscription and presented by Lord O’Brien, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, was offered for competition at Cork Regatta that year. Eight top Irish crews were challenged by Leander Club, Emmanuel College (Cambridge), University College (Oxford) and Magdalen College (Oxford) as well as Berliner Ruder Club – Leander defeating the Germans in the final.

In 1916, The Reminiscences of The Right Hon. Lord O’Brien (of Kilfenora) Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, which was ‘Edited by his daughter Hon. Georgina O’Brien’ was published in London by Edward Arnold and in New York by Longmans, Green and Co. The book primarily deals with his life in the legal profession as a lawyer and judge in pre-independent Ireland. His nick-name was ‘Peter the Packer’, due to the skill he had shown as Attorney-General in securing ‘packed’ juries. There is a short chapter in the book about his contribution to the International Boat Race, namely securing the finance for the cup and which I reproduce in full below, together with the poem referred to at the end of the chapter.

Chapter XXVII – The International Boat Race:

It was due to my father’s efforts that the International Boat Race took place in July, 1902, on the River Lee, when a cup was competed for, the value of which was some four hundred pounds. The entry for this International Cup was larger than the entry for the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley. The Leander Club was the first to declare that it would send a crew to compete upon the Lee; Oxford sent two crews, and Cambridge one from Emmanuel College; Ireland entered eight of her best crews; and Germany sent one from Berlin. This sporting event was the most interesting that ever took place on Irish waters, and was witnessed by an enormous concourse of people, the crowd covering the two miles of thoroughfare on both sides of the Lee. Every shop in Cork was closed, and the weather, strange to say, behaved so admirable that the beautiful river was without a ripple. Bunting displayed itself gaily, while pleasure-boats were decorated with the colours of the various rowing clubs, the rose-red of the Leander Club being everywhere conspicuous. Cork is proverbially hospitable, and each and all vied in entertaining and accommodating the various crews.

My father threw himself heart and soul into making the race a success; it was characteristic of him to be very eager about anything in which he was interested. I hope he wished as ardently as I did that an Irish club would win. At one moment Germany seemed likely to carry off the trophy; there was a moment of breathless tension when the German crew led by a length; then the Leander caught them up, and they rowed neck too neck for about three yards [sic] the Leander finally winning by one length. A storm of deafening cheers greeted this most exciting finish.

“I had no idea a boat race could be so thrilling,” said a racing man when the race was over. “Just think – I, who have kept race-horses all my life and bet largely, could have had just the same excitement without expense.”

Lady Bandon presented the cup to the victors. My father was greatly pleased at the success of the regatta, and at the orderly bearing of the vast assemblage. He always had an affection for Cork, the scene of his early triumphs at the Bar. The boat race attracted a great crowd, and as it took place during the Cork Exhibition, did much to increase the success of that enterprise.

When the race was first suggested, many persons threw cold water on the idea. “You will never get Irishmen to pull together, not even in a boat,” was the remark made to my father over and over again. But he understood the Irish character, and the only reply he vouchsafed was, “Won’t I? We shall see. Who are the critics? Those who have failed in life.”

He was lucky in having the assistance of Mr. H. G. Gold, and of that athlete and man of letters Mr. R. C. Lehmann. Both these gentlemen acted as umpires, and my father’s many friends helped him, with their subscriptions, to provide the cup. One friend, whom he met in the Kildare Street Club, when asked for a subscription, wrote the following amusing parody on Prout’s well-known poem:

“O the groves of Blarney!
They are so charming
Around the Rock of
Sweet Cajolery!
Whence that noble Scion,
The Lord O’Brien,
In old Kildare Street
Came down on me,

“With his high Mandamus,
(For his word that same is)
Pay those two guineas I’ve
Assessed on thee
For my noble muster
That’s to add new lustre
To the pleasant waters
Of the River Lee.’

“Oh, Cam and Isis
Have their great Boat prizes,
But when next Summer ends
Where shall these be?
When their ancient story
Must yield its glory
To the glorious waters
Of the River Lee!

“When all Erin’s Island –
Town, plain and highland –
Shall joyful gather round Our ‘Chief’ from Clare,
Clan of Kinkora
From Kilfenora,
As he lifts his ‘Loving Cup’
Resplendent there.”

A print depicting Berliner Ruder-Club in 1885
A print depicting Berliner Ruder-Club in 1885.

The crew beaten by Leander in the final is referred to as ‘The Berlin Crew’ in The Tatler (see photo above) and in T. F. Hall’s History of Boat-Racing in Ireland (1939). The crew was in fact entirely from Berlin Rowing Club (Berliner Ruder-Club), whose racing colours according to the programme for the 1902 regatta are given as ‘White, Red, Star on Back’. The Germans were a very powerful crew but rowed in a peculiar style, reaching little beyond the perpendicular and swinging back very far, so that, at the finish of the stroke they were almost in a reclining attitude. However, they were well together and capable of rowing a fast stroke (Hall). In their first race they beat Newry Rowing Club and Magdalen College, Oxford. The following day, City of Derry Boating Club and Shannon Rowing Club (Limerick) provided the opposition; Berlin overrating them both, won through to the final to face Leander Club for the right to claim the ‘Lord O’Brien Cup’ as it was sometimes called.

The International Cup 1902 Cork Regatta
The International Cup 1902 Cork Regatta. Photo from The Brilliants – A History of Leander Club.

In the final Berlin started strongly and lead Leander by half-a-length at the half-mile and by a full length at the mile post. At the half-distance, Leander had drawn level and their long, steady swing and quick, firm beginning soon began to tell. The Germans’ swing back took its toll and affected their pace and Leander once ahead was never troubled, winning by two lengths, the time of 11 minutes 11½ seconds was faster than any of the previous heats (Georgina O’Brien was generous to Berlin in her account of the race). Watch a video of the final stages here.

The Berlin Ruder-Club crew was: W. Pagles (Bow), H. Miaskonski II (2), F. Scheibert (3), E. Giese (4), F. Hemme I (5), F. A. Hemme II (6), Martin Spremberg (7), E. Miasconski I (Stk) and Paul Gries (Cox).

Berliner Ruder-Club was founded in 1880 on the River Spree, having split from an existing club, Berliner Ruderverein von 1876. In 1908, they moved to the Little Wannsee on the River Havel in south-west Berlin. In 1972, the Berliner Ruder-Club and Berliner Ruderverein von 1876 were reunited as a single club.

A detail from print depicting Berliner Ruder-Club in 1885
A detail from print depicting Berliner Ruder-Club in 1885.

In the print above, the club emblem of the ‘star’ and the year of foundation, 1880, are prominent, as they are in the book published in 1905 to celebrate the clubs 25th anniversary. If you have 120 Euro to spare, you can purchase a copy here and perhaps let HTBS know if the 1902 race gets a mention.

Fünfundzwanzig Jahre Unter den roten Stern
Fünfundzwanzig Jahre Unter den roten Stern. Festschrift zur Jubelfeier des Berliner Ruder-Club 1880-1905 (Twenty-five years under the Red Star. Publication for Jubilee of the Berlin Rowing Club 1880-1905).

The victorious Leander crew, seen below carrying their boat in after a spin at Henley Royal Regatta the same year was: T. B. Etherington Smith (bow), D. Milburn (2), J Younger (3), A. de L. Young (4), C. D. Burnell (5), F. W. Warre (6), C. K. Phillips (7), G. C. Drinkwater (stk) and G. S. Maclagan (cox).

Photo – The Tattler - 9 July 1902
Photo – The Tatler – 9 July 1902.

After the regatta the following poem by “TIS” was published in Punch magazine. With great skill “TIS” managed to squeeze ‘Pether’ and ‘packed’ into the first verse in reference to O’Brien’s famous moniker:

There was Lord O’Brien,
That Four Courts lion,
Says he : “You must enter, you must,” he says,
He’s the boy to coax
Wid his stories and jokes,
Old Pether, the Lord Chief Justice, is
And, upon my soul;
He’s bought them a bowl
Subscribed by a mighty fine gentry list
And he wheedled the crews
Till they couldn’t refuse
And packed them into the entry list.

Leander came
Wid their roll of fame
But Henley had made them look crazy now
Wid their caps of pink
They could make you blink
And their cox saying “Arrah, be aisy now.”
They were cheerful and gay
In their English way
And they never looked to be troublin’, boys,
Till they caught a sight
Of the black and white
Of the Trinity College, Dublin, boys.

The Ruderverein
Looked mighty fine,
And, oh, but it’s confident still I am
That they’ll make us blow
When they start to row
These lads of the Emperor William.
They smoked no pipes
But they drank their swipes
And they ate their mutton and chicken up,
And donner and blitz,
They gave us fits
Wid their German moustaches stickin’ up!

Emmanuel too
Looked neat and new
From the banks of the Cam, where the willows are,
They had travelled to see The River Lee
Where the currents and tides and billows are.
There were Oxford blues
In their College crews
And they didn’t mean to be dawdlin’ there,
In the head of the Isis,
Dressed up nice
And the scarlet College of Magdalen there.

From the South and the North
Of the Isle came forth,
The Irishmen, full of devilry,
They were broths of boys
For the fun and noise,
And good at rowing and revelry.
And when they had done
There was one crew won,
And eight of the rowers were frisky there,
But none of the rest
Looked much depressed
For they knew there was plenty of whiskey there!

The Leander Trophy for senior eights at Cork Regatta
The Leander Trophy for senior eights at Cork Regatta. Photo from The Brilliants – A History of Leander Club.

For sure, Leander Club and the other English crews enjoyed the whiskey, and perhaps even the local beers, like Murphy’s and Beamish. They enjoyed the hospitality of the locals so much that they joined together to present a trophy to the Cork Regatta Committee as a permanent mark of their appreciation. As they were all members of the College Boat Clubs of Oxford and Cambridge, the presentation was made through Leander, from whom the trophy took its name.

Illustration of the central grounds of the Cork International Exhibition, 1902
Illustration of the central grounds of the Cork International Exhibition, 1902.

The Berliners no doubt drowned their sorrows and maybe, just maybe, indulged in a little ‘boatsing’ about which my HTBS colleague Tim Koch will have more tomorrow.


  1. Interesting that the five-man in the Leander crew was Charles Burnell, father of “Dickie”, the only father-son Olympic gold medallists.

    What happened to the cup, I wonder.

    • Thanks for your comment Henry. The cup is on display in the dining room in Leander Club along with another one they won in Cork in 1903 – Cork Regatta Committee tried to recreate the event of the previous year but it was not as successful in attracting entries – with Leander, winners of Grand at Henley beating Dublin University, who had won the Thames Cup.

      Nice photo here:

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