Tim Koch writes:
People who are interested in history usually like the idea of continuity so it was with extra pleasure that I recently met Emma Beresford at the Auriol Kensington Rowing Club and took her for her first outing in a fine boat. The ‘continuity’ was because Emma is the great-granddaughter of Julius Beresford (1868 – 1959) who sculled at Kensington Rowing Club (KRC) from 1895 to 1905 (Auriol and Kensington amalgamated in 1981). We were in a double scull with me in the bow providing coaching, stability and steering. Emma proved to be ‘above average’ for a first outing and on our return journey I was confident enough in her abilities to stop ‘sitting the boat’ and join in sculling with her in a continuous piece from Barnes Bridge back to the Auriol Kensington Rowing Club at Hammersmith Bridge.
Great-grandfather Julius was also variously known as John Senior, Jack Senior, Berry, Old Berry or even (as a pun) Elder Berry, and HTBS has previously written about the family name “Wiszniewski’. He achieved many successes in the single during his Kensington years, winning at prestigious regattas such as the Metropolitan, Marlow, Reading, Kingston, Molesey and Staines. In 1903, he lost in the final of Henley’s Diamond Sculls to the great F.S. Kelly, but in 1904 he won the Championship of the Netherlands. In that year, he left KRC for Thames where he achieved a Silver medal in the coxed four at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and also three Henley medals. He became one of Thames’s greatest coaches and captains and under him the club won four Henley events in 1927 and again in 1928 (admittedly, it was also under Berry that Thames lost the great coach Steve Fairbairn to arch-rivals, London).
Whatever his successes at Putney, Beresford was always very complementary about Kensington. He wrote this in Rowing magazine in the 1950s:
I learned most of my rowing with the Kensington Rowing Club at Hammersmith. This was already quite an old club at the time and had some real good oarsmen….. Arthur Scudamore, a fine an oarsman as I have known…(But many KRC men) joined London, as it was difficult to get to Henley otherwise….
He was always polite about his reasons for leaving the Hammersmith club, saying that he wanted to row at Henley, ‘that Mecca of all rowing men’, in a crew boat but ‘so many of the Kensington fellows could not spare the time’. Presumably, he realised that as a 143 pound / 65 kg, 36-year-old he had gone as far as he was going to in the single. However, John Rogers, who was captain of KRC in the 1950s, says that Berry was keen to make Kensington a rival to Thames and London but received little support from the club. He bought them new ‘swivel rowlocks’ for the best boats but they went unused. At that time the Kensington did not have its own premises and he wanted to get a mortgage on ‘The Priory’, what is now the British Rowing offices at 6 Lower Mall, Hammersmith – but again received little backing from the club and so perhaps he left in frustration. Rogers also says that Beresford told him that the best crew he ever rowed in was a Kensington one. It is a nice thought but perhaps this was hyperbole (or flattery) on Berry’s part.
While Berry did great things as an oarsman, coach and captain, perhaps his biggest contribution to the sport of rowing was to father Emma’s grandfather, Jack (a.k.a. John) Beresford Junior (1899 – 1977), the greatest British oarsman of the pre-Redgrave era. He won five medals in five consecutive Olympic Games (three gold and two silver) and, rowing for Thames RC, he won nine Henley medals, the Wingfield Sculls seven times and held sculling’s ‘Triple Crown’ on three occasions.
So, for those who believe in ‘nature not nurture’, It is perhaps not surprising that a great-granddaughter of Old Berry and granddaughter of Jack Junior did so well in her first outing in a racing boat.