Are You Related to Famous Oarsman Harry Clasper?

Famous oarsman and boat builder Harry Clasper.
Famous oarsman and boat builder Harry Clasper.

A press release came to the HTBS Headquarters. It reads:

Relatives of Harry Clasper, the famous North East rower, are being invited to a family re-union in South Shields to celebrate a play that commemorates the 170th anniversary of Harry and his brothers bringing the World Championship to the North East for the first time. It was a feat that Jarrow-raised Harry Clasper repeated a further eight times from 1845, making him the most famous rower in the world.

Dunston-born Harry was the man the Blaydon Races was written for and 130,000 people crowded the streets of Newcastle to pay their respects when he died in 1870, at age 58.

‘Hadaway Harry’, as he was nicknamed, will be the subject of a new play by North East playwright Ed Waugh, whose national and international hits, co-written with Trevor Wood, include Dirty Dusting, Waiting for Gateaux and Maggie’s End.

Waugh, who is responsible for writing the popular Laffalang and most recently The Accidental Activist, said: ‘This is an amazing story. As well as being a champion himself, Harry trained North East world champions and designed the boats still used in the Olympics and boat races today.’He continued: ‘I’ve had fantastic support from David Clasper, Harry’s great-great nephew, whose great-great uncle was the cox in the winning crew in June 1845 and who has written two books about Harry.’

‘Rowing was the mass sport of the working class before football, and the Tynesiders beating the “unbeatable” Thamesmen caused a national sensation.’

Harry Clasper, a former Durham miner, was one of 14 children and, in turn, had 12 children himself. Members of the Clasper family from all over the UK are coming to see Hadaway Harry.

Ed Waugh

Ed Waugh added: ‘I keep getting approached by people who are either related to Harry or who know people related to Harry and we thought getting members of the family together would be a fantastic way of officially launching the play. It’s a project that will hopefully bring to people’s attention how Harry was probably the greatest sportsman the North East has ever produced.’

The Clasper re-union will take place at South Shields Library in Georg Square in the town centre, as the prelude to a four-week Harry Clasper exhibition in Riddick’s, the former shoe shop on Fowler Street, South Shields.

The Clasper Family re-union runs from noon until 2pm on Saturday, May 30.

Anyone with Harry Clasper memorabilia is asked to bring it along to show attendees.

As well as an exhibition about Harry Clasper, Waugh will give a talk about why he wrote Hadaway Harry. Entry to the event is free and everyone is invited to attend.

Hadaway Harry, which has been supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and South Tyneside Council, is a funny and poignant tribute to the North East hero, and will be performed in venues that have a resonance with Harry Clasper’s life.

All tickets on the tour cost only £10 and can be obtained as follows:

Maritime Trust (Boathouse), South Shields
Maritime Trust (Boathouse), South Shields


Maritime Trust (Boathouse), South Shields, NE33 1LQ
Monday, June 29 – 2.30pm/7.30pm
Tuesday, June 30 – 2.30pm/7.30pm
Wednesday, July 1 – 2.30pm/7.30pm
Tel (0191) 4247788

Gala Theatre, Durham (as part of the Durham Miners Gala programme)
Thursday, July 2 – 7.30pm
Friday, July 3 – 2.30pm/7.30pm
Tel 03000 266600

The Low Light, North Shields, NE30 1JA
Saturday, July 4 – 7.30pm
Sunday, July 5 – 2.30pm/7.30pm
Tel (0191) 2574506

Monday, July 6, No Performances

Discovery Museum, Newcastle
Tuesday, July 7 – 7.30pm
Wednesday, July 8- 2.30pm/7.30pm
Thursday, July 9 – 2.30pm/7.30pm
Tel (0191) 232 6789 or (0191) 2774100

Bede’s World, Jarrow
Friday, July 10 – 7.30pm
Saturday, July 112.30pm/7.30pm
Tel (0191) 4892106 or 4247788

For further information, please visit

ClaspercollectionFred Roffe
The Fred Roffe Collection of trophies, medals and memorabilia of Harry and John H. Clasper. Photo:

HTBS editor note: I had the great honour of being a friend of the late Fred Roffe, of Hampton Bays, New York State. Fred was a descendent of Harry Clasper’s son, John H. Clasper, who also was a famous boat builder. Please read about Fred and how he donated some marvellous pieces of Clasper memorabilia to the National Rowing Foundation in 2002 – here.


  1. The photograph you are using of Harry Clasper famous oarsman born Tyneside 1812 is not Harry Clasper

  2. I went with what it says below the drawing, ‘Harry Clasper’. If not Clasper, who is this sculler?

  3. I think my father was a relitave of Harry Clasper? I always have known the stories of the Clasper boys and the Tyne rowers but sadly there is no one left alive who I can ask. His name was Thomas Clasper Winderam dob 13/02/1913 and the family were from Dunston.

  4. I have been researching my family tree for about 10 yrs.. I knew Harry /Henry was a famous rower but not how famous. He was my 4x gt Uncle on my Paternal Mother’s side.
    I would love to connect with other people that share family history.

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