3 April 2016
A new website has been launched to celebrate Harry Clasper, the Geordie rower who led a team from Tyneside to win the World Championship in 1845 and whose training methods and boat innovations put the North East at the centre of the aquatics world for the next 25 years.
Dunston-born and Jarrow-raised, Harry ‘Hadaway’ Clasper was the first North East sporting superstar, the man the Blaydon Races was written for in 1862. More than 130,000 people attended his funeral after he died in 1870, at the age of 57, at the Ouseburn, the pub he ran in Newcastle.
Before football, rowing (aquatics) was the sport of the working class. Local heroes were created on the major rivers and the top rowers were lauded in the manner that football stars are today. The Tyne boasted team and individual sculling champions trained by Harry.
Harry, a former miner, trained and led a team of Geordies to bring the coveted World Rowing Championship to the Tyne for the first time. Taking the title from the ‘unbeatable’ London rowers on the Thames, the victory caused a sensation locally, nationally and internationally.
Richard Flood said: ‘The region can proudly boast sporting greats and world champions but Harry Clasper was arguably the greatest of them all. Sadly, he’s a forgotten hero but hopefully this website will help inform people and there may be people with information about Harry that we can share’.
Last year, a hugely successful play about Harry Clasper called Hadaway Harry toured Tyneside. Written by Ed Waugh and starring Jamie Brown, the show received standing ovations and will transfer to Newcastle’s Theatre Royal in February 2017.
Robson Green’s new ITV series Further Tales of Northumberland will feature a segment about Harry Clasper tomorrow, Monday, April 4, at 8pm. The show gets around 4 million viewers nationally.
Ed Waugh said: ‘Last year BBC’s Inside Out did a fantastic feature on Harry and to have Robson Green pick up on the story is brilliant. This region has produced fantastic singers, songwriters and sportspeople who have been forgotten because history is only taught about the privileged classes and kings and queens.’
Waugh added: ‘Harry Clasper is just the first in a series that we will highlight on stage to remember the people who shaped Geordie and North East culture. Our real heritage!’
Read HTBS’s Chris Dodd’s review about Ed Waugh’s play Hadaway Harry here.