Racing in Ireland in the mid-1940s: Fit Young Men

The 1946 Wylie Cup on River Lagan, Belfast. Henry Law’s father, Kenneth Fraser Law, is rowing in 4-seat in the Trinity boat. Greg Denieffe was able to provide all the names in this crew: Cox D.G.H. Clarke; Stroke A. De Boyd; 7 J.A.R. Hanna; 6 I. Wilson; 5 A.M. Wiley; 4 K.F. Law; 3 A.J. Stapleton; 2 J.S. Secker; and bow P.A. Johnston.

13 May 2016

The other day, HTBS received an interesting e-mail from Henry Law. After reading an article by Greg Denieffe on William Evelyn Wylie and the Wylie Cup, which was published on 24 April (the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland), Henry got inspired to dig out two old photographs of his father’s, who raced in the Wylie Cup. Henry writes:

Kenneth Fraser Law
Kenneth Fraser Law

I was most interested in Greg Denieffe’s recent article “A Shadow of Cloud on the Stream” about William Evelyn Wylie. Not only was it interesting per se, but it interested me particularly because I have known of the name Wylie in a rowing context all my life. My father Kenneth Fraser Law (1924-2014) rowed for Dublin University Boat Club (that is, Trinity College, Dublin) throughout his time there, and was in the DUBC crew that won ‘The Big Pot’ (the Irish Amateur Rowing Union Challenge Cup) at Athlone in 1945. The latter occasion was immortalised in our family history by the fact that he and a crew mate, having attended the Regatta Ball, got on their bikes and cycled 70 miles back to Dublin, arriving early in the morning just in time to sit their final examinations. He passed; they must have been fit young men.

Wylie Cup Dinner Menus for 1945 (Authors collection).
Wylie Cup Dinner Menu for 1945 (from Greg Denieffe’s collection).

Danny Taylor, whose signature is on the 1945 Wylie Cup dinner menu (in Greg Denieffe’s article, and above), was for a number of years both sporting rival and friend to my father, and it was he, in fact, who introduced my parents to one another in Belfast a couple of years later. I also see on the programme the signature of J.A.K.O. Wilson (always and obviously known as ‘Jako’), who was the first person to win The Big Pot four times, according to Micheal Johnston in his history of that trophy, The Big Pot the Story of the Irish Senior Rowing Championship, 1912- 1991, published in 1992.

WylieCup0002I’m attaching two photographs of a Wylie Cup match which my father annotated on the back ‘Wylie Cup, Lagan, 1946’ (Lagan implies Belfast, which is situated on that river). My father is at 4 in the picture of what looks like the start (see photograph on top), but careful study of the second, long-shot picture (above) suggests that it’s of a different race. The Wylie was won by Queen’s in 1946, but in that shot, it’s a DUBC crew that is in front, and neither crew looks to be composed of first-class rowers: I wonder if, in fact, the shot is of a different race that same day, perhaps freshmen novices?

As to the content of the photographs themselves, look at the layback! And isn’t it interesting how many people, mostly locals, presumably, were prepared to turn out to watch a university rowing race in those days.

Editor’s note: If you are interested in Irish rowing, go to Irish Rowing Archives, a wonderful website founded by its curator Kieran Kerr. HTBS’s Greg Denieffe has written an article about these archives, read it here.


  1. Thank you Henry for a wonderful follow up on W. E. Wylie.

    The second photograph (a cracker) is of the finish of the senior eights which Trinity (and your dad) won by four feet. Queen’s won both the maiden and junior eights giving them victory in the Wylie Cup. Originally the Wylie was a race for senior crews but in 1937 it became a contest for 1st, 2nd and 3rd eights with the winner being the University/College with the most wins. in the event of three separate Colleges being equal in wins, then the College that won the senior race claimed the Wylie.

    The first photograph looks like a practice start as the some of the crew are wearing additional kit over the familiar black and white hoops of the Trinity zephyr which only senior oarsmen are entitled to wear and which they are all wearing in the second photograph.


    • Greg, that’s really interesting, and explains my confusion, when I assumed that “winning” the cup meant winning all the races. And of course in that case it must be a practice start. I just thought that my father, who was after all a university student at the time, had forgotten to bring the proper kit!

      • Henry, in case you are not aware, that is Danny Taylor, AKA as the your parents’ matchmaker, in the stroke seat of the Queen’s eight. There were great friendships forged between rivals in Irish rowing, right through the to the eighties. This is when the regatta dances began to die out and you didn’t meet your opposition after the racing stopped.


  2. Lovely bit of DUBC history, thanks. We would love to have copies of any DUBC related photos or memorabilia for our archives, if the editor would be kind enough to pass on my email address to Henry. Our Senior crews still race in the stripey, but it’s a few years since I have seen the Magpie that your father is wearing.

    Ted O’Morchoe, Vice – President, Dublin University Boat Club

  3. Your father, in the first photo, is wearing his DUBC senior “magpie”, which was essentially a cricket knit vest (sleeveless pullover), with a black flannel V around the neck and a embroidered cloth club crest on the point of the black V, which back then was the equivalent of a tracksuit or sweatshirt today. Only a club member who had been awarded his senior colours by DUBC was entitled to wear it, along with specific flannel trousers of a certain style with specified sized turn-ups, the senior black flannel blazer with wire bullion DUBC shield on the breast, piped in black cord, (with 4 silver DUBC “crested” cuff buttons and 4 larger, similar, front buttons), flannel waistcoat with cord piping and silver DUBC “crested” buttons, dress waistcoat (with silk ribbon piping) and flannel cap with embroidered DUBC crisscrosses by crossed oars with a small club shield. You can see that the cox is wearing the senior blazer and probably the waistcoat, striped socks and trousers and by the looks of it the club scarf! Funnily enough the club rules still state that all DUBC cox’s must still wear this dress (the colours as awarded to them) when representing DUBC in a race! The oarsmen are wearing the senior “stripey” (black & white) zephyr, with the addition of the DUBC arms on their breast if they have already been awarded their colours the previous year, along with their white shorts and stripey socks.
    For winning the Big Pot, your father was probably also awarded University colours, which consisted of a pink scarf, pink tie, pink socks, pink cap and a pink blazer with the University crest. These colours were nicknamed “pinks” and were the equivalent of Oxford and Cambridge blues. For some reason the pink blazer never became a popular purchase! He would also have been elected a member of “Lizzie” or the Lady Elizabeth Boat Club with its own tie and crest etc., the elite old (Trinity rowing) boys club.
    Novice or Maiden crews wore thick striped black and white blazers with 2 black DUBC cuff buttons and four down the front with the College arms on a Pembroke blue field (Pembroke Club was the ancestor club of DUBC before the amalgamation, it’s colour is a royal blue as opposed to the light blue of College, which is the only difference between the College arms and the DUBC arms, this is different to the University arms) and piped in black cord along with a similar waistcoat and a black and white striped cap, striped socks, club tie, club knit scarf. They row in a white zephyr, with black trim.
    Junior or Intermediate members were awarded Junior colours which consisted of a white flannel blazer, piped in black cord, club wire arms, 3 black buttons on the cuff, 4 on front, similar flannel waistcoat and white flannel cap with similar black piping with DU X BC (imagine the X as crossed oars, on the maiden and junior cap they point the opposite way to the seniir cap) with a small club shield, they can also wear the colours flannel long scarf (which is wide black, narrow Pemboke blue and wide white stripe along the length of the scarf), club striped socks and club tie.
    The crew in the first photo were probably pictured just rowing up to the start, as they are leaning back so far (they would have been starting short, half slide, no lean back and then lengthening during a practice start).
    Lovely photos, thanks for sharing them and your wonderful story.

  4. Dear Ted O’Morchoe ~ I have sent Henry Law an e-mail about your request.

    Dear Carl Convery ~ Great information, many thanks.

  5. “… your father was probably also awarded University colours, which consisted of a pink scarf, pink tie, pink socks, pink cap and a pink blazer with the University crest. These colours were nicknamed “pinks” and were the equivalent of Oxford and Cambridge blues.” Oh yes, indeed. I never saw any of the kit other than the tie, though; he wore it on every suitable occasion for the whole of his life. He had a pink for rugby too, which I think might modify the tie in some way; certainly on the occasion when he and I went to Oxford summer 8s and he encountered another ex-DUBC man (also wearing a pink) there was discussion on the subject.

    I rowed with him once, when he was 80-odd. Belfast Rowing Club were kind enough to respond to a request and we went out in a vets’ crew on the Lagan for a short outing with him at 4 and me in my usual seat at 6. It was a very special day, though one that survives only in memory because getting photographs would have been a bit naff.

  6. The book “Rowing Blazers ” has sat in my shopping cart on Amazon for far too long, I must log in and . Thanks for the reminder.
    The senior crew also had their own tie, seperate to the club tie which is black and white stripes seperated by a thin Pembroke blue / Royal blue stripe in silk or Irish poplin. The senior tie was a Pembroke blue flannel tie, now only seen on old boys.
    I am having a “magpie” made for my nephew (held up by the availability of the embroidered crest!) and I had the club jumper and vest made for myself (cricket knit with club stripes (black, blue, white) around the V neck and cuffs and had a “pinks” vest made for my sister with DU X BC on the front.
    I must post some photos and take a few annual orders for them to perpetuate the kit. Tie to follow I guess! (might require a sample) All as per the 1936 ammended club dress rules, right down to the 1/8 of an inch!

  7. Dear Carl ~ I would be happy to post your photos and texts on HTBS!

    Send it to: gbuckhorn – at – gmail – dot – com

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