Willoughby-on-Thames

Pic 1. Part of Leonard Willoughby’s 1911 report on Thames Rowing Club published in Bystander magazine. The rest of the series, “Great Rowing Clubs at Home”, was featured on HTBS on 16 May. https://heartheboatsing.com/2016/05/16/edwardian-rowing-threatened-by-golf-punt-cushions-and-my-lady-nicotine/ RH ‘Bill’ Forster was most famously charactered by ‘ELF’ for Vanity Fair magazine in 1910. https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/The_Rowers_of_Vanity_Fair/Forster_RH
Part of Leonard Willoughby’s 1911 report on Thames Rowing Club published in Bystander magazine. The rest of the series, “Great Rowing Clubs at Home”, was featured on HTBS on 16 May. RH ‘Bill’ Forster was most famously charactered by ‘ELF’ for Vanity Fair magazine in 1910.

21 May 2016

Tim Koch writes:

The picture above includes the entire text of Leonard Willoughby’s report on Thames Rowing Club, a shorter and much more deferential piece on the distinguished old Putney club than his often critical articles on small provincial rowing clubs that formed the rest of the Bystander magazine series. In Willoughby’s own words, ‘The Bystander unreservedly raises his hat to a splendid amateur institution’. At the time of writing, the relevant pages from an original copy of the magazine are for sale on eBay.

Pic 2. A wonderful photograph titled ‘Some Prominent Members on the Club-house Balcony’.
A wonderful photograph titled ‘Some Prominent Members on the Club-house Balcony’.

The original caption for the above picture reads:

Right to left: Mr A Christie, who steered the winning Thames and Wyfold Crews in 1872, Mr FLT Padget, Mr SH Strong, Mr H Dunkelsbuhler, Mr Bruce Logan, stroke of the winning Stewards’ Four in 1909 and a prominent boxer, Mr WT Liebert, Mr RF Reeve and Mr JT Musgrave, a couple of popular ‘Thames’ coaches, Mr GH Vize, Vice-President and ex-President of the Amateur Boxing Association (with dog), Mr HJ Rust, a well-known member (standing in flannels), Mr CC Cream (leaning on balcony) who rowed in the winning Grand Challenge Crew in 1876.

Pic 3. Bystander’s pictures of the Thames rowing tank, which was built in 1903, and also of the club steward’s dog, ‘a club favourite’.
Bystander’s pictures of the Thames rowing tank, which was built in 1903, and also of the club steward’s dog, ‘a club favourite’.

Willoughby claimed that the tank ‘had a great deal to do with the revival of the club after a lean time’. I am not sure what he meant by ‘a lean time’, Thames won at Henley seven times in the 1890s and eleven times in the 1880s. As for the dog, today’s ‘club favourite’ is an amiable Labrador that belongs to the current steward.

 

Pic 4. The 1911 Thames Junior Eight is captured coming out of the boathouse and then again when going afloat, pushed out by ‘Bedell’, the boatman. Also pictured are the TRC Captain, HG Irwin, and the Vice-Captain, AF Greenwood.
The 1911 Thames Junior Eight is captured coming out of the boathouse and then again when going afloat, pushed out by ‘Bedell’, the boatman. Also pictured are the TRC Captain, HG Irwin, and the Vice-Captain, AF Greenwood.

Willoughby wrote that:

This junior eight is likely to compete at the Metropolitan Regatta. Practice takes place assiduously every evening and on Saturday afternoons. Few people realise how much of his spare time the amateur oarsman devotes to his pastime.

The Amateur Rowing Association would not allow rowing on a Sunday and rowing on a Saturday had to be in the afternoon as even clerks worked a five-and-a-half day week (as was the case up until the 1950s). However ‘assiduously’ the eight trained, perhaps they did not practice hard enough, they lost to the Royal School of Mines in the Metropolitan Challenge Cup for Junior Eights at the Metropolitan Regatta on Tuesday, 13 July 1911.

Pic 5. The Captain of Thames Rowing Club in 1911, HG Irwin.
The Captain of Thames Rowing Club in 1911, HG Irwin.

Irwin was one of those who responded to the Bystander’s piece on the perceived decline of provincial rowing in Britain. He gave his views on why Metropolitan clubs did not support provincial regattas and why provincial clubs often did not enter Thames regattas:

…..it is very true, in my mind, that other more leisurely sports are much more enticing to young men now than they used to be. Of course, there are several reasons for this, and one of the chief of them is the difficulty of boat carriage and cartage to regattas…  [Thames Rowing Club] used to go to Berwick, York, Middlesborough etc, where we had to row in borrowed boats, which was most unsatisfactory and upsetting.… On the Thames we can at least take our own boats with us….. Not so on the Tyne, and no rowing club is wealthy enough to pay what the railway companies demand for boat carriage……. [Also] many provincial rowing clubs do not row coxswainless fours, and are, therefore, unable to enter at Henley or other Thames regattas. If a senior four-oared race [with coxswain] were introduced in some up-river regattas, provincial clubs might be induced to enter.

These days ‘boat carriage and cartage’ is much easier – but many Metropolitan clubs are still reluctant to travel to provincial regattas.

Pic 6. The Bystander’s endpiece.
The Bystander’s endpiece.

One comment

  1. I enjoyed this one, Goran and Tim.

    The Hassall cartoon of Bill Forster is intriguing because it’s one of a series: we have Piggy Eyre, George Vize and Doggett Cobb up in the TRC bar, looking splendid after we had them sent to a conservator 4 or 5 years ago. I wonder what happened to Bill Forster?

    I seem to remember Hassall lived in Putney, so that may explain why he was commissioned. He was a famous commercial artist of the day, of course – known for the Jolly Fisherman (‘Skegness is so bracing’) and Kodak advertisements.

    I need to get another copy of the ‘Elf’ cartoon, as the one we had at TRC is no longer on display, being in rather a bad way.

    As to the ‘lean time’, in Hear The Boat Sing (i.e. the book – Geoffrey Page’s history of TRC) goes into this in some detail. There were fewer Henley wins in the late 1890s and early 1900s, and a general sense of a decline in standards – in Tideway rowing generally as well as specifically at TRC. The tank was constructed in 1903 and apparently helped improve things – as did the arrival of both Julius Beresford and Karl Vernon in 1904.

    I guess it’s sometimes hard to remember that what might seem a minor dip in success in retrospect may have seemed like a great crisis at the time! That also should help us keep perspective as clubs go through their inevitable travails today!

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