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.
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.
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.
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.
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.