(An occasional column about affordable rowing memorabilia)
1 June 2016
Here Greg Denieffe continues with his sporadic series Crewcial Collectables:
Two recent posts on HTBS, Happiness is Hamlet and Smoke on the Water, gave me an Ohrwurm. For days I found myself singing Cigarettes, Whiskey & Wild Wild Women. The only thing to do to get rid of the ‘worm’ was to rise to the challenge and pen another Crewcial Collectables based on my own collection of rowing memorabilia.
Rowing images on cigarette cards are common and easily found. Most cards are inexpensive but there are a number of exceptions, like the highly desirable The World’s Champions series by Allen & Ginter (1887 & 1888). Shannon Rowing Club has the distinction of featuring on two cards.
Shannon Rowing Club was founded by Sir Peter Tait in 1868 and has a very elegant clubhouse (built between 1902 and 1905) on the northern side of Sarsfield Bridge over the River Shannon in Limerick. The crest of the club was included by Ogden’s Cigarettes in their 1915 series ‘Club Badges’.
The reverse of the card gives the following information:
A very old-established rowing and social club, which has occupied premises in various parts of the city of Limerick, and has its present headquarters on the banks of the River Shannon, where the clubhouse is reputed to be the finest of its kind in Ireland. The club has provided some very good crews from time to time.
A more prestigious ‘smoking’ collectable is the silver cigarette cases awarded as a regatta prize at the turn of the 20th century. Sometimes these were awarded only to the coxswain with the rest of the crew receiving different prizes.
This prize appeals to the collector because it is attributable to an individual, W. H. Chambers of Dolphin Rowing Club. It is nicely engraved with Victorian decoration on both sides. Dolphin R. C. was based in Ringsend where the river Dodder meets the river Liffey and closed their doors late in 1941; shortly after, their premises were sold to Sandymount Boxing Club. In addition, as Boyne Regatta was the traditional opening event of the Irish rowing calendar and as the Irish Amateur Rowing Union was founded on 3 February 1899, this is a prize from the first regatta held under the rules of the new governing body.
The engraving on this piece of silver is of a very high quality; it has never been used for its intended purpose and is preserved in extremely fine condition. The fact that it is hallmarked for Chester increases its value. It is my opinion that it was won by Albert (Bertie) Austin of the City of Derry Boating Club whose photograph can be found in my first article for HTBS, Royal Visits Benefit Irish Rowing, published on 17 May 2011. I have since found another photograph of this crew and identified A. E. Austin. For me, researching and piecing information together is the joy of collecting.
If you look closely at a bottle Jameson Irish Whiskey you will see the date 1780. That is the year that the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin began producing their ‘Water of Life’ (Uisce Beatha); in 1786, John Jameson (1740 – 1823) moved from his home in Scotland to become their manager and by 1810, he and his son, also John (1773 – 1851), had ownership of the business – the brand ‘John Jameson & Son’ was born. John senior and his wife, Margaret Haig (of the Scottish Whisky clan), had 17 children. John junior married Isabella Stein and together they produced 10 offspring, all born in Dublin with the eldest, of course, named John. John junior’s fourth child was called William, who in time had four children, the third of which would one day find himself the subject of a rowing essay.
Robert William Jameson was born on 8 March 1854 in Drumcondra, County Dublin. Not content with being the great-grandson of the founder of Ireland’s leading whiskey distiller, he was also the great-grandson of Arthur Guinness (1725 – 1803), the founder of the Guinness brewery business. Large families were also prevalent in Roberts’s maternal line. Arthur Guinness had 10 children; his son Arthur II (1768 – 1855) also had 10, the second youngest being Elizabeth (1813 –1870) who married William Jameson on 12 April 1844.
Dublin University Boat Club, racing as Trinity College, Dublin, had a very successful time at Henley Royal Regatta in the early 1870s winning the Visitor’s Challenge Cup in 1870, 1873 and 1874; they also won the Ladies’ Challenge Plate in 1875. Rowing in the bow-seat of the Trinity eight was Robert Jameson.
The only other wins by Irish clubs at Henley Royal Regatta, before the glorious 1970s, were two wins in the Wyfold Challenge Cup (one in 1873 by Kingstown Royal Harbour Boat Club and a second in 1881 by Dublin University Rowing Club) and a win in the Thames Challenge Cup (by Trinity College, Dublin in 1903). Last year, Jameson’s Henley medal was put up for sale and I was lucky enough to purchase it (thanks to a tip off from HTBS’s eBay guru, Tim Koch). It was priced according to its rarity but I did not know of the connections with Jameson Whiskey and Guinness at the time. It is quite a splendid piece of Irish rowing memorabilia.
After I had received the medal, I contacted the seller to see if she had any further information and was delighted to receive a reply informing me that Jameson was her maternal great-grandfather and enclosing a photograph of him and his wife Katherine Anne (nee Luscombe) with their nine sons.
Wild Wild Women
A pair of queens represents my ‘wild wild women’.
The Tailteann Games were ancient sporting games held in Ireland, instituted in 1829 BC to commemorate the death of Queen Tailte. The games ran until 1171 AD when they died out after the Norman invasion. There was a great interest in reviving the games following Irish Independence in 1921 and they were held again in 1924, 1928 and 1932. Rowing was one of the sports included in the games. Gold (silver gilt), silver and bronze medals were awarded in most sports.
Oliver Sheppard, who designed the medals for the games, was a well-known artist of the period. He was the artist who made the wonderful bronze, Death of Cúchulainn. This is the large sculpture displayed in the GPO in Dublin. It was commissioned to commemorate the Easter Rising in 1916.
Founded by Queen Elizabeth I to ‘civilize’ Dublin, Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest and most famous college and the sole constituent college of the University of Dublin. The college was founded in 1591 and can trace its rowing roots back to 1836 and the founding of The Pembroke Club.
In 1898, Dublin University Boat Club moved upstream from the tidal reaches of the river Liffey and the river Dodder to the non-tidal Islandbridge and they quickly instigated a regatta with presentation prizes of silver medals depicting the bust of their founder. For the first few regattas the obverse of these medals was of the standard college prize medal design but with a blank reverse. By 1903, the obverse had changed to incorporate the words ‘Dublin University Boat Club Regatta’.
By the 1940s, the medals were changed from silver to bronzed copper and then discontinued – Good Queen Bess not winning any popularity contests among the general rowing population. After several decades of presenting pint and half-pint pots as presentation prizes, Trinity has resumed presenting medals graced by the Virgin Queen, albeit not quite of the quality fit for royalty.
Marcel Proust, the French novelist and critic who wrote ‘Certainly, it is more reasonable to devote one’s life to women than to postage stamps, old snuff-boxes, or even to paintings and statues’ would not be a fan of Crewcial Collectables, even one featuring two wild women, but at least my earworm is cured and he couldn’t argue against that!