John Player Helped Tideway Scullers to International Regattas in the 1960s

Sculler's '69
From left to right: Lionel Bailey, David Redwood, Rooney Massara, Willy Almand, Guy Greaves (cox), Wayne Smith, Chris Pierce, Mike Tebay and Pat Barry (stroke) with their John Player’s boat in 1969.

4 June 2016

After reading the recent post on HTBS by Greg Denieffe, Crewcial Collectables: Cigarettes, Whiskey & Wild Wild Women (and before that, Happiness is Hamlet and Smoke on the Water), Lionel Bailey of Tideway Scullers School dug out an old issue of the Rowing magazine. Lionel writes:

On top is a photograph from 1969 of a crew from the Tideway Scullers, from left to right: me, David Redwood, Rooney Massara, Willy Almand, Guy Greaves (cox), Wayne Smith, Chris Pierce, Mike Tebay and Pat Barry (stroke). We are standing around our new George Sims boat John Player II, which was presented to us by the tobacco firm of the same name. George Sims (Racing Boats) Eel Pie Island was the premier British sweep and sculling boat manufacturer of the day. The crew went on to represent Great Britain at that year’s European Championships, finishing fifth.

The caption for the photo, which was published in the October/November 1969 issue of Rowing magazine, reads:

Handing Over
Tideway scullers rowed at Klagenfurt in John Player II, a lightweight shell built for them in a fortnight by George Sims and presented in August at a Putney ceremony by the tobacco firm, whose generosity towards British rowing is all too little realised.

This was the second boat Player’s had bought for the club, the first one being the John Player, presented in 1966 to the Scullers crew that came fourth in the World Championship of that year, at championships held in Bled, Yugoslavia (now Slovenia). As I have written in the past, the Tideway Scullers School, coached by Lou Barry, were the de facto British National Squad of the 1960s, run on a shoestring and gifts such as the two mentioned above kept the whole enterprise afloat in more ways than one.

John Player Navy Cut
An example of cigarettes manufactured by John Player, which were launched at the same time as HMS Hero. This vessel and her sister ship, HMS Conqueror, were both commissioned in the late 1880s and were described by Dr Oscar Parkes, an authority of British battleships, as ‘two of the most useless turret ships ever built for the Navy’. If this affected the sale of the cigarette is not known. Player’s ‘Navy Cut’ celebrated its Diamond Jubilee in 1960, and by the end of the decade the tobacco company held 34 per cent of the cigarette and tobacco market in the UK.


  1. There was another racing boat supplied by Players cigarettes I am aware of. This was a Donoratico coxed four which at the time was considered world class. While most boats of this era were made by bending ply around a frame Donoraticos were constructed from layers of veneer glued up over a mould.

    Players had their main factory in Nottingham and at their peak employed over 7000 people. They provided their staff with sports facilities and provided this boat for the local clubs in the early 1970s. I was part of a composite crew which borrowed the boat at the 1971 ARA trials at Nottingham for the world champs.

    The unique factor about this boat was that it was a challenge boat. If you defeated the crew using the boat at a regatta you took the boat and kept it until beaten.

    I am sure there will be members of the Nottingham clubs at the time who will have more knowledge of this boat and its history.

    As a footnote this boat was on the short return trip from Holme Pierrpont to Trent Bridge when the trailer it was on detached and seriously damaged a number of parked cars. Despite the carnage the boat was more or less un-damaged on top of the trailer, a tribute to the quality of its construction.

  2. I believe my late uncle Sid Radley was one of the Uks leading builders of wooden scullers in the the 50s and 60s but tended to get ignored as he was based on the Lea at V Radley and Sons and not on the more fashionable Thames. He buuilt thelast 6 wooden committee scullers for the Doggetts in the 50s one of which has been restored by Roger Bean and is now the J Hopper. Ian M helped Roger .
    According to Prof Robin Tom Boyde, Thames Cup Semi finalist in the 50s, Sid built the lighest ever wooden sculler. It was for Sids daughter the late Shirley Radley who Robin later married. Robin owns 2 Sid built fine wooden scullers from the 60s one is in Hong Kong at the National Maritime Museum and the other is stored at Thames RC.
    Lou Barry like Sid was a professional.

  3. Hard to tell from the photo- was this boat in the famous black and gold “John Player Special” colours that would later be seen on Lotus Formula 1 racing cars?

      • Having looked it up, it must have been as the John Player Special brand of cigarettes was only introduced in 1972.

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