Ian Whitehead: The Tyne’s Role in the Development of the Racing Shell

James Renforth, one of the North’s famous rowers.

7 April 2018

HTBS editor Göran R Buckhorn writes:

The other day, HTBS received an interesting e-mail from Ian Whitehead, author of The Sporting Tyne and James Renforth of Gateshead – Champion Sculler of the World. Ian was formerly Keeper of Maritime History at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums until his retirement in 2016.

He has a long-standing interest in rowing craft of all types, which began when he rowed Tim Severin’s ARGO reconstruction during part of The Jason Voyage in 1984, Ian mentions in his e-mail. He was also a participant in the project to reconstruct an Athenian Trireme during the 1980s, learning to row properly with Newcastle University Boat Club in anticipation of taking one of the 170 oars. In the event, he mostly recorded trials and researched the source material, only taking a thranite oar on one short outing.

Ian has a particular interest in the rowers, boatbuilders and clubs of the North East of England and has been researching, writing and curating museum exhibitions about them for the last 20 years.

Ian writes: ’I’ve taken the opportunity to draw attention to the Tyne’s role in the development of the racing shell in a two-part guest blog on the website of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. I’ve used objects, paintings and textiles from the collection to illustrate the blogs.’

Take a look here:

“The development of the racing shell: Tyne Innovations Part 1”

“The development of the racing shell: Tyne Innovations Part 2”

Ian continues to write: ’I’m particularly keen to hear what less ”Tyne-focused” rowing historians might think of these blog posts, especially the claim in part 2 that the Tyne pioneered the bowloader in 1872.’

In 2016, Ian collaborated with the artist Matt Stokes on the project “Objects to See Further”. One outcome of the collaboration was a film with the same name (see below) inspired by museum objects and events of 1871, including the tragic death of James Renforth.

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