20 September 2019
By Greg Denieffe
Greg Denieffe gets something out of his system
All rules are equal, but some rules are more equal than others. Back in the day, when sporting organisations and events were been first named, it was the general rule in England/Great Britain that there was no need to include the words ‘English’ or ‘British’ in the name. For that reason we have: The Football Association (FA, Football), Rugby Football Union (RFU, Rugby Union), Professional Golf Association (PGA, Golf), The Jockey Club (Horse Racing) and many others. This ‘firstism’ is also notable in the world of philately as UK postage stamps do not include the name of the country – the 1840 Penny Black being the world’s first postage stamp setting the trend that the monarch’s head would clearly indicate whence it came.
In GB rowing terms, life began as the Metropolitan Rowing Association (1879) which changed its name to the Amateur Rowing Association (ARA) in 1882. Of course, we now know it as British Rowing, and it is the governing body for rowing in England (and crews representing Great Britain).
Consequently, we have The FA Cup (1871-72), The Open Championship (1860), The Grand National (so named in 1847) and The Derby (1780), and in rowing, the Metropolitan Regatta (1866).
Naturally, there can only be one first and as the world of sport grew and international competition became desirable, subsequent organisations and events used identifying names, such as the Scottish Football Association (SFA), Welsh Rugby Union (WFU), The United States Golf Association (USGA) and Dublin Metropolitan Regatta (1869).
Many rowing regattas have trophies with the same or similar names, like: Grand, Visitors’, Town and Scullers’. At this year’s Henley Royal Regatta, we had a superb trophy, The King’s Cup, up for grabs in an event celebrating of the centenary of the 1919 Royal Henley Peace Regatta.
Eight countries, represented by mixed military crews, raced for this wonderful trophy crafted from pieces of metal donated by each participant as follows:
Australia: sliver of the original 1919 cup and part of The Roll of Honour from the Australian War Memorial.
Canada: material from the highest point of their first parliament building.
France: four Croix de Guerre awarded each year of WWI.
Germany: brass from the historic Gorch Fock sail training vessel.
Netherlands: shell cases from the King’s coronation.
New Zealand: copper fittings from their 1919 original King’s Cup boat.
UK: contribution from H.M. The Queen.
USA: original fitting from the USS Constitution, commissioned by George Washington in 1797.
The crew from the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, representing the United States of America became the first, and possibly the only, winners of this event.
The 1919 King’s Cup, won by the Australian Imperial Forces No 1 crew, was also on display in the Prize Tent situated in the Stewards’ Enclosure. It was a special moment for me to see this trophy. It has a remarkable history which you can read on the Guerin-Foster website Australian Rowing History and in Pulling Through – The Story of the King’s Cup the book by Bruce Coe. I’m sure there will be more on this historic trophy in the soon to be published The Oarsmen – The Remarkable Story of the Men Who Rowed from the Great War to Peace by Scott Patterson.
I picked up a copy of Coe’s book in the HRR Shop and I think, because it is so strong on details, that it is one of those books that will improve with a second reading. If I’m not mistaken, this is the third book written about a specific rowing trophy and its winners. I hope I’m wrong on this and HTBS readers can educate me in the comments section.
The Royal Henley Peace Regatta of 1919 wasn’t the only event that year to receive a trophy from King George V. Perhaps, the most widely known is the one presented for rugby. Originally designated as an ‘‘Inter-Services Competition’, to be played under the auspices of the Army Rugby Union, it was competed for by six teams: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, the Royal Air Force, and the British Army under the name of the ‘Mother Country’. I prefer the name The Lions which is in use since 1888 for a unified team from GB and Ireland but perhaps that may have lead some wag to call them The Lions and the Donkeys. Once it had received royal patronage, it too became known as The King’s Cup and like its rowing equivalent, it is not engraved as such.
In 1914, King George V presented the Perpetual Challenge Cup also popularly known as the ‘King George V Cup’ or the ‘King’s Cup’ to Brixham Regatta. This was to be raced for by Brixham registered sailing trawlers over 40 tons, but the First World War delayed its initial contest until 1919.
During 1920, he presented a trophy to the Royal Yacht Squadron Regatta, Cowes, Isle of Wight. It was back in the news as last month (August 2019) when it was competed for again in a charitable sailing event hosted by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The magnificent gold cup is actually engraved “The King’s Cup” and therefore, may be ‘THE’ King’s Cup. This event made the news headlines in Ireland because the winning boat, whose charitable ambassador was Bear Grylls, included former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. One-time GBR rower and double Olympic champion, Helen Glover, competed as one of the other six ambassadors who joined the two royals in leading the eight boat fleet in two short races.
However, while this may have a claim to be “The” King’s Cup, there may be a case made by an earlier King’s Cup, and one for rowing to boot, that could relegate this to being simply The King’s Cup for sailing.
George V ascended the throne after the death of his father, Edward VII, on 6 May 1910. His Coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on 22 June 1911 and a fortnight later he sailed into Kingstown (present day Dún Laoghaire) to begin a five-day visit to Ireland. He, Queen Mary, The Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) and Princess Mary were rowed ashore where a waiting carriage took them to Dublin Castle.
On the surface everything seemed fine, with the Lord Mayor of Dublin leading the welcome party and the route to the Castle lined with men from the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines. Crowds of onlookers gathered to catch a glimpse of the royal party. But this was Dublin of 1911; an overwhelmingly nationalist city in the immediate years before the 1913 Lock-out and the 1916 Rising. The main issue of the day was not a royal visit but Home Rule, a form of limited self-government for Ireland. “It was something of a shock,” wrote a correspondent from The Times “to have thrust into one’s hand, just as the procession was approaching, a nationalist leaflet denouncing us all for standing in the streets of Dublin to cheer the King of England’ while Ireland was without a separate legislature.”
After refreshments and a change of clothes, the royals were escorted to the Viceregal Lodge in the Phoenix Park where they would spend the next four days.
According to T. F. Hall, in his History of Boat-Racing in Ireland (1937) the most important events of the 1911 Irish rowing season were the races for the King’s Cup at Dublin Metropolitan Regatta, Ringsend on the lower Liffey and the Coronation Cup at Cork, raced along the Marina stretch of the river Lee. Both trophies were presented to Irish rowing by George V to commemorate his accession and were for senior eights.
The King’s Cup was competed for by five crews: Dublin University Boat Club (D.U.B.C), Neptune Rowing Club, Newry Rowing Club, City of Derry Boating Club and Dolphin Rowing Club. On the same day (22 June) that George was crowned in Westminster Abbey, D.U.B.C and Derry met in the final. After a fine race in which Derry led to halfway, D.U.B.C. gradually closed up and went on to win by a length. In 1898, D.U.B.C. was the first club to leave Ringsend and the crowded confluence of the Dodder and the Lower Liffey, and venture upstream to the calmer non-tidal waters at Islandbridge. Raymond Blake, in his excellent book In Black and White – the History of Rowing at Trinity College, Dublin (1991), notes that the club had not competed at Dublin Metropolitan Regatta since they had moved and instituted their own Trinity Regatta. It was only the prospect of the King’s Cup, the fact that Trinity Regatta was being held during the royal visit and the urgings of the Lord Lieutenant that enticed them back in 1911.
The Minute Book of Newry Rowing Club provides us with a little more information about their involvement in The King’s Cup:
Dublin Metropolitan Regatta was the next meeting at which your club was represented. Here the following senior eight, specially trained for the occasion, competed for the King’s Cup. This was a cup specially presented by H.M. King George V., and it was to become the sole property of the club who won it on the first occasion: –
After naming the crew and listing their weights, the report continues:
In the first heat of this cup Newry, University, and Neptune faced the starter. Newry was most unfortunate in having the outside station. Neptune had the middle station, and Dublin University the inside. When the crews reached the stake boats the river was so choppy and rough that it was impossible for the stake boat men to hold on, and the starter decided that it would be a flying start. Dublin University had much the better of the stations, and got away from the very beginning, and won with little difficulty. We may mention here that they eventually won out the cup, which is now their property.
The next regatta after Dublin Metropolitan that Newry attended was Trinity Regatta and they had a major success when G. T. Allen won the Emerald Challenge Cup for senior scullers beating the Irish Champion, J. Glazer (Shannon Rowing Club, Limerick) in the final. The minute book records the race in detail and concludes its commentary as follows:
It may be mentioned that H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and Princess Mary were present at the regatta when this race took place and also the race for the Grand Challenge Cup for senior eights, which makes the victory all the more unique.
Trinity Regatta took place on the very day that the royals arrived at the Viceregal Lodge and with the Phoenix Park in close proximity to Islandbridge where the regatta was being held, the Boat Club sent an invitation pointing out the ease at which the royal party could attend the regatta. The King and Queen were committed to attending the Phoenix Park Races and sent their son and daughter instead. This may have been Edward, Prince of Wales’ first encounter with the sport of rowing, but it wasn’t his last as you can read in Rowing: Not the Sport of Kings published on HTBS in 2015.
A fortnight after the race for the King’s Cup, four crews, Derry, D.U.B.C., Neptune and Shandon Boat Club lined up for the Coronation Cup. Derry, who had travelled the full length of the country to compete, led Neptune early on with D.U.B.C and Shandon level half a length behind. D.U.B.C outraced Neptune but could not catch Derry who won by three lengths. Derry completed the senior eight’s double by beating Cappoquin Rowing Club, Neptune and Shandon in the ‘Leander’. This Derry crew was clearly on the up and continued their rise to the top of the Irish rowing ladder by winning the first Irish Amateur Rowing Union championship event the following year.
A local newspaper reported on Derry’s successes under the heading “Champions Home-Coming”:
“Unionist and Nationalist bands, many thousands of citizens and the Mayor, wearing his chain of office, assembled at the Great Northern Railway Station, Derry, last night to welcome the City of Derry Boating Club crew, who had won the King’s Cup [sic] and the Leander Cup (Premier Eights) at Cork; the Challenge Cup (Premier Eights) at Limerick.
The following telegram, which Mr. Leslie Roulston, captain of the club, had received, was read by the Mayor:-
The King is delighted your club has won his Coronation Cup at Cork, and congratulate members of club on its success.
A procession through the streets to the Boat House followed, and congratulatory speeches were afterwards delivered; the proceedings throughout being of the most enthusiastic character.”
In April this year, I was given the heads-up that an Irish Championship trophy that was up for auction and naturally I was interested in making a bid. To my surprise, it was a trophy from the 1912 championship, the first ever such event promoted by the Irish Amateur Rowing Union. It had been awarded to E. Kellock, a member of the City of Derry crew, and in addition, his two trophies from the 1911 Cork Regatta were also included as separate lots. To view the three items, follow this link and click lots (2146 – 2148) described as follows:
2146: A lidded silver trophy – Dublin Metropolitan Regatta Rowing Union Cup, Seniors Eights, E Kellock, No.2, C.C.C.C. Approximately 350 grams.
2147: A hall marked silver trophy – Cork City Regatta, 1911, Coronation Cup, approximately 230 grams and complete with base.
2148: A hall marked silver trophy – Cork City Regatta, 1911. Approximately 210 grams.
I would have been overjoyed to have won lot 2146, what I have previously referred to as a ‘little pot’ but was outbid. However, that left me looking for a consolation prize and I happily picked up the next lot. Unfortunately, when it arrived, beautifully packaged, it was missing its base which was included in the description and in the photographs of the online catalogue.
After initially being told by the auctioneers that it was definitely put in the package, the best they would do was offer to take the item back for a refund. Interestingly, the 1912 trophy did not have a base included, so perhaps there was a mix up. Anyway, it was a ‘unique’ experience and one I will put down to ‘mala fortuna’.
It would appear that Anthony Trollope wasn’t a fan of the old maxim ‘Let the buyer beware’. This quote from his novel Phineas Redux (1873/74) offers an alternative:
“… you can’t punish dishonest trading. Caveat emptor is the only motto going, and the worst proverb that ever came from dishonest stony-hearted Rome. With such a motto as that to guide us, no man dare trust his brother. Caveat lex and let the man who cheats cheat at his peril.”
With the 1911 Coronation Cup actually engraved as such, I think there is a chance that the engraving on 1911 King’s Cup will identify it as ‘The’ King’s Cup. A seed of doubt remains because according to an inventory of D.U.B.C silver compiled on 29 March 1995, the cup is listed as “The Dublin Metropolitan Cup (Presented by George V), 1911”.