A Sub-River Boat Race A.D. 1950?

14 April 2020

By Ralf-Peter Stumme & Göran R Buckhorn

Above is an addition from Ralf-Peter Stumme in Germany to Tim Koch’s article published yesterday, “The Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”. Ralf-Peter writes that the image was published in Punch in 1901.

The artist, ‘Harrison’, looks into the future of how The Boat Race could look in 1950! While submarines, or subs, had been on the minds of scientists, artists and naval architects for hundreds of years – there were some prototypes even propelled by oars – it was first in the beginning of the 1900s, these watercraft were put into extensive service by the larger navies.

In this ‘(sub-river) boat-race’, the boats are bowloaders – the coxswains of the boats are steering in the bow (wearing boaters!). But no oars to be seen! The boats are followed by two other boats, the ‘Press’ boat, where the gentlemen of the press are squeezed in the cockpit (or should it be the ‘coxpit’?) and a one-man sub, probably the umpire.

The Punch cartoonist was Charles Harrison. About Harrison, the Dictionary of British Cartoonists and Caricaturist 1730-1980 writes:

Charles Harrison (d.1943) Charles Harrison was born in the 1860s of a theatrical family and was a child actor before taking a commercial job in the City. He had drawing lessons and, leaving the City, alternated for a while between magazine illustration and the stage… He was a regular contributor to Punch (1895-1926) and his cartoons were also published in the Daily Express.

‘Sometimes I asked myself what the magazine would have done without the race. There must be hundreds of Punch cartoons about the Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge,’ Ralf-Peter writes.

This image was not the only futuristic one by Charles Harrison, another one is this.

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