3 August 2020
By Göran R Buckhorn
Here HTBS continues with another rowing object/s in the HTBS show-and-tell mini-series. This time Göran R Buckhorn is showing a unique display plaque with medals, which once belonged to a well-known oarsman, coach, writer, editor and politician.
While I collect books on rowing, I don’t really have a large collection of rowing memorabilia like medals, pots, trophies, oar blades, etc. I think, I’m far behind my dear HTBS colleagues, who probably have drawers, cabinets and walls filled with rowing stuff. However, I’m happy to be the owner of a few unique objects; one that’s going to be my ‘show-and-tell’ piece here.
On this wooden display plaque, 13×10 in. (33×25 cm), is mounted 12 medals and tin plaques from the mid- to the end of the 1870s. These medals and plaques once belonged to the famous R.C. ‘Rudie’ Lehmann (1856-1929). On these objects it says:
1 Medal – obverse: Visitors’ Challenge Cup, Prize Medal; reverse: Henley Regatta Established 1839 [no name or year]
2 Plaque – Cambridge University, Middle Weight, Challenge Cup, Won by R.C. Lehmann, Trin Coll, 1879
3 Plaque – Cambridge University, Heavy Weight, Challenge Cup, Won by R.C. Lehmann, Trin Coll, 1879
4 Plaque – Cambridge University, Middle Weight, Challenge Cup, Won by R.C. Lehmann, Trin Coll, 1878
5 Medal – obverse: Universitas Cantabridgiensis; reverse: CREBER UTRAQUE MANU [no name or year]
6 Medal – obverse: Universitas Cantabridgiensis; reverse: CREBER UTRAQUE MANU [no name or year]
7 Medal – obverse: Universitas Cantabridgiensis; reverse: CREBER UTRAQUE MANU [no name or year]
8 Plaque – Cambridge University Boat Club
Bow R.C. Lehmann I Trin 10.12
2 C.T. Holmes Clare 11.6
3 C.M. Edmonds Jesus 10.13
4 S.A. Walker I Trin 12.2
5 E.M.J. Adamson LadyM 12.13
6 A.W. Haig Caius 12.4
7 C.W.M. Dale LadyM 12.11
stk B.C. Hoskyns Jesus 10.13
cox C.B. Nicholas Christs 6.9
9 Plaque – Cambridge University Boat Club
Bow R.C. Lehmann Trin 11.3
2 H. Sandford LadyM 11.11
3 R.D. Prior Queens 11.2
4 C. Fairbairn Jesus 12.5
5 C.N Armytage Jesus 12.5
6 A. Nimmo Trin 13.10
7 C.H. Morrice TrinH 12.9
stk A.H.S. Bird Trin 12.0
cox James B. Close Trin 11.2
10 Medal – obverse: Universitas Cantabridgiensis; reverse: TRIAL EIGHTS [no name or year]
11 Medal – obverse: St. Neot’s [sic!] Amateur Rowing Club Regatta [no name or year]
12 Medal – obverse: Universitas Cantabridgiensis; reverse: TRIAL EIGHTS [no name or year]
Rudie Lehmann was a journalist, editor, author, writer of light verse and an MP for the Liberals, but for us HTBS Types, he is mostly known as a rowing fellow; he is one of my personal rowing heroes. Lehmann was a fruitful coach – he had been, he wrote, ‘privileged to utter words of instruction to innumerable crews on the Cam, the Isis, and the Thames’; and he could have added foreign rivers and waterways in Berlin, Boston/Cambridge and Dublin.
Lehmann also penned several articles and books on rowing. But while he was a successful writer, he was not that triumphant at the oar. He rowed for First Trinity Boat Club, was a captain at the club and competed in two Cambridge Trial Eights in 1876 and 1878 (see No. 8, 9, 10 & 12 above). His boat lost both years, and he never rowed in the Boat Race.
What is worth noting in the 1878 Trial Eight crew are two names, Charles Fairbairn, at the ‘4 seat’, who was Steve Fairbairn’s four years older brother, and James B. Close, who was a noticeably heavy coxswain at 11.2 st. (71 kg). Close had rowed in the Boat Race in 1872, 1873 and 1874. (Read about the Close brothers here.) Close was actually the Light Blues coach for the 1878 race. I wonder what happened to the chap who was going to steer this crew? (See Malcolm Cook’s comment below.)
Lehmann also raced at Henley Royal Regatta between 1877 and 1888, but he never won a heat. The wooden display plaque has a ‘prize medal’ for the Henley Visitors’ (No. 1), so this might be a memorial medal from 1877, when Lehmann rowed in the Visitors’. But it’s not a medal for first prize.
There is no year on the St. Neots RC’s medal (No. 11), but it might be from the club’s regatta held in 1877. The club’s website mentions that there were ‘several Cambridge College clubs’ competing that year.
The wooden medal display plaque once belonged to the great American advocate for rowing, the well-known Hart Perry. When I received this plaque as a gift from Hart’s widow, Gillian, in 2011, it came together with an original Vanity Fair print of Lehmann, who graced the magazine’s pages in January 1895.
And, no, the medal display plaque is not for sale!
You wondered why one of the Cambridge trial eights in 1878 was coxed by their coach. The Times’s report of the race provides the answer:
‘The weather was bitterly cold, and although the snow, which had been falling during the greater part of the morning, held up while the race was being rowed, the tow-path, naturally rough and rugged at all times, was on this occasion rendered almost impassable for passengers on horseback … As a rule, the two gentlemen who are intrusted with the training of the crews … accompany the race on horseback; but, owing to the dangerous state of the tow-path, they elected to steer their respective crews themselves’.
Thank you Malcolm!
Please can you explain a bit more about what Cambridge Trial Eights were? thanks James
Dear James ~ here’s a little about ‘Trial Eights’: both Oxford and Cambridge have each a large pool of rowers who are training for the Boat Race. Going trough some tests both on land (with ergs) and on the water, there will eventually be 16 rowers and two coxes from each university (Oxford will have 16 men and 16 women, plus four coxes; and Cambridge will have the same amount of rowers/coxes). To be able to select the eight best men (and women for the women’s race), the coach put together two eights which are going to race each other to see which is the best one to represent the university in the Boat Race. This is also for the rowers to get the feeling how it is to race side-by-side another crew. These two eights are called the Trial Eights. After the Trial Eights race, the coach picks the eight best men/women for further training.
In my article about Rudie Lehmann, his plaques show the eights he was rowing, both which lost the Trial Eights race for the 1876 and 1878 Boat Race, while there are plaques ‘out there’ for the winners of these Trial Eights races. I have written previously about another old Trial Eights races on HTBS. Here is the article about the 1896 Trial Eights:
I later published a book about one of the oarsmen in this race, Benjamin Hunting Howell, an American who studied at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and rowed in the Boat Race, won the Wingfields twice, and also won the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley twice, all in the 1890s. The book is called, “A Yank at Cambridge – B.H. Howell: The Forgotten Champion” (2015).
You will find more information about modern days Trial Eights if you click on the ‘Trial Eights’ tag below the article about Lehmann’s medals and tin plaques.
Thank you for your interest, James.
That’s fab info.. Thanks.. I asked as I have Trial Eights tankards for 1920s for my Grandfather but these suggest that all Emanual College so might be for something different eg to represent the College in the top boat