Mark Blandford-Baker: A Letter of Recommendation

21 August 2020

By Mark Blandford-Baker

For the HTBS show-and-tell series, Mark Blandford-Baker has picked a remarkable 1947 letter he won on eBay.

As sometimes happens, a gem comes up on eBay and this letter is one such. Of course, it is of interest to wonder at how items have travelled over the years and ended up for auction, and this one is in that realm.

Edward Bevan was Senior Treasurer to Cambridge University Boat Club for many years. Born in Cambridge, schooled at Bedford where he played rugby in the XV, then an undergraduate at Trinity College for whom he rowed in First Trinity B.C. (the complexities of that colleges boat clubs and mergers are another story), he read medicine.

Bevan won a gold medal in the coxless four at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam at the age of 20. The crew also contained John Lander, Michael Warriner and Richard Beesly; in the final they beat the U.S.A. by one second in a time of 6:36:00. Sadly, despite this achievement, Bevan did not make the Cambridge Blue Boat of 1929. His elder brother, Llewelyn, did represent Cambridge twice in the Boat Race (1926 and 1927).

Edward Bevan looked after scores of oarsmen while a General Practitioner in Cambridge and was Medical Officer to the C.U.B.C. as well as its Senior Treasurer. He took a keen interest in ways of managing their health as part of their performance. This sort of letter is now thought extraordinary by modern standards and would make the reader immediately wonder what inducement was provided for him to write the piece. However, of its time it seems unlikely that might be the case. His conclusions may well be right but there is of course no control experiment to seek to prove it (1947 is too early to have had a Goldie crew to which the halibut oil was not given for example!). It is rather endearing that in what was clearly a hard winter such a product, whether placebo or not, was given to the oarsmen and benefits seemed to come, and that their victory in the Boat Race can be, in part, attributed to it.


  1. Lovely, the sort of rowing related article that makes HTBS the delight that it is.
    To many British baby boomers a tea spoon of fish oil, Orange juice and Malt extract, in their early years, was a weekly ritual.

  2. So this was the catalyst for more letters to Crookes.
    My Dad, Jack Beresford wrote to them on behalf of The Organising Committee for the 1948 London Olympiad. He said that the winning Thames Rowing Club IV & Leander VIII had taken Crookes Vitamin Quota capsules throughout training for Henley and wete anxious to continue with them right up to the Games.

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