1920: Ernest Barry Wins the World Sculling Title

18 September 2020

By Göran R Buckhorn

HTBS has previously told the story of how Ernest Barry beat Alf Felton for the World Sculling Championships in 1920 – 100 years ago last month – but in this article in The Dry Season Bottom-of-the-Barrel Series, we have added moving pictures.

Ernest Barry congratulates Alf Fenton to the World Sculling Championship title in 1919. Cartoon by Tom Webster.

On 27 October 1919, for £500 a-side, World Champion sculler Ernest Barry lost his title to Australian Alfred ‘Alf’ Felton on the championship course between Putney and Mortlake. This was captured by Tom Webster, who was a cartoonist at the Daily Mail (see above).

Alf Felton, 1919.

Almost a year later, on 28 August 1920, Barry took back the Champion title from Felton on the Parramatta River. Barry’s trip to Australia to regain the World title was made possible thanks to Webster’s newspaper. The Daily Mail started a public subscription to fund the Englishman’s trip, which was going to cost £2,000 (£500 stake money and £1,500 for expenses). In his Sculling and Skulduggery (2009), Stuart Ripley writes that more than 100,000 people lined the Parramatta River for the race.

On YouTube, I found a 1920 film showing Felton (dark shirt) and Barry (white shirt) racing on the Parramatta River, which I have never seen before. Ripley is right, there are tons of spectators gathered for the race. Take a look here:

According to the Wikipedia article on Barry, a foul was involved in the race in Sydney:

During the race in August 1920, Felton led for the first half and then Barry fouled his opponent. Felton stopped rowing, believing he had won on the foul, but the umpire, Bill Beach ordered the men to continue rather than making a ruling. It was likely he believed the foul was accidental and did not make a difference to the race. Felton did not scull on, but Barry did, and he crossed the line ahead and thus regained the World Title.

After the race Ernest Barry retired from professional sculling.

In 1913, he had been appointed a Royal Waterman, and in 1950 Barry was appointed the Royal Barge Master to King George VI and later to Queen Elizabeth II. He retired in 1952. During several years, Barry was also coaching crews in Ireland, Germany and Denmark.

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