2 November 2020
By Lionel Bailey, Stephen Wise & Guy Greaves
(edited by Göran R Buckhorn)
In an article of the HTBS show-and-tell series on 8 August, Lionel Bailey wrote about a photograph taken in November 2015. The photograph ‘shows many of the great, and not so great, Great Britain International oarsmen of the late ‘60s. Some were my contemporaries, others my schoolboy heroes,’ Lionel wrote. While Lionel has a copy of the photograph at home, a second one is to be found in the clubhouse of Tideway Sculler School as the oarsmen in the picture all belonged to the club.
Some weeks later, Stephen Wise of Thames Rowing Club posted a comment to Lionel’s article. Stephen wrote: ‘Hello Scullers, does anyone remember your eight practicing 500m sprints at my Grandfather’s timber yard in Southall on the Grand Union Canal? This I arranged between myself, Wayne Smith and Lou Barry. Mid-sixties would be the time!’
Lionel replied to Stephen in another comment: ‘Stephen, I well remember the outings on the Grand Union, though I don’t recall the wood yard but, it was 50 odd years ago!’
Then, via Lionel, an e-mail reached HTBS, from Guy Greaves, the Tideway Scullers cox at the time and now a past President of the club, ‘who was,’ Lionel wrote, ‘a little more au fait with Stephen’s comments than I was.’ Guy wrote:
I remember the canal well. Nonsense to 500m! It provided a straight piece of water of over 2,000m. The only problem was that there was a bridge about halfway, and the towpath came out into the canal itself and made it too narrow for us to race through flat out. So, at the critical moment I would shout ‘Oars in!’ and the crew drew their blades in, and we would shoot through, under the bridge. ‘Oars out! Go!’ and off we went again. [Coach] Lou [Barry] said that he always had his eyes tight shut when we approached the bridge as he reckoned that one day I would misjudge it. Luckily, I never did!
‘Rowing on the Grand Union Canal has passed into club folk lore. Not only was it ridiculously narrow, I recall, years later, accessing it via a ploughed field!’ Lionel wrote. ‘And we were the de facto National Squad of the day. No wonder, by 1970, Bob Janousek would declare, “You British are playing at the sport!” How things have changed in the subsequent half century.’