28 January 2021
By Chris Dodd
A bit late, news reaches HTBS that British oarsman and coach Colin Porter died in August last year at the age of 89. He was ‘hot on training’, Chris Dodd writes.
Colin Porter, who has died in Australia on 21 August 2020, came to prominence as the national serviceman in command of rowing at RAF Benson, winning the Thames and Wyfold cups at Henley in 1953. Porter the oarsman never struck international gold, but his crews shook British rowing and the ARA to its ankles. He broached the Head and the Grand, coached National Provincial Bank to unheard-of success and founded his own squad, Barn Cottage, before driving Thames and then Molesey to excel. The poacher was appointed gamekeeper when he became chairman of selectors.
Porter was short on technique but hot on training. According to historian John Hall-Craggs, Porter was ‘a hideous looking oar, but he was tough. He made his crews really sharp’. His sometimes partner in revolt, the Oxford and London RC coach Jumbo Edwards, described Porterism as ‘the cult of hard work and fitness to the exclusion of almost all else.’
Porter, who rowed at King’s School Canterbury and University of London, delivered the story of Barn Cottage to a history forum at the River & Rowing Museum in 2007. He described his coaching methods in Rowing to Win in 1959, and his career as a hydraulic engineer and environmentalist in Britain and Australia in his 2004 autobiography, A Very Public Servant.
In 1967, Porter married Christine and two years later they emigrated to Australia, where Porter worked in the hydraulics business in Sydney and later Melbourne. In 1976, Christine and Colin Porter, together with the two daughters and one son, moved to Perth, where Colin could launch his sculling boat from his back garden.
The Rev Ian Thomson wrote of Colin Porter in The Observer: ‘like a lamppost on a dark night he stands quiet and secure, dispelling gloom and watchful of the dawn.’
Colin F. Porter, born 11 October 1930, died 21 August 2020.
(Update: The caption for the image with the Barn Cottage BC crew has been corrected according to Bob Wilson’s comment on 28 January.)