5 October 2021
By Greg Denieffe
Greg Denieffe is waiting for the postman to ring.
The year is 1865. The Blues have won the Civil War and are telling the losers to get over it. America is divided; it may be called the United States, but, what’s in a name. One of my favourite movies, The Outlaw Josey Wales, is set in this period. Towards the end of the movie, Josey Wales, played by Clint Eastwood, is looking for a drink in the Lost Lady, the saloon in the town of Santo Rio. He and Kelly, the barman, have a short humorous exchange that concludes with Kelly saying: ‘Yeah, first the silver run out of the Santo Rio. Then the people run out. Then the whiskey. Then the beer run out.”
Back in 2021, I greet news of a new book on Irish rowing with a song and an internet order.
The river rose; the cricket sang / The lightnin’ bug he flashed his wing / And like a rope my arms I fling / ‘Round Rose of Alabamy.
Unfortunately, my order: acknowledged, accepted, charged in full and processed, was followed a few days later with a ‘we are waiting for more stock to arrive’ email. There was no milk on the shelves in Tesco recently; on my last visit, The Barge had three out of their four keg beers off, and diesel and petrol are in scarce supply. But now, things are getting serious; there aren’t enough drivers to deliver books.
Released on 15 September, The Trinity College VIII: Rowing for the Ladies [sic] Plate, is a light-hearted account of how Dublin University Boat Club (racing as Trinity College, Dublin) won The Ladies’ Challenge Plate at the 1977 Henley Royal Regatta. Author, David Hickey, may have struggled with what to leave in and what to take out – protecting the guilty, and all that – but by all accounts, he has done a fine job in getting the balance right.
He takes an in-depth look at the reality of competitive rowing. He describes what actually happens in a race, what it feels like in the boat, the tactics involved and choices that have to be made. He also explains why he and his crew were willing to spend the many gruelling hours of training required in order to be competitive. It is a story of discipline, camaraderie, fitness, self-belief, teamwork, student antics and hard work as seen by one Trinity College undergraduate who joined the Boat Club to pursue Henley glory. Along the way there were Irish Championships to be won, green vests to be earned and a trip down the Nile.
Hickey even managed to write his own book review for The Irish Times. It is written in the style of the book, so if you want to whet your appetite before ordering a copy, click here.
Further evidence of Hickey’s prowess with the pen (and his Irish charm) can be seen on Rebecca Caroe’s recent podcast Rowing Chat: David Hickey.
In 2017, the crew, minus their coach, Robin Tamplin, who died in February 2017, was invited to row over the Course on the Saturday of HRR. The invitation from Sir Steve Redgrave included bringing over a boat called Robin Tamplin so that he could be there in spirit. David Hickey thanked SSR for the invitation and the permission to ‘row over.’ He also mentioned how knackered the crew was; Sir Steve raised his eyes to heaven and smilingly said: ‘that is why the Stewards call it a “Row Past” and NOT a “Row Over”. Apparently, crews are not supposed to row over the full course during these celebrations.
It is thirsty work rowing the full course, and to quench it, the crew made its way to the Fawley Bar, where once again there was the worry that the Pimm’s would run out, then the beer would run out, leading the Trinity gang to run out to the Bridge Bar.
Now imagine if Josey Wales was a rowing coach and not a cowboy, he could send his crew out with this line from the movie: ‘Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.’
Works for me.
Copies can be purchased through the DUBC Shop.