British Rowing |

Clubs: tales of the unexpected

As we start to return to our rowing clubs, we revisit some of the tantalising stories of suffragettes, ghosts and magicians, amongst other things, from clubs around the country

Berwick ARC

Did you know that the start of Berwick’s long-distance course can see crews racing through two different countries, as this point marks the border between England and Scotland.?

Deal RC

During World War Two, one of Deal’s championship coastal scullers took his boat over to Dunkirk with some of the rowers to evacuate soldiers off the beach. His name was Freddy Roberts, aka Flint Roberts.

Some think the reference in the movie Dunkirk, where the captain asks a man in a boat if he is from Deal, was based on Freddy Roberts.

“I don’t see the use of going down backwards to Iffley every evening” 

Evesham RC

As the 1932 Evesham Regatta was rowed on a flood, coxswains were issued with buoyancy aids – mainly inflated bicycle tyres wrapped around their bodies!

Some racing crews strayed from the river onto the calmer water covering the riverside park, gaining them a distinct advantage. Then, at the end of the day, prize-winners and officials had to be carried on the backs of some members who had thigh-high gum boots as the club grounds were completely under water.

Magdalen College BC, Oxford University

Despite rowing for no more than a term and a bit in 1874-75, Oscar Wilde still made his mark in dealings with members of the Boat Club; he famously announced: “I don’t see the use of going down backwards to Iffley every evening.” 

From ‘Upon the Elysian Stream: 150 Years  of Magdalen College Boat Club, Oxford’  by Mark Blandford-Baker

Monmouth RC has hosted one of the world’s biggest rock stars not once, but twice

Milton Keynes RC

In 2013, Milton Keynes RC rowed the English Channel. As if that wasn’t an amazing enough achievement, they broke the record for the fastest women’s crew to cross it, completing the row in five hours, 14 minutes.

the milton keynes crew on their way to breaking the channel record

Monmouth RC

Monmouth RC has hosted one of the world’s biggest rock stars not once, but twice. Robert Plant jammed with musicians at a Rockfield Studios party at the club after moving to the area in the early 1980s, following the end of Led Zeppelin.

And shortly afterwards, he headlined a festival in the regatta field with his jump blues and rockabilly band, The Honeydrippers, with rumours currently rife that he may be about to  re-form them 35 years on.

Nottingham RC

In 1913, there was a lot of turmoil being caused by the suffragettes demanding votes for women.

A few Nottingham suffragettes decided that they should set fire to the Nottingham boathouse because it was a men-only organisation.

Afterwards, they posted a letter, explaining their cause and the reason for trying to burn down the club.

At the next suffragette rally in Nottingham, the Boat Club men arrived in force to shout down the speakers. They let off stink bombs and it turned into a riot…

It was another 57 years before any of the rowing clubs on Trentside admitted women and it was slightly ironic that it was Nottingham BC that led the way.

Peterborough City RC

Members of Peterborough City RC have played the local rugby club at football on Boxing Day since the 1950s, and the prize is a stuffed crocodile!

Sudbury RC

At a 1920s regatta, Sudbury Town Band was being ferried in a punt across the river when the bottom of the boat collapsed and they all finished up in the water with their instruments.

Club members made repeated dives and, eventually, almost all the instruments were retrieved – so with a little drying out of bandsmen and instruments ‘the band played on’.

While sweeping the club upstairs, a spent bullet was found still lodged under a skirting board

Thames RC

Thames RC member Jack Godwin coxed the club to two Grand Challenge Cup wins and fourth place at the 1924 Olympic Games, but his post-coxing career was more notable.

Godwin became a professional magician, appearing as ‘Jack Stuart’ on stage before embracing a new invention – television, where he invented tricks designed to amaze and beguile viewers.

Warwick BC

Warwick BC is located adjacent to Warwick Castle on the banks of the River Avon, perfect for post-outing barbecues in the sunshine.

The castle has a violent and dark history and rowers often spend night-time outings staring up at the windows to see if they can spot any ghostly figures.

It provides an extra incentive to go faster!

warwick rowers take their chances with the castle ghosts

Worthing RC

In World War Two, the Canadian Army was stationed in the town to protect against a naval attack and Worthing RC was used as a base. There was a machine gun nest on the roof, and a mortar pit out front.

Years later, while sweeping the club upstairs, a spent bullet was found still lodged under a skirting board.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this article.