H. J Chinnery.

Sporting recollections online

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who had then won the Diamonds and Wingfield
Sculls. The club was not a wealthy one, so I had
to purchase an eight for them, and I had it built by
Jewitt, of Newcastle, and it turned out a first-rate
boat. We used to row every Saturday afternoon
through the winter, with Joe Sadler to coach us,
and we really were quite a good eight when we
arrived at Henley. My usual luck still followed
me. We lost the toss for station, and we were
beaten by a short length by the Leander, of which
Goldie, stroke of the Cambridge boat, was stroke,
and Rhodes No. 7. We had a slight reward, how-
ever, for our long training. We went to Putney,
and beat Thames, London and a Cambridge crew
for the Metropolitan Eights. We also won at two
or three other up-river regattas.

Thirty Miles Walk Before Breakfast.

With regard to walking, in 1867 some Stock Ex-
change men were dining together, and we were
talking about athletic sports. One of them said
he would find two men in the Stock Exchange who
would walk to Brighton on the following Monday


(this being Thursday) inside twelve hours. Several
present laid him two to one against it. He came
to me, and asked if we would take the job on, and
we said, " Certainly ; and how much of the bets
will you let us have } " He replied that he wanted
them himself, and we then tried to back ourselves,
but we managed to get on only about ;^20, which
barely covered the expenses. My brother and my-
self, although not in training for walking, were
always pretty fit, and we had no difficulty in getting
well inside the time. We were actually iij hours
on the road, but were walking only loj hours. We
stopped at Crawley, intending to wait ten minutes,
but my brother, who was then in training for the
mile championship, had a bad attack of cramp,
which delayed us three-quarters of an hour. This,
of course, is nothing of a feat nowadays, but it was
thought something of at the time, and gave us a
good deal of notoriety on the Stock Exchange.

Although we were not specially trained for walk-
ing, for nearly a year we used to get up at four
o'clock on Sunday mornings and walk before break-
fast thirty miles down to a sister's house at Brack-
nell. I do not think there are very many young
men at the present day who would enjoy, or care to
walk thirty miles in six hours before breakfast.

Speaking of Joe Sadler reminds me that I used
to find some of his race money, and he always won


for me until his last race with Trickett, when he
was a complete wreck. I remember on one occa-
sion he was matched with Boyd, of Newcastle, for
the championship of the Thames, and I was on the
steamboat to witness the race. Tom King, who
had been champion of England, and who had now
become a bookmaker, was on board. He called
*' Six to four on Boyd," and, though I had never
been a betting man, when at last he said, *• Here's
60 pounds to 40 on Boyd," I could not help saying,
" Yes, Tom." He expressed his displeasure in very
strong language shortly after, when he saw Sadler
leading comfortably by two lengths at Bishop's
Creek, as King never had a chance of getting round,
for this was the only bet he had made on the race.
Tom was always an excellent fellow, and well
deserved the success he had as a bookmaker on the
racecourse. He paid me the £60 before he left
the boat.

Joe Sadler was a very fine sculler, but a man of
unsteady habits. His lungs gave way, and he was
taken into the Brompton Hospital. I used to go
and see him there, and he often said, '' If I had my
time over again I would never touch a drop of
drink. I remember now what Bill Rowell said to
me one day." Bill Rowell was the winner of one
of those go-as-you-please competitions which were
promoted by the late Sir John Astley, and I think
he did something over 600 miles, if my memory


serves me correctly, the longest distance ever done.
To continue the story, Sadler said, " I met Bill one
day, and said to him, * Come and have a drink,'
but Bill replied, '' No, thank you, Joe ; only fools
drink.' I should not be here now if I had taken
his tip."

From association with Joe Sadler, I took a great
interest in sculling and rowing, and in 1869 my
brother and myself made an effort to resuscitate
sculling and rowing on the Thames. We made an
offer to give a sum of money annually for three
years for prizes to be rowed for under certain con-
ditions by the watermen of the Thames. I think it
was ;^500 a year we guaranteed for three years. I
am not, however, sure as to the amount, though
the files of the sporting newspapers for the period
would contain the particulars. We had good re-
gattas the first two years, and it was really interest-
ing sport, but we had to discontinue after these
two because we found it quite hopeless to get the
men really to row straight We discovered that
all the races were being arranged, and our money
divided, so we made our bow and gave up all hope
of reviving the fine sport of rowing among the pro-
fessionals of the Thames.

Under the auspices of the Amateur Athletic
Club, a mile swimming championship was started a
good many years ago, but I think it was only a


short-lived affair. On one occasion, when It was
swum in the water above Teddington Weir, it was
won by a friend of mine, Major McKerrell, who
was also a very fine rifle shot. There were seven
or eight starters, and the order in which we finished
was McKerrell 150 yards ahead of anyone, the
present Lord Kinnaird second and myself third.
McKerrell was a wonderful performer. I remem-
ber him swimming a friendly match with the cham-
pion of those days, a tiny little fellow named Gurr,
who was a perfect phenomenon in the water.
McKerrell was only defeated by quite a short
distance. He and I used to swim sometimes in the
Serpentine in the early mornings, and I remember
thinking it was very hard work to do twice the
length of it in the still water.

I recollect Charley Westall quite well. He was
a very nice fellow, and gave my brother and myself
many hints as to training. He was the first man
who could claim having walked 21 miles in three
hours, and who also ran a mile in 4 min. 30 sec.
My friend, J. G. Chambers, the old Oxford Blue,
whose name I have already mentioned, was, I
believe, the first amateur to walk 21 miles in three
hours. He was also a very fair runner. I remem-
ber once a half-mile handicap at the West Bromp-
ton running grounds, in which a large number of
runners of those days competed. It was, I believe.


run in six heats. John Chambers, who had 30
yards start, won his heat, and Percy Thornton,
who is now the member for the Clapham Division
in Parh'ament, and who was at scratch, also won
his heat. My handicap was 15 yards, and Lord
Jersey, the champion miler at Oxford, was on the
10 yards mark. I won my heat pretty easily, and
in the final Thornton won from scratch in the then
fast time of two minutes dead. I still think it was
a very remarkable performance, as he had to get
past five men, and the ground was merely an un-
prepared track with large square corners. John
Chambers finished second.

Captain Webb Appears on the Scene.

My friend Chambers called me out from the
Stock Exchange one day, and presented me to
Captain Webb. He said : " Here is a man who
says he can swim the Channel." I replied : " Non-
sense " ; In answer to which Chambers said : " Well,
he says he has swum for ten hours at a time more
than once, and if anybody can do it he can." I
looked Webb over, and thought what a fighting
man he would have made, although perhaps he
might be a little slow. He was only about 5ft. 6in.
or 5 ft. /in. in height, but he was an enormous man
without anything superfluous about him, and he
must have weighed at the time approaching I4st.
I was much taken with his appearance, and the


honest way in which he spoke. He promised irt
quite a modest way that he would do his best.
When I went into the figures I found that he only
wanted £2^^ to cover his month's training and all
his expenses connected with the swim, and I let
him have the money. He used to write to me dur-
ing his training, and tell me how he was getting on.

My friend Chambers went down on the day of
the swim, and he found Webb had already started.
He could see the lugger a good many miles out,
and he hired a rowing boat and went in pursuit.
Chambers was a fine swimmer, and he stripped and
swam with Webb for about an hour, remarking
then that the water was so cold he could not stand
it any longer. The story of the swim is ancient
history, but I think few people know what Webb
really went through, and it was only his indomitable
pluck and endurance that enabled him to accom-
plish his object. At the finish, when he was in
about 3ft. 6in. of water, he still continued to swim,
and although he was told to get up and walk, he
had to be taken hold of and dragged to his feet, as
he was in almost a delirious state. He kept on
saying: " Leave me alone ; I will do it." He was
taken in and put to bed, and he was all right
next day.

This feat of his, of course, created a great sensa-
tion, and a collection was got up for him on the


Stock Exchange, which reah'sed about £600. The
subscribers expressed a wish to see Webb, and I
arranged with the authorities to bring him in. I
secured the services of a dozen of the strongest
young fellows I knew as a bodyguard for Webb,
knowing what the crush would be. When we got
under the dome in the old House, they formed
a circle, with Webb in the centre, and sang to him
" See, the conquering hero comes." While we were
standing there I noticed two old grey-headed mem-
bers also in the circle, and, as is customary in the
Stock Exchange, those behind knocked off the
hats of those in front, and they fell into the circle
where Webb was standing. They were promptly
treated as footballs, and kicked back over the heads
of the people by the two grave and reverend
seigneurs — Frank Playford and Bill Eykyn. Webb
was quite upset, and I think rather alarmed. He
turned round to me and asked " Are they all mad,
sir } " When we eventually got him out through
the crowd, we were minus our neckties, and our
hats were smashed in,

Webb and the Niagara Rapids.

Webb came to see me about a week afterwards,
and he said : " Can you tell me some place where
I can get some exercise .


Online LibraryH. J ChinnerySporting recollections → online text (page 2 of 3)