These long fast rows, we thought, got the crew well
together and also got them over the stale stage. We
always tried to get our men stale about three weeks before
Henley, and these long fast rows did it for us. But we
never dropped a night's practice, or slackened the work, but
just pegged away, with the coach hounding us on it really
was awful and of course rowing got ragged, and the fellows
bad tempered and sometimes we lost a man then, but very
Then we used, about three days a week, after finishing
rowing, to run up the tow-path to the Crab Tree, or to the
Old Tree, one mile from Putney Bridge, on water more on
towpath and back, for wind and legs. Personally, I think I
ran every night and so did Hastie. Then, in the last fort-
night (before going to Henley on the Henley Saturday), we
did what we called "a course" every night, i.e. rowed for
seven and a half minutes under the bank against tide, as hard
as ever we could lick.
The tide is on the ebb about double as often as on the
flood at Putney, and the ebb course was from the Beverley
Brook (end of the present Surrey side embankment) for
7 minutes 30 seconds, keeping close under the bank all
round the bay, of course. And it was a good performance if
we could get well round the soap works (now Harrod's), and a
hundred yards further on an ordinary tide. Sometimes,
very soon after high water, or on very slack " neaps," we got
up nearly to the bridge, but never quite. The lug round the
soap works was bowside work, just as it was round Poplar
not much of a bend, but all on bowside. I knew it at seven.
It should be observed, that when we began this course-
rowing, we were all, as a rule, well through the stale stage.
Sometimes, however, a man or two did not become stale
* Vize was a wonder to keep men good tempered. He used to write topical
verses and parodies, and stuff that used to amuse us very much. He was full of
fun and humour under difficulties.
THE THAMES ROWING CLUB 187
till this fast rowing began, and that would upset the crew a
bit, of course but we hammered through it the work in the
boat was done just the same, and, invariably, all staleness was
well over a week before Henley.
Extra sleep, and rest out of the boat were our sole remedies
I am a great believer in a long sleep, now and again
(also for five to ten-minute naps now and again in daytime,
when tired). A sign of staleness is a man getting sleepy
after his evening meal well, let him sleep (if his digestion is
all right| as that of young fellows generally is) and stay in
bed an extra half hour, or hour, in the morning, for two or
three days, but do not slacken the work, or alter the grub.
Of course he will lose appetite a bit, but he must eat a
sufficient quantity of meat and green stuff or other food as
nourishing and stimulating for a " hard labourer " if science
provides such. I am not learned in gastronomic matters. I
only know that if a man forces himself to eat his regular meal
(sufficient not as much as he can eat) when not stale, he
does not lose strength, and pulls round quicker. And I do
not a bit believe in pampering the appetite of men in training
upon the most nourishing food they can digest. And if they
cannot digest beef and beer, as a rule they are no good to
you. Of course there are exceptions, but jolly few to be any
use in a boat.
I do not say you should not humour a stale man's
preference, say for chop (or chicken now and then) over steak
or joint but keep him on training diet. I am writing about
the average, healthy, strong youngster. He was bound to be
healthy and strong, or under our discipline he never could
reach the stage of which I am treating. I dare say there are
a few vegetarians (and other abnormalities) who can get very
fit on all sorts of " Keg Meg." E. B. Mitchell, they say,
used to train on a bun and a radish, or something, but I
do not quite believe it. But the ordinary training grub
I have mentioned (found best, mark you, by the experience
of the professional prize-fighters, and pedestrians, from whom
188 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN
we got the regimen), is that on which the average sound
athlete will attain his perfection ; and I stick to my own
I should mention that I believe I was the first that started
having a little stewed gooseberries, or rhubarb, as last thing at
breakfast. That was not the pugilist's menu at all. But our
fellows noted how the 'Varsity men wound up with marma-
lade, and it struck me stewed fruit would be better (especially
for fellows who got " tied up " in training, as lots did) and it
seemed to answer. I think pretty well everybody took it on
later, after laughing at us. But that's a small matter, and I
dare say some fellows might be better without it.
The regular bill of fare, before and at Henley, was
Breakfast (about 8 or 8.30) Stale bread (no butter),
watercress, chop or steak, or cold meat (not much), two cups
of weak tea (never coffee under any circumstances), and the
Dinner (about i) Small plate of meat or fowl, or small
steak or chop, green vegetables or green salad, and stewed
fruit or tapioca pudding occasionally. Stale bread, no cheese
or pastry. Not much meat, and get up hungry.
No afternoon tea or anything till supper. Never a drink
Supper (biggest meal) Joint (beef or mutton, never veal),
with sometimes, very seldom, a little fish first (sole almost
invariably), or in place of joint two chops, or fair-sized steak
(fowls very occasionally not as strengthening as mutton or
beef), green vegetables, no potatoes, butter, or cheese.
Stewed fruit or tapioca pudding. General rule was, never
quite satisfy your hunger. Get up feeling you could eat more.
That feeling will pass off.
In my last two years (1881 and 1882) the men used to
have a cup of gruel or barley water just before going to bed,
and I think it is a good thing.
Labat and I used, in 1876, to have a small Apollinaris
last thing at night, instead of gruel, etc., if at all inclined to
be tied up, I believe in that decidedly.
THE THAMES ROWING CLUB 189
As to drink at dinner or supper, it was always beer good
sound beer a little stronger, I think, than ordinary bitter.
For dinner half a pint, or a glass and a half. If very hot
weather a pint and big young 'uns were allowed more.
For supper, a pint, and, in hot weather, three half pints of
We found, when we were really quite fit, a pint was
ample, as we then never got thirsty in any weather.
Men were always made to drink very leisurely, and to eat
a good bit before drinking at all. If very dry, they were told
to sip a spoonful or so (no more), before beginning to eat.
Two or three times in the whole training, after a very hard
spell of work, we had each a glass and a half or two glasses of
good sound " training port." But apart from that, no wine
or spirits of any kind was allowed at any time. A drink
between meals was an unpardonable crime.
Fellows got up any time between 6 and 7.30. I think
7.15 would be about average. Some of us used always to do
a sprint before breakfast, and this got to be the rule with all
after the morning bathe at Henley 100 yards top speed.
At Henley we always rowed the full course, in either
eight or four (occasionally both) every day till the day before
the race. This was about an average day's work, viz.
Out in the eight about n, and row a smart paddle down
to the Island, with a stoppage or two for coach's remarks.
Then to the last gate in two or three pieces of very fast
striking. Then in, all we knew. Rest about ten minutes,
and then out in the four paddle smartly down to Fawley
and home as hard as we could.
Stroll about and idle after mid-day dinner. Then about
5 we went down, and did the course hard in the eight. Coach
and coxswain driving us all the way.
Then perhaps we had a long time in the four going
right down, and doing sprints, and trying for the best steering
line, always ending with a hard burst home (to the bridge)
from about Phyllis Court.
After supper a walk of 3 or 4 miles or so. Generally up
190 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN
to Remenham (by the Five Horse Shoes), and a turn at that
deep well to wind the bucket up in 5 minutes wanted some
doing, but I believe it was got up in 3^ minutes, or less, by
those who practised untiringly at it. Then down through the
wood singing we had a good quartet in those days and
back by the river. To bed at 10 or soon after.
Hastie and I used to practise our pair at all sorts of extra
times, breakfast earlier than the others and get out before 10,
row down to Hambledon, and come back in three or four
hard bursts but we always rowed the course two or three
times besides generally about 4 p.m. or earlier, so as to get a
good rest before doing a course in the eight or four.
Sometimes we only got out, and did a few sharp bursts
close to home.
But our rule, after we were through staleness, was never to
row slowly or without power ; always to be smart, and to pull
and shove hard, whenever we were out in any racing boat.
Another (rather absurd) tradition of ours was, always to
appear as light a crew as possible on the programme. So, on
weighing day, we used to have a light breakfast, go out early,
and stay out a long time, doing a very hard morning's
work, and go up to weigh last of all. In 1878 we had rather
a lark with old Towsey (the then Secretary), and really there
might have been a row about it and, when one thinks of it, it
was not quite the thing, perhaps. We had never contemplated
getting under the n stone average, but when the last man
came off the scale, it was seen we were only 2 Ibs. over. So
Hastie (a born huckster and humbug) began on Towsey, that
there was a mistake here and there. Old Towsey said,
" Well, gentlemen, I think the weights are right, but I shall
be happy to check them for you." What do you suppose
Hastie got us all to do then ? Why, to pull off our shoes, and
get into the scales, each man with Safford's (the cox's) canvas
slippers in his hands and old Towsey stood it.
Only when our No. 5, nearly 6 foot 3 inches, and immense
of limb, with a foot a yard long, sat on the scale, Towsey
looked at him, and looked at the 7-inch (or so) slippers in his
THE THAMES ROWING CLUB 191
hand, and asked him if he did not put his shoes on to row. But
he passed him, and we got under the average, by 4 Ibs. or
5 Ibs., I think. It was so late there was not another soul in the
place. I think old Towsey liked us, and at the same time
did not think we had the ghost of a chance. We did not think
I ought to mention, too, our Henley Sunday walk,
which was invariable from 1874. We strolled in the morning
after breakfast via Maidenhead Thicket to the Ray Mead *
by Boulter's Lock, and dined there. Then, after an hour or
so's rest, we raced back to Henley fair toe and heel walking
as a rule, and as hard as we could go but I always had to
mix a little to keep up, and so had one or two others. We
had some splendid walkers. E. C. Otter was one, and Hastie
was a capital walker and runner too. In 1879 I remember
we ran all the way home. It was, as nearly as possible,
10 miles from the Ray Mead to our diggings, and we used
to arrive in a great heat, and have a bath (I always went to
the plunge) and rub down and felt splendid after it.
They dropped that in Drake Smith's time. He did not take
to it, and liked a rest on the Sunday, but I am certain it was
a good thing for us. We had, you will see, an easy stroll in
the morning, and loafed about or went to church in the
evening, and so we had plenty of rest as well as a change of
But, of course, it would not do for men who had not got
through staleness, or were not thoroughly wound up. It kept
our legs hard, and prevented any chance of getting lethargic
in the sun after dinner, to which fellows on lazy Sundays are
always prone and which, I am sure, is a " set-back " in
After Henley we seemed quite fit to do our best at the
other regattas, with only a hard spin of a mile or so every
night, in eight or four. In my time there were no eights at
any regatta, after Henley, except the Metropolitan, Marlow,
and Molesey (and Moiesey and Marlow were intermittent in
* Deacon kept the place. He had some grand old ale in stone bottles.
192 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN
the seventies). It was principally the fours that were on, with
odd pairs, after the Metropolitan ; but the Metropolitan was
looked on as the tideway Henley, and both London and we
went hard for that. After the Metropolitan I think London
and we thought most of the Barnes four-oared Challenge
Cup (now given at the Metropolitan for " Thames Cup "
eights), and we used to try to put on the best crew we could
for that, though we used to alter the crews at other regattas,
with a view of testing new likely men.
But one thing I am sure of, that whatever amount of hard
rowing we had after Henley (and we really had a great deal,
and were hammering at it every night, for there were some
club races we valued greatly, and practised assiduously for in
those days, besides rowing in the regatta crews) we never got
stale again. Indeed, I always went up in weight a good
bit towards the end of the rowing season.
I remember well in 1881 (my last year but one) I was so
fine drawn at Henley that I only weighed 10 st. 7 Ibs. on the
weighing day, though probably I was three or more pounds
heavier on the race day, but on the day of Barnes (the last)
Regatta I drew 1 1 st. 3 Ibs., being then as fit as a fiddle, our
four winning easily from a good London combination. And
I had been rowing every night nearly, since Henley, and at
the regattas, and also had done some running on the path,
and taken part in a long " outlying summer run," of the
Thames Hare and Hounds.
Now let me show you the results of our system of training
and work beginning with our first start for the Grand
Challenge Cup in 1874, after losing Vize, too, who imagined
his heart was affected, and so took exclusively to
If in that year we had had Hastie stroke and Slater No. 5,
we should have been a lot faster, as there was no comparison
between the two strokes. Slater was short in his body swing,
but had a fine reach with his arms, and what swing he had
was well combined with the leg drive. His stroke was regular
and even, and, though not great at spurting, he always
THE THAMES ROWING CLUB 193
kept going to the end, with great power, doing an immense
amount of work on his own oar.
Hastie did that too, and was more polished in every way,
very long in the swing out, with a very firm catch, and legs
and feet on it right through, a splendidly smooth and lively
recovery (Micky was stiff in his recovery), and with a
marvellous power of keeping his men at a very fast stroke,
without their feeling bustled.
I cannot express this properly ; but we used to come on
shore, thinking we had been rowing thirty-eight, when the
dockers gave us forty to forty-two. I think it was Hastie's
wonderfully steady swing out and firm grip, and then the
smooth recovery, that made it seem easy. There was not a
fraction of a second wasted over any part of the movement.
But he could not be relied on to finish as Micky could. He
did not lack pluck. He proved that on several occasions by
magnificent hard losing races, and one grand win on the post
but then he thought he had no chance, and was only going
to make a good show. He rowed far best then. In ordinary
racing he so fretted and " needled " while the race hung in the
balance that he licked himself before the end : he would make
one great effort, but never could make a second. It was sheer
" needle " and anxiety for the lead wore him out during the
race. I was as big a funk as he was at the start (surely two
such " needlers " never rowed in a pair, before or since), but
as I got really licked in body, the needle vanished, and I never
worried over the last part of the course, except to long to
leave off. It was then a sheer fight against natural physical
exhaustion and one gets used to that to hanging on under
punishment, till it becomes a second nature no merit at all.
But to our crews.
In 1874 we had a physically strong though not at all big
crew, but with three shaky stayers that is, not such stayers
as we wanted. However, they were trained to perfection and
wonderfully well together. We averaged just under 1 1 stone.
In the heat we drew the favourites : Jesus, Cambridge, G.
Dykes, 9 st. II Ibs. ; E. Hoskyns (now Bishop of Southwell),
194 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN
II st. 4 Ibs. ; C. D. Shafto, n st. 9 Ibs. ; T. E. Hockin (his
first year), 12 st. 4 Ibs. ; V. Lecky Brown, 12 st. 12 Ib. ; G. F.
Armytage, 1 1 st. 10 Ibs. ; P. W. Brancker, 1 1 st 3 Ibs. ; and
" Cabby " Rhodes, 1 1 st. 1 1 Ibs. (stroke), about 9 Ibs. a man
heavier on the average, and certainly more scientific oarsmen,
and with a better stroke-oar more lively, and infinitely a
better spurter. I do not think any stroke I ever saw could
beat old Cabby, for a sustained spurt not even Hastie or
Kent. I shall never forget his rattling his crew past Brasenose
after being nearly two lengths astern in the Ladies' that same
year (it was not quite the same crew that rowed for the Grand).
He took them home in one run from the White House to the
Bridge, shoving B.N.C. out at the corner (he had Berks.), and
beating them more than half a length clear. But there was
another crew ahead of them both. A very fine crew of
Dublin about the best they ever sent won that heat.
They were done by wind, I think, in the final, or Croker
Barrington got ill, I forget. And that was after his gruelling
with us in the Grand.
Well, in that same year in the Grand we had Berks., they
Bucks., with fairish (rise and fall) bushes' wind. I do not care
what the Almanack or any other record says about this race.
For my own part, I know they led us half a length clear at
Fawley, and came over into our water. I felt their wash
distinctly ; but we hung on, and, their spurt dying out, they
sheered out for safety, but still washed our bow side till
Phyllis Court wall, when we overlapped and got by them
inch by inch round the bend. When straight for home in the
last two hundred yards we were level, and then our condition
told in the last rally, and we drew away and won by half a
length. I have always regarded that as one of my greatest
triumphs, but the final spoiled it. We drew the centre with a
tearing wind right down, and never saw Eton and London.
Eton were never so near winning the Grand as on that day.
They got under the bushes (you could get in close then), and
slipped away, and, I was told, would have won had they kept
there round the bend ; but, seeing themselves a long way
THE THAMES ROWING CLUB 195
ahead, they came over about the White House for London's
water, and then were driven out at the corner, and just pipped
by half a length. We plugged along in the rough stuff in the
middle, and finished up about three lengths behind.
At the Metropolitan London substituted at No. 6 C. S.
Read, of ist Trinity (the Cambridge President), for F. L.
Playford, then a young 'un, at No. 6, but otherwise they had
the same crew, and we beat them by a length after a hard race,
again drawing away in the last quarter-mile through our
superb condition. A glorious revenge that was. In 1875 we
were drawn in a heat with Berks, station, against Leander
(centre) and London (Bucks.). It was duck-pond water, and
we were beaten, not quite clear, by Leander, who got a good
lead at the start, Hastie, through sheer funk, going off
dreadfully slow (he never did that again), but we beat
London by half a length. We had again three weak spots,
and Slater was not rowing. Still, it was not so bad a show,
seeing the men in the Leander crew. I forget them exactly,
but Goldie stroked, with C. W. Benson, Rhodes, Read,
Nicholson, and E. A. Phillips (Jesus) behind him. I forget
the other two. London had Gulston, Long, Playford, and
" Slebs " in their boat.
In 1876 we won with a very powerful crew, albeit we had
a weak spot (though a very " formy " and clever oar), J. A.
M. Robertson, at No. 6 ; and old Micky, at No. 5, was not as
fit as he might have been, through only coming into the boat
a month before the race. He had " retired," but repented of
it, when somebody cracked up in training. But the other six
of us were in rare fettle, and at No. 4 we had a young 'un who
never again rowed with us, but who, in my opinion, was pretty
well as strong a middle-boat oar as ever rowed anywhere.
That was C. C. Cream, 6 feet i J inches, as thin as a lath, but
grandly built for strength, and with a terrific reach. He scaled
1 1 st. 1 1 Ibs. (he would have been 13 st. in these days), and was
a trifle unpolished, but most effective in the drive. I never
saw him after that year till the Thames dinner last February,
when he turned up (he is an Insurance swell), looking just the
196 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN
same, bar a little grey in the hair ; fifty-four years old, and
looking about forty, really. He was thin and hard, and
active-looking still. That comes of plain living and hard
thinking ; for he was one of our very few " intellectuals."
He sang very deep bass in the said quartet, and was great
at old English madrigals and glees.
Paddy Labat was bow at 10 st. 4 Ibs., and we ran No. 2,
10 st. 8 Ibs. ; No. 3, 1 1 st. 5 Ibs. ; No. 4 (Cream), 1 1 st. 1 1 Ibs ;
No. 5 (Micky), 12 st. 3 Ibs. ; No. 6 (the weak spot), n st.
5 Ibs. ; No. 7 (myself), 10 st. 12 Ibs. ; and Hastie (stroke),
n st. 6 Ibs. In the heat we easily downed London. In the
final we were Bucks., with " Oxford Mixture " in the centre
(B.N.C. and University combined), stroked by Marriott, with
T. C. Edwards-Moss No. 7 and Bankes, Boustead, and W.
Ellison in the crew ; they had beaten Leander in their heat.
On Berks, were Jesus, Cambridge, with " Cabby " at stroke,
and Brancker, Shafto, Hockin, and Gurdon among others
behind him I forget the order a very well-trained crew.
We had shared favouritism with them, but when they drew
the station they (and we) thought they were all safe.
In that race, Hastie went off in a way that, I think, fairly
paralysed the other strokes for the moment. What the rate
was I do not know, but we all took it up magically (of course
by pure accident), and I never in my life, before or since, felt
a boat jump under me like it. We cleared " the Mixture "
in less than two hundred yards, crossed them, and, after a
sharp tussle, got the Jesus water, and were right under the
Berks, shore opposite the Farm. That is so. The Almanack
and Steward's book are wrong. Then Cabby came at us with
a rush. The yells of the Cantabs to him to " bump " us, I
shall never forget. Hastie jerked his head towards Bucks.,
and Safford, losing his nerve, lugged his right string so hard
that he ran us across Oxford again, and nearly fouled the
bushes just above Fawley Court boathouse. When we got
straight, we buckled to, and came across gradually, got their
water again a little before the corner, and won (easing down a
bit, but mortal licked at the finish) by nearly two lengths.
THE THAMES ROWING CLUB 197
Oxford were a long way astern ; but, as Jesus eased off, so did
we. In the last hundred yards they came up with a rush,
and overlapped the Cambridge men just on the post. I
believe Bankes is under the impression, to this day, that they
would have won if it had been a little further.
Lord, what an evening we had after it. We lodged at a
house in New Street, with a splendid old-fashioned garden at
the back and a summerhouse at the far end, in which dear
J. H. H. Moxon (with whom I had many a ramble in
the woods and talks about plants and birds, etc.) lived with
J. C. Fenn, a most studious-looking individual in spectacles,
but a jovial soul.
I remember Hockin, leaning back against a rose-bush, and
dropping suddenly behind it and a number of the other
plants, in the midst of an impromptu speech he was making.
His shoes remained sticking out to represent him, but he
" accepted the situation," and went to sleep comfortably,
subsequently rousing us all at about 2 a.m. to let him into
And who was it, by the way, who, pulling himself together
and staring steadily for five minutes at Cream, who had
donned a washed-out sort of " whitey-brown " suit (it looked
as if it was splashed with white lime), asked if it had " ever
occurred to him that he resembled two millers " ? It was
old Vize, I think.
Also, when two of the party went to the Red Lion for
a couple of bottles of champagne, and on reeling round the