corner, smashed one against the wall, who was the one of
them who stopped suddenly with the neck of the gone bottle
in his hand, and the wine running down his leg, said solemnly,
" Stop a minute. I heard such a strange noise just now, like
a 'splosion " ?
Ah, well, it was very poor stuff, no doubt ; but it makes
one laugh to think of it now, and one does not win the G.C.C.
every day one does not indeed.
In 1877 we were again very well trained, and beat a strong
but not half fit Guards eight, much heavier, and better
198 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN
oarsmen than we were. They were stroked by F. C. Ricardo,
who had some splendid athletes behind him, but they had
trained too short of condition to go the pace with us, over the
In the final we had a desperate race with London, a very
powerful crew containing Long, Playford, Gulston, Slebs
Smith, Alfred Trower (also of the Kingston), and Edward
Slade from Molesey, another very good man. They beat us.
We had a ditto race with them at the Metropolitan, when
we made it a little bit closer ; but they beat us again. They
were much stronger individually and also rowed better. It
was solely our training and condition that enabled us to press
In 1878 we won the race with one of the lightest and
worst crews (as regards rowing form) that ever rowed for the
Hastie and I were the only two old hands left, and though
there were two very strong men among the others (namely, B.
J. Angle and G. H. Scales), the other four were generally
considered very moderate both as regards form and strength.
Angle was enormously strong, but muscle-bound, and
inclined to pull with his arms at the finish, and too stiff
altogether. He, however, really came on wonderfully during
the Henley week, and, I do not doubt, was most effective in
the race. It was in this race that Hastie rowed 44 a minute
without slackening, and keeping a fair length (as long as any
of us could possibly row, I am certain) from the Island right
up to Phyllis Court wall, by which time we had cleared the
Jesus crew, and were able to slacken the pace a little bit,
though we had to keep going all we knew for work to get
home at all.
We must have been a pretty sight for form at the finish,
but that race undoubtedly was won by nothing but sheer hard
condition, plus the wonderful power of Hastie, our stroke. Guy
Nickalls is the only man I can think of with whom to compare
him as regards getting work out of a moderate crew. If we
had had Drake Smith stroking, we should never have been in
THE THAMES ROWING CLUB 199
it, either heat or final. He was a grand stroke when he had
a fine crew behind him, but would have been no use with our
1878 lot. The Jesus crew we beat was not perhaps altogether
tip-top, but I think Prest was then at his best, and Hockin,
Gurdon, and C. Fairbairn were quite first-class men, as I
think was Baillie also for his place (bow).
That year I had been down as light as 10 st. 3 Ibs. in
training, but came up in weight afterwards, and despite a
heavy morning's work was 1 1 st. on the scale on weighing
day, and 1 1 st. 3 Ibs. on the day of the race. We got just
under the 1 1 st. average on the weighing day, but were well
over it in the race.
Our No. 5, G. H. Scales, was a gigantic, rawboned youth,
19 years of age, and nearly 6 ft. 3 ins. in height, but in our
trial eights (when he looked as thin as a lath) he tipped the
scale at 12 st. 10 Ibs. or thereabouts. The tremendous work
we gave him afterwards pulled him down greatly, and when
his stale stage came on, he gave out that he could not go on
with it, and left the crew.
We found out afterwards that he lived with two maiden
aunts, who thought that an egg and a slice of toast were a nice
breakfast, or supper, for a " growing boy," and, as he would not
stay to sup with the crew in the evening, we had no idea that
he was doing his work on utterly insufficient food.
He was a most simple youth, and no doubt the old ladies
ruled him with a rod of iron. After he succumbed we tried
three or four men who were in fairish condition, but could
not get well suited, and at last, when we had fixed on a man
who we thought would do (one Pongo Mapleton, alias "the
Missing Link," a very light weight but a grand worker), that
worthy, instead of turning up at Henley on the Saturday,
when we went there, sent a wire to say that the "sack"
would be his doom if he came, and we were left with seven men.
As luck would have it, however, Scales (who had arranged
for his holidays at that time) came down to see the crew, and
we thereupon shoved him into the boat for a bit of a row
200 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN
He acquitted himself very well, and, having had a square
meal at dinner, did better still in the evening, and we kept
him in the crew.
The difference that the proper training diet made in him
was wonderful, and he stood all the hard work that we did
during the week capitally, and acquitted himself well in the
race. It was meat and beer he had wanted ; and he must
have been a wonder to go on as long as he did on his tea and
muffin (enforced) regimen.
His weight on the card was only 1 1 st. 9 Ibs., more than a
stone lighter than he had rowed in the trials, when you would
have thought that you could not have scraped a pound of flesh
off him anywhere. Alas, we lost him before the end of the
year, as he went abroad, or he might just have made the
difference to us in 1880 and 1881.
The crew rowed the course every evening we were at
Henley, and on the Tuesday twice, both in the morning and
the evening, as we had been disappointed in our fours, and
did not treat them seriously. The Stewards' four did not
The year 1879 you will remember as one of the worst for
wind in our experience. We had the worst of the station
against Kingston in the heat, and were never really in it,
though we hung on pretty well most of the way. We were
not at all a good crew, however.
In 1880 we fancied ourselves a good deal, having got
capitally together, and having trained as usual. D. E. Brown,
of Hertford College, Oxon, rowed 6 (and 3 in the four
which won the Stewards'), but we had a very clumsy oar at
No. 5 (W. Jenkin), who was rowed for his strength and pluck,
but upset us on more than one occasion. We were beaten by
Leander in the heat, defeating a very strong Jesus crew, all
'Varsity oars. It was one of those exceptional days when
there was a strong wind off the Berks, shore against the
rowers, and Leander slipped right away under the shelter
of the trees at the Farm while we and Jesus were fouling each
other in the rough water outside. We, however, had a rare
THE THAMES ROWING CLUB 201
tussle with Jesus, after we both got clear, and rowed round
them on the outside at the Point, but we never got on terms
In 1 88 1 we had a far more moderate crew, but one out of
which Hastie got the very last ounce in the race in the heat,
with an enormously powerful London crew, which, eventually,
won the final.
That was about the hardest day's work I ever did at
Henley in a broiling sun, and with a neuralgic sick headache
all day (that made no difference to strength, however
not a bit). It was neck and neck between us and London
till past Fawley, when they got away and took our
water. Hastie put on a splendid spurt at the White House
and drove them out, and round the corner we caught them
up gradually till I thought we were going to win. When
straight for home, however, they drew gradually away again,
and beat us not quite clear.
The next day they did pretty much the same with a
powerful Leander eight, stroked by West, but could never get
clear. I was glad we had not fouled them in the heat, as we
nearly did, in driving them out of our water at the corner, for
we could not have given Leander the station.
I do not think I ever felt so bad in my life, as on getting
out of that crew. Frank Playford, who had stroked London,
was very bad too, and we lay on the lockers together a good
half hour after every one else had left the boathouse.
Later we had to row Cornell and London in the Stewards,
and were taken right back to the start after a foul between
those two at about Fawley, we being then a little behind.
On the second attempt we were again behind for three
parts of the way, and then got by them both, and, having the
station, won by two lengths.
After that, Hastie and I had to turn out and row Leader
and Payne who had done nothing all day, but we really had
the best of it, as they had lain about in the sun needling the
whole day, and rowed as dead as a nail. They had rowed us
hard at two or three regattas previously, and had trained
202 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN
specially for the Goblets and nothing else, but whereas they
had previously always led us at the start, that evening with
two and (nearly) a half hard races out of us, we ran clean
away from them and won anyhow. That again shows
how condition will enable men to revive after fearful
Never during my whole career did we have an eight
without one or two weak spots in it, sometimes more. The
crews that rowed for Thames in the later eighties were, as a
rule, physically a great deal better than we were in the
seventies, but I do not think that any of them ever got so
much out of themselves as any one of the crews I have
Take the result of our training, 1874 to 1881 inclusive. I
do not think it reads badly, for a very mixed sort of Metro-
politan club as we were, composed of fellows who all had to
do a pretty hard day's work in the City and elsewhere, and
never got off to row mucli before 7 at night, right up to
the Henley week.
This is the summary
G. C. C.
1874. Won heat, beating Jesus with 7 'Varsity oars by half
Lost by 3 lengths, from middle station in strong wind
in final, won by London, with Eton second.
N.B. Beat London with one change (C. S. Read for F.
L. Playford) at Metropolitan by a length.
1875. Second in heat to Leander, beaten barely a length,
and beating a strong London crew by half a length, but
we had best station.
N.B. Final won easily by Leander.
1876. Beat London easily in heat, won final by nearly two
lengths against Jesus (5 Blues) and Oxford mixture
1877. Won heat against Guards (all crack Etonians) easily
THE THAMES ROWING CLUB 203
at finish. Lost final to London by a length and a half
after leading three parts of the way. They would have
won easily if trained as we were.
1878. Won heat by two lengths against a very smart
Kingston eight, stroked by W. P. Phillips. Won final
by two lengths, after desperate race with very strong
1879. Beaten in heat by Kingston Rowing Club, in wind.
Never in it.
N.B. The Jesus crew, which we had beaten the year
before, won easily, and were far best crew in race.
1880. Beaten in heat by Leander (2 lengths), beating Jesus
crew, all Blues, for second place. Leander won final
1 88 1. Beaten in heat by not quite a length by London,
after desperate race all the way. London beat Leander
in final by not quite so much.
1882. Beaten in final by Exeter, who had "bushes" in an
awful gale. Had row over for heat.
You will note that there is not a bad beating in the whole
list, but (with the exception of 1874 (final) and 1879, when
we had no earthly chance) we always made a very close fight
1874. Won heat against Dublin comfortably. Beaten in
final by London ; exceptionally fine crew, which was
never beaten, namely Slebs, Playford, Long, and Gulston.
1875. Beaten by three lengths by Chester and Leander.
Leander winning on a foul. We were clearly over-
matched for strength too.
1876. Won heat, beating a very powerful Dublin (Croker
Barrington and his brother, stroke and 3) and a very
good Molesey crew. Lost final, on a foul, to London
when we had the race in hand owing to my foolery,
terrible hard lines. " Remorse and misery " seemed
204 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN
quite to spoil the Grand win, till one saw the others so
1877. A hard race most of the way, but beaten by the crack
London four by nearly three lengths.
1878. Did not start.
1879. Won heat after a desperate race with London and
First Trinity ; we were behind on the lea shore most of
the way, but the bend helped us at the finish, and I think
we won by about 3 lengths. Were stopped by a house-
boat in the final, when we were just beginning to come
away, under the bushes, against Lady Margaret and Jesus,
on the lea shore. Last named got up and won at the
finish and were the best crew. But I think we should
have got too far away under bushes to be caught, if we
had not been stopped. L.M.B.C. were unlucky, as we
shoved them out just before we were stopped.
1880. Won heat against Jesus, the previous year's
winners, and London easily. Won final easily against
N.B. Brown was a real clinker. He left us in the
winter, owing to some row with Hastie.
1 88 1. Won heat by two lengths, beating London and
Cornell. Lost final to the crack Hertford four, but to
this day I think we might have beaten them, had we not
fouled the rushes just when we were driving them out of
our water, which they were trying to take. Hastie put
the rudder the wrong way by mistake. However, one
can always make excuses, and most people thought
Hertford first rate. Personally I do not think they were.
Their stroke side (Lowndes and Buck) were not half
as good stayers as Roberts and Brown, at bow and
No. 3, and in 1883 they were rowed down by a Thames
crew, which Hastie considered inferior to ours of
1882. Did not start owing to my illness, but we had done a
most exceptional trial, and, I firmly believe, would have
beaten the Hertford crew. We had Tween (who was
THE THAMES ROWING CLUB 205
then an extremely powerful oar for his weight) in place
of Jenkin, who rowed three in 1879 an ^ 1881. Tween
rowed bow and I rowed three, and we undoubtedly were
much faster than the crews of those years.
The above is the record of the old-fashioned Thames
system of training and racing.
FAMOUS CREWS AND MEMORABLE RACES
Two great Victories of the London R.C. at Henley, 1878 and 1881 The
Historic Victory of T. C. Edwards-Moss in the Diamonds, 1878
I. THE STEWARDS' CUP IN 1878
IN 1878 the London Rowing Club were at the zenith of
their fame. They had started as an institution of
Metropolitan oarsmen to compete against the Universities,
and with the assistance of men whose names have become a
household word in tlje history of the oar they had accomplished
their task most admirably. Since the year 1857 when they
had gained their first victory at Henley, they had won the
Grand Challenge Cup eight times. During the past six
years they had won it four times, and since 1871 inclusive
they had never failed to win the Stewards' Cup, besides
carrying off on various occasions the Silver Goblets for pair
oars. In these days their reputation for skill and waterman-
ship stood unrivalled. They were supposed to possess, in
some mysterious way, a secret unattainable by the ordinary
University oarsman. Occasionally by great good luck Leander
or the Colleges might triumph over them, but they soon
restored the balance and asserted themselves again. In 1878
the question of foreign entries at Henley Regatta began to
assume great importance. Columbia College of New York
entered a four for the Stewards' and the Visitors', and in the
end won the latter. Though they called themselves a College,
they were in reality a University, for in America no College
has a right to the title in the sense in which it is applied to our
* In this and the following chapters, I have recorded only those races which
I myself witnessed.
FAMOUS CREWS AND MEMORABLE RACES 207
Colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, which are in effect separate
institutions federated for the purpose of forming a University
Boat Club. The Henley Stewards in 1882 altered their rules
and confined both the Visitors and the Ladies' Races to
College clubs of the United Kingdom.
In addition to the Columbia four, there had also come
from the other side of the Atlantic, two scullers and a four of
the Monroe Shoe-Wae-Cae-Mette Boat Club (pronounced
" Shoowassametty " and generally spoken of as " Shoos ").
This crew was composed of Canadian lumbermen, who were
certainly not amateurs according to our ideas, and their
admission at Henley excited considerable comment Though
they had no semblance of style in their oarsmanship, they
had rowed together for a considerable time, and by rowing an
exceptionally fast stroke they were able to command a great
deal of pace. Their competitors were the Columbia crew of
which I have already spoken, a Trinity College Dublin crew,
a Kingston Rowing Club crew, a crew from Jesus College,
Cambridge, and a London Rowing Club crew made up of
famous oarsmen seated in the following order
Bow, S. Le B. Smith,
2, F. S. Gulston,
3, A. Trower,
Stroke, F. L. Playford.
The steerage of the crew was managed by F. S. Gulston, cele-
brated for his skill in this department and for his extensive
and peculiar knowledge of all the intricacies of the Henley
course as it then existed before piles and booms had marked
it out for competitors.
London and the " Shoos " came together in the final heat,
the Shoos with the centre station and London with the
Berkshire. It must be remembered that at that time, though
the final heats of the races were sometimes confined to two
crews, there were three stations and in the preliminary heats
three crews very often started. The old course began at the
head of Temple Island and finished close to the Bridge, the
Berkshire crew having thus a great advantage by rowing in
208 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN
the inside of the corner at Poplar Point. London, therefore,
had the best station, but the race, as it turned out, was
decided in their favour before this point.
The Shoos started at a most terrific rate. Their swivels
rattled with a noise that might have been heard from one
end of the course to the other ; clouds of spray came from
their oars ; but their pace was undeniable, and they soon
began to creep into the lead. London, however, who must
have been rowing some eight strokes less than their opponents,
were going extremely well. Their rowing was smooth and
powerful, and they were beautifully together. Indeed, as they
came up the course they looked like a gigantic single sculling
boat, so admirably welded and so uniform were the move-
ments of their bodies and their blades. Soon, in spite of the
frantic scrambles of the Shoos, London began to hold them
and then slowly to gain upon them. The only question was :
Could the Shoos last at their tremendous rate of stroke ?
If their wind and their muscles held out there might yet
be a chance for them. It was not to be, however. The
Londoners were still full of go, and they had got the measure
of their opponents. Gradually the nose of their boat began
to push itself in front without any obvious increase of effort
on the part of her crew. Between the White House and the
Point the Shoos were done. One of them collapsed and the
whole crew stopped rowing, leaving London to win at their
leisure. I can still remember the gesture of triumph with
which Slebs Smith waved his hand to the frantically cheering
crowd ashore and afloat.
II. T. C. EDWARDS-MOSS v. G. W. LEE FOR THE
DIAMOND SCULLS, 1878
I have already said that at this Henley there were entries
from two American scullers. They were both named Lee.
One being G. W. Lee of the Triton Boat Club, New York ;
the other being G. Lee of the Union Boat Club, Boston.
G. Lee was an amateur in the strictest sense of the word, but
his rowing skill was not equal to the purity of his status, and
FAMOUS CREWS AND MEMORABLE RACES 209
he was soon disposed of. It may be doubted whether, even
at this time, G. W. Lee could have substantiated his claim to
rank as an amateur. Later on he openly joined the profes-
sionals and sculled for money. He was a formidable and
England's hope on this occasion was T. C. Edwards-Moss,
of Brasenose College, Oxford. He had rowed four times for
his University, once (in 1876) as stroke, and three times as
No. 7. In the previous year he had won the Diamond Sculls.
His sculling had all the best points of his rowing perfect
watermanship, beautiful precision, and great power, but he had
not devoted any great amount of time to it, and, as compared
with Lee, he was short of practice.
These two, then, came together in the final heat, Lee with
the Berkshire station, Edwards-Moss with the centre. Lee
at once began to lead, but he could not shake off his enemy.
Still, he held his advantage to the Point, and as he showed
no signs of exhaustion the race appeared to be over.
Rounding the corner, and with the station in his favour, he
was a length ahead of Edwards-Moss. From here, however,
the latter began one of the most marvellous spurts ever seen
in a sculling race at Henley. Faster and faster he dug in his
sculls, and faster and faster moved his boat in answer to his
efforts. So the two boats neared the finish, Edwards-Moss
overhauling his rival at every stroke. Lee, however, still had
his canvas in front. All he had to do was to put in half a
dozen hard ones to make sure of his victory. He was incapable
of this effort. Dismayed by the rapid approach of his rival, he
faltered and looked round. His boat lurched and he stopped
sculling. In a flash Edwards-Moss was up to him and past
him, and had won the race.
III. LONDON WIN THE GRAND CHALLENGE CUP
Since 1877, when they had last won the Grand, London
had suffered a certain amount of eclipse. Thames, Jesus
210 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN
(Cambridge), and Leander had won this great event in the
three following years. In 1881 London flamed up again and
placed to their credit one of the most notable successes ever
achieved over the Henley course. They had lost nearly all
the great oars who had made them famous in the past. F. S.
Gulston, A. de L. Long, and S. le B. Smith were no longer
rowing for them, but they still retained the services of F. L.
Playford, nephew of that H. H. Playford who had stroked
their first winning crew in 1857. F. L. Playford had won the
Wingfield Sculls five times in succession, from 1875-1879,
when he had resigned. He had won the Diamonds in 1876,
had stroked the winning Grand crew in 1877, and the winning
Stewards' Fours in 1876-77-78. He was one of the most
magnificent oars ever seen in a boat, powerful in his work,
beautifully smooth in his style, and gifted with a wonderful
judgment both of pace and of opportunity in a race. He was
again stroke of the London Eight in 1881, with a crew of
comparative novices behind him. They had, however, worked
very hard, had been trained into the most perfect condition,
and were capable of rowing a very fast stroke with complete
ease to themselves.
The entry for the Grand in this year was of very high
quality. Leander, who had won in the previous year, were
again represented by a very powerful crew of six Oxonians
and two Cantabs, with L. R. West at stroke and T. C. Edwards-
Moss at No. 7. Hertford College had brought their Head of
the River crew from Oxford, with G. Q. Roberts, E. Buck,
D. E. Brown, Jefferson Lowndes, and G. S. Fort included in
it, a very strong combination for a College crew.
In the final heat of the Grand these three crews were left
to compete against one another. Hertford had the Berks,
station, Leander the centre, and London the Bucks. London
were reputed to be the fastest of the three, but very few
supposed that, with the handicap of the station against them,
they could possibly win the race. All three started at a great
pace, and it was soon seen that Leander, at any rate, were
faster than Hertford. They led out, and as they neared the
FAMOUS CREWS AND MEMORABLE RACES
White House they were able to come over and take the inside
water ahead of Hertford. They now had the full advantage
of the corner to the finish, and it seemed as if nothing could
prevent them from winning. London, however, made a
splendid effort. They picked the stroke up and came sailing
round from their outside station as if they had a gale of wind
behind them. Steadily they drew ahead of Leander, whose
condition was not all that it ought to have been. The rowing
of Edwards-Moss at this moment was magnificent, but Play-
ford in the London crew was not to be denied. His boat had
the longer distance to travel, but she was now moving much