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Old Alliances Selwyn and Monkton

Old Alliances Selwyn and Monkton

The evangelical zeal of our Victorian forefathers is still evident in many aspects of our life today and nowhere more so than in the many educational institutions established in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Two of those institutions, founded within 14 years of each other, have been linked not only through their common Christian tradition but also through that supreme example of muscular Christianity, their boat clubs.

Selwyn College, Cambridge is younger than Monkton, but its Boat Club, founded in 1882, is just 6 years the senior. Established to honour that great missionary Bishop of New Zealand, George Augustus Selwyn, it was only to be expected that a College founded in memory of a member of the first ever Cambridge Boat Race Crew would have a strong rowing tradition. Sadly neither Monkton or Selwyn have ever achieved the summits of their own rowing ambitions through going Head of the Mays or winning the Princess Elizabeth at Henley, but both have produced some outstanding oarsmen and, in many cases, those great men have been shared by School and College.

Many of the elder brethren at Monkton can remember boats called WJLL-J and WGRML without any clear idea whose initials were being commemorated. Perhaps the latter is the best known, none other than Ran Laurie who won Olympic Gold in 1948 but who had been one of the outstanding Cambridge Blues of the 1930s. In the words of A.P.McEldowney, the great chronicler of Selwyn rowing (and founder of UL Boat Club) This year (1933) there arrived at Selwyn a Freshman who was not only the most famous oarsman Selwyn ever had, but also one of the most famous Great Britain ever had — WGRM Laurie. And we can truly claim him as a Selwyn oarsman. He had always told me he learnt all his rowing from Taffy Jones at Monkton Combe School. And where but Selwyn did Taffy learn his rowing?

Ran, known in those days as Stan was not the only Monkton oarsman who graduated to the Cam and to Selwyn thanks to Taffy Jones — there was Ran‘s brother Alan who was a war time blue and President of CUBC, and then the Lapage brothers, Peter and Mike, the latter being Captain of Selwyn in 1947, going on to great things on the Tideway, his crew beating Oxford and breaking the record set by the crew that had been stroked by Ran Laurie over a decade before.

Perhaps it was the shared Christian tradition, perhaps it was the influence of WJLL-J, himself a great Selwyn oarsman of the late 20‘s and then rowing master at Monkton before moving on (treachery!) to Radley! Sadly I never met Taffy, though he wrote the forward to Mac‘s book on Selwyn rowing, but I was privileged to know Ran who must have been one of the most modest of men as well as one of the nicest. Sadly his sons did not come to Monkton, but both distinguished themselves on the river for Selwyn and Cambridge, Hugh achieving fame in other ways than his father.

But the Monkton/Selwyn connection did not end there. In 2003, the 125th Anniversary year of the foundation of MCSBC, by a very happy co-incidence the respective Captains of SCBC and MCSBC are brothers and sons of a very proud former Captain of SCBC. Jon Quayle, a dry bob at Monkton but sharing a room with Alex Partridge must have had some effect, is Captain at Selwyn though sadly a bad back has put paid to aspirations to higher honours and his younger brother Will is Captain at Monkton and nurses ambitions to row on the Cam one day. Their father, an undistinguished oarsman at Monkton, but who Captained Selwyn in 1970/71, is both a Bluefriars Trustee and a Selwyn Permanent Henley Fund Committee member. The link goes on with Matt Wordsworth arriving at Grange Road this autumn to hopefully lift Selwyn‘s fortunes next Mays in a boat that will, DV, contain not just one but two Monkton men. And one mustn‘t forget the ladies — with Hannah Quayle being a three year Selwyn Ladies May colour in the late 1990s to follow two years in the Monkton VIII.

There is talk of a Selwyn VIII joining the annual trip to Nantes to train with Monkton‘s VIII next spring — may the connections continue and one day may both Clubs achieve their ambitions of wins at Henley and the Headship on the Cam!

Robert Quayle