Monkton Bluefriars Newsletter 2003
OM Day 21 June 2003

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OM Day 21 June 2003  


Thanks for organising things on Saturday. It was a great day and wonderful to have the chance to get back into a boat after many years! I had forgotten how much effect rowing has on one's legs & knees. Mine were like jelly when I got out of the boat.

The river seemed smaller than when I was at school. When we paddled down stream, we all commented on how quickly we seemed to reach the weir. The whole crew was quite pleased with ourselves and even our cox (Sarah, I think?) said that she was impressed, although she could well have been simply flattering a bunch of middle aged, has-been oarsmen! Still, it was good while it lasted.

I hope you were pleased with the turnout on the day and that the dinner went well. It is a real shame to hear the Monkton has not yet ben able to appoint a new Director of Rowing, and it will be very disappointing if that is not done in time for the next term. Monkton have a long and honourable tradition of rowing and have produced some fine oarsmen. The number of Olympians is, to my mind, particularly impressive, given the limitations of the river.

It was also very good to catch up with some old acquaintances. Andy & I had lunch with David Lea-Wilson (who, I think, has hardly changed since Monkton - certainly, he is instantly recognisable). We learnt some interesting and amusing stories about you and an aborted trip to Tehran to sell a Range Rover. I gather you were turfed off a beach in Benidorm at gunpoint by the local police and gave up the trip when you refused to bribe a border guard entering Libya! I have seen a side of you that I never knew about. [ed]

Thanks again - see you in November, hopefully the weather will allow the race to be run this year. [ed]


What joy to be in an eight again! The beauty of the river, the feel of the boat moving through the water but above all, the feeling of teamwork; of having done something good for each other. [nlby]

I wanted to drop you a brief note of thanks for arranging the day on Saturday. 20 years later and we haven't really changed all that much - comforting.

To catch up with some mates as well as have the chance to get back out in the eight was a real treat. Even just a small outing like we did, brings back the memories - the pain, the blisters, the booming voice of Simon the cox, but more than anything the buzz of a crew lifting the boat with each stroke and the noise of eight people working in unison. Nothing beats it!!

We could all learn a lot through rowing in a crew! The other reason for writing was to ask if you could forward the link below to the others in the crew at the weekend. I have put a few photos from the day onto it. Alternatively, if you could forward me their email addresses then I could attach a personal note as well. Either way - if you could let me know. [nlby]

It was great to be rowing in an eight again, having not done so since 1974. Rowing is by far and away the best team sport I have ever had the privilege to take part in. My best memory is of the close team spirit we enjoyed at Monkton, which was of course greatly encouraged by your excellent organising powers, (still in evidence) special meals and occasional glasses of Port! Thank you for making it happen.

In terms of particular events, there are so many, but capsizing an eight, as we came into the landing stage still seems rather unlikely and requiring special powers of carelessness! Throwing the cox in afterwards was also rewarding. [nlby]

I remember while rowing hard under the aqueduct the sound of the oars going into the water at the same time and making that lovely clunking sound. I said to Charles Davison to try and get that sound again this time but we failed miserably!!! Also, how did we ever manage to row up and down daily when we were at school. Just down to The Basin was enough this time. I suppose that's what 30 years does to you! Great weekend and thanks very much. [nlby]

It has been a few years since my last visit to Monkton and I was struck how little the valley and river had changed. Interesting, too, to hear an Olympic cox at work, and compare notes with my own (much more limited!) coaching. And by comparison to the swingeing educational changes facing schools these days, it is also re-assuring to sense that many of the values I learnt at Monkton in terms of the fullest and broadest education remain in full swing. It was an enjoyable and satisfying day. Thank you for organising it with such customary skill and apparent ease. [nlby]

  1. Never had I been in a boat where an oar has broken due to sheer strength.
  2. The togetherness of the crew in which Tim Dewes was rowing.
  3. Blisters on very tender hands.
  4. The fun of boaters together across all ages.

My participation in the Boat Club's 125th anniversary celebrations will remain etched in my memory for two reasons in particular, both of them unique achievements for me though for very different reasons.

In the first place because I achieved something I had never done at Monkton, namely rowing at stroke ... I had always rowed on bow side in the four 1st VIIIs in which I had rowed at Henley, Bow in 1951, and seven in 1952, 53 and 54. It was only when I got to Oxford that I stroked some very successful St Edmund Hall eights and the Isis crew in 1958 before being put into the Blue Boat at 3 just three weeks before the Boat Race (which we lost ... one of the less good crews I ever rowed in!!!).

Then to break an oar on a rowing start in front of the crowd on the bank provided a lot of amusement to many and me the dubious satisfaction of a unique achievement! I have never broken one before ... to have done so at the tender age of 68 says something about the strength of the muscles in this rapidly ageing body, or (more likely) about the age of the set of oars we were using! " [nlby]

Thanks for your message; of course the afternoon and evening were full of nostalgia for me. It was 65 years ago that I first touched an oar with Taffy Llewellyn-Jones in a tub on the canal. I remember it well; so I span more than half of the Boat Club's history. The outing in the IV was all too short but I enjoyed the sculling. And contrary to a remark overheard on the towpath, I do not have a cold bath in the mornings! Many thanks for a super week-end. [nlby]

Thanks again for all your hard work yesterday - it was a memorable day and I had a lovely time with my old crew putting the school to rights.

It was great to be back at the Boat Club on a lovely summer afternoon. The re-formation of the 1992 Second Eight was a great success and brought back many happy memories. As we paddled down to the weir, receiving expert coaching from Rowley and Godfrey, it was hard to believe that over ten years had passed. The bows still grumbled at the pace of the stroke, the cox's instructions were occasionally "misheard" and familiar phrases such as "watch and learn" were once again invoked to spur the crew on. We tried a few practice starts, which were somewhat frenetic but hinted at the fighting spirit and teamwork that had been essential parts of the crew's achievements. I enjoyed my subsequent rowing career at university, but was never again in a crew that got on so happily together and was as committed to rowing hard and well. I would be delighted if the weekend could spur us on to meeting and rowing regularly together.

It was also a great privilege to see some of the other great Bluefriars in action, the Olympic Four in particular, to listen to Rowley's Olympic experiences and see his medal, to talk with members of the current First Eight, and to know that whilst we were at Monkton a fellow Bluefriar (and ex-member of the 92 Second VIII) was in Munich, rowing for Great Britain. [nlby]

I had not been back to MCSBC in the decade since I finished my A levels and left Monkton, so it was with a degree of nervousness that I walked down through the Canal Basin in my threadbare MCS 1st VIII top.

When I saw the familiar faces standing outside the boathouse in their rowing gear, it felt like no time had passed since our last outing. You see half of the 1992 second VIII plus coach, and several of the 1993 1st VIII had been virtually re-acquainted over the previous six months through

It probably took less than a minute for the old crew jokes and laughs to come flooding back, and in the sunshine of a fine June day, we could have been waiting to boat for National Schools or Henley training.

A composite crew of 92 / 93 1st and 2nd crews with our old coach Godfrey Bishop [ed] 'subbing' in at Bow (!?!), along with one of the current MCS 1st VIII; boated on time at 3.45 in our old boat the Richard Blake. It was not our best outing ever; (I think we could blame cox for the balance problems - inspite of his Olympic achievements) but satisfyingly we all agreed that the old magic was still there.

Later in the day, after the stalwarts of the '93 2nd eight had finished practising regatta starts down by the weir in a coxed four, the boat club laid on a fantastic evening of entertainment. While the salmon was consumed and the wine flowed our thoughts turned to the 150th anniversary, and whether cox will have improved his steering by then.

A priceless day, which will be a lifelong memory. Many thanks to all those involved in the organisation of the MCSBC 125th anniversary event, many of whom were mentioned in the dinner speeches with special thanks of course to Julian for making it happen. I hope that the current MCSBC members are given the time and nurturing so that they love the club as much as the 160 people who turned out from around the world, and across the generations to relive their fondest Monkton moments. Maybe if they do, then the 150th anniversary will be even bigger! I am looking forward to 2028 already. [nlby]

Dragon flies with blue and black wings - you don't find many of them on Welsh seawater. Watching them after a 30 year absence was astonishing - nearly as surprising as the enjoyable trace of rhythm that momentarily appeared and disappeared. Reveries and nostalgia interupted by a horsefly, and has the river got smaller or memories got rosier. Didn't matter rowing again in an eight was one of the highlights of my year. Thanks.

And then I met John Richter who suggested rowing on the River Conwy; if there are any other oarsmen we could trace, we could borrow boats from Bangor University. (I still have a key from 15 years ago but I would ask permission!) [nlby]

Throughout the event, from the informal rowing picnic at Dundas to the late-evening conversations as guests dispersed after the dinner and speeches, the spirit of Monkton Combe rowing could be felt in all its forms.

During the afternoon it was poignant to see oarsmen, oarswomen and coxes all out on the river together, simply celebrating their involvement, past and present, in an institution which obviously means so much to all who were present. Whether Olympians, novices, girl or boy, boatman, coach, cox, rower, 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th VIII, everyone was there because in one way or another Monkton rowing is part of them, and vice versa. Let us hope that, when the boats are back on the racks in the boathouse, and the after dinner washing-up is all done in the school kitchens, that Monkton rowing and the Bluefriars Trust will go from strength to strength, with the leadership and resources necessary to deliver to the school, the pupils and OMs, the wins, the challenges, the teams, the international performers, the blisters and the memories, in the same way as in the past. Rowing is a major asset to Monkton Combe School, long may it thrive! [nlby]


The plants and animals that populate the Avon's banks are so varied. There is always something fresh to see and wonder at, but it is all too easy to pass it by without a glance.

Willow and Alder line the bank with Field Maple, Sycamore and Sloe. A riot of pink Dog-roses fills a gap between one shrub and the next. Shoulder-high nettles, cow-parsley, burdock and hogweed create an impossible barrier on the tow path, preventing the coach or would-be spectator following on foot from getting more than a fleeting glimpse of a passing crew.

However, the crew's-eye view from the water is entirely different. The underbank and roots of trees is another "world", only visible from a boat. Here and there patches of wet mud and silt furnish a swimming bird or mammal a place to land. Where the bank has slipped, orange-brown earth that lies three feet beneath the meadow is exposed. Stumps and snags and twisted roots, the brown Willow roots with fresh almost pink tresses of new growth dipping into the water. The dark green rushes that in late June threaten to extend into the middle of the river. Lily pads and later cream water-lilies show the shallower parts of the river bed. Light-green strands of water grass, like mermaid's hair from the dark green depths, waving gently in the river's flow.

Where today is the "plop" of the Water Vole as he dives in to hide or cross between one tree root and the next? His absence explained by the occasional sight of a mink, who with lithe body slinks from a hollow willow down to hunt in the fastness of a river-side thicket.

Mrs Mallard, the colour of the tree roots and muddy banks turns this way and that as she guards, in the dark recesses of some overhanging tree, her flotilla of ducklings. Bolder is the family of moorhens whose floating nest on a bed of rushes is there for all to see.

A glimpse of a statuesque grey heron standing in the meadow waiting for a hapless frog or vole to move, or lazily on curved wings with folded neck returns to the distant heronry. Long gone now, perhaps 40 years, since the tall trees at Bad Corner with their heronry were felled for timber.

Is there still the piping call and azure streak of a Kingfisher following the river's bends or passing tree high over a stretch of river presently occupied by an VIII?

The pair of swans at the Weir who jealously guard their territory, and boldly chase the departing crew who has had the temerity to get too close.

In March, the common sandpiper using the river as its migratory route, "bobs" on green legs as a crew approaches and then flies on crescent wings along the water to the next flat site at the water's edge. Also in early spring, the first warblers are seen, hunting the fresh shoots on the water-side shrubs for insects, before continuing their flight to breeding grounds further up the valley and beyond.

These birds of passage join and then leave the resident pied and grey wagtails, the ubiquitous Wren with chirring song, so loud from such a tiny bird, the song birds, finches and winter flocks of titmice.

However, there is a crew to coach or a training schedule to follow. "Keep your eyes in the boat, Seven, and watch your stroke!"

I must make time to look on an other occasion! [nlby]

I thought I'd just get in touch to say thank you so much for a great w/e. It was without question the best dinner I've been to at Monkton (even better that the last ever Grange House dinner - even though I managed to do a runner with a couple of bottles of wine after that one!) and it was a real joy to get the chance to row back on the old water.

I had two trips, the first with Nathan James in a pair, which wasn't too bad once he'd remembered how to steer and I'd worked out how to row stroke-side! I also had the privelidge to row with my father (James), his best friend from school - Robert Quayle, and Will Quayle. Our four was coxed by Rowley who despite having a couple of crusties in the bow didn't let anyone off lightly, and it's no wonder he's achieved what he has. Let's face it, he managed to get a couple of good strokes out of my father despite him not having got into a boat since leaving Monkton! I obviously cannot speak for Robert, but he was heard muttering about his "reach not being what it was"!

I'm aiming to get to Henley for the Saturday and will be wearing my new tie with pride. Hopefully it'll be a great day, and I look forward to seeing you there. I also hope the Monkton boys manage to give a good account of themselves again this year.

My five years at Monkton in the 60's didn't produce much academic prowess, but I did achieve success in two non-academic areas - rowing being one of them. The prizes I won then are still precious to me because they were the tangible symbols of my only successes, achieved either alone or in harmony with a team.

I'd not been in a boat for 25 years (MCSBC's 100th celebrations!), so Saturday's outings were a wonderful treat. I heard again the hissing of bubbles rushing beneath the boat and the echoes under the aqueduct's graceful arches. I didn't quite manage to get the beautiful bell-sound at the start of the stroke that I remember so clearly, but I know that was the reward of much practice and controlled strength.

To row for the first time with my son was made even more memorable by crewing with an old friend and his son - and an Olympic gold medallist as our cox! Couldn't have been better! [nlby]

Many thanks for initiating the dinner and celebrations of MCSBC. I was sorry to be unable to row but look forward to doing so next year during the Fifties Reunion. The dinner was great fun and I greatly enjoyed the speeches, for which many thanks and congratulations. [nlby]

'It was a somewhat surreal experience getting back into a boat by the aqueduct, a real remembrance of times past ...hard to believe it was thirty years ago....I have just in the past few years taken up rowing again, and I can honestly say for a mixed bunch of individuals some of whom had not rowed recently it was a really good row ..we could talk of balance, moments of poise, rhythm, timing, even power... something clearly remained embedded in us all from the coaching of Julian Bewick and others at Monkton all those years ago...' [nlby]

14-Sep-17 at 19:11:39