Monkton Bluefriars Newsletter 2003
JMB's Speech at the Boat Club's 125th Anniversary Dinner 21 June 2003


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JMB's Speech at the Boat Club's 125th Anniversary Dinner 21 June 2003  

Let's do the important things first. Thanks to the caterers, for this meal and for tea.

Thanks too, to less obvious people: The boys and girls who have spent hours clearing trees from the river; the boatmen who risked life and limb up trees and falling out of trees when cutting down branches so you could see what was going on on the river this afternoon; to all of you for being here today.

Now I have an apology to make. When we fixed the price for this dinner, we made it far too high, because we were being over-cautious. There was never an intention to make a profit, so after dinner, I will be over at High Table, and will give money back to you. Do feel free to keep it, but if you wish, you can put it in a box anonymously as a donation to Bluefriars funds. Or you can sign a simple Gift Aid declaration so we can reclaim tax. (When the accounts were sorted out after the dinner, it emerged that nearly £1000 had been given. Thank You! Other gifts made during the week-end raised the total to nearly £4000.) There are a number of former Captains of Boats here today. One of their tasks has been to write up the doings of the Boat Club in the Minute book. These records go back for the best part of 100 years.

I have picked out just a few of the things written there by and about some of you: I hope they will paint a picture of MCSBC: A thing that struck me when I put these pieces together was that many things don't change much:

[pn] "Owing to the simply wonderful summer weather the Head granted the school a half-holiday on behalf of Lang's scholarship. Consequently, we were able to make two full journeys from raft to weir and back. Mills was away taking an exam." Half-days are not given nowadays, so it's no good asking, but crews still willingly go rowing in their free time, and still get disrupted by exams.

Nowadays, French training camp, National School Regatta, National Championships, GB Trials, a regatta at Reading tomorrow, all take place in what might be called free time. The load on the senior coach to enable these things to happen is huge. David Conington was up at 0530 this morning to take the girls to Henley, was back at lunch time to drive you to the river, and will be driving others to a regatta tomorrow, setting off early.

[pn] This note was written by Dick Hole, one of the great men of Monkton rowing, about training at Henley. Rather typically of Dick, it was written on a scrap of paper (long before we all started fussing about corporate image), but not his fault on this occasion: Referring to the scrap of paper, which is now firmly stuck in the minute book :

"The Captain having of all things forgotten the Minute Book, this method of entry must be resorted to" "Crew arrived 12.28 pm, cox and coach 12.15 pm. Having got our bearings, we went out at 4.30 pm. On the outing, nothing particular was attempted. We rowed 1 minute and did a couple of starts, one of which W.G.R.M.Laurie was pleased to call impressive."

The captain, Ian Lang, went on to row in a winning Cambridge crew as a Freshman, and of course to the Olympics in 1948. He was sorry not to be here tonight, having rowed this afternoon.

We use various means apart from the minute book to record our happenings nowadays. You will find some race reports on the Bluefriars website, but the tradition of reporting every race and every outing is one that is difficult to keep up in the 2000's.

The 1950 Captain Michael Ascott is also with us tonight: He wrote this about 18th May 1950: "Mr Witherington rowed at three in the place of Chaplin who has seen fit to spend the afternoon in Bath. The balance was shocking and the rhythm bad. It all improved towards the close of the outing but even so it was still bad." Current Monktonians can take heart that there have been some bad outings in the past, and coaches might note that even years ago, crews were sometimes difficult to keep together. David Conington is not the first coach to have to sub in to help his own crew.

[pn] This is part of the report about the Head of the River Race: "We came 58th, the highest ever Monkton placing, and had won the Senior 3 Pennant by beating over 80 crews in that class. This is the first award won by a Monkton 1st VIII at national event. The OM crew did very well after just one practice outing, and came 113th. The 2nd VIII had their boat damaged before the star t, so did not race. The Colts came 162nd, which is a good position for them " The Head Race has got more competitive since 1982, but it is slightly disturbing that this year, the 1st VIII came 304th and the 2nd VIII came 389th.

[pn] Early in the season, two trial crews went to Southampton for training. One of the coxes was Simon Clark, who is here today, and the other David Bewick, represented tonight by his parents who are here all the way from Australia. I'm afraid that family influence didn't get David the 1st VIII cox's seat. The Captain wrote: "S Clark coxed better than D Bewick - saying the right things and steering a bit better."

Selection is a brutal business, and it never gets any easier. I know the current senior coach agonised for hours during Easter training camp about who to choose and who to leave out and what boats to put out at senior level. Parents share their childrenīs thrills and disappointments, and the crews value their support so much in good times and bad.

The story of David Bewick's failure to get the 1st VIII seat does not end badly for him, because he went on to be a very successful coach of the third VIII - a good experience for the crew, and for David, who learnt some of his leadership skills which he now puts to use when in command of no less than nine minesweepers, one of which I have seen him steer to perfection not very far from the marker buoy he rammed in the trial eight twenty year ago.

Simon's crew knocked 4 seconds of the record for the mile, which had stood for 20 years.

"I could really feel the unified movement, both through the stroke and up the slide. Near the basin, we remembered BSM's shout of 'clear heads' and JMB told us that the time was good, so an effective 'up 2' pushed us home to a new record." They went on to miss qualifying for Henley by less than a second, coming 9th out of 17 in the qualifying race, from which 8 went through. We won't know until tomorrow whether the 2003 crew have to endure the same sort of race. If they do, we wish you all the best.

[pn] wrote this on the day of another attempt on the mile record

"It has become quite apparent over the last couple of weeks that pain is no longer a barrier, physical or mental. This is particularly apparent in gym sessions where everyone does their best to black out or be sick. Another thing within the crew is trust - trust that all the rest of the crew is just as wholehearted as yourself - and this I believe is a fundamental necessity to a record-breaking crew."

That crew went on to get through two rounds at Henley, and beat records on home waters.

I must mention three Captains who are not here tonight, for the very best of reasons. Henry Bailhache is busy preparing to row for GB in the Under 23 team; Alex Partridge is in the GB Senior Squad, preparing for World Championships, and Steve Williams who is a double world champion, and was spare man in the 2000 Olympic team is also preparing for World events this summer and for Athens in 2004. He and Alex are rowing in Munich this week-end in the World Cup. Steve had an article in the Sunday Times a week or two ago, and was the main sports story on TV news in this part of the world earlier this week.

The club should be more than grateful to these for their example, and for the time and trouble they have taken to coach beginners and 1st VIIIs in the past few years.

The current Minute books will run out of space at the end of this season, so it with pleasure that the Bluefriars Trustees have decided to continue the custom of giving new books when necessary.

This time there will be two books - one which will maintain the long tradition of recording the progress of the 1st VIII and other boys rowing, and a new one for the girls who haven't had a Minute book before.

But their progress has been reported regularly in the Bluefriars Newsletter. Twenty years ago, in 1983, the girls had two VIIIs on the river, and following a suggestion from Monkton, the Schools Head Race had a Girls' VIIIs category fo the first time. The Monkton crew won, just as when the Schools' Head introduced J14 Octuple Sculls at Monkton's suggestion, we won that race too.

The 1983 Girls Captain, Jane Crawford, wrote: "Enthusiasm has always been the main strength of the girls when battling for recognition in this male dominated sport. This year we can claim to have equalled the determination of previous girl rowers and to have set challenges for the next generation."

Long may rowing be a challenge!

A challenge facing the current captain, Will Quayle, is trials for GB selection, just after Henley. We wish him well.

I ask you to Toast his club and our club, Monkton Combe School Boat Club.

Julian Bewick

John Clark (Chairman of the Bluefriars Trust), Will Quayle (Captain of Boats), David Conington (Director of Rowing) and Rowley Douglas also spoke, but no record of their speeches was made.

14-Sep-17 at 19:11:40