SCCBC in the mid 1930s

Fuller details appear in ‘The Catharine Wheel’ in Society magazine of 2006)

I go back just over 75 of the 175 years we now celebrate, having joined the Boat Club in 1932. It doesn’t require a Carol Vorderman to work out that the centenary of the Club must have been in 1933, but I assure you it wasn’t then known. We did have a full meeting of the club (the only one I recall) about that time, but it concerned collecting money and deciding on a wedding present for Mr Rich and his bride. ‘Nick’ Rich as we then knew him was the youngest and newest fellow, a good supporter of the Boat Club, coaching and raising money. He had two Selwyn oars hanging in his room in the old Lodge, and later became Master.
We had one Blue, the first since Edwardian times, and this was WLR Carbonell. We had four boats in the Lents, the first reaching its then highest place of 6th on the river. In the Mays, we had five VIIIs, because the Rugger chaps, not able to play their own game, made up one VIII and rowed with more enthusiasm than skill in the bottom division.
Another fellow (there were only 10 and we knew them all) who helped the club a great deal was Tom Henn, and it was due to him that I was put in the first boat in my second year. I had reached the second, and also rowed in a clinker four coached by Tom. On one outing he stopped up, told the cox to drop the rudder lines in the bottom of the boat, stroke, 3 and Bow to ship their oars and 2 to row on steadily and firmly – which I did till told the stop, and the practice was resumed normally. Although I didn’t know it till long afterwards, Tom went straight to the captain and said I should be put in the first boat. So the charade had been to see how far I could turn the boat without any rudder.
We then went up to Putney for the Head of the River, confident of improving our place of 19th. Unfortunately, our Blue became ill and had to be replaced the day before the race. Not surprisingly, we went down to 39th.
In the Mays (1934) we were sandwich boat between the second and first division and succeeded in rowing over 8 times – something of a record I believe.
In general the mid thirties hold a good average spot in the annals of the Club and we certainly took our rowing seriously, going into three weeks of strict training before the Bumps or any race. I recall at least one vacation when we came up a week early to row morning and afternoon. On one day, we rowed through to Clayhithe, had a light lunch at the Brudge hotel there and came back in the afternoon. This involved each way carrying the craft round the weir and putting it back in the river for the passage through Baitsbite Locks. And we always spent a week on the Tideway before the Head of the River Race.
Sadly, I never won an oar. The only thing I won was a ‘Crock Pot’. At that time most of the Colleges held Trial Eights very early in each Lent Term, making as many crews as possible from their freshman for a timed row from just below Victoria Bridge to the Railway Bridge. In 1933, Cats had two crews, and I was in the one with the better line. So we each got a small tankard, emblazoned with the full college Crest and the names and weights of the crew. I shall leave mine with Professor Baker, who already has many of my photographs from the time.
Fred Thompson (1932)