The Ladies Cometh: the first SCCBC Women

I never intended to become a rower on going up to Cambridge: I though of myself as musical rather than a sporty person. But I was impressed by a letter sent out by the Boat Club to me (and all the other girls about to be a part of this the first year of women in College) a few weeks before term started. Someone had taken the trouble to obtain a list of home addresses to write to us all in advance, rather than just doing a quick and easy pigeonhole circularisation; it made me feel welcome. Perhaps, if the Boat Club really did want women to become involved…it might be fun… As soon as we arrived in College, the Boat Club continued to be welcoming, offering tubbing sessions to all the First Year girls (and boys?) so we could try it out. It was fun, and lots of us signed up with the boat Club at the Fresher’s Fair as a result. That first term saw the first ever St Catharine’s Ladies boat enter the Fairbairns. We came 50th out of 50 boats in a time of 21min 28 sec; there were only three other boats in our division (Ladies novices) We also took part in the Clare Novice Regatta, reaching the semi-final of the Losers Plate (as did the Caths ladies 2nd boat) . It was also the first time (as far as I know) that ladies attended the Boat Club ‘Fairbairns Dinner’. The men wore DJs and bow ties, which seemed to disguise the fact they had spent most of the day between races in the ‘Pike and Eel’ and had already had a pre-dinner session in the ‘Mill’. Dinner started with sherry in the Long gallery, then a four-course meal with white and red wines, coffee and port to finish. Perhaps not surprisingly the Master’s after-dinner speech was drowned in the drunken hubbub. Seating was by boats, so all the girls were together. We heard that people were liable to be picked on to tell a joke, so we were prepared. When the cry when up that it was time for the ladies to take a turn telling jokes, we all got up together and did a mock Can-Can, to great applause. Julie Mehta (1979)