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Home arrow BFR Matters I arrow Fletcher Robinson & Rowing (Part II)
Fletcher Robinson & Rowing (Part II) PDF Print E-mail

During 1892, BERTRAM FLETCHER ROBINSON (hereafter BFR) represented Jesus College Boat Club at the Henley Royal Regatta.  This annual rowing festival is still held on the River Thames by Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. There are various head-to-head knock-out events and each heat is contested by two crews over a course of 2,112 meters (2309.68 yards).  In July 1892, the regatta was held over three days (5th-7th) and there was a total of 8 events and 34 heats.  The contemporary regatta is held over 5 days and includes 19 events and as many as 100 heats per day (see the link below). 

On 4th July 1892, BFR and seven other Jesuan rowers procured rooms from one Mrs. Wiggins at Saragossa House in New Street at Henley-on-Thames.  This crew was accompanied by Percy Holden Illingworth [see 'Fletcher Robinson & Rowing (Part I)'] and Thomas Edward Hockin (1854-1923).  Illingworth was the first choice Stroke for Jesus College but he was unable to row because of an injured hand.  Hockin was the team coach and he had won four rowing 'Blues' as a Jesus undergraduate (1876, 1877, 1878 & 1879).  That same evening, the crew trained on the official course for the Henley Royal Regatta.  The full team for Jesus College Boat Club was as follows:

                                 Position:                Name:                                        Stones:    Pounds:

                 Bow              *B Middleditch                                  9            11

                   2                   D R Dangar                                     11              9

                   3                   A H Busby                                       10              7         

                   4                   #F E Allhusen                                 12              1

                   5                   xB F Robinson                                13              5

                   6                   A Bogle                                            11              7 

                   7                   +C E Fitch                                       11            11

              Stroke             ~R G Neill                                        11            12

                Cox                  A H Baker                                         8           13

                                [NB 1 stone = 14 pounds = 6.35 kilograms].

  *Played soccer for both Cambridge University ('Blue' 1895) and England (1897).
#Donor of the 'Allhusen Cup' to the Jesus College Boat Club.
xPlayed rugby for Cambridge University ('Blue' 1891, 1892 & 1893).
~Rowed for Cambridge University ('Blue' 1892).
+Played rugby for Cambridge University ('Blue' 1889).

On 5th July 1892, the regatta opened with 13 heats across 8 events.  Jesus College Boat Club competed for the 'Thames Challenge Cup' for 'Men's Eights' along with Balliol College Boat Club (Oxford University), Henley Rowing Club, London Rowing Club, Moseley Boat Club, Thames Rowing Club, Trinity College Boat Club (Dublin University) and Twickenham Rowing Club.  The relevant results for the first day of competition was as follows: 

First Heat:

Balliol College Boat Club (Oxford University) v. London Rowing Club.

(Balliol won with a time of 8 minutes and 29 seconds).

Second Heat:

Jesus College Boat Club (Cambridge University) v. Henley Rowing Club.

(Jesus won with a time of 7 minutes and 37 seconds).

Third Heat:

Trinity College Boat Club (Dublin University) v. Twickenham Rowing Club.

(Trinity won with a time of 8 minutes and 4 seconds).

Fourth Heat:

Molesey Boat Club v. Thames Rowing Club.

(Molesey won with a time of 7 minutes and 45 seconds). 

The Times newspaper reported the following details in relation to the second heat that was contested by the Jesus crew on this first day of racing (6th July, pp. 10):

Henley led for a few strokes, but Jesus College soon drew level, and at the top of the island [Temple Island] were a quarter of a length in front [one length equals about 18 meters or 19.69 yards].  Continuing to gain, the Cambridge crew led by half a length at Fawley Court boathouse, and were a trifle further in advance at the mile, but Henley then drew up a little.  Opposite the Grand Stand however, one of the Henley oarsmen caught a crab [he could not extract the blade of his oar from the water], and Jesus College won by three quarters of a length.

On 6th July 1892, the regatta continued with a further 13 heats across 8 events.  At the start of that day, Jesus, Balliol, Trinity, and Moseley each remained in contention for the 'Thames Challenge Cup'.  The relevant results for the second day of competition was as follows:

  Fifth Heat (1st Semi-Final):

Jesus College Boat Club v. Balliol College Boat Club.

(Jesus won with a time of 8 minutes and 9 seconds).

  Sixth Heat (2nd Semi-Final):

Trinity College Boat Club v. Molesey Boat Club.

(Trinity won with a time of 8 minutes and 19 seconds).

The Times newspaper reported the following details in relation to the fifth heat that was contested by the Jesus crew on this second day of racing (7th July, pp. 7):

On settling down Jesus drew ahead fast and were a quarter of a length in front at the top of the island, three parts at the quarter-mile post, and upwards of a length at the half mile.  From this point to the finish Jesus kept ahead and won by two lengths. 

On 7th July 1892, the regatta concluded with the final for each of the 8 events.  Jesus College Boat Club and Trinity College Boat Club both contested the seventh heat for the 'Thames Challenge Cup'.  A reasonable crowd was in attendance and the weather was described as being "beautifully fine" but blustery.  Jesus won their final with a time of 8 minutes and 10 seconds.  The Times newspaper reported this race as follows (8th July, pp. 4):

Jesus came away at the start, and were a third of a length in advance at the top of the island, and increased their lead to three parts at the quarter-mile post, and nearly two lengths at Fawley Court Boathouse.  Continuing to gain steadily, Jesus led by upwards of two lengths at the mile mark, and keeping in front to the finish won by four lengths... 

The victory was warmly welcomed by the Jesuan fraternity and it also generated optimism for the future prospects of college rowing.  This reaction is encapsulated by the following comment that was published in The Chanticlere (Issue No. 22, pp.16):

It is now eight years since the Jesus Boat was head of the river [1886] and three years ago [1889] the Boat Club was in so bad a way that it seemed well nigh hopeless to think of reaching such a height again...Then came a change, the new Captain [Illingworth] was keen and the freshmen willing, with the result that at Henley four of that year were rowing in the boat.  We know too that the the present Captain [R. G. Neill] is by no means lacking in keeness, and that it will not be his fault if the boat does not go up again this year.  Dare we hope to be second on the river...

Evidently, BFR was also affected by winning the 1892 Thames Challenge Cup.  On 2nd July 1901, he had an article published by The Daily Express that is entitled The Battle on the Thames (pp. 4).  In this item, BFR wrote about the friction that existed between serious sportsmen and less committed participants at the Henley Royal Regatta.  Furthermore, on 4th July 1906, he published one of his own short stories in Vanity Fair that is entitled In Which a Hero of Henley Suffers Adversity (pp. 18-19). 

It is interesting to note that BFR's widow, Gladys Hill Robinson, was remarried in 1918 and that she then resided at Henley-on-Thames until her death in 1946 [see 'Mrs. B. Fletcher Robinson (1879-1946)']. 

For further information about the Henley Royal Regatta, please follow the link below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henley_Royal_Regatta

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By Paul Spiring © 2007.

 
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