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An open invitation to all Old Kingstonians and members of KGSBC

As the Boat Club approaches 2015 and its 125th year of existence, I should be glad to receive any submissions from OK’s, coaches, parents and friends of the Boat Club from whichever era to supplement the information the School knows already about the history of the Boat Club at Kingston Grammar School. Please do get in touch with any stories you might have about:

Rowing, Training, Racing, Crewmates, Coaches, The Boathouse.

I’d also be glad to receive any photographs, particularly older images or ones relating to pivotal moments in the history of the club. Originals can be scanned at the School and returned to you.  It is hoped this information can be compiled together to provide a presentation/ exhibition on the Club in the 125th anniversary year and a clearer picture of the origins and history of the Club for years to come.

Many thanks,

AJ Beard

[email protected]


Boating (in the form of rowing) is first mentioned in the School Register (the pre-cursor to the Kingstonian) as having occurred in the academic year 1889-90, wherein the Committee of the Kingston Borough Regatta (est. 1857) invited the Grammar School to compete and it was this invitation which saw the initial formation of the Boat Club, as detailed below, with two crews, ‘the Classical’ and ‘the Modern’ racing in coxed fours between ‘the Island’ (Ravens Ait) and a ‘point opposite the Sun Hotel’ (in recent years the site of Woolworths adjacent to the Market Square and now the site of Clas Ohlson, the electrical goods retailer), so a course of approximately 1000 metres (and very roughly the course which today remains that of the Kingston Regatta):

“The committee of the borough of Kingston regatta have proposed that a race for the Grammar School should be included in their programme, it was thought that a good opportunity was thus afforded of starting a Boat Club. A meeting was held with this object, and, though it was not attended so numerously as it ought to have been, a sufficient number of volunteers came forward to provide material for the race between the Classical and Modern sides. The Head Master subsequently nominated Hide as captain of the Classical and Hill as captain of the Modern. Early in July two-four-oared boats were engaged and the crews were selected. Mr Rowe undertook the coaching of the Modern, while the Rev. AJ Hooper and the Rev. H. Nixon very kindly rendered a like service to the Classical. Both crews were careful and regular in training for the race, and the rowing, which at first was somewhat peculiar, showed a marked improvement as time went on. Nicholson, who was rowing bow of the Modern boat, unfortunately became disabled about ten days before the race, and was obliged to give up his oar to a substitute.

The Regatta was held on Wednesday July 30th, and the Grammar School race was timed to start at 6pm. The course was from the Island to a point opposite the Sun Hotel. The Head Master acted as the starter and also as umpire, following the crews in a steam launch. The Modern crew forged ahead in the first few strokes, and gradually increased the lead until they drew clear of their opponents. Hide did his utmost, and was well backed up, by those behind him, but both the form and the pace of the other boat were superior, and the race resulted in an easy victory for the Modern, who passed the winning post three lengths ahead. The following were the crews:

Classical Modern

B. Porter (bow) G. Wiley (bow)

F.W. Duckett W.A. Hill

P.L. Hope P. Runciman

P. Hide (stroke) H. Badcock

R.F. Lockett (cox.) L. Shirtliff (cox.)


Mr Beard is also investigating results of merit over years beginning with senior boys 1st viii’ssome of the senior boys viii crews from the last 25 years or so. He will continue with the girls results, and also be looking further further back into history. Initial findings are summarised below:


OKs who have raced in the Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race (or the reserve race for Isis/Goldie)

Year Name Boat Outcome

1968 Jonathan Rhodes Goldie Won

1969 Mike Robson Cambridge Won

1970 Jonathan Rhodes Goldie Won

1979 Mark Panter Goldie Won

1980 Mark Panter Cambridge Lost

1981 Mark Panter Cambridge Lost

1990 John Fitch Goldie Won

2002 Jon Alexander Goldie Lost

2003 Jon Alexander Goldie Won

2010 Ben Myers Oxford Lost

2011 Ben Myers Oxford Won

Boating Club Reminiscences of Mark Davis 1949 to 1951

I attended KGS from 1943 to 1951 and rowed in the school’s first, eight-oared racing boat in 1949/50. Up until 1949 the school had only rowed and raced in four-oared racing boats.

The school bought a ‘shell eight’ second hand from Emmanuel College. It was built originally for a crew with an average weight of about 11 stone 4 pounds, but our average weight was only 10st 5 or 6 lbs! Needless to say the boat rode on the surface of the water like a ‘pea on a drum’. It was very difficult to balance, especially in rough water on the tideway below Teddington Lock. But we persevered and kept ‘old girl’ under control. At that time our base was the Kingston Rowing Club’s boathouse at Turks in Kingston, which was about a mile upstream from Teddington Lock.

1st VIII in 1949. From left to right: Mike H Janes (Cox), Derek Findlay (Capt), Mark Davis (stroke), Brian Marsden, David Puttock, David Hattersley, John Warren, Gerald Scruby, Norman Baker

Our progress was painfully slow in such an over-sized ‘shell boat’ and, in desperation, our most loyal and hard working coach (as well as a school master), Mr Bygraves. , called in the author/playwright and old boy of the school, R (Bob) C Sheriff. He had rowed for the school and had been captain of Kingston Rowing Club. He took three looks at our practice outings and said it was ridiculous to expect us to be able to compete sensibly in regattas and the London School’s Rowing League. He then ordered a brand new ‘shell eight’, plus a new set of oars from Turks in Putney at a cost of £600. That was fortunate in 1951! He then took the 1st VIII crew and Mr Bygraves to lunch at an expensive restaurant in the West End of London, followed by a visit to the performance of one of his plays and to meet the stars of the show. What a motivator that was! When the new boat arrived all the hard training in the old Emmanuel boat paid off and we made the new boat go at one hell of a pace…and for the first time we started to win races!

I had started my rowing career as a bowman, then moved to No. 2 position for a short while, before spending most of my rowing days as stroke. The picture below shows the 1950 1st VIII crew members with Mr Bygraves....

1st VIII from 1950. From left to right: BK Welch (3), NJ Elliot (Bow), RD Finlay (Capt. 5), AR Buchanan (2), MH Janes (Cox), Mr H. Bygrave (Coach), RJ Harris (6), M Davis (Stroke), DH Spice (7), MB Forster (4)

...and would you believe that I still have the school colours rowing blazer and cap earned 60 years ago.

Despite the intensity of our endeavours there was a good mix of fatigue and fun as we had the jokers in the crew to lighten the mood. A good example was our ‘cheeky chappie’ the cox, Mike Janes. On many occasions he would love to tease and torment the fisherman on the river bank near Teddinton Lock by allowing the boat to drift towards the banks so that we could hear Mr Bygraves words of wisdom on our techniques, or lack of them! Mike would then give the order to ‘come forward’ ready for a racing start. The fisherman fumed and fizzed at us with the most obscene language (quite an education!) as we drifted close to their lines. When our oars were within 12 inches of their lines Mike would lean towards the fisherman and say in quick succession – “Pardon?...Row!” In his anxiety to get away from the fisherman on one occasion Mr Bygraves inadvertently rode his cycle down the embankment into the water! We were convulsed with laughter and that was the end of a good racing start!

Fond memories of a great time in a sport I adored!

Mark Davis (centre) with his twin brothers Ian (on the left) and Brian (on the right) pictured in 2004. Mark’s brothers also rowed at KGS, attending the school from 1949-55.

Senior Boys First VIII

Schools’ Head of the River

Won in 1993

Defended in 1994.

Tideway Head

Best overall finish 20th (1967)

National Schools’ Regatta

Winner of Childe-Beale Cup for 1st VIII’s 2008, 1992, 1985.

2nd in Championship VIII’s in 1994.

Henley Royal Regatta

Finalist,Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup, 1974

Semi-finalist 1993,

Semi-Finalist in the Temple, 1995.