SCCBC in the 1960s

I went down in 1961, but I kept in touch with, and coached the SCCBC during the 1960's.

The landmark of the 1960's was the fact that in 1961 St Catharine's had 3 men in the winning Blue Boat, namely Roger Nicholson (from Shrewsbury School) at Bow, James Gobbett (from St Paul's School) at 2, and Douglas Calder (also from St Paul's School) at 5. Thus in one year St Catharine's had more Rowing Blues than the 2 Blues it had previously recorded in its entire history, respectively Reginald Davies (from Hymer's College, Hull) in 1910 and William Carbonell (from Shrewsbury School) in 1933. Moreover, after the 1961 Boat Race, Roger Nicholson was elected President of the CUBC for the ensuing year 1962 when again he rowed at Bow in the winning Blue Boat. Incidentally, Roger's 1962 Blue Boat was the most aristocratic Blue Boat of all time. It contained 3 putative hereditary Peers - two Barons and an Earl, plus an American, a Canadian and a few commoners like our Roger. In 1963, whilst at St Bartholomew's Hospital, Roger Nicholson rowed at 7 in the University of London VIII which won The Grand Challenge Cup at Henley against stiff opposition, beating the favourites Cornell University USA in the final. Roger and the London Crew went on to represent Great Britain in the World Championships.

This wonderful flowering for the SCCBC was the culmination of the work of David Bailey, Captain in 1957. Thanks to David's inspired leadership: the Boat Club gained a fine spirit as well as victories; and the then Senior Tutor, Tom Henn, set about admitting some experienced school oarsmen to join the fine Rugby players already in the College. At last the Boat Club could stand shoulder to shoulder with the very successful College Rugby Club.

The most important result of David Bailey's leadership was the purchase from 1st & 3rd Trinity in 1958 of what is now the SCCBC Boat House. Until then the College rented a ramshackle old boat house from Banhams the boat builders. Our present Boat House was splendidly well built in the early 1930's for what was then the separate Trinity Boat Club - 3rd Trinity, which comprised only Old Etonians and Westminsters. David, then an undergraduate, managed to persuade the Trustees of the now amalgamated 1st & 3rd Trinity Boat Club to sell us the former 3rd Trinity Boat House for £5,000 (about £120,000 in today's money) - surely one of the best investments in its "plant" the College has ever made. Now the SCCBC found itself in a fine location between the Goldie Boat House and the 1st & 3rd Trinity Boat House.
A fine boat house, increasingly better equipment, and a supply of good school oarsmen rapidly showed itself in results. The Magdalene Pairs and Lowe Double Sculls (then very important small boat events) were won several times by Caths men; and there were good performances in the Light Fours and Colquhoun Sculls. All these events were "blue riband" and victory carried automatic membership of Leander Club - a much sought distinction.

As the decade unfolded there were further Blues: David Roberts (from The King's School, Chester) and Patrick Moore (from Geelong GS, Australia) rowed respectively at 2 and 7 in the 1965 Blue Boat behind the now Chairman of Henley Royal Regatta, Michael Sweeney of LMBC. In 1967 and 1968 Geoffrey Leggett (from Portora Royal School, Enniskellen) rowed respectively at 4 and then 7 in those Blue Boats, the latter one winning; and then David Cruttenden (from The Leys School) rowed at 4 and 6 respectively in the winning Blue Boats of 1969 and 1970. In addition, Roberts became Secretary of the CUBC in 1966, and Cruttenden, in his time the tallest and heaviest ever Boat Race Blue, became President of the CUBC in 1970. During the 1960's the College also had 4 men in the Goldie Crew: Calder in 1960, Gobbett in 1962, Arthur Burnham (from Pnillips Academy Andover and Cornell University, USA) in 1965 and Roberts in 1966.
The College boats themselves also prospered. In 1961 all the first 4 May Boats made 4 bumps each. The Fellows were so delighted that they produced 6 bottles of their precious 1826 (yes, 1826!) vintage Madeira from the cellars for the Boat Club to enjoy! It was probably somewhat wasted on us drunken youths - but the idea was immensely appreciated! Tom Henn spoke in legendary mystic and avuncular fashion at the Bump Supper. The first boat never had to go beyond the Plough and finished 4th in the First Division of the May Races. Until recent happy events that was the highest Caths had ever been in the May Races. But by now Caths had a regular decent leavening of experienced school oarsmen. The 1961 Crew had 3 from St Edward's School, 2 from St Paul's School and 1 from Shrewsbury School - and 3 of them had won The Pricess Elizabeth Cup at Henley for their schools (2 from St Paul's and 1 from St Edward's). Tom Henn's admissions policies were bearing fruit, and they continued to do so in the ensuing decade. The 2nd May Boat (now tending to comprise men who in earlier years would have been in the 1st Boat) also distinguished itself rising 4 places in 1961 to finish 12th in the First Division; and then rising a further 4 places in 1962 to finish 8th on the River - the highest 2nd Boat.

At Henley, which Caths entered every year, the First Boat regularly reached the semi final of The Ladies' Plate (then closed to student crews); and three times, in 1961, 1964 and 1968, a 4- from the VIII reached the final of The Visitors' Cup. In 1968 the Caths crew was one of the best Light Fours in any event at Henley. I know, because I coached them. The 1968 Caths Henley Four was without doubt the best Caths crew ever to appear at Henley. Their names must be mentioned here: They were: Stephen Janisch (from The King's School Chester), Richard Fawcett (from The King’s School Ely), Robert Aspinall , and David Cruttenden (from The Leys School Cambridge). They were expected to win at a canter - indeed they could have performed with distinction in The Stewards' Cup (for elite crews). But they were defeated by the appalling conditions. After monsoon-like weather there was so much water coming down the Thames at Henley (where races are rowed against the stream) that for safety all the locks were wide open. The Regatta rafts were under water and all finalists had to boat from the floating Leander raft because the Regatta rafts were too dangerous.
The towpath station was reckoned to have a great advantage up the enclosures. The Caths four reached the enclosures in the Final on the "wrong station" well in front, and "lost" by less than a length. They were moral victors. But the elements denied us a Henley victory. Times were so slow that it took nearly 11 minutes to win the Diamond Sculls! In the centre of the river, where the Caths Four was, the stream was so furious that within 30 seconds of crossing the line they were swept, exhausted, back down the course below the Grandstand.
Lastly we should not forget Peter Coni QC (from Uppingham School), who went down in 1960 and who therefore just qualifies for mention in this decade. Peter learned to row at Caths. After Caths and London Rowing Club, he became a Steward of Henley Royal Regatta - our first and only one. Ultimately he became Chairman of Henley Royal Regatta - and it was he, with his own remarkable chutzpah who transformed Henley from a loss making enterprise to the amazing sporting, social and financial success which it is today. We should be proud of him.
And so the SCCBC ended the decade having gained many distinctions including 10 Blues, 4 Goldies, and 2 Presidents and 1 Secretary of the CUBC. Since then the College has won 26 more Blues. I like to think that the late and much revered Tom Henn would have been delighted at this. I am glad that he lived to see it all.

Douglas Caulder (1957)