Some alumni have sent in their own recollections of rowing at Newcastle. Read on for some interesting stories and cracking anecdotes. Then why not send us some of yours? Use our contact form to send us an email or leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
“I can tell you that I have many times thought about my rowing “career” at the university and I will never forget the time I spent with my friends at the rowing club. It was a great time traveling to various regattas in the UK and, in particular, I will always remember the sight of more than 300 eights on the River Thames at the same time when we participated in the Head of the River. I also remember how tough and difficult the conditions were for our boat training on the Tyne in the winter!
I had done a lot of rowing in Norway before I started my civil engineering studies at Newcastle and I was there during the period 1963-67. In Norway, I was a member of the Norwegian Student’s Rowing Club (NSR), which was one of the leading clubs in the country. I had been members of NSR crews winning four Norwegian championships (twice in fours and twice in eights) before I came to Newcastle.
I was also a member of the Norwegian rowing squad, training for the Tokyo Olympics so I was very fit when I arrived in the NUBC. During my first term (autumn 1963), I did some sculling for the club, and I won two regattas (The President Cup in Durham and the Strickland Cup in Ebchester ). I remember that my family in Norway was very proud when I came home for Christmas 1963 with the President Cup, which was a very old trophy (I believe about 100 years).
I rowed in the university eight during 1963-64 and in another university eight during 1966-67. Because of my very demanding university studies, I found it very difficult to spend some much time on training (both in the gym and in the boat) so there were a couple of years when I did not do so much rowing. (I was paying for my studies using a student loan so I had to make sure that I passed every exam!). However, I managed to do some ski-ing for the University and one year, I was the captain of the University Ski Team.
During my long summer vacation in 1965, I trained very hard with my Norwegian club and we won the Norwegian Championship in Senior Lightweight fours. My last competitive rowing was in Norway in 1969, and I was very happy to be a member of the team winning the Norwegian Championship for senior eights. I also coached a NSR team which participated in the Thames Cup at the Henley regatta.
I am very pleased to see how successful the Newcastle University Boat Club has been during the last decade for both men and women. Members of NUBC have been wining Olympic medals, winning at Henley Regatta, British University Regattas, etc. This really fantastic! In my days at NUBC, our biggest ambition was to beat the Durham University teams!”
Mr Lundebye has also very kindly sent in some photographs and a newspaper cutting from his time in Newcastle.
“There was I reminiscing about my rowing days on the Tyne just a few weeks ago and your note arrives.
I am a bit busy at the moment and my records are well hidden but I do remember being shouted at by our cox and coach who I think was on a Rolls Royce studentship. His name eludes me at present although I remember his face and short hair (for those times 1970!)
Blue Star immediately takes me to bottles of Newcy Brown so see how good advertising works! The website is good but note the lack of sunshine as the muscles tense! It was a great way to keep warm.
I later spent three years at Durham (St Johns) and once capsized on the Wear trying to be clever in a single skulls. My friend John coached serious women’s rowing and of course married an oarswoman.
My attempts to get my daughter rowing at Cambridge never got past the rowing tests at Freshers conference but she showed promise (obviously genetic) and then ended up playing football for college and University achieving Four Blues!”
“I have very fond memories of my time at Newcastle University and especially of experience with the world of rowing.”
Mr Wilson currently has permanent resident in Madrid, Spain for the last 11 years.
Ed Lane Fox
“I am delighted to hear that all is well at NUBC and that the club continues to grow from strength to strength.”
“Watching the Newcastle/Durham event on the Tyne has a certain difficulty for me as to who to cheer for. I rowed in Kings Second VIII in 1959, the First VIII in 1960, but was selected for the University VIII in 1961, so wore Palatinate Purple Colours that year !! We won four pots so it is good memory. I rowed on one occasion for Durham County, but I do not know if Durham put together such a crew nowadays.
I remember getting the launch in 1959 and the trouble we had with the unreliability of its Outboard Motor. I was appointed chief mechanic. We had to tow it home behind the VIII at least once ! I was in the Kings VIII which went to Norway and the names can be picked up from one of my old photographs, which I am happy to see are still on the website.”
Dr Richard Taylor
“I’m pleased that the current Boat Club is having a satisfactory season; in the late 60′s, when I was at Newcastle, Durham University always seemed to beat the NUBC.
I was never a member of the first eight – not good enough or fit enough! I think I rowed occasionally for the second VIII, and went once to London for the Head of the River Race, I seem to remember in the ‘Gentleman’s Eight’. Most of my rowing, whilst at University, was actually in the Medics IV, as at that time the Medical School had its own club and boats. I do remember one very nice day out at Hexham Regatta, in think in 1969 or 1970, winning the Novice Fours trophy – I still have the tankard!
I am now a semi-retired ex GP, working for Atos Healthcare, doing all sorts of medical assessments for the DWP and travelling quite a lot around Cumbria.”
“I was in NUBC between 1981 to 83 (way before you were born!!) Really good to hear all is going well with the club, I had a huge amount of fun as well as good regattas and many great memories.”
When I rowed at King’s, we used the brand new boathouse at Newburn, provided by the Central Electricity Generating Board who needed the site of the old boathouse to build Stella Power Stations. The River Tyne was far less clean than now, and the mud revealed at the base of the steps at low tide was malodorous (to be polite). The boathouse was used by King’s College Boat Club (KCBC), Kings’ College Women’s Boat Club (KCWBC) who were upstairs, Durham Medicals Boat Club (DMBC) who were a separate organisation, and Durham University Boat Club (DUBC). Membership of DUBC was by invitation, from the colleges, and King’s had no more privileges than the other Durham colleges. DUBC usually only boated one eight during the year.
The equipment we had was nearly all made of wood, whereas modern equipment is now made from carbon fibre. The blades (wooden of course) were between 6 inches and 6.5 inches wide. Since then two changes of blade shape have occurred. In the 1960s the spade blade was developed at about 8 inches wide and in the 1990s the cleaver blade which is asymmetrical and also about 8 inches wide. Modern blades are carbon fibre hence black unless painted to look like wood. The blade colour of King’s crews was maroon, and our rowing strip was white with maroon trimmings. No lycra one piece strip in those days. The boats were also of wood, and the same weight and shape as today’s carbon fibre boats. They had a more substantial frame but a very thin skin of cedar wood. This was light but fragile so we had to be careful not to damage it as small splits would develop which leaked water. Also the bow and stern areas which added to the buoyancy of the boat were covered by canvas, and if this was damaged water would fill the buoyancy compartment causing it to sink (not pleasant in the Tyne where it was said you died from poisoning before you drowned).
Rowing is an all year round sport. No doubt the weather is still as bad in winter, and we had to be careful of ice on the Tyne which would soon damage our wooden boats even if the ice was very thin. I remember one Sunday morning having rowed from Newburn to the Tyne bridges, on our return watching the ice form on the neck of the man rowing in front. Our winter rowing was to develop our fitness in between Christmas and Easter.
In the regatta season the college crews were to be seen at York, Leeds, Tees, Chester-le-Street and Durham regattas. No time for university exams in the summer!! We were not able to go to Henley in those days, but the very fast 1958 crew was invited which had not happened before.
Don Lloyd adds:
The name, Tony Gibbs, seems familiar, but alas I cannot put a face to him. We must have overlapped when at Kings, because I rowed from 1958 to 1961, progressively in the King’s Second Eight, the First Eight and then in my final year for the DUBC Eight. As Tony says, you were invited to join DUBC in those days, and there was some cachet attached to this. The DUBC consisted only of the University Eight and therefore could be considered a select club ! The situation is all changed from this now I understand. We had a good season in 1961, winning four trophies and finishing Second in the North of England HORR at Chester and I remember 31st in the London Head a week later, when Nottingham beat us by two seconds to take the University Trophy. It became an annual trauma, seeking permission from the Prof of Mechanical Engineering (Aubrey Burstall), to get the last week of term off, to train on the Tideway, as both King’s and DUBC did.
My favourite memory is being a member of the King’s First Four and winning the Senate Bowl at the University Regatta in 1961. We took “hard” arch through Elvet Bridge against the Medics with considerable damage to blades on a fast flowing stream, swelled by unseasonally heavy rain. Rowing Bow YT; 2 PEK Smith (Pete); 3 Tony Frost; Stroke Richard Wilson; Cox Earl Nuttall.
I have a photograph of King’s Boat Club for the 1959-1960 season with 23 faces and names on it, though Tony’s does not appear. There is not space to list them here.
Mention of the “new” boathouse at Newburn donated by the Central Electricity Generating Board (they knocked the old boathouse down to make way for the Electricity Substation at Stella South) causes a smile because it had no electricity supply for nearly two years ! It had to be brought over the bridge from the North bank.
Having loyalties to both King’s and to Durham gives me a slight problem when watching the annual race on the Tyne. I had better not declare who I shout for !
“I represented NUBC from 1988-1991 and was the Mens Captain in the 1990-91 season. Thereafter I went on to represent Staines BC, Nottingham RC, Nottinghamshire County Rowing Association and I’m currently at Nottingham and Union RC. NUBC has always stayed close to my heart though with many happy memories and the friendships forged all those years ago still intact.
I am in touch with many NUBC alumni from the late 80’s / early 90’s era. I arranged a reunion for many of the above in 2002 and then again in 2005 when we raced Rutherford Head and attended the JL Dinner. Maybe in the centenary year we should consider doing that again – it’s overdue and 100 years is the perfect excuse.”
Tideway 1989: The NUBC Men’s novice VIII had a guy in the TA nicknamed “Baby TWIAA”. Going for a paddle from St Paul’s on the Friday evening before race day and upon noticing the gates were locked, the crew realised thy would need to pass the boat and themselves over the railings. Baby TWIAA shouted “Hey guys this is where your TA commando training really comes in handy”. To demonstrate, Baby TWIAA ran up to the iron (spiked) railings and using the railings as a springboard placed on hand on top of the railing, thus piercing his hand with iron in the process. Wonderful, needless to say a short notice sub was required!
“Yorkie” was the novice coach at the time and his sergeant major approach to training (he made commands using a whistle) made new rowers think of him as a bit of a psycho. One new novice even commented “He doesn’t even stop when there’s blood coming out of his hands”. (circa 1988)
Yorkie’s reputation went with him into many a drinking den where he would often confidently lead a game called “You sir/madam, drink your pint!”. On one occasion at Trent Head (1989) he picked on an unsuspecting Nottingham rower who duly polished off two bottles of ‘Dog’ simultaneously through both nostrils, thus silencing ever indulgent Yorkie.
Trent head 1989: A men’s novice VIII in an old wooden boat called “Tenesmus” finished 5/5 then just as the chips were down, cox Jones steered into a scaffold pipe for an impressive sinking & lovely result.
A men’s senior 3 IV, 6am outing on the Tyne 1989. All very tranquil until a large fish jumped out of the river into the 2 man’s lap.
Kidnap of student from Durham University and subsequent parade around the Men’s Bar (Human Beer Trophy 1989).
One Wednesday training in 1990 a NUBC coach (full) on the way from King’s Walk to Newburn. The coach had just pulled onto the bridge when the men’s novice IV beside the landing stages decided to demonstrate, for all to see, the infamous NUBC ‘Eskimo Roll’.
Durham Regatta 1990: Following lots of beer to celebrate some silverware, NUBC successfully procured the “Durham Ladder” from the commentators footbridge box. When accosted and questioned by the constable, the offending Blue Star quickly stated “oh yesh oshifer don’t worry I’m from St Chads & jush taking it back ri’ now”. (To our delight the said ladder was still in the clubhouse when we revisited in 2002).
Durham Regatta 1990: With the DU ladder safely installed on the minibus roof, that left plenty of room in the back of the minibus for a large barrel of beer (no guesses as to where that came from). Heading down the hill at Scotswood Bridge, 2 budding NUBC silver surfers decided to clamber out the back of the speeding van and onto the roof rack for some surfing practice. The first thing the driver knew was when the barrel rolled out of the back of the van, down Scotswood hill and into the curb causing a spontaneous midnight beer fountain. About 15 NUBC members took the barrel to shoulders and in memory of the said event duly renamed the old bowloading blue carbocraft IV+ “Shoulders”.
Martin Coopland (President 88-89) adds:
As an addition to John’s description of the night of the bowling beer barrel, I remember it very well. Once we had our barrel back at the boat house we had no means of opening it, so we (No names!) borrowed one of Harry “the boat man” Wilson‘s drills and drilled a neat 2mm hole in the barrel in order to access the desired liquid. It was after this that the barrel was dropped from the speeding minibus. The resulting 2mm jet of Federation lager was some thing to see, especially once back inside the mini bus.
I awoke the next day with the barrel sitting in the middle of my living room. Unsure what to do with it, I dragged it down the back steps of the flat in to the service alley and let it gently role down the hill.
The current history section of the website makes me smile, especially the though of Nick Scott rowing in a pair. Must have been difficult to row and keep his cigarette dry!
The Tyne 1990 – The girls were out training in VIIIs and a new guy nicknamed “Doug 2“ fancied his chances. The girls ‘easied’ by the stages for a breather. A topless Doug 2 came down the steps in green combats and wellies, and grabbing stroke’s blade tried to pull the girls into the stages despite they were still mid-outing. In the end bow IV mnaged to get enough leg drive to pull him into the Tyne.
Nick “Eddie the Eagle” Fletcher’s legendary ski-jump: Wearing bright orange fisherman’s waterproofs and drainpipes as skis, he successfully skied down the central slope of the landing stage before progressing to the jump and landing phase. This consisted of flipping forward from an already 45 degree forward lean to 0 degree lean lying face down in the Tyne. (Newburn 1990 and never attempted since).
“Delson” makes his 2nd hole in the Tynemouth Sailing Club ceiling in as many years and gracefully accepts his lifetime ban (NUBC Xmas dinner 1991)