John Cooney 

John Cooney who died on 21 March aged 54 after a long struggle with lymphoma, was part of the successful heavy and lightweight squads at LRC in the 1990s.

John was brought up in Isleworth and attended Gunnersbury School where he played rugby.  He read chemistry at Southampton University where he discovered rowing and was immediately hooked making rapid progress.  After graduation he joined Twickenham Rowing Club followed by a spell at Molesey before arriving at LRC in 1992.  He was selected for the first eight in the Head of the River that year starting 8th and finishing 6th.  He was again selected for the first eight for the 1993 Head but was disappointed to pull out on the morning with illness.  He narrowly missed selection the following year, rowing for LRC II. 

At Henley he represented Molesey in the 1991 Silver Goblets followed by four years for LRC in the Thames Cup reaching the semi-final on three occasions.  A natural 12 ½ stone middleweight, he lost nearly a stone and a half in 1994 to make the lightweight London crew that represented England in the Commonwealth Regatta in London Ontario winning gold, Australia taking silver and Canada the bronze.  Earlier that year the same crew won open and lightweight eights at the National Championships at Nottingham, their time of 5.43 the lightweight record for the event to date.

He was a chartered accountant and tax partner at Smith and Williamson for many years with a brief spell at Ernst and Young. 

John was gregarious, he enjoyed and indeed often carried a social event; he left a large and positive impression on all who knew him.  He contributed hugely to life at LRC with his humour and larger-than-life personality.  Helping to organise club parties, he spread invitations far and wide holding the view that ‘a bunch of lightweights a party does not make’.  His interests extended well beyond rowing – he was a self-taught guitarist, elite level cyclist, filmmaker, keen motorcyclist and car enthusiast.  He threw himself into life with gusto and infectious enthusiasm. 

His Henley Friday routine usually involved breakfasting at The Wolseley in Piccadilly in his LRC blazer, followed by The Bridge Bar, lunch in Butler’s Field and The Fawley Bar.  Indeed all his LRC and wider rowing friends will find The Fawley Bar a little quieter on Friday afternoons where there will be a large space in the crowd that John occupied.  He faced his illness with typical good humour and stoicism.  The club extends its sympathies to his family, especially his children Felix, Jasper and Jemima.


Cedric Sheppard

Rob van Mesdag writes:   

Cedric Sheppard who died on 10 November 2017 in a Nursing Home in London is likely to have steered more Club members around Venice’s lagoon than anyone else. His first participation in the 20-mile Vogalonga dates from the late 1960s and his last effort at surviving the usual myriad of turbulent craft goes back to ten years ago. He mostly steered clinker fours but once or twice an eight.

He joined LRC in 1962 and while his proficiency at rowing never reached great heights he contributed to the Club considerably. As a graduate of Trinity College Dublin he attracted a number of his fellow students to join ‘London’ following their graduation. Through foreign travel he met rowing friends in Italy whom he persuaded to join the Club and being a stockbroker in the City he became the Club’s long-time investment manager advising on a fairly sizeable portfolio which came to be used as the Club’s contribution to an important appeal for the Club’s development which took place between 2005 and 2007.

Cedric was born in Maidstone on 16 January 1929. During the war the family moved to Cornwall where Cedric first went a local school before going up to Gresham’s School which had been evacuated from its normal base in Norfolk and which returned there after the war. His father encouraged him to apply for Trinity College Dublin where Cedric read Natural Sciences, specialising in geology. His knowledge of mining and oil thus acquired enabled him to specialise in these fields upon joining a firm of London stockbrokers.

Meanwhile other interests beckoned. A keen skier, he became a member of the Stock Exchange Ski Club, taking part in its annual competitions; he loved sports cars, once being the owner of an Austin Healey; he became a liveryman of the Tallow Chandlers Company, their sloop often moored outside our Club; he was a superb photographer and was a member of gentleman’s clubs in Dublin and London with attractive reciprocal arrangements elsewhere. As a horseman he helped exercise polo ponies in Richmond Park and on Sundays occasionally rode a horse belonging to the Spanish ambassador.

Cedric with bottle quenches his crew’s thirst, from left to right Lorenzo Ventabile, Anthony de Winton, Rob van Mesdag, Vittorio Soave

But Venice had a special place in his heart perhaps because of its problems. Scarcity of boats in Venice itself used to cause an annual nightmare when trying to hire one from local clubs which was only solved once trailer-delivery of boats from England came into fashion while the event itself became worryingly over- crowded, canoeists with their paddles harpooning the bows of Cedric’s four - then capsizing  - and the entire fleet coming to a halt upon re-entering the Canal Cannareggio.  Then at the finish his girlfriend Diana, disguised as Cedric’s team manager with a large bag of sandwiches and Prosecco, would be at hand to resuscitate an exhausted crew. Their friendship began in 1989 becoming ever more close as Cedric’s health declined during the last 18 month of his life. Our thoughts go out to Diana.  


Rodney Bewes 

Members will have been saddened to learn of the death at the age of 79 of Rodney Bewes, for many years a member of London Rowing Club, on 21 November 2017.  Rodney was an actor who came to fame in the 1960s as the character Bob Ferris in "The Likely Lads", one of the most popular BBC sitcoms of that era.  His main connection with the river was through his one-man touring production of "Three Men in a Boat", which won the Stella Artois prize at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1997.  He was a freeman of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen.

For many years Rodney was a very familiar figure at Henley Royal Regatta, invariably moored up close to the Progress Board, opposite Stewards' Enclosure, as shown in Mark Ruscoe's really excellent photograph above. 

Mile Preston recalls a recent encounter:

While I was doing an eight day skiff trip from Bourne End to Abingdon and back in July, we woke up one morning at Sonning lock to find that Rodney Bewes had tethered his motor launch next to us over night. Shortly after, the whole flotilla of Swan Uppers came up through the lock. As they emerged from the lock, Rodney greeted each boat and they greeted him in return.

I had a discussion with Rodney while we were standing on the bank watching,  although I hadn't met him before. He was clearly a proud member of LRC. He also explained that he had taken part in the Swan Upping week for many years - as I understood it he rowed in one of the skiffs on many occasions - and he was now following the event in his own cabin cruiser and, I imagined from what he said, taking part in the endless receptions and lunches that the uppers attend as they make their way up the river.

Over the course of the next few days, we came across the uppers several more times and saw Rodney on two or three occasions. He immediately recognised us and waved to us. By chance we ended up going through Goring lock with the uppers and enjoyed the endless chatter and banter.  All in all, he was very friendly and easy to talk to and I am pleased that I had a chance to meet him albeit only, as it transpired, shortly before he died.


Ian Butler

Ian Butler,who died on 4 November 2016 aged 81, was a stalwart member of the Irregulars, representing their interests on the Committee for 10 years.  For many years he was in charge of the Club's clothing supply, and also ran the Casamajor Club draw.  Ian Laurenson writes:

Ian was a man of many interests, with an interest in sport being one of the most important.  After working abroad for some years, he and Jenny finally set up home in Kingston and Ian started looking around for possibilities of actively participating in a sport. At school he had played cricket and at Oxford he had taken up rowing, even being selected to join the Blue Boat squad for a few weeks.  After searching around he finally decided that the London Rowing Club Irregulars, with a philosophy that whoever turned up on Sunday morning or Wednesday evening, would be boated, fitted in with his business and family commitments. 

Ian joined the Club in April 1973 and over the next 40 years was an enthusiastic participant in the Irregulars. His linguistic skills being very useful in our trips abroad to the Rhineland Rowing Club in the Hague, Paris for the Traversee de Paris, Venice for the Vogalonga and on the memorable trip to Madrid at the invitation of the Ambassador Sir Stephen and his wife Abby.

As convenor of the Irregulars for many years I had the job of making up crews. I soon grew to realise that Ian was a man of fixed ideas. Others would move position in the boat, row on either side or go sculling, not Ian. Always sweep oar, always stroke side, first at stroke then at six and then at four. Towards the end of his rowing career he invariable went in a four, alternating stroke and two with Graham Anderson the other man of fixed principles. Robbie would take on the task of steering the boat.   

As time moved on, the length of our outings needed to be adjusted, first above Chiswick Bridge, then just below Chiswick, then the White Hart at Barnes and finally the Bandstand. Ian expressing the firm opinion that the boat should turn at the Bandstand, Robbie renamed this turning point Butler's Reach, Only two rowing landmarks are named after oarsmen. The Mile Post is named after Steve Fairbairn. The Bandstand is now named after Ian Butler.

The fondly remembered Club servant, Lilian Eagle named the Irregulars the Jolly Boaters. Ian was, I suspect, the one who earned us this title. We enjoyed getting on the river but had even more enjoyment in slackening the thirst that our efforts provided. Ian with his close buddy John Auber was always at the centre of the jollity. The Butler household must have got used to a late Sunday lunch.

After Ian retired he became actively involved in the welfare of the Rowing Club. He was elected a member of the Committee, looked after the interests of the Irregulars, took charge of the purchase and sale of rowing kit and of course, the Casamajor Club draw, a very useful little earner for the Club.



Andrew Paterson

Andrew Paterson, who passed away on 18 April 2015, loved the river and rowing, loved Putney and contributed hugely to the life of the Club especially in the early 1970s, when he organised  a vast army of Irregulars.  In his later years he was a familiar sight on the Embankment, a very regular visitor to the clubhouse, and became involved in the world of watermen.

Andrew followed his brother Bruce to Winchester, and started in junior house sculling at a time when the college still raced in the PE Cup on fixed pins.  He was a keen musician, playing the clarinet and piano, and forming a dance band which specialised in jazz and swing.  After National Service with the RASC in Austria, he read modern languages at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and rowed at Henley in its Wyfold crews in 1954 and 1955.

In 1972, it became customary to present the “Irregular” squadmaster with a trophy on Final Night in recognition of his season’s services.  That year, LRC captain Peter Harrison, left, presented Andrew Paterson with an engraved glass ship’s decanter.

He started a career in marketing and advertising, moved to Putney, bought his house in Festing Road and joined the Club in 1962.  By then John Pepys had set up his “Pepys’ Promotions” involving Wednesday evening outings for those who were unable to take part in full-time training but who wished to continue enjoying the sport, including  entering head of the river races.  John handed over responsibility for organisation to Brian Wilson and then to Andrew in 1971, by which time the Promotions had become “The Irregulars”. Sunday outings were added.

Andrew’s article in the 1981 commemorative booklet for the Club’s 125th Anniversary makes plain how large an activity this became: 1971, an average of 2-3 eights went out and a ‘Final Night circular’ sent to 88; 1972, 3 eights and a four, and circular to 177 (this included non-LRC guests); 1973, 96 participants ; and 1974, 6 eights afloat. Ages ranged from 17 to 70. Regular Wednesday night dinners with candles, silver and port started at this time as well.  In 1974, Andrew handed over to Andy Slaughter, and in the following year to Iain Laurenson, who with John Pearson and Rob van Mesdag happily all remain integral members of the Irregulars to this day.

Andrew then moved with his friend R O Plowright up to Molesey for a period, rowing in a veterans’ crew and at the same time reviving the fortunes of Molesey Regatta.  He later returned to Putney and re-joined the Irregulars in a rowing, and later social, capacity.  In 1978 he became  a Governor, later Clerk, of the Thomas Martyn Foundation, an educational charity for watermen which holds its annual service at All Saints, Putney Common, with a reception afterwards at the clubhouse. He held office for 23 years.  He also became a ‘Craft-Owning’ Freeman of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen in the City in 1989, regularly attending Court and Freemen’s lunches and encouraging other LRC members to apply for membership over the years as well.  

Andrew remained generous with his time throughout, his wider coaching and other assistance being recognised in honorary memberships of Lady Elizabeth Boat Club (Trinity College, Dublin) and of King’s College Boat Club (University of London).  Engagingly, the IT revolution passed Andrew entirely by;   communications and papers for him were to be handwritten or typed from his desk in Festing Road; what was important was to keep up the friendships he had made. 

We send our belated condolences to his brother Bruce and family.