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.


Dennis Mount

Dennis, who passed away on 30 May 2016 at the age of 87, was someone who touched the lives of numerous London members after he joined in 1979.  He will be remembered with affection at the Club as a steely veteran oarsman and determined coach after an earlier successful sculling and rowing career elsewhere on the Tideway, but also as someone of great charm. 

Dennis’ arrival on the Embankment was less than conventional. Brought up in the Midlands and successful in horseriding (a surprise perhaps for someone so tall and rangy) and road race cycling, he gravitated to Stratford BC and took up sculling.  He decided to enter the first ever Scullers’ Head in 1954, and was ‘talent spotted’ by no less than ‘Old Berry’ (Julius Beresford, father of the even more famous Jack). He was persuaded to move to the capital and took up residence in Thames RC, where he shared a Resi room with one Alasdair Provan. A bow side oar and in his prime years just on 13 stone, he was soon promoted to join the club’s top crews at Henley and was a member of eights selected to represent England in 1958 in the British Empire Games at Lake Padarn (where he won a bronze medal) and GB in the European Championships in 1959. It can be revealed that in these same years his name also appears on the Boustead Cup plinth.

Dennis was though also an early, if not founding, member of Tideway Scullers’ School with Alasdair.  There is a nice story that, when at the News of the World Serpentine Regatta in the late 50s, the weather became increasingly wet and blustery and Alasdair and Dennis ‘helped themselves’ to some plum and mustard-coloured bunting to keep warm;  Alasdair subsequently chose these colours for TSS’ livery. Dennis rowed for TSS at Henley in 1963 (losing to London in the Thames Cup) and 1964. He then retired from top level rowing.  By then however, he had met a cousin of Alasdair’s from the Anglo-Argentinian diaspora in Buenos Aires, Maureen, who was on a visit to London;    the rest as they say is history and she never returned to live in BA. They became a very happy and devoted couple.

Dennis was in due course drawn back to the river in order to keep fit and slim and was encouraged to join London in earnest in March 1979, which had an active veteran squad.  He became a Life Member in 1988.  But it was as a coach that he established his reputation.  He not only coached London crews but also girls from Putney High and boys from City of London.  He often did so from his sculling boats “Daisy” and later “Daisey too” (the extra ‘e’ was a signwriter mistake).  He was remembered for his patience and good humour, if occasional exasperation, until quite recently with veteran crews, his lucky charges more particularly remembering perhaps the scones and homemade truffles that were distributed at the end of outings or for good results after ergo sessions. He was a pastry chef par excellence.

In many ways Dennis was very much his own man.  Arriving on the Embankment on his motorbike looking formidable and fierce in his leathers; taking part in a TV programme about his gardening services on TV (in a programme ambiguously named ‘Personal Services’, one of his customers paying him in bottles of wine rather than cash); entering in a totally uninhibited way into conversations with complete strangers sitting alongside him on the no. 22 bus to and from Putney.  Who amongst those who were lucky enough to be invited could forget the huge tea he and Maureen laid on at the clubhouse for his 80th birthday, featuring in particular his swan-shaped choux pastries.  

Christopher Grainger drew on a wide range of contributions, from old friends going back to the 1950s, in the address Maureen invited him to make at Dennis’ funeral at Chelsea Old Church. It was a well attended service with rowing club members in good voice for well chosen ‘rowing’ hymns, a fine choir, in a church that he and Maureen had attended for over 40 years.  We shall all miss him, and send our condolences to Maureen and their wider families.


Ron Needs 

Bob Downie rembembers the late Ron Needs, who died on 25 April 2016, at the age of 90:

It is with great pride and great sadness that we recall the life of Ronald Arthur Needs. He was an inspiration to many many oarsmen and oarswomen both at LRC and elsewhere, from club, university, to the internationals. We will not repeat here what so many other clubs, universities, GB Rowing, FISA and the papers have already published, but we will simply address the story of Ron and LRC, and most importantly, how Ron found his way to our club...

It was in 1973/74 while Chris Drury, a long term LRC rower, was enjoying one of his occasional breaks from LRC, sculling down at Leander Club, that the story began. Drury was fortunate to have found himself being coached by Ron in his single. Under Ron’s careful tuition Drury succeeded in being the fastest lightweight sculler in the Sculler’s Head. This inspired Drury to ask Daniel Topolski to form a lightweight four. The two of them then approached Nick Tee and Graeme Hall. By natural succession Ron began coaching this four with the intention of achieving national selection in the newly established international lightweight championships.

Initially they borrowed blades from Tideway Scullers and a coxless four from Leander Club. Then Topolski, Drury and Peter Coni, with Ron's assistance, identified a Karlisch coxless four for sale from Crowland. Coni, recognizing the potential, arranged for LRC to purchase the four. The four lightweights, and Ron, then moved permanently to LRC, unbeknownst to them at the time, effectively setting up the first lightweight squad in the country. Ron’s coaching and organizational skills would now set LRC on a singularly successful path for the next several years, bringing LRC out of the doldrums in which it had been mired for some time.

In 1975 the four achieved a Silver Medal at the World Championships setting Ron on a course of international achievement rarely matched. The following year, 1976, Hall and Drury stayed on to form an eight which won another Silver Medal, losing at Henley in the Grand to the eventual winners along the way. In 1977, and 1978, Ron’s Lightweight Eights won successive Gold Medals, also picking up two Henley Thames Cup Wins. Also, in 1978, the Head of the River pennant, the only occasion on which a lightweight eight has ever won. In 1979 a lightweight four from Ron’s Squad picked up a further Gold.

These are only the highlights, because the tally of victories for Ron’s crews is numerous. However, LRC under Ron’s careful touch became a byword for excellence in rowing, his crews being both technically superior and well trained, despite the fact that they all worked for a living. These were the days before full- time athletes. But of particular note should be the fact that Ron remained, throughout his career, an amateur coach, out-performing many of his professional colleagues.

As one can imagine these were the glory days not just for Ron and the Lightweights but for London Rowing Club itself. It had re-established itself as a major rowing centre attracting not just lightweight oarsman with an eye for international rowing but also heavyweight and club oarsman.

It was indeed a sad day for the club when Ron was lured away to the heavyweight squad and the Olympic Games. However, his legacy lived on and the LRC lightweights were able to build, at least for a few years, on the solid foundation he had laid down.  LRC recognised his significant contribution to the club by making him an Honorary Life Member following his departure.

Apart from Ron’s excellence as a coach, which is recognised worldwide, one must not forget his qualities as a person. He was a singularly kind and generous man, he had on numerous occasions funded boats and bought boats for his various crews when money was short. He was also exceedingly polite and tolerant with enormous patience. For those of us lucky enough to have known him as a friend and have been coached by him, he was without doubt peerless.  We will miss him.


John Northridge

John Francis Northridge who died on 19 May 2015, the day before his 83rd birthday, was a stalwart member of the Club in the 1950s, and took up rowing again as a Veteran with LRC with some success.  He was a co-founder in the 1970s of Bewl Bridge Rowing Club, which rows on a lake near Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

John Northridge (nearest camera) and Maurice Rayner

John joined the Club as a teenager, whilst still at St Paul’s School, in 1947.  After completing his national service he returned to Putney in earnest, took out Life membership, and represented the Club at Henley in each of the five years 1953 to 1957, weighing in at around 12 stone.  He rowed in the Grand every year (with Graham Hill in 1953), and doubled up in the Stewards in 1954, 1956 and 1957.  He was as much at home on stroke side as well as on bow, such was his versatility.  The best Henley for him was probably 1957 when he reached the final of the Stewards, losing to Club Krylia Sovetov in a good race after hitting the booms (he was bow/steers!).  Contemporaries we have spoken to speak of a determined oar who set high standards of himself and others, and excelled as a stroke. 

He was in the ARA group who were under consideration for the 1956 Olympic eight, and narrowly missed selection.    That was an eight that never really reached international standard, and although John never said as much one can't help feeling it would have benefited from his fiercely competitive nature and his insistence on the highest standards.  He was one of the dwindling number of members who attended the Centenary Dinner at the Grocers’ Hall in 1956 (on the ‘young’ Table B).  Our intelligence sources also confide that he was taken to task whilst trying to remove a union jack from a British Consulate-General building on the Continent.

In 1963, John moved away from Putney, to Hadlow and later Tunbridge Wells, but despite the travel demands he returned successfully to Veteran rowing with LRC in later years.  He won a Veteran pennant in HORR 1979 with Doug Melvin and others (see photograph for Martin Gaylard’s obituary below) but a highlight was his success in a pair with Maurice Rayner (Hon Sec 1979-82 and Hon Treasurer 1995-2001) at international level. They won their age group in the coxless pair event at the FISA Masters regatta no less than 4 times, a superb result and clear confirmation that his style and attitude to racing had real value.

Soon after Bewl Bridge was founded, London sold or loaned them for their fleet a wooden coxless IV (the ‘Berlin’) used by the LRC crew which was selected for the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936 and won a silver medal. The Berlin was later re-acquired and now hangs in the Long Room.  We do not know for certain, but it would be nice to think that John had something to do with this connection between the two Clubs.  He was an enthusiast for everything he got involved in.

We send our condolences to John’s widow, Sylvia, his son Simon, and family.