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.



Chris Andrews

Chris Andrews, who sadly passed away on 27 December 2015, was a regular visitor to the Club after joining in 1996.  Rowing was his life, in his own modest way.  There were not many Boat Races, heads of the river or other Tideway events that he missed.  He will chiefly be remembered, though, for his work in re-hanging well over one hundred pictures in the Long Room, the Fairbairn Room and the Club Room (a.k.a. the Crew Room) in readiness for the 150th anniversary in 2006, and after the redevelopment in 2005-07 was finished.  He was also a skilful joiner, for example fitting out the new women’s changing room single-handedly.

Chris was one of those members whose contribution to the Club is very easy to take for granted but who brought a very visible and welcome improvement to the first floor rooms in the clubhouse building, which will be an enduring legacy.

Julian Ebsworth


Robin Hulf

Robin Hulf died on 12 November 2015 after a long battle with leukaemia.  Robin Cameron Cooper writes:

Robin Hulf was the indefatigable organiser of a group of competitive veterans known as ‘the Army’ crew.  A former Regular Army Officer, Robin was commissioned into the King’s Own Scottish Borderers in 1965. In a distinguished military career, he was twice Mentioned in Despatches and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and the command of his Battalion by 1986.

After rowing in eights at Sandhurst he was in the Clyde Amateur RC crew that won the coxed 4s at the Scottish Championships by a record margin - one that has not been beaten since. The same four competed in the Wyfolds at Henley, being beaten ultimately by Tideway Scullers. In the late 60s, Robin went on to compete for Scotland, with Scottish Argonauts, in the Thames Cup.

By 1970, Robin had met and married Penny, who supported him and his crews from many a cold, wet Scottish riverbank. But with a demanding job and a growing family, rowing then had to take a back seat for the next 20 years. 

But in 1990 the Army sent him to St Johns College, Cambridge to take an M Phil, where another LRC member, John Hobson, was also doing a Masters. Together they rowed in an LMBC Veterans’ crew and soon after John introduced Robin to LRC. Warmly welcomed by the Irregulars, Robin said that he felt ‘instantly at home’ at the Club and relished the camaraderie and the enjoyment of rowing that they offered him.

While the Irregulars’ focus was on rowing as a social activity, however, Robin’s was on rowing as competition. So it was not long before he put together another Veterans’ crew whose focus would be on rowing to race. With Robin in charge and with its complement of 3 ex-soldiers, the crew inevitably became known as ‘the Army’ (although there were always at least as many lawyers and accountants among its number as there were military men). For the last 18 years this crew, in various combinations, has competed regularly in winter Head races and in fours and quads in the summer regattas. Robin was always delighted when one of his ‘Army’ crews won a cup or a pennant, but win or lose, he was always tireless in his drive for them to do better and to look forward to the next race.

On leaving the Army, Robin became a political consultant and later started his own consultancy. This put him in close contact with Parliamentarians in both Houses. When he discovered that the Lords vs the Commons rowing race had fallen into abeyance, he was determined to resurrect it and, since 2007, he was instrumental in that race taking place again every year. Together with the formation of the All Party Parliamentary Rowing Group, the event has seen the profile of rowing as a sport, and of LRC, raised amongst both Parliamentarians and industry, and the Group has so far raised £55,000 for charity. The race itself, ably organised by Alan Foster with help from other LRC members, has also contributed several thousands of pounds to the Club in donations from the race’s sponsor. Discussions are already taking place with British Rowing to ensure that the good work that Robin started will continue into the future.

In addition to LRC, Robin belonged to Bann Rowing Club in N. Ireland. With them in the early 2000s he competed in races in Enniskillen, Galway and Carrick-on-Shannon amongst others. He arranged for Bann Rowing Club to be hosted by LRC when they raced in the Vesta Vets’ Head in 2006. In the same year, he joined them in a charity row of the River Bann from Lough Neagh to Portstewart, a distance of 40 miles in one day.

Robin in his favourite bow seat competing in the 1999 Veterans' Head

In the past two decades, Robin never lost his passion and enthusiasm for rowing, even during the illness that ultimately claimed his life. In 2006, he competed in a double in the Head of the Charles with his daughter Camilla.  In 2011 he bought his own sculling boat, which, with the support of his second wife Isobel, he took to Coniston Water and Ullswater, sculling the length of both lakes in quite challenging conditions. As recently as a year ago, Robin was in Sydney to see his son Toby graduate as a Doctor. Never one to miss an opportunity, and despite his failing health, Robin had two outings in Sydney harbour before he flew home.

Robin was a fervent supporter of Henley and attended every day of every Regatta whenever he could. Immaculately turned out in every possible combination of LRC gear, he cut a fine figure in Stewards as he followed the fortunes of the Army, University and Club crews with which he had rowed.

Characteristically, he fought his final, lengthy battle with leukaemia with great courage and good humour. He was proud that his rowing fitness meant that he was strong enough to undergo the treatment. When news of his death went round the Club, the almost universal epithet used to describe him by all age groups was that of ‘an absolute gentleman’, a description at which he would have smiled.

We send our deepest sympathy and condolences to all his family.


Barry Banyard

An active member in the 1960s, Barry, who died on 22 May 2014, was one of those happy souls who contributed to the life of the Club in his own special way, albeit for a relatively short period.  He joined the Club in 1961 from Auriol, becoming a Resident on the top floor, and was active and quite successful in 4s and 8s, being selected for a Wyfold IV in 1963 which got through one round. He tried his hand at sculling, winning Junior Sculls at City of Norwich Regatta and even completed the Boston Marathon course in a time of 4hrs 41m.

Barry was best remembered at London though for his spectacular moustache of florid proportions.  An interior designer, he transformed his Resi room into a wondrous piece of modern living, but memorably also decorated the Long Room for a New Year’s Eve dinner and dance in the mid-60s in Chinese style with numerous hanging banners reputedly featuring laundry lists, and a galaxy of stars affixed to the ceiling, all hand-made.

LRC on the left, Yare RC on the right.  L to R – Peter Hilditch, Doug Melvin, Graham Beech, John Pepys. On the right, Simon Crosse (almost hidden at the back), and second right, Nick Cooper, are also longstanding members of LRC. 

Barry moved to East Anglia, working first for Fielden & Mawson (a firm of architects who through Simon Crosse had been involved in the major development of the Clubhouse in 1969-71), and then as Head of the Interior Design Department at Great Yarmouth College of Art.  He married Marion in Norwich Cathedral, sans mouche, where LRC and Yare RC shared the honours as his guard of honour (see photo alongside).  It was typical of Barry to organise a pair oars race round the island on which Norwich RC stands on the morning of his wedding, and then to present a prize to the winners at the wedding reception afterwards.

Barry was not only great fun but was kind enough to remember LRC in his will too, setting an example to others.  A few years ago he decided he must have an LRC Henley blazer, so drove down to Clothiers in Cambridge to have one made and fitted.  We send our belated condolences to Marion.