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Friday
Feb202015

Nigel Smith

We are very sorry to have to announce the death on 20 February 2015 of Nigel Smith at the Trinity Hospice on Clapham Common, at the age of only 54.  As those who have been closer to the Putney scene will be aware, he was diagnosed during the course of last year with cancer of the colon, and had been valiantly fighting the condition since.

Nigel with the Secretary's Cup which he donated to the Met

His successor as Hon. Secretary, Julian Ebsworth, writes:

Nigel André Smith was born and bred in Putney, started in rowing administration at the age of 16, and dedicated much of the rest of his life to the sport.  He was a devoted servant to the Club for nearly three decades, without equal, but also found the time to contribute to rowing at large, both on the Thames and at international level.  He was a fixed and certain presence in the sport, bringing his own particular style to all that he did, and when he wasn’t running the show he was a constant behind-the-scenes presence.

Born on 24 January 1961, Nigel’s schooling started at Glengyle School in Carlton Drive, Putney (very much an ‘old style’ boys’ prep school which would probably horrify today’s inspectors, and sold on in 1986; there is an entertaining series of recollections from alumni on a weblog), then Emanuel School where he first came into contact with rowing. One of his coaches was Charles Dimont (of happy memory, LRC member and one time Chairman of the Met Regatta), who was to introduce him to school rowing admin. Nigel never forgot Emanuel, going back to help coach 3rd year squads on Saturday mornings for many years. Through Charles he was also introduced to LRC in 1977.

His career in LRC administration started straightaway:  Entries Secretary in 1979, when he was still at school, and 1980;  Assistant Hon Secretary in what was the busy 125th anniversary year 1981; and then the following year Maurice Rayner stepped down as Hon Secretary, a position Nigel was to occupy for the next 22 years until 2003, a record term of any office in the club.  The load on the Hon Secretary was heavy, as it included the full burden of membership duties.  This was not done without some dry humour at times, sending out one year for example subscription notices dated Christmas Day (and he probably was in the office that day). He left to his successors some carefully kept files, records and memorabilia; he knew the London Boat House Company articles of association, the bye-laws and the residents’ rules backwards. To be on the wrong side of Nigel in these matters was not altogether a beneficial experience.

A host of appointments sprang up alongside his LRC duties. Charles Dimont introduced him to regatta administration with the Met.  He joined the Committee in 1980 and then in 1983 succeeded Bernie Regan as Hon Secretary, being central to the regatta’s growth to one of the largest rowing events in the country over the next 25 years.   In 1981 Nigel joined the National Championships Committee for 10 years, first as Assistant Secretary and then as Hon Treasurer.  He was active with the River Thames Society.  Peter Coni was instrumental in fulfilling Nigel’s ultimate aim, namely to assist at Henley Royal Regatta, where he was appointed a Chairman’s Assistant.  Nigel never competed at HRR, but in 1989 (the 150th anniversary of the first Henley) he took over Peter’s thwart at short notice in a unique LRC Captains’ 12-oared crew. To his delight he rowed at 6, still armed with his radio and two pagers, and enjoyed the procession past the enclosures.

Nigel also turned his skills to umpiring.  He qualified as an umpire on home waters in 1983;  his first disqualification was of a Thames RC crew in a final at Maidenhead Regatta (good man). He gained the multi-lane umpiring endorsement in 1994 and then progressed to international level, obtaining a FISA licence in 1999.  He was to serve  at some nine FISA and other international events, including Masters and a World Cup in Hazewinkel, over the next seven years. He was a strict, but fair, umpire.

Nigel’s gainful ‘weekday ’ employment had been in company secretary work at chartered accountants’ firms in the City.  He decided to make a complete break for a new career on the river in his late 40s and, to his great credit, he decided to train for a Maritime and Coastguard Agency National Boatmaster’s Licence, which he gained in 2012. He became a Craft-Owning Freeman of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen two years later. 

These notes are mainly based on two sides of closely typed A4 that, bless him, Nigel wrote about himself some six or so years ago.  He modestly omitted to mention that the ARA Chairman, Di Ellis, presented him at the 2002 annual dinner (on board Tom Woods’ Silver Sturgeon) with an International Olympic Committee diploma to mark the 2001 International Year of Volunteers, signed by Juan Antonio Samaranch, “for a remarkable contribution, as a volunteer, to the development of sport  ...”.  Nigel was given a large Dickinson & Foster lithograph of Victorian Henley worthies after his years as LRC Hon Secretary.  But he probably treasured most a specially struck gold Met medal that he received on retirement from the office of Secretary after 25 regattas, in 2008.

Nigel’s last few several years were not the easiest for him, but he had good and considerate friends on the Embankment. We must thank Chas Newens, Adrian Sanmogan and family, and the Trinity Hospice on Clapham Common, for being a bedrock for him in his final months and weeks as he battled with his pernicious illness.  Rowing is now the poorer for Nigel’s departure at such an unreasonably early age.

Sunday
Nov092014

Desmond Hampton

Julian Ebsworth writes:

London Rowing Club lost one of its most enthusiastic members of long standing when Desmond Hampton passed away on 11 October 2014 at the age of 74.  You were certainly aware of him when he was in your boat, and he was one of the most consummate of chums off the water.  With a steely eye and penetrating gaze, and a memorable moustache, he was someone you simply could not forget.  Yet he also worked unobtrusively behind the scenes for the Club, and was generous in providing professional advice and support when the Club needed it.

Desmond joined the Club in 1962.  He had been in the Winchester First VIII when the school was one of the last still to be rowing on fixed pins (his father was a ‘don’ at the school).  In a preliminary round of the PE Cup in 1958 his crew narrowly lost by a canvas to Westminster School (also still on fixed pins) after being a length and a half up.  He went up to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he was introduced to swivels and was in the First VIII in 1961.  The following year, after graduating in land economy, and rowing for the Hall in the Wyfolds, he joined LRC.

Trinity Hall First May Boat, 1961. Desmond is seated far right.His rowing style was interesting and like no one else’s.  It was effective, if somewhat rough and ready, with a yank at the end of the stroke as the blade came out of the water; this was christened, somewhat uncharitably, as Desmond’s “uck”. No seamless, flowing style, that’s for sure.  He was a stroke side oar and weighed in at around 12 stone.

He rowed at five successive Henleys in the mid-1960s, in the Grand, Thames Cup, Stewards’, Prince Philip and Wyfolds. His most successful years were 1963 and 1966 in the Club’s Thames Cup crews, in both of which he reached the semi-finals (then held on the final day).  In 1966 he was in the crew stroked by the Australian, Charley Moore; it was the only crew to give the eventual winners, Harvard, a serious run for their money that year, leading up to Fawley and then losing by only ⅔ length. Harvard won the final against Isis by ¾ length. The Stewards’ crew of 1964 was the coxless IV memorably named by Mrs Palmer, the LRC steward’s wife, as “Rippon, Royle, 'ampton and Mr Smith”. In 1965 he was in a Wyfold crew that lost in a close race to Sons of the Thames which broke the then record for the event.  These results give some idea of the tenacious oar that Desmond was. He was Vice-Captain to Bob Marks in the 1965/66 season.

Away from Henley, he enjoyed expeditions to upriver and regional regattas.  1966 was successful for a coxless IV’s foray into the West Country on the Severn, to which he used to travel in his red E-type Jaguar. He was also in one of the early LRC entries to the Vogalonga in Venice in 1977.

After he finished his active rowing career his abiding interest was ocean sailing, in which one incident in 1982 made him headline news.  LRC member Giles Chichester (son of Sir Francis) has provided the following reminiscences:

Our first adventure was the Azores race in 1977.  He, Simon Rippon (LRC), Ian Porter and my cousin Mark joined me aboard ‘Gipsy Moth V’ on the way out.  A couple of things come back to me.  One was Desmond’s glee when having established a landfall, which was much to Simon’s relief, we promptly went about and sailed away, much to Simon’s disappointment.  The other was taking part in a whaler boat race at Horta when the locals soundly beat us.

In 1979 Desmond again joined me and a few others on ‘Gipsy Moth V’ for the second leg of the Parmelia Race from Cape Town to Fremantle in Western Australia.  We had a few sailing excitements on the way and arrived safely four weeks later.  Because Desmond had allowed his hair and moustache to grow en route it may not surprise anyone that an enterprising local journalist ran the story that Lord Lucan had arrived in Perth.  We had a bit of fun with that.

In 1982 Desmond persuaded my mother and myself to charter ‘Gipsy Moth V’ to him for a single-handed race around the world.  Clearly he had caught the bug for long–distance blue water sailing.  I had jokingly said that if he did have an accident could he please make it a total loss out of sight;  but Desmond being Desmond managed to do it in spectacular fashion by setting a course to pass Gabo Island off the south-east corner of Australia and forgetting to set his alarm before having an afternoon snooze.  He had a rude awakening because the wind shifted and he hit the island head on. Poor old ‘Gipsy Moth’ was lodged between two huge boulders and broke up. [The ITV news report, including an interview with Desmond, is still accessible on the web.]

This was not the last of Desmond’s dreams to come to an untimely end.  In 1986 he invited me to join him on his boat ‘Panicker’ for the Two-handed trans-Atlantic Race.  I had a premonition of something going wrong and just hoped it wouldn’t be me falling overboard.  She was a very uncomfortable boat to sail in.  It was like being in a lightweight cigar tube in a cold shower.  On the sixth day of bashing to windward the mast fell down when a piece of rigging broke its connection to the mast.  I was steering at the time and it was quite a sight watching it go Z shaped and fall into the sea.  Desmond was below cooking breakfast and popped his head up to say sadly ‘well, that’s the end of that dream’.  It took us 14 days to sail back under jury rig.

I am very sad he has died not least because I was hoping he would join me for a sail in ‘Gipsy Moth VI’.

Desmond  returned to rowing after being a spectator at the World Championships in Nottingham in 1986. He, Simon Rippon, Richard Linning and Robert Rakison started the Morning Four, going out at 6am on weekday mornings from the Club, - at that time, the only crew on the Tideway from any club, these days a regular occurrence for all. Building on that the new veteran squad was regularly winning around 20 pots a year, the highlights for Desmond  being World Veteran regatta medals in Sweden with Simon, Richard and Lee Marriner and in a D8 in Glasgow (Strathclyde) in 1989. Desmond finished rowing in 1991/92, to run and sail once more, but not until he had taken part in the famous 12-oar row over the Henley course at the 150th anniversary regatta in 1989 in under 6 mins 30 seconds.The LRC 12-oar crew at Henley in 1989. Desmond is kneeling 2nd from the left.

Desmond’s professional career was in chartered surveying, land agency and valuation for leading national clients, but he still found the time to carry out work voluntarily for the Club and advise on proposed developments and the pitfalls to avoid.  In his early days as a member he carried out, at his own expense, a survey of the entire Clubhouse building.  He was a lifelong member of the 6s & 7s Club and regularly attended its annual November dinners right up to last year.  He will be much missed, when he still had much to give, and it is tragic that he became a victim of the unforgiving pancreatic cancer.

Monday
May192014

Dr. Martin Gaylard

Martin Gaylard, who died on 25th March at the age of 77, was a member of London Rowing Club for over 50 years, and was first and foremost a sculler.  He had the unique distinction of having competed in almost every Scullers’ Head since it was founded in 1954, from 1965 onwards under London colours.  He was in the top echelon of British scullers in the 1958-60 period, but was still winning pennants at Masters level until a year or two ago.  His quiet, gentle and thoughtful demeanour, which won him many friends at the Club, hid a steely resolve to continue to compete and retain his fitness right up to and including Masters level.

Martin learnt his rowing at Latymer and then proceeded to a degree and postgraduate qualifications at Imperial College BC, before pursuing a lifetime career as a lecturer in engineering.  An early influence on the river was Alan Watson, as was Chas Newens’ father, and he took up sculling in 1955 at the age of 19.  Martin much admired Tony Fox’s sculling technique; he was also inspired by Steve Fairbairn’s famous poem, “listen for the bubbles” being one of his favourite catchphrases.  Martin’s best years were 1958 to 1960.  He had the race of his life in the Diamonds in 1958, losing by only ¾ length to Ivanov (the Olympic champion).  He won the London Cup at the Met twice (one of the ‘triple crown’ events), and competed three times in the Wingfields (a championship that London dominated for some 15 years after WWII).  His best result in the Scullers’ Head was 4th in 1960.  An opportunity for challenging the Diamonds the same year was thwarted when IC unfortunately failed to put their entries in for the regatta in time.  Martin also trialled for the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960, only to be beaten by Sid Rand in the final.  He was also a founder member of the Tideway Scullers’ School in 1958.

All this was under IC colours, but he then joined London in 1962 and he represented the Club in the Double Sculls with Peter Hilditch in 1965.  He competed successfully in sculling events at regattas up and down the country. He also enjoyed jumping into HORR crews - see illustration below when his crew won the Veteran C pennant in 1979 with Peter at stroke, Martin at 7, and Doug Melvin at 6.

But Martin was always drawn back to his sculling.  Asked for his advice in racing, he would say whimsically “if opportunity offers, smile at your opponent”.  Our former Chief Coach, Paul Reedy, remembers numerous conversations with Martin outside Bay 2 about his training sessions and ideas to improve his performance on the water, and in particular his “confident and lilting” style of sculling (emulating Tony Fox, no doubt).  Doug Melvin remembers Martin as a “true gentleman”.

There were plenty of London ties at Martin’s funeral on 7th April in Amersham, on a day when the flag flew at half mast at the clubhouse in his memory. We send our condolences to Elsbeth, Alexei (a member himself for the last 30 years) and his younger brother Oliver, and their families.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Apr092014

John Williams

John died on 29 March 2014. He was born in 1935, and went to Malvern College.  He learned to row at Thames which he joined in 1957.  He joined London Rowing Club in 1981 as a coach, and coached novices for four years.  He then coxed the Irregulars for several years and had a sculling boat at LRC. Despite his diminutive physique he was a good oarsman and always tried hard.


John Williams coxing the Irregulars in the Keith Ticehust painting

Sunday
Mar092014

Martin Feuer

Martin died on 5 January 2014, aged 78 after a long and courageously fought battle against cancer, leaving behind his wife Angela and their two sons and daughter and their grandchildren. Family and friends attending his funeral at the Jewish Cemetery in Bushey heard a brief history of Martin’s life which he had dictated days before his death to a friend who remembered how Martin had told him: “although a faithful believer, I sometimes felt that rowing was my real religion.”  

Martin’s earlier life was one of struggles and stresses. Born in Danzig in 1935 his mother took him three years later to Palestine where her husband Hermann ran a major hotel in Tel Aviv. This was only months before the outbreak of the second World War to evade the imminent advance of the Nazis and their invasion of Danzig, then a semi-autonomous city-state.

After finishing school in 1953 Martin joined the army of his country which by then had become an independent state, spending much of his time on the front line under the Golan Heights. The sight of seeing not only his friends but also Arabs being killed depressed him greatly and inspired him to seek an opportunity of going abroad, England being his favourite choice. He arrived in London in 1956 and succeeded at getting a place at the Hotel & Catering Management School, now part of the University of Surrey.   

Little of Martin’s past was ever noticeable during his many years at the Club -  he joined in 1972 - because what counted to him was to be able to row,  be loyal to his fellow Irregulars and to the Club in general, qualities which extended widely when considering that he lived far out of London, was utterly reliable in keeping to agreed times of outings and highly supportive of dinners, functions or meetings at the Club. Even if delayed by traffic jams Martin would appear with a jovial apology and immediately join the fray at  meetings or afloat.

It was almost as if the word ‘Irregular’ had been invented for Martin because this nickname,  meant to define members who row on different days and at different times, fitted him like a glove. Although he had begun rowing at the age of 13 this early start had not necessarily given him any specific degree of proficiency other than his immense enjoyment of it, his total dedication to the sport and all that it entails, so qualifying him without difficulty or hesitation for membership of this august brotherhood.

During his many years at the Club, Martin was an eager crew member in such races as Heads of the River, informal regattas up and down the Thames or inter-Club events. Being a member of the Stewards’ Enclosure he was a keen supporter of Club crews racing at Henley, extending his love for this annual event by inviting some of his grand children to accompany him.    

Possibly because of his enthusiasm Martin had cultivated a total disregard for weather conditions. However raw or nasty the outlook, he would nonchalantly be carrying oars or sculls to the water unless stopped by a team mate querying the skies for rain or worse. Then, usually, a ‘compromise’ would be struck meaning that the outing would proceed unhindered. So trips with snow on a boat’s canvasses or ice on her riggers were not uncommon and even the heaviest of rains would be dismissed disparagingly.

Of particular interest prior to embarking were Martin’s studies of how to keep his boots above the water line, to delicately position his rubber grip seat, avoid a heavy bump onto his slide and juggle with his pogies. But once done, leaning far back, he would inform his partner:  “I’m rrready.” 

Several members have had the fortune of seeing the Feuers at play when in a nice hotel the family and their friends celebrated such major events as Martin’s and Angela’s  70th or 75th birthdays and their 50th wedding anniversary.  At this occasion – only four years ago – the happy pair were persuaded to join some of their LRC friends to give a demonstration of the art of rowing; much to the amusement of all.

Martin ended the dictation of his life story by expressing his admiration of Edith Piaf, saying like her "…non, je ne regrette rien.”

Rob van Mesdag