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 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.