Bluefriars celebrate rowing heroes
Monkton Bluefriars* enjoyed a special day at Henley on 25th April when they gathered at Leander Club to honour several of their number.
First up was a race in the afternoon between the 1992 Monkton Combe School 2nd VIII and an invitation VIII of mainly former Monkton Combe 1st VIII oarsmen. Closer inspection of the first mentioned crew would have revealed Rowley Douglas MBE in the cox’s seat and double Olympic champion, Stephen Williams OBE at 6. This crew, in which they first tasted success at age 15 and 16 respectively, has kept in close contact for the past seventeen years, supporting their distinguished crewmates through the last three Olympics.
At a Dinner in his and Alex Partridge’s honour, attended by 80 Bluefriars and guests, Steve gave a fine speech in his inimitable style, revealing plenty of old ‘crew loyalty’ and spiced with humorous references to rivalries which survive despite all his subsequent success. The now partly balding and somewhat flabby thirty-somethings, not to mention this ageing coach, came together from as far apart as Houston, Texas and Nice, France to race for the first time in seventeen years.
In the 5 seat of the opposing crew was Alex Partridge (MCSBC 1st VIII ’97,’98,’99); the cox was recent OUBC trialist, Alexandra Girard (daughter of Olympians Lionel and Dorota Girard from Nantes, where Monkton have trained every Easter since 1989). The race over the last part of the regatta course was umpired by Bluefriars trustee, Julian Bewick, who adjudged the result a ‘dead heat’.
Later that evening, Julian was presented with the ARA Medal of Merit by ARA Chairman, Di Ellis, CBE. On display at the dinner were five Olympic medals won by Monktonians attending, including a silver brought by Mike Lapage who rowed in the 1948 Olympic Eights final – sixty years before Alex Partridge achieved the same feat at Beijing.
‘Small rowing school with a great tradition and true loyalty,’ I mused as I drove homeward down the M4 the next morning.
*Monkton Bluefriars Trust supports rowing nationally as well as locally and is funded by friends and former members of Monkton Combe School Boat Club.