Obituary – Andy Johnson

A tribute to Andy Johnson from Cantabrigian RC, who sadly passed away on Wednesday 7 October after a long illness


It is with great sadness that we report the death of Andy Johnson.

Andy was a colossal contributor to the sport nationally, regionally and locally.

Nationally, he served on the Council of the ARA from 2008 and then on the Board of British Rowing. Andy was Chairman of British Rowing’s Facilities Panel and sat on the Finance Committee.

Andy was on the Executive of the Regional Rowing Council for many years, taking the post of Vice Chair Finance and Facilities in which he supported our work with great wisdom and perspective.

In Cambridge he was Vice President of the Cambridgeshire Rowing Association (CRA) and heavily involved in the building of the two CRA boathouses which now house over 100 boats. A tribute to Andy can be found on their website here.

His ‘home’ Club was Cantabrigian RC for whom he was also Vice President and Life Member.

The following is the message sent by Mike Hunter, the President of Cantabs to members there:

“It is with great sadness that I am writing to tell you that Andy Johnson passed away last night, peacefully and surrounded by his family.

“Andy was diagnosed with terminal cancer at about this time last year. At the time, his doctors gave him only a couple of months to live. But it was absolutely typical of the man that not only did he surpass that particular limit, but he also saw fit to get his stop watch out and coach his care staff on how they could be more efficient! Andy’s attitude to life, and sense of humour, was illustrated by his announcements at the start of recent phone conversations: “I’m still here!”, in case you weren’t sure.

“Andy’s contribution to our Club was, as another of our long-term members put it, at least as much as that of the original founders. He was a leading rower in his younger years, serving as Captain on three separate occasions, and he then combined rowing with coaching, to become our senior coach and the chair of our rowing committee.

“He coached the men’s first crew to the Bumps headship, to retaining it, and to the many successes those crews had off-Cam. Over the last few years, he built the Hills Road Boys rowing programme up to the point at which, racing as the Cantabs second crew, they came within a foot of bumping up to third place in the CRA Bumps – which I think would have been something close to nirvana for Andy. Although he once explained to the Hills lads that the reason he worked so hard for them was not the results, but rather the satisfaction he drew from watching them develop as individuals as they worked hard to take on, and overcome, the many challenges that he, and rowing, threw at them. I know that the final straw that made Andy seek medical attention last summer was when he found he couldn’t push the pedals on his bike round fast enough to keep up with his Hills crews.

“Of course, Andy also bought the Club a boathouse and then re-developed it for us. And it was typical of him that his last contribution, made just a couple of weeks ago, was to show us how we might move forward and improve the boathouse further, sending us the plans I shared at the AGM. Andy was also the driving force in the construction of both the CRA’s boathouses and served for many years as the chair of the British Rowing committee that helped clubs around the country build themselves homes.

“Whilst he was doing all of this, Andy was always willing to coach and encourage any member of the club, or university, irrespective of ability. I apologise if I have not mentioned any of his other contributions, but remember that his involvement with the club lasted decades longer than my own.

“Andy was a character, a mentor, a stunning contributor to our Club, and a friend. We will miss him!”

We will all miss Andy for his wisdom, his positivity, his sense of perspective and his good humour. Andy gave a great deal of his time to rowing and the sport will be the poorer for his passing. RIP Andy Johnson.

Thanks to Andrew Blit and Mike Hunter for this tribute.