BRC possesses very few of the Minute Books relating to its 125 years. The books of 1896-97 and 1901-04 came to light in 1966, but these are the only ones covering the period up to the Second World War in the possession of the Club. For this reason, information about the years following the Henley victory is extremely scarce. Any suggestions as to the likely whereabouts of other Minute Books or records would be very much appreciated by the Club.
The Minutes of Committee and Annual General Meetings from 1951 (when the Club was re-formed following the war years) are complete.
It has been said that winning at Henley was the worst thing that happened to BRC but whether the lean period that followed would have happened anyway will never be known. The successful crew broke up and John Frame, who had captained the club in the years 1902-03-04 gave up rowing due to business commitments. Sidney Johnson took over, but Frank Glover, the stroke of the Wyfold crew, left Birmingham. So whilst it is not surprising that success at such a high level did not continue, what is surprising is that a club which, according to the Birmingham Daily Mail report, had over 50 active members, and had three other crews in training, winning six Junior fours events, then went 3 years without a regatta win of any kind.
This proved to be the longest period without a win from the time of the first victory in 1891 until the period 1962-68, excluding the war years, and but for the single Maiden Fours win in 1908, the gap would have been five years, not three.
When success returned it was on a small and modest scale. Senior wins to which the club was becoming accustomed, became just a memory, and the club recorded only two victories in Junior Fours between 1904 and 1932.
From “History of Hereford Rowing Club”:
“At the Annual General Meeting (1925), H. J. Hammonds complained of the poor turn out of members at the celebration dinner. Whereas Hereford with a resounding chain of victories could muster no more than 10 members, Birmingham with a far less impressive record had almost a complete set of members present at their dinner.”
Note: Evidently B.R.C. that year was more impressive in social events than in rowing events. The only win was in Open Pairs.
1924 saw another Maiden Fours win (at Ross) and Geoffrey Kohn, the stroke, remembers a rather unusual situation: “Our No. 3 did not turn up and we were about to scratch when Derwent offered a spare man. He was a likeable character but was always drunk. Permission was obtained for him to join BRC on the spot and to row. We then walked him up and down the towpath before the first heat, in which we scraped home by a canvas. We were able to keep him out of the beer tent until after the final, and each race was won more easily as he became more sober, the final being won comfortably. After the final, we gave him his head and tried to match him pint for pint, but after fourteen pints he was on his own!”
BRC has had some long ‘runs’ of Captaincy. Sidney Johnson was captain for 20 years and in 1932 Fred Long took over and remained in office until 1951 (although the club was inactive for part of that time).
The fortunes of the club improved-during the 1930s and the club went from strength to strength until 1939, when it achieved a record number of regatta successes (11).
From F. G. Long’s Regatta Log:
“June 10th, 1933 Burton Regatta
Junior IVs: G. Crabbe bow, J. A. Trentham 2, D. S. Lettington 3, K. Mindelsohn Stroke, R Green cox.
Rowed at Evesham in first heat and won by 2½ lengths. Rowed Hereford in final and won by 2 lengths. This is the first time in the history of the club that we have won Juniors at this regatta.
July 8th, 1933 – Derby Regatta
Maiden Sculler – K. Tinegate
Sculled extremely well and won; beat Loughborough, Boston and Nottingham Boat Club.
July 17th, 1933 – Loughborough Regatta
Junior IV – G. Crabbe bow, JW Trentham 2, D. S. Lettington 3, K. Mindelsohn Stroke, R. Green cox.
Rowed extremely well and beat Nottingham & Union by 2 lengths, beat Nottingham Boat Club and after a very fine race beat Stratford by 2 feet, winning the Loughborough Challenge Vase for the first time in the history of the club.”
Note: The Junior IV also won at Worcester (Severn Challenge Vase) beating Worcester, Clifton and Stratford.
Immediate Post War – One Active Member
The war left BRC without a boathouse and for some years the club was inactive; with one exception – Ken Tinegate, who, it will be recalled, won Maiden Sculls in 1933. After this, his rowing and sculling steadily increased in stature.
From the Birmingham Mail, 22nd November, 1949:
“It was in 1932 that Mr. Tinegate, who lives in Oakfield Road, Selly Park, was taken by his brother to assist with the coxing of the crews of Birmingham R.C. That started his rowing and sculling career. Up to the outbreak of the war, training was always at Edgbaston Reservoir only half a mile wide when full.
His first taste of success was when included in a crew that went on to win its “maiden”. In 1936, after various other wins, he joined Mr Gorley, a fellow member as a “pair oar” and created a record for the club with six wins in eleven finals in one season. They continued their victories the following season until Mr. Gorley left the club.
Eleven years ago Mr. Tinegate turned to sculling, at which he won eight junior races, also a club record, so that the following year he became a senior and as such won three races. Came the war and six years’ Army service, and on his return he found the Birmingham RC temporarily out of action. Joining Stourport Boat Club, he completed a crew training for the Olympic trials and later took up sculling again, winning seven senior races for the resuscitated Birmingham Club. Last year he trained for the Diamond Sculls at Henley, winning the first heat with a borrowed boat and losing in the second heat to BHT Bushnell.”
From the Birmingham Mail, 25th October, 1949:
“KW Tinegate. of Birmingham Rowing Club and JB Brown, of Loughborough Boat Club have been selected to represent this country in the Double Sculls event at the Empire games in New Zealand next February.
The Amateur Rowing Association announcement describes the pair as “the fastest double sculling combination in the country”. This is the first time Birmingham Rowing Club has been honoured by having one of its members selected for an international race of this character. It will be recalled that Brown and Tinegate put up a magnificent performance when they were beaten by the Danish pair in the final of the Double Sculls at Henley this year, having beaten the course record in the semi-final the previous day.”
From the Sunday Mercury, 6th July, 1952:
“Not many people associate Birmingham with first-class rowing. Yet it was with the Birmingham Rowing Club, at Edgbaston Reservoir 22 years ago, that Mr Kenneth Tinegate, now the club’s captain and a sculler with a national reputation was introduced to the sport.
By the time the Second World War occurred he possessed about 50 silver cups as tribute to his prowess. But when, after service as a captain with the Royal Artillery he returned to the Midlands, he found that the premises of the Birmingham Rowing Club had been commandeered by the Admiralty for the use of Sea Scouts. Mr Tinegate, however, was undismayed. For two years he travelled every evening from Monday to Friday between Birmingham and Stourport by bus (there was no basic petrol at the time) in order to keep in training, and during that period he still sculled under the Birmingham Rowing Club colours and still was generally unbeatable at Midland regattas.
More! In both 1949 and 1950, along with Mr. Boris Brown, he reached the final in the double sculls at Henley Royal Regatta, only to be beaten on each occasion by a very strong pair from Denmark.
In 1950 he had to resign his-captaincy of the Kings Norton Rugby Club since he and Mr Brown were selected to represent Great Britain at the Empire Games in New Zealand. And had they not suffered the misfortune of having their boat smashed by a piece of driftwood on their last practice at Stourport (a mishap which compelled them to compete in a strange boat), they might well have won the event for this country.”
Note: Tinegate and Brown won a bronze medal.
Administratively, Tinegate was not completely on his own. The story of the war years is unfolded.
From Minutes of a General Meeting, 22nd February, 1951:
“Present: Messrs. Williams (Chair), Johnson, Woodward, Matthews, H. Tinegate, K.Tinegate, Evans, Long, Terry, Howlett.
Apologies for non-attendance were received from Alderman Sale, Messrs. Kohn, Fdwards and Preedy.
Minutes of General Meeting 22nd April, 1939 were read, confirmed and signed.
Due to the long delay since the last General Meeting the Chairman gave a brief resume of happenings since then. During the War the Club ceased to function, members being absorbed in the Services etc. The Boathouse, Boats and Oars were damaged and some disappeared. As soon as possible the remaining property was removed to a safe place. Meanwhile the main tenant of the Reservoir – Mr. Ford – with whom we held a sub-tenancy left the district and when our lease expired, it was not possible to renew it. The condition of the Boathouse, however, was such that there was no point in doing so during the war. Later, Rear Admiral Parry, who was interested in the Sea Cadets movement acquired possession of the boathouse. We were not informed of this move and our boathouse is now Birmingham Sea Cadets HQ.”
The ‘new’ boathouse, converted from lavatories left from Mr. Billy Butlin’s pre-war fair, was ready for action, and after a gap of 12 years, the flag was raised.
From the Birmingham Mail, 1951:
“The Birmingham Rowing Club flag flew for the first time since the war at Edgbaston Reservoir on Saturday when old and new members gathered at a Club Opening Day. It was the first active meeting of members in post-war years, and signified the revival of the activities of the club which have been limited in recent years.
The president (Mr. SH Jonnson), of Birmingham and Leander, raised the flag. He was watched, among others, by the chairman (Mr. Walter Williams), the captain (Mr. Ken Tinegate), the honorary treasurer and secretary (Mr. Austin Woodward), Coun. N. Preedy and Mrs. Preedy, and a nucleus of oarsmen around whom it is hoped to build up the club to its pre-war standard.
The club members themselves have recently repaired the club equipment. On Saturday the maiden four took out for the first time since the war one of the original boats which has been completely renovated. Other oarsmen took out pairs and sculls.”
Competitive rowing soon follows.
From the Birmingham Mail, 27th July, 1951:
“After twelve years of enforced inactivity, Birmingham Rowing Club have this year managed to get back on the water and tomorrow they will be represented at Ironbridge regatta by a maiden four.”
The following year, success came in a big way.
From the Birmingham Post, 23rd June, 1952:
“Birmingham R.C. had three successes at the regatta (Stratford). They carried off the Kincaid Smith Challenge Bowl for junior fours, defeating Derby by 2 lengths in the final after accounting for Nottingham University, Peterborough; Burton Leander and Stourport. The crew comprised J. W. Fosbury (bow) A. Martin, W. G. Beech, E. R. Parr (stroke) and I. Brown (cox ).
Tinegate and Brown had no difficulty in winning for Birmingham the Avon Jubilee Challenge Bowl for open pairs, and J. M. Thorneloe won the Eddie Thompson Challenge Cup for junior sculls.”
From the Sunday Mercury, 6th July, 1952:
“Late last year the Birmingham Rowing Club secured new premises at Edgbaston Reservoir, and it fell to Mr. Tinegate, as the only active member left to re-open the club.
He gathered a few rowing enthusiasts about him, and since the club’s boats were in as bad a state of disrepair as were the club’s finances, that nucleus of the resuscitated Birmingham Rowing Club set about repairing the boats themselves in the yard of Mr. Tinegate’s family firm of timber merchants. Then, from among these enthusiastic carpenters and joiners, he selected four potential master scullers – and put them through a rigorous course Or coaching and training during the winter months.
The result was that the four won the Maiden Event on their first outing at Worcester Regatta, and, as juniors, have been unbeaten at every regatta they have entered since. Mr. Tinegate tells me that he intends to enter the four for the Senior Event at Gloucester Regatta.
In the meantime, Mr. Tinegate and Mr. Boris Brown won the open pairs event at the Stratford-upon-Avon Regatta last week – a cup which Mr. Tinegate and a partner won 16 years ago.”
From the Birmingham Post, 4th August 1952:
“For the first time since 1904 Birmingham Rowing Club won senior fours, at Gloucester Regatta on Saturday. In the final of the Gloucester City Challenge Plate over a mile they beat Pengwern, Shrewsbury, by 3 lengths.”
From the Annual Report, 1952:
“In this our first active season since the war, we have enjoyed a record number of successes, eighteen in all.
A crew consisting of D. W. Fosbury (bow,)A. Martin (2), W. G. Beech (3), E. R. Parr (stroke), I. Brown (cox), won the maiden event at Worcester – their first time out – and then won seven junior events, viz: Hereford, Stourport, Shrewsbury, Stratford, Bewdley, Burton and Derby, without defeat.- They were, however, defeated at – Loughborough and Bedford. As the crew in its entirety would not be available for 1953, they were anxious to row as seniors and were entered at Gloucester and Oxford. On both occasions they were successful. Incidentally it is of interest to record that this is the first open senior event the Club has won since the Henley victory in the Wyfold in 1904.
A pair, K. W. Tinegate (bow) and J. B. Brown (stroke), were successful at the only regatta they attended, winning the Jubilee Challenge Cup at Stratford. Two maiden crews were sent out on one occasion each but were unsuccessful. The experience gained, however, should stand the crews in good stead for 1953. a junior sculler, J. M. Thorneloe, competed at ten regattas, being successful at the following seven: Hereford, Shrewsbury, Stratford, Bewdley, Burton, Ironbridge and Gloucester;
This is a wonderful record and all active members are to be congratulated on their achievements and also on their strenuous work in making the new premises habitable.”
Meanwhile, the future of the Reservoir was being considered.
From the Birmingham Post, 12th January, 1953:
“Birmingham Parks Committee has completed negotiations to buy Edgbaston Reservoir from the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive for £25,000. If the City Council approves the purchase, the Committee plans to develop the Reservoir and adjoining grounds as an important “lung” in a built-up area.
Edgbaston Reservoir has been closed to the public since Mr Butlin’s lease of it expired three years ago. Negotiations for its purchase by Birmingham were opened in 1950 on the initiative of the owners, one of whose conditions of sale is that the Reservoir shall be maintained in a fit state to act as a feeder to the city’s canals. The Tower Ballroom is included in the sale, but its lease would not be affected by the transaction.
The Reservoir is an artificial lake, on which a steam-boat was once a popular attraction. Bandstands were erected, but a proposal to establish artificial sands around the edge of the Reservoir came to nothing, Firework displays were often given there, and there was skating, dancing, wrestling, boxing and athletics.”
Tinegate’s plans to have a crew competing for the Wyfold Cup at Henley in 1953 did not materialise and 1953 turned out to be a poor year However, the following year, BRC did indeed get to Henley.
From the Birmingham Mail, July 1954:
“W. G. Beech and Ken Tinegate, members of the Birmingham Rowing Club, won their way into the final of the double sculls at Henley this afternoon. They lost to the Russians and BRC was unable to add to its 1954 celebrations.”
From the Birmingham Mail, 27th November, 1954:
“The Birmingham Rowing Club plays host on Saturday to Group Three of the Amateur Rowing Association. After the Group’s annual general meeting at the Grand Hotel there will be a rowing club dinner – the first for a long time.
For the Birmingham Club it will be an anniversary night, for they will celebrate the winning of the Wyfold Cup at Henley 50 years ago. The club president, Mr Sidney Johnson, who helped in that memorable achievement, will be there, and a special guest for the evening will be 81 year-old Mr. Jack Frame, who was also in the winning crew. Also present will be Mr “Gully” Nickalls, chairman of the ARA and Mr. J. H. Page, its secretary.”
Then vandalism, which the club had to learn to live with throughout the 1960s, struck its first and cruellest blow.
From the Evening Despatch, 5th October, 1955:
“Two ten-year-old boys were stated at Birmingham Juvenile Court today to have entered the premises of Birmingham Rowing Club and smashed the hulls of ten boats with choppers. Damage was estimated at £130.”
The following year saw the end of an era.
From Minutes of Committee Meeting, 13th April, 1956:
“The Meeting opened with the sad news that Mr S H Johnson,- the Club President, had passed away. We, the members, wish to record the debt which we owe him as one who served and represented the Club all his rowing life. After joining the Club in 1900 he was a member of a very successful senior four who culminated their successes by winning the Wyfold Cup at Henley in 1904. He was captain for 20 years before being elected to the Presidency, in which capacity he continued to serve the Club for many years. During this time he brought honour to the Club by being elected a member of Leander Club; further, he served on the ARA Committee, and the Olympic Sub-Committee.”
From the Birmingham Post, April, 1956:
“The death has occurred of Mr. Sidney Herbert Johnson, of Hamstead Road, Handsworth. He was 77 years of age. He lived in Birmingham most of his life, and was formerly connected with W. & T. Avery. A fondness for rowing dated from early manhood and in 1904 he was a member of the rowing club four who won the Wyfold Cup at Henley. He was well-known also as an able rugby player end before the first World War, was in the old Handsworth Club team and played for the Midland Counties. He served for many years as president of the Birmingham Rowing Club and later became chairman of the Provincial Amateur Rowing Association.”
Recovering from “The Disaster”.
From the Evening Despatch, 4th October, 1957:
“Remember I told you, two years ago, how vandals wrecked the boats of the Birmingham Rowing Club. But they didn’t wreck the club’s spirit. The summer just passed saw the club back on the water with a new clinker four and several repaired boats and more members. And that has meant jolly hard work all round. Says secretary Ken Tinegate: “We have registered successes, and in getting crews on the water we have achieved our primary object.”
But it is intended that the club shall be bigger and better than ever before. That’s why they created a precedent by electing a new captain at the end of a season rather than at the start. It will stimulate interest and enable a much earlier start to be made with training and the formation of crews.
Lucky BRC! Their new captain is Mr G Justicz. And Mr Justicz knows his oats when it comes to boats. Last year he stroked the Royal Engineers crew who won the Wyfold Cup at Henley Regatta.”
Meanwhile Graham Beech’s early training had stood him in good stead. Having won two Senior Sculls events in 1955, he left Birmingham for London.
From The Times, July 1957 (Henley-report):
“…there were some gallant losers, not least among them W G Beech, who sculled far beyond his physical powers, to lead T Kocerka, the Diamonds holder, to the mile post. It is not pleasant to say it, but there has been a deplorable tendency already this year – and of course with some notable exceptions – to let races go without any real attempt to fight back. How much better it is to see even a moderate performer row himself to a standstill, in attempting the theoretically impossible.”
However Beech was evidently not so moderate as The Times made out.
From the Annual Report, 1957:
“We congratulate Mr. Beech, who learned his initial sculling on the Reservoir, and who is now with London Rowing Club, for his successes on the Thames and winning the Wingfield Sculls and so becoming Britain’s top sculler.”
1958 saw the sudden, tragic and untimely death of Ken Tinegate. Without detracting from the dedicated work carried on by many– individuals over the next 15 years, one cannot help wondering if the course of BRC’s history during those years might not have been dramatically different from what it was in reality if Tinegate had not died.
The strength of the club still lay in its sculling and George Justicz took over the mantle previously worn by Tinegate and Beech. Both in single sculls and in the double combination with Nick Birkmyre of Ariel, he achieved numerous successes. Following four Senior Sculls wins in 1958, he lost the semi-final of the Diamond Sculls at Henley to the great Stuart Mackenzie, and won the Weybridge Silver Sculls. 1959 left him runner up in both the Scullers’ Head of the River, and the Wingfield Sculls for the Amateur Championship of the Thames ( unofficial British Sculling Championship ), but he won both events in 1960.
The double sculling combination came into its own in 1959, narrowly losing the Henley final to Davidge and Mackenzie and being unplaced in the European Championships. The first Henley win was in 1960, when they also competed in the Rome Olympic Games (unplaced). They won at Henley again in 1961, 1962 and 1964, the last two years under Leander’s colours. In 1961, the double gained a silver medal at the European Championships, following this a year later with fifth place in the World Championships and a gold medal at the Empire Games.