There was cause for special celebration at this year’s Durham Regatta, the second oldest regatta in the country, staged for the 182nd time on June 13th and 14th 2015 and coinciding with the bi-centenary of the Battle of Waterloo. The Regatta owes its origin to the annual procession of boats, organised by the Sheriff of County Durham, the Rt. Hon. William Lloyd Wharton, in June 1815 to celebrate the ‘famous victory’ at Waterloo. The annual procession continued for many years, but Durham Regatta in its present form dates back to 1834, with racing taking place over two days on the River Wear from Prebends Bridge to Pelaw Wood.
In 1834 the anniversary fell on the second day of the regatta and the Waterloo men celebrated in style in the evening, with forty-three of them being treated to ‘a substantial supper and a plentiful supply of strong ale and punch’ provided to them by a Captain Chipchase, himself a veteran of the Peninsular War.
After extensive research organisers of this year’s Regatta succeeded in tracking down descendants of Waterloo man Private Andrew Knox, and provided them with a free meal and quantities of Waterloo Ale, specially brewed for the occasion by The Durham Brewery.
The re-enactment included a Wear Scurry and a 9-abreast skiffs race for scullers. Originally a Wear Scurry was a race in which miners took part using shovels as paddles. It became known as the ‘trimmers race’ due to its popularity with coal trimmers who used their heart-shaped trimming shovels as a means of propelling the boats. Coal trimmers worked in the shipyards packing coal into the hold of ships. The final job in loading the coal was very much ‘hands on’ for the trimmers, who crouched on their knees inside the hold of the ship and began sweeping the coal behind them, into the corners using their custom-made heart-shaped shovels – an action similar to that of paddling a canoe.
Browns Rowing Boats, with volunteer paddlers and scullers coming from the senior women and off-peak men of Durham ARC, the Three River Serpents Dragon-boaters, College of St Hild and St Bede and British Rowing, all attired for the occasion in 1830s style in recognition of the presence at the Regatta of the playwright and lead actor of ‘Hadaway Harry’, a play written by Ed Waugh and featuring Jamie Brown in the role of North-East sporting icon Harry Clasper, which takes to the stage at venues throughout North-East England over the summer and celebrates the 170th anniversary of Clasper and his brothers sensationally bringing the World Rowing Championship to the region in June 1845.
Roll call of DARC scullers – Vaughan Gordon, Colin Lawson, Colin Jubb, Stephen Auster, Gerry King and Clive Hole
Coal trimmers – Emma Lyons, Heather Tosley, Louise Peterken, Alison Danforth, Meghan McCarthy, Fe Ashton and Claire Adams
Harry Clasper’ from Gateshead Community Rowing Club and ‘Crofton’ from Blyth Community Rowing Club, and the Row2Recovery boat which will be taking part in this year’s Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Row2Recovery, the charity that supports adaptive rowing for the military, was selected in April 2015 as Durham Regatta’s first ever charity partner.