Leander Book Talk – The First 200 Years

The first Leander Library Rowing Book Talk in 2024 was held last Thursday with Andy Trotman, editor of The First 200 Years, a comprehensive account of the history of Leander.

The book was published in 2018 to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of the Leander Club at the initiative of a group of Leander stalwarts. A show of hands revealed that many of the 42 attendees had a copy of the book (having opted in to receive a copy when it was first published), but that few had read the whole thing. The evening to discuss the book was therefore due to be fascinating. The Rowing Book Talks organised by Leander Librarian Irene Hewlett are held in aid of the Leander Trust, a registered charity that enables and encourages rowing and sculling, especially for young people who do not have traditional rowing backgrounds. Series 1 of the Rowing Book Talks, which were launched last September, has raised over £2500 for the charity already.

Being the editor of the book, one major role Andy Trotman had was curating diverse contributions to the book’s contents. The book is structured with chronological chapters about the history of Leander interspersed with chapters about specific aspects, including Treasures, Olympics, and Women at Leander. Trotman had arranged for various contributors to speak about their input into the book so we would hear first-hand information.

Debbie Bruwer (née Flood), winner of multiple Olympic medals and the first women’s captain of Leander told the room all about women’s rowing at Leander. Paul Mainds spoke about how the book fitted within the overall bicentenary celebrations at the club. Jeremy ‘Rass’ Randall coloured in the story of how the Leander committee had changed hands in the 1980s in a “Pink Revolution”. Sir George Cox contributed with how he had shaped the chapter about the Leander and the Olympics. That chapter has eye witness accounts from Leander Club athletes at all the different Olympics. One of those, specifically, was Dick Lester, current President of Leander, who competed at the 1976 Olympics. Irene said, “It was so interesting to hear his story in person.”

Mike Sweeney, former Chairman of Henley Royal Regatta attended and told various stories of Leander at the regatta. Ivor Lloyd, who was Captain, Director of Rowing and Chairman of Leander, also provided his valuable input with various anecdotes. Andy also brought along a valuable treasure of a silver goblet, which was circulated around the room.  Irene added, “Andy certainly delivered a stimulating and enjoyable meeting for all those present and attendants went on their way knowing more about the 200-year history of Leander Club. The book, which was shortlisted for the Daily Telegraph Sports Book Awards in 2019, is available to purchase here: https://shop.leander.co.uk/bicentenary-book.

Another rowing legend with Olympic, world and numerous Henley Royal Regatta medals to his name, Tim Crooks, also attended the talk. He was photographed with his photo in the Leander book! Excitingly, he revealed he is in the process of writing a rowing book himself due to be published towards Christmas this year – so do stay tuned into the Leander Library Rowing Book Talks in 2025!

This talk completed Series 1 of the Leander Library Rowing Book Talks and Series 2 and Series 3 were launched at the meeting. Series 2 consists of In the Pink, a history of rowing at Westminster School written by Chris Seward on 7 March and An Olympian at War, a biography of Jack Beresford by his son John Beresford on 16 May. Series 3, due to take place after the summer holidays, consists of Greg Searle talking about his book If Not Now, When? on 5 September and Lord Desborough – Titan of the Thames by Sandy Nairne and Peter Williams on 14 November.

Tickets are available to purchase here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/leander-trust-library. The ticket includes a generous finger buffet with a main, dessert and cheese and is in aid of the Leander Trust, a registered charity to advance the education of young people and their physical education by enabling and encouraging rowing and sculling. The charity has changed the lives of many young people through rowing.

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