That other ’66 sporting triumph

Durham Regatta teamHistory, News

“There were dogs and old ladies flying in all directions …”

 Andy Jaggard (cox of the 71 Grand Winning D.U.B.C. crew) talks to the Durham School
four who competed for THE GRAND just 50 years ago, in 1966

 (John Appleby won The Grand in 1969 with D.A.R.C. and in 1971 with D.U.B.C, but his first attempt
to win The Grand was for Durham School in the summer of 1966)

John, before we talk about 66, and,  I hate to put words in your mouth, but would you say
the 71 Grand cox was one of the best?

.. Jaggard? – he was O.K, but Bailes was more aggressive and much nastier

Thanks John … I’m going to take that as a compliment

Which of the 3 Grands you competed in was the most memorable?

I think it’s always the first … and that was with Durham School in 66 (Tony Bailes cox,
John Appleby stroke, Gareth Powley 3, George Nicholson 2 , Geoff Potts bow)
There was a Continental crew that came over that year – Swedish – “Svenska”, they were around a
few days before the regatta practising … and that was quite scary .. they had a short, high rating
stroke,very much in the “Ratsberg” style of the day. The two weeks before the race, Bickmore
(the pre-war Durham coach) wouldn’t let us row anything under 36 (strokes per minute).
Bickmore was standing in for the coach of the time– De Winton, who had scarlet fever and wasn’t
allowed anywhere near. There were very few new boats at that time, and we were in a 1934
‘Bowyers and Phelps’…


“It was difficult to sit, but when it did, it flew”

Geoff Potts

I only have rather disjointed memories of that summer, although I do remember being somewhat
daunted at Berwick Regatta, when we were told that the long course start was by the lifeboat station!
I also remember trying out the boat that everyone said was impossible to sit, and had not been used for
several years. Built byBowyers and Phelps in 1934 it was single skinned, with a deep narrow hull. It was
difficult to sit, but when it did,it flew. We were fortunate in having Commander David Bickmore as our coach
and he had stepped in following the illness of the School’s rowing coach Thomas de Winton. Commander
Bickmore had taught and coached atDurham school some years before but had long since retired. A somewhat
eccentric and old-fashioned gentleman he had the golden touch, and was able to make a silk purse
out of the sow’s ear.

Gareth Powley:

In May and June 66, Geoff, George, John, Tony and I had enjoyed an incredible run of regatta success.
We started the season as just schoolboy no-hopers, but guided by our amazing stand-in coach Bicky,
it seemed we could do no wrong. I don’t remember the sequence of the summer regattas, it was
50 years ago!, but the two most memorable were at Tyne and Berwick. The latter was special to me
because of its tidal aspect and the fact that we were up against the ”salty” Berwick home crew of
fully grown men as opposed to us boys.

Anyway, as our success on the water continued, I have to confess my academic prowess was inversely
correlated andI knew privately that my A level exams were going by default (which they did) because
the rowing became my all encompassing passion. I had never enjoyed or experienced any sporting
success prior to 1966 and so it was inevitable that the rowing took over my life in that summer.

When our preparations for Durham were fully underway, I recall we were hailed from the riverbank by
a University rower who took great pleasure in shouting that we had no chance for The Grand because
there was an elite crew entered from Sweden. This news was received by me with dismay because I
rationalised that such a crew would only come across if they believed they had a great chance of winning …

Tony Bailes

THAT SWEDISH CREW certainly seemed a big threat. I recall when we first saw them training over the long course. We were paddling upstream, just beginning the turn to go through easy arch at Elvet, when they emerged through hard arch coming downstream. As one, my crew turned to watch them; BIG MEN WITH LARGE WHITE BLADES . I probably did myself, so my turn into easy arch was not well judged. I called for my bow, Geoffrey, to pull in his blade but got no response, only the noise of blade scraping on bridge! 

George Nicholson

It was only by losing by a canvas to Tyne at Durham Head of the River in early May, did I appreciate
what potential we had as a crew. Wins at Tyne and Berwick regattas confirmed that we had
the ‘measure’ of any other local crew.

However only by winning the Grand Challenge Cup at Durham would we be able to claim to be
“the best coxed four in the North of England”. For me as a young schoolboy, that trophy had developed
near mythical status because of the prestige it represented. It had been the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ for
over 100 years in Northern Rowing.

Winning the Wharton on the first day of the Regatta should have increased confidence. However,
the sight of the Swedish crew,and the sheer weight of expectation on our shoulders did nothing to ease
my ever heightening state of nervous anxiety.

Sleep evaded me that night, and at 4.00am on a fine summer morning, I went down to the School
boathouse, opened it up and took a sculling boat out on the river for an hour (breaking bounds
from a Boarding School and doing quite a reckless act would probably have got me expelled
if I’d been found out at the time!  (George, it’s never too late for retrospective justice
– please report to your Housemaster in the morning).
However it calmed me, and I felt
‘at one’ with the river and all its magnificent surroundings. I began to think that this could be
‘our day’ and one that might never be forgottenfor at least the next fifty years …

 John Appleby

So,we had Svesnka, the Swedish elite crew in the first round, and we had 2 ½ lengths by Bede ..

Tony Bailes

What sticks in my mind of that race against Svenska, was my challenge as the cox of negotiating “hard arch” under Elvet Bridge. To avoid going wide, as the river turns left immediately after the bridge, and so losing ground, it was vital to initiate the turn within the arch, without clipping blades on the stonework. The pressure on the day was increased by knowing that my great uncle, Eric Brown, owner of Brown’s Boats would be watching from the Boathouse just above the bridge. Each regatta, his wife Peggy would host a gathering in the so-called “top shop” of the Boathouse above Eric Brown’s workshop, where her guests could watch racing from the veranda, whilst being plied with cucumber sandwiches, cakes and tea. The mayor would drop in. I got through hard arch safely!

John Appleby 
… and we beat Svenska comfortably, but then we had Tyne in the final. What could possibly go wrong?.

.. And it’s a free kick to Germany just 15 seconds from full time ..and Wolfgang Weber
fires a close-range shot into Gordon Banks’ goal! And the score is 2-2, and it’s Extra Time ..

Tony Bailes

“WE’VE GOT MONEY ON YOU”. In the run up to the week of the regatta, we were up on the racecourse. For some reason we took our boat out at St Cuthberts. We were approached by a small group of men, miners perhaps, who asked if we were going to win the Grand. I said we hoped so. They said we’d better, as “we’ve got money on you”. No pressure then!>

John Appleby

For the final, the Head of House – McCall- had the whole school – probably at least 200 boys running the course. It hadn’t been done in a long time, and has never been done again. It was like a stampede, there were dogs and old ladies flying in all directions ..

Tony Bailes

We were well supported down the whole course, but I have a clear image in my mind’s eye, as if it were yesterday, of the amazing huge “posse” of supporters running with us  immediately below Elvet Bridge, shouting “school, school, school”. Most were boys, but included were George Nicholson’s father, somewhat overweight and red in complexion.

One of those schoolboys ..

I had positioned myself at the Bede College end of Bath Bridge on this second day of my first Durham Regatta, as a schoolboy at Durham School. Amazingly our First Four had made it to the Final of the Grand Challenge Cup. This was heady stuff as not only were all four rowers in my house (Poole – the best obviously), but I had actually spoken to Appleby, Potts, Powley and Nicholson. I was a rather fat, unfit boy, but I would shout my lungs out – “On SCHOOOL!”. And the race had begun. As they passed the end of Pelaw Wood it was clearly neck and neck in this the premier event of the Regatta. As the two crews approached Bede Landing I started to shout, buttoned my blazer and put on my (ridiculous) straw boater: “On SCHOOOL!” Now they were upon on us, and I was swept along in a rush of shouting boys, waving their boaters, blazers flapping with only one thought in mind – to encourage our heroes. The next few minutes were a blur of faces and noise. With all eyes on the crews, we forced our way along the crowded tow-path beyond Brown’s Boathouse and past tricky Elvet. There my legs gave way, and I waited in trepidation..  until the loud speaker announced ..

 … and there’s schoolboys all over the towpath, They think it’s all over. It is now!

… and the winners are Durham School … “Three cheers and Floreat Dunelmia!” When would such a feat be equalled? (Jeremy Spencer went on to reach the World Youth Finals with Durham School in 1970, and then rowed with John Appleby for Bede College winning the Senate Cup)

[singlepic id=80 w= h= float=left] [singlepic id=79 w= h= float=right]

 Gareth Powley

I don’t recall much of the Grand itself, other
than a feeling of great regret that my parents
were unable to be there and witness our
success. We triumphed and the emotions on
crossing the line just before Prebends were
truly unforgettable. We had done it
– fabulous.

 John Appleby

We were on easy arch and won by 2 ½
lengths in a time of 6.02, but we weren’t
pressed (the bogey time was always
6 minutes).

 John Morris (on Facebook)

George, I can’t remember the name of the
lad rowing 3 behind John Appleby,
you were 2 and was it Geoff Potts at bow?
Bloody good crew, I was a novice
oarsman that year. Lucky to be shoved into
City first crew with John Appleby
when he joined City. Poor lad had some
shoddy material
to work with, but he was GOOD!.

Alright,  Appleby was .. OK, but Paul Stanley, now he was much more ruthless.

 John Appleby

There were Grands I won twice with three people, Geoff Potts, Tony Bailes, and, of course, Kim Metcalfe.
(John’s long time rowing partner – they won many National, Henley and World Masters events together
in pairs, fours, and eights)

Sadly, Kim died just under 2 years ago.



Kim Metcalfe and John Appleby from the 69 and 71 crews, enjoying a post training session de-brief,
recovery drink, and ciggy.

Now Metcalfe … he WAS GOOD!