The Saint John Globe, December 13th, 1911

Great Achievements in Aquatics at Home and Abroad

by: J.S. Knowles

In the forties and fifties we had fine aquatic sports in the harbor and as the boats built then were lapstreaks rowed by sturdy fishermen, ship carpenters and raftsmen hailing from Carleton and Indiantown, the races were rarely postponed because the water was a little "choppy." The regattas in those days were generally on the "Anniversary of the Landing of the Loyalists," or the Queen's Birthday. The course was from Reed's Point around Partridge Island and return to the starting point and was said to be six miles, and the winner in a four-oared boat has done it in 30 minutes. It was afterwards ascertained the distance was about four miles and a half. In those days there was great rivalry between the Indiantown, Carleton and Sand Cove crews. We remembered a fine race about 1851 between the Experiment of Carleton and the Xiphias, of Indiantown. The Carleton crew was composed of George Belyea, James Stackhouse, Wm. Dunham and George Stackhouse, while the Xiphias was manned by Shubal Stevens, Isaac Stevens, John Stevens and R. Pidgeon. It was a closely contested race and was won by the Carleton four.

In those days the Neptune crew, composed of John Morris, Denis Morris, John Lambert and Ned Walsh engaged in some exciting races and usually gave a good account of themselves.

In July, 1855, a crew from St. John composed of Walsh, Morris, Lambert and McAulay rowed in the "Neptune" a six mile race on Charles River, Boston, against a New York crew in the I.D.R. Putnam for £200 and won in 41m. 35s.

In Sept., 1855, a St. John crew composed of Walsh, Morris, Lambert, Mulherrin, Coyle, and Lilly, rowed a twelve mile race against an American crew in the "Maid of Erin," on the Charles River for $1,000 and won in 1h. 31m. 15s.

In Sept. 1856, Walsh, Lambert and the two Morris brothers rowed in the "Neptune" against a New York bunch named Don. Steve Roberts, C. Wetherell and W. Lowther; with a coxswain named James Elliot, for a six mile race on the Charles River for $2,000, in the "James MacKay," and won in 43m. 5s.

At a regatta on the Charles River, Boston, on the 4th July, 1866, three St. John Crews took part against a New York and two Boston crews. The "Thetis," a Carleton crew of E. Woodwad, Ed. McAuley, George Price and George Nice. The distance was 3 miles and the "Thetis" won first money. The difference between the three St. John boats coming in was very little, but they left their competitors far behind. The other two St. John boats were the "Young Neptune," the crew was: A. Gallagher, James Clark, J. McGrath and T. Gait; the "Wiggins" was manned by Roberts Fulton, M. McGuiggan. John Morris and James Thompson.

The regatta on the Seine July 8th, 1867, in which the great Carleton crew in the "James A. Harding," beat all the English, French and German crews, was a memorable aquatic event, as rowed against the crack six-oared crews. Their first race was the six-oared race with nine starters. The New Brunswick crew won easily the 3 1-2 miles in 20 minutes and 2 seconds. After two other races were pulled off our boys in the "James A. Harding," won again with their "Chinese Puzzle," as the Harding was called, again against eight of the best four-oared crews in Europe and came home with flying colors.

On October 21st, 1968, the famous "Paris Crew" defeated the celebrated "Ward Brothers," who were the champions of the United States. The distance was six miles, three miles and return. Our boys won by fifty length in 39m 23 3-4s.

The sporting backers of the Wards came from New York, Boston and all the principal cities with "barrels of money" to wager, but the contingent from St. John surprised the American sports by their readiness to put up dollar for dollar to any amount. It is said there was over $100,000 deposited in a safe of the Massa Soit House in Springfield the night before the race.

The six mile race at Lachine Sept. 15th, 1870, was won by the Tyne crew in a boat rigged for rough water. The Paris Crew's boat was rigged low and when she struck the "white caps," the water came in the boat and when they reached the winning post their shell was half filled. The writer was on the press boat and had a good chance to see the cause of their defeat. Sheriff Harding, who followed them around the course in Molson's steam launch, told us that if the water had been smooth the "Paris Crew" would have won easily.

The race on the Kennebecasis on the morning of August 23rd, 1871, will never be forgotten by those who were present. It was a six mile race with the famous Renforth crew. It was a glorious morning with ideal water for the contest. The English crew got a little quicker start but the Paris Crew soon were on even terms with them, both boats flying through the water and both crews spurting, our boys striking a 44 gait, while Renforth set his crew a killing pace which they could not keep up. Just before passing Appleby's wharf, Renforth collapsed from over-exertion. The stop watches made the time one mile in 4 minutes. Poor Renforth was rowed ashore and taken to his training quarters, where he passed away. The Paris Crew continued on and turned the 3 mile buoy and were squared for home in 18 minutes. If pressed they could have made the return to the starting point in about the same time, but they only wanted to save their time bets that they would row inside of 40 minutes. The time was 39m. 21 1/2 s.

In the summer of 1873 the Longshore crew of Portland, Me., came here to measure blades with the Paris Crew in a regatta on the Kennebecasis in which a Sand Cove crew and one from Indiantown rowed. The Paris Crew was again victorious. There was a single scull race called soon after the four-oared event which John Biglin came here to try and capture. "Bob" Fulton, "Alec" Brayley and John Biglin started and Fulton, although he had just finished a closely contested four-oared race, came in a winner. It was "nip and tuck" from Appleby's wharf to the winning post, but "Bob" got there, cheered by thousands who ran up on the shore, and road, beating the much-vaunted Biglin to a stand-still.

The single scull race between Fulton and George Brown of Halifax was rowed on Digby Basin on the morning of July 12, 1872, after several postponements on account of rough water. Brown won by four lengths; and his Halifax backers were naturally jubilant. The later Finance Minister Fielding was there reporting for The Chronicle, and captured five good dollars from the writer of this article, which we have never been able to win back.

Among the most famous oarsmen St. John ever produced was Wallace Ross, who was born at Memramcook, N.B., Feb. 20th , 1857. He defeated Alex Brayley in a regatta in St. John harbor in 1873 and won the Governor General's silver medal and a money prize of $20. On June 16th, 1876 he won a five mile race for $400 a side on the Kennebecasis, winning against Brayley in 41 3 1/2. During the fall of 1876 he had another tussle with Brayley, four miles with turn on the same course for $200 a side, in the, up to then, fastest time, 28m. 30s.

In the winter of 1876 he went to England where Swaddle and Winship built him a shell. He next rowed Plaisted a four mile race, winning in 27m. 7 3-4s. In 1877 he rowed Warren Smith, of Halifax, on the Kennebecasis, for the championship of the Maritime Provinces. Near the finish, with both on even terms, Smith fell out of his boat and Ross won. On the 27th July, 1878, Ross rowed Hanlan on the Kennebecasis; just before they got to Appleby's wharf Ross capsized and Hanlan won. In February, 1887, he rowed Emmett in England and won.

In a race with Warren Smith in '79 he was defeated by a length and a half.

On the 17th June, 1880, in a notable single scull event at Providence, R. I., with cracks like Hanlan, Ten Eyck, Plasted, Riely and Gaudaur, Ross carried off first prize, $3000.

In 1880 Ross returned to England and took part in the "Hop Bitters" race. He won the first two heats and took second money in the final. Laycock won first, Hosmer third, and Smith was last.

On the 5th December, 1880, he rowed a matched race with Trickett for $1,000 a side and made good.

He rowed in a regatta at Toronto in September, '81, defeating Hosmer, Smith, Ten Eyck, McKay and Plaisted in trial heat, and won final heat and $1,500 in 20m, 56 3-4 s., defeating Conley, Courteney, Ten Eyck and Hamm.

In '84 Ross defeated Bubear, an English sculler, but lost to Wm. Black for the championship of the world.

He also took part in several four-oared events, but we have not space here to mention them in detail.

After his race with Black, he retired from the aquatic field and made a worldwide reputation in his exhibition of swordsmanship. "His strength and marvelous skill in handling all sorts of weapons from the aristocratic rapier to the more businesslike claymore," as the Army and Navy Gazette described it, "drew rounds of genuine applause."

He died in London, Eng., after a short illness in Charing Cross Hospital, and was buried at Fulham.