Saturday, July 13, 2013
The gift of Mr. Thomas Doggett: Tim Koch on the 2013 ‘Coat & Badge’
In London on 1st August 1714 it was confidently proclaimed:
THIS BEING THE DAY OF HIS MAJESTY’S HAPPY ACCESSION TO THE THRONE THERE WILL BE GIVEN BY MR. DOGGETT AN ORANGE COLOUR LIVERY WITH A BADGE REPRESENTING LIBERTY TO BE ROWED FOR BY SIX WATERMEN THAT ARE OUT OF THEIR TIME WITHIN THE YEAR PAST. THEY ARE TO ROW FROM LONDON BRIDGE TO CHELSEA. IT WILL BE CONTINUED ANNUALLY ON THE SAME DAY FOR EVER.
‘For ever’ is a long time but, nearly 300 years later, the Fishmongers’ Company announced in traditional style:
The names of the six young Watermen who are to row on Friday, 12th July 2013, in the 299th Race for the Livery and Badge provided yearly under the will of the late MR. THOMAS DOGGETT, a famous Comedian, in commemoration of the happy Accession of His Majesty, George I, to the Throne of Great Britain in 1714, are:
Samuel Metcalf, London RC. Colour: Royal Blue.
Charlie Maynard, Poplar, Blackwell and District RC. Colour: Orange.
Dominic Coughlin, Medway Towns RC. Colour: Yellow.
Nathaniel Brice, Poplar, Blackwell and District RC. Colour: Light Blue.
Stuart Coleman, Poplar, Blackwell and District RC. Colour: Green.
Henry McCartney, Poplar, Blackwell and District RC. Colour: Red.
In slightly more modern style, the boys' details are on a TwitDoc and for the last three years the event has had a website.
I have previously written about the history and organisation of this unique event in my reports on the 2010, 2011, and 2012 races. For those who have not heard of it, ‘Doggett’s’ is a single sculling race of 4.6 miles / 7400 metres on the River Thames, only open to those who have finished their apprenticeship to become Watermen in the preceding three years. Historically, qualified Watermen are the only people allowed to carry goods and passengers on the river. While the race is only open to certain members of the Watermen’s Company, for historical reasons it is organised by the Fishmongers’ Company.
The 2013 race had a unique aspect in that it had a Royal visitor. Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal (formerly known as HRH, The Princess Anne) viewed the race from the umpire’s launch and afterwards met the competitors and visited Fishmongers’ Hall. The Princess is Queen Elizabeth’s second child and she is tenth in line of succession to the throne.
There follows my report on the race, much of which I have shamelessly taken from the commentary provided by Gary Anness who won in 1982 (though any mistakes are mine). A map of the course is here.
At the start there was some clashing of blades between McCarthy, Coleman and Brice, the people commentator Anness called ‘the race animals’. Between the first bridge, Southwark, and the second, Blackfriars, it was Coleman in the lead rating 32 followed closely by Brice and then McCarthy and Metcalf. As with other Doggett’s races that I have witnessed, steering was a major issue. To the concern of the umpire, Coleman was too close to the north shore and at Blackfriars Bridge three of the scullers unwisely cut the corner for the shortest route while the other three correctly went on the outside of the bend for the fastest water.
Five minutes into the race, Coleman had a 2 1/2 length lead over Brice but soon spoilt this by again drifting back over to the north shore. At around seven and a half minutes into the race, Brice passed Coleman and the latter’s rate dropped. At this point McCarthy went after Brice.
At the Golden Jubilee Bridges (Charing Cross) it was very close with Brice in the lead closely followed by McCarthy, Coleman and then Maynard. The leader started to relax at this point and sculled very well though McCarthy was obviously determined to continue his pursuit. At around eleven minutes and thirty seconds the scullers approached the half way mark just beyond Westminster Bridge and Brice (rating 28-30) and McCarthy had put a good distance between themselves and the others.
Brice was perhaps three or four lengths up on the second-placed man McCarthy at Lambeth Bridge. Eight lengths behind them came Maynard and Coleman and the umpire over took them at Vauxhall Bridge, around seventeen minutes in. Commentator Anness held that between Vauxhall and Chelsea Bridges was the place to attack and that he had seen the race lead change hands many times along this stretch.
Despite McCarthy maintaining form and never giving up, a calm and efficient Brice kept a lead which varied between three and four lengths. This was maintained to the finish and Anness’s unofficial time was twenty-five minutes exactly.
The order of finish was Brice, McCarthy, Coleman, Maynard, Metcalf and Coughlin. Brice was a worthy winner but I confidently predict that McCarthy, in his first Doggett’s race today, will cross the line first in 2014 or 2015.
After landing at Cadogan Pier and meeting the competitors, the Princes Royal went to Fishmongers’ Hall where, among other things, she witnessed an ergo race between two teams from London Youth Rowing.
Many years ago, an unknown waterman wrote this piece of dogrel:
Let your oars like lightning flog it,
Up the Thames as swiftly jog it,
An you'd win the Prize of Doggett ,
The glory of the River!
Bending, bowing, straining, rowing;
Perhaps the wind in fury blowing;
Or the tide against you flowing ;
The Coat and Badge for ever!
I was the pride of the Thames ,
My name was Natty Jerry .
The best of smart and flashy dames,
I've carried in my Wherry.
In Coat and Badge so neat and spruce,
I rowed all blithe and merry,
And every Waterman did use
To call me Happy Jerry.
In 2013, Nathaniel Brice became the 299th ‘Happy Jerry’.
© Photographs Tim Koch