Maurice Legg

Chapter 8 … University and Rowing

I worked very hard for the next two years and, in June 1950, was rewarded with a BSc degree. I had rowed some: I won the Presidents Sculls (the second best sculling trophy.) Dick Shield won the University sculls which was a top event in the University. Also Dick, my great friend, and I won the University Pairs another high status event. We beat some of the stars and I was invited to the trials for the University 8 and was selected. This signal honour would have given me a Blue; however I was aware that rowing for the university would kill my chances of passing my final exams and so I finally turned it down. It was the right thing to do and I wasn’t really too disappointed. Secretly I didn’t think the university were very good at rowing anyway!

I had decided to go to Thames Rowing Club in London , by far the strongest rowing club in England at the time. Why start with anything but the best? I did the Dick Whittington thing, went to London and found a job, in my case, with the GEC Research Labs. My first assignment was in the group of Mr Willshaw specialising in the development of High Power Microwave Power generators used in Radar Systems. I spent 5 years with GEC without accomplishing much of anything technical. Lack of interest played a part but also most of my energy was expended on the river! I successfully joined Thames Rowing Club and found it brimming over with old Oxford and Cambridge Blues. I was always available to row with whomever needed an extra man facilitated by the fact that I could row equally well on both stroke side and bow side and in due course was noticed. In late 1950, when training started for the Head of the River, I was in the First eight. Tony Purssell, an old Etonian, who had 3 Oxford blues and had stroked Oxford was in the second eight. My success was an endorsement of the coaching of Ken Tarbuck and owed something to the strengthening effect of wheeling barrows full of concrete.

My rowing career with Thames is described fully in Thames yearbooks and in Geoffrey Page’s book. Over the years 1950 to 1956, Thames was by far the most successful club in England . I won the Olympic trials in 1952,  a Silver and a Bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver in 1954, a fourth place in the World Championships in Belgium in 1955 and the Stewards at Henley in 1956. Additionally, and for me probably the satisfying achievement, was to win the Thames Head of the River for the three years 1953,1955 and 1956 since I was the first three- time winner of this event each time with different crews. In 1956, after winning the Stewards and being unbeaten in any event that year, we should have been an automatic choice for the Olympics. However we’d had a bad row in the first heat winning only narrowly and that gave the all - powerful selectors the opportunity to judge that we weren’t good enough for the Olympics and they decided instead to select a composite eight of “younger” favourites and send them to Australia. This they did; their crew was quite disgraceful and was badly beaten. I was by then fed up with rowing and ready for something totally different!

Chapter 9 ...Post university, marriage... Canada
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