Boat Race Day (Object 82)

Boat race photo

Dad and Mum (standing) watching the Boat Race

Today is Boat Race Day: the celebrated annual river boat race between Oxford and Cambridge universities, along a short stretch of the Thames from Putney to Mortlake. As the race passes through where we lived in Barnes, this was always a big day in our house, the one day of the year when crowds thronged the river banks and our little neighbourhood appeared on national television. It may seem strange that a Communist family should take an interest in such an elitist event, but back in the 1960s it was always a time of  fun and excitement for us kids. We never really cared that much who won, but Mum used to support Cambridge because she thought of them as the “underdog”. I, on the other hand,  supported them for the much more valid reason that light blue was prettier than dark blue. We used to watch the start of the race on TV, then rush across the green and up the High Street to the river bank to watch them speed past, then run back home to see the finish on TV. In later life, I always enjoyed the party atmosphere in the riverside pubs at Hammersmith or Chiswick, still not really bothered who won. So I was delighted to come across this wonderful photograph in the archives. There are my parents, so sober and sensible by the time I knew them, looking youthful and happy at some kind of party. The fact that the revellers are perched precariously on the porch lintel of a house bearing the street sign “Thames Bank” indicates to me that this is a Boat Race Day party. (Thames Bank is a riverside street in Mortlake near to the start of the race). I have no idea who the other people in the photo are – a label on the back reads “Photograph by B. Dudley Cowley” and someone has written “Mrs Collins” on it – but I think this is the early 1950s and my parents are not long married. They look as if they are having fun, as our family did in the years that followed,  on many a Boat Race Day.

Boat race photo

Boat race photo taken from Barnes, 1960s


About Hoarder of Babylon

A chartered librarian and curator of my family archives.
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