Sunday, 19 September 2021

John Beveridge, rower who starred at Henley Royal Regatta

JOHN BEVERIDGE was a Commonweath Games medallist and double Henley Royal Regatta winner.

JOHN BEVERIDGE was a Commonweath Games medallist and double Henley Royal Regatta winner.

John was born in 1936 in Crosby, Lancashire, to Glaswegian parents.

The war inevitably fashioned his early years, but they were happy ones. 

They were spent largely in Evesham, Worcestershire, with his sister Janet, whilst John’s father worked for the BBC.

The family then moved to Putney and what was to become a lifelong passion for rowing began when he went to St Paul’s School.

In 1961 he married his first wife Margaret. John was always proud of, and astonished by, the four inspiring and talented children they produced. Ten wonderful grandchildren followed, adding to John’s happiness.

When his second wife, Di, met John in the late Seventies in Aberdeen, she knew he had done “a bit of rowing”.

Further suspicions were confirmed when they moved to Ireland. In no time at all John was coaching the boys in the local school in Galway.

However, it was only when they moved to Henley in 1983 that it really dawned on her just what she had let herself in for.

John was back in his spiritual home, with his beloved Leander Club just down the road.

In fact, by any standards, John had a stellar rowing career. As a schoolboy he rowed in the St Paul’s first eight for three years.  As a national serviceman he rowed for the RAF in the Thames Cup. At Cambridge he rowed for the Jesus College Boat Club, head of the river in the May Races, and then at Henley Royal Regatta in the Ladies’ Plate and the Thames Cup.

And then he rowed for Molesey Boat Club with Davidge, Porter, Knight, Clay and the others, in the Grand and the Stewards.

Out of 11 appearances at Henley he reached eight semi-finals, four finals, and won twice.

Frustratingly for him, he lost two Boat Races in 1959 and 1960, but was elected president for the 1961 race, and finally won.

In 1962 the Molesey crew went on to represent Great Britain in the eight at the World Championships in Lucerne.

Later that year they represented England at the Commonwealth Games in Perth, Western Australia, with John winning bronze in the eight and gold in the coxless four.

Whilst this ended his competitive rowing career, his love of rowing continued.

He coached at Cambridge and at the Oratory School in Woodcote and was a great supporter of Reading Regatta for many years. He valued greatly the fellowship he experienced at the Argonauts Masonic Lodge.

He was particularly proud that, with the help of the Remigium Lodge, they set up and ran the first regattas for the disabled in Henley from Upper Thames Rowing Club.

One of John’s greatest sources of satisfaction was that Leander secured a National Lottery grant for the redevelopment of the Club in the Nineties, the work on which he was honoured to project manage. He was also secretary of the club for seven years.

John also drew great pleasure from rowing and lunching with his Lensday friends.

Another story goes that one day he felt unwell during an outing but nevertheless enjoyed a couple of pints and the usual lunch.

He went to the doctors’ surgery later where he was told he had probably had a heart attack and was rushed to hospital. Rowing and the Lensday Club always came first for John.

He died on April 12 aged 79 after an illness and leaves his wife Di, children Fiona, Rachel, Justin and Hallam and 10 grandchildren.

A celebration of his life was held at Reading Crematorium on Wednesday.

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