Club and Connections with the Maadi Cup

In this Blog I follow on from Jack Morgan’s story about his Rowing opportunity on the Nile with the Cairo River Rowing Club.

The Cairo River Rowing Club hosted Kiwi oarsmen of the Second NZEF during the Second World War with regular competition between them and Maadi Camp Rowing Club. The Cairo Club allowed our oarsmen to use its facilities.

At a Regatta on the Nile, 20 November 1943, Champion Egyptian rower, Dr Youssef Baghat, donated one of his own trophies to the Maadi Camp Rowing Club, following it winning the Freyberg Cup. However the Cup was donated to the Cairo Club for future competition, and Dr Youssef Baghat’s trophy came back to New Zealand at the conclusion of the War. It was then presented to the NZARA  (now the NZRA trading as Rowing New Zealand) for the annual eight-oared competition among New Zealand Secondary Schools. The first race was held at Wanganui in 1947 and was won by Mt. Albert Grammar. More colloquially, it is the name given to the New Zealand Secondary Schools Rowing Regatta, at which the Maadi Cup is raced. The regatta is the largest school sports event in the Southern Hemisphere with, this year, 2112 pupils from 119 schools, in 1564 crews, requiring 566 races across 52 events.

The 1943 Regatta on the Nile would have been the last held in competition with The Cairo River Club. On 13 May the German and Italian troops had surrendered in North Africa and on 15 May the  New Zealand Division began to return from Tunisia to Egypt. The New Zealand Government agreed to keep 2NZEF in the Middle East and operations in Europe. Its next move was to Italy.

The Star Boating Club has a large number of historical connections with the Maadi Cup.

The first I shall record was that of Lord Bernard C. Freyberg, VC who was the winner of the Club Swimming Championship in 1908 and again in 1909 (distance 1 mile). Frank Scott in his “One Hundred Years of Rowing” produced for the Club’s Centennial celebration, wrote that “during the 1886/87 season a novelty was introduced into the programme of events for the season, by the introduction of swimming races…. “. This attracted “Tiny” Freyberg, a First World War hero and later commander of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, to membership. One can see from this the Maadi connection which grew from his concern for his troops which was manifest in the lengths to which he went to make sure of their welfare, especially in setting up clubs.The presentation of the Freyberg Cup for rowing competition on the Nile arises from this action.

The NZEF Eight pictured above consisted of Cornish (Bow), Norton (2), McLernon (3), Thodey (4), Lawson (5), Clay (6), Andrews (7), Cooke (Str), Fearon (Cox). Of these Lawson, Thodey, Clay, Andrews and Cooke were Star Members.

Status Regatta wins for these members were as follows:
A.A. Andrews:
1936-37 – Wanganui: Open Eights (bow): 1938-39 – Picton: Senior Fours (bow),
M. Clay:
1936-37 – Wanganui: Open Eights (3),
G..C. Cooke:
 1925-26–Wairau, Picton: Youth Fours (str) : Wairau, Picton: Maiden Pairs (str).
1926-27-Picton, Wellington: Junior Pairs (str) : Christchurch: Youth Fours (str),
1927-28-Christchurch: Junior Pairs (bow); Maiden Double Sculls (str ), Junior Double Sculls (str),
1928-29-Christchurch: Senior Pairs (str) ; *Picton: New Zealand Championship Pairs (str ) ; Christchurch, Wellington: Junior Double Sculls (bow),
1929-30-Christchurch: Senior Fours (str) : Senior Pairs (str ) ,
1930-31-Picton, Wellington: Senior Fours (2); Senior Pairs (str) ,
1931-32-Wellington: Senior Fours (str ), Senior Pairs (str) ,
1932-33-Picton: Wellington: Senior Pairs (str) ; *Wanganui: New Zealand Championships Pairs (str).
1933-34-Picton, Wellington: Senior Pairs (str),
1934-35-Wellington: Senior Fours (str), Picton, Wellington: Senior Pairs (str) *Auckland: New Zealand Championship Pairs (str),
1936-37-Wanganui: Open Eights (6).
1938-39-Picton: Senior Fours (str), Wellington: Senior Pairs (str).
J.I. Thodey:
1932-33- *Wanganui: Maiden Fours (3),
1933-34- *Picton: Maiden Fours (2),
1936-37: Wanganui: Open Eights (7),
1938-39: Picton: Senior Fours (2).
A.R. Lawson:
1934-35- Christchurch, Wellington, *Auckland; Maiden Fours (3)
1935-36 – Christchurch, Junior Fours (3).
1938-39- Picton, Wellington, *Picton: Junior Fours (3)

*Denotes National Championships

I have attached an extract from the Evening Post , 16 October 1944, Page 7 which covers receipt by the Rowing Association, from the Maadi Camp Rowing Club, of the trophy which was to become the Maadi Cup. The Evening Post in this article headed “MORE ACTIVITY  ROWING IN DOMINION” also records congratulations to Lieut-Colonel J. I. Thodey on his having been awarded the DSO. Thodey had been a member of the Rowing Council when he enlisted at the outbreak of war.

This article also names the oarsmen who represented the Maadi Camp Rowing Club at the 20 November 1943 Regatta and won outright the Cup presented by Youseff Bahgat. These included Burge (Star), Coates (Star), Dawson (Star) and Pert (Star).

Sadly the legendary George Cooke had died 23rd May 1941 from wounds sustained during the fighting in Crete – aged 34 years, and was not able to extend his already enormous success rate on the water at this Regatta. I should interpolate here that George had a brother, who also rowed with Star. This was J.I. (John) Cooke who I knew through Lawn Bowls where he was Secretary of the Hutt Bowling Club 1970 -80. John was of slight build and had a New Zealand National Championship win 1930-31, Maiden Lightweight Fours (bow).

Status Regatta wins back in New Zealand for the 1943 Maadi Camp Representatives were as follows:
A L Burge: 1936-37 – Picton, Christchurch, *Akaroa: Maiden Lightweight Fours (bow)
A J C Coates: 1938-39 – Picton: Maiden Lightweight Fours (3) and 1940-41 Picton:Maiden Double Sculls (str): Picton: Maiden Fours (2).
E.V. Dawson: 1938-39 – Napier, Wanganui, Wellington, *Picton: Junior Welterweight Fours (bow).
C.F. Pert: 1938-39 – Picton, Napier: Maiden Lightweight Fours (str).

Note that the centre photograph above records E.V. Dawson being presented the Maadi Cup by the Wife of the President of the Cairo River Club, with Brigadier Burrows on right. This must have been Dr Yoossef Baghat’s trophy which was yet to become the Maadi Cup.

The Club’s stored memorabilia also has documents initiated by A.R. (Dick) Burge as Hon. Secretary of the N.Z.E.F. Rowing Club. Click here to view. These  documents relate to the Match with the Cairo River Club, 2 June 1940.

Well that is it from me for this week. Next week I shall be continuing the War theme and involvement by the Club in and from the Land Wars, a possible invasion by Russia and World War I.


Replies and comment most welcome