The rich history of rowing at Monmouth School for Boys was celebrated with two special events at the weekend.
A wonderful gala dinner for almost 200 guests marked the club’s 150th anniversary year, on Saturday night (6th April).
Old Monmothian, Charlie Wiggin, who won a bronze medal at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, was a special guest at the Sesquicentenary Dinner.
And, rather fittingly, a boat named after John Hartland, a legendary rowing coach at the school and for Welsh rowing, was christened on the banks of the River Wye in Monmouth earlier in the afternoon.
Mr John Griffiths, Master in Charge of Rowing, described Saturday’s events as ‘sensational’ and said it had been a ‘very special day’ in the history of the club.
The day began with the naming of the new John W Hartland boat to honour Monmouth sporting legend John Hartland who inspired hundreds of rowers over 50 years on the River Wye and across Wales.
Mr Hartland was unable to attend the event due to illness, but his wife, Ann, christened the boat and was supported by their son, Nick, daughter Kate, and grandsons William and Benjamin.
Mr Hartland was the Master In charge of rowing at Monmouth School for Boys’ Rowing Club for nearly 30 years and formed the Monmouth School for Girls Rowing Club in 1990.
Mr Hartland led the Wales rowing team to the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and was chairman of Welsh Rowing for many years, and helped more than 30 Monmouth rowers go on to win GB caps, including Olympic medallists Colin Moynihan and Charlie Wiggin, double Olympic gold medal coach Robin Williams, and his own son, two-time world medallist, James Hartland.
His son, Nick, said: “Apart from his family, rowing in Monmouth on this beautiful River Wye was the love of dad’s life, with his role both at the school, and encouraged by the then head Robert Glover, his involvement with the town club over the river, including the building of the new clubhouse in 1969.
“There were some big achievements along the way, a first 8s appearance and race win at Henley Royal Regatta at the end of the 1960s, a Henley semi-final in the 1980s, National Schools and National Championship medals, including a first ever National Schools Championship title, and Home Countries wins with Wales.
“To see this glorious new boat, built by the Rolls-Royce of boat makers Empacher, shows how far the club has come in the latter part of its 150-year history.
“As a family, me, mum, Kate, who runs the girls’ school club, our brother Jim, Kate’s boys Dominic and William, and my young son Ben – who has already had a go in a scull – will hopefully keep the Hartland rowing connection going.
“We are touched that Dad is being remembered in this way.
“I know the school’s rowers will do this fantastic Empacher shell proud and that my dad, with his name on the bows, will be there in spirit, rowing every single stroke.”
The Sesquicentenary Dinner took place at the Chase Hotel in Ross-on-Wye and was an overwhelming success.
Former captains, coaches and boatmen enjoyed meeting up with old friends and recounted many tales and rowing stories long into the night.
Mr Griffiths said: “We could not have wished for a better day to thank a coach who has been so instrumental in putting Monmouth on the rowing map, before celebrating 150 years of rowing excellence at Monmouth with 192 guests.
“It was a remarkable day that we will all look back on with a tremendous sense of pride, satisfaction, and happiness for many years to come.
“Thank you to everyone who supported the two events and helped to make them such an overwhelming success.”