North East Connected

Newcastle United Fans Pay Tribute To Geordie Hero Of The Thames

Fulham Football Club overlooks the River Thames at Putney where Harry Clasper first led a team  consisting of his brothers to their first world title in 1845.

From the starting line beside the modern Putney Bridge, Harry led a further seven teams to win the international accolade.

Back Page Travel Coach regulars threw a wreath onto the Thames in memory of the greatest sportsman ever to come out of the North East and the father of modern rowing, “aquatics” as it was termed in the Victorian era.


Newcastle fan Steve Cook, who initiated the tribute, explained: “Rowing was the sport of the working class before the advent of football and every river-based city had its champions.

“In excess of 100,000 people would cram the riverside and bridges to cheer on their heroes.”

Harry “Hadaway” Clasper was a hero not just in his native North East but nationally and internationally. In addition to coxing teams to the world titles he trained and inspired future world champions and invented the rowing boats seen today in the Olympics and Oxbridge boat race.

Steve added:  “When Harry and his brothers first won the world title in 1845 they were victorious over the “unbeatable” Thamesmen. It caused a sensation nationally!”

The Blaydon Races, the song sung by Newcastle United fans, was written for Harry in 1862 and premiered at his testimonial at Balmbras in Newcastle’s famous Bigg Market.

When Harry died in 1870, aged 58, more than 130,000 people crammed the streets of Newcastle and Gateshead to pay tribute.

Hadaway Harry, a play by North East playwright Ed Waugh, about the life and times of Harry Clasper successfully toured the rivers Tyne and Wear last summer and transfers to the 1200-seat Newcastle Theatre Royal on Friday and Saturday, February 24 & 25.


Harry Clasper’s son, John Hawks Clasper, himself a top rower, went on to build boats. His workshop, on the banks of the Thames in Putney, is now the Westminster School boathouse, which still bears his name, JH Clasper.

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