Richard’s Rowing Trophy

Richard MacFarlane, a long-time client of Cynthia Findlay Antiques wrote the following as a guest blogger,

“What serendipity. Richard MacFarlane, a competitive oarsman of 38 years, and veteran researcher of Ned Hanlan rowing history, working for the City of Toronto municipal government, associated with their records and archives program, finds one of the oldest silver rowing trophies in Canadian history at Cynthia Findlay Antiques on King Street West. A member of Hanlan Boat Club in Toronto since 1987, Richard practices in his single rowing shell each week during the summer along Cherry Beach, on Lake Ontario.

The Trophy sitting proudly on Richard's Shelf.

Richard purchases the stern section of an eight oar racing shell, built by the famous craftsman, George Pocock of Seattle, Washington, during the 1950s, at an antique show at the Metro Convention Centre in late October 2011, as if predicting his later good fortune. Then luck follows Richard and he finds the trophy, late November 2011, after searching antique shops and flea markets for 20 years or more, looking for rowing memorabilia and old trophies. Coincidence joins Richard’s search, as this discovery occurs only two months before Rowing Canada’s annual meeting, held in downtown Toronto for the first time in many years! Richard has the trophy re-silvered to its former glory. Beautifully engraved, it was awarded to the winner of the men’s pair (two oarsmen). It has the inscription “Queen’s Hotel Cup For Pair Oar and Shell”. This is the real deal. The trophy has the official crest of the Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen (CAAO). It has the month and year, August 1880. This silver cup also has four rowing shells (boats) engraved with oarsmen racing, in the finest and smallest detail. It is silverplate on Britannia grey metal, a base metal used before the 1900s. The prominent silversmith manufacturer of this glorious cup is Reed & Barton of Taunton, Massachusetts, established in 1824. And it is stamped Reed & Barton as proof of authenticity. This trophy was awarded only once, in 1880, in Toronto, at the very first Canadian national rowing championship regatta, which makes it quite unique and very special.

Richard MacFarlane, Royal Canadian Henley, Masters, Year 2007

More often, trophies move to private collections or disappear, so it is rare to find one intact. The trophy was awarded to a men’s crew from Detroit, Michigan, the Zephyr Rowing Club. The Mail newspaper reported that $2,000 in awards were presented at this prestigious inaugural regatta. That converts to $200,000 today in silverware and medals. The Queen’s Hotel sponsored the silver cup, and the 100 Front Street West site is now occupied by the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Legend has it that Sir John A. Macdonald, Prime Minister of Canada, attended this regatta as a very important spectator. Our world champion sculler from 1880 to 1884, Ned Hanlan, from Toronto Island, rowed down the course, in between events, to entertain the crowd. Hanlan also donated two silver cups as awards. “This will be,” The Mail newspaper wrote, “the greatest aquatic carnival ever held in Canada.” After being displayed at Rowing Canada’s annual meeting held at the Radisson Admiral Hotel from January 26 to 29, 2012, the trophy now stands proudly on a shelf, with Richard’s collection of rowing books, in the stern section of the Pocock racing shell. A museum piece, to be sure. One of a kind. And if that isn’t enough serendipity, Cynthia Findlay’s brother, Nat Findlay, was a veteran single oarsman, who knew Richard during the 1980s in his competitive rowing years!

Rowing Trophy after it was re-silvered

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