|Years||1974 (4x+ unplaced)
1975 (8o 10th)
|Club||Civil Service Ladies RC which is now Barnes Bridge Ladies RC|
|Height||5’7″ or 170cm|
|Racing weight||9 stone 12 lb or 62.5kg|
The photo above shows Jackie on the far right with the rest of the coxed quad in which she competed at the 1974 World Rowing Championships in Lucerne.
Getting into rowing
Jackie was first introduced to rowing by a colleague called Pat Heron who asked her if she’d like to join Civil Service [then HQ] Ladies RC in late 1969. Pat – who since became Pat Sly – became an absolute stalwart on the administrative side of the Women’s Squad, as well as doing a huge amount for Civil Service rowing along with her husband Peter.
“I’d never really heard of women’s rowing,” Jackie explains, “And I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a bit different, I’ll have a go!’ So I did and I’ve never looked back since. Best thing I ever did.”
She threw herself into the life of the club, rowing at bow in a four that represented England at the Home Countries match in 1971 (coxed by Pat Heron), winning novice single sculls in 1972 at Hammersmith Regatta, and serving as club captain in 1972-1973.
When Penny Chuter launched the GB women’ squad in the autumn of 1973, Jackie immediately applied. “When I was club captain I didn’t feel I could take part that much in the crews and I really wanted to row seriously, she says. “Ever since I joined the club I always wanted to be in the first crew, so I was always down there hoping somebody would be sick so I could get a row in the first crew but I spent most of my time in a coxed pair as a spare person because nobody was ill!”
Full descriptions of Jackie’s years with the squad can be found here:
Jackie’s not in kit in the photo of the two eights in their ‘golden gumboots’ taken around March 1975 that’s in the report above because she was injured at the time. “We’d done a weight session before going out on the water,” she remembers, “And then we’d gone out in singles and I was going up towards Chiswick Bridge and suddenly my back went. The others had gone back down to Hammersmith and I think I got out of the boat and that didn’t help and so I got back in and that was even worse and by then it was getting dark but I was so lucky because Chas Newens happened to be bringing a launch back from some upriver event and he pulled me into his launch and then took my boat on board and took me back to Hammersmith.”
“We had a team doctor then,” she continues, “Who lived just up the road from the ARA, so I was taken off to his house and he decided I’d torn a muscle. I remember Rosie [Clugston] was staying with me that night and it was going to be lamb chops. And as you do when you have injuries and you go into shock, I insisted that she cook these lamb chops even though it was really late by then. I remember Beryl Mitchell massaging my back before we went afloat at Mannheim Regatta that summer because I was still quite sore.”
The squad was cut to just a four and a pair very early in the 1975-76 season, and Jackie was one of those who was out. “But I wanted to carry on so I did the land training with the squad and I trained in my single with the intention of trying to get selected for the Olympics as a sculler,” she explains. But she was knocked off her bike by a car in early March and had to have her entire leg put in plaster cast because her medial ligament had come detached both ends. “So that rather put paid to any Olympic dreams I had,” she says stoically.
She was back rowing as soon as she could, winning the doubles – with Christine Davies – at the National Championships in July and coming fourth in the singles. “I was a bit miffed I didn’t get the bronze, but I had been in plaster for two months,” she recalls.
Later rowing career
Other than the 1982 season when she had major back surgery, Jackie has never stopped rowing competitively and some of the achievements she’s proudest of have actually been since her international years.
One of these was a win in a pair with Pauline Rayner at the World Masters Rowing Championships in Vienna in 1993. The duo had been training very hard all year in a double, but lost their race and as a result were incredibly fired up when they went out to race their pair, which they’d hardly practiced in at all.
“We got onto the start and we were so determined that we were going to win this pair,” Pauline remembers. And they did! Their main opposition was a Canadian pair which had been training all year and with a coach to boot (practically unheard of for British masters rowing at the time). “They and their coach came over to us and shook our hands and said, ‘Congratulations because this is the best pair in Canada at this moment,’ and we just politely said ‘Oh, thank you!’ and didn’t mention it might have been the third outing we’d had in the pair,” Pauline adds.
Responsibilities and rewards
Jackie was awarded the ARA Medal of Honour in 1997 in recognition of her multiple services to rowing including being a member of the Women’s Rowing Committee from 1977-1980 and serving as a Selector from 1981-1983 . She was also on the Head of the River Fours Committee for about twenty years from 1979, and was Race Co-ordinator for the Women’s Eights Head of the River from 1987-1997. She was made a Vice-President of Civil Service Ladies RC in 1997, having previously held practically every other position on the club’s committee.
Jackie is one of those rowers whom practically anyone – and that definitely includes me – would put in their personal great eight made up from everyone they’d ever rowed with. Probably in bow pair. Words like disciplined, focused, hard working, reliable, neat, consistent and ‘shuts up and rows’ must be worn out with the amount they have been used about her. And she’s a thoroughly nice person too.
© Helena Smalman-Smith, 2017.