The Rowers of Vanity Fair/Carter JC

Carter, John CorrieEdit

“Steered Three Winning Crews” (WH), July 3, 1912Edit

Were you at Henley fifty years ago? Did you notice the cox of First Trinity, Cambridge? Of course you did.

He was Johnny Carter, who steered three winning crews in the biggest races of that year.

This record has never been broken, I believe.

When he left the ‘Varsity he was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple, and “went” the Midland Circuit, still keeping up his habit of winning.

Briefs came to the young lawyer, but he could have handled more. He did not pine, however, for other duties came his way.

When the Midland Railway wanted a new member on its board about fifteen years ago, he gave up practice entirely and devoted himself to “directing” what many think is our most perfect railway.

His service in this capacity has been as significant as his earlier successes.

To him must be attributed the present wholesome policy of enabling the employees of the company to purchase small allotments of stock. The result is that up to the limit of his holding each man feels he owns the railway -- which means that he will not lightly strike against his own interests.

This is a notable work, and the entire country owes Mr. Carter a debt for this initiative.

Mr. Carter has been for many years Recorder of Stamford and Chairman of the Quarter Sessions for Radnorshire.

Henley train station during the regatta, 1894

He has edited three editions of the well-known law-book, “Rogers on Elections”; also a piscatorial classic, “Ronald’s Fly-Fisher’s Entomology,” which was written by his uncle seventy-six years ago. This book is still used by the best fly-tiers.

A good sportsman and a useful citizen, his friends say he desires only to do well what comes to hand.

He has no taste for politics, but favours liberal principles in government as he understands them.

Mr. Carter loves his books, his rod, and his gun. On the wall of his library hangs the old Trinity rudder, which has been for half a century so pleasant a reminder of happy days on the River.

What he likes most of all is “non-competitive golf.” You see he cannot bear to lose a game.

John Corrie Carter (1840-1927), the only coxswain ever featured in Vanity Fair, steered not three but four winning crews at Henley (Grand, Ladies’, Stewards’, and Visitors’), and it was not 50 years before his appearance in the magazine, but 51 (Henley1861). The rest of the account is accurate, though also a sad example of T.R. Allinson’s editorship in Vanity Fair’s waning two years. The Stewards’ was made a coxless event in 1873 and the Visitors’ in 1874.

On Carter’s role in the Grand (at 8 st. 10 lb.), Bell’s Life in 1861 reported: “The Cambridge steering was very good in this race, and indeed much credit is due to the coxswains generally at this regatta, for the way in which they managed the starts in a strong wind, and also for keeping clear in those heats where three boats started abreast.”

“My garments expansion require”Edit

“What more pathetic sight is there than a coxswain who starts his career with not ill-founded hopes of winning distinction, and then begins to increase in bulk, his prospects sinking as his weight rises,” wrote R.H. Forster,” till the vision of a ‘blue’ fades first to the less artistic white of a Trial Cap, and then sets altogether?” As told in his 1894 verse:

I once was a light little cox,

The smartest that ever was seen;

For I stood but five three in my socks,

And weighed barely seven thirteen:

The figures I give you are true,

And I coxed in a club Trial Eight;

And they said I was sure of my blue,

And I was -- till I went up in weight.

The change was begun in the Vac.,

For I spared not the well-fatted calf;

And I found myself, when I came back,

Increased by a stone and a half.

Still they set me to cox a Lent crew,

But docked my allowance of grog,

Threw doubts on my chance of a blue,

And said I was fat as a hog.

Yet still there comes increase of weight,

My garments expansion require,

I project o’er each side of the eight,

And my buttons are fastened with wire.

They make me take runs in the Backs,

(Now my running is marvellous poor):

And their pointed allusions to “stacks”

Are very ill-natured, I’m sure.

O ‘Varsity President, you

Are in need of an oarsman of weight:

Then give me, O give me my blue!

Next year, ‘twill I fear, be too late.

For if in this way I enlarge,

Next year, I would have you to note,

Nought less than the bulkiest barge

Will be able to hold me and float![1]


  1. ^ R.H. Forster, “Camus et Camilli,” The Eagle, June 1894, pp. 262-63.