The Rowers of Vanity Fair/McCalmont HLB

McCalmont, Harry Leslie BlundellEdit

“Mr. H.L.B. McCalmont” (Spy), October 5, 1889Edit


Born seven-and-twenty years ago, under circumstances which rendered his education at Eton a matter of course, he developed into a big and robust young fellow, who, at the age of nineteen, was chosen to stroke the Eton Eight at Henley. He also lent weight to his side in the Field Game. At a later period he gravitated into a Lieutenancy of the 6th Royal Warwickshire Regiment, whence he has since transferred to the Scots Guards.

He is a big, cheerful, rosy-faced young man, very popular and quite unaffected. He is fond of horses, and he has perpetuated the colours of the Eton Field Game in those under which he races. Before Hugh McCalmont -- well known, among other things, as a very rich Ulster landlord -- died two years ago, he made “Harry” McCalmont, who was the eldest of his grand-nephews, his heir, so that he is rich; and though he has not yet fully come into his own, his fortune having been left in trust for his benefit for seven years, he has recently bought an estate in Herefordshire. He is a thoroughly good fellow and a very eligible young man.

“Giralda” (Spy), January 9, 1896Edit


Within the span of his four-and-thirty years he has made himself one of the best-known men of his age in the country. Beginning at Eton as a slim athlete who presently developed weight that made him quite useful as stroke of the Eton Eight and in the Field Game, he went into the Warwickshire Militia and thence into the Scots Guards. With the late Captain Lawrence, of the Rifle Brigade, he founded the Army Football Association, and he has consistently shown himself a sportsman of the best class. He took to coaching, which he has long given up; he grew fond of horses, and with the famous Isinglass came, saw, conquered, and made his popularity as an owner general; so much so that he has been modestly heard to say that he is better known in many quarters as the “owner of Isinglass” than by his own name. But his chief sport is yachting; to which he is devoted. He was partner with Lord Dunraven in Valkyrie III.; and he now owns the fastest and finest steam yacht afloat in the Giralda, which can do two-and-twenty knots. He also holds the International Cup for steam yachts. His devotion to sea-sport has developed in him keen naval tendencies, and these made him fight the Newmarket Division at the General Election; which fight resulted in a triumph for himself and Conservatism. Though he has not yet been heard in the House, there can be no doubt that Imperialism will profit by his vote and voice when he is. He is very rich and quite generous; yet being a shrewd fellow, he is not to be taken in; and it is much to say for him that no word has ever been said against him in any branch of sport.

He is a thoroughly straightforward, cheery, hearty fellow, full of common sense. He is very fond of horses, and he owns, in Cheverly Park, a nice place at Newmarket. But he is rarely seen on horseback.

He has grown a beard.

Harry Leslie Blundell McCalmont (1862-1902) stroked Eton in the 1880 Ladies’ Plate and rowed for Kingston R.C. in the Wyfolds and the Grand in 1881.

His great-uncle died unmarried, leaving him the entire estate in trust. From 1887 to 1894, McCalmont received £2000 per year, enough to fund his initial forays into the turf. One proved remarkably successful: his colt Isinglass won an unprecedented £57,455. In 1894, McCalmont received the balance of the estate plus interest amounting to £4 million and went into yachting, the other sport for which he featured in Vanity Fair. In 1895 McCalmont was elected to Parliament as a Conservative, was reelected in 1900, and was decorated 1902 for his services in the South African war as colonel of the Sixth Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire regiment. He died of sudden heart failure at age forty, married without children, leaving the bulk of the estate much as he came to it: to a distant relation, the son of his father’s first cousin.

Henley 1880: Eton in the Ladies’Edit

Dr. Warre coached the 1880 Eton eight, which included H.L.B. McCalmont, D.H. McLean, and G.C. Bourne, for the Ladies’ Challenge Plate. They beat Caius on the first day but on the second, overexposed to the heat and sun during the fifteen mile carriage ride from Eton to the regatta, the crew wilted and lost to Trinity Hall, as Bourne recalled:

Four-in-hand to Henley Regatta, c. 1852

For some time past the weather had been very hot and some of the leading members of the school, among them Puxley, had excited the wrath of Dr. Warre by walking about with Japanese umbrellas over their heads. On the second day of the Regatta we left Eton in close and sultry weather. After we had driven some three or four miles the sun broke through the clouds and shone down with great violence on our heads protected only by our white caps. As ill luck would have it Puxley was the first to put up an umbrella as protection against the heat. “Put it down; none of that,” said Warre, patiens pulveris atque solis,[1] and we had to drive on without proper head-cover in almost tropical heat. Mindful of my recent rupture with Dr. Warre [over an ill-fated boat design] I dared not protest, and we arrived at Henley in a state of exhaustion. The heavy-weights suffered the most from the heat, and McCalmont and one or two others had splitting headaches. We were a beaten crew as we paddled down to the post, and when we were half-way down the course McCalmont turned to me and said, “I am no use to-day, old fellow. There seem to be two Henley churches and I don’t know which side of the river they are on.” He had a slight sunstroke and was quite unfit to race.

We led our opponents at first, but our rowing was lifeless and got worse as we went on. Our plight was worse because the stroke-side oars, having suffered more from the sun than the bow-side, were pulled round over the whole course. There was a following breeze which helped the light but lively Trinity Hall crew: they caught us before the corner and won rather easily. Thus the heaviest and most powerful crew that had ever been sent out from Eton -- I do not think that a heavier has been sent out since -- terminated its career ingloriously. The story is not complete without the addition that Dr. Warre himself was ill for ten days afterwards from the effect of that long drive in the baking sun, and when he recovered, made me a very handsome apology. The next year, when the weather was again hot, he was solicitous that we should provide ourselves with wide-brimmed hats and protect ourselves against the heat of the sun by any means that we thought fit.[2]


  1. ^ “Patiens pulveris atque solis”: enduring dust as well as sun (in the imperative).
  2. ^ G.C. Bourne, Memories of an Eton Wet-Bob of the Seventies, pp. 99-100.