The Royal St. John's Regatta - 1950 - 1981 Era Summary
The Royal St. John's Regatta Banner The Royal St. John's Regatta BannerThe Royal St. John's Regatta BannerThe Royal St. John's Regatta Banner spacer
spacer curved corner spacer
Canada's Digital Collections Logo

1950 - 1981: Era Summary
This era saw everything from a Royal visit to the breaking of an 80 year old record.

An early highlight was the winning of the Championship Race by an Intermediate Crew in both 1949 and 1950. This was the first and only time an Intermediate Crew had ever won the Championship Race at the Regatta. The crew consisted of students from the Higher Levels - Lindy Crane, Bert Phelan, Harold Crane, Phil Moore, Sterling Kelloway and Kevin Connors. They were coxed by Levi "Shotty" Rogers, a true legend of the Regatta.

Mr. Regatta passes away

In 1953, one of the Regatta's more well known contributors and a prominent St. John's citizen passed away after suffering a stroke. Mr. Arthur G. Williams - also known as Mr. Regatta - passed away at the age of 81. According to The Evening Telegram (January 6th, 1953), Mr. Williams participated in the Regatta for 50 years. He was an oarsman and coxswain in his younger years, and later a member of the Regatta Committee, eventually serving as President. He held the position of President for 3 years before resigning in 1942 and becoming a honorary president.

The year 1954 saw the Pepperrell Air Police become the first American crew to win a championship race at Quidi Vidi during a Regatta. Their recorded time, which was also the fastest time recorded for any U.S. Service Crew, was an impressive 9 minutes and 56 seconds.

Also in 1955, the races were postponed until Friday the 5th of August, and then postponed again half way through the programme due to high winds. The Regatta finally concluded on Monday the 8th of August.

In attendance to this years Regatta was the patron Lieutenant Governor Sir Leonard Outerbridge, Lady Outerbridge, the Commanding General of Northeast Air Command (NEAC) General Barcus and Mrs. Barcus.
Sir Leonard Outerbridge surrounded by the Melody Maid Honour Guard
Sir Leonard Outerbridge at the 1955 Regatta with Melody Maids and Regatta President Jim Higgins (Year: 1955, Size: 33kB, Source: Regatta Museum).

Levi "Shotty" Rogers was dubbed the "King of Coxswains" for his long standing contribution and ability to turn rowers into winning crews. This was never more evident then in 1956 when Shotty piloted the Patricians to victory over the Pepperrell Air Police reclaiming the Lieutenant Governors Cup for Newfoundland.

The opening of the marquee

1958 marked the opening of the current Regatta Committee Marquee named in memory of two past Committee Presidents, Judge William J. Higgins and his sons Gordon F. Higgins and Judge James D. Higgins, all of whom served as President of the Regatta Committee. They were all prominent citizens of St.John's and stout supporters of the Regatta. The Marquee is still used to entertain guests and special attendees at the Royal St. John's Regatta.

Over the next couple of years, a hotly disputed topic came to light. Was the record of 9 minutes and 13 seconds set in 1901 really accurate? While many people believe that it was, there are those who do not. Some contend the record was actually set in 1873 by a crew rowing in the Terra Nova with a time of 8 minutes 29 seconds, while others believe the record was set on a shorter course by the Outer Cove crew in 1901. That being said, in 1960 the Newfoundland Broadcasting Company offered a prize of $1000.00 for any crew that could get a time less then 9 minutes and 20 seconds. The time of 9:13 seemed unbeatable so the the prize was offered for something a little more realistic.

1962 saw the William Summers Jr. truck-labour crew win their fourth straight title, making them the "kingpins" of the Regatta. They managed this feat in the fastest time of the day at 10 minutes 1 second in front of an estimated crowd of 30,000 people. The crew went on to win two more races, bringing their total consecutive victories to six. In 1997 they were inducted into the Royal St.John's Regatta Hall of Fame for this fantastic feat and for renewing interest in the sport of amateur rowing.

Levi "Shotty" Rogers: A legendary coxswain

The following year, 1963, was marred by the death of the legendary coxswain, Levi "Shotty" Rogers. Although he was only a small man, his grit and determination more then made up for it. He was an oarsman for five years, then a coxswain for 53 years, steering over 300 winning crews. Ten years after his death, in 1973, Shotty Rogers was inducted into the Canadian Sport Hall of Fame.

In 1965, a new shell was christened and was named Caribou for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

What was once considered to be tremendous feats were now becoming commonplace and expected of most of the crews.

(continued on Page 2)
Page 1 | Page 2