Thomas Winship was a Tyne-based professional oarsman, son of William Winship of the boatbuilders Swaddle & Winship. He later ran the Newcastle Arms, Akenside Hill, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where matches would be arranged.
26th August 1871
The Illustrated London News reported: “ After going a mile, Renforth took a ﬁt, and nearly fell out of the boat. . . . Poor Renforth has just died.” Such is a portion of the telegram conveying the melancholy result of the great Anglo-Canadian four-cured race. At the time of writing no particulars have reached England, and we can only give a short summary of the brilliant career of the best sculler that ever sat in a boat. He was born at Gateshead, in 1842 and did not appear in public till the commencement of 1867. Having won ten sculling-matches in succession, and always with plenty in hand, he challenged Harry Kelley for the championship, in November 1868, and defeated him almost as he chose; in fact, so hollow an affair was it that the Thames man did not care to try to recover his lost laurels, nor could Joseph Sadler ever summon up courage to tackle the redoutable Northerner, though in the Thames Regatta of 1559 both he and Kelley were easily beaten by Renforth. The latter then tried to concede John Bright two lengths’ start in open boats; but after several fouls the race was given against him. Then came the two great four-oared matches between the Thames and Tyne, in which he was stroke of the latter boat, and secured two easy triumphs. These contests brought about a double sculling-match, in which Kelley and Sadler were opposed to Renforth and Taylor, and this time the Thames men turned the tables. The Anglo-Canadian match of last year must be fresh in the recollection of our readers. and a quarrel which occurred among the Tyne four while they were in America produced a pair-oared match, in January last, in which Renforth and Kelley rowed right away from Taylor and Winship. These are the chief particulars of the great sculler's short career of triumph. His fame has never been dimmed by the slightest scandal, and in all his races he only knew one way — the way to the winning-post.
9th September 1871
Illustrated London News reported: The body of the late James Renforth arrived at Newcastle on Wednesday last, and was met by several thousand people. The funeral will probably take place on Sunday. No traces of poison were discovered in the stomach, and there can be little doubt that his death arose from natural causes. The misfortunes of Renforth’s crew do not seem to have terminated with the death of their leader, for they lost the great four-oared race at Halifax Regatta owing to a most provoking mistake. Chambers had taken Renforth’s seat as stroke, and John Bright, the spare man, ﬁlled the vacant place as No. 2; and this arrangement answered so well that at half distance (the race was six miles) they held a lead of 150 yards. After rounding the turning point, however, they got out of the course, losing at least 200 yards, and enabling Winship’s four to go to the front; and, in spite of the most desperate exertions, Chambers’s men could never recover their lost ground. The great sculling prize was won pretty easily by Joseph Sadler, Kelley being only third, and it is now clear that the former will be the future sculling champion of England.
5th October 1871
Illustrated London News reported: Arrival of the late Champion of England's crew at Newcastle - Henry Kelly, London; Robert Chambers, James Percy and John Bright, Newcastle, the late Champion of England Renforth's crew, arrived at Newcastle from Canada yesterday afternoon. They were met at the railway station by crowds of people who gave them a very hearty welcome. Prior to leaving Quebec on the 23rd ult., a match was almost completed between the English and the St. John crew; the articles were not satisfactory to the Englishmen and as they had arranged to leave the country, the match was not made. Not having had an opportunity of meeting the the St. John crew at any of the late regattas in Canada, the English have issued a challenge to row any crew in the world a four-oared race for £200 a side, in five weeks from the first deposit. It is exceedingly likely that this challenge will be accepted by the second Tyne crew (the victors at Halifax Regatta), namely James Taylor, Joseph Sadler, Robert Bagnall and Thomas Winship. If a match is made, it will be rowed on the Tyne.
23rd November 1871
The Times reported: The Championship of the Tyne - This Wednesday afternoon, the great four-oared race for the Championship and a stake of £400 between the Chambers crew (James Percy, John Bright, Harry Kelly, Robert Chambers); and the Adelaide crew James Taylor, J.H. Sadler, Robert Bagnall, Thomas Winship) was rowed from the High Level Bridge Newcastle to Lemington Point, the course being 4 1/2 miles and it resulted in a victory for the Adelaide Winship crew. These two crews of Tyne oarsmen rowed in several races in the United States and British America during the past summer with varied fortunes. After the death of James Renforth at St. Johns, his crew with their odd man pulled several matches upon the lakes and great rivers of America but with very ill fortune. When the crews returned to England, it was determined to test which was the better and this match was made, but the ill luck which attended the Renforth crew or the Chambers crew appears to have followed them home, for it was stated in the beginning of the week that Percy was suffering from illness and it was feared that Bright was strong enough for his seat.
The betting has been about 5 to 4 in favour of the Chambers crew, however, but a limited amount of money was invested. The morning broke fine but as the day advanced it became overcast and gloomy but after 12 o'clock sleet and rain fell copiously. The race would have been started at twenty minutes past 11 but as consequence of something having gone wrong with the Adelaide's rudder, it was fully an hour after that time before the men got away - as is usual with a great race on the Tyne. Notwithstanding the bad state of the weather, there were immense crowds of persons upon the bridges and bank overlooking the course, and on board numerous steamers upon the river. There was a south-west wind, the water was comparatively smooth and a first rate course was kept.
Mr. J.H. Clasper of Oxford was the Referee and Chambers crew won the choice of sides. The two crews being placed in position, a start was made about twenty minutes past 12. Winship's crew showed some signs of hesitation at the start, which enabled Chambers crew to get well away with about half a length advantage, which they maintained to Wylie's Quay, pulling a long powerful stroke. They maintained this lead to the Skinner Burn. Winship's four had now settled down to a short, sharp regular stroke and putting on a splendid spurt, they rapidly drew upon Chamber's crew. The latter, however, effectually replied and still held their lead at the Grindstone Quay.
A fine smooth stretch of water now lay before the competitors and as money had been invested and depended upon the lead to the Redheugh Bridge, both crews redoubled their exertions in order to accomplish this result for their backers. Between the foot of the bridge and the quay there was a severe struggle, one of the most brilliant sights ever witnessed on the Tyne. Continuing their short stroke with extraordinary rapidity the Winship four inch by inch overhauled their opponents and drew level. Chambers crew never varied their splendid long stroke, while on the other hand, the Winship crew pulled a very quick stroke and the result of this was that they sent their boat gradually in advance, shooting underneath the bridge by a quarter of a length. Winship's crew therefore drew the first money for their backers. They maintained this lead to the Shot Tower.
Passing Cooper's stairs, Chamber's crew drew away and reaping the benefit of the bend to the New Quay corner took up half a length lead. Taylor took his men to the off side to clear the dredger opposite the Gasworks Quay, then quickly set the boat straight again. Chamber's crew at first seemed inclined to go between the dredger and the quay on the northern side but took the off side also. This allowed Winship's crew to draw level and the struggle continued with unabated severity past Waterstone's gates and the Tyne Amateur Rowing Club boathouse and to the foot of Annie Island, where Winship's crew led by two feet. The water between Annie Island and the shore was as smooth as a millpond, with no tide running. On nearing the Annie, Winship's crew were in front and leaving the Annie they were a full length ahead, coming up inside the Meadows Island. The cheering was great; in response to shouts from those on the shore, Chamber's crew put on a slight spurt, the result being that the gap between the boats lessened. In order to clear a wherry lying at Armstrong's Crane, the two boats had to move to the centre of the stream. Passing the west end of the Meadows, the two crews rowed steadily until they reached Messrs Thompson and Scotts Brickworks when Winship's crew put on a spurt and gave Chambers crew their backwash. They passed the Delaval Coal Jetty and headed for the houghs. Winship called upon his men again and passed the Chainbridge a length ahead. In the clear waters of the Scotswood Railway Bridge, another spurt from Chamber's crew reduced the gap and lifted the hopes in the breasts of their many admirers. Their challenge was quickly answered and by the time the Tyne Commission dredgers were reached, the lead was again increased to two or three lengths, with Winship's crew being the winners.