William Elliott

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William Elliott was a professional oarsman, born 26th November 1849, from Pegswood, between Morpeth and Ashington in Northumberland, who held the Championship of England.

24th March 1877
Bells Life reported:
William Elliott competed in and finished 4th in the Newcastle Sculling Challenge Cup

May 1877
Bell's Life reported:
William Elliott of Pegswood raced George Tarryer of Bermondsey for £100 a side but they did not have a very favourable day for sculling, but for nearly half way a most determined race resulted. The rough water had completely unsettled Tarryer, and Elliott, who s a very powerful young man, stayed much the better and won easily; in fact his opponent gave up before completing the distance. Tarryer was not happy with his reverse and challenged his opponent for another race, but they have not yet, owing to unavoidable circumstances been matched to row on the Thames, a river for which Tarryer has stipulated.

12th January 1878
Bell's Life Reported:
As a fitting pendant to the Championship race on Monday, a match on the Tyne, in best-and-best boats, from the High Level Bridge to Scotswood Bridge, for £50 a side, will be brought off on Tuesday between Robert Bagnall of the Ouseburn and William Elliott of Pegswood, and the meeting between them will help to sustain the aquatic excitement in the north. Bagnall has been in residence at Mrs. Gibson's, the Ord Arms, Scotswood for some time past under the care of James Talbot of Newcastle and the Ouseburn sculler has not looked so well as he has done for years as he does just now. He is also sculling well, and it is no secret that he has pleased Mr. W.R. McKenzie of the Black Bull Inn, Newcastle, his chief supporter. Elliott has had a rattling preparation from James Taylor's, Trafalgar Inn, New Bridge Street, and is in the finest possible condition. He had a slight mishap on Sunday morning while training, which might have turned out serious He was caught in a swell from a passing steamer and one of his rowlocks breaking, he was capsized into the river. He, however, swam ashore and was little the worse for his sudden immersion. E. McGregor of Newcastle has superintended his work on land and and James Taylor and either a gentleman amateur or T. Blaylock, pulling double sculls, have accompanied him on his spins on the river. The final deposit of £25 a side was posted on Thursday night at the Trafalgar, in the presence of a crowded company. Even money was offered on Elliott but the other side held out for 6 to 4, which was not forthcoming.

16th March 1878
Bell's Life reported:
Elliott and Blackman - the negotiations opened for a match over the Thames Championship course between William Elliott of Pegswood and T. Blackman of Dulwich have for the present been abandoned. The backers of the north countryman have quite rightly considered that Elliott has quite sufficient on his hands just now in his matches against Thomas and Higgins, and the steps they have taken have met with approval on Tyneside.

16th March 1878
Bell's Life reported:
On Thursday night, this promising north country sculler was entertained to dinner at the Reindeer Hotel, Newcastle, by Mr. J.J. Bell, and advantage was also taken of the opportunity by Mr. Chris Barrass of the Beehive Inn, to present him with a purse of gold, as a mark of his appreciation of his conduct in his recent match on the Tyne. Mr. Bell presided, and was faced by Mr. T. White as Vice-chairman. The Chairman gave the toast of the evening "The health of Mr. William Elliott of Pegswood" and spoke of his intelligence as a man, his strength and skill as a sculler, and his determination and stoutness of heart as an opponent. He was sure that in his forthcoming engagements on the Thames he had the best wished of Tynesiders for success and whatever the result of the Championship should be, the people of the north held firmly to the opinion in that in Elliott they had a man worthy of following in the footsteps of Chambers and Renforth. In conclusion, Mr. Bell handed over the purse on behalf of Mr. Barrass, and wished the Pegswood Sculler success, good health and a long life. Elliott in reply returned thanks and said he did not fear the issue of the two great matches on the Thames in which he was engaged. He knew the importance of both engagements and and no stone would be left upturned on his part to to get as thoroughly fit as nature and skill would allow him. He mentioned that he and Boyd had made an arrangement to row together as a pair at different regattas through the season and they would endeavour to uphold the honour of the Tyne, while, as to the sculling contest, he hoped to bring back the "cup" to Tyneside. The Chairman also gave "the health of James Taylor" who he said, deserved every credit for coaching and bringing such a good man as Elliott to the fore. He was a thoroughly careful, painstaking and skilful general and he had produced more men to battle for the north as than had anybody else. Taylor responded and that from what he knew of Elliott and his abilities, he could only say that the Championship of England Challenge Cup was likely to be brought back north. The healths of Mr. Barrass, John Robert Hymes and others were also given, and not the least pleasing incident of the proceedings was the handing over of a banknote to E. McGregor, Elliott's trainer, as a mark of their appreciation of his efforts.

3rd June 1878
J. Higgins beat Elliott for the Championship of England over the Putney to Mortlake course

17th February 1879
Elliott beat J. Higgins for the Championship of England over the Tyne Championship course

17th June 1879
Edward Hanlan beat William Elliott for the Championship of England over the Tyne Championship course.

The London Illustrated News reported: - THE SCULLING CHAMPIONSHIP - The sculling race for the Championship Challenge Cup and a stake of £200 a side, between Edward Hanlan, of Toronto, Canada, the champion of Canada and the United States, and William Elliott, of Pegswood, Champion of England, was rowed yesterday, on the Tyne, and resulted in the easy victory of the transatlantic sculler. Of late there have been a considerable number of international contests in all branches of sport, and the representatives of this country have suffered defeat on several occasions, though it is true that some of them have been effected by rivals hailing from the colonies. There have been but few international sculling races, though four-oared contests between English and Foreign crews have often been rowed. In 1863 Green, the sculling champion of Australia came over to this country and measured his strength against our then champion, Robert Chambers, of St. Anthonys, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and after leading for a mile and a half, was rowed down and passed by Chambers, who was then in his prime. In 1866 Henry Kelley, of Putney, defeated James Hamill, of Pittsburgh, U.S.A., the American champion, in two races on the Tyne with consummate ease but no fresh match was made until 1869, when Walter Brown came over to row J.H. Sadler; there was however, no contest as the American become ill and was obliged to forfeit his stake, though he subsequently managed to defeat Sadler's younger brother in a race for £50 on the Tyne. Edward Trickett, of Sydney, New South Wales, came over to England in the spring of 1876 and on the 28th of June having been for some time under the tuition of Henry Kelly, easily defeated J.H. Sadler in a match for the championship. Subsequent events, however,|proved that Sadler, who was nearly 40 years of age, had lost his form, and Trickett, although undoubtedly a good man, was probably not so fast as he was thought at the time to be, and would in all probability have suffered defeat from Higgins, Boyd, or Elliott of this country, to say nothing of Hanlan and Courtney, of North America. The Regatta held at Philadelphia in the autumn of 1876 on the occasion of the Centennial Exhibition, in which numerous competitors from Great Britain and Ireland, both amateur and professional, took part, and in which the Americans proved quite equal to their guests, no doubt led to the transatlantic visits of oarsmen and scullers to this country.

In 1874, Edward Hanlan lost his amateur status and having struggled to find good opponents in Canada or the Americas, in 1876 he came to England and was matched against John Hawdon, of Delaval, for a stake of £200 a side. The Champion had been previously matched to row an unknown sculler. On May 5th, Hanlan defeated Hawdon easily, and the name of the unknown was declared the same evening, and proved to be Hanlan. The match now under notice was ratified and has been proceeded with in due course.

William Elliott, of Pegswood, was born on the 26th of November 1849, and is a thick-set, powerfully built man of about 5 ft. 7in. in height, and scaled 11st. 2lb. About five years ago he displayed a taste for sculling and was matched against a man named Martin, whom he defeated in a race over a two mile course on the river Blyth on the 18th of April. After varying fortune in several minor matches he beat Hogarth, of Sunderland, in a match for £80 on the Tyne, in 1877 but he was compelled to succumb to Nicholson of Stockton, in the first heat of the races for the then newly-established Champion Challenge Cup. In the June following, however, he met and easily defeated Tarryer, of Rotherhithe, in a race for £200 from the High Level Bridge to Scotswood Suspension-bridge on the Tyne, the Thames man never having a chance. On the 15th of January 1878, Elliott was matched to row Robert Bagnall, of Ousehurn, for £100, on the Tyne, and easily beat him. He did not rest long on his laurels, for a match was made for him to scull W. Nicholson, of Stockton, it being arranged that the winner should challenge Higgins, of London. The two men met on the 4th of March, when the river was unusually rough, and Elliott, who was the more powerful sculler of the two, won easily, Nicholson being unable to show to advantage in the rough water. Elliott was then matched to row H. Thomas, of Hammersmith, for £100 a side, and very easily beat him in race on the Thames on the 6th of May following. On the 3rd of June he mat John Higgins, of Shadwell, in a race for £200 and the Champion Challenge Cup, over the usual Thames course from Putney to Mortlake, and after a splendid contest to the Soapworks at Hammersmith, Higgins drew away from Elliott and won easily, thus making good his title to the cup, which he had won on two previous occasions. Elliott was one of the oarsmen who rowed in the winning champion four-oared crew at the Thames International Regatta on the 2nd of September, and easily defeated Higgins in the final heat of the champion sculls; but as the latter caught a crab soon after the start, this was thought to have prejudiced his chance of victory.

A new Champion Challenge Cup having been presented by the proprietors of a London sporting newspaper a competition for it commenced on the l6th of September, when Elliott defeated Higgins in the first heat rowed from Putney to Mortlake, after a good race for a mile. The next day Elliott met R. W. Boyd, who had defeated Blackman in the second heat, and although Boyd held a four lengths lead at Craven Cottage, the Pegswood sculler rowed him down opposite the Oil Mills, where a foul took place, Boyd being to blame; but though Boyd continued in front to the end, Elliott had the race awarded to him by the umpire. Not being satisfied with his defeat Higgins challenged Elliott to row again for the Cup, and tho two scullers met on 17th of February last on the Tyne for £200 a side, when after a tremendous struggle for a mile Elliott drew is front and ultimately won easily by two lengths. These are the principal performances of the Tyne man, who, although very powerful and possessed of great staying powers, could not by any means be called a finished sculler such as Kelly, Cooper, or Robert Chambers. He had, however, improved when he met Higgins in February last; but alter the race in which Hanlan heat Hawdon on the 5th May, Elliott has been using not only the longslide, but also tho swivel rowlocks and the wide-bladed sculls of the Canadian sculler, and has to some extent adopted his style, rowing fewer strokes in a minute than he used to do, and pulling a considerably longer stroke through the water. As to the judiciousness of this change in style almost at the eleventh hour opinions varied.

On the day of the great Hanlan versus Elliott race, the conditions were good and the banks were lined with large numbers of spectators. The time fixed for the start was a quarter to 12 o'clock, and about half an hour previously the different steamers which were to accompany the race commenced to receive their freights, some of them being in a very short time so crowded that there appeared some danger of them being upset, while the Gateshead, which carried Dr. Luke Armstrong, the umpire, was so overfreighted that it was scarcely possible to move about on her, and she rolled from side to side in a most unpleasant manner; besides which, being an old boat, she was quite unable to keep up with the race, and had the winning post been at Lemington Point her occupants would not have seen the finish of the contest. There were in all perhaps 20 steamers in attendance, some of which took up their positions astern of the scullers, while others were moored some distance in front of the competitors on the south side of the river. Shortly after half-past 11 o'clock Hanlan's 10-oared cutter was descried rowing down under the south bank of the river, having on board his sculling boat, the "Toronto", which was taken to Boyd's boathouse, just below the Swing-bridge. A few minutes later the umpire’s steamer left her landing stage at the Close, and steamed over to the south shore, in order that Dr. Armstrong might see to the mooring of the two stake boats.

These were anchored about 30 yards apart opposite the Mansion House, the northern boat being about 25 yards distant from the landing stage. While the final preparations for the contest were being made them was some heavy betting on boar dthe Umpires boat, the odds of 5 to 2 being laid upon Hanlan, but so great was the weight of money behind Elliott that 2 to 1 was soon freely accepted about the north countryman, and later on offers of 7 to 4 and 6 to 4 were closed with, so that 5 to 4 was all that was offered for a considerable time. Just prior to the start, however, Hanlan's supporters again laid 6 to 4 on him and that may be taken as the last quotation. At 10 minutes to 12 o'clock Elliott's boat was launched from the Mansion House and five minutes later he paddled off to the starting place, followed shortly afterwards by Hanlan, who sculled up from the Swing Bridge. The two men were followed by their two cutters, James Taylor being in the bow of one to direct Elliott@s course, while John Bright in the other acted as the pilot of Hanlan. Elliott, who has improved somewhat in his style, but whose finish is still cramped and awkward, took a preliminary paddle of a quarter of a mile upstream, and his example was followed by Hanlan, whose boat seemed to travel in a marvellously even manner.

The two men tossed for choice of station. Elliott won it and elected to take northernmost position, which is slightly more advantageous than the other. In appearance there is great deal of difference between the two men, Hanlan seeming to be half his opponent's size, although he looked in excellent condition and showed a very powerful pair of arms while Elliott's enormous muscular development about the chest, arms, and thighs betokened a great amount of brute force. After one or two attempts to get off on even terms, in which Elliott exhibited considerable anxiety to get an advantage, the race commenced at 14 minutes past 12 o'clock, a tremendous roar from the assembled crowds indicating the commencement to the race. Hanlan, who lay at the post with his sculls squared, was a trifle the quickest in catching hold of the water and at once forced his boat a few feet in front, getting more pace on than his opponent, who seemed to be throwing far more force into his strokes than the Canadian. At the third or fourth stroke the latter held a lead of several feet and rowing at the rate of 39 strokes a minute, increased his lead so rapidly that he was three-quarters of a length in front of the Tyne sculler at the jetty of Davidson’s mill — 100 yards from the start-Elliott who drove his sculls far too deeply into the water, rolling about and being for a moment in danger of an upset. The Canadian kept a capital course, and at the Skinnner Burn — a quarter of a mile — was nearly two lengths in front of Elliott, who was rowing a slightly slower stroke than his opponent. The Tyne sculler now strained every nerve to overtake his more speedy opponent, and looking round at him, spurted; but his efforts were of no avail whatever, as although he gained a trifle, he soon afterwards fell astern as his effort was responded to by Hanlan; and the letter at the Grindstone Quay which is about three furlongs from the Mansion-house, led by fully two lengths, one length of daylight intervening between the boats. Nearing the Redheugh Bridge-half a mile — Hanlan still added to his lead, and though he pulled his right-hand scull as if to cross in front of Elliott and give him his back wash, he suddenly seemed to change his mind, and pulling his left-hand scull hard, kept wide of his antagonist, passing underneath the bridge nearly, if not quite, three lengths in advance. To unprejudiced observers, it was now perfectly clear that Hanlan was sculling well within himself; but so infatuated were the supporters that they refused in what they saw with their own ayes, and expressed their strong conviction that the Tyne sculler, whose staying powers had often before been tested, would row down the leader.

After passing the Redheugh Bridge, and about a couple of hundred yards above that structure, Elliott took another look at his opponent, and then again spurted to try and diminish the distance which intervened between Hanlan and himself but by this time he must have begun to feel the effects of the tremendous efforts he had been making, as his boat became very unsteady and he splashed a great deal, driving his sculls deeper into the water. Hanlan, without quickening, kept his lead undiminished, now and again putting a little more power into his strokes, so that at the New Quay Corner, about seven furlongs from the start, he was still three lengths in advance. Having thus thoroughly taken the measure of Elliott, the Canadian reduced his rate of stroke to 34 a minute, and passed Waterson's Gates - one mile - in 6 minutes 30 seconds. Elliott was now sculling more evenly and renewed his spurts; but though he gained a trifle it was only on sufferance, and Hanlan, slowing to 32 strokes a minute at the lower end of the meadows, was able to go away whenever he liked. At Armstrong's shear legs, Elliott, cheered by many hundreds of the workmen assembled there, again spurted, but Hanlan did not quicken, and still kept his lead of three lengths. He then stopped for a second or two and looked round to see in which direction he should go, and thus Elliott gained a trifle upon him; but Hanlan directly afterwards crossed over in front of the Tyne sculler, and gave him his backwash, though in consequence of Hanlan returning to his own course and Elliott going to the northward, the two boats were soon again wide of one another. After this Hanlan drew away a little, and at Armstrong's Quay - two miles — was fully four lengths in advance, and this lead he increased to five lengths at the top of the island, where he was still rowing at 32 strokes a minute. At Paradise Quay — two miles and a half from the High Level Bridge, the Canadian was a good seven or eight lengths ahead of Elliott and right in front of him; but he was so far away that the backwash did not inconvenience the North country sculler. At the Low Benwell Ferry, Hanlan who by that time had added yet more to his lead stopped and looked to see where he was, so that he might take a good course around the bend opposite the Derwent, and when he had cleared the bend, he quickened up for the last quarter of a mile and reached the flagpost a very easy winner by eleven lengths according to Swaddle, the boatbuilder, who officiated as distance judge. The time occupied in rowing the course was 21 mins 10 secs. The winner sculled in remarkably good style, with a long, easy, even, light stroke, sliding 15 inches on his seat, and bringing his knees almost up to his breast, in marked contrast to the style of the Englishman.