“The greatest event since the siege,” was how a giant-killing feat in rowing was described, with just a slight hint of overstatement!
Now there’s a sequel to the 1924 achievement when Derry’s rowers beat Australian Olympians. Actually, this is the story of five generations of an amazing Londonderry family.
The story began back in the last two decades of the 19th century when James Brownlow had a tailoring business at Carlisle Road. He was a successful sculler with City of Derry Boating Club.
Unfortunately the archives from that era have been lost so we don’t have a record of his achievements.
Much more is known about his son, James Nesbitt Brownlow, known as Nesbitt. He was a member of the all-conquering Derry crew of 1924.
They defeated the Australian national team fresh from the Paris Olympics.
The mighty Australians, along with many other international athletes, came to Dublin that year to join in the Irish national Tailteann Games.
After the rowing race on the Liffey, at a celebratory dinner in Dublin’s Metropole restaurant the Australians presented their boat to the Irish Rowing Union and they, in turn, gave it to the Derry men.
When the city’s heroes returned home to the G.N.R. station at Foyle Road they were given a terrific welcome. Two bands led them through decorated streets .
Thirty years later, Nesbitt Brownlow’s son also became a rowing champion.
Rowing for Trinity College Dublin, Jim won the Irish Senior Eights Championship in 1954. Last year in England, Jim became a British and Irish indoor rowing record holder in the 75 to 79 age group.
Then Jim set about training to top even that achievement. He began a punishing schedule on the rowing machine in preparation for the European Championships.
Jim was rewarded last January in Copenhagen when he became European champion in the over 80 category. His time of 7:49.2 for 2,000 metres broke his own British record.