Before there was row2k, before there was Yahoo, before there was rec.sport.rowing, even before most people bought their first modem at CompUSA and started poking around for rowing content, Ted English was collecting, copying, collating, and creating a publication out of newspaper articles for inclusion in Rowing Clips, a self-published monthly magazine reproducing news clips about rowing from around the world.
Rowing Clips #2 front cover, May 1991 (provided by Geoff English)
English started the publication in 1991, right around the time that rowing was becoming nearly invisible in the major newspapers, save for during the Olympics and the occasional 'faces in the crowd' article, mostly in local papers. It took a global effort to find enough newspaper and magazine coverage about rowing to fill a publication, and English figured that out and took it on.
Starting in early 1991, Ted enlisted a number of rowing friends and acquaintances to become "agents" to clip and send newspaper and magazine articles about rowing. Ted gathered them in the family home in Downey, CA, to compile the monthly Rowing Clips magazine.
Ted English passed away on May 6 at age 91; see his obituary here, which includes information about his long life as a waterman inspired by his great-uncle Ned Hanlan, including helping in the founding of the San Luis Obispo Rowing Club.
(As an aside, while a Canadian expat compiling rowing articles might not seem too punk rock, the timeframe puts Ted's efforts squarely in the midst of the pre-Internet zine culture. And Rowing Clips wasn't his first publication; he did the same in the 60s with the swimming publication Sunstroke when his kids were involved in swimming.)
"The early editions were printed at home on a tabletop Xerox machine and stapled," his son Geoff told us this week. "Later editions were copied at a local printing shop with a sturdy binder."
From there, Ted mailed out the finished product himself.
"Dad created mailing labels on his computer, packaged them up and took them to the post office himself," Geoff said.
Rowing Clips #21 back cover (provided by Geoff English)
"Agents" from St Johns Newfoundland and British Columbia to Marina del Rey CA and Georgia sent clips for early issues, and later issues had strong international contributions, including from many of rowing's most dedicated journalists and historians.
All ran under the masthead featuring the Rowing Clips logo, a pair of "crossed oars" that were instead rendered as scissors.
James Hill was a Rowing Clips subscriber (and contributor), and recalls the publication landing at his home in Philadelphia.
"In some cases four or five months had passed since the events had run, but there were very few ways at the time to find race results, and it was still wonderful to read about so many races and rowing people in one place," Hill said.
Richard MacFarlane was a contributor from the very earliest issues.
"I met Edward English when I was at the Royal Canadian Henley in St. Catharines, one hot August day, about 1990," MacFarlane recalled. "Ted approached me and we were chatting, and the topic migrated to his Rowing Clips effort.
"'Would I like to be a Toronto agent?'" MacFarlane recalls English asking. "'I certainly would,' I replied."
MacFarlane ranks English among rowing's great historians.
Ted English (provided by Geoff English)
"In my view, Ted English stands out regarding the sheer weight of enthusiasm and his intense desire to ensure we remember those who came before us," MacFarlane wrote in a remembrance last month. "During the past 50 years, from the postwar era, no Toronto resident and, arguably, very few Canadian citizens, have put more energy, commitment, and dedication, to the remembrance of historic rowing events and celebration of rowing champions, most particularly, the great Ned Hanlan, than Edward A. English. He did all this, from a great distance, while residing in California."
Meanwhile, English was an insurance agent to the stars, ranking among his clients the original Superman and Batman, Glenn Ford, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, and others.
After his passing, Geoff and his brother Brian were flooded with tributes to Ted; Brian noted "the tributes and messages are moving testaments to his character and efforts certainly. However, I also feel that they more so reflective his friendships and connections to people far beyond our family."
Thank you to Richard MacFarlane and especially Geoff English for the photos and Rowing Clips scans.
Rowing Clips 34 front cover, 1997 (provided by Geoff English)