Brooke Regatta

‘A very welcome and pleasant relief to the monotony which generally marks the life of this district,’ so the County Press condescended to report the first Brook Regatta, held on the 21st June 1889.
 

The coastguards always challenged the fisherman in the boat tug-of-war,and always lost.No doubt Brook and its neighbours could not compete with the sparkling night life of Newport in the 1880s; but only a strongly social community could have organised an event which ‘attracted a large crowd of spectators, the cliffs and beach being thronged.’ Later, ‘music and dancing took place in the evening, and altogether a most enjoyable holiday was spent.’

This ambitious event was repeated in 1896 on a grander scale, when the band of the Freshwater Volunteers, under Bandmaster A. Trollope, ‘added greatly to the general enjoyment.’ The only criticism of the County Press reporter was that he could not work out the outcome of one of the races since no less than three ‘T. Hookeys’ had entered it.

The prizes will have been well worth having; four shillings for first prize in the sack race would have had the spending power of £12 in today’s money. The regattas took place annually up to the First World War and were revived in August 1921 when ‘the events, competed for in heavy fishing boats, provided capital sport.’ That one was almost the last; but the regattas had helped bind together all parts of the local community.

The local families that ran the Regatta Committees in 1889 and 1896, such as the Hayters, Jacobs, Cassells, Hookeys, Cottons and Newberys were still doing so in the 1920s. The printed programmes show that the event was very well organised and must have been talked about and looked forward to for months.

The rules are specific, for the Single-handed Punt Race boats were ‘not to be less than five foot across.'There was not sufficient breeze for the annual sailing match between the General’s and the local fishermen’s boats. The County Press reporter could not work out the outcome of one of the races since no less than three ‘T. Hookeys’had entered it.‘ The coastguards always challenged the fisherman in the boat tug-of-war, and always lost; the Rector was always the Hon. Sec., and ‘the boat coxswained by General Seely had a special cheer on coming in last.’ 

The 'Duck Hunt', which we thought was one man chasing another who ducked and dived in the water,but may have been when a strong swimmer (in this case Ben Jacobs) was pursued by a rowing boat. It was obviously the cause of great hilarity and always came at the end of the day. 

The Rev. Morris’ diary consists of a simple list of dates and events but there is justifiable pride and probably some relief in the entry for 17 July 1896:

Jack Seely writes to the Reverend Morris from London, he agrees to support the 1896 Regatta and says that he longs to be at Brook. On 27th August 1921 the IOW County Press reported:The annual regatta took place in perfect weather at Brook on Saturday afternoon, and the events, competed for in heavy fishing boats, provided capital sport. Major-General Seely and the Hon. Mrs Seely were amongst those taking lively interest in the proceedings, the General acting as coxswain in the labourers’ pair-oared race, whilst his children were prominent competitors and prize-winners.

The lifeboat house, coastguard station and roads to the shore were gaily decorated with flags and quite a number of people attended. Mr T Hookey was Hon. Secretary, the Rector (the Rev. C A Shaw) and Mr W Cogger were judges, Chief Officer of Coastguards Freeman was starter. Results and particulars of the events follow: Sailing race, 14ft boats – 1 A A H Wykeham, 2 R Hayter, 3 T Hookey, 4 H Cooke. Pair-oared (owners and two men) – 1 J Morris and F Hayter (C Newbery, cox), 2 W and F Cott on (Robert Hayter, cox), 3 John Seely and F Downer (Patrick Seely, cox). A splendid race, won by about three lengths. Pair-oared (boys under 16) – 1 W Morris and C Buckett (W Newbery, cox), 2 Sir John Nicholson and F Driver (F Downer, cox), was won easily. Pair-oared (labourers) – 1 C New and A Buckett (A Ballard, cox), 2 M Buckett and H Barnes (F Cotton, cox), 3 A Newbery and A Barnes (C Newbery, cox). A very close race, won by about three lengths. Single-handed – 1 W Cotton, 2 F Cott on. The winner had an advantage at the start and won comfortably. Ladies’ pair-oared – 1 Misses Kitty and Sheila Seely (F Downer, cox), 2 Miss Irene Seely and Mrs Ward (J Seely, cox), 3 Mrs Morris and Miss Clifford (J Morris, cox). This was the most interesting event of the afternoon. The two young winners were given a start, but the result showed that they did not need it. They had a light dinghy, whilst the other ladies were in fishing boats, and the efforts of some of the dainty hands to control the unwieldy oars were amusing. Miss Irene Seely and her partner pulled splendidly, but could not overhaul their young rivals.

Tug of-war – Ben Jacobs, W Cotton, D Hookey, and A Woodford beat General Seely, F Hayter, F Cotton and J Morris. Four-oared – 1 F Downer, J Morris, R Marshall, and F Cotton (General Seely, cox), 2 A Woodford, D Hookey, W Cotton, and B Jacobs (Mr J Seely, cox). Greasy pole – 1 C Buckett . The pole was lashed to a boat, and the competition was as amusing as usual. Consolation race, four-oared – 1 J Hookey, A Downer, W Ballard, and A Newbery (A Ballard, cox), 2 Carpenter, W Higson, and C and L Barnes (F Newbery, cox). Children’s tug-of-war on sands (prizes given by Mr A Peck, CC) – 1 Alice Cogger’s team, 2 Nellie Leal’s team.

General Seely expressed the great pleasure it had again given him and his family to take part in the regatta, and called for hearty cheers for the committee. Mr Ben Jacobs, in response, led lusty cheers for the gallant General and his family.