Issue 99 - June 1997
They didn't need suffragettes chained to the gates of the Pink Palace when women gained membership rights to Henley's preserves. Men anxious not to behave badly rather than women clamouring to join a club which Groucho Marx surely had in mind with his famous quote brought the clause 'The masculine shall include feminine and vice-versa' into the rules down at the Hellespont.
The Brilliants' own committee, a proud body of men elected for 'Proficiency in oarsmanship and good fellowship' sat on a soap box before their members in full pinko regalia and orchestrated chaos out of order as only the Marx Brothers can. This was after the chief executive of the Bradford and Bingley - sorry, the chairman of Leander, Chris Rodrigues, advocated the admittance of qualified women members to see Leander into its third century as 'the world's pre-eminent rowing club', and a representative of a previous generation (the Crusades by the sound of it), Christopher Davidge, opined from the floor that the change marked the end of the age of chivalry because 'It would be unseemly to have women jostling at the bar buying drinks. It is a privilege for a wife to be taken there.' The end of chivalry? Bah! What concerned the members was whether the club would be able to remain elitist (in the sporting sense) and the captain retain control of rowing policy if taking the Lottery Danegold entailed surrender to inspections from quangos and the Equal Opportunities Commission. Chris 'Doolally' Dally was so obsessed with quangos that he behaved just like one.
Furthermore, any committee whose dear old chairman Bill Windham reminded those present that their club's natural conservatism had only a small 'c' and who said right at the beginning that no motions or amendments would be taken from the floor should have known as soon as Mike Walker burst through the tent flap that it will be only a matter of seconds before he proposed an amendment to an amendment. True to form, he popped up like a jack-in-the-box to deliver a lecture about how to chair a meeting and debate whether an amendment that a motion be not put be not put. While treasurer Jeremy Randle jumped up and down to second motions and secretary John Beveridge and legal beagle Ian Codrington caballed among themselves, Rodrigues proposed to withdraw the motion.
This sent the rowdies at the back, by now resigned to missing their Sunday dinner (proceeds for which would have paid for the marquee) into paroxysms of 'Vote! Vote!' and even 'Cull! Cull!' The committee had to lie down for five minutes to regain its composure before piping Walker down by accepting his proposal and asking for a show of hands on the vexed question of whether members wantedŁ £1.5 million from the Lottery. Sorry, no, that wasn't it at all. It was whether they would like to have unchivalric fragrance jostling at the bar and paying for the drinks. It was a resounding 'Yes'. Chivalry is brain-dead, and Rodrigues was seen to mop his brow after refusing to answer any questions from the battery of TV crews trampling round the lawn. He would not, after all, have an embarrassingly large mortgage application on his desk in Bradford next day.
© Copyright Hammer Smith, 1997.
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