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Cygnet Rowing Club
on the Tideway since 1890
CSSC Sports and Leisure

Frank Caughlin

3rd May 2022

Francis Lawrence Caughlin 

1926 – 2022

Anna Caughlin, Frank’s wife, contacted us recently with the sad news that Frank had passed away on 22 April after a short illness; he was 96

Frank Caughlin joined Cygnet in 1949 and counted Vic Reeves, Ronnie Lambe, Eric Wale and Brian Lovis among his contemporaries. The club archives are nothing if not exhaustive and his application form records him as a Clerical Officer in the Civil Service (the department is indistinct) living at West Hampstead.

He was one of the new intake of young members who would form the core of some of the most successful Vllls of the 1950s, commencing with a win at Chiswick Regatta in 1953, the crew of which are shown in the picture below taken on the lawn at the Civil Service Boathouse. Frank is the first on the left in the back row.

The win at Chiswick was Cygnet’s first notable victory in open competition since the end of WW2 and rekindled hopes that it would not before long before the club reclaimed the ‘Glory Years’ of the 1930s. Although this was not to be, Cygnet did nevertheless enjoy a spate of wins in Vllls throughout the remainder of the decade.

A very capable scribe who often wrote pieces for the Civil Service Sports Journal, Frank would later recall of this win ‘The Ronald Studd cup shone like a jewel on the top table at the Cygnet annual dinner….at the Bull at Sheen’. Warming to his task, he continued ‘this cup symbolises the re-emergence of Cygnet as an opponent worthy of respect after a long period of post-war obscurity’. The title of his article: ‘Cygnet R.C. for Henley?’.

Later articles would describe the success of Cygnet ‘Invitation (Scratch) Eights’ in August 1953 that attracted sufficient contestants to fill twelve Vllls - the changing room was packed to the gills - and Cygnet’s expanding fleet. Small boats were in short supply and Frank recounted the aura that surrounded the club’s latest acquisition, a coxless lV built for the 1948 Olympic Games, named after the club’s then president ‘Lewis Balfour’.

A future captain in the making, Frank opined ‘A cox’nless four is not a boat to be knocked about. She must be regarded with a deference due to her light build and fast speed. Heavy handed oarsmen should be kept well away…’. There were high hopes, sadly unrealised, that the crew rowing the ‘Lewis Balfour’ might reach the Wyfolds at Henley in 1954.

Frank would remain an active oarsman throughout the 1950s before ascending to the position of captain in 1960 when, for the first time in its history, Cygnet entered five eights in the Head of the River, a record that is thought to remain unbeaten to this day.

Although we rarely saw him in later years, he continued to take an interest in the club, while articles such as ‘Chiswick Rowing Gossip’ which he penned in October 1953 give us a sense of the great hopes and aspirations of that early post-war generation of Cygnets.

Frank’s funeral will take place at 4pm on Thursday, 12th May, at Worthing Crematorium, Horsham Road, Finton, Worthing BN14 ORG, when the family will pleased to welcome any Cygnets who may care to attend.

Paul Rawkins, 2nd May 2022


Author: Neil Pickford


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