Events for race founder

PUBLISHED: 10:25 10 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:01 04 May 2010

The Bishop of Ely, the Rt Rev Dr Anthony Russell joins Ely’s former mayor, John Ison in the Cambridge gig as the boat race celebrations are planned. Photo: BOAT RACE FOUNDERS SOCIETY

The Bishop of Ely, the Rt Rev Dr Anthony Russell joins Ely's former mayor, John Ison in the Cambridge gig as the boat race celebrations are planned. Photo: BOAT RACE FOUNDERS SOCIETY

CELEBRATIONS will take place in March to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Merivale, the former dean of Ely Cathedral and one of the founders of the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race. His birthday will be celebrated on Saturday, March 8

CELEBRATIONS will take place in March to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Merivale, the former dean of Ely Cathedral and one of the founders of the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race.

His birthday will be celebrated on Saturday, March 8 with a programme of special events, sponsored by the Ely Standard, including the launching of the Boat Race Founders Society.

The society will have a single aim, to celebrate the boat race founders, Merivale and his schoolfriend, Charles Words

worth, nephew of the poet, William Wordsworth, who went on to become the Bishop of St Andrews in Dunkeld and Dunblain in Scotland.

Whilst students at Oxford and Cambridge universities, the pair met up and came up with the idea of a boat race, rowing in the first one at Henley in 1829.

The boats that were used were heavy clinker-built gigs; Cambridge rowed in white with pink or scarlet sashes, the Lady Margaret Boat Club colours, and Oxford in white and green. It was not until the second race in 1836 that the now famous blue colours first appeared.

Just before the event, one of the Cambridge oarsmen decided to tie a light blue ribbon to the bows of the boat. There is speculation that this was because it was Eton's colour or perhaps because it was simply the only bit of ribbon he had to hand

Soon after, Oxford took on the dark blue of Christ Church College as its colour and began sporting white jerseys with dark blue stripes.

Replicas of the original gigs were built and raced just before the 150th Boat Race in 2004. They are now kept near Eton, but will be brought to Ely for the celebrations.

They will race again on the Great Ouse, crewed, it is hoped, by descendants of the two founders who will attend a special Evensong service in the cathedral followed by a bangers and mash supper in the Lady Chapel.

Among those taking part will be the Rt Rev Dr Anthony Russell, Bishop of Ely, the Very Rev Dr Michael Chandler, Dean of Ely, the Rt Rev Michael Hare-Duke, former Bishop of St Andrews, and the Mayor of Ely Cllr Ron Bradney. The two bishops are also sponsoring the gig race.

Anyone interested is invited to watch the gigs race at 1.30pm and to attend the service in the cathedral at 5.30pm. A commemorative plaque will be unveiled in Jubilee Gardens at 2.30pm, and the first meeting of the Boat Race Founders Society will be held in the cathedral at 4.45pm.

The supper is by invitation but there may be a few places still available at £30 a head.

CONTACT: Event organiser Jack Waterfall on 01353 665665 for further details.

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