I read with interest ‘Hawking at Oxford’ in the Trinity Term 2015 issue.

I went up to Univ a year after Stephen and we were contemporary residents in college for a year– my first and his second.

My feeling is that he is unnecessarily hard on himself regarding his career as a cox: for his sins he was chosen to grace the Univ third eight in Eights Week 1962 and the crew of Univ III he was given was the Rugger Eight.

Even as a ‘one term only’ oarsman, I am aware that a cox can prosper only if the crew can demonstrate some level of competence. It is my recollection that none of our octet of enthusiastic and (variably) powerful Rugby players had previously rowed and all had to be coached in the basic rudiments of handling a blade. I am proud to say that one of my rowing-coaches was Stephen.

Come Eights Week, we were passingly co-ordinated but far from expert and no level of exhortation from our benighted cox was going to prevent us from being bumped three days out of four – despite the impression that on each day we were slowly catching the eight in front – How would we know? We were facing our pursuers!

On the fourth day we had to row the whole course because the following boat was itself bumped and the one ahead bumped the crew next in front. Stephen did a manful job in keeping our robust clinker eight more or less in the middle of the river, As the club’s Hon Secretary in Season 1961-62, I apologise unreservedly to Stephen on the behalf of the Univ Rugby Club for blighting his burgeoning coxing career.

The photograph on pages 32 & 33 is indeed of the Boat Club and sundry passers-by but with at least six Rugby Club members several of whom had been in that boat and lived to tell the tale. I am the only one wearing a Rugby jersey and appear to have Stephen’s left elbow planted in my ear. Alternatively buy Stephen’s My Brief History and look carefully at the occupant of the number 3 seat in the picture of Univ III 1962.

Mike Davies
(University College, 1960)