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Peter Mallory's Blog


By pmallory - Posted on 29 November 2014

11 November 2014

"Where have you been, Peter?" I've heard that a lot recently.

The reason that my blog has been largely silent these last several months is that I have been spending a great deal of my time in the close company of a famous old rowing coach, a coach both beloved and reviled in his time to an extent almost unimaginable today.

Of course I am speaking of Steve Fairbairn, and I must confess to you that he is a relatively new acquaintance of mine.

It was nearly 56 years ago now that I entered our sport, and for most of that time I didn’t have a clue as to who Steve Fairbairn was. He died seven years before I was born.

But in 2004, when I began to make inquiries for my four-volume history, The Sport of Rowing, on the very first day of my research I sat down with Tom Terhaar, the U.S. Women’s Olympic Rowing Coach, and he told me that periodically he picked up his copy of Fairbairn on Rowing, opened it anywhere and just started reading. He said it always brought a smile to his face, always re-energized him.

I thought to myself, “I’ve got to get me a copy of this book!”

I quickly found out that was not so easy. Steve’s pamphlets and short books were first gathered together and published in 1951. I was not yet 6, and many of you were not yet born. In short order, it was out of print, and copies only rarely came up for sale.

At about that same time, a good friend of mine, Josh Gruenberg, told me that he was about to travel to England to compete in the Henley Masters Regatta. I figured if there was anywhere on Earth where one might find a copy of Fairbairn on Rowing, it had to be Henley-on-Thames!

Two weeks later, Josh came back . . . and I had my copy, a generous gift from my very good friend. He told me it was really tough for him to pull it off, and at the time I had no idea what he could possibly have meant. Only later did I realize that copies of that 1951 edition or even the 1990 edition often sell for hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

In the years since, I have not had the guts to ask Josh how much he paid for my copy. Suffice it to say that I remain very grateful.

When I received it, that particular copy of Fairbairn had seen a fair amount of use. It was proudly signed by its original owner, “C.G. Rickett [Eton and Cambridge], 1/3/51.” The dust jacket was long gone, the spine was bleached by the sun, and the front cover had an ink splat. The pages were turning brown, and now that I have completed my own research, the book is even more well used and sports my yellow highlighter and pencil scribble annotations throughout.

I think Steve would approve. He wanted his words to be read and reread and discussed and experienced. Fairbairn on Rowing should not sit passively on some gentleman’s library shelf.

"So that's what you what were doing a few years ago. What have I been doing these last few months?"

After all, The Sport of Rowing was finished in 2012, complete with several chapters on the incomparable Steve Fairbairn, his technique and his unique place in rowing history as the most influential individual ever in our sport . . . as in ever, ever, ever!

What more was there for me to do? "Where have you been, Peter?"

Only editing a new Kindle Edition of Steve’s complete works, that’s what!

How cool is that?

And never before have all of Steve’s writings been available in one place. In the past, his autobiography had always been left out, so it is far less well known than the rest of its writings. Now that autobiography, Fairbairn of Jesus, assumes its rightful place in Steve's oeurve.

My long-time readers may recall that nearly a year ago I and my publisher brought out the first volume of a proposed three-volume eBook edition of Fairbairn on Rowing. We worked hard on it, or at least we thought we did, but when we went back over it after it had been published, we realized that in the process of creating it we had truly come to know Steve as our mentor and close personal friend . . . and we knew he deserved better.

So we started over, went back to the original manuscripts, corrected the misspellings and typos and the many inaccuracies – Steve always said to his followers: “Punctuate to taste, and correct to fact,” and we have done so – reformatted the existing images and added new ones, wonderful new ones. and provided background for some of Steve’s references that have become obscure as the decades have passed.

To those of you who have already purchased the 2013 Kindle Volume I, thank you very much. Contact me directly at pmallory@rowingevolution.com, and I will send you the Kindle file of the 2014 replacement Volume I. No cost to you.

So I’m sure that just about now, the rest of you are asking yourselves, “Blah, blah, blah! What will it cost me today to own my very own copy of the 2014 eBook edition of Fairbairn on Rowing?” After all, right now on AbeBooks.com, there are five copies of the old print versions available, and the prices range from a low of US $149.00 to a high of US $754.79, and none are in pristine condition!

Hold tight! Here it comes!

Each individual volume of the new eBook edition is selling for US $9.99! A couple of fins! A sawbuck! Ten clams!

But wait! There’s more!

If you have already purchased Volume I, you can get Volumes II, III, and IV for US $25.00. A Lincoln and a Jackson! Twenty-five semolians! They are loading this offer onto Amazon as I write this.

Do you want all four volumes? US $30.00. Thirty clams! Thirty smackeroos! A Manny, Moe and Jack! Loading as you read this.

But we’re not finished, ladies and gentlemen!

If you act within the first two weeks, we will discount all these prices by 50%. Can it get any better than THAT?

Well, actually no. It can’t. That’s the best deal you're going to get, so go buy it right now. www.amazon.com Search for "Steve Fairbairn" in Books.

By the way, this is another contribution to the world of rowing literature by yours truly . . . and I have again chosen not to see a penny of the proceeds. It will all go to support Steve’s and my publisher, www.Rowperfect.co.uk, and if you haven’t already bookmarked their website, go do that right now as well. Regular visits to this special website are essential to every serious rower and coach.

Have you done it yet? Seriously. Do it right now!

I will have more to say about Steve on this blog in the coming days. So will Rowperfect. Get ready. This man, perhaps our greatest forebear in the history of rowing, this inimitable, insufferable man is such a crack up! Like with Tom Terhaar, Steve always puts a smile on my face. I love writing about him to you, and I am so pleased to be the one who is introducing him to a whole new generation of rowers and coaches.

There will also be a Q&A on the Rowperfect UK website in the next few days and a Webinar early in the new year. (I'm old. What on God's green earth is a Webinar? It sounds like a blender you buy from one of those guys at the Indiana State Fair . . . next to the bearded lady!)

In the meantime, if you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me directly. I’d love to share some of your responses with all of my readers.