Oar Donated from the 1888 Bumps Tragedy
Oar Donated from the 1888 Bumps Tragedy
Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The donation of a trophy oar to Clare Boat Club has vividly reminded them of a tragic death in the Lent Bumps races in 1888.

The fatal accident which resulted in the death of Edward Campbell happened on the third day of the bumps: Friday 24th February. The Clare first eight had bumped on the first two days, catching first Selwyn then Trinity Hall. On the Friday they caught Queens’ on the tight First Post Corner. The Clare and Queens’ coxes steered their boats to the outside of the corner and banked up. Behind them, the Trinity Hall boat entered First Post Corner, overlapped by an Emmanuel boat. The Trinity Hall cox was intent on avoiding the bump from Emmanuel and failed to take the corner. His boat collided with the stationary Clare crew. The sharp bow hit Edward Campbell in the chest and punctured the left ventricle of his heart. The Clare crew carried him across the adjoining field to the Plough Inn at Fen Ditton, but nothing could be done to save him.

So Edward Campbell became the first and only person to have been killed in Cambridge bumps races.

Edward Campbell’s oar, bearing the names of the 1888 crew, was presented by the boat club to his father Reverend William Campbell. It is a descendant of the Campbell family, Rosemary Dooley, who has kindly given the oar back to the boat club.

One good thing resulted from the fatal accident is that, on the recommendation of the accident inquest, the bows of rowing boats were subsequently fitted with a rubber “bow ball.” This small but vital modification has ensured the greater safety of generations of rowers worldwide.