Tony HART: Tribute by Iain KENNEDY

I first met Tony at Queen’s in 1971, when he offered to coach the Junior VIII that Andy Wells and Stephen Lockwood rowed in. He transformed them as a competitive force, eventually being edged out of an Irish championship on the River Lee by a Garda VIII. It was obvious he had the skills and charisma to go further in coaching, and so he moved on to coach the senior group when I was captain, in 1972-73. We met at his house outside Enniskillen in August 1972, where he outlined the plan — with which I was of course in complete agreement. This fine crew who won plenty, including University Blues. They went out to Isis at Henley, and finished the season third in the championships, behind UCD and Garda. Five seconds covered the three crews.

Tony continued at Queen’s until 1977, when work became too demanding. He kept a watching brief from the background however, and travelled to Amsterdam in 1977, when David Gray, Noel Graham and I rowed a coxed pair. We finished a competitive eighth, and Tony was so upbeat he immediately approached the German crew whom we had just beaten, and bought their boat on the slipway. No committee decision needed — he used his own money!

When I moved to Enniskillen in 1990, Tony maintained his love of rowing. He became President of Portora in 2007, a position he held for 10 years. He was extraordinarily generous with his time and money, supporting the club at regattas all over Ireland and the United Kingdom. He was very hands-on, and got immense pleasure from regular contact, even turning up for training outings in the launch. The new boathouse wouldn’t have been built without his financial support. He attended all three major events in England this past season: schools head, the national schools regatta, and Henley.

Tony’s own career started at Portora in the early sixties, and continued at Trinity, where he rowed in the first VIII in 1967, and then for Lady Victoria Boat Club as a master for many years. He was the most selfless man, and never relied on his other great attributes and achievements. Rowing was an antidote to his working life, which is exactly what sport should be and allowed him to be perfectly normal amongst the young rowers.

Tony was on the Board of Governors of Portora — now Enniskillen Royal Grammar School — aptly abbreviated to ERGS — as well as being Patron of LVBC.

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