J G Riddell, as he was always referred to in regatta programmes, but known to one and all as “Jimmy” came to Queen’s in 1960 from Coleraine Inst. where he had learned to row.
He became stroke of the Maiden (now Novice ) VIII , which was probably one of the most successful Maiden Crews at Queen’s, it was unbeaten all season and won the Maiden Championships in 1961. At Trinity Regatta that year the crew raced 7 races , in VIIIs & IVs, over two days and won them all.
The following year he stoked the Junior ( Intermediate )VIII, with stronger opposition and didn’t quite have a repeat of the clean sweep of the previous year, however at the Junior championships at Carlow Regatta, ( two days after Trinity regatta where UCD had beaten them) by dogged determination and good stroking Queen’s beat UCD by 3 feet to win the Championship.
Next year, 1963 Jimmy was elected Captain of Queen’s, unfortunately the hat trick of championships was not to be, the success went to Old Collegians.
After Graduation Jimmy went to teach at Portadown College but in 1967 he returned to Queen’s to study medicine. He did not become an active oarsman again but in his capacity as a Junior Boarding Master at Methody he coached the school crews for a number of years and also coached at Queen’s. In the late 60s and early 70s he was involved a lot with Queen’s as Captain of Lady Victoria and with the organisation and running of Queen’s Regatta., which wasn’t the only regatta he attended, apart from Henley his favourite was probably Carrick -on- Shannon, those who frequented Ging’s would remember him well.
He was also a regular at what could be best described as the Alternative Rowing Parliament which met upstairs in the Botanic Inn on Saturday afternoons with the late Victor Warnock permanently in the Speakers Chair. When Jimmy was in attendance you could be sure the level of discussion would rise above the all to frequent nostalgia .
Apart from rowing Jimmy had a very successful medical career, he was a consultant in medicine at Belfast City Hospital and a Reader in the Department of Therapeutics and Pharmacology .
He was through and through a solid Boat Club and Queen’s man.
Our thoughts are with his family, Mary Rose, John, Gareth and Stephen.
The Lady Victoria Boat Club
Jimmy and I met in October 1960 having both just arrived at Queens as Freshers. Having been recruited during ‘Freshers’ Week, we turned up at the boathouse and were both in the Maiden VIII very soon after. Jimmy had rowed competitively at Coleraine A.I. and was therefore quote experienced. I had begun to learn to row in my final year at Methody but had never raced.
It was clear from the start that Jimmy was a very able and determined fellow, and with his abilities as an oarsman no-one was surprised when he was given the Stroke seat in the VIII, a position which he was to retain for the next three years, at all three levels in Irish Rowing at the time (Maiden, Junior and Senior). For whatever reason I became the ‘Seven’, so got to know Jimmy intimately, mostly from watching his back! Indeed, it got so that I was able to follow his timing, not by watching his blade but by responding to the movements in his back muscles.
For the first two years the VIII was a very most successful crew indeed, winning the vast majority of our races. Indeed, in the Maiden year we were never beaten. In those days, of course, nearly all races, including the Championships, were two-boat races. This meant that at any one regatta, a winning crew had multiple races, often doubled up if they contained a winning IV as well. At the June 1961, at Trinity Regatta, we raced seven races over two days, in VIII and IV, and won them all, Jimmy stroking, and doing as all strokes do, berating our cox, Paul Newman, for any deficiencies.
Jimmy was a great tactician, who usually had a plan for how we would deal with each crew that we faced. At the 1961 Maiden Championships, held in Belfast, the course was from where the boathouses are now, down to near the ‘old weir’. There were some very good crews, including from the schools, and the one we could see would provide the stiffest opposition was that of Jimmy’s old school, Coleraine Inst. As usual, he knew how to handle them. His plan was that we would go flat out from the start and row as hard as we could to the King’s Bridge, and then take it from there. At the “Are you ready? Go”, we were off like a shot and by the bridge were two lengths up. We enjoyed that row very much. After that race we went through to win the final without much difficulty.
In our second year as Juniors there were some changes to the crew and while we were still very good we had not quite the same edge as that of the previous year. Once again at Trinity Regatta we had multiple races, which must have taken it out of us, because when we got to the final against UCD, we could see that we had our work cut out. In the event we set off strongly, but found UCD too strong for us, and they came past us on the final bend. However, as it happened that year, the Junior Championships were held two days later, at Carlow. We drove from Dublin to Carlow, immediately put the boat together, and went on the water to recce the course. Once again, Jimmy had a plan, we came down the course to approximately the point in the race where UCD had rowed past us on the Liffey. There was a pipe coming out of a wall alongside the river, and Jimmy gave the instructions that we when we raced UCD next day, as we knew we would, we would row our normal race until we got to that pipe. Then, just as UCD would reckon on overhauling is we would give it our all. Next day, the plan was executed perfectly, we dug deep, and Jimmy kept us ahead to the finish! Two Championships in two years. It was no surprise that Jimmy Riddell was elected Captain of the Club for the 1962-63 year.
Our third year together was not so successful, but Jimmy never lost his competitive edge. He was a most dedicated oarsman who devoted himself to the Club, and was respected for all that he brought to his role as Captain.
One more story. In those days, at the Annual Dinner in the old Students’ Union, – now the Harty Room, the Captain was required to deliver his speech while pausing to drink whatever potion was set before him, and not allowed to continue till he’d done so. Jimmy managed both the speaking and the drinking very well, but by the end of the ceremony was showing the obvious consequences of meeting the drinking challenge. It was at that point that the Vice-Captain (EW) performed his most important duty, and made sure that Jimmy made it safely back to his flat.