1953 Blue Boat crew

Peter Hall, stroke of the 1953 crew, says the team spirit that won on the day has lasted for 70 years


One of the wonderful things about being a member of the CUBC crew is the friendships that are made. Rowing in the Race is undoubtedly a life changing experience that forges lifelong connections. The four members of the crew that remain from the 1953 boat are still in close touch and have always been together in spirit. 

The photo of the four survivors was at their 65th reunion in 2017. They also had formal reunions in 2013 for their 60th, in 2008 for their 55th, in 2003 for their 50th when they were all still alive, in1997 for their 44th , and in1993 for their 40th . They are now the most senior winning Cambridge crew still surviving and were still rowing together out of Leander until it became ‘too difficult to get out of the eight’.

Taj Leadley rowed in the 5 seat in 1953 and said to the crew:
“I hope your memories of your day will last as long as they have for us over the past 70 years. I am rapidly getting close to my 95th birthday in August and am now setting my sights on making 100 and hopefully watching another five races.”

The most memorable event of the 1953 Race, not dissimilar to 2023, was that the crew started as the underdogs and Oxford was tipped to win. They had been practising their long first stroke while the boat was not up to speed and broke the record to the mile post. By then they had a good lead and were well in front going under Hammersmith. 

Peter remembers:

“We could exploit Roy Meldrum’s long strong finish and enjoy looking at them struggling in our puddles. Louis McCagg even had the energy to yodel going under Barnes Bridge 8 lengths ahead. Louis had won the Grand at Henley for Harvard the year before. We converted him to the Cambridge style and he eventually retired to live in Cambridge before he died.

In those days we were all undergraduates and there was an astonishing network of supporters and charities that kept the traditions going. There was almost no commercialism as there is today. It was a great privilege to be selected to row for the University and this definitely changed your life and how you behaved in every way for the good of the crew, not for yourself. This bond of team spirit is difficult to explain. But I used that feeling later on in my career consulting with senior management teams on how to gain commitment to a corporate strategy.”