Lucy Pocock Stillwell was the older sister of rowing legend George Pocock whom she essentially raised (George was only 6 months old when their mother passed.) When George and Dick moved from the UK to Seattle, their sisters Kathleen and Lucy followed. Lucy coached UW women’s rowing and cooked for the men’s varsity team.
Decades later, George’s son Stan custom built a small women’s coxed four (now quad) and named it after his Aunt Lucy.
Even though this classic Pocock wooden shell isn’t one of ours, it deserves a page on our website. Thank you to Jane Ritchey, Heidi Danilchik, Marilynn Goo and the Lake Washington Rowing Club for sharing her story and for taking care of this beautiful boat!
We ran into Jane and the lightweight crew of the “Lucy” outside the Pocock Center during the 2015 Opening Day ceremony in Seattle
Stan was a champion of women’s racing, and empathized with “cox-sized” women who wanted to row, not just cox.
With no money for equipment of their own, they had to row in boats made for men a foot taller than most of them…and pull on oars they could scarcely lift. Some of the women were so short that they used barely half their slide…
-Stan Pocock, Way Enough p.249
To help the tiniest of these women athletes realize their potential, I decided to build a boat meant only for them. There was a coxed four Flyweight category for women in those days, an event limited to crews weighing 115 pounds or less. I built a boat using the lines of a men’s coxed pair, but with all the interior dimensions and rigging reduced by ten percent. I took the boat over to Conibear one afternoon and found that it carried a flyweight crew nicely.
To honor my Aunt Lucy, I named the boat the Lucy Pocock Stillwell….She was a tough, hard-working, wonderful woman. At thirteen, she had taken on the responsibility of caring for her father, two brothers [George and Dick] and little sister [Kath], her mother having died.
–-Stan Pocock, Way Enough p. 250.
Stan also cut down the oars to fit. By the time the sweep oars were cut down to size they were not much bigger than sculls.
Stan writes that the women were unhappy with the boat at first.
They complained that it was too unstable and cramped, and everyone was too close together. What they were experiencing, for the first time, was what rowing in a true racing shell was like. Once they grew accustomed to the boat, you could not keep them out of it.
–-Stan Pocock, Way Enough p. 250.
Taking the Women’s Intercollegiate Nationals that year, their winning time was comparable to that of the Heavy Varsity four. and the Flyweight crew went on in 1978 to win the National Championship
The real Lucy, who was actually quite tall, was a champion sculler herself, having won the first Woman’s Thamesside Waterman’s Challenge Championship in 1912. She went on to coach the fledgling UW Womens Rowing crew.
Lucy stepped into her wherry on the Thames in 1912, so took to the water with dramatic style. She sculled well, though fell behind the leader, one Miss Brady by a half a length.
But when Miss Brady caught an unfortunate crab 300 yards from the finish line, Lucy pulled ahead and won the race by less than half a boat length. Apparently she so exhausted herself that she collapsed into her boat at the finish line. -Article Rowsource.com. Photo Pocock Family Collection.
According to Heidi and Jane, after Lucy won her 1912 Womans Thameside Championship (when her opponent caught a crab), she offered a second race to settle any question of who was the better oarswoman. Lucy won the second match handily.
After moving to Seattle, Lucy was hired to cook for the Varsity Boat Club .
Each day she would scull her wherry down to the south end of Lake Union..then hiked over to the Pike Place market, brought fresh vegetables, hauled them back to load up the boat and sculled back to the clubhouse. [about 12 miles round trip]
-Stan Pocock, Way Enough p. 250.
Jane writes- Lucy Pocock married James Stillwell the excavation contractor who helped build the Montlake Cut. He saw her rowing regularly across Lake Union to the farmers market for fresh produce to feed the UW crew circa 1913.
Fast forward to the 1990’s. By this time, Lucy’s nephew (George’s son) Stan Pocock was in his 70’s, rowing with a masters’ crew and spending his mornings in a double with Frank Cunningham, legendary sculling coach of Lake Washington Rowing Club. Frank had been the stroke and captain of the undefeated Harvard freshman lightweight crew in 1941 and the undefeated junior varsity lightweight boat in 1942. He recognized the need for equipment – built for big men – to be adjusted for smaller rowers.
Frank’s work with such aspirants had always been focused on sculling. With a four of the right size, he could begin teaching proper rowing to them. I suggested that he see whether Bush School would loan him the “Lucy”, which had been sitting unused for too long. He talked to Joe Johnson, the current Bush coach, who agreed to let him use it. In the ensuing years, Frank has made excellent use of the boat. Many of those with whom he has worked have reached a potential far beyond what they would have achieved had they been forced to use the equipment normally available. Not long ago the LWRC bought the boat at Frank’s urging. The “Lucy” has at last found its home. –-Stan Pocock, Way Enough p.299
Jane Ritchey adds
Frank encouraged me to come join his lightweight quad. The first day on the dock with Frank at the old Garfield boathouse I met Marilynn Goo. She took one look at my size and said “Boy do we have a boat to row!!” So within the week we were sniffing about to find the Lucy again. She had been in storage in the top racks at Conibear and everyone was delighted she would get back in the water. Marilynn had been one of the original petite rowers measured for the Lucy in 1974 as a cox for the UW Women, so it was old home week for her.
With a little varnish and lots of patience from Frank, we rowed Lucy as a four for several years, but it was hard to find four our size who would tolerate her tightness, lack of freeboard and dedication to keeping her set. We then ordered quad riggers for her and it has been heavenly ever since. Even though we didn’t win races, we had a blast entering whatever class was open and getting known as the “Shrimp Boat”. Marilynn found us Pink Hats for that! It was fun to carry her off the water at the end of a race next to an open quad or four we had just competed with and see the looks on their faces when they realized we were all 5″0″ tall and mostly under 120 lbs. It was also amusing to listen to the perplexed holders at the start of the quad or four race when they couldn’t lean out far enough to get our bow even with the others. There was much apologizing, but we never minded as it was fun just to be there. (Lucy is only as long as a men’s pair with cox)
The “Lucy” was out for Stan Pocock’s memorial on opening day. Her crew included Lucy’s granddaughter Heidi Danilchik, who wore a striped jacket with the official Thames Pocock family colors and crest.
Heidi sat in the cox seat. The wreath she carried was for her cousin Stan. It was placed in the empty stroke seat as a place of honor during their row through the Montlake Cut.
A decade earlier, Stan watched the “Lucy” row through the cut during the opening day parade (2005 LWRC). The crew donned pink hats in honor of their diminutive “shrimp” size.
One last footnote – George Pocock was thiiiiiis close to moving to Australia instead of Canada. He would never have ended up Washington – or even in this hemisphere – if it hadn’t been for Lucy.
A few days before we were to go [to Australia]….a flame of Lucy’s called at the house…This young man’s name was Charlie Young and he was plainly full of Dutch courage [drunk], planning to pop the question to Lucy…we told him of our plans to emigrate to Australia [a popular place for the sport]. He mumbled about a…place called British Columbia. He said [his brother] was earning ten pounds a week sawing down trees, and assured us that we could do just as well.
Charlie left after a while and we sat around the kitchen debating what he had said. Someone suggested that “drunken men speak the truth, ” and with that bit of doubtful philosophy we changed our plans from Australia to Canada – Vancouver, B.C. – George Pocock, Ready All p. 20.
And the rest is – as they say – history.
Featured image (overhead shot of Lucy sculling) courtesy of Pocock Family Collection
Speaking of Lucy’s “Flames”, there were many of them….along with reams lovesick letters from her suitors. Heidi Danilchik has written an intriguing “novelette” on one of the more tenacious – the heartsick Alex J. Larnder in So Many Suitors and Admirers – All the makings of a mini series
Update on 9/24/16
Lucy back out for Head of the Troll – this time with “Living Color Troll Dolls”, complete with “trogies” Troll Pogies. Costumes by Jane and Marilynn