Plaque to an oarsome man!
One of Tyneside’s sporting icons will be remembered when a commemorative plaque is unveiled in his honour.
Henry ‘Harry’ Clasper was world rowing champion eight times in a glittering career that made him a megastar of his day.
The former Durham miner swept aside all competitors to become champion of the Tyne, Wear, Tees, Mersey, Clyde and Thames in a sport that was equivalent to modern day football in terms of popularity and as a spectator sport.
As a measure of his stature, the song Blaydon Races was sung in his honour for the first time in 1862 in Balmbra’s Music Hall and when he died eight years later 130,000 people lined the streets of Newcastle and Gateshead as his funeral procession made its way to Whickham Cemetery.
The plaque will be unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle with assistance from Harry’s great, great nephew, David Clasper on the stone pillar of the High Level Bridge on Newcastle Quayside at 11am on Thursday, February 23.
Lord Mayor, Cllr Hazel Stephenson, said: “It is a privilege for me to unveil this plaque in honour of Harry. He really was the people’s champion and literally put Tyneside on the map with his rowing prowess.
“It’s a measure of the man when you consider 130,000 people turned out to pay their last respects to him.
“It’s lovely to think that people who may never have heard of Harry Clasper will learn of his fascinating life which is told by his great great nephew in the book he has written, and also from this plaque being unveiled today.”
Playwright Ed Waugh, said: “Harry Clasper was a former Durham miner who revolutionised the sport of rowing. He was a Geordie hero and deserves wider recognition."
After the unveiling, a reception will be held at the Theatre Royal – the venue for three performances of a play about Harry’s life entitled Hadaway Harry this Friday and Saturday.
The show, which received standing ovations when performed at London Rowing Club, Putney, last weekend is based around the very first time a team of Geordie oarsmen, led by Clasper, defeated the "unbeatable" Thamesmen at Putney in 1845.