Grant Upton (OE1970-77)

Today we are continuing our occasional OE lockdown memoir series and are delighted to feature Grant Upton (OE1970-77), a distinguished school rower who has since had a notable and very well-travelled career. Grant both coxed and rowed during the period where Emanuel boasted one of the strongest boat clubs in the UK and was a member of the crew who represented Britain in the World Junior Rowing Championships in Montreal 1975.

World Junior Rowing Championships in Montreal, 1975

Work and retirement

“I ‘officially’ retired at the end of 2019 after working in Thailand for 32 years, firstly as a diplomat in the British Embassy in Bangkok, then mainly as a teacher/tutor of English here and news interviewer on local radio and TV in Phuket (including the aftermath of the Asian Tsunami), with stints as salesman, accountant, real estate broker, and computer/sports teacher in an international school there.”

School days and sport

“My first love of school sport (and hard freezing winter work) was rowing with Emanuel as First VIII cox from about 1972 aged 13, including 1975 when we represented Great Britain at World Junior Championships in Canada, until 1976 when we most memorably got to final at Henley Royal Regatta, just losing to Holy Spirit from USA.”

Henley Royal Regatta in 1976

Proudest moments at school:

“Probably my proudest moments were steering, leading and winning the Schools Head of the River several times on the Thames tricky tideway currents; and steering the curvy courses at regattas, beating top adult crews (including my old club Vesta) at Wallingford and Evesham for example; plus all comers on our South Africa tour, live on TV out there.”

Coaching rowing, attempting world records and the Loch Ness Monster

“Later in 1981-2, I coached the Under 14 /15 VIII crews and arranged a crazy but brave attempt on the Guinness World Record for rowing the longest lake in UK, Loch Ness in Scotland, just over the 2.5 hours target. I tried to scull it the next day and gave up after hitting a “monstrous” wave near the haunted castle.”

South Africa tour

Travelling the world and sculling for the first time in 35 years

“After diplomatic work in FCO London, Germany, Uganda and Thailand, I didn’t scull again for about 35 years until I discovered a few boats on a reservoir lake in Bangkok with probably the cheapest water sport club in the world: equivalent to about one pound for annual membership! I sculled with my grown-up son in a double on Father’s Day; and in front of my crying dog out for a walk in my favourite park here.

Last weekend I went sculling on a river again, that looked very similar to the Tideway and have been invited to coach a Thai sculling squad and maybe a rowing crew in the only VIII boat in the country. It would be great to welcome any Emanuel rowers /scullers here to join me on the warm waters (and beautiful beaches) here, after the Covid-19 travel restrictions are lifted.”

Meeting Mrs Margaret Thatcher (twice!)

“As top in German about 1974 and received a Prize Day book from Mrs Thatcher, then the Education Minister and met her again as PM when I was a diplomat (accountant not laundering the cash!) at British Embassy in Bangkok about 14 years later in 1988. She didn’t remember me in the Honours List!”

Rowing the Loch Ness