Origins of Ortner


Ortner Boat Club- Who and What?

You may think that the name derives from early discussions on whether or not to start up an ex Reading University Boat Club rowing and social club and someone saying “You ought na’ do that”! However that is not the case at all. For those of you whose memories go back further than mine you will remember the existence of a club called Holly Cottage Boat Club (or something – I’ll get back to you on that). This was a club set up by people of a similar mind to those who instigated Ortner Boat Club but unfortunately it disappeared into the annuls of history. The name reappeared only after we had decided upon choosing Ortner. When trying to kick start this venture it was important to get a name that could be used as a focus and would thus enthuse all those involved. Many suggestions were made ranging from The Reading Purples BC to Shells BC (see the RU crest) or possibly Old Readingensians BC or boringly Reading University Ex Members Boat Club and so on. However, we thought these to be either too simple or not catchy.


RUBC crew with the Roe Challenge Cup, 1942

Frank Ortner (second from let, second row) with the RUBC first 8, 1942.

We started then to take a closer look into the history of the Reading University Boat Club and Reading University Women’s Boat Club. RUWBC no longer exists as a separate entity as far as the ARA and the university are concerned. RUBC is one of the older university rowing clubs in the country outside Oxford and Cambridge and there was a fair amount of history to look at. A coach called Frank Ortner stood out in the records. He coached at RUBC for 21 years from 1941 and was highly regarded by the students. Frank had a hand in running a number of other races including The Head of the River Race from Chiswick to Putney in its earlier days (I believe). You may know of the Ortner Shield, which is awarded to the fastest university crew.


Frank’s active rowing was during the years between the wars at Kingston RC. He was never a student at the university but moved to Caversham shortly after the war with his wife Ruth, who had graduated from Reading around 1922. She was not thought to have rowed but was an excellent hostess to the crews who called in to their Caversham home for a “jolly” tea. Had it not been for Ruth’s ties with the University Frank may well have been a coach for the town club. In more recent years Ruth was the representative for her peers at the University and was involved with the Alumni magazine “Reading Reading”. Sadly Ruth passed away just after we had decided that we would approach the Ortners for permission to use their name. These two persons seemed ideal role models for the rowing world – competitors, coaches and supporters. So there you go. Let’s hope the Ortner Boat Club lives up to the great name Frank and Ruth made for themselves. If anyone else has any information or wants to correct any facts feel free to get in contact.


 by Will Graves (RUBC President 1996-97) with some details corrected thanks to

Doug Heddle  (Vice President 1950-51)