1891-1899 • Whisky ... and Boxing
The most significant event at the AGM of 1896 was the election to Vice President of George Ogilvie Haig. This was a precedent of some note as Haig had only been involved in Club affairs a short time. He was a member of the famous whisky family and it is probable that he was introduced to the Club by Morton Carr. Such introduction would normally lead to the celebrity joining the list of patrons, but one suspects that Haig wished for a bigger involvement in Club affairs.
His arrival at the Club was marked by his presentation of the Haig and Haig Cup. This beautiful, ornate, solid silver trophy was already over 50 years old when first presented. It was originally a rowing trophy and portrayed a coxless four at full stretch. Its origin is unknown. Haig had it re-engraved for Belgrave in 1897.
The Haig and Haig Cup was a challenge trophy to be held by the member scoring the most points in Club handicap races throughout the year; the winner receiving a ¼ case of whisky in fancy bottles direct from Haig's. If any member won the cup twice in succession, or three times in all, it was to become his absolute property. By scoring wins in 1898, 1900 and 1902, Sam Sherrington the Club Captain secured the trophy for all time. Seventy-two years later it was returned to the Club by his grandson and is now held each year by the President.
The increasing interest in boxing and the arrival of Haig was always likely to cause ripples in a running orientated management with a single father figure. The indications that this would be so were reinforced at the 1897 AGM when J.E Dixon and N.E. Pethick, landlord of "The Kings Arm's" were removed from the list of Vice Presidents. H Morton Carr resigned the Presidency and A.H.N. Edwards 'resigned through ill health'.
It is hard to believe that there was no connection between their departures. If Edwards was genuinely ill surely there was no need for Morton Carr to go as well. Whatever wounds the founder President may have suffered he considered them sufficiently healed four years later when he joined the list of Patrons.
Within a year of Haig's elevation to Presidency A.G. Bool became Boxing Captain – a position which now warranted equal billing in the Club Handbook with the Club Captain – the boxers were becoming a force. Belgrave 'Open' Boxing Tournaments soon became a regular feature. To begin with they were held in the School rooms in nearby Glasgow Terrace before their popularity led them to being staged at the Latchmere Baths, Battersea. Within eight years Belgrave had three delegates at the Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) and an ABA Featherweight Champion in J.A. "Alex" Lambert. But the impressive progress of our Boxing section was not good for the long term future of the Club. The tail was wagging the dog. The club was becoming noted for its boxing rather than its athletics and this was not welcomed by the runners and walkers.
The "Haig & Haig" Challenge Cup, presented to the club by the President George Ogilvie Haig in 1897. The cup was made in 1843 and depicts a coxless four. It was awarded to the member scoring most points in Club Handicaps with the proviso that should a member win it twice in succession or three times in all, it should become his absolute property. Sam Sherrington won it three times - in 1898, 1900 and 1902. The Sherrington family home in Colliers Wood was struck by a doodlebug during the war and the house had to be abandoned. Many many of Sam's medals and prizes were stolen but the cup had already been removed for safety.