Wallace Ross – Single Sculler

From 1867 to 1876 the Paris Crew of Saint John NB dominated the world of rowing. In the shadow of their legend a singles sculler, was making a name for himself. Wallace Ross, a native of Memramcook, started his career in single sculls.  He trained and raced in the Saint John area. In those years many of the great races were held in the Saint Harbor, going out around Partridge Island and back fixed seat wooden boats without outriggers.

Ross was a World Champion during his era.  His career consisted of many highs and lows, victories and defeats, but when he was on his game he was the best the world had. The moment of glory for Ross came in 1881 in Toronto when he raced against the best of the day.  After 9 years of solid dedication and perseverance he won and hence was crowned the World Champion in the single scull.

Today a monument of a trophy remains as testament of this rowers accomplishments and his mark on rowing history.  The associated photos of this story can barely depict the cups grandeur.  Preserved under a glass case, this magnificent cup stands 5ft tall.  Displayed in the corner of the receiving room, of the mayor’s office in the City of Saint John, it is huge.  Not a cup you could bring to an event without a forklift. Formed of sterling silver it stands atop a marble block 2ft cubed.  At the base of the cup is a single scull approx 8” long.  Between the three handles of the cup are 3 crests representing the 3 Maritime Provinces, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  

An account of the cup written in 1921 stated it was perhaps the most magnificent trophy in all of North America.

1921 - The most important prize of the day, the Ross Memorial Cup, which has been characterized by experts as the most valuable and most splendid trophy ever manufactured in Canada, and one of the finest in America, was won for the first time by a local boy, Harry Giggey of the Millidgeville Summer Club. The youngster, who also took the intermediate championship unopposed, rowed well, and demonstrated that he is a powerful, skilled oarsman with a bright future. His long, sweeping stroke reminds one of the powerful drive which has carried Hilton Belyea, Maritime, New England and Canadian National Champion, to so many victories. The national champion, who was given a wonderful ovation before, during and after his victory in the senior singles, was in good form and took the title with little effort.

The brass plaques on the base list other recipients of the cup over the years:

1876-79  Peter Clinch

1880 J.H. Turnbull

1886 C.J. Coster

1887 J.V. Lantalum

1903 John O'Neil

1904 W.J. Coates1905 W.J. Coates

1906 Hilton Belyea

1921-25 Harry Giggey

1926 Ron Ingraham

1930-34 Robert Giggey

Note the Giggey's held this title for most of a 10 year period.

Left behind, along with the cup, is a trust fund.

LR Ross Memorial Fund

This fund was established in 1921 through the gift of $1250 and the "Ros Memorial Cub" .  The Cup was to be competed for annually by amateur single scullers, aged twenty-one years or under who are residents of the Maritime Provinces.  The income from this Trust was to be used to provide a duplicate cup for the winner of each race held.  Changes to the Trust in 1986 now allow for the funds to be used to promote the sport of rowing within the City of Saint John and it's suburban communities, provided that an amount of $4,000 remains in the fund to enable the "Ross Memorial Cub" to be duplicated when necessary.

The following account of Wallace’s career mentions the huge amounts of money at stake for rowers of the time.  It is also interesting to note how important the equipment was. Boat builders were sought to build the fastest boats to propel the fastest rowers to return wagered dividends for backers.  The stakes were high, and individuals like Wallace and the Paris Crew were heroes and household names of the era.

In 1873 he defeated Alex Brayley in the Saint John harbor and won the Governor General’s silver medal.  In 1875 he beat John McLeod in a three mile race in the harbour and later that year he beat Charles Young and Patrick McGuiggan over the same course.  Later that year he was defeated by Brayley at Westfield. He met Brayley again in June, 1876, on the Kennebecassis which was the fastest time on record for four miles.  Through the winter of 1876 Ross went to England and had a shell built by Swaddler and Winship.  In June, 1877 he met Fred Plaisted of New York on the Kennebacasis and defeated him over a three mile course. In July he defeated Warren Smith of Halifax for the championship of the Maritime Provinces over a three mile course on the Kennebecasis. In August, Ross issued a challenge to row any man in the Dominion.  The challenge was accepted by Ned Hanlan, and the two met in Toronto harbour for $1000 a side.  Over the five mile course with a turn, Hanlan easily defeated Ross.  The next year Ross again challenged Hanlan and in July they met on the Kennebecasis over a five mile course with a turn for $1000 a side.  For a mile it was one of the finest races ever witnessed. At the mile Ross led, but shortly after he upset and Hanlon won.

In 1879 Ross was “rowed down” by Warren Smith in Bedford Basin. He was also later beaten by James Ridley of Saratoga Springs, New York. However in an International Regatta in 1880 at Providence, Rhode Island, from a field of ten starters including Ned Hanlan of Toronto, Jas Riley of Saratoga Springs, Fred Plaisted of Boston and Ten Eych of New York, Ross rowed well and finished first for a purse of $3000.  Later that year Ross went to England and participated in the “Hop Bitters” race.  He won the first two heats, but placed second in the finals. In December, he rowed Trickett for $1000 a side and won.  While still in England he trained Ned Hanlan for his race against Laycock.  In 1881 in a regatta in Toronto, Ross defeated Hosmer, Smith, Ten Eyh, McKay and Plisted, in the trial heat and then defeated Conley, Cortney, Ten Eych and Hamm in the final to win a $1500 purse.  In 1884 Ross defeated Buhear of England but lost to William Black for the world championship.  He retired form sculling after this and it is interesting to note that he made a worldwide reputation in the exhibition of swordsmanship for several years after.