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The first Osler Ladies First Eight waiting in the rowing boat for the five-minute gun on Saturday of Eights

This photograph captured the very first Osler Ladies First Eight waiting for the five-minute gun on Saturday of Eights. Unexpectedly, we had gained three bumps and were hoping for a fourth. Starting near the bottom of the league, no one could have predicted Osler women would rise to dominate Oxford rowing for the next 20 years. Before 1979, Osler men rowed and Osler women coxed or covered their work. The men bought a new lightweight fibreglass boat and after delicate negotiations, we women were granted shared use of the old wooden clinker 'The Sir William Osler'. It was only free in the evenings so, as a novice women's eight, we practiced on the river at 5pm, dodging the splendid, speedy and sleek First Eights. We overcame our embarrassment, practiced hard and enjoyed every moment. As a non-athlete, it was the first time I had ever been part of a sports team. That Saturday we rowed over, chasing an over-bump in front of the boat houses. Intense pain. Disappointment at not getting a blade. We did the ritual things - threw Simon Wessley into the river and joined the men for the last black-tie Boat Club Dinner in the Doctors dining room at the Old Radcliffe. We left before 'cigars', their euphemism for rowdy behaviour. We had fun. We were a team and we looked after each other. 

Dr Lyn Williamson (Thakurdas, 1974 St Anne's College), Hon Consultant Rheumatologist and OMA President