The Passing of a Fine Oarsman: Peter Brett – A tribute by Anthony Wells

Peter Brett, always known as Pete, was the most distinguished oarsman of his generation in the nineteen sixties at Durham University. He went up to St. Cuthbert’s Society (Cuth’s) in 1964 from the Strode’s School. Pete won every major university rowing championship, winning his Senate Colors at St. Cuthbert’s  and a full Palatinate for his key position in the Durham University first eight and first four, representing Durham at Henley and other premier regattas over a three year period. In addition, he was the university sculling champion. He succeeded A. R. Wells in 1965 as Captain of Boats at Cuth’s and followed Wells in making Cuth’s the preeminent rowing college during his year as Captain, filling the Junior Common Room trophy cabinet with an enviable collection. In subsequent decades Cuth’s followed the tradition that Wells and Brett created. To this day St. Cuthbert’s Society Boat Club is a premier college Boat Club at Durham, with Durham University Boat Club having won the British universities rowing championship title in ten successive years through 2013.

Pete Brett had many memorable wins at Durham, and one of the most remarkable was winning in 1965 the university Lowe’s Pairs Championship, with A.R. Wells, with Pete in the Bow/steers position behind Wells at stroke. In the final their victory distance over the President of the University Boat Club and his partner was such that Brett and Wells had turned their boat around and were heading back up stream on the Wear when the defeated pair crossed the finishing line. Pete lead by great example, good humour, and tremendous drive and energy, and created the highest standards for training and rowing skill for Cuth’s and the University in the 1960s. Durham’s new university rowing coach, Eric Halliday, fresh from coaching and teaching at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, instantly recognized the enormous talent that Pete possessed. When he graduated in Applied Physics and went to work for Rolls Royce in Derby, Pete left a tremendous legacy at Cuth’s and in Durham University Boat Club.

Pete had a most distinguished rowing year after Durham at Derby Rowing Club, and he maintained his extraordinary fitness level after going to South Island, New Zealand, to farm with his wife Rosemary and later returning to the UK for their daughters’ education. Pete and his wife Rosemary were so proud of daughters Kitty and Susie in winning places at Cuth’s and rowing while at Durham. Right up until Pete became ill in early 2014 he maintained a fitness routine. He came to the Cuth’s 125th anniversary dinner in November, 2013. He was so pleased to see fellow oarsmen Phil Wardle and Tony Wells at his dinner table – a memorable evening of wonderful reminiscences. St. Cuthbert’s Society Boat Club, Durham University Boat Club, and his many fellow oarsmen friends, send their heartfelt condolences to Pete’s wife and two daughters. Pete was the very best. We miss him greatly. His crews’ spirit will endure.