Posted: 23 January, 2024

Pauline Rayner – Farewell to an Inspirational Rowing Coach

Alumnae, General, In the Press, Junior School, News, RSA Events, Senior School, Sixth Form, Sports

Putney High School is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Pauline Rayner, former GB international, doyenne of women’s rowing and inspirational rowing coach.

Pauline Rayner (1940-2024)

Pauline Rayner joined Putney High School in September 1991, as the Junior School’s first dedicated Science and Technology teacher and subsequently as school rowing coach. She was legendary for her enthusiasm, not only as a much-loved member of staff but for being pivotal in the development of rowing at Putney and a transformative influence on the school’s Boat Club, developing Putney’s rowing at Thames and as an inspiration to the school’s many young women keen to follow in her footsteps.

Suzie Longstaff, former Headmistress remembers the early days in the club when, to help Pauline, she would coach the J14 quads, helping them “to wobble up to Hammersmith Bridge and back, finding it utterly terrifying getting them to turn around the bridge without capsizing or going side on to the bridge.”

In the spring of 1995 Pauline persuaded Suzie to cox the J18 quad in the Schools Head. “The fact that I was 25 and not 18 was a mere trifle of a detail for Pauline. Coming off the back of victories coxing the winning crews in both the Women’s and Men’s Head of the Rivers, it was one of my coxing career highlights to complete the triple, coxing an awesome Putney crew down the river,” Suzie told us. Pauline “was a formidable and strong personality but so positive and supportive. She will go down in the history books as a champion of women’s rowing, and of the Putney High School Boat Club.”

Pauline Rayner started rowing as a teenager through her brother John, who attended Mortlake Secondary School for Boys and rowed with them at Thames Tradesmen RC which was then based on the Mortlake side of the river. Not herself initially allowed to row, as her parents considered it “unladylike”, she would “help carry blades and things” until as a young teenager she was finally permitted to join the Alpha Women’s ARC. At just 13 years old, she raced the Women’s Amateur Rowing Association Head before being selected to represent GB in the double scull at the 1960 European Women’s Rowing Championships.

Pauline went on to give her name to the Rayner Cup at Henley Women’s Regatta and after a short break while she brought up her children, she returned to the sport winning silver at the National Championships in 1983 in a quad and enjoying a successful masters rowing career both at home and internationally. Pauline is remembered as the warm and friendly women’s captain of Thames Rowing Club, where she also went on to become the club’s first female overall captain for three seasons in 1991-1994. Later she was the club’s first female chair and then president.

Peter Brewer, Putney’s Head of Rowing, described her as both an inspiration and game-changer across Putney High Boat Club’s 40 year history. “The club and women’s rowing will not be the same without her”.

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