Chambers, John Graham (DNB00)
CHAMBERS, JOHN GRAHAM (1843–1883), athlete and editor, the son of William Chambers, of Hafod, Cardiganshire, and Joanna Trant, daughter of Captain S. J. Speke Payne, R.N., was born at Llanelly, South Wales, on 12 Feb. 1843. After receiving some education in France, he was sent to Eton in 1856. As a schoolboy he was most active on land and water. He proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1861. As an athlete he was the best walker in the university. In March 1866 he won the seven-mile walking championship in 59 minutes 32 seconds. In this year he founded the Amateur Athletic Club. The club first met at Beaufort House, Walham Green, but in March 1869 moved to their own grounds at Lillie Bridge. He rowed in the university race at Putney in 1862 and 1863, and was beaten. He competed at Henley and at various metropolitan regattas in the latter year, and won the Colquhoun sculls at Cambridge. Having taken his B.A. degree in 1865, he left Cambridge to find that his father had become involved in pecuniary difficulties. Adopting literature as a profession, he won his way to the front by his industry in writing for the press chiefly on his favourite sport. On coming to London he joined the Leander Club in 1866, and won several sculling matches.
Although he now ceased to take part as a competitor, he entered with more zeal than ever into the management and encouragement of every species of exercise. He worked energetically at the Amateur Athletic Club. His efforts were unceasing to improve the position of professional as well as amateur rowing on the Thames, and he was the moving spirit in the old watermen's regatta, styled the Thames regatta. He was one of the committee appointed to arrange the rules of the billiard championship, inaugurated in 1870, and early in 1871 he introduced a bicycle race in the amateur championship meeting at Lillie Bridge. He also greatly assisted Webb when he swam across the Channel, and Weston when he undertook his long journeys at Lillie Bridge. In addition, amateur oarsmanship owes Chambers a great debt. In April 1878 he was one of the committee which finally drew up what is known as ‘The Putney Definition of an Amateur.’ In the following year, as one of the Henley stewards, he was also mainly instrumental in drafting an almost identical rule known as the Henley definition. At the meeting held at Oxford in April 1880, when the Amateur Athletic Association was formed, he was a prominent figure, and he ultimately handed over the championship challenge cups, which had been previously contended for at Lillie Bridge, to the care of the association. As a coach he resumed his care of the Cambridge crew in 1871, and had the charge at Putney of the victors of that and the next three years. The last time when he held office as an umpire was in the match between the Thames Rowing Club and the Hillsdale, U.S., four-oared crews, on 15 Sept. 1882. He was a constant contributor to the ‘Standard,’ especially on sporting matters. In 1871 he assumed the editorship of ‘Land and Water,’ the weekly journal which Frank Buckland [see Buckland, Francis Trevelyan] had started five years before, and performed the duties of that post with energy and ability throughout the remainder of his life. He long suffered from ill-health, and died suddenly at his residence, 10 Wetherby Terrace, Earl's Court, London, on 4 March 1883, aged only 39. He was buried in Brompton Cemetery on 8 March. Chambers's personal popularity was very great, not only on account of his athletic ability, but for his straightforwardness and kindliness.[Graphic, 24 March 1883, with portrait, pp. 296, 298; Land and Water, 10 and 31 March 1883; Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, with portrait, 4 April 1874, p. 136; The Sporting Mirror, with portrait, April 1883, pp. 121–3.]