Life After Doggett's

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Former Doggett’s winner Henry Barry, Queen’s Bargemaster,1951. © Fishmongers’ Company

Winning Doggett’s doesn’t end with the race. After a winner is presented in their new red coat and badge at the grand ceremony at Fishmonger’s Hall, they continue to be asked to represent the watermen’s community in special functions and roles.

On the race day itself, Doggett’s winners will come dressed in their coat and badge to greet the winner at the finish line. Traditionally, the race’s umpire is also a former champion, a position currently held by Bobby Prentice.

Doggett’s winners also participate in the Lord Mayor’s Show, one of the City of London’s oldest and best-known traditions. Wearing their distinctive red coat and badge, the Doggett’s winners lead a procession of the newly elected Lord Mayor through the streets.

Doggett’s competitors are often chosen to be the Royal Bargemaster, a highly prestigious position that dates back to 1215. While the Royal Family use the River Thames for transport less frequently these days, the role still involves important ceremonial duties at coronations, royal weddings, jubilees and at parliament.

Perhaps the most unusual but also very prestigious duty is that of swan upping. Swan upping is an annual ceremony, dating back over 900 years. Although traditionally a process of marking swans and granting ownership from the Crown to livery companies, the main purpose today is to conduct a census of swans and check their health.

Swan uppers row up the river to gather the swans, and Doggett’s winners are often asked by the Crown to assist. As tradition would have it, “it’s easier to teach someone to catch a swan than to row”.

  • The umpire for Doggett's wears traditional attire including their own badge © Fishmongers' Company

  • Photographs of the Swan upping ceremonies exist in an album believed to have once belonged to Herbert E Turk, Swanmaster to the Worshipful of Dyers, circa 1930 © River & Rowing Museum, Henley on the Thames

  • Swan upping is an annual ceremony dating back over 900 years. Doggett's winners are often chosen for this prestigious role. © Chris Tyrell estate. Photo credit: River and Rowing Musuem, Henley on Thames