Four Petes recall their glory days

THEN: Gisborne rowers with big aspirations in 1977 . . . (from left) Peter Godwin, Peter Clark, Peter Johnson and Peter Scammell. Scammell was standing on slightly higher ground, one of the other Peters pointed out. Gisborne Herald file picture

NOW: Still looking in good shape . . . (from left) Peter Johnson, Peter Clark, Peter Scammell and Peter Godwin. Pictures supplied

THE coach of a Gisborne rowing crew called out “Peter” to make a technical point and all four young men turned around.

After that first training session the late Murray Whittaker used nicknames instead — Johno, Goddy, Clarky and Scam.

The four Petes — Johnson, Godwin, Clark and Scammell — went on to become a renowned crew in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

“All four of us represented New Zealand at different levels,” Peter Clark said.

“Three of us played rugby for Poverty Bay, and Peter Johnson played club rugby for Ngatapa.

“We lived most of our lives together for about five years.

“We gelled extremely well and still get on really well these days.”

This year, the Gisborne Rowing Club picked up a new quad boat after a regatta at Lake Karapiro and christened it the Four Petes.

“I’m as proud as punch . . . chuffed,” Peter Godwin, 63, said.

Johnson, 64, was “flabbergasted”.

“I was surprised and honoured,” Clark, 63, said.

“It came completely out of the blue.”

Club coach Luke Jenkins said naming the boat after the four Petes was a good way to celebrate the club’s heritage.

“The four Petes get brought up a lot,” he said.

Scattered now — Peter Scammell lives in Napier, Godwin in New Plymouth, and Johnson and Clark in Blenheim — they still get together every year or two.

“We like to think we brought the rowing club back to life in the mid-70s to mid-80s,” Clark said.

Asked to describe each other, two themes were consistent. Clark was strong, with technical nous. Godwin was a prankster and helped keep them together.

“We played music like the Beach Boys and pretended to be the coolest things around town, which was far from the truth,” Godwin said.

They fitted together like pieces of a puzzle, he said. They dreamed big and trained hard.

They sometimes had punch-ups or arguments and Whittaker would instruct them to have a weekend apart, Godwin said.

“By Friday night, all was forgiven.”

Johnson met his wife, Clark’s sister-in-law Ruth, at Clark’s wedding.

“The stag do’s were absolutely diabolical and terrible,” Clark said.

“Several of us ended up in police cells.”

Scammell, 62, said the training was “nothing like they do now” and was not nearly as scientific, but they worked hard, had fun and remained close.

“We’ve pretty much been to all the weddings that are going.”

Scammell said they were compatible.

“We were all looking to get better at rowing. We strove for the same thing.”

Clark recalled that the crew came together about 1975.

In 1976, Johnson and Clark rowed in the New Zealand Colts together.

Johnson and Scammell were in the Colts the following year, while Godwin and Clark were in a national training squad.

Divided into pairs, Clark and Johnson formed a crew and school friends Godwin and Scammell were together.

In 1978, Scammell and Johnson represented New Zealand at the world championships at Karapiro. They were in two separate fours.

When they were together as the four Peters, Godwin said Clark and Johnson would work out the feet positions and how they could get the best leverage.

“Peter Clark was the cornerstone of everything that was successful,” Godwin said.

“He was immensely powerful and fit.

“Pete Johnson had a quirky sense of humour and was a renowned cyclist.

“Scam and I added the stupidity to the boat.

“I met Pete Scammell at the age of 5 at Patutahi. We’ve been best mates ever since.”

The fifth member of the crew, coxswain (pronounced coxen) Barrie Swarbrick, was the best part of a decade younger than the four Petes and looked up to them as heroes.

“The four Peters were young New Zealand rowers and their dreams really were in 1978 to make the New Zealand team and go to the world rowing champs,” Swarbrick said.

“They were four guys from a rural area performing at the highest level.

“They certainly put Gisborne rowing on the map.”

They had a fast German boat but lacked “decent water to train on”.

He said Johnson was “a lightweight who tried to be a heavyweight”.

“He had to beef up to be in the New Zealand eight.”

Godwin was a solid all-rounder and, along with Johnson, an entertainer.

Scammell was the “roughest, scruffiest bugger you’d come across. Now he’s well-heeled, well-dressed. He’s a completely different man.”

Johnson said it was important Swarbrick’s contribution was not overlooked.

“He stuck with us through thick and thin.”

Johnson had other details to add. Whittaker also had a boat named after him, at Picton’s Arapawa club. Gisborne barber and 1980 Moscow Olympics kayaking coach John Grant had a sage piece of advice — buy athletics legend Arthur Lydiard’s book and when you’ve finished reading it, read it again. And Scammell was a gifted athlete who gave All Black lock Andy Haden a hard time when Poverty Bay challenged Auckland for the Ranfurly Shield in 1980.

Johnson said the crew couldn’t have Clark in the stroke seat because he was too strong for the others.

“He could leg-press a metric tonne two and a half times.

“He could squat 300 kilograms and half-squat 500kg.”

Clark was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004 and has had health struggles since.

“I’m still above ground,” he said defiantly.

The other Peters are saddened that Clark has had to endure such a battle.

“We care for each other, that’s for real,” Godwin said.

He recently sent an email to the crew suggesting that, with Air New Zealand cutting provincial fares, they “give Clarky’s beer fridge a hurry-up”.

Godwin said rowing was a team sport where crew members had to “front up” and be disciplined and “get on with everybody”.

“It’s a great bonding sport, it really is.”

He met some “grand people” in other crews in New Zealand and England but there was not quite the same mateship as with the three other Petes.

They also got into rowing surf boats.

Swarbrick went on to lightweight rowing and founded a renovations business in Auckland.

Clark was a water schemes consultant, Scammell a stock buyer, Godwin worked in the pharmaceuticals business and Johnson, estate management.

Godwin coaches surf crews. Scammell still rows surf boats in the masters and will be at the nationals at Mount Maunganui this month.

The four Petes aim to come back to Gisborne at some point and look at the boat named after them.

THE coach of a Gisborne rowing crew called out “Peter” to make a technical point and all four young men turned around.

After that first training session the late Murray Whittaker used nicknames instead — Johno, Goddy, Clarky and Scam.

The four Petes — Johnson, Godwin, Clark and Scammell — went on to become a renowned crew in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

“All four of us represented New Zealand at different levels,” Peter Clark said.

“Three of us played rugby for Poverty Bay, and Peter Johnson played club rugby for Ngatapa.

“We lived most of our lives together for about five years.

“We gelled extremely well and still get on really well these days.”

This year, the Gisborne Rowing Club picked up a new quad boat after a regatta at Lake Karapiro and christened it the Four Petes.

“I’m as proud as punch . . . chuffed,” Peter Godwin, 63, said.

Johnson, 64, was “flabbergasted”.

“I was surprised and honoured,” Clark, 63, said.

“It came completely out of the blue.”

Club coach Luke Jenkins said naming the boat after the four Petes was a good way to celebrate the club’s heritage.

“The four Petes get brought up a lot,” he said.

Scattered now — Peter Scammell lives in Napier, Godwin in New Plymouth, and Johnson and Clark in Blenheim — they still get together every year or two.

“We like to think we brought the rowing club back to life in the mid-70s to mid-80s,” Clark said.

Asked to describe each other, two themes were consistent. Clark was strong, with technical nous. Godwin was a prankster and helped keep them together.

“We played music like the Beach Boys and pretended to be the coolest things around town, which was far from the truth,” Godwin said.

They fitted together like pieces of a puzzle, he said. They dreamed big and trained hard.

They sometimes had punch-ups or arguments and Whittaker would instruct them to have a weekend apart, Godwin said.

“By Friday night, all was forgiven.”

Johnson met his wife, Clark’s sister-in-law Ruth, at Clark’s wedding.

“The stag do’s were absolutely diabolical and terrible,” Clark said.

“Several of us ended up in police cells.”

Scammell, 62, said the training was “nothing like they do now” and was not nearly as scientific, but they worked hard, had fun and remained close.

“We’ve pretty much been to all the weddings that are going.”

Scammell said they were compatible.

“We were all looking to get better at rowing. We strove for the same thing.”

Clark recalled that the crew came together about 1975.

In 1976, Johnson and Clark rowed in the New Zealand Colts together.

Johnson and Scammell were in the Colts the following year, while Godwin and Clark were in a national training squad.

Divided into pairs, Clark and Johnson formed a crew and school friends Godwin and Scammell were together.

In 1978, Scammell and Johnson represented New Zealand at the world championships at Karapiro. They were in two separate fours.

When they were together as the four Peters, Godwin said Clark and Johnson would work out the feet positions and how they could get the best leverage.

“Peter Clark was the cornerstone of everything that was successful,” Godwin said.

“He was immensely powerful and fit.

“Pete Johnson had a quirky sense of humour and was a renowned cyclist.

“Scam and I added the stupidity to the boat.

“I met Pete Scammell at the age of 5 at Patutahi. We’ve been best mates ever since.”

The fifth member of the crew, coxswain (pronounced coxen) Barrie Swarbrick, was the best part of a decade younger than the four Petes and looked up to them as heroes.

“The four Peters were young New Zealand rowers and their dreams really were in 1978 to make the New Zealand team and go to the world rowing champs,” Swarbrick said.

“They were four guys from a rural area performing at the highest level.

“They certainly put Gisborne rowing on the map.”

They had a fast German boat but lacked “decent water to train on”.

He said Johnson was “a lightweight who tried to be a heavyweight”.

“He had to beef up to be in the New Zealand eight.”

Godwin was a solid all-rounder and, along with Johnson, an entertainer.

Scammell was the “roughest, scruffiest bugger you’d come across. Now he’s well-heeled, well-dressed. He’s a completely different man.”

Johnson said it was important Swarbrick’s contribution was not overlooked.

“He stuck with us through thick and thin.”

Johnson had other details to add. Whittaker also had a boat named after him, at Picton’s Arapawa club. Gisborne barber and 1980 Moscow Olympics kayaking coach John Grant had a sage piece of advice — buy athletics legend Arthur Lydiard’s book and when you’ve finished reading it, read it again. And Scammell was a gifted athlete who gave All Black lock Andy Haden a hard time when Poverty Bay challenged Auckland for the Ranfurly Shield in 1980.

Johnson said the crew couldn’t have Clark in the stroke seat because he was too strong for the others.

“He could leg-press a metric tonne two and a half times.

“He could squat 300 kilograms and half-squat 500kg.”

Clark was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004 and has had health struggles since.

“I’m still above ground,” he said defiantly.

The other Peters are saddened that Clark has had to endure such a battle.

“We care for each other, that’s for real,” Godwin said.

He recently sent an email to the crew suggesting that, with Air New Zealand cutting provincial fares, they “give Clarky’s beer fridge a hurry-up”.

Godwin said rowing was a team sport where crew members had to “front up” and be disciplined and “get on with everybody”.

“It’s a great bonding sport, it really is.”

He met some “grand people” in other crews in New Zealand and England but there was not quite the same mateship as with the three other Petes.

They also got into rowing surf boats.

Swarbrick went on to lightweight rowing and founded a renovations business in Auckland.

Clark was a water schemes consultant, Scammell a stock buyer, Godwin worked in the pharmaceuticals business and Johnson, estate management.

Godwin coaches surf crews. Scammell still rows surf boats in the masters and will be at the nationals at Mount Maunganui this month.

The four Petes aim to come back to Gisborne at some point and look at the boat named after them.

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Vicki Baker, Bethells Beach - 18 days ago
What a great read about top blokes.

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