ON THIS DAY – Episode 6

On 20 June 2020, Mike McD writes: The day finally arrived and, as promised, so did Alec Jordan and the Anstruther crew with Chris o’ Kanaird. Thankfully, unlike some years, the weather for Queensferry’s RNLI Open Day, 20th June 2010, was kind to us.

Here was, for most of us, our first opportunity to see a St Ayles skiff in real life. Pictures speak louder than words so, the three photos on this post are a sample from a larger collection from the day, which are now on the club Flickr. Suffice to say, duly admired, examined – kabes, oars, footrests, etc,. photographed and launched there were several test rows – Peter, Mel and Stuart M and perhaps others I can’t remember.

As part of the Open Day events I ‘fell out over the bow’ with orange smoke signal, and had to be rescued by the lifeboat!

Both we and Anstruther had display boards up (see the photo collection) to describe the project as well as our researched history of Rowing at Queensferry.

ON THIS DAY – Episode 5

Mike McD writes: Ten years ago today, the first formal meeting of the now formed ‘Scottish Coastal Rowing Project – Queensferry’ heard from Peter that there were two potential sources of funding although both took about three months to process. We agreed to go for the Lottery ‘Awards for All’. Graham Leith handed over a cheque for £100 from the Rotary Club – our first donation! (Stuart R, President, had invited me to give a presentation, actually the Thursday evening before our first meeting in May). Peter was to open a bank account.

We also agreed to write to all local businesses inviting donations ( by ‘buying’ bits of the boat – see below).

I would like to give a donation for:
(Please tick box)

Keel £200 [   ]
Planking (12) £150 each [   ]
Stem & Stern posts £100 [   ]
Oars (4) £75 each [   ]
Ribs (4) £50 each [   ]
Rudder £35 [   ]
Tiller £25 [   ]
Seats(4) £15 each [   ]
Rowing kabes(8) £10 each [   ]

OR

I would like to give £…. to pay for fittings and finishes.

Please make cheques out to ‘Scottish Coastal Rowing Project – Queensferry’

Mel had provided a draft for our constitution which was discussed with final suggestions for the next meeting and Stuart M reported on the possibility of getting the vacant unit from Scotmid, if we could get rates relief. (This, it turned out, would relieve Scotmid from paying rates on the empty unit, but we would have to agree a minimum term to give us time to complete, before a tenant moved in.)

Finally things were all set for Alec Jordan and the Anstruther crew and boat to come over on 20th for the RNLI Open Day – we just had to spread the word.

The history of rowing at Queensferry

Mike McD writes: In researching the history of rowing at Queensferry we came across some interesting stuff…

The harbour and the ferry passage ( therefore rowing and sailing) were integral to the life of the town for centuries, but as a recreational pursuit it seems to have begun when the Navy started appearing on a regular basis. In June 1860 the flagship ‘Royal Albert’ with eight other battleships, two frigates and a gunboat arrived in the Forth at Queensferry.

The Queensferry regatta in 1860, with the flagship HMS Royal Albert

This was the start of regular fleet visits over the next 30 years, with ships open to the visiting public. A Regatta was held over two days, with rowing races involving gigs, cutters, jollyboats, pinnaces and launches. However an attempt to involve local boatmen and women was unsuccessful. According to a newspaper report this was “possibly from their boats being engaged more profitably in the incessant passenger traffic going on between the shore and the fleet”.

The organisation of the annual Regatta was largely the responsibility of the Navy, but by 1898 there was both a Queensferry Regatta Club and a Queensferry Rowing Club, whose Secretary was Mr George Anderson.

From the West Lothian Courier of April 8, 1899

Much of the day’s activities were centred around the harbour and in Sept 1899 this included a ‘Grand Water polo match’, and an exhibition of ‘graceful and grotesque’ diving and swimming by members of the Alloa Amateur Swimming Club. After the racing there was a ‘duck hunt’ with live ducks followed by a ‘greasy pole’ over the pier (prize – a live pig) and an upright greasy pole, for a ham (a Ferry Fair event).

Queensferry won the Naval Challenge Cup three years in succession – 1899, 1900 and 1901 with their four-oared jolly boat ‘ Dundas’, J Lafferty, stroke oar and the ‘Helen Dundas’, W Wilson, stroke oar. By 1905 there was more silverware on offer, with the Mackintosh Cup, presented by Mr Hugh McIntosh of the Queensferry Arms Hotel, for four-oared jolly boats rowed by a crew under 18 years of age. (promoting youth participation – not a new idea!). The Rowing Club also owned three two-oared boats – ‘Susan’, ‘Empress’ and ‘Mary-Ann’.

The Naval Challenge Cup, now in the possession of Queensferry Boat Club

The Naval Challenge Cup (now held by Queensferry Boat Club), is inscribed: “Presented by Capt. G.W. Russell and officers of HMS Rodney and Cmdr. R.H. Stokes and officers of HMS Caledonia. To be pulled for annually at South Queensferry in four-oared jollyboats, with a coxswain. Open to all Boating Clubs in the upper reaches of the Forth between Alloa Inch and Inchgarvie Island.”

This is the oldest trophy in the Boat Club’s possession, and was tracked down at Ladyburn Amateur Rowing Club in Greenock and returned to Queensferry in the 1950s with the authority provided by Capt Pond, at the time in charge of Port Edgar.

My thanks to Douglas C who has sent me a copy of the West Lothian Courier of October 21, 1899, which reports on the Queensferry Rowing Club Concert which took place in the Rosebery Hall that week. Cmdr Charles Hope Dundas of Inchgarvie House (later Vice Admiral) just happened to be serving on the guardship HMS Rodney and had been invited to be ‘Commodore of the Regatta and Clerk of the Course/Starter’. He and his wife attended the concert (she sang A Sailor’s Lass and A May Morning), and he presided over the evening and presented the cup. He said that when the cup was talked about it was originally intended for a N-S race. He was glad it had it had been won by Queensferry this year (North Queensferry won it in 1898, the first year), despite a bad start, losing half a boat length, but winning by “a good number of boat-lengths”.

Mr Anderson replied that the Club was started for the 1898 regatta and a month before, four members had bought a boat themselves and by hard practice had come a good second last year. (NQ being the recognised winners over the past 3 – 4 years). The club now had four boats.

Barbara adds: These three clippings are from the West Lothian Courier of October 21, 1899. The full page can be viewed by clicking here. Highly recommended – it is action-packed.

Equally worth reading is the page from April 8, 1899, click here to see that one.

COVID-19 update

Club captain Anne P writes: I know like me, you’ll be thinking about what the next while holds for the club and I wanted to give you an update on what is happening. Following our virtual committee meeting, the nominated sub-group of Anne F, Maria, Marianne, John and myself met online to discuss the path ahead for the club. As with the committee, we are in complete agreement that at all times we must follow government guidance.

During phase 1, no activity will take place in or around the shed, on or off the water. Our first step following this will be to clean and organise the shed to ensure hygiene and good access and appropriate physical distancing. The sub-group are organising the materials required for cleaning. As the shed has been unused for many weeks the risks of viral contamination are minimal.

We ask that no one enters the shed without committee authorisation so that those who are cleaning are confident about the level of risk involved. They are working on the assumption that no one has been to the shed. Once the government moves on to phase 2, we will action the cleaning and the sub group will meet again to agree the next step. I hope this makes sense. Thank you for your patience.

If you have any questions or anything you would like to raise, please direct your comments to me.

ON THIS DAY – Episode 4

Mike McD continues his account of the birth of QRC, back in 2010:

ON THIS DAY – 10 years ago

Well, not exactly, but we had scheduled our next Steering Group meeting for the 11th June, four days hence. Things had been progressing by leaps and bounds in the interim. Stuart Mitchell had been talking to John Watson and discovered that John was very willing to assist in the build. On a suggestion from his wife Barbara, he had enquired of Scotmid regarding the possible use of the currently empty and advertised unit next door to the shop. An e-mail from him to the rest of us put this on the agenda – with a cautionary note – are we going cart before the horse? when we have no money and no kit?! In the meantime Mel (Alan Meldrum) was busy working up a constitution for ‘Scottish Coastal Rowing Project – Queensferry’ based on the SCRA constitution which of course, had been formed the year before.

In researching the history of rowing at Queensferry we had come across some interesting stuff. [Note from Barbara: The ‘stuff’ was so interesting it’s got its own post!]

The harbour and the ferry passage ( therefore rowing and sailing) were integral to the life of the town for centuries, but as a recreational pursuit it seems to have begun when the Navy started appearing on a regular basis. In June 1860 the flagship ‘Royal Albert’ with eight other battleships, two frigates and a gunboat arrived in the Forth at Queensferry.

HMS Royal Albert at Queensferry in 1860

This was the start of regular fleet visits over the next 30 years, with ships open to the visiting public. A Regatta was held over two days, with rowing races involving gigs, cutters, jollyboats, pinnaces and launches. However an attempt to involve local boatmen and women was unsuccessful. According to a newspaper report this was “possibly from their boats being engaged more profitably in the incessant passenger traffic going on between the shore and the fleet”.

TO BE CONTINUED…