QRC – A Short History

Queensferry Rowing Club
A Short History

By Peter Locke

IT WAS early January 2010. The snow lay thick on the ground. I and my four colleagues, Porters at the Scottish Parliament, had just returned to work from Christmas Recess. Our manager came into the Bothy and announced that we had to carry a boat through the Members Garden and into the exhibition area at the MSP Block! I will leave the comments and language to the reader’s imagination. The boat arrived, towed by a gentleman I now know as Alec Jordan. The boat was of course Chris o’ Kinnaird. Without too much trouble we moved the boat into the space in the exhibition area but you will never believe this! Because it was first day back at work the Parliament had mucked up the passes for the Exhibitors so I was given the job of looking after the guys, Alec, Robbie and David Todd from the Scottish Fisheries Museum. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with the skiff and as we all do with a new boat kept running my hands along the gunnels and bow. I was impressed and indeed inspired by the accounts from Robbie, Alec and David about the ‘Project’ which at that time was in its very early stages. I made up my mind that we must have a boat at Queensferry!

I did not know much about boats and set about contacting people I hoped might help in Queensferry All the time keeping in touch with Robbie and Alec. The breakthrough came in April when Robbie put me in touch with Mike McDowall, who at that time was the Commodore of Queensferry Boat Club. He had a wonderful group of friends who had not only nautical experience and knowledge but also a great deal of Community involvement. Before Mike and I met he had been shown a Scotsman article on the Project by Sheena and Ranald Mackay (also founder members of the Club) and had already decided that Queensferry needed a St Ayles Skiff! I met with Mike in the Orocco Pier on 26 April 2010. He had built a beautiful scale model of the prototype skiff and together we decided to hold a public meeting to become involved in the Project. That Inaugural Meeting was held at Queensferry Boat Club on 7 May.

Mike McDowall with Chris o’ Kinnaird and his scale model of a St Ayles skiff

After forming the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project – Queensferry, chaired by Mike and with me as Treasurer/Fundraiser, we set about our aim of building a St Ayles Skiff and forming a Coastal Rowing Club in Queensferry. We received donations from local individuals and businesses, and Queensferry Rotary Club were particularly generous. We applied for funding from the National Lottery. We could have asked for up to £10,000, but by this time we decided that £3,700 was enough to complete a skiff and buy life jackets etc. We were lucky to be awarded the grant!

Before we had started our build we had asked Alec and the Anstruther team if we could visit or if they could bring Chris 0’ Kinnaird to Queensferry as a bit of publicity and to have a go in a skiff. Alec and team arrived on the RNLI Open day that summer and the beautiful skiff generated a fair bit of interest. At that time, Mike was the Launch Authority for the lifeboat and as part of the RNLI display was kitted out in a dry suit. I coxed the skiff out and Mike was perched in the bow and at a given time he ‘fooled around’ and fell overboard. Strange sight, seeing Mike bob away and light a flare he had handy in his back pocket! Needless to say, the lifeboat sped over to Mike and he seemed none the worse for his dip.

Chris o’ Kinnaird is launched at the Hawes Pier
Mike awaits rescue

Next thing was where to build the skiff. I think it was Barbara, wife of one of the committee members who spoke to the manager at the local Scotmid. They had vastly reduced the floor space of their store and there was a large space with a workshop that was not in use. They were of course paying considerable rates for this area not in use so they gave it to us for next to nothing! We took over the premises in early September and a couple of days later on 3 September our kit arrived from Alec. We were off!

The kit arrives at the workshop – now the Barnados shop and a vet surgery

We were lucky to have two main builders, retired Shipwrights from Rosyth, John Watson and Malcolm Meikle. Before long, the skiff was taking shape and those of us who were not so skilled did things like sanding and making coffee! With John Howell. Another of the Founder Members I opened up the premises to the public on Saturday mornings and being fairly much at the heart of the Community there was a great deal of interest in seeing the progress of the build and people made a donation and had a cuppa when they visited. We continued to raise funds having dances, music evenings and a Christmas Fair in the spacious hall next to the workshop where the boat was being built. We even hosted the first SCRA AGM!

Ferry Lass all but complete

The skiff was complete in February 2011 but being an extremely harsh winter we decided to delay the launch and chose Saturday 17 April 2011 as the big day. Weather wise it was the most beautiful spring day. We had a grand procession with the new skiff on its trailer from Scotmid down the hill the short distance to the Old Harbour where a large crowd of locals and invited guests had gathered. Speeches by Mike McDowall, Lord Hopetoun, our Patron and Queensferry resident the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, George Grubb were followed by the naming and launch of Ferry Lass by the Ferry Queen of that year, Holly Taylor. She set Ferry Lass off into the harbour with a liberal splash of Vat 69 whisky. The significance of this being that the premises at Scotmid was on the land formerly occupied by the vast Vat 69 works. The new skiff was met at the harbour mouth by an Anstruther crew in Chris o’ Kinnaird. Ferry Lass is No 16 in the fleet and just along the coast at Portobello Jenny Skylark No 15 took to the waters the same day.

Launch day – Lord Provost George Grubb and his wife Elizabeth with Mike McDowall
Ferry Queen Holly Taylor pours the libation of VAT 69
The Lass’s maiden voyage

Shortly before the launch of Ferry Lass, another lucky break! Members had negotiated occupancy of a derelict shed at Port Edgar and with a bit of work it was ready for launch day. At the end of a magnificent day with several people being taken out in the new skiff and Chris o’ Kinnaird we rowed Ferry Lass from the old harbour to her new home at Port Edgar. What a thrill that first longer row for us under the Road Bridge and to be met by other Club Members at the Port Edgar Slip. I should add that at some stage after the completion of the build and before the launch we had officially formed Queensferry Rowing Club so the aim of the Project was achieved!

The shed lay derelict before the rowing club moved in

As in all organisations we have and have had some wonderful characters. Let me speak first about the man many of you knew and loved, Andy Jarvis. Soon after the launch there was a Port Edgar Open Day and we had a space on the main road through the Marina where we displayed the boat and had bits of information and photographs. Along comes a cheery looking chap on a bike who liked to pop into the Marina. He had his own wee boat at Kinghorn and was used to rowing. He was thrilled with our boat and joined us right away. We became firm friends and went out to row as often as we could with other members. We attended many regattas together but Andy and his wife Anne also turned up at other events which our Club could not attend. He gained a reputation for rowing with any Club or boat he could and his infectious humour and enthusiasm won him friends all over the SCRA. We miss him greatly and I am much indebted to whoever organised the tribute to Andy at Portsoy shortly after his death. That photo of all participants and a single oar hoisted with the name, Andy in the sand always gets me. It is a great tribute to Andy that many Clubs now refer to their Pick n’ Mix races as ‘The Andy Race’.

Louise Innes writes: “My favourite photo is of Andy and l racing in the North Queensferry boat about 6 years ago when I think he did 5 races with 5 different clubs and encouraged me to do the same. Here’s to the next decade of Scottish Coastal Rowing and the inclusion and equality that mark out our sport as an exemplar for other sports to follow.”
Alan Meldrum in number 2 seat, Andy Jarvis in 3. Portsoy 2012, photo by Anne McGee.

Another character was Alan Meldrum, better known here as Mel. We sadly lost him in the earlier stages of the Club, but he was one of the founder members and very enthusiastic, being about one of the only early members with previous rowing experience having rowed for St Andrews. He rowed Ferry Lass at her launch. He was a VW enthusiast and had a 1970s green VW Camper and he was one of our main towers in the early days. Coincidentally, I already knew Mel when he turned up for the Inaugural Project meeting as he was a Broadcasting Manager at the Parliament so we were already friends. After his death I introduced the Alan Meldrum Community Rowing Challenge in his memory. Local groups, businesses, Police etc. are invited to form teams, come and have a few practices with us and race on the day from the Hawes Pier near the Rail Bridge. This event is of course a great recruiting tool!

Mel coxing a crew at the first regatta QRC attended, Anstruther 2011.
Anne F and her crew of nurses get ready for the 2014 Alan Meldrum Community Challenge.

We like many other Clubs went on to build our second skiff, Ferry Maid. She was launched on 23 November 2012 and although a winter’s day it was crisp and bright and she was joined at her launch by skiffs from Anstruther, Portobello, North Queensferry as well as her sister. We have attended many regattas and events through the years and formed many friendships. This September we held our first Youth Regatta and were blessed with a wonderful day. Teams were from Strangford, Killyleagh, Elie, FOCCR’s, Eastern, Deveron and of course Queensferry. All had a fantastic day and I hope that this will be another annual event for the Youth Circuit.

Ferry Maid’s launch

It has been a very fast 10 years with such a lot happening, and I am sure that we will all continue to grow and flourish and enjoy this wonderful sport. My thanks to all who have had the inspiration and put such hard work and enthusiasm into it.

Peter Locke
Queensferry Rowing Club

Click here to browse the club’s online archives

Tides for the week of 21-27 October

Dónal writes: On Saturday we only have one boat as Ferry Maid will be at Loch Tummel for the Freshwater Sprints. For those who are not going to the Sprints there might be a bit of a wait as low tide is just before 0800 at 0.7m.

I will send out the teams for the Sprints later. Good luck to all taking part.

Monday 21st October
0830—4.9m H. 1307 — 2.2 m L. 2052 – 4.8 m H

Tuesday 22nd October
0930 — 4.8 m H 1620 — 2.5 m L 2155 — 4.7 m H.

Wednesday 23rd October
1043 — 4.8 m H 1730 — 2.2 m L. 2311 — 4.9m H.

Thursday 24th October
0605 — 1.5 m L 1201 — 5.1 m H. 1826 — 1.8 m L

Friday 25th October
0702 — 1.1 m L. 1306 — 5.5 m H. 1919 — 1.5 m L

Saturday 26th October
0759 — 0.7 m L. 1359 — 5.8 m H. 2012 — 1.1 m L

Sunday 27th October
0851 — 0.5 m L. 1449 — 6.1 m H. 2102 — 0.8 m L

Last year’s Freshwater Sprints at Loch Tummel

AGM reminder and list of committee nominations

A wee reminder in case you missed the calling notice sent out earlier this month: the club’s Annual General Meeting is being held on Thursday 24 October at 7:30pm in the Port Edgar Yacht Club. Everyone is urged to attend.

An important part of the AGM  is the election of the club’s office-holders and committee members. Below is a list of the candidates – nominations closed today.

CaptainAnne PurcellDónal FerrieMarianne Sandison
Vice-CaptainDónal FerrieRebecca GatesMaria van Dalen
SecretaryLorna BarkAlan SutherlandJohn Howell
TreasurerMarion McDowallMike McDowallRachel Holburn
MembersTracey VincentiMarianne SandisonMaria van Dalen
Alan SutherlandAlistair SturrockMaria van Dalen
Marianne SandisonRebecca GatesAnne Purcell
Rebecca GatesDónal FerrieMarianne Sandison
John HowellAnne PurcellMaria van Dalen
Mike BreewoodMaria van DalenAlan Sutherland
Tansy MoirBarbara AgnewMel Chambers
Lesley JonesMarianne SandisonStephanie Durning
Stevie LeaskJohn HowellLorna Bark
Stephanie DurningTracey VincentiAnne Purcell


Take Five for the Forth report

Rachel H reports: At the beginning of January 2019 we started our aim to obtain the SCRA Green Flag for Queensferry Rowing Club. We had an interested group who shared ideas on the way forward. We had three areas to work on: the marina, beaches and the breakwater.

I met with Port Edgar managing director Russell Aitken, who is our landlord, to ask about the Marina Environmental Programme and how we, as the rowing club, could fit into this. Russell said he was delighted we were taking a lead on recycling and was willing to assist where necessary. I asked for the possibility of some specific recycling bins close to the picnic area. These were agreed to and were in position within a few weeks. We also introduced a ‘mixed recycling’ bin in our shed.

As a group our initiative became ‘Take Five for the Forth’, suggested by one of our members, Marianne, after being inspired by the existing group ‘Take Three for the Sea’.

At Queensferry we are lucky to have several beaches close to us, so we have many ‘picnic rows’. We added bags (recycled Castle to Crane bags ) to each boat as part of the boat set-up procedure. Inside we keep black bags and rubber gloves, and we do a quick collection of plastics and waste before our return row. This is all routine now, and on one birthday row to Port Laing on the north side, we removed cotton buds galore.

In general though, we find the beaches reasonably clean. We visited four beaches in January alone. April Fools Day, with a few dress-up rowers, we managed a good clean up.

It was April before we got the weather to tackle the Breakwater, after the Winter winds had aborted a few attempts. Keith named it Breakwater Blitz! The result here was different. With just five members and in 30 minutes, we removed two bags filled with plastics, twine, polystyrene, straws, cotton buds, cordage and netting – and we had only managed a small area. We also focused on nurdles after one of our members Barbara, alerted us to the large amount accumulated in a corner of the marina harbour.

Barbara reports:  Nurdles are very small plastic pellets that serve as as raw material in the manufacture of plastic products. Inspired by the Green Initiative for the club, the nurdle hunt was aimed at gathering as many of these plastic menaces as possible. Billions of them are used each year to make nearly all our plastic products, but many end up washing up on our shores. They can contain toxins such as DDT and PCBs that harm the marine environment. Like other plastics they persist, grinding down ever smaller and becoming even harder to remove. Birds and wildlife ingest them, mistaking them for food.

The total gathered by club members,  calculated roughly by weight, was a staggering 66,000. I reported the find to www.nurdlehunt.org.uk/ and it was added to their data map. I also sent a sample to Professor Hideshige Takada, who is studying the chemical composition of nurdles for International Pellet Watch at the University of Agriculture in Tokyo.

Nurdlehunt responded: “Thank you! Your nurdle findings really matter .The data you collected will allow us to build up a picture of nurdle pollution around our coasts. This evidence will help us show the local plastics industry their impact on our seas .The more findings we gather the stronger the case to end further nurdle pollution, so keep hunting!”

Professor Takada responded: “Thank you so much for sending the pellet sample from Scotland. It will take a few months before getting the analytical results.When the results come ,we will let you know. Thank you so much for your support on International Pellet Watch by providing the precious sample.”

Professor Hideshige Takada

This was a very satisfying result! Collecting theses nurdles has become quite addictive!!

Our 2nd Breakwater Blitz was in May – 12 members took part, and we were able to cover a longer stretch. We took 30 bags of similar damaging waste. In amongst all this waste, we discovered nesting eider ducks – look closely at the photo. They stayed put on their nests surrounded by plastics and twine as we considerately worked around them. There was a happy ending though – just a few weeks later as we launched our boat one morning, there were two happy families of eider ducks swimming around us.

Also in May we as a club took part in the Open Weekend at Port Edgar .This attracts a few thousand people to the marina ,where they take part in watersports and enjoy the music and food festival. Marianne took recycling a step further and organised a Pass It On stall. This is Scotland’s celebration of re-use – swapping, donating, sharing and repairing to help make things last! Members provided quality items ranging from wetsuits to garden plants and visitors and members could help themselves for a donation to the marina’s chosen charity, SAMH the Scottish Association for Mental Health. This raised a good sum of money.

June 1st we held our own regatta. We provided drinking water in containers to avoid the single-use plastic bottles. We asked for people to bring their own cups, and provided plenty of crockery if needed. Marianne held the Pass it On stall again, with donations going to two local charities.

The third Breakwater Blitz was in June, on World Environment Day and four members managed to remove 15 bags of rubbish, a broken oar and a tiller – neither QRC’s!! Shoes and seats and plastic sheeting had also found its way on to the breakwater.

The fourth Breakwater Blitz was on September 21st, after a busy summer of regattas and events. It was International Coastal Clean Up Day and 15 members not involved in the Castle to Crane race blitzed the whole length of the breakwater. We removed 33 bags of waste plus boxes.

Throughout these last few months the Men’s 60+ crew, on their many training sessions, brought back lots of floating debris  – every row out was a surprise.

The biggest surprise deserves special mention. On 23rd January, they came across a huge tree trunk in the middle of the shipping channel. They set about securing it with the stern rope with the intent of removing it. However, with a strong incoming tide this was no easy task! Cox Keith took the strain of this, holding the tow rope in one hand to avoid damage to the stern of the skiff and the tiller in the other, while the rowers tried hard to make forward progress. They headed to the closest beach at North Queensferry, where they borrowed a length of rope from local fishermen and hauled it safely ashore. It was then measured at 45ft!! Cheers guys!

Another mention goes to member Valerie, who was already on her own personal mission of Visiting 100 beaches as part of  100 Days Project Scotland. She was inspired by the club aim for this green flag and as she visited each beach she made a point of removing 10 pieces of plastic/waste. Over 1,000 pieces of marine litter! Her mission took her the length of the country from John o’ Groats to the Mull of Galloway, and she displayed her report and photographs in an exhibition in Edinburgh on 28-29 September. Brilliant!

Image may contain: one or more people, beach and outdoor
Valerie with her haul from Cramond beach on the Forth

A last minute entry from 1st October: new pegs made from member Alan D’s diningroom chair legs. Charities won’t recycle upholstered chairs, so QRC did! Our ‘master pegmaker’ Douglas has made a spectacular job of 12 new pegs!

Thanks go to all the volunteers that have contributed to our aim to achieve the SCRA Green Flag. All the good work will continue as we approach 2020, Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters.

Monster the Loch report

Monster the Loch was billed as the first mass participation boat race on Loch Ness, with a marathon length of 21.5 miles. Queensferry rowed it as a game of two halves, with one crew taking on Fort Augustus to  Foyers and a second Foyers to Dores. The report is also a game of two halves, with Liz writing up the first leg and Ruari the second.

Photo by Liz Furrie

First leg

Liz writes: We rocked up on the Friday night to a muddy field just outside Fort Augustus and the sight of multiple rowing craft of every shape and size including to our delight another eight skiffs, including the unmistakable Soy Quine. Ferry Lass was left safe and sound on her trailer ready to be unloaded in the am. We made our way to Drumnadrochit for a good meal and a minor libation before an early night, dreaming of conquering the monster.

Next morning dawned grey and misty, perfect weather for monster dodging and atmospheric rowing. We arrived at said field to a hive of activity as the mist rolled across the water. We now had 13 skiffs from all over Scotland plus a number of sculls, including the GB men’s eight! It transpired that two pedaloes were also attempting the race but had started early at 07:30, poor souls.

Photo by Liz Furrie

In true skiffie style everyone lent a hand and all the beautiful skiffs were lined up on the shore of Loch Ness in short order, ready to attempt the 21.5 miles to Dores. Due to the popularity of the challenge at QRC we had two crews raring to go, which meant we could do a crew swap at Foyers allowing everyone to experience this amazing loch. We decided that Anne P and Maria would share coxwain and stroke duties, with Mel in number 3, Steph in 2 and Liz in bow.

Photo by Anne Purcell

Anne P was to take first duty as cox and under her masterful instruction we made our way to the somewhat haphazard start line. This was a truly wonderful experience with all manner of rowing craft vying for the best place. We found ourselves next to a ladies eight from Inverness Rowing Club and had a good bit of banter with them before the start was called, and we were off. We kept up with the women’s eight for the first five strokes then they took off (we found out at the end they did the 21.5 miles in 2 hours 48 minutes- phew!).

Burghead also had an all women’s crew for the first half, so they were our target for the race within a race. Maria set a fantastic stroke, long and measured with a perfect pause just before the catch. She was truly metronomic, averaging 24 strokes/minute for the first hour with distance travelled per stroke of 6 meters, covering nearly 9 km/hour, this was great rowing in very calm conditions, no wind or waves yet!

Burghead took an early lead but our relentless pace hinted them down and we passed them after 25 minutes gaining distance every stroke. The wind started to get up from the west and we started to get good surfing waves. It was also time for the swap in stroke and P came in to a very different type of rowing, with a combination of hard pulls to get us out of troughs and fast stroke to keep us on the waves. It was exhilarating and exciting, with the crew working together to perfect this fun technique. Steph was really enjoying her first long race row. Our stroke rate was moving between 28 and 40 strokes per minute to keep with the waves and we were moving at >12 km/hour on the tops of the waves.

We arrived in Foyers after 1 hour and 55 minutes ready to swap crews and have a well earned second breakfast.

Photo by Ruari Sutherland

Second leg

Ruari writes: Standing on the shore at Foyers – water lapping, mist clearing – we waited for the first crew to arrive. As the Maid emerged from the mist, we cheered her and her crew in, before executing a relatively extended crew-change – keeping Maria as cox and now with myself, Anne F, Tracey and Jennifer on the oars.

This was less a race, and more of a mass-start endurance row. We shared the water with Olympic rowers, pedaloes, and everything in between. Falling into a nice rhythm, we set to the task – pulling some stronger sets every now and then to keep our focus. As we got into our stride, we were passed by a strong Burghead crew, who had clearly had their Weetabix!

The loch was still and calm – though we managed to catch a few small waves which carried us onward toward the finish line. Passing a pedalo flying the Welsh flag we cheered on the foolhardy crew, whose legs were likely seizing up. We later learned that they were taking on the challenge in memory of 13-year-old Tom Walker, and raising money for a 3 year PhD studentship to research acute myeloid leukaemia.

Reaching the half-way point, we passed Urquhart Castle – the imposing ruin on the loch’s western shore. This gave us a bit of a boost, and we even briefly considered a detour from our 10 mile leg to get a closer look (we decided against it…). Pulling alongside a lone rower in a single scull, we exchanged pleasantries – admiring his shark-mouth paintwork and totem Nessie – before returning our attention to our own boat.

Pulling on, we chewed through the remaining kilometres in good spirits, and with good weather. As we neared the fish farm – a kilometre from the finish – we agreed that we’d empty the tanks, and arrive in style. Gritting our teeth we dug in and pulled the Maid hard to the line, to the strains of a pair of young pipers on the shores of Dores.

The event is in its infancy, and there’s no denying that a few organisational tweaks would be welcome. The atmosphere was great, though, and the opportunity to work your way up the waters of Loch Ness – with its breath-taking scenery, rich history and enticing folklore – is not to be sniffed at. Returning home that evening (with the obligatory stuffed Nessie procured for little’un), I looked at my blistered hands and smiled; I’d be very tempted to Monster the whole Loch next time!

Monster the Loch results Spoiler: the fastest time was set by the Olympians!
Photo gallery (including a cracking shot of the second crew in action)
Film focusing on the GB eight – thanks to Tracey for the link