In our last article we heard from two of the newest members of Troon Coastal Rowing Club and about their dream teams. Have you been contemplating who your team would be?

In this article we will hear from some of the founding members of our club.

We all know the story when, back in 2009 under the auspices of The Scottish Fisheries Museum, the St Ayles Skiff and coastal rowing project was born. Perhaps ‘born’ isn’t the most appropriate word as, at its core was the tradition of boat building, seamanship, competition and community. After an inspirational row in the very first Anstruther boat in 2010 by Vincent McWhirter, another founding member,  a call to arms was made, money raised and our club was formed to bring the tradition to Troon. Tradition is an interesting concept as we charge forward in our lives with the increasing pace of change, sometimes unwelcome and uncontrollable, and the dichotomic yearning of “things to be like they used to be”.

Coastal rowing and St Ayles skiffs are steeped in tradition. Whilst a boat kit can be bought, wood sourced and a plan prepared, without traditional skills and experience it will most likely go adrift. We have been fortunate in Troon Coastal Rowing Club that a cohort of members have been sharing these skills from the outset. Add this to creating a new club only months after the birth of the St Ayles concept, it clearly took tenacity and determination to get to where we are today.

The first of our founding members we will hear about is Jim Palmer. Jim has been rowing since he was a wee boy in short trousers and started on “sliding seats”. Hearing this we were slightly sceptical but later found that they were introduced in 1857, so the timing is about right and Jim has clearly always been at the forefront of innovation.  Jim has always been a keen DIY enthusiast and with no prior boat building experience, a healthy dose of teamwork, trial and error, set about constructing our chariots.

When asked about favourite things at TCRC Jim was clear, “The flexibility of rowing at the club and conviviality”. Jim added that “The club and associated activities have become a large part of my life. Between rowing, new builds and maintenance there is always something to do.” We thought that echoed the sentiments of our previous article on community.

Jim clearly enjoys all aspects of the club and “before age decreed he behave himself”, used to attend and very much enjoy regattas. His advice to new members is to experience all aspects of the club and don’t be too focussed on one area. The club, as we know, has many facets and each needs participation and support to evolve.

Jim’s dream team for a row around Lady Isle says a lot about him.

Jim’s Dream Team Rowers
CoxReserved for extra supplies
StrokeJim’s son Colin
3Jim’s grandson Shaw
2Jim’s grandson Campbell

Jim’s crew consists entirely of family and we loved the simplicity of selecting his boy and two grandsons. He left the cox seat empty for additional supplies. Family and a hobby soaked in tradition with a strong sense of community. What more can you ask for?

Our next member to hear from is Harry Risk. Like Jim, Harry is a founding member of TCRC back in 2011. Harry also served as chair of the club for a number of years and I’m sure we all appreciate the effort this post still entails. He rowed as a boy back in the 1950s although never competitively. This experience and boyhood passion served the club well in its formative years. Harry’s favourite part of the club is building the skiffs and he evolved his DIY skills into boat building skills. Its heartening to hear that these traditional skills are alive and well in the club and can be learned by most members.

Harry attended many regattas in the past including three World Championships. He is keen that members try to experience all aspects of rowing and the club and remember to “enjoy it and that winning is not everything”.

Harry is keen to see younger members join and this is something we are all keen to encourage in the club. Harry is pictured here in seat 2 with Allan (our next candidate) sitting in bow. They are joined by another couple of TCRC rascals.

Harry has an interesting rowing dream team that I suspect will go a couple of times around Lady Isle. This is a team that certainly packs a punch!  Can you even imagine the conversation. Not sure if I’d want to be shouting instructions at stroke but sure his rowing companions behind him would take care of that. I’d definitely pay to be in that skiff.

Harry’s Dream Team Rowers
StrokeMuhammad Ali
3Nelson Mandela
2Joanna Lumley
BowJack Nicklaus

The next founding member we will hear about is Alan Farrell. At the outset he attended a workshop in Port Glasgow, supervised by a qualified shipwright who clearly had the skills and knowledge to undertake the project. Undaunted, although perhaps a bit apprehensive, he began his pathfinding journey.

Like a few of us in the club, his rowing skills and experience were firmly founded in the traditional manner of a Glasgow corporation pond with a man yelling “come in number 38 yer time is up”.

TCRC came at an ideal time” for Alan who had just completed a lengthy police career. The camaraderie, community and learning traditional skills provided a welcome second act after thirty years of public service. Alan’s DIY skills came in useful but he soon learned “it wasn’t as like IKEA as he was expecting”. Now for Alan it’s a great way of keeping fit and for meeting different people.

Alan is delighted that “the club has flourished into a thriving group of both men and women enjoying casual and more competitive rowing”. He emphasised that “our lady members form the backbone of the club and are some of the most dedicated members”.

Echoing the other views shared in this article, Alan is keen to see members embrace the history and tradition of the club and support all aspects. He was previously a keen regatta participant but age and health have curtailed this. He is delighted at the “dedicated team of accomplished rowers who have made the club extremely competitive”.   

Alan’s dream team is a great group and as you will see will be a bit cramped when he joins them. As a founding member we will allow him the privilege of an extra crew member.

Alan’s Dream Team Rowers
CoxCaptain Bligh
3Viking Invading Chief
2Captain Edward Smith
BowCaptain Pugwash

Captain Bligh skippered a rowing boat for thousands of miles adrift in the South Pacific so hopefully they should make it around Lady Isle. Let’s hope there isn’t a “Mr Christian” in the boat and we need the RNLI to rescue them.  Captain Pugwash (younger members may need to Google) is an amusing choice and Captain Smith of the Titanic may, like Mr Bligh, require Troon RNLI. Just to make it more interesting and keep everyone motivated Alan has asked for an invading experienced Viking chief. Noah is a clear choice for keeping a rather diverse group in order. An eclectic crew indeed.

Our hobby is a clearly a multi-faceted affair as described by our three members. Build, development and maintenance is an integral part of rowing success. It is for TCRC too. Whilst boat building and boat use has been around for thousands of years, competition quickly followed. To be first to the fish, to claim new territory or simply to win a fat purse of coin, competition will often follow. The Cornish pilot gig would race to be the first to incoming vessels and the winning crew would earn their supper.  We also approach the two hundred year anniversary of The Boat Race. An annual event steeped in tradition between two universities, originating from two friends. Even this is preceded by the Thames watermen who would be the subject of many an 18th century wager.

Whilst our club is relatively new compared to some of the examples above, we preserve traditional skills and embody community. Our own traditions are even starting to form with Regatta flapjacks (Thank you Mrs Downey) and Coffee at Scotts are just the start of a bright future. Let’s grow, adapt, accept change but remember tradition.

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