Marjorie Jeffrey

On Saturday 29th June 2024, Troon Coastal Rowing Club launched the fourth craft in its magnificent fleet. Marjorie Jeffrey is the third St. Ayles skiff in our mighty armada joining her sisters, Marr Voyager and Ailsa Lass and her little cousin Lady Isle.

The story of her build and the characters in that wonderful tale are for another article but for now, it seems apt to record the news of her launch in this brief article.

Maybe launching a boat conjures up an image of a goliath towering above Glasgow tenements with saluting cranes and doth capped riveters but those days are long gone. Launching a St. Ayles skiff is clearly a different matter and one or two of our members have been here before, but for some of us it was a first.

Previous articles have emphasised the concept of Tradition within our past-time and launching boats and ships is steeped in tradition. The formal custom of transferring the vessel from land to water is an important naval tradition dating back thousands of years. Its not just a celebration and blessing of the boat but also of her future crews too. Our Viking personas that brought us recent regatta victories may have been fun, but back in their time they would select a slave and sacrifice them for good fortune and future victories. Before anyone suggests anything on that front, the committee have said no already! In more historic and sedate times, the King’s representative would name the ship and, sprinkle wine on the four corners of the boat, or key strategic places, and then throw the bejewelled goblet into the water. It wasn’t long before local worthies would be waiting for this key point and waiting for their opportune booty. In more difficult times, the representative would have someone hanging about with a net so they could move on to the next launch. Its interesting how even the 17th century sounds like something a current government would do when launching a ship (or ferry). May be best nobody mentions the sacrifice idea if they have friends in Port Glasgow.

According to The Royal Museums Greenwich, the tradition of breaking a bottle of wine or champagne began in the 18th century. We loved the earliest experience where the Princess of Hanover threw the bottle, missed the boat and hit a spectator who later sued the admiralty. Now that definitely sounds like something that would happen these days and to TCRC.

Whilst launching great ships is a nerve wracking experience and fraught with difficulty, launching our skiff was somewhat simpler. In wartime when grease was not available to smooth the slipway, shipyards would apparently  sometimes use bananas. Today no bananas were required but there was a fair bit of elbow grease used to move the girls down and back up the slip.

Our boat may not be of the scale of the mighty Clyde built ships but there are many small and mighty craft littering history. The incredible James Caird and its 800 mile journey with Shackleton covered in a previous article is a great example. The Husky Clipper that took the Boys in the boat to victory in the 1936 Berlin Olympics is another one. Even Grace Darling reverberates through time in her mighty seaworthy coble. Maybe one day future club members will talk about the mighty Marjorie Jeffrey. Let’s hope so.

The tales of her build in the famous chicken shed will no doubt grow arms and legs through the years. Mike K cutting through the power cable with a saw will be an explosive moment in the movie and Phil’s music will be the soundtrack. It may have been a two and a half year adventure but Spielberg will undoubtedly get it down to two fabulous hours.

Picking who will play Jim P and Morag K will be a challenge but Clooney and Julia are rumoured to be interested. Christine C has agreed to play her own part as they couldn’t find anyone who could shout at crews loud enough. Bill is painting the scenery as we type this article. The story of how he cut up the family’s antique 200 year old dining table for the boat will be legendary. What a movie that will be and the sequel of her race winning career will be even better.

The launch day was organised by Mike K and presided over by our chairman, Adrian. We heard about some of the adventures and about some of the club members who made the build possible. Adrian introduced Gavin Paterson who represented The Jeffrey Charitable Trust who helped towards financing our build. Gavin talked about their delight to support the project and also their previous support for our Lady Isle build.

Our launch was well attended by members and it was great to see so many there for this special occasion. It was also wonderful to meet some of the family members who “support” us too.

Once Gavin christened our boat with the marvellous Maclean’s Nose graciously supplied by the The Jar in Troon, she morphed from boat 238 to Marjorie Jeffrey. Who knows what she will become in the future, MJ, Madge or retain her full name. Time will tell.

There were lots of comments on the new girl and the word “stunning”, “beautiful”, “fast” and “light” were used frequently.

Another great day for Troon Coastal Rowing Club. Well done to everyone and lets help her bring back some trophies from far flung lands and tell her some tall tales whilst meandering in a small boat on the Clyde.

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