VRAS is taking the opportunity to slip in a page about Glasgow Rowing Club here. The club would have been included in the special section, covering rowing up the River Clyde as part of the Clydebuilt Festival/Castle to Crane Race, which was due to be held in a week’s time. However, it is included at this point for the sake of completeness.

About Glasgow Coastal Rowing Club

Club Origins

Preparing the skiffs for a Hogmanay Row
Glasgow Coastal Rowing Club was established in February 2016, a few months after GalGael’s then boatbuilder, Ben Wilde, floated the idea as a way of getting GalGael’s skiffs Gobhancroit and Lady Danger, which had fallen into disrepair, back into regular use. GalGael is a charitable trust based in Govan teaching woodworking, boat construction and timber milling, amongst other skills.

Ben assembled a group of enthusiasts who set up a launch committee; Ewan Kennedy (Convener), Gordon McCracken (Secretary) and Ian Watson (Treasurer) were charged with securing agreements with GalGael for the use of the skiffs and with Clyde Maritime Trust for the use of Kelvin Harbour, as well as raising revenue and getting the first skiff in shape.

This group worked on Gobhancroit: re-painting, making new gunwhales, footplates etc. The launch of Gobhancroit at the end of May 2016 was covered by STV Glasgow. Lady Danger followed in February 2017. Kelvin Kelpie was built in conjunction with Clyde Maritime Trust during 2018/19 and launched in May 2019.

Very little publicity was required to attract members: most members found us by word of mouth, seeing the skiffs on the water or through social media. Membership usually peaks around 90 in any given year, with a fairly constant stream of new members. Some people come out with us just once to try rowing whilst others take to it like ducks to water.

The club’s colours (red) stem from our first skiffs. Lady Danger was so-named after a particular red shade of MAC lipstick worn by one of her boatbuilders; Gobhancroit is a nod to the Govan and Highland connections of GalGael. Kelvin Kelpie was picked by a vote held amongst club members, acknowledging the location of the club at the mouth of the River Kelvin.

Cultural Activities

As part of the Glasgow International Festival in April 2018, artist Robert Thomas James Mills rowed in one of our skiffs up river where he delivered performance art relating to the story of St Mungo, Glasgow’s patron saint.

Niteworks still
In 2018, we provided a skiff and crew to assist Gaelic fusion band Niteworks make a promotional video.

In 2019, a group of artists and film-makers from around Europe visited the club as part of Memory of Water, a pan-European participatory artist intervention project co-ordinated by Glasgow-based FableVision.

Two of our members are artists. They offered to run print-making workshops in the spring of 2019 to produce cards for sale for the benefit of the club. They created a bespoke printing plate featuring a skiff on the water. Other members attended workshops on board the Tall Ship to help make these unique cards. We sold them at our stall during the Clydebuilt Festival.

Club Song

These are the words to Gordon’s song [tune: The Eton Boating Song]. Shamefully overlooked for an Ivor Novello Award.

Glasgow Coastal Rowing
Out on the Clyde
No need to feather
No need to slide

Let’s skiff together
From the Kelvin to BAE 
With a Catch, Drive and Finish
We’ll beat the Wa-ver-ley!

Rowers’ responses to the Storyteller’s questions:

How do you feel when you are out on the water?

– Being out on the water makes me alive and yet calm at the same time. During the pandemic I have really missed it – chatting to the crew, setting up the boats. It definitely helps my mental health and I can’t wait to get back to it.

– The idea of building a boat and then rowing it is a great one! It is very healthy, both for the body and the mind …

Who got you into coastal rowing?

– I tried it out at Broughty Ferry down at the Royal Tay Yacht Club. At first I was a bit unsure about it but you pick it up after a few attempts! When the Glasgow Club started I kept meaning to go down and have a go and eventually I did. I must’ve done something right because I was soon encouraged to train to become a skipper. 

– My local community. Rowing helps communities to get together for a joint effort, and promotes cooperation between people of various interests.

What do you love about these coast and waters?

– I like seeing the wildlife along the river. There is always something new to see – herons, seals, otters – there’s an amazing variety of life on the river, even in the heart of the city.

– It is very satisfying! It promotes friendships that are centred around an activity that is enjoyed by everyone … even the spectators!

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