Montrose Coastal Rowing – Section 9 | Day 10

The (so far quite short) history of Goose

Goose’s launch
A small group of people met in the South Esk pub which was the start of quite a long road of fundraising and building. The boat was entirely funded by local people, sponsoring planks and with ceilidhs and raffles and with support from local businesses. Although we succeeded in raising funds to buy the boat kit quite quickly, we were delayed by the search for a shed to build in. Once we found one we had to move again with just the basic frame built as our first shed was unexpectedly scheduled for demolition. Luckily local veterinary practice, Golf Vets, allowed us to complete the build in an airy shed a few hundred metres from the sea.

Cake, an important ingredient for every skiffie gathering
During the build a couple of the Montrose crew trained with Catterline and Gourdon clubs, racing in many regattas including the great experiences of the 2016 Skiffie Worlds in Strangford and then last year at Stranraer. The support of our Aberdeenshire sister skiffs over the last few years as well as help and advice from our southern neighbours at Broughty Ferry have given us an insight into the generosity of the skiffie community. Goose‘s maiden race was Castle to Crane – in the same month as her launch!

Launch Day on Montrose Basin; Goose was joined by skiffs from Gourdon, Catterline and Collieston
Launch Day

The Montrose skiff has helped to revive a rowing racing tradition in Montrose and Ferryden which was past of the town’s history from the late 19th until the early 20th century.

When we started gathering people and funds to build a St Ayles Skiff in Montrose, we discovered that there was a now largely forgotten but long tradition of local rowing clubs racing in the South Esk channel. When Catterline Coastal Rowing kindly brought Spirit of Catterline to Montrose to raise awareness of coastal rowing, one of the visitors who came to see the skiff told us about two silver rowing trophies, recently donated by the sailing club to Montrose Museum.

The trophies record the successes of rowing clubs as diverse as the Southesk, Coaster Athletic, Sawmills and Carpenters clubs from 1874 to 1926. It seems that, like modern Scottish Coastal Rowing, there were four rowers and a cox in most crews and they were rowing boats built in the town.

Although Montrose Coastal Rowing were the first to have a crew rowing on the Basin for over 40 years, the rowing competitions were originally so popular that in 1830, a rowing race caused the tragic collapse of the (poorly designed) original suspension bridge across the river when a crowd of spectators rushed from one side of the bridge to the other as the boats passed beneath! Many things have changed since the last race of 1926; the river was much gentler then, before the harbour developed into its current bustling form and closed off one of the channels of the South Esk.

Len starting the build
Our small build crew, led by the indispensable Len Mackie, worked through cold winters (and not very warm summers) to our launch at Montrose Sailing Club on 14 September 2019.

Fiona testing the rowlock positions
Goose, number 191 in the St Ayles skiff fleet, was pulled around to the sailing club by the build crew and other St Ayles skiff crews who had been so involved in her build. She was piped down to the Basin on a windy day and launched to join Maggie, Spirit of Catterline and Collieston’s crew with Admiral Redsocks who awaited her on the water. As she took her first few strokes there was a perfectly timed flypast by some of the 80,000 pink footed migrants after which the skiff is named.

Launch of Goose. Photo, Gen Leiper
Montrose Basin is the enclosed estuary of the River South Esk. The tidal basin is an important roosting and feeding area for a variety of passage migrants including Arctic terns, knots and sedge warblers. It is internationally important for breeding eiders, wintering waders and wildfowl. 80,000 pink footed geese overwinter. The area is a Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve.
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