South Queensferry to Granton – Section 11 | Day 9

Passage Plan, Port Edgar to Granton Harbour. As with any passage plan the following is dependent on conditions allowing us to undertake this row. Wind against tide going under the bridges at Queensferry, at times, make it difficult, if not impossible, to attempt.

The row from Port Edgar to Granton Harbour is a distance of 6NM and will be done to coincide with the outgoing tide. Click here for more about Port Edgar.

Port Edgar is an area west of Queensferry and is where Queensferry Rowing Club are based. The Port dates back 1,000 years and is named after Edgar, the brother of Princess Margaret, later St Margaret. She instituted the crossing in the 11th Century between South and North Queensferry for Pilgrims visiting Dunfermline Abbey and St Andrews. They actually landed in North Queensferry in 1067, having fled London when the Normans invaded England.

Over the years, the area has been built up with major improvements put in place in 1828. In 1878, the North British Railway Company was set up and a ferry crossing was set up.

Port Edgar came in to its own when the Royal Navy used it as a fuel depot for the Naval Dockyard in Rosyth from 1909. With the outbreak of WW1, Port Edgar was acquired in 1916 by the Royal Navy with plans to build a self-contained Torpedo Boat Destroyer depot for up to 52 ships. It was officially opened as HMS Columbine in 1917 and remained a base until 1928.

In 1938 it was decided to turn the original barracks on the west side of the site into a hospital which remained operational throughout the war, finally closing in 1950. The whole site was reopened in 1939 as an anti-submarine and minesweeper training centre and renamed HMS Lochinvar. In preparation for the D-day landings,Port Edgar became a combined operations Training Centre, re-commissioned as HMS Hopetoun and HMS Lochinvar moved to Granton.

HMS Lochinvar returned to Port Edgar at the end of WW2 and cleared mines in the Forth up until 1948; vessels from Port Edgar continued clearing mines in Denmark and along the Friesian coast up until 1975.

Edinburgh Council took over Port Edgar and provided a Marina and Sailing School. The base became home to Port Edgar Yacht Club, established by sailors previously at Granton or North Queensferry and many of the original building were taken over by small, related businesses, including the Bosun’s Locker.

Various plans by the Council to introduce a housing development in order to capitalise of the site were overturned by objection and Edinburgh Council decided to offer the site to the private sector by lease. This provided the opportunity for some serious investment, including much needed dredging operations and a rejuvenation and re-use of the old buildings which today includes Queensferry Rowing Club’s boatshed in what was thought to have previously been a laundry!

Written by Mike McDowall, with acknowledgement to The Royal Navy at Port Edgar by Peter A Collinson, 2004.

We will leave Port Edgar at 0730 and turn east, heading under the Forth Road Bridge and rowing through Queensferry Bay towards the Forth Bridge. The skiffs keep to the south of the shipping channel which carries on towards Bo’ness and Grangemouth.

We row under the UNESCO Bridge and pass one of the many islands dotted about the Firth of Forth, Inchgarvie, the first of the ‘Four Inches.’ We head towards Hound Point, having passed the oil terminal; oil tankers take refined oil from Grangemouth, further up the river. As we pass Hound Point we have to be aware of the Drum Sands, which extend far out into the Forth at this point, and then we pass Barnbougle Castle on the south shore.

Barnbougle Castle
Barnbougle Castle is part of the Dalmeny Estate which is owned by the Roseberrys. The present castle was built on the site of an earlier 13th Century castle in 1881 by the 5th Earl Roseberry. He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1894 to 1895 for a total of fifteen months.

Dalmeny House
Once past Barnbougle, we will see Cramond Island. We round the north of the island to avoid the anti-boat boom which was constructed for WW2.

Cramond Island lies a third of a mile off Cramond village and is believed to derive its name from an amalgam of Roman and Celtic words. In the past it has been used to graze sheep and during both World Wars it was used as a defence of the Forth with 12 pounder and 6 pounder guns placed on it.

Today Cramond is more used to sight-seers with access over the causeway at low tide. Quite often people don’t pay attention to the tides and get stranded on the island. It happens so often, that the local RNLI at Queensferry is known as the Cramond taxi!

We will be passing between Cramond Island and another of the ‘Inches.’ Inchmickery, like Inchgarvie, was fortified to resemble the outline of a warship to aid the defences of the Forth Bridge during WW2.

As we carry on we will see the Granton Gas holder which became a listed as a historical industrial structure. We will also be able to see the west breakwater for Granton harbour. Again care is taken to avoid the rocky outcrops that lie to the west of the harbour. On a clear day there are great views the City of Edinburgh. As we round the harbour wall to enter, we may see the pilot boat that operates from Granton to pilot the larger ships further up the Forth.

We will have been met by Newhaven Rowing Club to row in to the harbour together and hand over the baton for the next leg of the RowAround adventure.

About Queensferry Rowing Club

South Queensferry Rowing Club 1900s with Trainer Frank McQuade, and Mr Robert Cunningham.
Rowing in South Queensferry is not a new phenomenon as, back in the late 1800s with the presence of the Royal Navy, regattas for both sailing and rowing were held. One race was memorable which took place in 1871; a local crew of ferry boatmen took on the Royal Navy over a three-and-a-half-mile course. The Navy won by 15 seconds but in fairness Queensferry broke an oar and had to stop to get a replacement. At the turn of the 20th century a boat with a familiar name appeared when Ferry Lass raced against Bonny Dundee from North Queensferry and Pride of the Forth from Inverkeithing.

The first incarnation of Queensferry Rowing Club (QRC) appeared about 1899 with their first boathouse situated west of Queensferry Harbour. From the outset they were successful as they won the Naval Challenge Cup five years in a row between 1899 and 1903. The crew received a silver medal each, with the cox receiving a pair of boots. The Cup itself was given to a responsible person for safekeeping. It was eventually returned to QRC in the 1950s from Ladyburn Amateur Rowing Club from Greenock.

The Club was revived in 1925, joining the Glasgow Trades Amateur Rowing Association (a forerunner of SCRA?) Their boat, Annie Miller, took part in many regattas around the Forth as well as on the Clyde. Successes – taking away the Cameron Cup after a four-boat-length win at Aberdour, to disasters – swamped while rounding a buoy at Bo’ness, the eight-year old cox coming off worst.

The winning crew, left to right: G. Shand, Tommy Wemyss (stroke), A Shand (cox),Tommy Hart, and Sam Corsan. July 1952.
There was another hiatus during WWII but it was revived shortly afterwards with the announcement in February 1951 that Annie Miller 2 was being built by a west of Scotland firm. In June the same year they won the Portobello Challenge Cup and in September three crews from Queensferry, now East of Scotland Champions, entered the Scottish Championship gaining second place. Interesting to note that the other Clubs taking part include Eastern (3 crews and 1 in the junior), Portobello, (2 crews) and Broughty Ferry, with Royal West represented in the Junior championship.

This brings us to the present day when, in February 2011, Queensferry Rowing Club was reborn. Ferry Lass (number 16) was launched in April at the harbour in glorious sunshine and with a large crowd of spectators. Speeches from Mike McDowall, Chair of the Project Committee, Lord Hopetoun, our Patron, and a blessing by Queensferry resident, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh Rev. George Grubb, were followed by the naming carried out by the Ferry Queen of that year, Holly Taylor, with a splash of VAT69 whisky. She was met at the harbour mouth by the Anstruther crew in Chris o’ Kanaird and Portobello’s Jenny Skylark (number 15).

Peter Locke writes: “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’ Kanaird. 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 Tod 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!”

Ferry Lass was followed by Ferry Maid the following year and so Queensferry became part of the new and rapidly expanding community of coastal rowers. As Peter Locke, writing recently observed, it is not just about boats but about the people, the characters, and the comradeship.

Our early rowers were local boatmen, fishermen, and shale miners. Tommy Wemyss, the stroke rower for the Club in the 1950’s, worked at the local distillery before getting work at Rosyth Dockyard. He was our guest of honour on several occasions and was made our first honorary member. Others are also sadly missed – Alan Meldrum (Mel), a rower in his student days, was with us from the start of the project and was our Vice-Captain. Our annual Community Challenge event is named for him. Andy Jarvis regularly cycled over from Kinghorn to join us, but quickly gained a reputation for rowing with any club or boat he could. His infectious humour and enthusiasm won him friends amongst many in the SCRA and we remember the tribute to Andy at Portsoy shortly after his death, as well as the now legendary ‘Pick n’ Mix’ or ’Andy Race.’

The top strake of our skiffs has a reddish colour which represents the Forth Bridge. The name of the first boat Ferry Lass was proposed by Mel and it was a nice link to Ferry Lass from a previous age. Ferry Maid seemed a logical follow on for our second boat.

On 22 February next year, Queensferry Rowing Club will celebrate (by whatever means possible!) our tenth anniversary. We look forward to many more years as part of this wonderful community.

We are lucky in that we have a couple of short trips that we can make from our base. One such trip heads west to 15th century Blackness Castle, a Crichton stronghold on the Forth. We head up under Queensferry Crossing watching out for the sandbank known as Society Bank. We pass Hopetoun House, home to our Patron Lord Hopetoun then Blackness Castle looms into view and its outline is very distinctive; it is known as the ship that never sailed as the three towers at the front of the Castle make it look like the prow of a ship. The Crichton’s ownership of the Castle didn’t last long, as in 1453, King James II seized it from the ailing George Chrichton. One of the more interesting features of the Castle is the Bottle Dungeon which has a narrow opening which opens out into a larger room. If you found yourself in this dungeon it was more than likely that you would end your days here, as when the tide came in the dungeon would fill up and the occupant would drown. The Castle served as a State Prison and State Arsenal in its time and Oliver Cromwell laid siege to it and breached what were thought to be impregnable walls. In 1681 the Keeper of Blackness was violently attacked, not by Jacobites or by the English as you might presume, but by women of the port of Queensferry; to this day they are very formidable women!

[The Queensferry Questing Quines have twice been awarded the coveted SCRA Cruising Log Award for their expeditionary exploits. In 2020 the quintet were due to have rowed the North Coast as part of RowAround Scotland, there being no clubs in the far north between Kinlochbervie and Orkney/Wick.]

Rowing and You

The SCRA has been an outlet for many people to get exercise and socialise in equal measure and there is never any shortage of cake when there are rowers around.

Club member Marianne answers the questions:

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

– It’s been the worst week, and the fact you’re getting up in the dark, it’s cold and it might even be snowing isn’t helping. You wearily push the boat down the slip, the water tops your wellies and you launch, wondering why your midlife crisis didn’t lead you to a nice indoor sport … like badminton. Then it happens.
The morning sun seeps softly through the bridges and, while the world around still sleeps, work boats quietly buzz, grey seals keep their curious watch around you, and sea birds wheel above you. The dip and sway gently takes over your body, soothing your soul, while the rhythm and lapping of the water provides the soundtrack.
The spell is cast. The sea has called, and you have answered.

Who or what got you into Coastal Rowing?

– My sons are to blame for this nonsense. Watching them have the time of their lives rowing and racing with Sea Cadets at Granton Harbour and Port Edgar, I gradually realised that adults were doing something very similar and I decided to join in! Two years later dinner table chatter often turns to rowing, and connects a seemingly irrelevant middled-aged Mum with her teenage sons! And more; new friends, new skills, new adventures. A new life.

What do you love about these coasts and waters?

– The three magnificent bridges spanning three centuries, the proud naval history, industry that helped build a nation and a scattering of wildlife-rich islands, studded along our coast. Globally threatened grey seals accompany our rows, while swooping Arctic terns visit us for the summer, at one end of their migration, the longest of any animal. What jewels we have in the Forth! All this, and we have the best seats in the house!

And Lorna says:

– I feel energized, happy and free out in the water!
– A friend in Queensferry RC got me into coastal rowing.
– I love just being able to get out on the water and be sociable, as well as the odd race!

Rebecca says:

– “Great! It’s very grounding and calming..
– A friend used to be a member at Kinghorn and I looked for a local club which was Queensferry.
– Our coasts and waters are so diverse, no two rows are the same. We are so lucky so have such a beautiful coast.

Alan says:

– When on the water we feel relaxed and chilled but also excited about what we may see both in the water and from the water.
– I did lots of kayaking when younger and wanted to return to the water in a team instead of as an individual.
– We do a great deal of coastal walking and we love the opportunity of seeing the continuous changes to the coastline both from onshore and offshore and visiting new locations. Rowing can always be viewed as an opportunity as the waters, currents, tides, continuously change and  provide interesting challenges.

Club vice-captain Dònal kept members’ spirits up during 100 days of lockdown with jaunty jigs and reels on his penny whistle, and also showcased his seemingly endless collection of rowing-related T-shirts! As it would have been Queensferry regatta this weekend, here is Dingle Regatta:


And an appropriate tune for SCRA, Out on the Ocean:

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