A (very) Brief Note on the History of Rowing on the Tay

From a chance meeting with the Commodore of Royal Tay Yacht Club (formed 1874), who mentioned that his parents met though rowing on the Tay. His father was a member of Broughty Ferry Boating Club and his mother was a member of Dundee Corinthians Rowing Club. Regattas of the time also featured Wormit Boating Club.

According to a set of notes found on a facebook page “Dundee Corinthian Boat Club Memories”, Dundee Boating Club was formed in 1890 with a regatta first held in 1894, Dundee Co-op Rowing Club was formed in 1871, the same year as Broughty Ferry and Monifieth Rowing Club. Dundee Corinthian Boating Club itself is described as being formed in 1923/24 with a committee with the surnames Davie, Glass, Sidden, Duncan, Sutherland, and Henderson (secretary). Broughty Ferry Boating Club is also shown as established in 1923-24.

Jolly boat “Sprite” from Royal West – a similar type to those rowed on the Tay

Some of the boats used were Jolly Boats of the type used by Royal West in the Castle to Crane race. The jolly boats were around 25 feet long with a lower freeboard than a St Ayles Skiff but also rowed by four rowers sitting one at each station, with a cox steering and commanding. One of the boats, previously owned by Wormit Boating Club and now owned by a consortium or rowers down in Richmond-on-Thames is raced from time to time at the Great River Race. A Broughty Ferry Boat was transferred via Portobello to Royal West of Scotland Boat Club at Greenock. Single sculls and pairs also featured in races in the past.

We know there are at least 4 of the original wooden rowing boats stored on the Fife side of the Tay, in Newport and Wormit. One of them (Argo built in 1924 by Salters for Newport Rowing Club) is currently being refurbished in Richmond with the intention of her coming back to the Tay.

Cover photo from the Dundee Corinthians Memories Facebook Page.

With the exception of the Coble Boat Racing at Newburgh (first recorded race in 1880, and hard, hard racing still held at an annual championships), rowing racing died out all together on the Tay in the sixties or seventies. We are of course delighted that it has been brought back through the growth of the St Ayles skiff and the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association. Broughty Ferry Boating is a branch of the Royal Tay Yacht Club, and their luxury boat shed storing two St Ayles Skiffs is built on the site of the old Broughty Ferry Boating Club sheds. Wormit Boating Club had continued on as a sailing club, but reintroduced rowing and now has 2 St Ayles Skiffs. Newburgh Rowing Club also has 2 St Ayles skiffs, and there is going to be a Perth Rowing Club launching a skiff from near the Friarton Bridge.

We would love to be able to publish a longer article about the History of Rowing on the Tay. Please get in touch if you could research and write it. In the meantime anyone interested in history of rowing in Scotland should purchase the Old Clyde Pullers, which is a history of 14 rowing clubs in Inverclyde, a stretch of coast where only one rowing club survives. “Pulling” is where each crew member has one “sweep” oar. “Rowing” was historically used to describe a rower with 2 oars….. what is now referred to in racing as “sculling”.

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