So, how did it all begin? We know Bridport Gig Rowing Club as it is now, with the boat house, boat yard storage, 5 gigs and jolly band of members, but how did it get off the ground in the first place. Thank you very much to John Ward for writing what I hope will be the first in a series of accounts of the early days. Appointed as treasurer back in 2007, he recounts the challenges of securing the funding for the very first gig in this fascinating account.
Shortly after getting married in Burton Bradstock, my wife and I moved to Mullion on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. It was there that I first discovered Gig Rowing, and attended my first World Championships in the Scilly Isles in 1995. I remember there were around 60 boats competing – quite different to the 160 racing last year!
Fast forward to 2007, we had returned to Dorset and I spotted a flyer that Robin Carter and Phillip Colfox had circulated through the town inviting anyone who was interested in forming a Bridport Gig club to a meeting at the Rugby Club. I remember about 50 or 60 people attending, listening to presentations from Weymouth Gig Club chairman, Hayden, and from Gail McGarva who had built the first Lyme Gig. There was a quick whip round, and we all left our contact details and a bit of background information. The next day Robin called to ask if I would like to join the inaugural committee as Treasurer, a position I was honoured to accept. There was debate as to what the club should be called, and whether West Bay should be included in the title, however settled on Bridport Gig Rowing Club.
My first task (as Treasurer of a new club with no funds) was to take the collection from the meeting to Lloyds bank and set up a sports club account. I handed over the grand sum of £190, only to find that the minimum amount to open account was £200 – so I duly made my second donation within a week!
A week or so later we had our first club committee meeting where Robin, Phillip and Elizabeth Day and I signed the original club charter (heavily plagiarised from Lyme’s) and we were officially a fully-fledged club. Soon after Mike Carter joined the Committee and was appointed Chairman, establishing a vigorous fund raising campaign.
Palmers were very generous in their donations as was a friend of Phillip’s. We were eager to buy our first boat, and for various reasons, not least cost and speed of being built, that our first Gig would be plastic. I recall much deliberation about when to bite the bullet and acquire a gig, considering that at the time we did not have sufficient funds to purchase a gig, trailer and oars. We did have the deposit however, so agreed to place the order. Early members were incredibly supportive, and thanks to their generosity in paying a 5-year membership in advance, and some even donating interest free cash to the club, along came ‘Bucky Doo’. A ballot amongst members chose the name, however children from Colfox School were involved in the decision of club colours.
For quite a time we kept Bucky on her trailer in the private parking area behind the West Bay Hotel, manoeuvring her by trailer to and from the slipway and launching straight off the trailer – trolleys came along some time later. Club meetings were held in the West Bay Hotel skittle alley.
Fund raising remained paramount, as we were eager to secure a wooden gig and thus start racing. I remember Mike securing a significant donation from Sport For England, we held a weekly cake stall in Bridport Market, and were fortunate to receive further assistance from Palmers (although we resisted request to name the new Gig ‘Tally Ho!’). Eventually we had sufficient funds for a wooden Gig, second trailer and oars, so ‘Dagger’ was ordered and the BGRC racing career began, initially taking part in regattas at Lyme and Swanage. The rest is history, and others are welcome to pick up the BGRC squad tale!
Personally, I stood down as Treasurer after around 4 years, and carried on rowing initially in the squad and latterly in General rowing, which I continue to enjoy – much more so since retirement at the end of last year. Coerced by Jan and Jason, I have taken up coxing and helping with the Learn to Row programme, both of which I have enjoyed enormously, and more recently taken up the role of Safety Officer to the Club. I am glad to have the opportunity to put something back into the club and sport which I have been so privileged to enjoy for so long.