Eyemouth Rowing Project, Scottish Borders
The Eyemouth Community Rowing Project was inspired by the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther which is working to revive the tradition of coastal rowing. Eyemouth is one of a number of participating communities in Scotland. Projects involve community members of all ages customising boats from kits and then using them to bring people together across generations. Photo right: Eyemouth Harbour.
The Eyemouth group, including a grandfather and his grandson, built ‘Unity'. They worked closely with the St. Abbs' group to share technical expertise. Boatbuilders who thought they had retired got back into harness. The group also included a joiner, an undertaker, a naval captain and a plumber. These core members worked steadfastly together and others helped when they could.
The launch of the boat coincided with the local Eyemouth Herring Queen Festival on 10 July 2010. The regatta with its competitions attracted a great deal of interest from the local community and further afield, leading to number of young people becoming involved in the boat-building. A local school is now also beginning to build a boat, using the expertise and experience of the group. The regatta in 2011 is expected to attract at least 20 boats from around the Scottish coast - and some others.
The funding for the project came from a variety of sources: Scottish Borders Council (‘following the public pound'), Generations Working Together and Berwickshire Housing Association. There were also a significant number of donations from local people and local businesses as they saw its value to the local community and economy. Scottish Borders Council offered the premises to build the boat for three months rent free. Building the boat was only the beginning. Practice nights are now held twice a week and as the days shorten, weekend times have been arranged. A DVD is in production, both to record the story, and to raise further funds.
* The project has provided a real sense of purpose for a significant number of people in Eyemouth, and is helping to create a real sense of community. People have had opportunities to share ideas with other local communities.
* Local businesses also were key. For instance, local sawmills provided suitable wood for specialist components. Borders Forest Trust were also very supportive.
* The project was initiated by the local harbourmaster through two public meetings. Once people became involved they learned to recognise and value each other's skills and to capitalise on getting the best out of everyone.
* The skills involved are not confined to boat-building. Members of the group have become proficient in computer and presentational skills in order to attract interest and further funding! Many new connections and new friendships have developed and, particularly for those closely involved, there were benefits in terms of greatly improved physical and mental health.
Economic benefits: The regatta fleet is set to grow and Eyemouth is making connections with other coastal communities around Scotland. The increased activity will require a trailer and a recent award from Eyemouth & District Rotary Club will help with this, as will money earned from taking part in a film based on a Rosamund Pilcher novel!
Challenges: The kit came with drawings and instructions, but it often took all the ingenuity of the group working together to translate these into practice!
One unexpected difficulty is attracting more young people. Rowing with one oar has the potential to create muscle problems for under 16s. However, the group has acquired a lighterl rowing boat for practice. Keeping the momentum and motivation going is challenging. Fortuitously they have inherited a boat from the Eyemouth Sailing Club (which is now defunct) and they plan to use this as a safety boat. They are also restoring the old sailing club premises to create a safe store for 'Unity'.
What people say: ‘I used to spend most of the day just watching television. Now I have something to bring me out.' Retired plumber.
‘This project is limitless. It grows and grows.' Project Secretary.
‘Different age groups, different walks of life, coming together to make it happen. This is what it should be.' Retired harbour master and former fisherman, Johnny Johnston. Click below to watch the short BBC video clip - Landward: Boat Building. Johnny describes a new sense of community spirit as a wide range of local residents work together to build boats.
Email: Jo Pawley
1 Marine Parade, Eyemouth Tel: 07768980102