Issue 208
May/June 2019


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Jul 23, 2019

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My miracle in Stranraer…

ON THE EVENING of Sunday July the 7th two thousand people will probably get a bit drunk in Stranraer. This may not sound like news except that, unusually for Stranraer, most of those semi piss heads will not only be women but also super fit, sharp eyed and bumbling over with joy.

For why? Because they will have just taken part in an astonishing parade of over sixty rowing boats, all with flags a fluttering.

Now for me that parade will be nothing short of a bleeding miracle.

Consider. It was only around ten years ago that a skinny loon of a Skye-based hippy called Iain Oughtred (then just seventy) designed a self build community skiff and announced to the world that he expected to sell around a dozen.

He was wrong. So wrong. Hurray!

There are now over three hundred and fifty all over the world, with two hundred and forty two in Britain alone and thirty eight in the States. Now all of that would indeed be a bleeding miracle if the communities that owned them had bought them on Ebay or their local Tesco, but consider, they not only had to raise circa £5k for each project, they also had to build them, learn how to row them and then put teams together to race their prides and joys against other communities.

It’s going to irritate the holy hell out of Iain, who I see as a friend, but I have to admit that I see him as something of a hero of mine.

The man’s relentless in his pursuit of perfection. Far more of an artist than a designer, far more of a hippy than a businessman. For the better part of half a century he has lived most of his life in semi penury locked away in damp cottages grinding out design after design, not for the money but because he thought it right to make beautiful things that work well.

And now, aged almost eighty, he will be taking his grimy old work van down to the world championships of a design of boat that has gone global. And will be celebrated by thousands.

There have been two hundred and forty two built in Britain, thirty eight in the States and, as the ever remarkable Alec Jourdan who cuts the kits that make the boats out of plywood says, “First you build the boat, and as the project grows, so does the community.”

Raise a glass to Iain and Alec, raise a glass to the teams. Bugger Brexit. People want community, and fitness and sharing and self sacrifice. There is hope.

MAXWELL MACLEOD


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