New exhibition chronicles MacGregor's oar-some achievements

Story by Jack Foley

Canoe Pioneer: MacGregor's adventures in the 'Rob Roy' - From December 21, 2002 - March 16, 2003

IN WHAT is proving to be a busy month at Henley's River & Rowing Museum, the life of canoe pioneer, John MacGregor, who was also the founder of the Royal Canoe Club at Teddington, is to be celebrated from December 21 to March 16, 2003.

'Canoe Pioneer: MacGregor's adventures in the 'Rob Roy' will bring to life the intrepid adventures and explorations undertaken by MacGregor and his canoes, all christened 'Rob Roy', the nickname given to him by his parents.

He paddled and sailed the rivers, lakes and canals of the world by canoe, recording his adventures in journals and sketchbooks, and inspiring future generations to take to the water.

John MacGregor, a patent agent by profession but adventurer by inclination, developed an interest in small boats and designed yachts and canoes which could be managed by the lone sailor. He went on to establish the first club for fellow canoe enthusiasts, the Royal Canoe Club on the River Thames.

His first adventure with 'Rob Roy' was in 1865, when he launched off from the banks of the River Thames, setting out on a 1,000-mile journey through Europe.

His travels along the rivers, canals and lakes of Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland, resulted in his publication, entitled 'A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe'.

Further books followed, detailing his epic adventures in the Baltic and through Syria, Jordan and Egypt. MacGregor's sketches and notebooks will be on display at the River & Rowing Museum and can be viewed alongside one of the earliest Rob Roy Canoes.

The exhibition also introduces the visitor to the famous Royal Canoe Club (RCC) at Teddington, established in 1866 to improve canoes, promote canoeing and unite canoeists.

Founded by John MacGregor and his friends, it boasted HRH the Prince of Wales, who was later to become King Edward VII, as its first commodore and for being the first canoe club in the world.

Other distinguished members included oarsmen, travellers, alpine climbers, athletes and many famous inventors; including Lynton Hope, a designer of hulls for flying boats and sailing canoes; Uffa Fox who designed 14 international sailing dinghies and Alex Moulton the inventor of the folding bicycle.

For further details on 'Canoe Pioneer', call the River & Rowing Museum direct on 01491 415 600 or visit www.rrm.co.uk. River & Rowing Museum, Mill Meadows, Henley-on-Thames

About the River & Rowing Museum:

The Museum celebrates three themes: the past, present and future of the River Thames, the historic riverside community of Henley-on-Thames and the international sport of rowing. Since it opened to the public in August 1998, it has received numerous awards for its design and architecture, including National Heritage/NPI Museum of the Year.

The Museum is also a recognised centre for the arts and has hosted a number of high profile art exhibitions as part of its ongoing programme of special exhibitions and related talks.

The Museum is open daily, from 10am until 5pm (5.30pm between May and August) and admission costs£4.95 for adults; £3.75 for children, senior citizens, the disabled and the unemployed. Free parking is available for visitors.