Meet the volunteers uncovering the hidden history of the world's oldest rowing race
To mark London History Day we caught up with a few of our volunteers working on our new heritage project diving into the history of rowing on the tidal Thames. The Race for Doggett's Coat and Badge is the oldest rowing race in the world and has long been overshadowed by the much more famous Oxford/ Cambridge race. Our Oral History volunteers will be bringing this history alive, researching archives and conducting interviews with previous winners and those associated with the race. Here's what they had to say about the bringing this little known history to life.
"I’ve lived in London all my life, and I’ve always lived near the Thames and been interested in its history. My main connection to the project is that I did Museum Studies at university, so I’m interested in heritage - London’s history especially - and I thought it sounded like a really exciting project to get involved in.
I’ve always been interested in histories that haven’t had a voice, or haven’t been documented as much as they should have been, especially something like Doggett’s which is in the shadow of the Oxford/Cambridge race – and this is a really great platform to speak about it. I suppose history has changed and people are interested in not just the usual characters but in uncovering a different side of London and its heritage.
I think meeting the people we’re going to be interviewing will be really interesting, and I’m looking forward to doing research and finding out more about the history of Doggett’s, I think it will be such a rewarding and unique experience."
"I live on Eel Pie Island, the river is at the bottom of my garden, people are always rowing up and down along it, and a gentleman who lives on Eel Pie Island called Ken Dwan, who runs one of the boatyards, is an ex-winner of Doggett’s, so I really wanted to find out more.
I think that it is important to make more people feel like rowing can be for them, and I think that it is becoming a more open sport. It used to be that rowing was seen as a sport for certain people. By highlighting this side of rowing’s history and the Doggett’s Race, more people can feel like it is for them.
I’m really, really looking forward to uncovering more and researching the history of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge race, and finding out more about the Watermen and Lightermen and their role. I volunteer at the Eel Pie Island Museum in central Twickenham, and in our section all about the island's boatyards we have Ken’s Doggett's Coat on display."
"I live by the river in Putney, and I run in a triathlon club in Fulham, which is another connection to the project because a lot of my friends in the club are ex-rowers.
I have lived in London for nearly thirteen years and near the river for most of that and had never heard of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race – so I think it’s really important that more people are made aware of such an important race and that this history is recorded. I'm pretty sure a lot of my ex-rower friends have never heard of this race, but would be interested to learn about it.
I like the idea of saving history, and recording it before it gets lost. It's a chance to hear some interesting stories, meet some great characters and learn a few skills about interviewing and recording oral history."