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I have a story for you. For me it starts with the picture you see above, but it does not end there.
My husband and I spent a few magical days on the Isles of Scilly about 4 years ago. It was so magical we decided we wanted to find something special to bring home with us as a memory. So, map in hand we walked around the main island of St Mary’s, going in and out of every Gallery on the map. The trouble was we always left empty handed. Nothing jumped out at us. For me, a piece of art has to have an immediate effect , there can be no ummming and aahhing. It has to feel right straight away. As we prepared to enter the last Gallery listed on the map, I crossed my fingers and lo and behold as I walked through the door there was the thing I had been looking for all day. Just one problem, a red dot, bottom right hand corner, meaning sold. I turned sadly to the lady behind the desk and  peered over the raised front only to see her working on a very similar piece of art. I tentatively asked the question I was pretty sure I knew the answer to ” is that still for sale?” “No, I’m afraid it’s already sold ” came back the expected answer. I tried again,” I don’t suppose you’ll be making another by any chance?” It’s the wood she replied, I may not have enough, you see the boat shed next to us?  They are refurbishing the Pilot Gig boat Czar and they need to keep as much of the original wood as possible.  I paint on the wood that has to be replaced but I have to keep enough to make them one to sell to help their funds.”  “Please can you see if there is anymore wood left over?” I asked. “Yes I can try, but please don’t get your hopes up.” So having given our phone number we left with fingers and toes crossed. Well there is a happy ending because the picture you see above belongs to us, so the answer was yes!
The story doesn’t end there, for these very small boats have a very large history.The Czar was built in 1879. It is a six oared boat, made of Cornish Elm, built for pilotage and rescue purposes. The Czar is one of the few remaining Victorian gigs, having once attended wrecks including the Maipu (1879), Minnehaha (1910), and SS Isabo (1927).This boat along with others and their brave crews saved hundreds of lives, not only peoples lives but livestock and horses too.
Still they add to their history, only this year “Fear Not” was seen being rowed down the Thames during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant. Although the rowers were soaked to the skin, I have no doubt they would not have wanted to be anywhere else on that day. The beauty about these rowing boats is their pure determination and that of the rowers to keep on going, the men , women and children who now race them around the Cornish Coastal waters have the same pure grit and determination of the rowers that saved so many lives all those years ago. The only thing that has changed is the boats purpose. I’m pleased that our daughter learnt to row on this very boat last summer and I hope will continue this summer. I for one am very proud to have a wonderful piece of history hanging on our wall, not a day goes by when I don’t think of the brave men who took The Czar out and gave people back their lives.

If you’d like to learn more about the history and ongoing lives of these boats, please visit Gig Rowing  Scilly Isles Gig History

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