Even Kings and Queens like to get away to the country at the weekend and their favourite way of getting there was by Shallop – an 8 oared pleasure barge with a comfy glass-sided, cabin in which to chill out. Faster than walking and much more comfortable than riding in a coach, a well crewed shallop could get from Greenwich to Hampton Court in about 4 hours. The trip would take longer if the boat stopped at Twickenham Ait for some of Mistress Mayo’s famous eel pies, a particular favourite with Henry VIII. Shallops were the riparian version of the stretched limo. Fast, comfortable and stylish.
In the past shallops were crewed by liveried oarsmen with years of experience and bulging muscles. Last week it was the turn of the boys of 1st St. Margarets Cub Pack with little experience and no muscles. Their boat was the Royal Shallop “Jubilant”, owned by the Queen and looked after by the 14th Richmond Viking Boating Centre. It was not going to be a simple paddle around the bay. Rowing a shallop means learning orders – and obeying them. (Novices should pay attention here just in case Her Majesty drops by for a quick trip up river)
This does not mean chuck them over board. It means hold the oar vertically, with the handle end gripped firmly between the knees. This probably isn’t difficult if you are a hairy chested boatman, but if you are only 8 years old and still growing, this is a real challenge!
The oars are lowered and placed in the rowlocks on the side of the boat and made ready for rowing. Because the oars are over 3 metres in length with a special gift for separating a oarsman’s head from his neck this operation is done very carefully, oar by oar.
GIVE WAY TOGETHER
This is the instruction to wake up and start rowing. The secret is to synchronise with the Stroke – the oarsman who sits at the front of the rowers and sets the pace. Waving at passing girls, examining interesting flotsam or picking your nose is definitely not allowed at this stage. Sometimes the stroke will set the rhythm by crying “Splash” every time his oar enters the water.
This does not mean you cannot go to the loo until you reach dry land – although you cannot go to the loo on the shallop especially when the Monarch is aboard. The expression “the royal ‘we’” is not about this delicate matter! ‘Hold Water’ means drop the blade into the water and keep it there, effectively stopping the boat moving forward. It is used to turn the boat around.
This is used when either you have arrived or King Henry gets a touch of the mad munchies and wants to go ashore for one of Mistress Mayo’s famous pies. “Way Enough” means Stop Rowing and bring the oar into the boat.
A term used by Cubs when asked if they want to row all the way up to Hampton Court. It is often followed by the name of an early Spanish oarsman José.
This simply means stacking the oars neatly inside the shallop and knocking off for the day. For the Cubs, aching in every muscle, it was ‘thanks’ and off home to bed. For the oarsmen of the past it was a chance to impress the ladies of the court with their muscles and hope that the King didn’t suddenly decide that he wanted to go water skiing on the way home!
THE ROYAL SHALLOP ‘JUBILANT’ CAN BE HIRED FOR WEDDINGS OR FOR INFORMAL ROWING BY CONTACTING VIC GRIFFITHS ON 07785 305122 OR email@example.com IT IS NOT EXPENSIVE AND IT IS GREAT FUN.