How college steward Ray got to join student rowing team

·3-min read
Ray Doran, far right, with his fellow crew members
Ray Doran, far right, with his fellow crew members

Ray Doran enjoyed two roles while employed at The Queen’s College in Oxford - as steward and a member of the college rowing team.

After arriving at the High Street college, he asked if he could row with the students - and much to his surprise, they said yes.

He recalls: “I enjoyed three fantastic years at the college and as a member of the college boat club.”

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He had learned to row many years earlier with the City of Oxford Rowing Club and fancied having another go with the oars when his college job began in 2004.

One event that sticks in his mind was a row from the college boat house on the Thames near Folly Bridge in Oxford to the Houses of Parliament in London, raising money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Mr Doran, of Boxwell Close, Abingdon, writes: “The students organised the event as an end-of-term ‘jolly’.

“I said to them that should they need any help or a last-minute substitution, I was happy to fill the position.

“Many of the crew were medical students and in the final year at Queen’s.

“One of them decided that the event was too close to his exams and decided not to go - this was 24 hours before departure!

Oxford Mail:
Oxford Mail:

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“I received a phone call asking if I was still available as they were one short.

“I agreed and turned up the next day ready to row.

“The total distance was 198 kilometres and we did that over two and half days.

“We stopped off at a few friendly boat clubs for rest and meals. We arrived at the Westminster College boat house on Sunday night, ready for the final four miles downstream to the Houses of Parliament.

“We were reliant on the early tide and the lack of water traffic.

“The boat we were rowing in was an inshore or river craft and the sides were not high enough to keep out the high waves generated by fast-moving powered craft that used the Thames as a motorway.

“One of the pictures shows us dismantling the boat.

“The college boatman, Terry Cox, collected it later and took it back to the college by trailer.

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“Terry was a real character, a natural and jovial person with a happy smile and warm words of encouragement, always cracking jokes and lighting up the room with his presence.

“It was a fantastic experience to be able to finish with these fine young people who have gone on to glittering careers in medicine and cancer research.

“Chris Baker was the college boat club president and it was his kindness that allowed me to row with these people.”

City of Oxford Rowing Club is one of the city’s largest and most successful rowing clubs.

It has more than 300 members and its senior squads compete at the highest level.

The club aims for top results at The Head of the River and Henley Royal Regatta and other prestigious events.

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This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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