Saturday, 19 June 2021

Wargrave History Society

MEMBERS were given a talk about life on the River Thames at January’s meeting.

Daniel Wood, a boatman who grew up in Wargrave, told how his father had taught his brother and him to row as children and he would regularly pilot canoes and small boats while in the scouts.

After university, he saw a newspaper advert for a job as a boatman for the owner of Cliveden House, which had two vessels, a naval officer’s launch called Suzy Ann and Liddesdale, an electric canoe.

Mr Wood spent several years working for half the year at Cliveden and the other half as a snowboard instructor in Canada but he then took on contracts to drive boats for others and became a full-time boatman.

For the last 15 years he has been associated with one particular boat, Amaryllis, a 50ft umpire’s launch built by Hobbs of Henley in 1928.

Originally built for the Cambridge University Boat Club, it was used by Hobbs as a charter vessel.

In 1996, when the boat was in need of major restoration, the university decided it could not afford the work and it was bought for a nominal sum by Dr Walter Scott.

Henley Royal Regatta, the Town and Visitors’ Regatta and Henley Veterans’ Regatta all make use of Amaryllis as an umpire’s launch and it is still used for the Boat Race, helping the Cambridge crews prepare and on the day itself.

Mr Wood took Amaryllis to the Queen’s diamond jubilee pageant in Henley in 2012, where 670 boats paraded on the river to mark the occasion.

He also takes part in the annual swan upping.

Mr Wood was invited to become a member of the royal household as a swan-upper in 2014 and travels the 79 miles between Sunbury and Abingdon counting swans and newborn cygnets.

He is one of two people to row the boat that goes ahead of the swans to block them in so they can be taken on to the bank and tagged.

The society’s next meeting will be on Tuesday, February 14, when Graham Jones will talk about the Lambourn Valley Railway.

On Tuesday, March 14  the society will hold its annual meeting.

Meetings take place in the Old Pavilion at the recreation ground, off Recreation Road, starting at 8pm.

For more information, call Peter Delaney on 0118 940 3121 or visit

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