The Boat Club

History of the Club

St Andrew Boat Club ("SABC"), the oldest open amateur rowing club in Scotland -- and the sixth oldest in the United Kingdom -- was founded at 17 Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh on 24 April 1846.  Permission was obtained to have boats on the Union Canal, the first members were admitted at fixed subscriptions, laws drawn up, and a club room secured at Fountainbridge.

Groups of the Saint Andrew Boat Club: Messrs T Dickson, Hastie, Hugh Lyon Tennent, Rd. Campbell, Seton, J.S. Tytler and Arbuthnot. Unknown date but prior to 1870. Original held in National Library of Scotland


Initially, graduates from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, who wished to continue their rowing, made up the majority of the membership.  The first recorded race in which the club participated was against the Grange Cricket Club on 12 July 1848 over a mile and a half course on the Union Canal: SABC won.  Other early races included various matches against the army. The members also held an annual regatta on the Union Canal at Hermiston. Military bands were engaged and the occasion provided popular summer entertainment.


In 1850 the club built its first boathouse and dressing rooms at Fountainbridge for a total cost of £83.17.0d: it acquired three new boats.  In 1853 the club acquired Port Hermiston boat house, thus providing additional premises some distance from the city. After an unsuccessful attempt to feu ground on the banks of the canal at Viewforth, and after a spell at what is now the Forth Canoe Club (by Ashley Gardens), the club eventually moved to its present site at Meggetland, Craiglockhart in 1984.


The club has a long and rich social history, inextricably linked with Edinburgh's society.  Shortly after the club's formation, in 1850 the members resolved to convene a St Andrew's Day Dinner each year, a tradition that continues to this day.


As well as its annual dinner, the club held the "brilliant and fashionable" fancy dress ball, first in 1853, then triennially from 1861.


The newspaper article opposite, extrapolated from the Otago Daily Times (New Zealand), dated 26 June 1875, is testament to the glitz and glamour of SABC and to how the club formed such an important part of the Edinburgh 'season'. The ball continued through to 1939, interrupted only by the Great War.


The club remained in existence after 1939 but suspended racing duties owing to World War II.  It was restarted in 1955 by, among others, George Hunter OBE, who remains President of the club and who still serves on its committee.


SABC has produced many international class athletes, with representations at the 1958 Empire Games and the 1986 and 1994 Commonwealth regattas. The club’s successes have grown in recent years and it now has several current elite athletes in its fold, including Katherine Grainger (Olympic gold medallist, three Olympic silver medals and six world championship golds), and Sinead Jennings (world championship gold, silver, and bronze). 


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© St. Andrew Boat Club, Edinburgh. All rights reserved.
 "Scotland's Oldest Open Rowing Club 1846."

St Andrew Boat Club is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation.

Registration number SC045608

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