Lottery Grant Awarded to CPGA to create historical archive

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The Cornish Pilot Gig Association (CPGA) has been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £39,000 to support their project entitled ‘Pulling Together The Past’. This exciting initiative will draw together the history of Cornish Pilot Gig rowing for the first time.

The Cornish Pilot Gig has played an important role in the working and social lives of communities across Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and the south west for generations. The vessels were used as lifeboats, for salvage, general work, and pilotage. Early records of their use include that of the crew of the ‘Royall Oacke’ being rescued by a St. Mary’s gig after being wrecked on the Bishop Rock Lighthouse in 1666. Cornish Pilot Gigs were also raced in local regattas, often with substantial sums of money awarded to the winners.

Gig rowing is now a colourful and competitive sport enjoyed by over 8,000 people spread across nine counties in the UK, with the most recent Gig Club being founded in Norfolk. CPGA Chairman Shane Sullivan said “The history of the Cornish Pilot Gig has never been fully documented before and we are looking forward to bringing together films, photographs and documents to reveal more of our special heritage. We will be appealing to boat builders, rowers and members of the community to share their stories and recollections with us”.

The project will create a new Cornish Pilot Gig archive with the help of volunteers who will be trained in archive and digitisation techniques. CPGA Heritage Lead Gary Cook said “I am particularly looking forward to sharing the stories we discover through our planned mobile exhibition when we tour gig rowing communities next year”.

“’It will cost £82,654 in total to deliver the project and in addition to the HLF grant we are fortunate to have secured support from a range of funding bodies including FEAST, Cornwall Heritage Trust and the Cornwall Community Foundation. We are, however, still seeking donations from individuals and business organisations to help us reach our match funding target. Supporters can make donations by contacting us directly or discussing a business sponsorship”.

If you would like further information regarding sponsorship or donations, or if you have any Cornish Pilot Gig related stories to share or would like to help as a volunteer please contact: Shane Sullivan, CPGA Chairman on 07880 785437 or [email protected]


The images are reproduced courtesy of John Bawden as featured on Top pic: The Newquay Rowing Club gig ‘Treffry’ racing on the Isles of Scilly for the first time in 1963. L-R – E Kennedy (cox), J Bawden, R Pearce, P Crantol, G Northey, D Todman, A Henwood.

Below: The gig ‘Newquay’, being carried down the beach at low tide during the 1950’s.

Below: An unidentified gig crew with a trophy in the 1950’s.

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