Ralph Bird


Ralph Bird is a legendary figure in the modern pilot gig world.

As a builder of 29 gigs and restorer of many more, Ralph’s craftmanship was admired by all who had the pleasure of witnessing him work or rowing in his creations.

In the early 1980s he was passionate about getting the gigs racing again on the waters near his home on the south coast of Cornwall. He persuaded Newquay Rowing Club to lend him three gigs to hold a race on the Fal River.

A number of years went by but in December 1986 a meeting was held at Ralph’s home to discuss the future of gig racing and design. All those present, including George Northey of Newquay, decided that gigs should all, in future, be based on the design of the Treffry  which was built in 1838 by William Peters.

The Cornish Pilot Gig Association was subsequently formed and the revitalisation of gig rowing has developed exponentially ever since.

Ralph built gigs for Falmouth, Helford, Cadgwith, Roseland, Newquay, Rock, Hayle, St Martins, Devoran, St Agnes, Bude, Boscastle, RNAS Culdrose, Porthleven, Truro, Caradon and Porthgain (Wales) whose gig is named after Ralph himself.

Ralph died in late 2009 and more than 1000 people attended his funeral in Truro Cathedral. Many rowers were there, wearing their gig club colours out of respect for Ralph’s contribution to their sport.

Ralph’s son, Patrick, is now a boat builder too. He is taking orders for new Gigs and Oars and can be reached via his email kernowboats@gmail.com

Ralph Bird taken by Mike Greenslade

Photo of Ralph Bird courtesy of Mike Greenslade

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