John MacGregor - Grandfather of Padddlesports

​Born in 1825, John MacGregor was a Scottish explorer who introduced to canoeing to the UK after returning from a trip to North America in the 1850s.

On his return to Britain, he designed a 4.6 metre craft, based on the Native American canoes he had paddled on his travels. Constructed from oak planking, and covered with rubberized canvas, the boat had an open cockpit and was powered with a double-bladed paddle. It was unlike any sailing vessel or rowing boat then in existence in Europe.

MacGregor constructed further boats during the 1860’s, which he then paddled along waterways at home and abroad. He published a book entitled A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe which succeeded in popularising the canoe, introducing Europeans to its versatility and simplicity. MacGregor’s discovery of the canoe coincided with a period when a new middle class was emerging, with the financial wherewithal and free time to enjoy leisure and sporting activities. Canoeing was therefore one of a raft of sports which boomed during the latter half of the 19th century. In 1866, MacGregor founded the English Royal Canoe Club, to promote the sport. Based at Teddington on the River Thames, the Club is still very active.

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