The Lord Mayor’s Show: Back To The Thames

Rowing and rowers played their part in the Lord Mayor’s Show on Saturday, 8th November. The Show is an annual parade through the City of London with 7000 participants drawn from City financial, commercial and political institutions plus the military, charities, trade bodies and youth and voluntary groups.

While it is best known as a land based event, for most of its 560 years the Lord Mayor’s Show was actually a river pageant, only moving onto land when roads and transport methods improved in the mid nineteenth century.

It took the election of a keen oarsman, Sir David Wooton, as the 684th Lord Mayor in 2011 for the Thames to become part of the festivities again. Sir David wanted to start the day of the Show by arriving at Tower Bridge in a flotilla of traditional passenger carrying rowing boats and, to make this a reality, he enlisted the help of the Thames Traditional Rowing Association and the ‘Thames Alive’ group. The row became an ‘instant tradition’ and has continued every year since.

This year the magnificent Queen’s Row Barge Gloriana took Alderman Alan Yarrow from Chelsea to Tower Bridge – which opened in salute.

Rowing’s part in the day did not end there however. Winners of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge (a 300 year old sculling race open to those who have just finished their apprenticeship to work on the Thames) were given the honour of escorting the Mayor’s State Coach as it paraded through the City. They wore the scarlet costumes that they received as the prize for winning the Doggett’s and each carried a sculling blade over their shoulder. It was an nice acknowledgement of the fact that for hundreds of years the pageant on the Thames known as the Lord Mayors Show could not have taken place without oarsmen to propel what became known as ‘floats’. 

By Tim Koch