Tributes have been paid to Robin Ford, who was instrumental in saving the Thames Traditional Boat Rally, who has died suddenly at the age of 71.

Well-known along the river, he had been involved with a number of Thames organisations over many years and owned several boats from the motor boat Perdita to a skiff, kayak and sailing boat.

But his most recent achievement was helping to save the annual Thames Traditional Boat Rally which seemed destined to fold, as reported by River Thames News at the time. He chaired a public meeting at Penton Hook Marina where he and a small group of enthusiasts urged new volunteers to come forward to save the event held every July at Henley.

As a result a new committee was formed and the event relaunched as the Thames Traditional Boat Festival which for the past two years has drawn record crowds.

The festival website carries a tribute: "It is with infinite sadness that we report the sudden death of long standing committee member and old friend Robin Ford.

"Robin served the old 'Trad' for a great many years, and latterly the Trad Boat Festival as its Press and Publicity Secretary, and was instrumental in reviving the event two years ago when it almost foundered. 

"We have lost a great friend, and the TTBF one of its greatest champions.To his wife and family we send our heartfelt condolences."

Lady McAlpine,ex-Festival president, now co-chairman, said: " He was SUCH a giant of a man - and I don’t just mean stature! He walked into my house a few years ago and said 'I understand you are the only person capable of rescuing the Rally?' This was news to me!

"However, we talked and I agreed… because one could refuse Robin nothing.  He was a truly Gentle Man … and a true Gentleman. Even when he was really very cross he neither raised his voice nor lost his temper.  He was a doer and a peacemaker.  

"The time he put into the Rally over the years would have made him a fortune had he charged for it. 

"The programme alone was a vast undertaking as those who have copies will know.  I suspect that this year’s will be a shadow of Robin’s opus - especially if I have to compile it!  I think if four people could come forward they might just about replace Robin."


Robin was also known to people attending the Beale Park Boat Show where he provided the commentary for the row-past by the Thames Traditional Boat Society as well as rowing a skiff himself.

Cliff Colborne, Captain of the society, said: “His huge enthusiasm for everything to do with traditional boats and the river led him to plunge wholeheartedly into every aspect in which he became involved.

“He was a member of the Steamboat Association, with whom until a few years ago he attended rallies and cruises in his little boats Jaunty and Genevre, the Thames Vintage Boat Club whose events he attended in his cruiser Perdita, and of Henley Sailing Club, as well as the River Thames Society.

"Within the TTBS, he was an active supporter and committee member of long standing, and sometime Captain, and was our representative on the River Thames Alliance.

"A quiet, sociable, generous and understated gentleman, Robin will be greatly missed by everyone he was involved with. I extend my sincere condolences and those of all his friends in the TTBS to Kath and the family.”

River Thames News editor Paul Erlam said: "Robin was also a great supporter of our website from the time we launched six years ago. His knowledge of boating and the Thames has proved invaluable in our coverage of the river since then.

"He was always more than willing to share that knowledge and to help in any way he could. He will be sadly missed but his enthusiasm will be long remembered."

Story dated January 23rd 2017