St Peter's School

GFBC History

After one Evensong at St Peter's School in the early 90’s, friends Ben Gill and Edward Alton reminisced about their earlier days of rowing and wished they could take up the sport again. They discussed this for many months and eventually plans began to take shape….

With the school located so close to one of the most beautiful stretches of the Ouse in York, and with an established Rowing department, the aims were: to have fun, to keep fit and also to raise funds for the school’s boat club.

So in 1992, Ben went to see Robin Pittman, the Headmaster at the time, who approved the idea of a boat club for parents and Old Peterites.

The first crew to row was Edward Alton, Ben Gil, Trevor Mulryne and Jim Burns, with Jeremy Taylor as cox. They were soon joined by Andrew Penty, Jill de Boer, Ann Tong, Val Alston, Allan Highet, Mike Porte and Liz Porte. The first GFBC project was to sponsor the building of a fourth step, which enables boats to be launched when the river is low. 

At that time, there were ‘have a go’ sessions for those who had been persuaded by Ben that they had a burning ambition to row. Another tradition was the Staff v Guy Fawkes race. With few funds, the cheapest looking trophy was purchased to be awarded to the winning crew and this icon of inverted snobbery became a key challenge for many years. “I remember one race in the early days when Arthur Ellis Davies coxed the staff’s crew - they won and he jumped in the river rather than be thrown by his crew” Dee Alton remembers.

Some of the successes of the GFBC have been in the Viking boat races. They won two splendid plaques, one in 1995 as runners up in the ‘Best Dressed’ section, and then winning the same competition in 1996.  They also won a certificate for being well dressed in 1999, but in 1998 they actually won a cup for rowing!  That was the year Edward and Allan both celebrated their 50th birthdays!

In the same year a ‘pot’ was won by the mixed four of Mike and Liz Porte, Val Alston and Edward Alton with Cherry Alton as cox. Luckily mixed crew wins do not attract points, meaning that GFBC members didn’t lose their novice status - which they all value so much!

Ben Gill and Jill de Boer were the first men’s and ladies Captains respectively; Ben went on to become the President of the National Farmer's Union and Jill took up horse riding.

Thank you to Dee Alton for her memories.