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July 29th 2018




Sunday 29th July 2018


It’s a wonderful thing that the Firebirds (and the Phoenixes – their contribution was invaluable) are such great sports. On a cool, grey and especially wet Sunday in July Firebirds threatened to become Thunderbirds as we gathered to compete in the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Boat Race.

After months of concerted fundraising (including struggling with our Just Giving pages) and anxiety over ‘What shall we wear?’, changes of plan, venue and weather, weeks of emailing and a frenzied flurry during the days just before the race – even zapping WhatsApps back and forth – the whole Firebirds Dragon Boat Team assembled at Fairlop Waters in Essex on the morning of the 29th July. I thought that was an achievement in itself.

We were welcomed by the Lord Mayor with a glass of champagne to cheer our spirits; we waved our floppy beach hats – the only ‘uniform’ item that we had agreed upon – and set about the first race, the Lady Mayoress changing hastily into suitable wear and a fine hat.

Dragon Boat - fancy dress.jpg

We donned our waterproofs and removed our hats (or tied them on) and headed out into the wind and rain. We scrambled more or less elgantly into our damp seats and began paddling with a lusty ‘One, Two, One, Two’ towards the start line. Juliet Mountevans, our President and our drummer, beat the rhythm manfully, even with some frills and trills, whilst seated on the most precarious, wobbly perch imaginable: her position was no sinecure! We cast steely glances at the boat alongside us; someone shouted Go! and we were off! To my astonishment, we trounced the first team they sent against us! So much for the gentle swanning along at the back  of the field (or lake in this case) which was the original plan; when Firebirds get the bit between their teeth they are a force to be reckoned with!

Dragon Boat - Firebirds.jpg

By our second race things had changed a bit. Some of the other teams were short of rowers, and the Lord Mayor, clearly never one to say ‘no’ to a challenge, whipped off his city smartness and reappeared in shorts and sports shirt, fit and ready to help out,  and the Bowman’s two daughters, Grace and Charlotte, set to with a very fine paddle.  From that moment on we felt that the odds were stacked against us, and even roping in Phoenix Edward Middleton in the final race (owing to an early departure) was insufficient to propel us beyond third place.


Third place!


We won a trophy for fastest losers, and were presented with bronze medals apiece! We say nothing about there being only three boats left in the race by the end. We also won the trophy for Most Stylish Team, which must be thanks to the Hats! But Charles Bowman, nobly assisted by daughter Charlotte, helped to paddle his boat into first place, thus securing gold medals apiece; could lead to a strained atmosphere in the Bowman household!

A great deal of fun was had by all, and it was wonderful to see the Firebirds’ team spirit grow.


The team was Juliet Mountevans, Samantha Bowman, Sandy Rowsell, John Rowsell, Peter Green, Liz Green, Diana Reese, Marion Whitehead, Sarah Mosse, Sheila Higgs, Rue Hoddinott, Patsi Wheatley-Hubbard, Rosemary Middleton, Edward Middleton, Annie Attlee, Alison Knocker, John Nugée.


Lady Lenzie and Angie Kay between them put an unimaginable amount of effort into organising a wonderful day, and especially in such trying circumstances as the late change of venue.  We are very grateful to Crescent and John Giffard for their original offer of Chillington Hall as the venue, and feel particularly sad for them that the unprecedented weather made it impossible.

Best of all, many, many thank yous to all those who contributed to the fundraising. The total raised for the Lord Mayor's Appeal currently stands at  £11,259 with a further small sum to be finalised.  This is a really fantastic figure and means such a lot to all the beneficiaries of the Lord Mayor’s Appeal.


Thank you to the following for their outstanding support for the event.


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