John MacGregor (sportsman)
John MacGregor (24 January 1825 Gravesend – 16 July 1892 Boscombe, Bournemouth), nicknamed Rob Roy after a renowned relative, was a Scottish explorer, travel writer and philanthropist. He is generally credited with the development of the first sailing canoes and with popularising canoeing as a sport in Europe and the United States. He founded the British Royal Canoe Club (RCC) in 1866 becoming its first Captain.
The son of General Sir Duncan MacGregor. His schooling followed his fathers postings which included Canterbury and Dublin he graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, having shown a talent for mathematics. His ambition to become a missionary was blocked and he began a career in law but being of independent means he was able to follow his passion for travel. In 1849 he spent nine months exploring southern Europe, Palestine and Egypt. He was introduced to canoeing during a trip to the United States and Canada in 1858.
The boat he designed was 'double-ended', (modeled after Indian canoes), but built in Lambeth of lapstrake oak planking, decked in cedar covered with rubberized canvas with an open cockpit in the center. It measured 15 feet long, 28 inches wide, nine inches deep and weighed 80 pounds (36 kg) and was designed to be used with a double-bladed paddle. He named the boat Rob Roy after the celebrated Scottish outlaw of the same name, to whom he was related.
During the 1860s, he had at least seven similar boats built and he sailed and paddled them in Europe, the Baltic and the Middle East. One of those canoes is now based at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.
The version he used for his expedition to Egypt, Syria and Palestine in 1868/69 was slightly smaller but was designed so that he could sleep in it. He was accompanied by a dragoman, Hany, and two retainers who maintained the various base camps on the journey. He visited the Nile Delta, the rivers of Damascus, as well as parts of the River Jordan and Kishon River.
In 1866, he published A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe, which popularised the design and, more importantly, the concept: "in walking you are bounded by every sea and river, and in a common sailing-boat you are bounded by every shallow and shore; whereas, ...a canoe [can] be paddled or sailed, or hauled, or carried over land or water".
The book was internationally successful; with subsequent books and public appearances, it earned MacGregor more than ten thousand pounds. Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson's 1876 voyage by canoe through the canals and rivers of France and Belgium, published in 1878 as An Inland Voyage, used "Rob Roy" canoes.
- Three Days in the East (1850)
- Our Brothers and Cousins: A Summer Tour in Canada and the States (1859)
- A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe (1866)
- The Voyage Alone In The Yawl 'Rob Roy' (1867)
- The Rob Roy on the Baltic (1867)
- The Rob Roy on the Jordan, Nile, Red sea, & Gennesareth, &c (1869)
- Boggis, R.J.E (1939) Down the Jordan in a Canoe. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London. p.56
- Boggis. p.56
- A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5 (1912), pp. 133-37
- Our Brothers and Cousins: A Summer Tour in Canada and the States. London, Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday, 1859. First edition, illustrated. From Internet Archive.
- A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe on Rivers and Lakes of Europe. London: S. Low and Marston, 1866. First edition, illustrated. From Internet Archive.
- A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe, text.
- The Rob Roy in the Baltic, from Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 1867.
- The Rob Roy on the Jordan, Nile, Red sea, & Gennesareth, &c. London: John Murray, Albemarle Street 1874. Fourth edition, illustrated. From Google Books.
- The Voyage Alone In The Yawl 'Rob Roy'. London: S. Low and Marston, 1880. Fourth edition, illustrated. From Google Books.
- Lee, Sidney, ed. (1893). "MacGregor, Robert". Dictionary of National Biography 35. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Hodder, Edwin (1894). John MacGregor, a biography. London Hodder Bros. From Internet Archive.
- John MacGregor: A Victorian-era Paddler Sea Kayaker Magazine 1999 by Brian Kologe
- National Maritime Museum Cornwall