Thursday, March 29, 2018

Duncan Winning OBE

Today,  I received a phone call from Gordon Brown to tell me that Duncan Winning OBE died yesterday. He had been ill for some time.  I send my sincere condolences to Duncan's family. 

Duncan was a father figure in Scottish sea kayaking and because he gave of his time generously, he started many people off on a lifetime of sea kayaking adeventures. So  many people have stories about Duncan but I have never heard a bad word about him, he was a true gentleman.
  
I was fortunate to paddle with Duncan on many occasions over the years and how we talked! We were both interested in the history of recreational kayaking (or KAY-a-king as Duncan called it). Of course I was the student and he was the master. Indeed Duncan not only had an encyclopaedic knowledge of kayaking history, he was actually a very important part of its history himself. Duncan was very proud of the fact that all the boats he had owned and paddled since the age of 14 years had been designed by himself. This photo shows Duncan in one of his designs, the GRP Explorer by Island Kayaks of Skye.

We would get so engrossed in our discussions that we would fall far behind the others and finish after dark. I was lucky to paddle with Duncan many times on our home waters of the Firth of Clyde but we also paddled together in the Inner and Outer Hebrides and at the alternating sea kayak symposiums at Skye and Jersey, where he was one of the organisers. 

Duncan had visited the Outer Hebrides over a period of over 40 years. On one of his first visits he and his friend Joe Reid had been caught in a great storm. They were lucky enough to have found a tiny sheltered cove.

He was very keen to find that particular shell sand cove again which was hidden away in the fastnesses of Loch Roag, a huge sea loch on the west coast of Lewis. Unfortunately he could not remember exactly where it was because the storm had blown their map away. During the course of a day's paddle, we stopped at many beautiful white sand Hebridean coves but none was the right one. At last, just as the day was fading, we found Duncan's cove. It was a wonderful moment to share with Duncan.

Duncan's day job also involved the sea. He was an engine room draughtsman in Kincaid's shipyard at Greenock but his true love was designing and building kayaks. 1960 Duncan paddled a kayak that Ken Taylor brought back from Illorsuit (Igdlorssuit) in Greenland. Duncan was so impressed by the handling of this kayak that all his subsequent designs were influenced by it. The above photo taken in 1960 shows Ken in the Igdlorssuit kayak, which had been made for him by local kayak builder Emanuele Korniliussen in 1959.  It is now in the Kelvingrove museum in Glasgow, Scotland. Ken and Duncan were fellow members of Scottish Hostellers Canoe Club.  When Ken left to live in the USA he left the kayak in the care of Duncan and Joe Reid who had taught Duncan to paddle. In 1964 Duncan carefully measured the kayak and made the detailed drawing below.

Duncan freely shared this drawing throughout the small sea kayaking community of the time. Geoff Blackford was one of the people who built a ply-wood version from Duncan's drawing and called it the Anas Acuta. 

In 1972 Valley started to commercially build a GRP version of the Anas Acuta, which is still in production and to this day has infused the British style of sea kayaks with Igdlorssuit roots. This photo shows Andy Spink paddling an Anas Acuta in the waters of Scarp in the Outer Hebrides.

Due to a series of surgical operations I was off the water for some time but Duncan and I kept up our long conversations by phone and, until I could visit him, Duncan came to visit me. I have no doubt that his time spent with me aided and sped my recovery. The last time Duncan and I paddled together was in November 2014. We paddled till long after sunset. It seems just like yesterday. The last time I saw Duncan was about a year ago at Portencross on his beloved Firth of Clyde. His health problem prevented him paddling that day but we enjoyed another of our long conversations.

What a loss his passing is. He was a thoroughly decent and modest family man. His influence in his chosen recreation of sea kayaking is immeasurable due to his gift of time to others, willingness to share knowledge and quiet leadership. Farewell Duncan and thank you.

23 comments:

  1. A nice tribute to your friend and sea kayak pioneer.

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    1. Thank you Bob, Duncan was one of those people who you just hoped would always be around.

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  2. What lovely reminiscences Douglas. Duncan was indeed a gentleman. My favourite memory of him was a trip we led together at a North Uist symposium. The bulk of the trip was downwind so he asked us to raft together and then produced an enormous golf umbrella with which to catch the wind. Propelled thus, we spent the rest of the trip listening to his stories. Rest in peace Duncan.

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    1. Thank you Kate, oh yes Duncan's umbrella! My friend David (who was about ages with Duncan and had been paddling just as long) kept in touch with Duncan through a shared interest in vintage skin on frame kayaks) was introduced to the kayaking umbrella by Duncan. That is what led us down the road of paddle sailing!

      Umbrella sailing!

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  3. Pamela Parkinson31/03/2018, 19:38

    I have always known that my dad was a pretty special person. It is so lovely to hear other people's thoughts. I hope you don't mind that we borrowed your photo of dad paddling until the sunset for his Facebook page ...it is such a beautiful photo & seems so fitting. Thankyou for taking the time to share your memories.

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    1. Pamela it is lovely to hear from you. Your Dad was very, very special indeed. I am honoured you have chosen that photo. It was a very special day on the water for me and Duncan. Unfortunately it was to be our last day on the water together as we both ran into periods of ill health. Your Dad, Gordon and Morag Brown invited me to contribute to the Skye symposium this coming May. As I have had a few health problems of my own recently I had to decline but I had hoped to be able to travel there and see Duncan in his element. Sadly that is not to be. Please pass my sincere condolences to the rest of your family. Douglas.

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  4. An amazing man, introduced so many people to the joys of sea kayaking.

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  5. A beautiful piece for a true gentleman, thank you for sharing.

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  6. Thank you for posting this very appropriate piece Douglas.

    As you know, I wasn't fortunate enough to have met Duncan, but was aware of him and the enormous respect in which he is held, not just for the influence on sea kayaking - more for the influence on sea kayakers.

    Pamela - please accept my sincere condolences. Your Dad was one of a kind - and his was a life well lived

    Ian



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  7. Thank you Ian. The late Jim Broadfoot, David, Jennifer and I met Duncan on a paddle at Culzean Castle after our return from a trip out to Coll and Tiree. Duncan was very keen to come on one of our camping trips (he knew David from way back) especially if it was to Islay, Jura, Colonsay, Coll or Tiree. Unfortunately work, then my periods of injury, ill health and his illness prevented that happening. Many camp fire stories will happen because of Duncan and I suspect he will long be a well remembered subject of those stories.

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  8. I had not seen Duncan for such a long time since leaving Ayrshire and Scotland for work overseas many years ago. I was though very fortunate to know Duncan through local kayaking circles and spent several winters in the early 80s learning from him whilst helping him deliver introductory kayaking courses at Largs Pool. As a Trainee Instructor with Castle Craigs Canoe Club then, the time spent with Duncan and the knowledge he so freely passed on was invaluable not only for me but for our new and developing club. Farewell Duncan and Thank You.

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  9. Re Davids tribute above, I also met Duncan at Largs pool when my son and I signed up for Duncans course thus beginning many years of long and happy friendship as well as the wealth of knowledge Duncan bestowed upon us. Having subsequently joined Garnock Canoe Club Duncan introduced me to the delights of circumnavigating Mull,Iona,Staffa and listening to the waves crashing inside Fingals Cave. Further afield we canoed the Norwegian Fjords to Bergen and manys a ceilidh we had on the Isle of Bute and singsongs during our weekends at Loch Lomond. Apart from all this I will greatly miss Duncans Saturday morning visits to my home when we put the world to rights over a cup of coffee. A truer more loyal friend I will never have. You have earned your rest Duncan sleep in peace. Austin Kelly

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  10. Veronica Rodger07/04/2018, 11:02

    My sister's and I were truly blessed .Dads passing has left a huge void in our lifes but the lovely words and happy memories that people are taking the time to share mean the world to us, thank you.

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    1. Veronica it is lovely to hear from you. I send my sincere condolences to your family. That void is huge but in time it will fill with happy memories. My Mum and Dad both died of cancer so their deaths were expected. But until it happens nothing prepares you for the great sense of loss. However, looking back I now only have happy memories when I think of them. One day when we were paddling near Dunure we were talking about our families. I said to Duncan, "You know Duncan your grandchildren are so lucky having a grandpa like you." I hope I can be as good a grandpa to my granchildren as Duncan was. Duncan was such a great example to us all. I plan to come to the funeral, though I am waiting for an operation and have just heard I may need to go into hospital on the day. My favourite memory of Duncan relates to his sense of humour and the April the first prank we got up to a few years ago.

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    2. Veronica Rodger08/04/2018, 11:36

      From the kind words you have shared with us I'm sure you'll be a fabulous grandpa, I hope you're fighting fit again soon and I'm intrigued . . . what was the April Fools prank? Xxx

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    3. Thank you Veronica. We had found a flat piece of wood with three rollers in it on a beach near Ballantrae. None of us could think what it was but as it was near April 1st Duncan suggested we could make up a paddle from it as part of an April Fool joke. The result was the Winning Greenland Roller paddle which you can see if you click on the highlighted text in my reply above. Alistair Wilson from Lendal paddles was also involved as we had bumped into him on the water as we passed Lendalfoot where he has a house. :o)

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    4. Veronica Rodger08/04/2018, 15:45

      �� ha ha!!!! So imaginative, that's made my day Xxx

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