I was born on 15 may 1970 in Simpson’s Memorial Hospital, Edinburgh. Growing up in the 1970s and 80s as a creel fisherman’s son in Dunbar meant the sea always held a fascination for me. it was not only my father’s work-place, but also provided numerous adventures for a child along the easily accessible coastline, from playing in the rock pools, to building castles on sandy beaches and hide-and-seek in the dunes. This fascination didn’t diminish in my teens, as it then provided a whole new source of leisure pastimes, in the form of sea angling, bird watching and two links golf courses.
Most of Dunbar’s population would say that they were influenced by the sea but being in a fishing family had a whole different level of influence. I was constantly being sub-consciously taught to respect the sea, tides and weather by my father’s constant need for the weather forecast, whether this was via the shipping forecast on the car radio or the daily forecast after the news on the TV. Wherever we were, it was of paramount importance for my father to obtain this information, and our lives were put temporarily on hold to allow him to do this. “Shhh! The forecast’s on”, “Quiet I’m listening to the weather”, were often heard. The weather was always sought out as it could mean the difference between an easy day and good catch or wrecked creels and weeks of repair work.
The sea was our provider but was also a potential destroyer if the warnings were not heeded. I remember, on one occasion, my father getting back from the sea later than expected; they had had to run the boat up the beach to stop it sinking after hitting a submerged rock. The idea was to patch up the hull while the tide was out and then re-float it when the tide came in again, with a good enough repair to get back to the harbour. Another time, he arrived home soaking wet; he and his partner went to help another boat in trouble. They pulled up alongside, jumped on board the sinking boat and immediately started bailing out. A few minutes later, one of them looked up to see their own boat drifting away from them. In their hurry to help, they’d not tied the boats together securely enough. Now there were four men on the sinking boat and the good boat was drifting away. Out of the four of them, my dad was the only one who could swim, so it fell to him to jump in, swim back to his boat, climb on board and return with it. When my dad eventually gave up fishing and started another business, he kept his connection with the sea by owning a couple of leisure craft on which we would occasionally potter around, not really knowing how to sail, but confident we could turn on the engine and get back to the harbour.
I did a degree in Chemical Engineering at Heriot-Watt University, obtaining a BEng (Hons) in 1992. After working in London for a while, I moved to the north-east and am currently living in Newcastle.
While in London, I joined a sailing club and gained some experience in racing on the Solent. In 2000, I achieved a dream when I took part in ‘The Times-Clipper 2000’ round the world yacht race. This was a fully-crewed amateur circumnavigation yacht race, where teams made up of the paying public raced around the world on identical yachts, skippered by professional paid skippers. Run by a company named Clipper Ventures, and starting in 2000, it was sponsored by the Times Newspaper.
Each individual yacht was sponsored by a British city, which took the name of the city; I was delighted to be allocated to ‘Glasgow Clipper’. Starting at Portsmouth, our route took in the following countries: Portugal, Cuba, Panama, the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Christmas Island (Australia), Mauritius, South Africa, Brazil, USA, Jersey, then back to Portsmouth.
Ross’s account of his experience can be found here as a pdf document: Around the world in eleven months by Ross Drummond. A printed version is available at the Local History Centre in Haddington