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“The Coat” by R.G.Crouch

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'The Coat' although written as a novel, is based on stories passed down through generations of the river Thames fraternity. Stories which chronicle the origin of Doggett's Coat and Badge wager. This rowing race has been held on London's river each year since 1715 and is now the oldest of the annually held sporting events.

The book also tells of the brutality and dangerous times of the early eighteenth century; of how the watermen of that time were harshly controlled by the rules of their Guild, how they dealt with the cruel winters when the river was frozen over, of the hard lifestyle they endured, and of their greatest fear of being press-ganged into the Royal Navy.

It is told through the eyes of Edwin; the young wherryman on whom Doggett is reputed to have based the rules of his race. It is also the story of Edqin's lifewstyle working the Thames as a wherryman and of his capture for duty in the Royal Navy. Bob Crouch was born in London in 1937. His familly were victims of the war time bombing raids on the Isle of Dogs. They moved to settle in Greenwich where Bob was educated at local schools. At 17 he was apprenticed to his father as a third generation Thames Waterman.

Bob took up the sport of rowing and successfully competed for Doggett's Coat and Badge in 1958. After two years National Service in the Royal Navy he returned and finally built up his own pleasureboat business. His involvement with the Watermen's Guild is long standing, becoming Mater in 1987. He was also honoured to be appointed a Queen's Waterman in 1981 and was elevated to the position of Bargemaster to H. M. The Queen in 1989. On his retirement in 2001, Her Majesty awarded him with the M.V.O. His first novel 'The Coat' gave the opportunity to tell the story of origins of Mr. Doggett's famous race, with latitude to describe the lifestyle of the watermen of the early 18th century.

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