Vignettes: Robert Rivington

ROBERT RIVINGTON was a tall man, and had an equally tall and gracious partner when I first met him in 1995. He became a member in the early years of City Barge, probably because of his Oxford link with Richard Norton. His partner was Rosemary X, who later became a supporter of City Barge. Robert was a fanatic about punting.


Robert was keen on providing a ferry during the finals day of Eights Week which took place each May on the Isis in Oxford. This was to convey people from the Christ Church meadows bank to the opposite bank, so they could walk up and down the bumps course to catch all the action, instead of being trapped just at the finish. The alternative was to walk upstream, cross Folly Bridge, and then walk back downstream to the course, a half mile deviation. (Of course, some crews did not even reach the finish racing, as a bump between two crews caused them both to have to withdraw rapidly to the bank, letting others continue the chase.) Robert sometimes provided the crossing in an aluminium canoe, but instead of propelling it with a paddle, he would punt it skilfully with a pole. Interesting.

He kept his canoe in the wonderful old Victorian boathouse belonging to University College on the towpath. When this burnt down in 1999(?), the unfortunate canoe was melted.


His book, The History and Techniques of Punting in Oxford, is a classic review of the subject by a passionate specialist. It was originally published by Oxford (?) in 1983 in hardback, but was republished by Oleander Press in paperback form in 2013 with 110 pages. There is a Cambridge version too, of similar name, dealing with operating from the opposite end of the punt from Oxford. Diagrams show the art of punting and plans show how to build one. There is history too, and plenty of photos and illustrations.

Robert died in XX and left us with his books and fond memories of an eccentric and delightful man.

— Richard Bailey