Steve Lock: a great gig to get
- Credit: Archant
Judi Spiers talks to a North Devonian who has found himself travelling the world to instruct newcomers in a sport close to his heart
“Living the dream!” That’s all North Devon’s Steve Lock can say when asked how he’s enjoying his life in Bermuda coaching the pilot gig racing team. Knowing Bermuda well and seeing him in his new habitat I know what he means. So how did ‘Locky’, as he is known to everyone, who ran a string of successful pubs in North Devon including Instow’s The Wayfarer and The Quay and the Cranford Inn at Cranford, wash up on Bermuda’s tropical shores?
Well it was all down Debbie Jones and her husband, both members of the Bermuda Historical Society. Debbie took up the story as we sat at the St George’s Pilot Gig Racing club in the blazing sun at 10 in the morning.
Over in the UK for their son’s wedding in Somerset, and with a daughter dating a Devonian, they decided on a few days in Devon which included a day out on Lundy. It was a freezing day and whilst waiting at Appledore to catch the boat they knocked on a café door which Locky, a member of the Appledore Pilot Gig Club, happened to be running.
Debbie reveals: “When we got inside there were gigs everywhere, pictures on the wall commentary playing everything.” Debbie explained to Locky that Bermuda had a history of gigs due to the way the island is structured.
Not beating about the bush Locky told her: “‘You’d better get gigs back - not for historical reasons but for racing.”
On her return to Bermuda Debbie met up with the historical society and Steve was invited over to sell the sport at a week of meetings with government and tourism officials. Locky, who I am convinced could sell ice creams to Inuits, won them over and landed himself a job teaching them how to row!
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The cause was also helped by the discovery that Roger Gillett from the Tourism Authority was a former gig rower from Rame in Cornwall! Locky, Roger and I actually spent the best part of a fundraising evening at Debbie’s beautiful home telling Jethro jokes, which, I’m sorry to say don’t travel across the sea as well as Locky does but kept us happy!
But the locals have fallen in love with the gigs as Debbie says: “You can’t help but love them…they are the gig version of Thomas the Tank Engine!”
Locky has now trained over 300 rowers since he has been there with 105 in the club ranging from 16-75, mainly women. When asked in the press why mostly women one person, who shall remain nameless, apparently replied: “The men are really busy!”
“He got some stick for that” said Locky, “as all the ladies are mothers and most have two children!”
Well the Prime Minister was too busy but not so the Governor, George Ferguson.
The icing on the cake was the success of the Bermuda Ladies A team at the World Championships in the Isles of Scilly last year. They came 51st out of 152 teams. When you consider that the top 50 all go over the line almost together and that the team had barely been rowing for a year, were freezing and had never seen waves like it let alone another team rowing it was a brilliant result.
“At one point” Locky related somewhat misty eyed, “we had Falmouth behind us and Appledore’s ladies just to the right of us and I’m shouting ‘Ladies we can do this!’”
I’m told what he actually said you wouldn’t want your gran to hear in a commentary! “It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my gig rowing life,” he admitted.
Well that was then but Locky came back to Appledore last October to find an e-mail waiting from Kuwait. Apparently they had been following the progress of the Bermuda gig rowing via social media as they had had boats for three years but never rowed them properly and wondered if he would like to do in Kuwait what he had done in Bermuda?
As Locky says: “It was a no brainer! I picked up the e-mail on a Friday morning and I was in Kuwait Saturday night.”
For a man partial to beer and bacon he admits it has been “a massive culture shock”. But he adds that the people are kind and generous. He is just coming to the end of his stint stopping for Ramadan and summer when the temperatures reach 45-50 degrees!
Who knows what’ll be waiting for him when he gets back to Appledore.
Living the dream indeed!
Ten things Locky loves about Devon
1. The people (Appledore especially)
2. Hockings ice cream
3. Appledore Lifeboat
4. Hatherleigh Market
5. The farm shops
6. Coastline and beaches
7. It’s a county for all seasons
8. It’s next to Cornwall, my second favourite county.
9. There are places to hide from the madding crowds
10. Driving in the Devon lanes