Seafaring peoples and coastal fishermen in the Indian and Pacific Oceans have used sailing canoes for many hundreds, probably thousands, of years.
The modern sport of canoeing in Britain developed during the mid Victorian era in the late 19th century. There was a growing middle class benefiting from the increase in living standards brought about by the industrial revolution. These people now had sufficient income and spare time to use some of it in leisure activities. Holidays abroad opened up people’s perspectives and allowed them to go on small adventures, discovering the world about them. It was in this new exciting era that John MacGregor went to a local boat builder and had a sailing canoe made to his own design. He took it abroad, using railways and steamer ferries to undertake a journey of a 1000 miles across Europe. He subsequently wrote a hugely successful book about his adventure – “A Thousand Miles in a Rob Roy Canoe”
This book, plus further accounts published in newspapers, started a craze of adventuring throughout Britain. Several canoe clubs were formed, on the Clyde, the Humber, the Mersey and the Royal Canoe Club on the Thames.