THE rowing community is mourning the death of a highly-skilled oarsman who competed until the age of 76.

Eighty-five-year-old Corbridge resident Tony Follows had a long association with the Tyne Rowing Club, based on the River Tyne at Newburn.

Born and bred in Derby in the East Midlands, Tony took an active role with Derby Rowing Club from the age of 15, before moving to the North-East about 30 years ago.

Friend and rowing club colleague John Goddard said: “I think it was his uncle who introduced him to the sport in Derby.

“In his early years he was successful as a single sculler before moving into sweep oar rowing, in fours and eights.

“He was a highly skilled rower. His last race, not that long ago, was in a veteran boat with an average age of at least 70 years, at Talkin Tarn Regatta.”

John said that Tony was a great craftsman, who helped keep the club’s wooden boats in good order in the days before plastic and carbon fibre equivalents. He added: “He was a good club member and most weeks on a Thursday night was to be seen helping behind the bar.

“His successes as a rower will all be recorded in the trophies that adorned his house.”

Family and friends gathered on Wednesday, August 6, for the funeral at St Andrew’s Church in Corbridge, where members of Tyne Rowing Club paid a fitting tribute by using oars to form a guard of honour as the cortege left the church.

They have also named a commemorative boat after him.

Tony, who died on July 20, was a member of Ovingham and District Choir, St Mary’s Church in Ovingham and St Andrew’s Church in Corbridge.

He was also a keen cyclist , enjoyed walking, and was a passionate gardener.

Tony had two sons, Matthew and Nathan, and was married to the late Joy Higginson. Joy served as the director of the charity Children North-East.