Members and friends were shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Mick Downworth on Saturday, January 16th at the age of 53. Mick joined Durham ARC from one of the early Learn to Row courses under the Explore Rowing scheme in 2012 along with his then wife Carol. He quickly embraced the sport of rowing and took to it wholeheartedly.
He joined the Masters Development squad, representing the Club at local regattas usually in a Masters double. He was also an enthusiastic participant in the Sunday League, in which he competed until 2014 when losing his novice status made him ineligible. After that he turned his hand to coxing and coaching Sunday League crews.
In 2013 Mick and Carol, who is visually impaired, became DARC’s first Para rowing competitors, winning as a mixed double at Durham Primary Regatta.
Mick was also an enthusiastic volunteer, bringing an abundance of skills acquired through 23 years’ Army service, always willing to take on numerous tasks ranging from organising first aid courses and maintaining safety launches in working order, to decorating and repairing the boathouse roof.
He put the needs of others before himself, and as an outreach worker for the armed forces community in Gateshead he had a network of contacts and links with charities supporting veterans and their families, which he used in 2013 to arrange the first of a series of visits to the club for disabled ex-service personnel.
He had an ambition to form a Para rowing squad but when this failed to materialize in Durham he and Carol set about starting a new club at Gateshead, which was duly affiliated to British Rowing in 2014. The fact that they didn’t have any boats was a minor issue so after building a membership base the next task was to build some boats. The club’s first St Ayles Skiff was constructed over the winter ready for launch, and in May 2015 it was named in honour of legendary Tyneside oarsman Harry Clasper at an event attended by several clubs from the Scottish and North Eastern coastal rowing community, as well as by British Rowing Chair Annamarie Phelps.
Gateshead opened a clubhouse at Derwenthaugh and was able to attract members through charities such as Help for Heroes and Row2Recovery, the latter also becoming Durham Regatta’s charity partner in 2015. Mick’s involvement with the organising committee of the Great Tyne Row (GTR) and the newly forged links between Gateshead and the coastal rowing community brought about a record entry for the 2015 GTR.
Mick later became involved with the boathouse development project taking place further up the River Derwent at Ebchester. Where the boathouse had fallen into a state of semi-dereliction following the dissolution of the original Ebchester Rowing Club in 1974. Planning permission for the necessary refurbishments was approved in 2018 and a new Ebchester Boat Club was formed and affiliated to British Rowing in 2019. Sculling returned to Ebchester and links were formed with the nearby Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club. Funds were required to progress the boathouse development work and almost single handedly Mick brought about the return of Ebchester Regatta by volunteering the club to host the August round of the Northern Rowing Sunday League, which took place on August 4th 2019.
Mick remained a member of Durham ARC throughout, and competed regularly with the MasD coxless quad, winning latterly at the Wansbeck round of the Long Distance Sculling Series in November 2019.
He was liked by all who knew him and will be sorely missed by many from across the rowing community. He leaves a son and daughter. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Donations to a memorial fund can be made through GoFundMe.