Patrick Tolfree

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Fundraising for Parkinson’s UK
raised of £10,000 target
by 48 supporters
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Patrick Tolfree's fundraising, 22 February 2010
Parkinson’s UK

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Patrick Tolfree, aged 76, recently completed the Royal Regatta course on the Thames at in a coxed four. The purpose of the row was to raise money for Parkinson’s .   The event was organised  by the Boat Race Founders’ Society, with the backing and support of the Isle of Ely Rowing Club and   in .

Patrick, who lives in , was diagnosed as having Parkinson's disease in 1991.  He was 58 and in good health. He realised the importance of maintaining muscle tone and flexibility in the joints. He was a keen walker and he did regular exercises.  With the advice and encouragement of physiotherapists he adapted his daily exercise regime so that it focused on the parts of the body that are particularly vulnerable to Parkinson’s.  He believes that this did a great deal to alleviate the


A couple of years ago he was able to add rowing to the measures he has taken to combat Parkinson’s. 

As an undergraduate at his main sport had been rugby, but he rowed in the summer terms in the Worcester College Third VIII.  In 1955 he won his oar in the university’s summer bumps races.  He very much enjoyed the experience and rather wished he had concentrated on rowing instead of rugby.

Patrick is the great-great-nephew of Charles Wordsworth, Bishop of St Andrews, who, with Charles Merivale, Dean of Ely, was a co-founder of the University Boat Race.  The two men had been friends at .  Wordsworth went on to , , issuing the challenge to Merivale, who was at , , which resulted in the first Boat Race. 

In 2007, because of his link with Charles Wordsworth, Patrick was invited to attend an event at Ely to commemorate the second centenary of the birth of Charles Merivale.  The organiser of the event was Jack Waterfall, Chairman of the Boat Race Founders’ Society. Through him Patrick was able, in April 2009, to arrange with Derek Pickersgill, Chairman of the Isle of Ely Rowing Club, an outing on the club’s stretch of the Great Ouse at Ely.  There, after 53 years’ absence, he made his return to the water, in a pair with Isle of Ely Rowing Club member Rodney Atkinson. He was delighted to find that, with Rodney’s support and encouragement, he was still able to row.  From that came the idea of the sponsored row at where the first Boat Race took place on 10th June, 1829.

Last autumn, thanks to the generosity of , Patrick was able to switch his training to Canford, which is easily accessible to his home in .  There he had regular sessions on the Stour with the Head of Rowing, Ian Dryden, a former coach, and his colleagues.  They also rowed with him in the coxed four which successfully completed the one mile and 550 yards of the Henley Regatta course with him on 10th June.

Patrick says:

“I am immensely grateful to them and to all the other individuals and organisations who made this project possible. I should also like to thank all those who have contributed so generously to Parkinson’s .”  

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About the charity

Parkinson’s UK

Verified by JustGiving

RCN 258197 and Scotland SC037554
Anyone can get Parkinson’s. It gets worse over time and there’s no cure. Yet. Funding research into the most promising treatments, we’re getting closer to a cure. Until then, we're improving life for people with Parkinson’s, and the people in their lives. Together we'll find a cure.

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