Don Allum (May 17, 1937-Nov 2, 1992)

Biography by Geoff Allum

     Don was born on 17th of May 1937 in London. At age sixteen he joined the merchant navy as a steward. Called up for national service he served nine years in the Royal Green Jackets (army unit). He entered as a private and left as a private in spite of many offers of promotion. He served in many of the world's trouble spots including Borneo, British Guyana, and Berlin.        In 1971 he joined me in the row I was planning across the Atlantic; which we started on the 12th of January in Las Palmas, Grand Canaries and finished on the 26th of March at Barbados. Fifteen years later Don set out in the same boat the QE3 from Pasito Blanco, Grand Canaries and rowed in 114 days to Nevis in the West Indies. He started on the 30th of January and finished on the 23rd of May. He was 49 years old. The last two weeks of this voyage Don was completely out of water. And when he landed at Nevis his eyesight and hearing were failing and he had lost half his body weight. It was as a result of these deprivations that a few years later his kidneys failed several times and eventually led to the fatal heart attack that killed him.
     Apparently recovered from the 1986 voyage Don shipped the QE3 to St. Johns, Newfoundland for the return voyage that had always been his intention to be the first man to row the Atlantic in both directions. He started from St John's, Newfoundland on the 21st of June 1987 and rowed to Dooagh, Ireland on Achill Island county Mayo in 77 days. He was fifty years old. During the voyage he suffered many capsizes and sustained a severe gash to his head when the compass hit him as the boat went over.
     When just eighty miles west of Ireland a fall storm caught up with him and almost overwhelmed the boat. However (unknown to him) the people of Dooagh were expecting him and as the QE3 was swept down the coast the villagers used their car headlights to light the tiny beach as the QE3 was almost shipwrecked. The villagers waded into the sea and carried Don and the QE3 to safety.Don stayed in Dooagh for some time and the local people built a large monument in  the town to commemorate his voyage. I believe this was the happiest time of Don's life.
     So Don Allum became the first man to row the Atlantic in both directions and is still the only man to have rowed both ways solo [correct for the time of publishing - 1999]. He is also the only man to have completed three ocean crossings in a rowboat [correct for the time of publishing - 1999].
     In the last years  of his life Don suffered from poor health and two bouts of kidney failure and chest pains convinced him that he didn't have very long to live. In spite of my pleading with him he refused to get treatment. He said, " I have done everything I want to do." Don died on the 2nd of November 1992 from a heart attack at his flat in Heston Middlesex. He was the bravest of us all.

Geoff Allum


Cousins Don and Geoff Allum

Las Palmas to Barbados. First Team of Two to row across the Atlantic E - W.
Jan 12 - Mar 26 1971 - 73 days
6 hours

Four voyages of Don Allum - logs >>>

Monument for Don Allum at The Pub Dooagh
(Archill Island, County Mayo, Ireland),
celebrating his arrival to Dooagh in 1987