Born: November 20, 1926; Died: May 8, 2011.

Wallace Clark, who has died aged 84, was a larger than life sailor and father of the current revival in the traditional sport of Highland sea rowing.

In 1990 his specifically formed Lord of the Isles charity commissioned a 12-oared Highland Birlinn called the Aileach, pictured. It was the first serious attempt at building a replica for around 300 years and created considerable interest in the period and led to the building of more boats and the holding of a number of conferences.

Mr Clark was born in County Derry and educated at Shrewsbury School and joined the navy at the end of the war, staying in the service until 1947. He had a charismatic charm and was for many years an active manager of his Scots-Irish family’s ancient linen company.

He first came to prominence on the almost dormant Scottish rowing scene in 1963 when he captained a re-enactment of St Columba’s row from Ireland to Scotland. Later he piloted Tim Severin’s Coracle, The Brendan, on much the same route on the first leg of it’s celebrated journey to Iceland.

While these voyages received some coverage in the Scottish media, it was as nothing to the international accolades he received in 1991 when he asked the well-known racing yacht designer Colin Moodie to design the Aileach, a full-sized replica galley.

Mr Moodie’s design, part-financed by the Highland Society of London, was then built by Macdonalds in Moville, Donegal, and caused such excitement in the village that when it was launched the community revived the old tradition of carrying her on their shoulders through the streets before throwing the fully clothed Mr Clark into the sea.

The Aileach’s subsequent wanderings through the Hebrides, and indeed to as far away as the Faroes and the London Boat Show (where she was much celebrated by Prince Charles) caused such international press interest that a television programme was made of her voyages by Fife’s Alex Lindsay and several groups were formed to build more galleys, leading to the current revival in sea rowing.

Of these groups the two most notable were the school-based projects started on Luing by the redoubtable Susie Straughan, as she then was, and Govan’s GalGael under the late Colin Macleod, which now runs full-time courses in joinery, based around the galleys.

Mr Clark first had the idea of building the galley in the early hours of a summer’s morning while helming his close friend Clanranald’s ever war-torn vessel The Birlinn down a moonlit watch off the island of Eigg.

Clanranald claims direct descent from Somerled the Norse slayer whose fleets of dozens of such craft had done so much to rid the Hebrides of the Vikings and fired with whisky and porridge the two chums hatched up a plan to build a proper replica.

Their trouble was that they could only guess what the galleys looked like. There is not a single matchstick of any of the hundreds of Scottish galleys built still in existence other than a stem post found on Eigg, which gives little indication of the shape of the vessel.

Mr Clark subsequently undertook an extensive evaluation of the dozens of stone carvings of galleys and finally recommended that Mr Moodie should base his design on the galley carving at Rhodel.

He also used to claim with his delicious storytelling flair that he had been influenced in his design after seeing a ghost of a galley sailing down the Sound of Mull in 1979, though would also admit with a huge laugh that he had eaten a large feast of seafood shortly before his vision.

Mr Moodie’s design was not universally celebrated by the purists, being of heavy build and partly designed to counter the seas rather than flex and float over their tops, but Mr Moodie responded that his first responsibility was for the safety of the crew and expressed a hope that the boat would be the first of an evolutionary line. Which it was.

Following the initial voyages Mr Clark retired to his home in northern Ireland where he was better known for his classic bestseller Sailing round Ireland, a guide book that has only recently been superseded by Mr Clark’s close friend and bow rower Alastair Scott, whose book of the same name was published by fellow galley skipper Glen Murray.

His other works included Linen on the Green, which told of his family’s linen business, and Sailing round Russia, which told of a voyage undertaken by his late son and fellow author Miles.

Last year and rapidly failing he was much heartened to hear that his friend, the Skye-based boat designer Iain Oughtred, had a plan to build a rowing skiff that was now being built by over 30 Scottish community groups and that a revived series of inter-community sea racing regattas is planned for this summer. Responding with typical brio, he said he was far more interested in hearing of the wild parties we were having than the design of the boat.

He is survived by his wife June, his journalist son Bruce and grandchildren.