The cairn is maintained by the Glenurquhart Rural Community Association (GURCA) which was pivotal in its development. It commemorates John Rhodes Cobb and his attempts to break the Water Speed Record in his Jet Powered Boat, Crusader in 1952. Cobb, who was holder of the land speed record set a speed in his first run which was measured at around 206mph (well above the record at that time).
Before Cobb could complete the second timed run (needed to verify the record) tragedy struck. The Crusader hit a the wake from a support Boat, its nose dived into the water and the boat disintegrated. Cobb’s body was quickly recovered floating on the surface thrown over 50 yards from the accident site. Cobb was later buried at Christ Church near his place of birth in Esher, Surrey. What remained of the Crusader quickly sank to the bottom of the Loch. It was discovered again in 2019, 17 years after some initial pieces of Aluminium were found in 2002.
To mark the 70th anniversary of Cobb’s death, a low-key ceremony was held at the monument when wreaths were laid by GURCA representatives, local boat operator Gordon Menzies, who knew Cobb, and former land speed record holder Richard Noble.
Dan Light, GURCA community development officer: ‘In terms of world records, John Cobb is not as well remembered or as well-known as his achievements deserve.
“Talking to those that knew him he was a quiet, kind and unassuming man. We are fortunate to have many here who remember his brief time in the glen and that fateful day.
“The challenge of commissioning the cairn at a time of rationing and hardship is testament to this community and the people of Glen Urquhart”.
“Its upkeep has always been a responsibility of GURCA, and we feel it’s important that people remember Cobb for his bravery, and ingenuity. He was, and still is, held in very high esteem here.
The Glenurquhart Heritage Group worked with Local Boat operator Gordon Menzies to put on an exhibition at Blairbeg Hall (30th September and 1st October), Drumnadrochit to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of that fateful day, 29th September 1952.
Mr Noble, who set a record of 633mph in Thurst2 in 1983, opened the exhibition to Cobb’s record attempt and his affinity with the community.
Extracts from the Glenurquhart Rural Community Association Minutes 1952-1953 (from ness-scape.co.uk) tell the story of the of the Cairn’s commissioning and its construction.
7th October 1952
A meeting was held in Blairbeg Hall, Drumnadrochit of the Community Association at 8pm. A member of the Committee put forward a suggestion that some thought should be given by the community as to how to commemorate the death of Mr Cobb. The Committee decided to issue a statement to the effect that a cairn, simple and in keeping with the natural surroundings would be erected by the Association, if possible on a site overlooking the stretch of water on Loch Ness which John Cobb had made famous. A special sub-commitee was appointed.
4th November 1952
The special memorial sub-commitee reported that suitable site had been given a local farmer. The Association conveyed their thanks to the farmer. Submissions were to be asked from competent designers to draw up plans for a suitable memorial cairn which were then to be sent to Mrs Cobb for approval.
6th January 1953
The Association received a letter from the John Cobb trustees stating that the cairn be erected by “The People of the Glen”. The Commitee recommended that the three designs received should be submitted to the Cobb trustees together with a letter stating the Memorial Commitees preference to the design by Mr George Bain.
3rd February 1953
A letter was received from Mrs Cobb in which she stated her whole-hearted approval of the Commitee’s choice of memorial, similar approval was also received from the John Cobb trustees. It was arranged that the Commitee should meet Mr Bain at an early date and discuss further steps.
3rd March 1953
The Chairman reported that Mr Bain had begun work and was seeking estimates.
7th April 1953
The chairman announced that Mr Bain had in hand his share of the work and that Mr MacDonald, Blairbeg was willing to undertake the masonry work.
5th May 1953
It was announced at the meeting that the plaster cast of the bronze plaque was ready and that Mr Bain had done an exceptionally fine piece of work. Details of the masonary work were then discussed and it was decided to allocate £100 for the preparation of the site and the haulage of materials.
7th July 1953
It was reported that the site plans for the memorial had been approved by the local planning authority and the Ministry of Transport so the work could proceed. The bronze plaque was also ready and authority was given for the £28-7-6d cost to be paid. An agreement was reached for the work to proceed and a site meeting was arranged for the 9th July 1953.
9th July 1953
The Committee met at the proposed memorial site. The media was present and Mr George Bain gave a statement explaining the symbolism on the memorial plaque. An appeal was to be made for funding and an approach was to be made to a postcard manufacturer with regard to pictures of the memorial and plaque. The official opening was provisionally fixed for 29th September 1953 – the first anniversary of Mr Cobb’s death. It was also decided to contact relatives of the late Mr Cobb to ascertain who should unveil the memorial.
1st September 1953
The memorial was said to be practically finished and money collected so far amounted to £33-15/- with more to come in. It was proposed again that a message be inserted in the press inviting people outwith the ‘Glen’ to contribute. Mr Cobb’s sister, Mrs Holloway, would unveil the memorial cairn and Mr Cobb’s brother, Gerald Cobb, would be present. An informal tea was to be held in the village hall after the ceremony, the time of the ceremony being fixed at 2.30pm.
6th October 1953
The memorial service had been carried out most successfully and had been radio broadcast and televised. Letters of appreciation were read and various members of the Commitee made excellent addresses. With regard to finance the cost so far amounted to £119, and the fund stood at £100.
6th April 1954
The total expenditure for the memorial was now known, £214-8/-. Donations amounted to £106-3/- which left a deficit of £108-5/- which was to be met from the general Community Association Fund.
The John Cobb Memorial Cairn still stands today overlooking the spot where a brave man gave his life in pursuit of national glory, it also stands as a monument to the people of a community who in hard times undertook a difficult financial task to commemorate a man they held and still hold in great esteem.