St Mary's Junior Sailing Club
St Mary's Junior Sailing Club

History of St. Mary's Junior Sailing Club

The Clubs Roots

During the summer of 1953, Mr. Michael Findlay discussed with interested persons his idea of providing training and facilities for young boys in boat work. Early in January 1954, the organization was formed in Southsea. At an officers meeting held in march 1954 it was decided to call this club the "Vikings", training was arranged for members and a weekly subscription of 6d (2.5 pence) was agreed upon. During that summer they held at camp at Niton on the Isle of Wight but only a few boys attended.

The turning point of this organization was the formation of a Parents committee at the end of October 1954 held in the Clayhall Mission Church at the suggestion of the Rev. Canon Windsor Roberts, the then Rector of Alverstoke. In December 1954 the Vikings were granted the use of the Stone Lane School Hall for their weekly meetings. From Christmas until March 1955 boat work was carried out aboard the T.S. Foudroyant in Portsmouth Harbour. In March 1955 the parents held their first Jumble Sale and raised £33 and with this the Vikings were able to purchase a 36 foot galley from the Admiralty for £12 10s. In addition they purchased an eight foot dinghy and both were fitted out for use by the boys. In addition the Vikings were loaned three eight foot dinghies and a thirteen foot sailing dinghy. The most notable trip the Vikings made was when 18 boys rowed the Galley from Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde and back. On the 15th May 1955 the Viking Colour was dedicated at St. Mary's Church Alverstoke by the Rev. Canon Windsor Roberts.

In January 1957 the organisation was disbanded for an indefinite period due to the ill health of the skipper Michael Findlay, slowly he regained his health and was able to return and reform the Vikings in March 1957. January 1958 saw the Vikings setting off for the National Boat Show at Olympia and they came back tired but loaded down with leaflets.

Picture Courtesy Nick Isbell Taken early 1960's

1959 saw the Vikings attending the Boat show again, "Kracker"s a 15 foot Sailing Boat was completed and "Puffin" was built.. February "Buccaneer" was built, March "Lollipop" was built. June and July the Vikings held a grand rowing competition with a rowing boat as first prize. During August 17 boys and 3 Officers camped at St. Helens on the Isle of Wight. September saw Michael Findaly step down as skipper and Mr. A Pratten was invited to take over the role. The final piece of information available about the Vikings was that in November 1959 the First "Buttanut" dingy was under construction. This dinghy was still in use by St. Mary's Junior Sailing Club in the 1970's. The club folded some time in either 1963 or 1964 for reasons unknown.

The History of the Vikings is thanks some notes written by Michael D. Findlay in December 1959 that were discovered at St. Mary's Junior Sailing Club in May 2001.

The Past

St. Mary's Junior Sailing Club was first formed in the June 1965 on its present site by Austin Crowder, Peter Camp and Mervyn Dyer at the request of the then rector William Rees. It took over the premises which had been occupied by "The Viking's Club" . It started by using the existing pram dinghies. The subscriptions in 1965 were £1 and 15s for holiday members.

At the beginning of April the club funds stood at £49:17s 4d. On the 6th April 1967 the club took procession of some wooden pontoons which were towed under Jackie Spencer bridge, these were used until June 2001 when it was decided they were no longer serviceable. During April the then committee contacted the Council for provisional Planning permission for a new building.

The club held it's first Jumble sale on 27th May 1967 and raised £38 10 shillings. In April 1967 the Club purchased its first boat "Mike" a twelve foot clinker built rowing bought from Michael Dyer for the princely sum of £5 By the beginning of January 1968 the club funds stood at £128:13s:10d, this increase was due to subscriptions and fund raising. The club bought its first Cadet during January for £30 and it was subsequently named "Oink Oink" after a habit of the then Chairman Austin Crowder and a second cadet was purchased in April 1968 for £35 and named "Whirlwind". At the start of sailing this year the annual subscription was £1:5s:0d. The club also purchased a new building, this is the concrete hut sill being used to this date and cost £193, of which £188:2s 0d was borrowed from the PCC over five years. Up to 22nd of March 1969 Both the Vikings and St. Mary's Junior Sailing Club had not admitted girls as members. This changed on the first day of sailing with the sister of a member Elizabeth Nobel Joining and since that date the club has excepted members of both sexes.

Later Mirror dinghies were introduced and the original one which was purchased in 1975 using Green Shield Stamps is still being used by the children after restoration. In the late 1990's Mr. Makepeace a parent of an ex-member donated a Mirror Dinghy Serial number 22390 to the club, this boat is now called "Mike" after the first rescue boat and is still in use by the members to this day. The club closed at the end of 1999 due to the retirement of the remaining founder member.

Following an advert put in the Parish magazine at the beginning of 2001 a group of adults met down the club. As the huts were first prized open, broken wooden dinghies lay on their sides, rotting rope and rusted wires hung in tangles from split masts. The boat sheds themselves were falling apart and the path crumbling, things did not look promising. Just a few months later with a lot of hard work in the background and a brand new boat, paid for by a lottery grant, plus bags of optimism, the club was keen and determined to get back up and running. New members arrived and old members drifted back weekly until a healthy 20+ was achieved per session. Some had little knowledge, whilst many were complete beginners, but hey, we have turned out Olympic medal winning sailors in the past so anything was possible. Under the watchful eyes of the Sailing Officers new sailing skills were acquired and confidence gained. There were gusty days when rowing was the safest option and near perfect days when the capsize drill was practiced. By the end of the season 40 children had joined, many had mirrored all of the RYA level 1 tasks and some had progressed through Level 2. Seven Mirror boats were totally refurbished over the winter and some of the original names from when the club was first formed were put back on the boats. "Whirlwind", "Oink-Oink", "Ox-Box", "Butternut", and "Mike," along with the new Miracle dinghy "Twister" built by the Bosun, dedicating much of his spare time to rebuilding the boats whilst others scrounged free materials and donations. The boat sheds, pathways and aging pontoons have seen a lot of work. The old pontoons have been slowly dismantled and either burnt or dragged out of the way. With the continued support of local & national sponsors we have seen water pipes being buried to supply fresh water to the clubhouse galley, a first in nearly 40 years and also a hot water heater.. The boat sheds were re-roofed courtesy of a company in the Haydeh Group in the Midlands so that they can now be used safely. Two major companies BT and NatWest donated nearly a £1,000 between them to help the club with its funds, a local Sail Maker North Sails gave the club a brand new set of sails for all the boats, along with numerous other companies donating rope, fittings, lights, water heaters, cash donations and many other things. In October 2001 we contacted H.M.S. Sultan asking for some rope. As the link has strengthened, help from a team of their young Engineering Mechanics has included:- shoring up and laying a new gravel path, helping to clear years of overgrowth in the process, and constructing vital replacement dinghy running rig, rudder assemblies, tillers and centerboards in their entirety. With the assistance from volunteer support from parents, friends and H.M.S. Sultan, the club has increased the number of useable sailing dinghies from four to eight, with four rowing boats, a rescue boat, and a new Topper thanks to a second Lottery Grant through the link with Gomer Junior School.

The Present

Over the winter of 2009/10 two new buildings were errected after a mamouth fund rasining of the previous few years, and we now can have all boats on their trailers without the need to satck boats on top of each other. There are now only two wooden boats left in the fleet which are used for rowing

The new lease of life has seen the membership rise to fifty children with more on the waiting list. We would like to write a small book about the history of the club from its days under the "Vikings" banner to the present date, so if anyone has any information no matter how small please contact us, or come down the club and meet us. We would also like to hear from any ex-members as we are planning to hold a reunion in the future.

This short history has been compiled by Steve Hammond an ex-member who joined the club 1n 1969, and went on to be a Crew Leader and then an Assistant Sailing Officer. He rejoined the club in May 2001 and since he has joined has renovated all nine wooden boats at the club in his role as Bosun.