The Early Years – written by Charles Reekie in 1969
The story of the Sailing Club falls naturally into two almost equal parts: 1919-1939 and 1946-1969. If it had not been for Kaiser’s War it is probable that the Club would have been formed before 1919 as there was already the nucleus of a sailing fleet. It is therefore not inappropriate to take a look at Trearddur as it was around 1914. There are still some who can remember the early days but pride of place must go to Mr. W.W. Reid (Calypso) who first stayed at Trearddur in the last years of the nineteenth century during Queen Victoria’s reign.
There was no electricity, telephone or gas; we all used paraffin lamps and candles. Most houses were connected to the Holyhead water supply but there were a few houses with water windmills in their back garden (the last survivor being at Mr. Buckley’s “Hapusle”). Gas and main drainage came in the late 1930’s. There was no planning permission or development control. Mr. Good who built “Maryland” had a struggle to prevent the Inland Sea from becoming one vast sewer. Motor cars were practically non-existent: one of the earliest was the very second hand taxi which J. Rogers bought with a loan from a foundation member – his son drove it up from Birmingham – in those days an adventure. The big houses at Porth Diana were still very new. The only buildings on the Flagstaff Headland were “Bryn Eithen” and the summer house recently removed by Mr. Hannay. All the houses on the Ingledene hill kept rowing boats on running moorings from the rocks opposite. This involved a great deal of hauling out whenever the barometer was falling. The land on the Porth-y-Post side of the bay was mostly owned by H.H. (Trecastell) Williams, Beaumaris who also owned the Trearddur Bay Hotel. On the Porth Diana side of the bay the land was mostly in the hands of the Stanley Estate. In an attempt to prevent speculation there was often a clause in a deed that the land must be immediately built upon. This at one time caused a proliferation of well built stone summer houses some of which still remain. “Rockstone” (now Craig-y-Wylan) was built by Mr Head, the Head Waiter of the Mail Train out of tips. “Tulloch” in 1912 followed by “Duncapel” in 1914 were the last houses to be built opposite the Big Bay, both to the order of Miss Wallace, a Bowdon schoolmistress. “Lia Fail” was a lonely outpost at the end of Ravenspoint Road. The big house at Porth-y-Post had been built by Mrs. Butt, daughter of Edward Tate, the sugar magnate. Her daughter married Admiral Stevens. “Ingledene” was owned by Tommy Shone, plumber and craftsman who carved his own tombstone omitting only the date. “Isalt Fawr” (down the lane by the 5th hole of the Golf Club) was a Red Cross Hospital during the Kaiser’s War. The Alexander family were long established summer visitors at Bryndale. Other early houses were Trearddur View, Glan-y-Mor and Hafod (Dr.Monsarrat).
There were two hotels, the Darien run by Miss Udall, now the much extended Cliff (also a Red Cross Hospital during the Kaiser’s War), and the Trearddur Bay Hotel run by three of the four Roberts sisters assisted by their brothers Dick (coachman and Foundation Member of T.B.S.C.) and Hugh (farmer). A third brother was Haines, solicitor in Holyhead, who never had a phone in his office right up to his death in the early 1960’s. He shared the same premises with a fourth brother Lewis who was a doctor (also no phone and for a long time only bicycle transport). Lunch was invariably “beefamorlam” followed by “ricepuddingappletart”. Dick Roberts was also a boatman. He claimed that as a youth he had taken part in “wrecking”: favoured people were taken to see his secret “finds”. Mrs. Dowding remembers being taught sailing by him when he used to recite whole passages from Shakespeare without ever once repeating. For a few years in the late 1920’s he ran a regular afternoon trip in his motor boat to Cymyran.
Bodelwydden Villa was many years from becoming the Beach Hotel. The Trearddur Bay Hotel at that time leased the surrounding land to provide a nine hole golf course. Some of the holes were alongside the road from the Hotel to the Lagoon where the many sheep and various ditches formed most of the hazards. Even the Holyhead Club was only a nine hole course. Many of our members spend much of their holiday playing golf and several in the past have won the Pearson Cup for Mixed Foursomes. Some of our golfing members are at times reluctant sailors and so deserve our special thanks for helping to swell the number of starters when they would sooner be on the links.
Almost a century earlier the famous Thomas Telford had stayed at Towyn Lodge for several months whilst engaged in construction of the Holyhead end of his great mail coach road from Shrewsbury through the Nant Francon Pass. This dangerous part was unwalled and was traversed always at night. Towyn Lodge was built and named by Mr. Bates a prominent Holyhead mason. The Stanley Embankment was opened in 1823 followed by the MenaiSuspension Bridge when the down Royal London and Holyhead Mail crossed over at 1.35 a.m. on 31st January 1826. This was the best equipped and fastest long distance mail coach of all in the British Isles doing the journey in twenty-six hours fifty-five minutes. Telford also completed the Admiralty Pier in 1821.
The arrival of its modern counterpart, the “Irish Mail” (the first train to have a name) was an important daily event. This steamed in, usually double headed, (promptly) at 2.5. After this much time was taken up in unloading early passengers and luggage for the Dublin (North Wall) London & North-Western Railway boat which left later from the inner harbour and the eventual shunting of the train and its haulage by a tank engine to the wooden extension (demolished in 1935) of the Admiralty Pier on Salt Island which having but two sets of rails could take two trains only. I once counted 18 coaches but many of them were small ones. Even in this restricted space Customs Offices were built when the Irish Republic was formed. Holyhead at that time was an “open” station. It was a popular and gratuitous pastime for children to travel on the train from Holyhead to the Pier, or the reverse direction at noon after meeting the incoming mail boat. All this was because at that time the L. & N.W.R. held the mail contract on the English side only, to Holyhead where it was obliged to hand over to the Dublin Steam Packet Company for their steamer to Kingstown. Competition over the various routes to Ireland in those days was so fierce that it was actually cheaper for my father to book “tourist returns” (the cheap ticket of those days) from Manchester to Greenore instead of to Holyhead. For some reason unknown we never used the Holyhead-Greenore portion: perhaps break of journey was not allowed or, more likely, we could not bear to give up even two days of Trearddur.
The four railway boats were requisitioned by the Admiralty in August 1914 on the outbreak of war during which the “Anglia” and the “Hibernia” were sunk. The Dublin Steam Packet Co. were equally unfortunate losing the “Connaught” (requisitioned) in March 1917 and the “Leinster”, on regular mail service, 16 miles off Kingston in October 1918 with heavy loss of life. In 1920 the Dublin company, still with only two boats, retired from Holyhead leaving the Railway to secure the mail contract with their new Anglia, Hibernia, Scotia (sunk at Dunkirk in 1940) and Cambria, 3470 tons, bow rudder and 25 knots with a scheduled passage of two hours fifty-five minutes. They still used the Old Harbour and jetty until the inner harbour had been dredged and deepened. The station master in those days was the equal in appearance to his counterpart at Euston. He saw all the mail trains and L.N.W.R. boat trains arrive and depart, always wearing a black silk top hat and a frock coat with gold lacing (often for the mail train a buttonhole as well). Even the L.N.W.R. guards were imposing figures and not to be spoken to lightly. To their leather belts was attached a leather shoulder strap which contained a mystical leather pouch, contents unknown. This was a survival from the mail coach days when the guard carried the all important and much disliked “time piece” in this pouch. Until 1939 the guard of the Irish Mail actually carried a time piece which was handed over to the mail boat for a time check and later taken back to Euston.
Everyone came and went by train. Therefore there was an enormous demand for transport from the station to Trearddur at the beginning of the month. I doubt if there were a dozen wagonettes all told (with seats for four) so some made a second or even a third journey. To secure a “first” journey meant booking a year in advance AND to be a favoured customer. We all brought mountains of luggage which was taken by farm carts at walking pace. Travel by the third journey meant a two hours wait at Holyhead while luggage conveyed by the third round of carts reached Trearddur around midnight. The more active of us brought bicycles which slightly eased the position.
For many people a big annual event was the afternoon picnic to South Stack. This meant booking a wagonette well in advance and of course walking up all the hills and walking down most of them. Sometimes the drivers went round by Holyhead but this we regarded as a form of cheating. Shopping in Holyhead was a halfday expedition planned well in advance and rarely more than once a week. This was still the bicycle age. Mr. Parry built what is now the Trearddur Stores and competition came to the village for the first time. The Post Office (and grocer’s shop) was at the corner of Towyn Road at the foot of the hill. It was managed by Robin Owen’s grandfather, the first of three generations to hold this position. The railway company used to sell their obsolete coaches and deliver them anywhere for conversion into contemporary caravans; the scattered remains of some were seen until recently.
Owen Owen (Owen two-times) of Pant-y-Llyn coxswain of the Rhoscolyn lifeboat had his rope walk on the land opposite his house where he turned out hemp ropes as required for his lobster pots. He was also the local coal merchant. He had a plan to bring his coal from Holyhead to Porth Diana by small coasters: this service never started but most of the concrete wall remains (near Mr. Horrocks’ bungalow).
Until the present stone church was opened in April, 1932 there was a very simple wood and asbestos building on the land next to the present cafe (site of an ancient burial ground) opposite the present post office. The services were later conducted by Canon Stuart (subsequently Dean of Carlisle) of the Half Rater “Caia” and on fine days were held outside in the open with the congregation sitting on the grass which make the collection taking rather haphazard. Members often read the lessons. His daughter Peggy played the hymns and voluntaries. The church from the former site is at the back of the present church and is used by Girl Guides.
The Welsh Baptist Chapel “Noddfa” (Shelter) was built in 1909 (by Mr. Owen grandfather of the present post-master). The stone was carried by local farmers. The Welsh Methodist Chapel farther down the road built much earlier has now become a dwelling.
We have long been accustomed to the noise of aircraft from R.A.F. Valley which was built just before Hitler’s War. The counterpart of Valley in the Kaiser’s War was the airfield at Mona (still used) from which operated what were known as “Blimps” – small dirigible airships. These maintained a constant U boat patrol over coasted waters – they were in fact the Coastal Command of the First War.
In 1913 the Railway Company started a very modest bus service from Holyhead to Four Mile Bridge via the Rhoscolyn triangle and back by the direct road. There was one service in the morning and two in the afternoon, so that it was just possible by using the two afternoon buses to spend an hour on Rhoscolyn beach. Much of the available time was spent in walking down and up the corkscrew lane. In those days this was adventurous travel indeed. The buses were of course solid tyred, chain driven and single decked.
In 1914 the service was extended to other parts of Anglesey but was then withdrawn owing to the war never to return. Regular Public Transport did not reappear until many years later when the long arm of the all conquering Crosvillle finally reached Anglesey.
When Mr. Duckworth built the Boathouse opposite Pant-y-Llyn for his motor cruiser “Lady Hamilton” about 1912 it was one of the earliest visible signs of increasing activity on the water by the Trearddur summer visitors. Later this boathouse passed to Mr. Nixon, Major Wilby and Mr. Stott: it has never housed a lifeboat. Most visitors had to be satisfied with a hired rowing boat from which every Saturday night the local owners removed the oars and rowlocks. Sculling with one oar from the stern therefore became popular on Sundays by those who could find a spare oar. Hilary, still afloat in 1960, was possibly the only hired boat with a sail. Mr. Maxwell Reekie was a pre-war pioneer with a “Waterman” outboard motor, guaranteed to open the seams of any but the stoutest boat; there was also in the Bay an outboard “Ferrol”. The chief capitalist was Mr. Jones of Porth Diana who owned horse wagonettes, luggage carts and most of the dozen rowing boats which were on hire (all painted red, white and black).
Sir Henry Grayson (of Graysons Dockyard, Holyhead) built Ravenspoint just before the war for his family of twelve children and his numerous servants but none of his family ever joined the Club. For many years his was the only private telephone in the Bay.
There was no written record of the first race until Mr. James Smellie’s notes which appeared in the Jubilee Booklet. The race was held in August 1919 on non-visible handicap, all boats starting together. The mast of Fan Tan moored in the Bay was one end of the starting line and a mark on the Cod Rocks (where the Perch now is) formed the other. Hugh Roberts insisted that a yacht race should be started by gunfire and took his shot gun aboard. He used ordinary cartridges with the shot removed in case he hit anyone and they made surprisingly little noise. Six boats started viz:-
- White Heather ( 18 ft. Half Decked ) Wm. Smellie – winner
- Vanity ( 17 ft. do. ) H.J. Ryalls
- Alana ( 17 ft. Dinghy ) J.R. Smellie
- Elf (No. 8) ( 141/2 ft. do. ) F. Buckley
- Lady Betty ( 14 ft. do. ) J.W. Harvie
- Wagtail ( 13 ft. do. ) D.C. Bucknall
“Alana” was an open dinghy, carvel built, with straight bow like a modern Firefly. She had three suits of different sized sails and, with her clinker built sister boat “Timbrel” owned by the Holyhead boatmen Griffiths Brothers were the fastest boats in local waters for many years. “Elf” was of a small class long since obsolete.
These boats with Mr. Mathews’ “Margaret”, Mr. Drake’s smaller edition of “White Heather” and Mr. Rome’s “Eileen”, a 16 ft. dinghy with a sail so small as to be the safest boat ever sailed at Trearddur comprised most of the fleet when the Sailing Club was formed. By this time there was a young generation of Smellies, Buckleys and Dudley Woods full of enthusiasm. The flourishing Club stands today as a memorial to its founder William Smellie who was enthusiastically supported by his sons Jim and Donald as well as by Frank Buckley and Dudley Wood. The founding on 23rd August 1919 a few days after the first race had actually taken place was little more than a gathering of enthusiasts who resolved there and then to found the Club and to pay a nominal five shillings subscription. Seventeen were present including two ladies, Miss Marjorie Alexander and Miss J.N. Slater, of whom six were elected to form the nucleus of the first committee. A week later another eleven members were added after the news had got around (news traveled slowly as there were no cars or phones). William Smellie was elected Chairman. J.R. Smellie combined the offices of Hon. Secretary and Treasurer. There were no other officers the first year. In July 1920 after four had resigned, a list of 53 members was drawn up and placed in the Record Book with the comment; “These were reckoned as foundation members and paid no entrance fee”. Of these members four remain with us today, J.R. Smellie, Frank Buckley, his son Geoffrey, and Dorothy Evans (Mrs. Dowding).
Mr. Harvie who at that time leased “Duncapel” bought on what he was later advised was a rather shaky title a large plot on the sandhills opposite (now a car park) so in the meantime contented himself with constructing a splendid shale tennis court (now the public lavatories) and a magnificent wall which still remains. The main building activity after the war was on the Flagstaff Headland. First to appear was Mr. Munro’s “pre-fab”, moved after “Highground” had been built, to Tyn Towyn Farm where it is still in holiday use.
During the winter of 1919-1920 the first committee which had by now become twelve began to lay the sound plans upon which the Club was built. They decided upon the two T.B. one design classes which remain with us today – Myth and Insect. In great faith they ordered three Myths from Rowlands Dockyard (now Dickie) at £80 complete with sails and gear for which unavoidably extravagant price they apologized. They also ordered five Insects from Mathew Owen of Menai Bridge at approximately £35 plus £9.10.0 for sails (both prices inclusive of delivery to Trearddur Bay). All these boats found buyers while building and a sixth insect was delivered by the end of August. J.R. Smellie writes:- “The plans for the Myths were drawn up by Morgan Giles and the boat was to be a typical Prince of Wales Cup type. The T.B.S.C. founding fathers thought this a bit too sporty for children in the open sea so it was modified to its present design but because of this Morgan Giles refused to have his name associated with it. The Insects were meant to be B.R.A. 12 footers. The plans were sent to Mathew Owen and the Insects were the answer.” Mathew Owen built good strong boats but he had no use for plans and never built two boats the same. In 1926 when Mathew Owen had gone out of business, Harold King took the plans to Dickie and a real B.R.A. dinghy was the result which raised quite a problem. Those of us who were racing Insects realised at once that it was a different boat which could point appreciably higher but it was some time before we could convince the committee about this. Meanwhile “Mantis” came in 1927. Ultimately more B.R.A. boats were built by Dickie and a separate class was formed.
The first Cup Races were held in 1920. I think there were four. In that year miscellaneous 12 and 14 foot boats were allowed to join in on handicap but, perhaps fortunately, they did not do very well. These boats formed the two smaller racing classes: in addition there was an open mixed handicap class for the larger boats in which it became virtually impossible for the handicapper to impose any effective penalty on “Alana”. We used courses one and two much as they are today although from 1925 to 1939 and chiefly for the benefit of spectators there existed Course 4 which was (in effect) Courses 2 and 1 combined. This course on occasions was actually used by Half Raters.
At first a volunteer used to put out all the Inside Course marks each race day which was rather a bind. This was soon altered so that the three marks were in the charge of three separate people. It then became a distinction. We used to keep the Ingledene mark in a very prominent place on the Tulloch verandah.
1920 was the first year when officers were elected as follows:-
- Commodore : (Vacant)
- Vice Commodore : Wm. Smellie
- Rear Commodore : F. Buckley
- Official Measurer : R. Dudley Wood
- Official Starter : E.B. Royden
- Hon. Sec. & Treas. : J.R. Smellie
- General Committee : H. Alexander, J. Harvie, W.M. Reekie, Miss Alexander, F. Mathews, R. Roberts, F.M. Bailey, A.D. Munro, H.J. Ryalls
At that time the Officers and Committee were re-elected each year.
In those days a capsize was quite an event. On one occasion after White Heather had capsized the boat was ultimately towed in on a quiet evening by Owen Owen and Jimmy Shone (of Penrhyn Villa) to the applause of about fifty spectators most of whom were watching a salvage operation for the first time. The only casualty was a waterlogged Kodak.
The Minute Book contains the following entry: “On December 3rd, 1920 the worst gale for fifty years blew from the North West. A small steamer the “Timbo” off Trearddur Bay showed distress signals and the Rhoscolyn lifeboat went out. It got to the steamer all right but could not establish contact. In coming away it capsized and although it righted itself almost at once several men including the old coxswain of Pant-y-Llyn were lost. All five lie in an honoured grave at Rhoscolyn. The lifeboat was safely beached at Llandwyn. The steamer was also safely beached.” There were eight survivors from the lifeboat and four from the steamer’s crew of twelve.
One of the committee’s first duties was to decide on a Club Burgee. They thought of something fairly simple choosing one which would not conflict with the existing international code flags for letters and numerals. They settled on a Red and blue horizontal stripe pennant with a white circle in the centre. This was on the Club note paper a few copies of which survive in the Club record books. Later on, after Mr. Royden (of the shipping line) had become Official Starter, he noticed that the burgee was very similar to the house flag of his old “INDRA” Line which had been sold during the war to the Blue Funnel Line. As the House Flag was by this time “spare” he presented a large one to the Club for use on race days. The only difference is that the INDRA Flag had a diamond centre (instead of a circle) and was flown with the Blue on top. In 1992 with application to join the Y.R.A. in mind the burgee was changed to something having local significance. The present burgee is defined in the Rule Book as:- “The White Mitre of St. Cybi, Patron Saint of Holyhead, on a red ground.”
By 1921 the Insect fleet had grown to nine. Also in 1921 the Insect Class Regatta Cup was presented by the Holyhead Regatta Committee (the days of the H.S.C. had not yet come) in recognition of the fine support which the Club had given to their regatta earlier in the month. The writer joined as a junior member on the morning of the regatta and in his first race was fortunate to win. It was a soldier’s wind and Donald Smellie (a better helmsman by far) was never more than a boats length behind in “Ant”. Till that day Donald had been the regular helmsman of “Midge”. The whole race was agony. I can remember it still.
By this time the earliest champions had appeared. “Ant” was the crack Insect whether sailed by Jim or Donald Smellie and “Tern” was the leading Half Rater whether sailed by William Smellie or his sons. “Zephyr” had become the almost invincible Myth, being coaxed or charmed into the wind by Dorothy Evans in a manner which had to be seen to be believed. “Zephyr” was so severely wrecked about 1932 that the largest piece would fit into a jacket pocket.
In those days Myths and Insects were taken over to Holyhead Regatta by lorry (two at a time) which meant that your boat was out of Trearddur circulation for about four days. Later on the Insects were conveyed on an unsprung wooden hand launching trolley with pneumatic tyres which was roped to the luggage grid of a suitable car in a manner which would not greatly appeal to a modern Minister of Transport. The piece of promenade extension from the McKenzie Pier to the Admiralty Pier had not been made so the boats were taken a back way to the beach through some of the smaller Holyhead streets. The main street was two way and there was always a struggle to get through “the narrows”. The “Headquarters” for Holyhead Regatta was the old life-boat house onNewry Beach (taken over by Griffiths Bros. for their boats). The start however was at the Trinity House Depot end of the beach and I think one of their masts was used as part of the starting line. The start for each race was always a run to one of the buoys at the end of the breakwater where we all arrived together.
Right from the start of the Club our Half Raters have taken part in Holyhead Regatta but for many years there was no organized sail either there or back. The approximate starting time was circulated so that mostly the boats sailed round in convoy.
The following year 1922 was one of change and progress. The Club acquired its first Commodore, Sir Francis Dent. He was a senior railway official at Holyhead who had been knighted for his services to transport during the war. The starting line was altered and became the one used until last year. The bell on the Flagstaff is from the “Ireland”, the fastest paddle wheel steamer ever built, (21 knots) which joined the Mail Service in 1885. Seabird boats this year became a separate class. This included a very unofficial one known as “Auk” No. 1 with a red sail. The Seabird numbers were far beyond No. 1, there already was an “Auk” and coloured sails were not allowed. The boat had been built singly without permission of the Seabird Association to the order of Mr. Bailey who wasn’t very particular about Seabird regulations. Apart from all this it was a correctly built Seabird but so far as the writer knows it never raced outside Trearddur.
The Club was recognized by the Y.R.A. on 25thFebruary, 1923 earlier request for recognition having been deliberately postponed. One of my valued possessions is the Y.R.A. Handbook for 1926. This was their only yearly publication and contained besides the rules, list of all members and recognized clubs, summary of minutes, protest appeals, instructions to measurers – the lot. Free to members, 10/-d to non members. This remained the price till 1950 when a popular edition (of rules only) was brought out at 2/5d. Very few helmsmen had copies of the rules. In 1926 there were 63 Royal Yacht Clubs, 108 recognised Yacht Clubs and 179 personal members. The 1969 R.Y.A. book lists 1377 recognised clubs and 1491 personal members so we were indeed amonth the very first. Yachting was very largely centred on the Solent and the Clyde and was only just ceasing to be a rather closed shop. Many of its participants were closely connected with the turf which helps to explain terms such as “Jockeying for the start” and the importance attached at one time to racing colours. The “J” Class – the largest of all boats racing was entering upon its last few years. “Britannia” (H.M. The King), the several editions of “Shamrock” (Sir Thomas Lipton – who challenged so often for the America’s Cup), “Nyria” (Mrs. Workman – in 1926 the only woman member of the Y.R.A.), “Lulworth”, “White Heather” and the schooner “Westward” all went round the regatta circuit and were famous names. The six metre class was nearing its heyday of approximately 40 boats. These boats were about the same size as Dragons. They were not one-design but were built to a formula, the individual lengths ranging from 24 feet to 27 feet water line.
Of a race in 1923 we read “Nine 12 footers started. The first mark was within five yards of the starting line so the tangle was considerable.” In the same year “Lachhmi” became the fourth Myth and with this boat Mr. Buckley won the Season’s Cup in 1924. Red Spider owned by Peggy Stuart became the tenth and last Insect. Small silver egg cups were awarded to the winners of the Insect Cup Races from 1925 until 1939. Replicas of Challenge Cups were also presented each year. In this year the Roydens’ Half Rater “Gannet” filled during a storm and sank at the traditional Hotel Mooring near the Perch. Although an extensive search was made no trace of the boat was ever seen again.
Much information can be gleaned from a close study of the 1924 booklet – the first to have a list of members. After allowing for misprints there were eight Cup Races which had by this time been extended to occasional Fridays. Fifteen points were awarded for a win with nine points for second followed by 6,5,4,3. All boats which finished after sixth got two points while one point was awarded for starting but not finishing. Two wins thus beat three seconds and were the equal of five thirds. By this time there were three courses, No. 3 being an enlarged triangular version of No. 2. This has remained the permanent pattern with later on a version of a dog’s leg for Mylnes and Half Raters. The fixture list stated: “The exact time of start and the name of the officer of the day will be posted on the Club Notice Boards at Parry’s Shop and the Boat Shed on or before the day of the race.” One notice was accordingly posted on the door of the boat shed which was just inside the Cliff Hotel gateway on land owned by Mr. Smellie. This concession was so that those staying at Porth-y-Post and beyond did not have to trail up to Parry’s shop to find out what was happening. There were Novice Races for Insects and Myths with first prize 10/-d and second 5/-d. It was evidently not considered appropriate for novices to race Half Raters so on Novice Race days this class held “Tournament Races” without any restriction on helmsman (no prizes). There were also June/July races but racing outside August has never caught on.
The Regatta was held on a Wednesday when the race for the largest class was for “Yachts or Fishing Boats”. There were eight Half Raters of which two had no numbers, “Auk” by now belonging to Mr. Ryalls, and “Osprey” belonging to Mr. Hall (father of Pat. Hall). “Caia” is shown without a number but she was a genuine Half Rater No. 27. The first booklet had appeared the previous year and was the work of J.R. Smellie although his brother Donald had by this time become Secretary. The 1924 booklet lists 103 members which included Mr. I.O. Williams Head Master of Trearddur House School which had very recently been started (initially at Tyr Enfys) and Sir Robert Thomas, Bart the local M.P. who later owned the Cliff Hotel. These members came from fifty-one families of whom thirteen are still with us. Thirteen of the members are on the 1969 list.
In this year also the entire Royden familty resigned and left Trearddur. Mr. Royden had joined in 1920 and the others in 1922. Four of them were elected Honorary Life Members the following year, Mr. Royden and Nancy for their work as Starter and Treasurer respectively, John and Joan for helping at the Flagstaff. (Nancy and Joan are the Batten sisters in the Jubilee Year Book).
About this time the Club built the landing steps at Porth Elwa by the Flagstaff which are still much used in August. Time has now destroyed the landing steps which were built at the Hotel Moorings and in constant use in the years when the Club boatman was stationed there.
The Annual Club Dance began at the Cliff in 1924, subsequently moving in turn to the Glynn Cafe, Holyhead, Church House Holyhead, Bulkeley Arms Beaumaris, back to the Cliff for one year and then the Trearddur Bay Hotel. Also in 1924 the Holyhead Regatta was run jointly by the T.B.S.C. and Holyhead Regatta Committee. In the same year the Perch was erected: prior to this there had been a tiny floating marker which did not have a required side for racing purposes.
Chila was an early Half Rater and started her successful Trearddur career in the hands of the Rev.C.C.Marshall who kept the boat at Rhoscolyn appearing only occasionally for races.
Evening Cup Races were instituted in 1924. They remained an integral part of our programme for many years. Regatta Cups for Half Raters and Myths were added in the same year when for the first and only time, all three class winners were ladies, Miss Royden in “Kittiwake” Miss Evans in “Zephyr” and Miss Good in “Scarab”.
The first list of “Experienced Helmsmen; not allowed to steer in Novice Races” was issued in 1924. Novice Cups started their contentious career in 1930 and were raced for on a points system until 1958 after which the Cups have been awarded on the result of a specified race.
The Minute Book contains the following entry: A sad accident occured on 4th August 1925 despite beautiful weather: the Club boatman John Owen of Holyhead was drowned as a result of falling while working on the mast of “Neptune” (Myth). Races were cancelled for a week.”
The early Annual General Meetings were held at the Trearddur Bay Hotel but from 1925 onwards at Craig-y-Mor (built 1922) by invitation of Mr. & Mrs. Smellie. Today it still remains a mystery how the entire active members were assembled all in one room and how all except the most junior somehow were seated. Right from the early days there has been a traditional free for all after the formal part of the meeting had been completed. For many of us the success or otherwise of the meeting was judged by the entertainment provided during this part. These meetings were concluded by an informal dance. In later years the General Meetings have been held variously at the Cliff Hotel, the Village Hall, Trearddur House School, County Hotel and now at Church House Holyhead which is the best room of all (although even this room can’t seat everybody). Our thanks are due to Mr. Cartwright, present Head Master of Trearddur House School for the many occasions he has allowed us to use his rooms, not only for the General Meetings, but also for square dancing, a feature of the 1960 era.
Square Dancing was started by the McCuaig brothers in the early 1950’s. This quickly became immensely popular so that the Village Hall was completely filled once a week. Later David Lake, Andrew Reekie, Andrew Isaac and various Hoyles and Radcliffes took charge but its popularity has declined while informal dances in the Burgee room have become more and more popular.
Rowing and Swimming Sports have had a chequered career. Swimming Sports started on an organized basis in 1927 when the first Challenge Cups were presented.
The eve of the 1927 season brought the Club’s greatest tragedy. Donald Smellie with Kenneth Crossley was sailing “Tern” across Caernarvon Bay for the Straits Regatta and they were a little too early for the tide on the Bar. What happened is only conjecture as the only witness from afar was the lighthouse keeper at Llandwyn. She reported seeing someone in breaking water trying to move the boat on a sandbank. The boat filled and both were drowned. Their grave at Rhoscolyn overlooks the place and the Flagstaff enclosure at Trearddur is our Memorial to Donald. The writer took his place as Secretary during August, exchanging duties in the following year with Peter Munro who had been Treasurer.
James Gardiner was elected a member in 1928; two years later he was appointed Official Starter and so began a long period of service to the Club which he continued in one capacity or another until his retirement from the post of Vice Commodore in 1959. He was made an Honorary Life Member a few years later.
At the beginning of the 1930 season a startling innovation was made – compulsory reefing – brought about by anxious parents, making the O.O.D.’s life very difficult. The Committee were almost equally divided, the six junior members being entirely and unreservedly against, while the senior members were almost entirely in favour. No vote was taken but compulsory reefing was introduced and has remained a characteristic of Trearddur ever since. We may have been the first club to do this. In 1930 also we read that opposition caused a proposal to adopt club ties to be dropped. In 1931 races could be cancelled at the discretion of the O.O.D. if there was a capsize.
On two occasions in order to enlarge classes, the Committee have raffled new boats. In 1928 a 14 footer was raffled which became No. 5 “Horus”. In 1930 after the sale of raffle tickets, the committee bought a B.R.A. 12 footer which became No. 4 “Gnat”.
For many years the “All Comers” Regatta race was on a non-visible handicap, all boats starting together. It was certainly a splendid sight to watch fifty or sixty boats (always including “Fan-Tan”) trying to barge over the starting line together but the present system of visible handicap, with a much larger fleet, is far more sensible and produces quite exciting finishes.
In 1932 Sir Francis Dent left Holyhead and retired from the position of Commodore. His appearances with the Club were infrequent, chiefly limited to Regatta Day and Annual General Meeting (at which regrettably he did not encourage debate). William Smellie then became Commodore and ruler inn name as well as in fact. As Vice Commodore at first and then as Commodore his was the guiding hand which steered the ship for the first twenty nine years of its life until, having successfully restarted the Club after the war he retired full of years and honour in 1947. If I may say so without disrespect having at various times worked quite closely with him, he was a most benevolent despot. He was scrupulously fair at all times and most unselfish always putting other people and the Club first. Many times each year he did duty at the Flagstaff when his heart must have been in “Fan Tan” or “Tern”. He liked having his own way which was a good thing because he was nearly always right. Needless to say when he was in the Chair at a Protest Meeting justice was both done and manifestly seen to be done. The loser always went away feeling that he had had every chance of stating his case. The Club’s debt to him is immeasureable. In the early days he put up, on his own land and at his own expense, a large ex-army hut for the purpose of storing members’ dinghies at a very nominal fee.
Mention of Mr. Smellie naturally leads to his boat “Fan Tan” – 7 ton yawl of which he was so fond and which acted as big sister to the fleet for so many years. With its brown mainsail, topsail and large jib it was instantly recogniseable. The boat was built in 1912 and was brought by Mr. Smellie to Trearddur in 1919. In the later ownership of Mr. J.R. Smellie a motor was fitted and during the three years that he was commodore was regularly taken out by him as the rescue boat during racing.
During these years Mr. F.H. Glazebrook was quietly slipping away for days at a time round the coast in “Mermaid”. Although at the time almost unnoticed, Mr. Glazebrook was preparing the material for what he was subsequently persuaded to publish in 1936 as “The Inshore Passage.” Copies of this first edition are rare: even more rare is the private edition of twelve copies prepared by Major Wilby in 1958. A second and enlarged edition was published in 1961 but this unfortunately omits the “Historical Notes” which the author called “a hotch potch of information.” This very attractive part of the work was brought up to date and published privately in 1962. Mr. Glazebrook was for many years the Club’s Official Mooring Officer.
No record of Club history would be complete without some reference to Llewellyn (Price Jones). He began work as an independent fisherman and I believe instructed some of the younger members in Porth Diana on the rudiments of sailing. It is uncertain when he first took on part time employment by the Club but it is known that for most of the years before 1940 he helped Mr. Glazebrook to lay the moorings and racing marks, which in those days were laid with great precision, bearings and fixes being taken before any mark was dropped. His independence of character did not readily make him a first choice for Club Boatman but he was nevertheless appointed to this post when racing was resumed after the war.
The nearest to a domestic squabble was over paid hands. Unfortunately for a few years around 1935 boats with paid hands were conspicuously successful. No definite action seems to have been taken by the committee apart from prohibition about paid hands taking any part in the management of a boat (whatever that meant). Ultimately and inevitably fresh helmsmen arrived who were able to show that paid hands were far from essential for success.
Nicholas Monsarrat became Secretary in 1931. His book “My Brother Denys” includes several chapters about the early days of the Sailing Club. We are fortunate to have such a vivid and detailed account written by a brilliant and famous writer. Some of it is a little exaggerated, most of it is true and it is all very entertaining. His description of the final minute before the start of a race is superb.
There was a transient appearance from 1937 to 1958 of the Mersey Mylnes. This class was designed for the R.M.Y.C., the boats being built on the Clyde. All these names began with “Me”. A year or so later they were adopted as a class by us but with Dickie as builder and the names beginning with “Tr”. There were some very minor differences in rigging between the “Me” and the “Tr” boats. There were altogether ten “Tr” boats but the number racing in any one year varied from eight to (in their last year) four.
Myles were keel boats so could not be hauled out except with difficulty or stored for the winter at Trearddur. They had to go either to Bangor or Holyhead. Bearing in mind the present congestion of moorings and at the start of races it is probably a good thing these boats are no longer with us. They were a class that never really caught on and in appearance not unlike Dragons which were a later design.
The windmill by the Inland Sea stopped working in 1938 or 39, after the sails had been damaged by storm. It has been made into a dwelling and is now owned by Miss Kathleen and Miss Lois Shaw.
In 1939 the minutes record a committee decision to advertise if necessary for paid assistance for secretary and treasurer. Fortunately this never happened.
There has only been one tie for a Season’s Cup. This was between “Ganesh” and “Clytie” in 1939. By a strange mathematical process it appears that the helmsman of “Ganesh”, Olive Gardiner (Mrs. Fletcher) and the ship’s company of “Clytie” (Nicholas and Denys Monsarrat) agreed each to hold the cup for four months. But in the event it was seven long years before the cup went into circulation again.
This account ends in 1939 with William Smellie still Commodore, Ruth Smellie (Mrs. Jones) Hon. Secretary and the fleet standing at eight Half Raters, 19 Myths and ten Insects, five Dickies and eight Mersey Mylnes.
Families : Buckley, Evans (Dowding), Good (Crawley), Hall, Mathews, Milligan, Monsarrat (Armstrong), Munro (Whittle), Reekie, Royden, Shaw, Smellie (& Jones), Wood (Hoyle & Radcliffe)
Members : F. Buckley, G. Buckley, Miss Evans (Mrs. Dowding), W.F. Milligan, J. Milligan, C.W.M. Reekie, Miss (Dr.) Reekie, Miss N. Royden (Mrs. J.F. Batten), Miss J. Royden (Mrs. S.A.H. Batten), J. Royden, Miss K. Shaw, Miss L. Shaw, J.R. Smellie
1946 -1969 (Very Briefly)
No record has been made of members who were in the armed services and it is not my intention to mention any by name. Those who know the Club best will know of the part taken by members who served with the Royal Navy. A much larger number must have served with the Army and Air Force. Servicemen and civilians alike all came under fire at one time or another. This short paragraph must stand for pages of suffering and bravery.
It may seem odd to state that the Club began in 1946 where it had left off seven years previously. The last quarter century has seen a great improvement in the standard of living. A large increase in the number of motor cars, in building and the spread of caravans. An enormous increase in the cost of living. An increase in the number of Half Raters, Myths and power boats. The start of water skiing and of the G.P., Cadet and Heron classes. The appearance in 1969 of the first Mirror, No. 17630. The employment of a full time Bosun. The purchase of the Club rescue boat “Marjorie” followed by its sale and the purchase of “Dolphin”. The annual voyage of the small fry to Holyhead Regatta via the Inland Sea. The three year rotation of Commodores whose names are recorded in every Year Book. The introduction of Half Raters races to and from Holyhead. A slight but clever alteration of the Starting Line in 1968 so as to avoid barging at the Perch. Innovations for 1969 are starts at five minute intervals instead of ten and the display of large numerals instead of flags to indicate the courses for each class. Also the supply to each boat of printed Course Cards in sealed polythene. New courses which may or may not prove popular. Major and minor hazards of the future include Rio Tinto Aluminium works at Holyhead and the supply of North Sea Gas. These and many other events will I hope be recorded in detail by another writer.
There was an alarming sail back from Holyhead Regatta one year by David Bird in a Half Rater with a freshening wind and shipping water when by the helmsman’s skill aided by some good luck the boat was beached on the only piece of shingle between North Stack and Penrhos Point. After being held by anchors laid fore and aft by Norman Owen the boat was ultimately sailed off none the worse. This was before the return journey from Holyhead was organized into a race.
Recently the Club made its first modest acquisition of real estate by buying the lease of the small flagstaff plot. This was followed by the purchase of the dinghy park, a large plot which includes the headland on the west side of Porth Diana and the small headland in the middle of Porth Diana.
We have never had a Club House or even a Club Room of our own. In the early 1950’s a room was placed at our disposal by Tom Pierce at Duncapel. Later we had a room in the annexe at Ravenspoint during the few years that it was an hotel (run by Mr.Rivaz). The Burgee Club was erected by Pat Hall after he had bought the T.B.Hotel.
During these years there have been many changes in the Y.R.A. Rules (which have now become the R.Y.A. Rules). Perhaps the two most fundamental changes are firstly, that “starboard tack” instead of “close hauled” is king and secondly, introduced this year the most revolutionary of all, that hitting a mark does not necessarily mean retirement.
In a time of railway decline Holyhead still remains at one end of a main line and has even added a fourth platform very recently. The mail boats are now down to three; the 1949 edition of “Cambria” and “Hibernia”, 5200 tons but only 21 knots, plus the much smaller “Princess Maud” brought from Stranraer. The Irish Car Ferry Service was started in July 1965 from the Admiralty Pier, so long neglected.
The vast increase in membership and fleet and activity has meant extra work for the Officers, especially the Honorary Secretary. The work involved in the preparation of the Year Book, followed by the addressing, putting up and posting of 500 envelopes is enormous but the secretary takes this in his stride. The Club has always been fortunate in its officers and has always been a happy club perhaps because it is equally a sailing club, a holiday club and most important a family club. Andrew Reekie in 1957 became the first of the third generation to serve on the committee, quickly followed by Donald Smellie, Bill Buckley (Treasurer) and Graham Jones. We await the arrival of the fourth generation on the committee. Amongst those who have served the club long and well during these years must first be mentioned Mrs. Bird, Official Starter for eighteen years and still firing. Charles Wells who was a pillar of the Flagstaff for so many years. The secretaries, Ruth Smellie (Mrs. Jones), Cassandra Cornelius, Jonathan Bird, Peter Rome and Albert Ashworth. The treasurers, Michael Cunliffe, E.H.H. Allington (of Trearddur HouseSchool), Brian Jenkins, Bill Buckley, Jack Epps and David Bradley. Also Tom Pierce of Trearddur Bay Hotel who alternated between Secretary and Treasurer for 8 years. Nor must ten years service by Bill Milligan as Moorings Officer by overlooked – surely the most thankless task of all.
Also the Rescue volunteers and all the Flagstaff helpers too numerous to mention by name but without whom racing could not be conducted at all.
Jubilee Year finds the Club more prosperous, more active and more progressive and with ever increasing numbers in membership and fleet. Long may it continue to flourish.
Nearly every August we have a storm; often this is supposed to be the “worst ever” for some years. There was a bad storm in August 1959 when Major Wilby’s “Lobi II” broke away from her Porth Diana mooring and was smashed to bits in the creek below “Highground” after drifting through the north-west passage, grinding against the cliffs on the way, with a hundred people watching and unable to help. Major Wilby in a desperate effort to save his binoculars and his precious log book jumped on board but was soon swept into the water where he got into difficulty. He was rescued very courageously by Simon Barnes.
An even worse disaster occurred on 4th September, 1967 when a sudden storm caused severe loss all over the bay. Boats large and small suffered in the Lagoon, the Hotel Bay and even Porth Diana where a row of Myths got into trouble despite the efforts in the water of Peter Earlam. It seems that the very high tide dragged one boat under which started a chain reaction. This storm really was the “worst ever” in the opinion of local people with long memories – worse than December 1920 they said. The only fortunate think was that is occurred in September when many of the boats had already been hauled out. The water was knee deep outside “Uwchydon” at Porth Elva. My wife who was one of the general salvage party said that at times it was really terrifying. The most alarming part of all was the 20 minutes silence in the night when the centre of the depression passed overhead. The high tide occurred in the day time when the sea in large waves came up and over the sea wall solid. For about an hour it was over a foot deep against the bungalow in the “Plas Bach” front garden (unfortunately at the time we had no gate and the sea just poured in). Traffic was controlled by P.C. Davies whose cheerful smile made him a popular figure in Trearddur for many years till his resignation from the Police. Single handed and by persuasion rather than by force he made friends everywhere.
Rhosneigr Life Boat Station was established in 1872 and closed in 1924. This lifeboat was pulled over the sands on a trolley and launched into the sea by terrified horses. There were four boats in all each called “Thomas Lingham”, donated by Mrs. Lingham. The lifeboat made 29 launches and saved 70 lives. The lifeboat house is now a privately owned boathouse.
Rhoscolyn Lifeboat Station was established in 1830 in the bay facing the Beacon. A new house was built in 1902 only a few yards away but facing the less exposed Borth-Wen. This was closed in 1929 when ropes and great were auctioned at very low prices. There were in all five different lifeboats, the first pulling five oars, the second pulling six oars, the 3rd, 4th and 5th pulling 10 oars double banked. The lifeboat made 56 launches and saved 58 lives (see also the disaster of 1920 on page 7). The last two boats were both called “Ramon Cabrera”. The older lifeboat house is now used as a store room but the other one is privately owned as a boathouse. Hugh Hughes was the first recorded cox from 1883 to 1907 but before (and during) this period he, with a few chosen mates, in their own boats went out on many rescues and during the years 1866 to 1881 saved 102 lives from just eight of these rescues. There is a fuller account in Mr. Glazebrook’s book.
Porth Ruffyd Lifeboat Station was established in 1891 and closed in 1904. Although situated in an unexpected narrow bay among vicious rocks very near Penrhos Point and therefore the nearest station of all to the chief centre of danger, the bay faces south-west so that against the prevailing storm winds the difficulty in attempting to launch the boat must have been enormous. It made 14 launches but there is no record that any lives were saved. The boathouse was also rather inaccessible by land for the crew. The lifeboat house has now been converted into a dwelling but appears to be little used. This bay is used at weekends during the summer as a base by an archaeological section of skin divers.
None of the above were power boats: all they ever had to help the rowers were sails.
Holyhead Life-Boat Station. The first light on Southstack shone in 1809. The first mention of Holyhead in the records of the R.N.L.I appeared in 1825, the year after the Institution itself was founded when it was decided that a life-boat should be built. From 1890 to 1930 two life-boats were stationed there (for a short time in 1892-93 there were three). The first of the six steam life-boats which served in the R.N.L.I. fleet went to Harwich in 1890 and was moved to Holyhead two years later. This boat was replaced in 1922 by another steam life-boat which remained till 1928. The lifeboat house was built in 1875 and the boat, without carriage, ran into the sea on a wooden slipway. Since then the building has been extended twice and had some windows fitted. The cafe near the present shop of Holyhead Boatyard was the home of the rowing lifeboat. These life-boats were known as “Holyhead No. 1” and “Holyhead No. 2”. The present life-boat – The St. Cybi – arrived in 1950. To the end of 1968 the station had made 413 launches and saved 519 lives.
In 1967 the R.N.L.I. stationed one of their inshore rubber rescue boats with an outboard motor at Trearddur Bay where it is housed in Mr.Glazebrook’s former studio opposite the school playing field. Our Bosun, Dennis Eaton is in charge.
I have relied very heavily on my own memory of events, people and conversations. Information has been supplied by Robin Owen (who read the proof), J.R.Smellie, my sister and the Royal National Life-Boat Institution. My wife who has acted as my unofficial T.B.S.C. assistant for so many years has been editor-in-chief. I record my thanks to them all and to Pauline Frost for struggling with the manuscript. I have also had access to the Club records when I was secretary.
The following books have been consulted :-
- “The Inshore Passage” by F.H.Glazebrook
- “Holyhead: the story of a Port” by D.Lloyd Hughes and Dorothy N. Williams
- “Mona, Enchanted Island” by Geoffrey Ely
- “The Mail-Coach Men” by Edmund Vale
(I think the first three can be obtained from the Post Office)