Erith Yacht Club
The finest sailing water on the tidal Thames
Erith Yacht Club
Apr 20 2012
Press Cuttings and Reminiscences
Over the years many memorable things have happened at EYC. We are lucky enough to have some articles written by long standing members on some of the memories they have of the Club and have some old press cuttings about remarkable events at the Club which we have collected together here. If any members have any additional writings which they feel may be of interest please send them to the Webmasters.
|ERITH YACHT SUNK BY FRENCH TRAWLER IN THREE MINUTES.||An account of the sinking and recovery of the Maggie May in Calais in 1949. Reprinted from the Kentish Times|
|A PICTURE IN THE BAR||On the Clubship are a number of pictures and photos, here is some information on perhaps what they represent|
|" WHAT I REMEMBER OF EYC". K.C.CLARKE. "NOBBY". 1923 - 2004.||Some memories from Nobby Clarke|
|THE GREAT FLOOD OF 1953||A letter from W.Bartlett, a former Commodore of EYC describing the great flood of 1953|
|ERITH YACHT CLUB, VESSEL STRUCK BY LIGHTNING, EXTRAORDINARY EFFECTS.||An account of a race to Gravesend in the early 1900's|
|FIREWORK PARTY IN THE1970's?||A photo preparing for a firework party in the 1970's showing some of our 'older' members as 'younger' members|
|OLD MAP||Map of the Club from before tipping of the fill|
|Extract from 1977 Newsletter|
|Extract from 1951 House Committee Minutes|
|Of Penn's and Battleships.||Article by Fred Finck giving history of some local jetties|
is from a newspaper dated May 31st. 1938. Thus it could a forerunner of
the Hamble Star but the wheels fell off
|Belated Thank You to the E.Y.C||Not sure when this was received, but was obviously sent to the Club much later than the events which took place in about 1950|
YACHT SUNK BY FRENCH TRAWLER IN THREE MINUTES.
CREW STAY FORTNIGHT WITH CALAIS FISHERMEN.
EXTRACTS FROM LOG OF "MAGGIE MAY".
EX KENTISH TIMES NOV.18TH 1949.
1945anchored in outer harbour 16th June.
2030 requested berthing instructions from Hbr. Master who told us to stay where we were until morning.
2130 riding light
lit and went ashore for more fleshpots in the shape of eggs,chips and
June 17th. 0300hrs. Awakened by crash and impact. Scrambled into cockpit and saw the shape of a trawler's bow passing on our stbd. quarter. "Maggie May" was stove in and making water fast. Called for crew to get on deck but Molly was already doing this. Let go the dinghy painter only to find the dinghy had been cut adrift and was not in sight. The trawler was half a cable astern and standing by.
By the light of the riding light an attempt was made to free the lifebuoy but before this could be done the v/l sank in 5 fathoms, three minutes after being struck.
Answering our calls for help the trawler, "St.Joseph" , slowly approached and flung a lifebuoy, on to which we hung until fished out and led to a small cabin , where generous tots of gin were pressed upon the "survivors"-a proceeding that was frequently repeated during the night. Dry clothing was provided by each member of the crew taking off one of the garments he was wearing. The cabin fire was then lighted and our wet clothes put out to dry. The trawler by this time was now back alongside and made fast.
0700. Our clothes were nearly dry so we put them on and went ashore wearing slippers borrowed from the fishermen and at least two sizes too large. Money and passports being in "Maggie" an early visit to the British Consul was imperative so we shuffled off to report the loss of the ship and procure ready money, as soon as his office opened.
Despite our endeavours to get back to the scene of the accident by low water ( 1000hrs ) we were detained by the Consul until noon.
1230hrs. On eventually arriving at the harbour it was found that the crew of the "St.Joseph" had succeeded in raising "Maggie" and were proceeding to beach her on a sandy beach in the corner of the basin.
High water was 1700hrs. but it was nearly 1900 before was "Maggie" was high and dry. She was bailed out and the sodden gear removed and laid out on the beach. Much gear had been lost including the foresail and personal property, but the passports and money were safe.
By now we had learned that the "St.Joseph" was owned by the Friscourt family, the father, his three sons and various relatives and friends making up the crew of eleven.
Apparently, to ensure that the salvage and repairs were done as reasonably as possible, the family had taken these duties upon themselves and had arranged for a shipwright to fix a felt and plywood tingle over the damage which would enable her to remain afloat long enough to be towed to the repair yard.
INVITATION TO STAY.
Their organisation did not end there. While the shipwrights were busy fixing the tingle, Marie, the wife of the eldest son Charles, arrived and indicated that all the sodden gear, now lying on the beach was to be taken to her house where it could properly dried and attended to. She also insisted that we should stay with her for the rest of our time in Calais, and that the offer was so generously pressed that it would have been churlish to refuse.
2100hrs. A lorry driven by a friend of the family drove up and into it was piled all our gear, Marie,ourselves and some half dozen fishermen and their bicycles. Driven furiously, it took us through the docks and the town to the suburb, where the Café Friscourt , owned by Charles and Marie, was situated.Here , clothes and blankets were rinsed and hung up in the garden and the other gear piled up as tidily as possible until it could properly inspected.
June 18 th. 0900hrs. An independent marine surveyor, the consultant engineer to British Railways cross channel steamers, was called in to make a survey of the damage and to indicate the extent of the necessary repairs. It was agreed that the damage should be chargeable to the "St.Joseph" and the work put in hand by the local boat builders.
A further instance of the Friscourt family's thoughtfulness was observed in that a continous watch had been kept over the "Maggie" by one or more of the "St.Joseph's" crew so that no inquisitive locals could take any liberties with her.
1730.The "St.Joseph" towed "Maggie" into the boatyard. She was lifted out of the water and shored up. There we left her at 1900.
SundayJune 19th. Most of the day was spent looking over the salvaged gear and estimating losses. This done a start was made on converting an old Sharpie mainsail into a foresail to replace the one that was lost, the dancefloor in the salon of the café making an excellent sail loft. Work had to stop eventually to allow the regular Sunday evening dance to take place. Those of the crew who had been at the dance, which ended at 0200 hrs. went straight to their ship for a night's mackerel fishing and Mr.Hilton accompanied them. He relates that approaching the spot where he was sunk his attention was drawn to the blaze of lights from the deck of a cross channel ferry berthed alongside, some two cables ahead. The difficulty of seeing a yacht's riding light against such a background was readily apparent.
KINDLY FRENCH FAMILY.
The log records the activity the trawler and the happy time spent with Friscourt family and how the "Maggie's" sinking cost them several nights fishing, plus other costs had been such a financial blow to them.
Repairs were completed on Saturday June 25th. A farewell party was held in the café with many Friscourt family and friends present . Much gin and rum were consumed making for a lively and excellent party which went on until the small hours.
"Maggie" cast off on June 26th. at noon anchoring in Dover at 0900hrs. It was decided to sail from Dover for the duration of the season in the channel in clear waters. Several trips to Calais were made at weekends where "Maggie" became quite well known.
In September the weather started to deteriorate and the "Maggie" returned to Erith.
This log was selected by Rear-Commodore Bob Roberts as the best and the Henriette Cup was presented to Mr.Hilton at Erith Yacht Club's Jubilee Dinner.
By the kind permission of the Kentish Times.
|The picture of EYC in the bar has , in the foreground, a large cutter under sail which appears to be flying the Commodore's burgee . If this is so the yacht is "Lady Georgiana"of some 18 tons owned by A.I.Gaze the Commodore ( 1900 - 06 ) at the time. He also owned a 2 ton sloop , "Vic",during this period also kept at EYC.|
When I first came to the Club ( 1947 ) the lightship ( "Garson 2" ) had only recently been purchased and "Garson 1" had been laid up in the Middle Creek. I was told that she had been used by a group of doctors who kept small animals on board on which they used to experiment.
A member called Joe Elvin, a retired printer, lived on his boat all through the war and with the help of his shot gun kept intruders at bay!
The "Garson 2" was purchased from Trinity House in 1945 for £140 and was delivered FOC to the Club Saltings lashed alongside the THV "Patricia". In those days the only lighting aboard was by oil lamps.
The engine room of the lightship was lined out with lead and the member who removed it all sold it for his own gain,or so it was said.
With strong northerly winds "Garson 2" would come out of her hole and when the tide receded would take up a large list of about 40 degrees. There used to be a piano in the saloon but I only heard it played on two occasions. Because of the listing the piano was pinned in place with a row of nails.
Dave Wallace and I were trapped on board the lightship when the great tide of 1953 lifted the ship so high that the gangway left the bank and hung straight down. Many dinghies went over the sea wall (raised since then) and yachts came out of their mud berths ( there was then no fill, just marsh and creeks) and remained there when the waters receded. They then had to be man handled or dug back into their mud berth. High tide remained for many hours. Belvedere was flooded and the marshes where the Gypsies lived.
The first dance ever given on the "Garson 2" was in the 60's and a junior member provided a gramophone and home built amplifier. Dance records were obtained from the membership at large.The centre table in the saloon was dismantled to give room to the dancers.
About that time Dave Kennard brought an epidiascope and showed photos of members yachts of yesteryear. Some time later Robbie ( Michael Robinson ) brought a proper slide projector and a load of slides showing life aboard some square rigged ships. These he had borrowed from the Maritime Museum.
In the 50's I was part of the crew who laid the paving stone causeway, replacing the former wooden one. This was really too narrow and was eventually replaced by the M1 under the direction of Jimmy Green. Some lighters broke adrift and sat on this new wooden causeway and the Club had a large section professionally rebuilt at the expense of the lighter owners.
( These earlier causeways extended to low water mark from a position ashore, just astern of "Folgefonn" for launch/recovery of dinghies.The lighter roads extended from where they are at present upstream of EYC, to roughly where our bottom moorings are ). During this period Fred Lapslie ( the Club's White jacketed Steward ) and his wife used to supply a supper on Saturday night plus a breakfast and a roast dinner on Sunday ( all served on a white linen tablecloth ) and lots of tea, all for 10 shillings (50p ).When I was thrown out of my lodgings I lived on "Garson" for several days until I got somewhere to live.
At the bottom of the lighter roads was an old hulk called "Birchrock" ( an ex. wooden square rigger used for storing coal) on which lived a retired Captain ( possibly W.Johnstone, joined EYC 1940 ) who kept watch over the loaded lighters. He used to visit the Club on a Saturday night and spin fantastic sea yarns aided by the oil lights and a wood burning stove, a tortoise.
Sometime in the 60's there was an accident involving Howard Smith and Bill Frost. They had climbed the rigging attached to the lightship's mast to fasten some wet sails to dry out. The rigging snapped and they fell to the deck from about 10 feet ( 3 metres ).Howard injured his ankle so badly that he could not walk. He was carried on an improvised stretcher to Bill Frost's "bog boat" ( a Hastings Lugger) This happened on a Bank Holiday weekend and although Howard rested all day Sunday he could only walk with improvised crutches made from flotsam ( a broken paddle ).
He was put in a wheelbarrow and taken to the car park at the end of Manor Road ( where the barrier is ). Bill Curwood drove him up to the Savoy Hotel, London, where he was convinced that he could get a room.
In his muddied state, dressed in airforce battledress, walking with the aid of the driftwood crutch he was not given one! Not undaunted he asked for a telephone and booked a room at the Astor by name and got in there.
Sailing up river just above the town off the southern sewage outfall and treatment works, I met a wall of soap suds extending right across the river some four feet high! This supposedly came from a firm which made home perm kits. All kinds of chemicals were in the river then which discoloured the paint on boats, and was known as the purple plague. Cutlery and brasswork was also tarnished, not just afloat but also houses in Upper Belvedere, Charlton etc, not just riverside properties!
The pollution was so bad that a hand put 2 inches ( 5cms ) down in the river water became invisible due to the filth. Any members ( and general public ) swallowing riverwater were treated in the local hospital and often had their stomachs pumped out.
On about November the 5th we used to have a firework party and one of the set pieces was a Catherine Wheel made up of rockets. Another was rockets "back to back", the top one igniting the lower one which then hurtled back to earth.
Early one Sunday morning a Cadet Member banged on the door of the bar where I was sleeping to say there was a corpse fully dressed lying across the causeway. I got dressed and verified this find and checked that the man was dead. I phoned the local police and they turned up with a coffin on wheels and took the man away. Later I found out that he had been the watchman on the lighter roads opposite Erith Town and had been out celebrating prior to falling in.
On another occasion whilst dinghy racing I found a bloated corpse in the water and towed it into the town causeway. The man was an awful sight as his eyeballs were gone. I left my name with the police and in due course got some salvage money. 10 shillings ( 50p ) I think.
Another time,again midweek, when I had a half day off there was an exceptionally low tide. This caused the boats on the outer trot ( about where the middle trot is today,only two trots then ) to touch the bottom.Going searching along the exposed river bottom I found several anchors and rowlocks in good condition, plus many tools lying in the peat.
midweek incident was when an old fashioned sludger ( which carried treated
sewage out to sea for dumping ) coming upriver rounded Crayfordness. She
then had an electrical power failure with the rudder set to turn to the
ship to port and the engine running strongly. The ship managed to miss
all the yachts on the moorings as she came to rest on our foreshore.
As a result of the last newsletter the following was received from Peter Rowing
I will always remember Nobby Clark and how he first crossed the channel to Calais with Alec Grey, who told him to steer southeast for the town hall. After a few inexplicable course changes by Alec, the tower on the Calais town hall loomed out of the mist and they sailed into the harbour. Nobby didn't care to ask Alec how this had been achieved as he was an awkward old cuss, however it was explained. At that time there was an air ferry for cars, that flew out of Lydd airport, war surplus freighters that struggled into the and flopped down in a field by Calais. Every time one flew over, a course correction was made, better than GPS.
Alec Grey is long
gone, I remember him for his immaculate sailing gear, an old mackintosh
with a bit of sisal string tied around the waist. Hardly fit for Cowes
Week old chap, and tea with the Queen, but then there were quite a few
eccentric characters around Erith at the time, as there probably still
below has no date but would appear to be in the early 1900s, Faith being
mentioned in the Club handbook for 1906. She was a 12 ton cutter but whether
the good Doctors actually carried a "steward" or whether they'd
taken the Club Steward on a jolly,I don't know. Note also the race times
not just for the handicap system, but for the time it took to do the race
for class A. This is why it was considerd no mean feat to make Queenbrough
on the tide! I apologise for the words containing ? , the original's part
were brought off on Saturday last by the above named Club, being the commencement
of the racing fixtures for the season. For class "A" boats the
course was from Erith to the Ovens buoy, finishing at Gravesend, and prizes
were offered by Messrs. Hoyes and Vining. For the second class the course
was from Erith to Terrace Pier, Gravesend. Mr.T.R. Peckitt being the prize
donor. Owing to the inclement weather, only a small company of members
and friends witnessed the start , which was carried out under the direction
of Mr.J.Streeten. The wind at the time was fair. Respecting the big class,
six boats competed, the handicaps being as follow: Mr.A.I.Gaze's Lady
Georgiana and Mr.F.Hole's
As to the mishap to Faith, those aboard must consider themselves fortunate in escaping injury. They were four in number - Ganney and Williams ( the owners ), Mr W.E. Nicoll ( secretary of Woolwich Electricity Co.), and the steward. Dr.Ganney was at the helm, and the boat was going down on th port tack, when a sudden flash of lightning followed by a terrific burst of thunder, struck the mast, tearing the flag into shreds. It split the truck and the starboard topmast stay; then, passing down; it dislocated a tank containing 50 gallons of water and entering the cabin scorched the roof and walls, while some of the timber caught fire. Every piece of crockery in the small pantry was broken, and a number of eggs exploded " like torpedoes." The content of the eggs bespattered the steward from head to foot, and he was completely knocked out of the cabin by the concussion caused by the lightning striking the boat. The fire was quickly put out. The occupants felt effects of the shock. It was at first thought that one of the Tilbury fort guns had fired on the yacht by accident.
Preparing for Nov.5th where we used to roast a kid or two but some escaped. We are sorry for our omissions and hence our current misfortunes. Click on the photo to expand
|Map of the Club as it was before the tipping of the fill, showing the line of the original 'two plank' plankwalk over the saltings and the replacement 'M1' built of railway sleepers on telegraph poles. This was wide enough to take accomodate a Star on a trailer or a barrow full of beer barrels. Click the image to expand.|
found the following in an EYC Newsletter for Autumn 1977. Fred Finck.
should attend working Sundays with the following exceptions
House Committee Minutes Sept. 1951
Steward's Holiday.This came up for discussion and it was decided to ask the General Committee to grant 2 weeks. This, if possible, only to include one weekend away from the Club.
In those days the focsle of the Garson 2, the lightship was used for storing member's junk, club tools, etc. It was also the "Gentlemen Member's " changing room. Hence
Mr. Traish raised some objection to females being so much in evidence
in the forecastle. After a lengthy discussion it was decided that nothing
could be done about this at the moment.
Continue upstream to Bow Creek for here was the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Co. On the Blackwall side there were slipways, with workshops on the opposite bank of the creek. However Thames Ironworks was not the original yard, building first commenced on the site in 1836/8 by Ditchburn and Mare and were simple iron built passenger vessels, steam engined paddlers. There then followed several changes of title and ownership until Thames Ironworks arrived in 1857 where they remained when, in December 1912 on completion of HMS Thunderer , the yard closed. At some 22,500 tons full load displacement and drawing 27ft. 6 ins. she was the largest warship built on the Thames.
On leaving the
builders yard she went downriver to Dagenham where her engines were installed.
These were steam turbines of 27,000 indicated HP.and manufactured by Penn's
who also supplied the engines for Ditchburn and Mare's paddle steamers
earlier in 1836.
The main engine works were at Blackheath and in Deptford, the boiler works, the two being linked by horse drawn carts and traction engines.
Thames Ironworks and Penn's joined forces in 1899 until that sad day in 1912 you will find John Penn St. which marks the worksite, roughly at the bottom of Blackheath Hill on the left hand side, London bound.
One of Penn's unusual jobs had nothing to do with marine engines, the Aeronautical Society, then in Blackheath, contracted them to build a wind tunnel. This may have been a " first " in the story of flight.
Also, seeing the decline in marine engineering Penn's diversified into the manufacture of motor cars under the trade name " Thames ". This was done in an attempt to maintain his workforce in employment and comes as no surprise as a pension scheme was in operation for deserving workmen and widows. A " firm " far sighted in labour relations for it's time.
It might also
be noted that in its heyday shipbuilding in iron on the Thames
Should you wish to know more about this subject I strongly refer you to :--
Shipbuilders of the Thames and Medway by Philip Banbury, published by David and Charles.
This is from a newspaper dated May 31st. 1938. Thus it could a forerunner of the Hamble Star but the wheels fell off in transit!
a yacht which never goes to sea . . . that's the daily job of Mr. W. H.
Slater, former naval Petty Officer and coastguard, of Quarry House, Cliffe,
Kent. You see, his yacht-it's the one in this picture-sails over the land-on
rails. Mr. Slater's now watchman of a disused cement works at Cliffe Creek,
and his cottage is a mile away. A disused railroad runs from his cottage
to the factory. He used to walk, then one day he saw a truck on the railroad
being gently blown along by the breeze, and that gave him the idea for