HomeHistoryClub HistoryThe first hundred years – Part I

The first hundred years – Part I

The Northumberland Sailing Club was founded in 1890 by a group of enthusiasts who kept their yachts at Alnmouth and laid them up for the winter on the the foreshore there, on land leased from the Northumberland Estates. According to the Rules, the Club’s Headquarters was Newcastle upon Tyne, and its first President (from 1896) was the 6th Duke of Northumberland, a position since graced by his successors. The first Commodore was W.S. Vaughan. The Northumberland Sailing Club expanded rapidly. By 1896 there were 230 members sailing a variety of craft, and the new Club rivalled the longer established Clubs at Tynemouth and Sunderland.

The first recorded function of the Club was on 30th August 1890 when it promoted a regatta at Alnmouth. According to the local newspaper, the regatta was not very successful, at least from the point of view of the spectators, for whom the event was “characterised by considerable apathy”. The weather didn’t help. A stiff northwesterly at the start moderated to a flat calm before the competitors finished the course. The Alnmouth Regatta continued annually under the burgee of the N.S.C. until 1895. The trophies included the Duke of Northumberland’s Alnmouth Challenge Cup, which is still raced for nearly a century later.

HY Tyne I

HY Tyne I

In these early years racing was organised on only four or five weekends each year. The principal events were the very popular week’s meet at Holy Island, and the annual Regatta. In 1894 the Northumberland Sailing Club promoted the first of several Regattas at Cullercoats. Apart from the cruising yachts (“keels”) in various classes, and canoe yawls, there was also racing for sailing cobles, which were exempted from the racing rules to the extent of being allowed to “shift ballast at will, and to use the back stroke of an oar on the aftermost thole pin to throw the boat out of irons”. The Newcastle Daily Leader commented after the 1897 Regatta how much the Club had accomplished in bringing to the fore “…this exceedingly fine pastime on our coast… “. The report also stated that “…the Duke of Northumberland’s Challenge Cup…which arrived during the racing by special parcel, is a very fine one and the members were exceedingly pleased with it”. In 1990, the Duke of Northumberland, in line with tradition, presented another trophy.

The 1890s saw the development of Blyth South Harbour, which presented a much better option than Alnmouth from which to run a yacht club, particularly as the estuary of the River Aln had silted over the years, some say as a result of a gale. The only drawback was that the Harbour’s main business in those days was the export of coal, and when the staithes were in use the dust got everywhere. For many years it was said that you could always tell a Blyth boat by the colour of her sails. Club members cruised extensively, and in 1902 published “A Yachting Guide to the North East Coast”. In 1899, the Club acquired a schooner, re-named Tyne, and moored her in South Harbour, (towards the left hand margin in the photograph) fitting her out for use as a House Yacht. Tyne had previously been owned by Robert Stephenson, the engineer. The Club appointed a steward, Marquis by name, who looked after the members from 1899 to 1915, when the House Yacht was requisitioned for use by the Royal Navy and the Club’s activities suspended for the period of the war.

HY Tyne II

HY Tyne II

Shortly after the war, Tyne was found to be suffering extensive rot and had to be broken up. Her replacement, obtained in 1924 by Harry Heslop, was an Admiralty re-inforced concrete tug, the Crete Hatch, which was towed from Aberdeen to become House Yacht Tyne II. She provided members with a high standard of comfort, with a large saloon below water-line with the ports enlarged into square casement windows, with the sills not much above the water-line. Mrs Croft, the stewardess, provided meals, and it was the custom for the members to help themselves to drink, the standard tipple being hot rum and lemon, the hot water coming from an electric kettle of polished copper, and the lemon skins remaining in the glass at the end of the evening providing a tally for the monthly account. The accommodation was created from the vessel’s coal bunkers, which were each fitted with a berth and wash basin. E.F. (Ned) Robertson, Club Secretary from 1909 to 1940 except for a two year break, actually lived on board the House Yacht, commuting daily by bus to his work as a solicitor in practice in Newcastle.

Read Part II