Sailing club set to celebrate 50 years

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ONE of the oldest sailing clubs on the Northumberland coast is celebrating its Golden Jubilee at the end of the month.

Newbiggin Sailing Club was launched in 1961 by 15 local enthusiasts meeting in the Bank House Social Club.

Three weeks later a 12-strong committee was formed under the chairmanship of local secondary school headmaster Billy Bell, when among the topics they discussed was finding a suitable location to store their boats at a convenient site for launching them in Newbiggin Bay.

Fees were also set at two guineas a member, three guineas for a family and half a guinea for juniors.

By the time of the next meeting membership was already growing and members set about raising funds to run the club as well as adopting a blue lobster on a red background as the club flag.

It was later changed to a white tern on a blue background to mirror the logo of the club’s sponsors at the time – the now long departed Sunderland-based Vaux Breweries.

In those days the club officials were Billy Bell, chairman), Ashington Co-operative works manager John Grenfell, vice-chairman, Harry Gray, of Hall & Cardwell in Ashington, deputy vice-chairman, Campbell Storey, of the White House Bakery, secretary, and Reg Hawthornthwaite, of Newbiggin Pharmacy, treasurer.

The committee members were Desmond Wade, Siggins Quarry, Lisle Willis, Tyne Tees Television’s ‘Ned’s Shed’ presenter, Verdon Dobinson, Ashington Co-op Menswear, Bert Grenfell, Beadnell’s shop, Bedlington, and Jack Spedding, North Seaton newsagent.

The members all worked hard in the early years raising funds to build a dinghy park on what had been the produce garden next to the Old Ship Hotel, which they rented from Vaux Breweries.

In those days the clubhouse was a glorified garden shed with no running water.

In later years the club bought the land from the brewery as well as the Old Mechanics Institute building from bookmaker Charlie Chisholm.

The building was in a dreadful state, but again hard work converted it into a comfortable clubhouse with hot showers, a canteen and a bar lounge.

More recently the clubhouse has been extended and refurbished with the help of a generous Coalfield Regeneration Fund grant to create a facility in Newbiggin for use not just by the sailing club but for hire to other groups for meetings and social activities.

Fifty years after being formed, membership has grown steadily and the club runs an active programme of races right through from May to October.

An anniversary celebration is on Saturday with past and present members getting together between 1pm and 4pm.

Any former members who would like to attend should contact either Peter Grenfell on (01670) 856781 or Miles Hawthornthwaite on (01670) 860026.