IN THE BEGINNING: By Olive Parkes.
In the autumn of 1960 a group of people attended the Mid Warwickshire College of Further Education for a course on buoyage and navigation and it was from this group that the founder members emerged. They were: Stan Birch, George and Olive Parkes, Mr Shelton-Rayner, Mrs Jones and our two tutors Capt. John Morris and Ken Dorans. Bill Cook was also one of the class but was unable to take an active part at the beginning due to his being in command of the Sea Scouts, although later he was to play a very active role.
Stan Birch, who is now our Honorary Commodore, owned a 63ft converted air/sea rescue boat and moored it at Hythe, near Southampton. George and Olive Parkes were just finishing building their four berth 25ft canal craft. Shelton-Rayner owned a motor/sailer which was moored on the south coast. Mrs Jones lived alongside the canal but her hobby was sailing. Capt. John Morris lectured on coastal navigation and Ken Dorans on buoyage. It was these seven people who became the founder members of the Club. At this point I must mention Daphne Birch who in the first weeks kept us continually supplied with coffee and biscuits. From November 1960, until Stan Birch opened his home in April 1961, these founder members put their heads together and items such as the name of the club, club colours, burgees, ties, badges and contact with the R.Y.A. were sorted out. It was in the early part of 1961 with the help of Brian Goodchild, Ben Hooper and Hartley-Jones, who was a solicitor and proved to be very helpful, that the Club was finally established and moved nearer to becoming one of the most unique clubs in the yachting society, as three sections were planned - Power/Sail/Inland Waterways. We must at this time bear in mind that all these people had craft of their own and had no need to form a Yacht Club, but their desire to help others who were interested in boats and boating led them to begin the formation of the club.
During these first few weeks it was found that Willes Meadow was in the course of development and it seemed a sensible idea to contact the Water Board with a view to allowing the Club sailing facilities. This proved to be a long drawn out process which not only involved the Water Board but the Allotment Holders who were very reluctant to allow boats through the main path of the allotments and gave us a lot of opposition. With the help of Mr Innes Jones, a councillor, and Stan Birch, ceaseless efforts were made and patience was rewarded with the granting of the rights to the Club to sail on the reservoir.
The night in April finally came when Stan Birch opened his home to welcome fellow boaters and those who were interested in boating and we were amazed that over 150 people became members of the Mid Warwickshire Yacht Club that evening. The first Officers of the Club were Stan Birch Commodore, Brian Goodchild Vice Commodore, Capt. John Morris Treasurer and Ken Dorans Secretary.
George and Olive Parkes were dedicated to organising the Inland Waterways.
It was from the efforts of George Parkes, Bill Cook and Larry Hughes that the Hatton Site was obtained. Larry knew from his navy days, an Admiral who was now connected to the powers that be in the Waterways and after correspondence a trip was made to London by the above three members and the lease to Hatton Site was obtained. The first rent for the lease of this site was £60, and George, Bill and Larry each subscribed £20 and George moored his newly built cruiser on the site to establish possession.
The Power Section had no need for sites as their boats were moored on rivers, estuaries and coast around the country but it was from this Section that a great deal of support and work from members for the Club came, with Charles and Zena Briggs opening their home for meetings of this section.
Our early days had many ups and downs and these were reported by the Press who gave us plenty of publicity. One of our downs, widely reported by the press in the area, was the resignation of Ken Dorans our secretary who destroyed all the early minutes of the Club including the minutes of those meetings held before the Club was officially inaugurated. Stan Birch invited members on his boat at weekends and Capt. John Morris became the official Captain. Many happy weekends were spent on Sunwood with cruises to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight and other places along the coast. Many of us were able to put our coastal navigation into practice on these trips. It was very sad a few years later that we learned of the death of Captain Morris who gave his life rescuing children from the sea off the Welsh coast. Stan Birch has now been Mayor of Leamington but still finds time to lend a helping hand when the Club is in need. George and Olive Parkes as many of you know are still very active members of the Power Section with a cruiser on the River Avon. Shelton-Rayner became ill with a serious kidney disease and spent a long time on and off a kidney machine. Mrs Jones was unable to continue due to family commitments.
During our first few years the highlight of the year was our Annual Dinner Dance when all Sections got together for a great night out. These dinner dances were held at such places as Chesford Grange and the Spa Ballroom, the first one in 1962 raised enough to buy a sailing boat for the reservoir. Barbecues were held in different places such as Twynning when all three sections participated. Meetings were held in the Town Hall and Pump Rooms and lectures or film shows were given by members who were only too pleased to give their services and help to fellow members.
Since these early days the Sections have become more independent but the same comradeship exists.
I have written about these early days as members have come and gone, and as the original documents of the Club are no longer in existence it was thought that it may be of interest to current members.