A BRIEF HISTORY OF RINGHADDY CRUISING CLUB
(courtesy of Mr. Ronnie Slater)
I wonder how many of our members recall the B.C. (Before Club) years. The time when we parked our cars along the roadside and kept our dinghies tied to the thorn hedge along the foreshore. Fuel and stores could only be taken on board alongside the pier at, or near, high water. All activities were carried out under the watchful and benevolent eye of Bob Dougall from this cottage on the pier.
In the immediate post-war years, there were three yachts moored in Ringhaddy Sound. With the explosion in yachting activities, however, the number of moored yachts increased exponentially. Parking for both cars and dinghies became increasingly difficult and, to compound the problem, the local land owner was threatening to close off the pier, build a restaurant on the pier head and convert the small boat yard at the rear of the cottages into a car park.
In May 1975, Mailtand Eves and Ronnie Slater approached the land owners representative, Mrs. Nancy Green, with a view to obtaining some ground.
With the help of the late Stan Baird, a meeting was sponsored by Killyleagh Sailing School and held in the Library of Comber Intermediate School on 5th June 1975. In addition to 85 - 90 boat owners, there were representatives from the land owner, the National Trust and the Sports Council. Proceedings started with a tribute to Bob Dougall whose name had been synonymous with Ringhaddy for almost fifty years. Savell Hicks were unable to attend, but his letter of apology was read out to the meeting as it beautifully expressed the sentiments of all those concerned with the uniqueness of Ringhaddy.
The Chairman expressed the concerns of the yachtsmen, namely, increasing congestion on the pier and approach road, the closure of the boatyard in September which had acutely compounded the dinghy parking problem and finally the threatened closure of the pier itself. The boat owners had a wide-ranging discussion and made the following unanimous decisions:
An association of boat owners would be formed.This association would be called the Ringhaddy Cruising Club.A four man committee was elected, consisting of Garfield Brown, David Greenhalgh, Harry Patton and Ronnie Slater.Every effort would be made to purchase sufficient land to enable cars and dinghies to be parked off the road and pier head.An annual meeting would be held.Bob Scott would be appointed boatman to the Club. An expression of thanks was passed for his help over the years.
The new committee wasted no time in getting down to business and the first meeting was held on 11th June 1975. At the first meeting, Harry Patton was elected Commodore, Ronnie Slater was elected Honorary Secretary and David Greenhalgh became Honorary Treasurer.
Garfield Brown, who was the fourth member of the Committee, reported several recent discussions with Mrs. Nancy Green. She still intended to go ahead with the pier head restaurant but was proposing a large car park to the north of the pier with dinghy storage along the foreshore. Access to the pier would only be via the car park, a proposal that produced more problems than solutions and the Committees concerns were duly passed on to her solicitor.
The proposed functions of Ringhaddy Cruising Club, which required ratification or amendment at the first A.G.M., were drafted as follows:
To preserve the amenities of Ringhaddy Sound and to safeguard the interest of the established users of Ringhaddy Pier and adjacent waters.To nominate a boatman who will assist the members in the arrangement, laying and maintenance of moorings, thereby facilitating free navigation and ensuring the safety of the yachts.To erect and maintain such navigational marks as may from time to time be deemed necessary.
It was decided that a preliminary approach should be made to Mr. Peter Paice, Secretary of the N.I. Federation of Sub-Aqua Clubs, to discuss matters of mutual interest between the divers and the yachtsmen.
Before closing that inaugural meeting, it was decided to send out the first Bulletin as soon as possible, mainly to encourage yachtsmen who had not joined the Club to do so.
A Register of 46 boats in the Sound was supplied to Bob Scott with the owners names, addresses and telephone numbers where they could be contacted in the event of a mishap. Several of the neighbouring yacht clubs had taken it upon themselves to mark many of the unmarked or incompletely marked pladdies. The Committee requested Bob Scott to place a suitable mark on the Rathgorman pladdy (Verde Rocks) which lie in wait for anyone who strays north of the approach to the south end of Ringhaddy Sound.
The second Committee meeting was held on the 30th July 1975 on board Nevermore, Garfield Browns large motor yacht. The Down District Council had requested a meeting with the Club and Mr. Brian Coburn attended as a representative of the Council. The Committee was greatly relieved to hear Mr. Coburn express the Councils concern over the threatened closure of the Pier Head at Ringhaddy and stated that the Council would be prepared take whatever measures would be considered necessary to maintain right of way to the foreshore, even to the extent of applying a Vesting Order. He also indicated that if the Cruising Club could acquire some land, the Council would be prepared to assist financially with a grant of up to 50% to establish facilities on this land.
As a matter of interest, the question of widening the approach road to Ringhaddy was discussed, but everyone was in agreement that although narrow, it was a most attractive road and to widen it would alter its character considerably and probably attract even more traffic.
Mr. Coburn mentioned that the Council would be keen to attract visiting yachtsmen to Ringhaddy and asked the Committee how this could best be done. It was felt that a visitors mooring and a floating pontoon with tying up facilities and a minimum depth of 6 feet at low water with the ready availability of fuel and fresh water would probably encourage cross-channel yachtsmen to venture into Strangford Lough.
The Committee expressed their thanks to Mr. Coburn for his interest and sympathetic understanding of the yachtsmens problems. In replying, Mr. Coburn felt that the long term aims of the District Council, the local landowners and the yachtsmen were not at variance - how right he proved to be (eventually!).
An item of increasing concern to many of the yachtsmen at that time was the amount of sub-aqua diving during the summer months. Divers affiliated with Sub-aqua Club tended to be well disciplined and took all the appropriate safety measures but very often divers who did not appear to be affiliated with any club left much to be desired with their safety measures it was not unusual to see a black covered head suddenly emerge in the middle of the fairway. Because of our concerns, we requested a meeting with the chairman of the N.I. Federation of Sub-aqua Clubs. Dr. Sweetman attended our Committee meeting on the 3rd September 1975 and stated his great concern over the lack of discipline of some divers, both in the water and in the precincts of Ringhaddy Pier. He felt that diving should be prohibited in Ringhaddy Sound during the sailing season in view of the very heavy volume of traffic. He outlined the correct protocol, namely that dives only take place after notifying an official of the Cruising Club, the location of the dive would be properly marked with a buoy and flag A and a boat must be in attendance. Under no circumstances should divers attempt to swim across the Sound. Dr. Sweetman asked to be notified if any breach of these safety measures occurred.
At the same meeting in September, the Commodore produced his drawings for the proposed new burgee. It was a very find flag with a dark blue background and two golden fish (Haddies - the Scottish term for the haddock) in the form of a circle. We felt that the new burgee very cleverly spelt out Ring-Haddie.
The congestion of moorings in Ringhaddy Sound was also discussed and it was felt that in the not too distant future, more planning of moorings would be required. However, it was felt that some owners might object to their mooring being shifted and it would perhaps be tactful to mention the proposed rationalization in the next Winter Bulletin before doing anything more definite.
At the Committee meeting in October, the Secretary reported a recent visit, which he had made to Mrs. Green. She was still intending to go ahead with a car park for 150 vehicles in the field opposite Bob Scott's house. Although she had not sorted out the finer details of her scheme, she stated that there would adequate car parking space for all yachtsmen and their visitors and that an annual charge would be made to each member. Such an arrangement would not have found favour with the majority of yacht owners and the Committee was strongly of the opinion that the only satisfactory solution was to purchase an area of ground. It had been rumoured that Dr. George Edelstyn was considering developing his land north of the Farrell's farm. The Secretary was instructed to approach him with a view to purchasing a portion of land at the north end of Ringhaddy Sound. The Commodore and Secretary visited Dr. Edelstyn and subsequently forwarded a sketch plan of an area of ground which would be suitable for our purposes. At the November Committee meeting, Dr. Edelstyns reply was read out and unfortunately our proposed purchase did not meet with his approval. The Committee discussed Mrs. Green's proposals and felt that they were entirely unsatisfactory. The time had come to make some attempt at purchasing land. It was agreed that the most suitable site for our purpose was that area of foreshore lying to the south of Garfield Browns yard. Garfield was entrusted with the onerous task of opening negotiations.
At the December meeting, Garfield reported that he had had several meetings with Mrs. Green and she felt that it was an excellent idea to sell two acres of ground to the south of Garfields yard as this would keep the yachtsmen away from the Pier Head. She said that she would have the land valued by an estate agent and would come back to us. The reply arrived one week later from Alex Murdoch and Deane stating that the landowners were prepared to receive offers in the region of £20,000 for two acres of land. The Committee were disappointed at this grossly inflated valuation. Mr. John Parsons, the Planning Officer for North Down was contacted. He confirmed that there was absolutely no chance of obtaining planning permission for dwellings on this area of ground and that as a result the value for two acres was in the region of £5,000 rather than £20,000.
Although several members of the Club had offered interest free loans, they only totalled a little over £5,000. Not only was this insufficient to finance the venture, but it was also felt rather unfair that a few should subsidise the many. It was consequently decided that an attempt should be made to obtain £200 from every boat owner in Ringhaddy Sound and the Secretary was instructed to draft out a letter. Looking back 34 years to that request for a considerate sum of money from the founder members was the seminal moment in the formation of the Ringhaddy Cruising Club. I feel the best way of conveying the sense of history is to reproduce that appeal in its entirety. Many of you will remember it vividly, many more of you will never have heard of it.
RINGHADDY CRUISING CLUB
Commodore: H. A. Patton Secretary: R.M. Slater Treasurer: David Greenhalgh,
PURCHASE OF LAND AT RINGHADDY
The fact that you have received this letter means that you are one of those fortunate people who have enjoyed that unique combination of qualities, which we know as Ringhaddy described in the words of the Irish Cruising Clubs Sailing Directions as the best anchorage on the east coast of Ireland. Splendidly sheltered and most attractive. Whether your experience is one year or fifty years, it has been made doubly enjoyable by the fact that it has been completely free.
Last May when the Ringhaddy Cruising Club was formed there were widespread fears that we were to be deprived of access to the foreshore. The Committee was instructed to make every effort to obtain access on a permanent, secure basis.
After protracted negotiations, we have obtained an option on two acres of land to the south of Garfield Browns yard with approximately 400 ft. frontage to the Sound.
Unfortunately, a large sum of money is required to buy the land, put in an approach road and provide very basic parking and launching facilities. Several members offered to put up interest-free loans of £500 to £1,000. These offers were greatly appreciated, especially as some of the lenders would not have benefited personally. However, the minority was not nearly adequate to subscribe the majority.
The Committee has explored every possible means of raising money, and has been forced to the conclusion that there appears to be only one way of financing the purchase and initial development of this land. Every boat owner in Ringhaddy would be required to subscribe £200.
The Committee is well aware that this sort of money represents the value of some of the smaller boats lying in the Sound, but before you throw this letter in the fire, let us consider what on is buying with his £200.
Security of access to the foreshore and waters of Ringhaddy Sound FOR ALL TIME. Perhaps our children and grandchildren are the ones who will reap maximum benefit from this.
Parking space for cars and dinghies. This would be free for the first five years, and thereafter covered either by the annual subscription or by a separate rental charge.
Free membership of the Ringhaddy Cruising Club for family and crew for the years.
Launching and hauling out facilities and Winter storage of boats. (Owners would, of course, supply labour and carriages).
Secure storage for outboard motors, cars, etc.
Lying alongside facilities at all states of the tide. This would resolve either a deep water jetty or a floating pontoon, and could probably not be incorporated in the initial phase of development.
In the event of a members death, the residue of this £200 would, of course be returned to his dependants immediately.
The Committee cannot place too much emphasis on the possibility that this could well be our last chance of securing independence, that time is short and that we must act NOW.
What are the alternatives, if we cannot raise the necessary capital?
Uncertainty of access to the foreshore.
Prohibition of car parking on the pier and road, almost certainly by the use of double yellow lines. We would therefore be forced to rent car/dinghy parking space from the local landowner on an annual basis.
Continuing friction with the local landowners.
Perhaps our greatest fear is that the land would be bought by a commercial developer and we would be forced to use his facilities. I need hardly remind you that the current charge in many marines is £11 per foot per annum.
Well, there it is a difficult decision, an exciting project at a cost to every boat owner of £40 per annum for five years. Surely that must be a first class investment. Do we have any alternatives? The Committee feel we do not, nor do we have much time. Above all, resist the temptation to put this letter behind the clock and think about it! Think today, but please act tomorrow and return the attached slip with, it possible, your cheque for £200 made out to the Ringhaddy Cruising Club and post dated, if you wish, until after the Annual General Meeting on 3rd February 1976. Should insufficient people agree to the project, your cheque will be returned.
This appeal was sent out in December 1975. 48 hours later the first reply dropped through my letterbox. It was from Alan Leech and included his cheque for £200. I felt it was a very propitious omen.