|Abstract||Shortly after the Great War there came to reside in
Tollesbury a gentleman, named Major Kenrick McMullen,
a member of a notable brewing family in Hertfordshire,
who had been serving as a staff officer in the Army.
He and his family settled down in the village, and eventually
acquired land north of the railway line at Station Road where
the Major designed and built the farming complex now known as
Great Downs. The Major, as he was generally known in the
village, and his family, wife and several husky young sons
were devoted to sailing in their leisure, and for a greater
part of the year resided on their Fifie built ketch "Nan" 29 tons.
Major McMullen possessed a great driving force and was quick to
realise the potentialities of Tollesbury as a centre for yachting
for the person possessed of moderate means. Hitherto the amateur
yachtsman was regarded with some suspicion and scepticism by the
fisherman and villager in general, but Major McMullen gained the
respect of the professional yachtsman and fisherman, and in some
measure received their support. In 1920 he mooted a scheme
whereby a road could be driven across the "Little Marsh" just
west of the existing old coal shed and store in Woodrolfe Road,
across the saltings by "Chattersons's Creek" out to the "Whale"
where water at all states of tide could be found to facilitate
the work of fishermen and yachtsmen alike. Public meetings
were held, and plans drawn up by Major McMullen, who was also
a civil engineer, were displayed for the benefit of all.
Although the scheme received the approval of the populace and
interested authorities, the lack of funds prevented the scheme
This setback did not deter Major
McMullen, and he persevered with his interests in sailing,
designing and building some very controversial craft. These
boats were lightly constructed of somewhat unorthodox materials,
laths and hardboard in particular. Some critical villagers
called them "paper boats" but their performances defeated the
critics. Equipped with large standing lug-type "lateen"
mainsails, these craft could leave traditionally equipped
sailing dinghies virtually standing, and made many yachtsmen
sit up and take notice. In these projects Major
McMullen was assisted by his sons, but when they
were away at college, he had the ready and willing
help of a number of local youths, in particular
Peter and Hubert Heard, their cousin Frank Heard,
Jack Lewis, Frank Pettican and others. Possibly
the most controversial or freakish craft was the
"Carton", so named as its principal component was
hardboard. This boat somewhat similar to the old
flatfish type of sailing boat, had twin keels and twin
rudders, and its shape was very much akin to the
present "Fireball" class of craft. It was exceedingly
fast, and won a number of trophies on the Blackwater
and Crouch for its owner. Races were held at suitable
states of tide in the evenings and at week-ends at
Woodrolfe Creek and in the Fleets, and so was instilled
a keen interest in small boat sailing amongst young and
old alike in Hie village. In 1924, Major McMullen had
acquired an interest in the newly formed Tollesbury Yacht
and Boatbuilding Company on the dissolution of
partnership of some members of the old established firm
of Brake Brothers which still continued operations at the
lower boatyard by the Hard. Major McMullen designed
small cruiser yachts and was ably assisted in their building
by Francis Drake, his father, his uncle Tom Frost, whose
sons Tom, Albert and Sid also took part. A boatyard was
established on the saltings near the yacht stores and
adjoining Bontings Creek and is known to-day as Frost and
Drake's boatyard. Tom Frost senior, designed and built
an 18ft sailing cutter which he named "Barbara", she was
tender but exceptionally fast.
With the introduction of larger and a polygot collection of craft, including "Tern" owned by Francis Drake, the sailing cutter of the old s.y.
"Winifred", and several fishermen's re-rigged row boats,
including "Imp" owned by Lennox Leavett, and National
dinghies it was necessary to formulate handicap classes,
and thus was born the "Tollesbury Sailing Club." In 1936 a
meeting of interested parties was called at Mr. Jim Chaney's electrical shop at 8 High Street, Major McMullen was appointed President, Capt Edgar Heard father of Peter and Hubert was elected Commodore and Walter Bibby owner of "Firefly" was nominated Secretary, but owing to his absences at college, Norman Brand acted in that capacity for the interim period.
The list of founder members was most impressive,
including among many others, the names of Sam Heard,
brother of Edgar, and who had served in "Shamrock III"
also Capt Ned Heard of "Endeavour" fame. The newly
formed Club was unique inasmuch as the greater part of
its members comprised professional yachtsmen and fishermen.
The annual subscription was agreed at 2/6d per annum, and
the emblem of a "Stag's head" was adopted as the Club's
badge, thus ensured the continuity of the crest previously
used by the old-time Tollesbury Regatta of pre World War I
days. Permission was obtained for the erection of a
"starters hut" on the saltings near the Gridiron at Ricketts
Hard, and races became a regular week-end activity. From
the start the Club was recognised by the old established
Clubs of the Colne and Blackwater, also the Y.R.A., now R.Y.A.
Mr. T.O.M. Sopwith (later Sir Thomas) donated a handsome
silver trophy, local firms and members followed suit.
The Club prospered and under the
able and strict guidance of its Commodore, and the valuable
and meticulous care of the Secretary, Walter Bibby, became
an institution to be reckoned with in sailing on local waters.
It is stated that some of the fishermen members were so keen,
that after spending a week or so on the "Cant" off Sheppey,
they would return to Woodrolfe but before proceeding home
would launch their craft for a trial spin.
Alas by the end
of autumn 1939 there was a curtailment of activities.
Peter and Hubert Heard were recalled to the Royal Haval
Reserve as was also Frank Pettican. Frank lost his life with
two other Tollesbury men in the armed merchant cruiser
"Rawalpindi", Hubert was lost in the "Jervis Bay" and Peter
suffered a similar fate. Hubert and Peter had been two of the
keenest members of the Club.
By 1946 most of the surviving younger members of the Club had
been demobilised, and activities were re-started. An old
paint shop and boatshed together with portion of the Little
Marsh were purchased, and with the able and willing help of
members was established as the headquarters of the
Tollesbury Sailing Club. The Countess de la Chapelle, who
for many years had resided and taken a great interest in the
village, donated a magnificent Stag's head mounted on
plaque and other items of club furniture.
Membership of the Club widened and embraced many in
surrounding parishes in all walks of life. The new
incumbent, Rev. Legh B. McCarthy, recently demobilised
from the Forces, took up sailing in his leisure, and
several yachtmasters also plied their skills, notably
Capt. William Drake Frost in "Agatha" and Capt. George
Brand. Under the auspices of the Club the ancient
ceremony of "Gooseberry Pie" festivities on St.
Peter's Day was revived for the village as a whole,
and the first Fishermen's Service was held at Ricketts
Hard, later to be held in the parish church. With
the decline of fishing in this locality these services
were discontinued, but seafarers services are held
periodically at the parish church usually supported by
a minister from the Missions to Seamen.
Over the years changes in the hierarchy of the Club
inevitably took place, but tribute should be paid to
those who played such a great part in the
establishment of the Club, principally Major Kenrick
McKullen, Edgar Heard, Walter Bibby, Syd Harrington,
B.W. Wilkinson, Dr. J. James, Charles Pewter,
Derek Leavett, Ned Heard, Dick Frost, Jack Farthing,
Laurie Hardy-King, Capt. Nelson Rice,
and many others too numerous to mention.
To-day sees the Club on the threshold of a new era,
instead of handicap classes with the exception of the
"cruiser" class, there are the three recognised classes
of "Flying Dutchmen", "Fireball" and "Enterprise"
classes, and efforts to construct a new Headquarters
more in keeping with similar sailing clubs. In
these projects the Club is ably led by Capt. Lance Hill
and an enthusiastic and capable band of helpers.
This article is printed in Tollesbury to the year 2000, page 75.