In the Beginning
Speech made to members in 1954 by the late Keith Adams, original Vice Commodore and former Commodore.
From MHYC's Golden Jubilee Magazine 1989
"In 1939, a small but dedicated band of yachtsmen who kept their boats in Middle Harbour banded together and formed what became known as the Middle Harbour Cruising Yachts Association. They elected as their president the late Dick Down who had been, for 20 consecutive years, Commodore of the SASC.
In those days they raced much as we do on Wednesday afternoons. As a matter of fact, they did not even allow booming out. The main difference being that handicaps were conceded at the start of the race instead of at the finish.
I well remember the late George Griffin who was the instigator of the whole thing and general factotum being starter, handicapper etc.
At first they held their meetings in a room at the top of Griffin's shed, but they had only been going for a short time when war broke out.
After the war started, yachting virtually came to a stand-still in Sydney Harbour, but the association kept in touch with three or four meetings a year.
Toward the end of 1944, I joined the association followed by Norman Way and several others. A meeting was held in one of the committee rooms of the Mosman Council. At this meeting Harry Elderfield brought up the subject of forming the association into a yacht club. He had spoken of this many times before but Dick Down was always against it. Whether Down's long association with the Sydney Amateurs was responsible for this I do not know. But at this meeting, Norman Way, a few others and myself spoke in support of Mr Elderfield, but met great opposition from Dick Down. The upshot of the whole thing was that Mr Down packed up his papers and books from the table and walked out of the room. Someone then asked, "What do we do now?" and I proposed we call another meeting from those present, and form the Middle Harbour Yacht Club!
This was done and Mr Way was elected Commodore, Harry Elderfield, Secretary, and John Shannon, Treasurer. I tagged along as Vice-Commodore. We didn't worry about a Rear Commodore.
A meeting was held a few days after this in Mr Elderfield's office, and a constitution was thrashed out. The war had just ended and things began to move rapidly. We held our first meeting at the Spastic Centre in Queen Street, Mosman, but this was off the beaten track because public transport and motor cars were scarce and some of the fellows found it hard to get there. So we moved to the Mosman Bridge Club, which had rooms over one of the buildings at the Spit Junction.
By this time we were racing again and members were joining very quickly. We were able to form two divisions but were still racing without extras, because it was almost impossible to get sailcloth at this time.
It was then decided that we should find a clubhouse of our own, so our Commodore who was a friend of the Mayor of Mosman, put the proposition to him and found that he was in agreement with the idea. The Council made it possible for us to acquire land north of the Middle Harbour Skiff Club. The next thing was to raise sufficient funds to build a clubhouse. So the committee decided to issue debentures for 10 pounds each. These debentures did not carry any interest and were for an indefinite period. The way the members subscribed to this was magnificent - some providing as much as 200, others 100 or 50 down to 10 pounds, or what they could afford.
The Commodore and his wife did a fine job of organising social functions - anything to raise money. There was one function which always stuck in my mind, an auction sale of surplus yachting gear owned by the members. We were to hold this on Saturday night but at the last moment found that it would be illegal to hold an auction sale after sunset. So, we had to alter this and hold the auction in daylight. The auction was held at Cammeray RSL Club and it was a great success. Another friend of the Commodore, Mr Max Lawson, one of Sydney's best-known auctioneers, conducted the sale in a voluntary capacity. Max was a ready wit and a cheerful fellow, and it was not long before he had the affair really snowballing. I remember I gave an anchor to the auction and did not bid, but it was knocked down to me for 5 pounds. I got my anchor back but lost a fiver! The auction made over 300 pounds - quite a sum in those days.
Later, a bank was approached and agreed to make a small loan. This enabled us to start building the clubhouse. We had a design by our Secretary, Mr Elbert Duggan. The building was erected by Charles Bulbrook, who was a Master Builder and a member of the club. However, any work that we could manage ourselves was done. The same people who had raised the money came down to the site on weekends to hammer, chisel, saw and paint. The building was eventually finished in 1954, and the Mayor of Mosman, Mr Geoff Wear, officially opened the clubhouse. It was a sparkling day, a light noreaster blowing, and we had 12 or 15 yachts moored in line in front of the clubhouse. On the arrival of the Mayor a gun was fired and all of the yachts dressed ship simultaneously. It was quite a sight, and I was very proud of the whole occasion.
The club went ahead in leaps and bounds during this time and we were able to acquire a liquor licence. In the 1957-58 season we were able to form three divisions of yachts. It soon became evident that the clubhouse was too small, but we could not ask the Council for more land and could not expand.
By 1960-61, the Spit Baths had fallen into a state of disrepair and the owner could not afford to rebuild, and the Council would not help him, so the lease had to be sold. The club bought the lease and the buildings, and used as much of the old baths as they could for a marina. The piles were pretty sick though and the next thing to do was to build a new marina. It took a long time to get the plans accepted by the Mosman Council.
"... We have always prided ourselves on being a friendly club. If you don't know the fellow sitting next to you for God's sake speak to him..."
Before I sit down, there is one thing more I wish to say. We have always prided ourselves on being a friendly club, and as I have said not once but many times, both from the chair and the floor of the club, that to be a member of this club is sufficient introduction to speak to anyone in the club, and personally I want to see you do just this. I know I have the backing of the Commodore and his committee in saying this. If you don't know the fellow sitting next to you, for God's sake speak to him! Find out who he is. Don't just know the men of your division, but try and meet a cross-section of members. Over the years I have been associated with this club, I can honestly say I have spoken to hundreds of members, and I have never been knocked back.
Thank you Mr Commodore."