1930 – 1980

History of the TMYC: 1930 – 1980

In 1980, the Thames Motor Yacht Club published a Jubilee Year Book to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Club. These notes are based on that review.

The first 50 years

It was in the Magpie Hotel in Sunbury, in 1930, that sixteen intrepid gentlemen founded the Thames Motor Cruiser Club. In those days, most boats were custom-built in wood and, if they were laid up ashore in winter had to be re-launched causing many problems before the planking “took up”. Diesel engines as we know them today were non-existent and a large proportion of the petrol engines were started by hand; a chore for which one would have thought the spirit needed to be well fortified.

1933 witnessed the transfer of the headquarters of the Club from Tagg’s Island to the Hampton Court Hotel – now the Rotary Court. In 1934, facilities for a private bar were provided and the Club was legally registered for the purpose. Needless to say, profit on the bar sales became an important part of the Club’s income. Two social evenings per month were organised and thus better contact between members was maintained during the winter months. In this year the office of President was created and accepted by the Rt. Hon. The Earl of Mayo.

It is interesting to note that the rules of the Club required members to be associated with a boat, as skipper, family or crew. Occasionally through circumstances such as a member selling his boat, he could become attached to Lady Mayo, a nautical symbol represented by the excellent scale model of the same name and which is still conspicuously displayed in a glass case behind the bar. This symbolic use became redundant when the rules of the Club were modified. In 1935, the annual subscription was still one guinea for members, and ten shillings and sixpence for associates.

At about the time of the outbreak of World War II the hotel was commandeered for the Bearstead Memorial Hospital. The Club was offered a derelict room that still forms part of the Club premises. This was immediately refurbished at minimum cost. Much of the funds for this was being voluntarily donated. The requisitioning of river craft for the Auxiliary Fire Service and later for the epic of Dunkirk rather badly depleted the fleet of launches and cruisers hitherto seen on the Club’s waterfront. Later in 1940 a river patrol service was established on the Upper Thames, manned in the home reaches almost entirely by Club members who provided craft and crews for unremitting vigils. This organisation, whose later function became purely fraternal, is still in existence as the River Emergency Service.

During the war years, when the only social activity possible was indoors behind “blacked out” windows, there was little that members could do except console themselves with the remaining amenities of Club life. In view of the increasing difficulty in obtaining liquor, the continuance of “the cup that cheers” was in jeopardy. However, resourceful and determined efforts were rewarded and heads were kept above suitably fortified water. The art of acquiring alcohol in those trying times must have been well studied since revenue from the bar continued at a fairly consistent level for the remainder of the war years. Food was almost as difficult to obtain as liquor, but the ladies were not outdone by their husbands in the art of improvisation. In 1942, eight social functions were arranged and the profits were donated to Red Cross Funds and Merchant Navy Comforts Services.

In 1943, with dwindling manpower, the ladies were increasingly entering the ranks of Club workers, particularly in organising and running social events. The Wine Committee was still rendering yeoman service with its four members scouring the area for supplies. Social activities were maintained not only to preserve contact between Members but also to raise funds for charity. The sum of £83 was donated to the Merchant Navy Comforts Service – quite a large sum then when the total Club subscription revenue was only £138.

In 1944, there were still 118 full Members, 77 Associates and 24 Honorary Members of whom 17 were serving in HM Forces. The Small Vessels Pool, later known as the Royal Navy Craft Ferrying Service, continued to enrol Members of the Club. This organisation was responsible for delivering hundreds of craft from builders and repairers to their ultimate naval station. Two members were mentioned in despatches when they ferried three tenders from the United States to Malta. It can be said with some certainty that it was in recognition of the Club’s wartime work that it was granted the privilege of wearing the defaced Blue Ensign which was unveiled at the Annual Dinner in 1951, the year of the Club’s coming of age.

In 1946, negotiations for a new lease were completed. It included the full length of the waterfront, terrace and gardens. In 1947 a number of ex-Service pontoons were acquired, providing a most useful extension of the mooring facilities.

In 1948/49 a meeting was called in TMCC headquarters, inviting the other non-tidal clubs (Upper Thames Yacht Club and the British Motor Yacht Club) and they formed the Association of Thames Motor Boat Clubs (now known as the ATYC).

In January 1969, it was resolved to change the Club name to the Thames Motor Yacht Club. At the time, it was felt that “cruising” no longer had a purely nautical connotation.

By 1976 was added an additional 1000 feet mooring with electricity and water after reasonable terms were agreed with Toughs of Teddington. One of the natural consequences was greater patronage of the bar.

In 1977 a series of lectures on boat handling and navigation were given and the Club was appointed an official Royal Yachting Association Training Establishment.

In 1978 the Clubhouse was rebuilt. From a ramshackle converted outbuilding, a deteriorating hall and a bar annexe with a rotting roof there emerged a new substantial and dignified modern structure with a glass-door entrance foyer.

In 1980, the Jubilee Review was held to celebrate and honour the past fifty years. The accompanying convoy of dignitaries was too numerous to mention individually but together they represented the Royal Navy, Civic Authorities, Water Authorities, River Police etc. In brilliant sunshine, and to the music of the Band of the Royal Corps of Transport, the Commodore reviewed over 60 boats. The spectacle for participants and onlookers alike was truly impressive. More than 360 people sat down to the luncheon that followed.

Feb 2005 (32)