From the book
‘The Corfu Lifebuoy History of the North Wollongong SLSC 1908 – 1996’
by John Palmer (Life Member)
THE START OF IT ALL
Notices were posted preventing men loitering in the proximity of the Ladies’ Baths. This and many other restrictions made it impossible to enjoy a family day’s bathing.
Some venturesome persons defied Local Government Regulations which forbade surf bathing except in the very early morning hours or in late evenings.
In Wollongong Court, the Council Inspector of Nuisances prosecuted five men for various bathing offenses. Fines from 2/6 (25 cents) to £1 ($2) were imposed for bathing on THE BEACH (now North Wollongong). One gentleman became a leading Wollongong Solicitor – H Cox who later bequeathed £100 to North Wollongong S.L.S.C. upon his death, some 50 years later – a donation which was unprecedented at the time.
Swimming competitions were held in rock pools and at Belmore Basin.
In 1902, strong public opinion, headed by a small band of enthusiasts, eventually succeeded in having some of the regulations waived.
“A special rate to enhance the value of the pleasure resorts would be a profitable scheme.”
“Life Buoys should be placed in a handy position”. (North Wollongong has a Corfu Life-Buoy as its Surf Club emblem).
In a letter to the South Coast Times dated November 16,1907, “A.E.J.” made the following observations: “What a revolution has taken place in such a short time. In a few years, we find that the progress of civilisation has brought us to regard with favour,
In October 1907, a Ladies Surf Bathing Swimming Club was formed in Wollongong. The members took their first dip, on Wednesday 25th in the afternoon on the beach off Stuart Park. Their pleasure, however, was somewhat marred by a number of “peeping toms” with glasses. An endeavour was to be made to erect a bathing shed.
At this time, Wollongong had an Amateur Swimming Club with an enthusiastic and energetic Secretary named E Hooper. Their Publicity Officer who answered to the pen-name of ‘Spring Board’, reported on Friday, December 13, that “the surf had hundreds of patrons on Sunday morning when a big swell was running. It would be advisable for those who bathe on the beach to be warned that, almost nightly, sharks are being caught there.
Continental bathing is said to be getting fairly prevalent at evenings on Stuart Park beach.
The popularity which surf bathing had attained in Wollongong was amply demonstrated by the large attendance of residents at a public meeting held in the Council Chambers on the night of Monday, January 6, 1 908, for the purpose of forming a Surf Bathing and Life Saving Club. Close to one hundred people attended at which the Mayor, Alderman W J Wiseman, presided and explained the object of the meeting.
Mr J H Parsons then moved “that a surf-bathing club be formed to be known as the Wollongong Surf Bathing and Life Saving Club. In moving the motion, the speaker referred to the advantages of surf bathing, and the necessity of having life saving apparatus. The Government had granted Newcastle Council £1000 ($2000) for the purpose of building dressing sheds, erecting shower – baths, etc. He thought Wollongong Council could also obtain a handsome grant for a similar purpose. Mr A J Smith seconded the motion and it was also supported by Messrs R W Norris and R Dodd.
The suggestion by Mr Dodd that a Ladies’ Club be formed was thought to be a good one.
On the motion of Messrs Handley and D Cook the subscription for the year was fixed at 2/- (2 shillings or 20 cents) for adults and 1/- (10 cents) for children.
The 57 of those who remained to become members then took part in the election of officers which resulted:
Patron – Mr W J Wiseman; President – Mr J A Beatson; Vice Presidents – Messrs A Settree, J H Parsons, R W Norris, A J Smith, C Roots, E Hooper, J Lang and the Aldermen of Wollongong Council; Treasurer – Mr H N Stumbles; Secretary – Mr D Cook; Managing Committee – Messrs W Hanley, R Dodd, J Harold, R Bourke, W Vining, W J Taylor, E Figtree, T Nelligan, D McQuirk, H Buckland, and F Sloan.
Mr JA Beatson, in returning thanks for his election, remarked that surf bathing was becoming fashionable and an attractive form of amusement and Wollongong possessed an incomparable asset in having beaches which could be utilised for this purpose and help build up tourism.
The Premier or Chief Secretary were to be solicited through Mr J B Nicholson M.L.A. in order to receive a deputation of representatives from all public bodies in town. This meeting was to obtain a grant to set up life saving facilities in Wollongong.
Several days after the formation of the new Surf Club, the Mayor received letters of encouragement from kindred Sydney clubs. The Secretaries of both the Coogee and Bondi clubs offered, not only their heartiest congratulations, but, also volunteered to come to Wollongong Beach to give demonstrations with reel, life line, stretcher, danger board, etc. Exhibitions would also be given of resuscitation, landing of two victims on one line and bringing ashore a person seized with cramps – without a line.
The first practice of the newly formed Surf Club eventuated on Sunday morning January 19. There were about 600 spectators present. Messrs J McGuffie and C Wakeford, both very strong swimmers, were chosen for the three displays which were given at 150, 200 and 270 yards from the shore and on each occasion, the rescue was successfully effected. Messrs J Gleeson, McQuirk, Figtree and Brian, representing the Wollongong Ambulance Brigade, gave an illustration of the restoration of life to the apparently drowned.
The Club’s future was assured with the enrolling of a large number of the interested spectators.
By December 1908, the population of Wollongong had reached 4000.
The Second Annual General Meeting was held on Friday January 22, 1909 in the packed Council Chambers. The Mayor and also Club President, Alderman J.A. Beatson chaired the meeting, the financial situation being the main topic of discussion, as the Club did not have the financial resources to provide its share of funds towards the building of the dressing sheds.
The entrance fee was fixed at 2/6 (25 cents) for gents and 1/- (10 cents) for ladies and children.
During February, an unfortunate drowning at Bellambi opened up a series of questions on surf bathing regulations – who decides when the beaches are dangerous? – the distance to which bathers are allowed to go out – the prohibition of bathing after dark.
H P Melville instructed thirty members in lifesaving land and release drill.
During March, trouble was still being encountered by men not having the decency to use the sheds provided, but undressing outside in full view of women and children.
Mr J A Beatson was once again elected Club President at the Annual General Meeting held at the Council Chambers on Tuesday night, September 28, when the balance sheet showed a revenue receipt of £57.7s.6d, ($114.75), £50 ($100.00) of which went towards the erection of the dressing sheds. The tender had been accepted by Mr T. Kiernan at £169 and the building was then only a few weeks from completion.
During the year, a code of rules had been drawn up and these were adopted.
The Stuart Park Trustees met on Saturday, November 6 and two of their decisions were to plant Norfolk Island pines early in the coming year and also not to allow holiday parties to camp on the park.
Following the official opening of the dressing sheds by the Mayor before a packed lifesaving was given by six boys under 10 years of age from the North Steyne Club.
A series of events were organised by Messrs D McGuirk, H S Budden, H P Melville, W Hanley, E Hooper, D B Rees, R Norris and J Copas (Secretary). These events included novelty-type events such as a fancy costume parade, egg and spoon and carry your chum races, cock fights, Darby and Joan pillow fights and a tug-of-war which was won by the Wollongong team of McGuffie, Slater, Anderson, Symonds, Dodd and Nelson. The alarm reel race was won by the Coogee team whilst Wollongong’s B Osbourne won the Schoolboys’ Surf Race and R Poole from Coogee won the main surf race. The day was acclaimed one of the successes of the week.
In January, on a Sunday, a rescue occurred when J. McGuffie followed by H. Wakeford in the belt, quickly dashed to the rescue of a man named Roberts. After the patient has been returned to the shore and resuscitation methods had been applied for about 15 minutes, Roberts made a complete recovery. The surf club later complained of the considerable hampering by the public persistently grabbing the line.
During the same week, E Hooper complained of the bad press in the Sydney newspapers regarding the number of rescues being performed on the Wollongong beach area. This press, he said, could have a detrimental effect on the tourist trade.
Several speakers also referred to the good work done by the caretaker, Mr. Austin, during the season.
In a newspaper article written on Tuesday, November 19, it was mentioned “That surf-bathing has caught on in our community and is fully exemplified by the large number who daily make use of the conveniences placed on the ocean beach”.
To these conveniences has been added a most ornamental and useful structure in the shape of a refreshment pavilion. This has been erected by Mr. T B Austin, Caretaker, at a cost of about £75, ($150.00) under arrangements with the Council, Mr. Austin having the sole right to use the building and to sell refreshments for a term of four years after which time the building becomes the property of the Council. The kiosk has been erected on the land between the two dressing sheds.
The Saturday before, a double function in the form of a surf carnival and the official opening of the kiosk was held.
In opening the kiosk, the Mayor, Alderman J A Beatson, pointed out that the dressing sheds had cost £250 ($500.00), the kiosk £75 ($150.00), £100 ($200.00)for improvements to the ladies’ and men’s baths, which together with fencing and seats along the cliff, totalled £500 ($1,000.00)
The surf carnival consisted of the usual novelty events and Frank Sandon won the surf race, R Trickett won the schoolboys surf race and W.J. Griffiths was first to the line in the beach race.
The Wollongong Surf Club competed at the Port Kembla Surf Club’s Aquatic Sports Day on Saturday , February 18. Clubs from Sydney were North Steyne, Bondi Baths, Freshwater. They competed in the normal events held at the time which have been listed previously.
During March the newly formed Wollongong League Swimming Club elected their officers who were all also members of the Wollongong Surf-Bathers and Lifesaving Club and the “Water Rats”, the rival Club on Stuart Park Beach, which had been formed during this year of 1911.
At a meeting of the newly formed Wollongong League Swimming Club during mid March it was decided to compete against similar clubs in Sydney. Their headquarters were the men’s baths which are still situated beside and north of the present Continental Pool. The office bearers of the Swimming Club were almost entirely from the two Surf Clubs which patrolled the Stuart Park beach.
THE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
The second Surf Club was a breakaway group from the Wollongong Club called the ‘Water Rats’ who thrived on competition and who were forced to form their own Club during 1911 because of the ideals of a Wollongong Club Official, The Reverend Olver, to ban competition on Sundays.
The name ‘Water Rats’ was apparently given by Dr Bernard Blomfield, a Sydney specialist and swimmer of some repute who always noticed them diligently training in the men’s baths every time he visited the area and exclaimed, “What, you water rats at it again?”
The Water Rats deleted women, social members and juveniles from their ranks and insisted on swimming ability.
At a Committee Meeting of the Wollongong Club on Monday, August 29, they were forced to withdraw the £10 ($20.00) offer to enlarge the surf sheds for the use of juveniles as the Council were not prepared to add the balance for the required £50 ($100.00).
Two days later, writing in the ‘Mercury’, ‘Surf complained of the Council’s attitude in this regard and added “with the growing popularity of the surf, it is anticipated that a large increase in numbers will be the result during the coming season. Actuated by a desire to push the town to the front as a tourist resort, proper surf bathing facilities hold out a great attraction for tourists. The surf club should receive the encouragement they deserve from the local Council”.
For the 1911-12 season, J A Beatson was to, once again occupy the chair, when elected at the Annual General Meeting on Friday evening September 8.
At a following meeting the Club Committee decided to disagree with the Council proposition of altering the dressing sheds by partitioning in order to provide for youths – favouring their original idea. They expressed their desire to use the available money – about £30 – to repair the roofs and shower baths.
J W Martin, a visitor to Wollongong, in writing to the South Coast Times on 29th expressed the opinion that the dressing facilities on the beach compared favourably with those at Manly, Coogee or Bondi, but added “The only thing that I missed on your beach is a small building set aside solely for the use of the Life-Saving Club for the important work of resuscitation and the safe keeping of their appliances”.
Similar sentiments were offered by “Progress” to the Mercury on December 8 when he praised Wollongong’s “extensive sandy beaches, the refreshment kiosk on the beach, the new and well kept dressing sheds, beautiful Stuart Park, a pavilion with water laid on and swings and other amusements for the little ones” – he went on to say “already, many Sydney people are buying land near the surf beach for summer residences and the land values are quickly mounting. The train service has been augmented and one can run down from Sydney in a couple of hours through delightful scenery”.
The “Water Rats” membership was fourteen by 1912. A reel had been made by Jack Condon and I Innes of Parson’s Timber Yards and presented to the Water Rats who commenced patrolling (unofficially) next to the Wollongong Club.
At the Annual Meeting of the Wollongong Surf Club, held on Wednesday, November 6, the Honorary Secretary, Harold Budden, reported that land owners beside the beach had refused to donate towards further beach improvements which would improve the value of the land. The recent additions had now made the ladies’ shed 80 ft long by 18 ft wide (24m x 5.4m). The girls’ portion was separated from the adults whilst the boys shed was 60 ft long by 18 ft wide (18m x 5.4m) and accommodated 125. All were fitted with fresh water showers and notice boards. The complete dressing area was 260 ft long and 18 ft wide (98m x 5.4m) providing accommodation for 630.
The previous season had ended with a membership of 140 – 115 males and 25 females. The balance sheet showed a credit of £2/8/- ($4.80).
The meeting on Wednesday, November 13, decided to contribute a share towards a penny-in-the-slot telephone for the surf beach end of Stuart Park. There was also tabled, a letter from the Citizens’ Association , complaining about the running about, noise, sun-basking and thieving from clothes. This letter must have been embarrassing to J A. Beatson, who was a Council Alderman, Surf Club President and Secretary of the Citizens’ Committee. However, it was decided to appoint seven beach inspectors, namely A J Hatton, R Moore, W Mintorn, H S Budden, W Stumbles, H G Wakeford and L Williams.
Inspector Blackmore (club member) was also requested to send a constable to the beach on Sunday mornings.
On the afternoon of the same day, two young ladies, Misses K Tynan and Enid Graham, had been rescued by C. Hannan and Sid Saber when they strayed from the other bathers off the southern rocks. The incident demonstrated the need for the formation of a life-saving class in conjunction with the local surf club and also the placing of marks on the beach indicating where surfers should bathe.
The Wollongong Life Saving Club was formed on Thursday December 20. The committee members were all from the Surf Club and the organisation was apparently a still water type of group, based in a portion of the boys’ shed.
On a beautiful Summer day on January 11, while the penny-in-the-slot telephone was under construction, O’Donnell and Stumbles were auctioning lots in the ‘Surfside’ subdivision overlooking the beach. F. Figtree purchased a Bourke Street (Cliff Road) corner block for 50/- ($5.00) per foot and Kembla-Bourke Street corner for 30/-($3.00) per foot. The following weekend Smiths Hill blocks sold from between 42/6 ($4.25) and 22/6 ($2.25) per block
Meanwhile, during this same month, the Water Rats, training for still water and surf awards, became serious, with training being held in a drill room they constructed under Ben Audit’s barber shop (later to become Mullins) in Crown Street.
Also during January, Constable W F (Bill) Harmer, a policeman, and Don Anderson were elected Club Captain and Vice Captain respectively, which commenced a two year period of intense training activity within the Club. Harmer, who was a dedicated enthusiast, encouraged, instructed and submitted literally hundreds for Royal Life and Surf Awards. He was instrumental in forming the South Coast Surf Bathing Association of which body he was the Foundation President – the father of what was to become “The Illawarra Branch S.L.S.A. of A.
Harmer had the Club drilling twice weekly and appointed beach inspectors on a roster system, morning and evening – seven days per week -usually two men per roster. The inspectors were R Bevan, E Peterson, G Short, W Moss, Rev Olver, W Harmer, Bruce, A Smith. N Moss, E Howes, N Whitford, G Short, F Faddy, F Sandon, W Fitzpatrick and L Williams.
At the Wollongong Lifesaving Meeting in mid September members were notified that the Council had handed over all lifesaving appliances on the beach to the Club. It was proposed to ask the Council for permission for the ladies to use the men’s baths between 3 and 7 pm, the reasons being the poor accommodation provided at the ladies baths. At the chain baths, most ladies were afraid of creepy things and the other baths were too shallow and the competitors were “knocked up” owing to the number of turns which were necessary.
Bert Tregear (Secretary of the Water Rats Surf Bathing Club) was granted Council permission to place life-saving apparatus on the beach, on the provision that the Wollongong Club was to have precedence in all matters concerning surf-bathing.
Council correspondence from the Ladies Lifesaving Club recommending the following ladies to be appointed inspectors at the surf beach: Mrs Wakeford, Mrs Harmer, Misses Young, Clare, McKinnon and two Nobles – Council agreed to this request.
At the same meeting on December 18, Bert Tregear’s application was granted as was permission to hold an aquatic sports carnival on Boxing Day with the right to make a charge.
The Wollongong Ladies were starting to make their presence felt during January of 1914. Miss Wakeford had carried out a rescue, demonstrations had been given at Scarborough and Stuart Park Beach and several lady members had gained Royal Life and Surf Bathing awards.
The Water Rats S.B and L.S. Club, whilst continuing their lifesaving duties, incensed the wrath of the Wollongong Club by travelling to Sydney carnivals on Sundays. These carnivals were at Cronulla, Freshwater and Manly – then locally at Bulli for a display where they helped the local club raise money to purchase gear.
The Wollongong Club staged their carnival on January 20 when the Water Rats practically “scooped the pool”. This success gave great impetus to the Club and by February their membership had soared to 60 – mainly at the expense of their neighbours.
In the meantime, at the Wollongong Methodist quarterly meeting, held on January 17, it was decided to “most emphatically protest against the lifesaving exhibition by the Wollongong Water Rats and Surf Lifesaving Club which is advertised to take place on Bulli Beach on Sunday, 18th instant, and express the sincere hope that this desecration of the Lord’s Day will not be respected”.
This article in the South Coast Times was following by a letter to the Editor by Water Rat, A K Hosking, who explained that “the display was given for the benefit of Bulli Surf Club and was held on a Sunday afternoon for the reason that it was absolutely the only time when members of the Bulli Club can muster in force owing to their work on week days.
Again, Mr Editor, why do not our Methodists pass a motion against bands playing on our own surf beach on Sunday?
In reply to Mr Olver, I might say the Wollongong Water Rats Lifesaving and Surf Bathing Club also prides itself on its clean record and I can assure him that we have also no desire to be confused with another club.”
Wollongong Council realised the importance of bathing by having a Bathing Committee elected in March of 1914 of which Alderman Marks was elected Vice Chairman.
One of its first decisions was to reject an application by the Misses Lee to erect private dressing sheds at surf beach.
Water Rats Honorary Secretary, A R. Tregear, protested against the use by ‘the ladies of the men’s swimming baths on Wednesday afternoons.
Alderman Sutton moved an amendment that the erection of sheds on the South Beach be postponed for six months to enable the Council to find out whether the beach was safe.
During the 1913-14 season the Water Rats were starting to ‘assert their authority’. Many Wollongong members were joining the opposition and it reached a farcical stage when the two clubs, operating on the same beach, were effecting rescues simultaneously.
Mr W Oyston, during March, became indignant when the local paper reported his rescue by members of the Water Rats Club who replied to the Mercury through Frank Sandon and Billy Irwin on Friday March 13. Oyston had complained that he was not in difficulties whilst Sandon and Irwin claimed it was a “slur on our Club which is undoubtedly the most proficient club in the life-saving work on the South Coast. If Oyston’s statements are correct and he is not in difficulties, why did he not inform us to that effect instead of calmly submitting to our assistance.
Another correspondent claimed that, on the day a strong tow set in. Everyone except one young man (not Oyston) soon got in to safety. After battling with the surf and becoming exhausted, he signalled for assistance which was answered by Edgar Mark. Meanwhile about eight members from both clubs took part in the rescue and here is where the confusion with Oyston possibly occurred.
At this time, the Water Rats, who now had a membership of 30, applied to the Baths Committee of the Council for permission to control the southern end of the beach. Both this application and the banning of the ladies from the men’s baths on Wednesdays were rejected by the Committee.
The Water Rats defied the good Lord’s wishes when on the Sunday morning of April 5, five members passed their Instructors Certificate tests while 21 gained their Bronze Medallions under adverse conditions, when, at different times, their life-lines became entangled in tons of seaweed.
The Water Rats also made application in early May to erect an up-to-date clubroom at the site of the old saltworks. Two weeks later, the Council asked for more particulars from the Surf Club. The decision could also not be made during the July meeting, when the Baths Committee were divided in their decision and referred the matter back to Council. In moving this amendment, Alderman Beatson also intimated that an amalgamation of the two clubs should soon be accomplished.
The W.R.S.B. & L.S. Club announced to the Council meeting on Friday September 4 that they were not interested in amalgamation and that Council should consider their building proposal.
Meanwhile, back to April, when Joe Braham, for drunkenness, was fined 2/6 or 24 hours in the lock-up. The Water Rats held their first monthly social in the Town Hall on the Wednesday night of April 15. These occasions proved vary popular, when, up to 120 couples danced to 23 of the mostly latest dances.
Also, the Soccer competition commenced during April and the Wollongong Life Savers were entered in the second and third grade competitions. The second grade team opposed Rosebuds, Balgownie Rovers, Thirroul, Port Kembla, Bulli, Corrimal and Tarrawanna whilst the third grade played against Scarborough, Helensburgh Wanderers, Balgownie Rovers, Helensburgh and Flinders.
The local games were played on Bode’s oval which is the area where the Wollongong Police Boys’ Club now stands and the Lifesavers’ team on one particular Saturday consisted of the following players: Goal – Aitcheson, backs – Rigby, C. Cheney, Adamson, forwards – Fern, Goode, Clarkson, Spear, S. Davies, reserves – Anderson, Herd, Jenkins, Saddler.
The Water Rats also had a team in the Richardson Cup and their team on one particular weekend was Sandon, Powel, Noble, Wragge, Tregear, Dodd, Sloan, Hegarty, H Martin, Dean, Irwin. The Reserves were W Mclntosh, Condon, Baker, Johnston and Stoyles.
Another member of the Lifesavers’ team was a Bede McMahon who grandsons, Phillip, Bede, Steve, Ben and Allan and great-grandaughter Elisa have been prominent members in recent years.
THE ATTEMPT AT AMALGAMATION
The following four months was arguably the most significant period in the Surf Club’s history, commencing at the council meeting on Friday, August 28 when a letter was read from the Water Rats declining any amalgamation of local surf clubs. Also a letter from G H Williams, Honorary Secretary of the Royal Life Saving Society, suggesting that the beach was too small to accommodate two clubs and that the more efficient club should control the beach and the other club should be given the South Beach.
From the Surf Bathing Association, a letter proclaiming they could only recognise one club in the one area and that they were not prepared to nominate the club admitted to affiliation. Also, it was a matter for the Council to either bring about an amalgamation or choose the most qualified club.
The Mayoral minute explained that a proposal for the disbandment of both clubs with a view to forming one club was favourably viewed by the Wollongong representatives at the meeting whilst it met with the disapproval of the Water Rats delegates who also disagreed with the Association’s belief that the beach was not large enough for two clubs.
The minute also agreed that the Wollongong Club had been efficiently patrolling the beach for the longer period of time, had been given charge of the Council life saving appliances and portion of the Council dressing sheds as a club room, therefore had certain moral claims to the beach.
The Mayor recommended the Water Rats building application be rejected. As an alternative, he suggested that as dressing sheds were about to be erected on the South Beach the Rats be offered the clubroom facilities there.
The Mayor said that if the Water Rats were not favourable to amalgamation, then there was only one thing to do and that was to hand the control of the beach to the Life Saving Club who had looked after it so well for some time past.
The Council negatived the Mayor’s motion. For the adoption: Alderman Lance (Mayor), Aldermen Beatson, Sutton and Wiseman (suprisingly all were Wollongong S.B. & L.S Club members). Against: Aldermen Marks, Smith, Ford, McKenzie and Stoyles (suprisingly also, that at least four were Water Rats).
On Sunday September 13, the ‘Water Rats’, with their reel, used marching practice to go to Pulpit Rock (off Flagstaff Hill Point) where they held a meeting and changed their name to North Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club in order to please the Surf Bathers’ Association who disapproved of the name ‘Water Rats’. The 20 bronze medallion and five instructors certificates, won earlier in the year, were presented the previous Friday evening at a social held in the School of Arts. In presenting the awards, Mr Rathbone, an Association judge expressed the opinion that “if there was to be only one surfing area, it should be allotted to this club as being the most efficient”.
In a letter to the Mercury Editor later that month, South Beach, in slating the Rats said “By changing their name to the North Wollongong Club, the Water Rats say, in effect, ‘We don’t want the South Beach’. This action is typical of the Rats. They are all there when the limelight is about but when it comes to danger the other fellow can take it on.
In my opinion, the Council should place a club on each beach. If the Rats do not care to take the South Beach because were will not be enough pretty girls there to see them strutting about in the costumes, well some other club will probably be prepared to do the work.”
Also in the same edition in reply to a letter written by ‘Life Saver’ who had previously scathed Mr Rathbone’s opinion on the efficiency comparison of both clubs, ‘North Wollongong’ answered by accusing the Wollongong Club of meanness and ignorance in not entertaining Mr. Rathone who had travelled from Sydney to judge at the Life savers’ (Wollongong) Carnival.
‘Life Saver’ had suggested that the strength of a club should depend on numbers (Wollongong – 102, Water Rats – 63) and also Royal Life Saving Awards but North Wollongong pointed out “the Government recently decided that the surf bronze medallion would be the real efficiency test’ also that each person must hold a life-saving medallion before competing for it” (the surf bronze).
A long letter on October 2 from prominent Wollongong member, the Rev Olver, stated “one naturally has a feeling of regret when two bodies of men, especially when in a comparatively small town, are not able to work together with mutual good feeling”.
He continued to mention the “unfair and inconsistent effort of one or two of the Aldermen” and “that the Wollongong Surf and Life Saving Club ask only for justice”.
Referring to the Wollongong Life Saving Club, which had only been formed two years previously, he said “Last season, a number of our members, several of whom were very good swimmers and all of whom gained what award they held under the tuition received in the parent club, created and formed a new club known as the Water Rat Club.” He said one of their reasons for leaving was the rule “forbidding certain forms of Sabbath breaking”.
He suggested that both clubs should provide the Council with a list of their present financial mem-bers together with awards held so that body could ascertain the stronger club.
The Surf Bathing Association held their Annual Meeting in Sydney on Monday October 18 and delegates were present from both the Wollongong Life Saving and the North Wollongong Clubs. It was proposed that both clubs be affiliated on the beach, the Life Saving Club to have control (this had been decided by the Council before a deputation of Wollongong Life Saving officials 18 days previously). The members of the Life Saving Club opposed this suggestion, it being contrary to the rules of the Association. The North Wollongong Club was then offered their affiliation on the South Beach, but declined to take control of it. Eventually a motion was proposed that the matter be referred to the Committee to be dealt with. On this, an amendment was moved that the Wollongong Lifesavers be granted affiliation on the portion of the beach controlled by the Council, and the North Wollongong Club on the Stuart Park frontage. The motion was carried. The Executive of the Association proposed to visit Wollongong at an early date with a view to conferring with both clubs.
At that stage there were twenty eight clubs affiliated with a total membership of 2683.
Officials of the Surf Bathing Association including Messrs Patterson (President), Mclntyre (Secretary), Doyle and Rathbone (Examiners) visited Wollongong on Friday, November 4. Their purpose was to examine members of both clubs for their awards on the Saturday and then to conduct an amalgamation conference. 34 members of the Wollongong Club gained their bronze medallions whilst seven were successful in passing their instructor’s certificates including three ladies – Messrs L M Noble, A D Noble and E J Kiernan.
These women became the first bronze squad and lady instructresses to submit themselves for S.B.A. tests. Miss L M Noble convinced the adjudicators as to her competency to fulfil the duties appertaining to the position generally.
Nineteen bronze medallions and four instructors certificates were gained by members of the North Wollongong Club.
At the conference the same stalemate resulted whereby amalgamation of the two clubs was advised, Mr W Hamer, the Lifesaving Clubs representative had offered the resignation of his officers so that members of both clubs could meet as one to elect fresh officers. Mr A Watson and Mr W Noble stated that their North Wollongong Club was unanimously against amalgamation.
There was virtually no change from the August 28 Council or the October 18 Surf Bathers Association meeting apart from the North Wollongong Club’s undertaking to submit the amalgamation proposal, again, to their members. At this meeting on November 26 the members adopted the committee recommendation that the club adhere to its acceptance of the disbandment and amalgamation proposal by the Surf Bathers’ Association.
THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT
At a special Wollongong Council meeting on the Monday evening of December 28,1914, tenders for the tenancy of the surf beach kiosk were dealt with. There was but one, from the present lessee, J W Leslie, at £52 ($104.00) for twelve months. This was accepted. The lessee had to be caretaker of the baths and sheds for which he is allowed 1 / 6 (16 cents) per week.
This was only a minor decision to what was to follow when 69 proficiency certificate holding members of both clubs attend the meeting chaired by the Mayor, Alderman Lance. Only two members of the Life Saving Club were in attendance, led by Secretary Mr W. Cochrane. Mr W Noble moved “that a club be formed to be called the North Wollongong Surf Bathing and Life Saving Club. The motion was seconded by Mr E Mark and carried unanimously.
The following officers were elected:
President, the Mayor (Alderman W Lance); Vice President, Mr W McCammon; Treasurer, Mr H Baker; Secretary, Mr R Wotton; Committee, Messrs G Ramsay, F Mark, F Sandon, R Moore and E Mark. Mr W Noble was appointed Captain and E Mark Vice-Captain.