My Story: Arthur Hullard

Arthur Hullard
Norah Arthur Yvonne Hullard

Arthur Hullard with daughters, Norah and Yvonne

Born in Edinburgh a full seven decades before BSC came to be, Arthur Hullard was the oldest member to attend the club’s inaugural meeting at the Caira Cafe in 1955. Most of his sailing days were behind him, though he did still take to the water, including in the club’s first ever regatta, pictured above left, in a gunter-rigged clinker dinghy that he called the Witch. He is likely to have been sailing on this occasion with Scott Christie, local headmaster.

The Hullards were of French heritage. It appears that the family migrated from France to Mauritius during the turbulent and revolutionary times that characterised the end of the 18th century.

Norah Arthur Yvonne Hullard

Norah, Arthur and Yvonne

Arthur’s father, Pierre Georges Hullard, (Georges) was the second of four brothers – all of whom died in their late twenties or early 30s. Georges had already left Mauritius by the 1880s, on a scholarship to study medicine in Edinburgh. He tragically died of TB in 1885, when his son was one year old and his daughter, Marie Catherine Emma Coralie (Coralie), was only three. It is likely that family connections in Burntisland were able to give support at this difficult time to Georges’ widow, Marie Emma Johnstone (Emma). Emma was the daughter of wealthy sugar baron William Johnstone, born in Kent in 1812, who commissioned Kingswood House (now the Kingswood Hotel) to be built on the east side of town.

Left: M. C. E. Coralie Hullard; Right:  Kingswood House, now the Kingswood Hotel, built by Arthur Hullard’s grandfather

Arthur Hullard

Above: Arthur Hullard, elegantly dressed as always in plus fours

For those locals old enough to remember, Arthur is recalled fondly but also with some fear, thanks to his profession as dentist. He had obtained his licence to perform dental surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons in 1913 and operated from the front room of his own house in Craigholm Crescent (now Kinghorn Rd), where his equipment included a mechanical drill, operated by foot treadle with cords and pulleys. To take youngsters’ minds off the ordeal, locals remember that he would sing to them.

Visitors to the surgery would proceed up a path from the street, through a gate made of a ship’s wheel – which is still in position today. Arthur’s favourite material was said to be gutta percha, which he used both to plug holes in his patients’ teeth and to plug cracks in the hull of his boat.

As well as the house and surgery, Arthur owned some land and a shed at the Lammerlaws in Burntisland. In the early days, before BSC acquired its own headquarters, all the shore activities, prize-givings and club teas were held in Arthur’s shed.

Arthur encouraged the younger members of the club, particularly Norman Smith, whom he called ‘Admiral’. As a teenager, Norman can remember Arthur giving him two books: Coastwise Cruising and Singlehanded Cruising, both by Francis B Cooke. It is interesting to read Francis B Cooke’s instructions on how the single-handed yachtsman should go about his morning ablutions, as follows:

Ship's wheel gate

The ship’s wheel gate that all patients passed through on their way to the surgery

“Let us pause for a moment to consider an average day’s work in the course of a single-handed cruise round the coast. The yachtsman, awakened probably by the strong sunlight, streaming through the cabin doors, turns out at, say, seven o’ clock. He climbs on deck and takes down the riding light before going over-board for a swim. After a brisk towelling he puts on the kettle to boil whilst he dresses. Then he makes himself a cup of tea and fills a pipe, and it may be remarked incidentally that no pipe tastes so sweet as that after a bathe in the early morning. The real busines of the day commences with a deck scrubbing, to be followed by a little brass cleaning.

If he happen to be jealous of the appearance of his craft he will also wipe over all bright teak fittings and the topsides with a chamois leather damped with fresh water. Before preparing breakfast the bedding and blankets will be outside to air, the bedding on the cabin-top and the blankets hung over the boom. Then breakfast has to be prepared and eaten, and after the meal the things must be washed up and put away and the cabin swept out and tidied. Even then the preliminary work of the day is not quite completed, as there still remain the cabin lamp and riding light to clean and fill in readiness for the following night, for no methodical owner would leave them dirty.”

From Single-Handed Cruising, by Francis B. Cooke, 1919

While it has been noted that Arthur’s sailing days were largely behind him by the mid fifties, he had owned several boats during his lifetime. Though it is beyond living memory, the shipbuilding record states that Arthur bought a 28ft sloop from McGruer & Co Ltd of Clynder in 1935. He named this boat Norvonna – presumably a word which combined the names of his two daughters, Norah and Yvonne. The vessel had a 4 cylinder paraffin-petrol engine, made by Bergius & Co, Glasgow.

But this was Arthur’s second boat from McGruer’s Yards. Even earlier, in 1924, Arthur had bought a Gareloch One Design (known as a goddess) from McGruer’s. McGruer commenced building 10 goddesses for local owners the year before, in early 1923. While the boats were still under construction, 3 members of the Royal Forth Yacht Club travelled west to inspect progress, resulting in the placement of orders for five more. Arthur, who may or may not have been part of the original RFYC delegation, received one of these boats, which he named Spray and which received sail number One.

Nearly 100 years after Spray’s keel was laid, this highly attractive 24ft boat (now renamed Luna) has passed through the hands of various owners, including Captain Mike Henry, Commander of the first Polaris submarine, who won the Gareloch World Championship with her in 1997. After a period in Aldeburgh in England, Spray (Luna) is now relocated back at Gareloch, where she is regularly raced on Tuesday and Sunday afternoons from the end of April.

Below: Goddesses racing at Gairloch; the extinct flightless bird, the Dodo, from Mauritius; a view of Mauritius; a mechanical foot-treadle-driven dentist’s drill


Above: Spray (renamed Luna) at Rhu in 2014