Burntisland Sailing Club
Burntisland Sailing Club was established at a public meeting at Caira’s Continental Café, High St, Burntisland, on 22nd January 1954 at 7.30pm.
The meeting had been advertised in advance in the Fife Free Press and the Fifeshire Advertiser. Mr G Wightman chaired the meeting and the straightforward declared object of the proceedings was to ‘form a Sailing Club and run events over the season’.
To form a Sailing Club and run events over the season
In their own words:
Read the minute of the first meeting that established a sailing club at Burntisland
The first commodore was elected: Commander H. Downes, R.N. (ret), followed by the Secretary, Mr A Graham. A treasurer was appointed: Mr J Wood, and the committee consisted of 4 members: Mr T. Hutton, Mrs T. Hutton, Miss Noble and Mr J. Graham.
Having covered the essential business, the first meeting concluded at 9.35pm. Commander Downes continued as Commodore for the club for 6 years – a record beaten only by the seven years of Mr W Peggs from 1962 to 1969.
If it hadn’t been for the war, BSC might have been formed even earlier. Some believe the true founder is Turnbull (Trum) Hutton who had been building a Yachting World ‘Knockabout’ in 1939. The ‘Knockabout’ was designed in the years before WWII as part of a campaign by the well-known magazine for a boat that would row, sail and take an outboard for general messing about on the water. The boat was meant to be fun and lively to sail, and yet manageable by one person. It had to be stable and buoyant enough to carry the whole family, but above all to be cheap, with a construction price limit of £50 in 1939.
Kingfisher a clinker-built ‘Knockabout’ sailed near Burntisland by club member Johnston Wood in the late 1950s
But cost wasn’t the problem for Trum Hutton; war was. The skeleton hull that he’d built had to sit in a shed to await the end of the war, when timber would once again become available.
Eventually the 15ft clinker Knockabout was complete and four more formed the foundation of the club.
The picture, left, shows Club Membership Card #5, issued to Lavina (Ina) Leuchars in 1968. Mrs Leuchars worked in the Burntisland Shipyard during World War II and was appointed Club Treasurer in September 1967. Her son, Jim Leuchars, was Club Commodore in 2001 – 2.
At some point during the 1950s, a Dr Chamberline gave a lecture at the RFYC on the building of a Flying Fifteen. This fired the enthusiasm of the Burntisland gang and a fleet of Flying Fifteens started to take shape. Construction of the ‘Fifteens’ started in several unlikely and even unsuitable buildings within the town, but eventually they emerged into the daylight and the fleet numbered 14.
The stories of early club members
The oldest member of BSC: Arthur Hullard
Jean Arthur Hullard (1884 - 1967) was the oldest member of BSC when it was formed in 1955. Originally from Mauritius, Arthur operated a dentist's practice from his house in Kinghorn Rd, where locals remember him fondly as the singing dentist with the fancy car.
The boat which Arthur Hullard bought from McGruer's Boatbuilders, Clynder in 1924, in still going strong, now renamed Luna. With sail number 1, it comprises one of only 24 boats ever built in the Gareloch One Design class, known as the goddesses.
The Flying Fifteens ensured very keen racing on clubnights. The identical nature of the craft – and their similar, if not identical, handicaps – made it even more important to exploit every zephyr, current and back eddy in pursuit of victory.
Ayesha emerging from the workshops in Burntisland that were used for boat-building. James Leuchars facing.
Mr A. Miller of Burntisland with club trophy on Jalna, a Flying Fifteen he built himself and numbered GBR 401
The flight of the Bluebird
Outwith the remarkable founding of the club more than 6 decades ago, further notable milestones in club history were: the purchase of the club launch (1967), the building of the clubhouse (1982) and the installation of floating pontoons in the inner dock (2018).
The club launch, christened ‘Bluebird’, and in service for the club still, was acquired by members in 1967. In that year, the club minutes record how the purchase was achieved:
The Chairman allowed a discussion on this matter as a question of some urgency. The Secretary reported that in a letter dated 21st March 1967 the Scottish Education Department had pointed out that of the estimated cost of £886, the sum to be met by the Club was £443, with a promise of a 25 per cent grant from Fife Council. The balance of £222 exceeds the available funds of £1256. The following members agreed to take interest free shares if and when the money was needed: Vice Commodore Wylie, Secretary, Treasurer, Tom Mazzoni, Mr & Mrs Hutton, Bill Taylor.
By 9th October 1967, the boat had evidently been purchased. On the record:
It was agreed that the engine should be kept in the Men’s Changing Room and that the hull should be kept on the grass near W. Shanks’ hut, with his approval’.
Now in its sixth decade, Bluebird has had an eventful life — with its career, hopefully, still far from over. At least once, the boat broke its moorings and was found on the pitching, necessitating rescue by crane – as pictured.
Today, the boat has an inboard diesel engine, not easily suitable for storage in a changing room. The photos show Bluebird continuing to receive loving care and attention from members in 2018. In the winter of 2019, Bluebird was given purple topsides.
The construction of the new clubhouse
In the earliest days of club history, the clubhouse was located at the Lammerlaws railway gound with a hut purchased from the dockyard for £15. The hut was then dismantled and re-erected to the east of the harbour entrance. By the early 1980s, club members felt that the ex-dockyard hut was no longer suitable for their needs and plans were developed for building a brand-new clubhouse on the same site. The task was advertised and tenders were sought. Of the three tenders offered, the contract was finally offered to local builder and joiner J. D. P. Leuchars — James (Jim) Leuchars, also a club member, with Mrs Heather Leuchars, since the mid 1960s. Jim Leuchars in shown below, behind his dog, Tammy, and in front of a Flying Fifteen. On the left is David (Lou) Costello.
The new clubhouse was a prefabricated timber-framed design supplied in kit form by Thomas Mitchell Ltd of Fife. Jim Leuchars had experience of erecting Mitchell kit buildings elsewhere in Burntisland, including at Broomhill.
The pictures below show first the dismantling of the old dockyard hut, which BSC used as their clubhouse from the 1950s. Then the construction of the new clubhouse in 1982 to 84. The opening ceremony for the new clubhouse was in June 1984