My Story: Johnston Wood

Mr and Mrs Woods

In January 1954, in response to the notice in the local paper, we attended a public meeting at the Cairo’s Continental Café, in High Street.  Approximately thirty people attended and decided on the formation of a sailing club in Burntisland. That night, I was elected Treasurer of the brand new club ‘Burntisland Sailing Club’. It must be said from the very beginning, its success was largely due to the input from the female members of the club. My wife was also elected to the committee and we enjoyed many happy sailing memories over the years.

In the early days, the club HQ was located in a wooden hut at Galahill, Lammerlaws. By May 1954, the club had the opportunity to purchase a dockers recreation hut. We made an offer of £15, which was accepted, to the National Dock Labour Board for the hut. Eventually, the hut was dismantled from Galahill and re-erected on the current site in the East Dock.

As a club, we attended the various annual regattas on the Forth; From the Fisher Row to Boness on the south side, and from East Wemyss to Limekilns on the north.

First clubhouse

Our first boat, which we’d bought in 1955, was a 17ft clinker-built centreboard knockabout called Kingfisher. She’d sailed previously on the Tay at Tayport. We were sad to sell her in 1959, but she went to a good home in South Queensferry. By that time, our interests had moved onto a different class of boat: the Flying Fifteen, originally designed by famous naval designer Uffa Fox in 1947.

The Flying Fifteen was a fast and exciting keelboat, planing easily and providing great racing. In 1958, six of them were built by various club members. With the enthusiasm of the owners, we attended many national championships across Scotland.

The Flying Fifteens were built across the town in any available space. My first Flying Fifteen, Bonito, was launched at the public slip in May 1959. Bonito’s registration number was GBR 284. Bonito was named after the distinctive species of tuna. We sailed the Bonito for two consecutive seasons.

Our second Flying Fifteen was Su-Su, registered GBR 456. Su-Su’s keel was laid in the old Nissen hut on Galahill in October 1961. The picture shows the boat-building taking place in the hut.  A tilley lamp hangs from the rafters; boats were hand-built in these days – only hand tools, no electricity. The mould was borrowed from RFYC – Royal Forth Yacht club. We laboured all winter and, finally, Su-Su was launched in June 1962. In 1969, we had to leave Burntisland and the sailing club, due to my new job, subsequently moving to the Clyde.

Right: Johnston Wood building Su-Su with Robert (Spud) Gray and David (Lou) Costello.
Above: Mr & Mrs Wood on Kingfisher; the original BSC hut; Mrs Wood at the helm of Kingfisher
Below: Tom Mazzoni in GBR285 Gemini, Ali Miller in GBR401 Jalna, Johnston Wood in GBR 456 Su-Su; Tom Mazzoni, Johnston Wood, Anne Mazzoni, Bob Gray, Lou Costello at Galahill, 1959; the launch of Su-Su; Presentation of trophies to Johnston Wood, Lou Costello and Ali Miller, 1963.