A history of the MSC, part 2. First races.

According to an article in the "Helm" in 1922, written by founder member, James Storer, racing took place at 6pm on Friday 18th May 1894 and that there was a strong breeze from the north north east. There was race on the following Tuesday, 29th May 1894. In what you might ask!

I already knew that Salters of Oxford, known by "googling" to be a firm still in existence, had a concession on the Tower Ballroom side of the Reservoir and wondered whether they could throw any light on this question. Amazingly an e-mail produced a reply by return stating that my query had been passed onto a Simon Wenham who is writing a thesis on Salters for his history Ph.D.

Simon responded promptly and stated that Salters had a concession from 1892 until 1930, hiring out boats, having a steam boat for trips round the "Rez" and constructing a roller skating rink where the Tower Ballroom now is.

He also said that the records show that there was a severe drought in 1893 and Salters obtained a reduction in rent from the Canal Co. and in the 1894/5 winter the Reservoir froze over and payments were made to charity from the fees taken. Some problems never go away!!

Armed with this information I returned to Birmingham Central Library's archive department and sought information on the "Rez" and Salters. To my amazement an original copy of Salters 1899 programme was produced. Unfortunately I was not allowed to copy all of it because of the Copyright Act but the archivist allowed me to copy a double page which shows that boats were available for hire; a picture of one such sailing boat; and mention that the "Rez" was home to the Birmingham Rowing Club (founded 1893) and the Midland Sailing Club. There is also a copy of the 1900 programme in a series of articles about Birmingham which has a photo of the skating rink and details of events in that year.

 

I, therefore, think it is safe to assume that the first races were held in boats hired from Salters as stated by Storer in his article. He says the boats were "Lily, Sylph and Wasp" hired from Salters and "Stork", a sailing canoe, which he owned. They were joined by "Crocodile", a sharpie built and owned by L.B.Chatwin for the race on Tuesday 29th May 1894.

A third race was held on Thursday 7th June but the names of the boats taking part are not mentioned.

After the initial meeting on Monday 11th June 1894 things moved on quickly. At the first meeting of the Committee four new members were invited to join the Club and the design of the Club Burgee was decided upon. The subscription was fixed at 2s. and 6 pence from each member and the Secretary was asked to draw up racing rules based on those of the Royal Canoe Club.

On Wednesday 22nd. November 1894 the first annual dinner took place. Seems they had a busy time! There was a lot of discussion to determine if the Club should have a one design class. Eventually seven boats were ordered from Mr Henry Holford of Gloucester and delivered for the 1896 season. They were 12ft oa., beam of 4ft. 6" and cost complete on rail at Gloucester £13.5.0 each. Storer states that since the Club now had enough boats, hiring was discontinued and the race day changed to Saturday.

That might have been so but the photo of the yacht race in 1910 shows una rigged boats whereas the one designs were sloops. There is a sloop in Creek. Perhaps this race is early in the season and members have hired if their boats were not ready: or perhaps the sloop rig had proved unsuitable and they had been re-rigged as una craft.

This may have been so because a postcard taken in 1905 clearly shows the hire craft and they have a different una rig. Storer states there were a number of other boats as well, mainly sharpies, and that by 1905 there were often 15 boats on moorings. So by then, the Club was well established and it was time for the building of a Clubhouse, not where the Club is now, but on the bank on the far side to the left of the Ranger's Office near Reservoir Road.

 

Alan Birch

For other photos and information about Edgbaston Reservoir and Ladywood please refer to www.oldladywood.co.uk