The Glendee Yacht Club

The Glendee Yacht Club, located at the Tom Worthington Dam in Hattingspruit (generally known as the Hattingspruit Dam) was another important institution in the Dundee area in the 50’s and 60’s.

The club was established in the early 1950s, soon after the dam was completed. The first boat owner was Bunny Elliott, the local pharmacist and proprietor of C. H. Talbot’s chemist, who launched his motor boat when the dam was still filling up after its completion. Others who followed later were Glyn Durham, the local Dundee farmer, George Cook, the owner of Gemco hardware store (and one time Mayor), and Joe Connellan, who worked at Kilty’s sweet factory on Ryley’s Hill. In those early days the focus was “speedboats”, i.e. motor boats with an outboard motor. Bunny, George and Joe had speedboats, and Glyn had a flat bottomed single seat “hydroplane”. Other early speedboat owners were Jimmy Douglas, whose boat was called “Yena Lo” – Zulu for “that is the one”, and “Atlantic Van” – whom I recall only by his nickname! The original members were supplemented by Lovat Coughlin – who was the first yacht owner – with his classic, clinker-built “Goodricke” class yacht.

At first the club operated from a prefabricated building a few hundred yards from the dam wall (not far from where the brewery was later constructed), and access was obtained via the road to Verdruk Dam, and then by taking a track from that road towards the Hattingspruit Dam wall. There was no permanent structure on that site – not even a proper toilet! As a result, one of the chores imposed on early members was that someone had to tow the bucket of waste from the corrugated iron bucket toilet for disposal somewhere on the other side of the dam. I recall seeing an image of Bunny Elliot towing a bucket of this sewage on a float or type of barge behind his boat – this may have been viewed on a home movie shown years later, but on the other hand maybe I actually witnessed the event itself! (Glyn Durham has no recollection of this event, so it may have been an invention of my youthful imagination!)

Later the club moved to its present location, closer to the town of Hattingspruit. In the early 60’s a substantial clubhouse was built on the new site by the members– many of whom were in the building trade. George Clark, Jimmy Marshall and Bob Holliday were bricklayers by trade, and Heinz Wierman was a carpenter, and they formed the hard core of the construction crew. A concrete jetty and slipway were also constructed at that time.

By the time that the club moved to its new premises the focus had become yachts rather than motor boats. Bunny Elliott acquired a Sharpie (Kozuka), as did Glyn Durham (Alabama) – the Sharpie was the 1956 Olympic three person crew boat. Tommy Wood acquired a GP (Woodpecker), and Lovat Coughlin introduced the first Finn – the Olympic class for single sailors from 1952 onwards. Thereafter a number of new members were recruited. Among them were a group who ordered “Graduate” class two person sailboats, including George Clark (Gazelle), Jimmy Marshall, Heinz Weirman, and teenager Jonathan Walters (Gilliminkie). Other sailors of that era were Charles and Mima Maytom (Sprog – Svetlana), Claude Stanbury (Hornet – Impala) and Reg Beavitt (Sprog – Sinesa), Roy Schwegman, and Jimmy Law. Ken Simpson had a Dabchick. There were still a few who stuck to their speedboats – Joe Connellan being one: he was very good about taking the kids waterskiing – my first ever experience on water skis was behind his boat. He also took my Dad out – he went around the entire dam on his haunches, as he could not stand up. Later Glynn Durham had a new Sharpie built “Mkonto – “the spear” in Zulu), and my father took over the “Alabama”.

The new clubhouse was opened in 1961 or 1962. At the time the Commodore was Jimmy Douglas, who was tragically killed in a car accident soon after wards. From photographs kindly made available by Jimmy and Tiny Marshall, it appears that the opening ceremony was conducted by Tom Worthington.

In the club’s speedboat-focused days there were a number of racing events, primarily involving “hydroplanes” such as Glyn Durham started his boating career with. The yacht regattas that replaced these power-fests were not quire as spectacular, but proved to be more lasting.

The club eventually became a nursery for a number of younger sailors who went on to distinguish themselves, including Jonathan Walters, Sheila Coffey, Stuart Wood, all of the Kneppers boys (Chris, Joe and “Ajax”), the Marshall boys (Robert, Howie Tammy and Gordon), and Peter Holliday. Dundee’s contribution to their interest in sailing led to the Kneppers boys building their own yacht in Durban (helped by their Dad Wim – a carpenter by trade – who took the train to Durban every weekend to work on the boat), which they eventually sailed to the Caribbean.

Sailing at the club was very active in those years, and five to ten boats would be out most Sundays for regular club races. In addition, regattas were held frequently, with sailors visited from Ladysmith (among whom the Ellens family – father and sons – were regulars) and Newcastle, and farther afield. In addition Glendee sailors would travel to regattas at Chelmsford Dam (between Dundee and Newcastle) and elsewhere.

On the administrative side, Mary Walters was the club’s first judge. After a number of years in that position, Mary was succeed by Shirley Schwegman.

Your scribe visited the clubhouse in early 2009 – after an absence of over 40 years – and predictably the club and its premises are much changed. Most noticeable is the size of the trees, which were mere saplings in the 60s. And the clubhouse has been significantly enlarged. There were not many yachts on the premises however – a rather disappointing change from the heydays of the 60s and 70s (but maybe current members trail their boats to the dam).