Warren Stewart – Our Youngest Life Member?

1955 – 1958

1956 : Warren wins his award.

In 1956 Warren Stewart was 8 years old, living with this parents and sister, Janice, at 85 Hauraki Street ( now Hinemoa Street) on the corner or Commerce Street (now Enterprise Street), a student at Birkenhead Primary School and the youngest member of the one year old Birkenhead Boating Club (Inc.)

The year before, the Club had run a monogram competition to which Warren had submitted a painting, depicting an Idle-along, the Club badge and the Needle’s Eye rock formation on the western side of Little Shoal Bay.

The judging committee loved the picture, and wrote to Warren, praising the work as ‘very good’ and a ‘nice painting’.

Early in the new year, they awarded Warren a certificate confirming him as a “Life Member’ of the club!

2018: Warren returns to the club.

Warren had left the club in 1958 when his family moved to live in Point England, lost touch with Birkenhead and the Club, then in 1970, now married to Janet, moved to Australia where he has lived ever since with his family.

But he never forgot his award and he often thought about his time at the Club and of the kindness of the members.

So, in late 2017, he contacted the Club Commodore, Chris  Bowman and asked to meet any members interested in hearing his story.

On the 26th of January, 2018, Warren and Janet met up with Ted Berry and Keith Salmon ( an NBYC member since 1973) for a coffee and a chat on Birkenhead Wharf.

We asked Warren who he remembered from the old days.

“ Well, I remember Harold Lamb, the club secretary as he sent me letters congratulating me, and I also remember Dave Moore  – I think he was keen on my sister, Janice, and used to take her sailing.”

“ I know Dave Moore,” grinned Keith. “ How about I give him a call?”

Half an hour later, a curious Dave arrived to see this ‘Warren’ fellow. They shook hands and looked at each other for the first time in 60 years.

“ Dave, do you remember Warren? He was only an eight year old kid then.”

“ I sure do remember him. He was a little rat-bag. But I had to be nice to him cos I was keen on his sister!”

Warren laughed loudly.

“ I knew it! Mum and I used to wait on the beach at Little Shoal Bay while you took Janice up the Harbour to Greenhithe. Once, you took hours to come back as the tide turned and you had to paddle from the Sugar Works!”

We settled down to coffee and muffins and asked Warren what he remembers of the Club from those days. Keith and I had already decided to do a separate interview with Dave later!

“ There was no club house then and we sailed from Little Shoal Bay, very tidal and very polluted with coke and coal dust from the Gasworks ( finally shut down in 1971, it stopped operating before that). There was no concrete slipway at the wharf and the little wooden slip beside Hinemoa Park Beach was very steep. So we dragged the boats over the mud and sand, till Dave made big wooden wheels which didn’t sink into the mud . But it was still hard work. Even some of the bigger guys were calf deep in the muddy bits. But we all helped each other and it was fun.

I can remember that the club had mostly Idle-alongs. P class sailed from Westhaven. Before I left, a Cherub joined the fleet. I remember a Zeddie club in the bay, too.

The races usually started at the Needles Eye, round Watchman’s Island and a couple of buoys, back to the Eye .

There was no Harbour Bridge in the mid 1950s but Dad used to take me down to Northcote Point to watch the building progress.

We hardly ever went to town, though we got free fares on the ferry because Dad worked on them. Driving to town was a mission – right  up Albany Hill, steep and very winding, then to Riverhead,  then back through Henderson.”

We asked Warren if he still had the Certificate of Life Membership.

“ Look, I have searched for it and I know it’s somewhere. I do have a couple of letters from the Club, one to Mum asking her to read out the other letter to me.”

The Letter

H.W Lamb

189 Onewa Road

Birkenhead, N5.

17th November, 1955.

Dear Warren,

Your painting of a Club badge was shown to the members at the last meeting of the Birkenhead Boating Club.

There were about 60 members present at the meeting and they all though your painting was very good.

You are the very youngest member of the Club, which is only one year old.

We hope that you will always be a member, and some day perhaps, you will be the Captain of the Club.

Thank you very much, Warren, for the nice painting and it may be when Christmas comes you may see your painting on a nice little brooch which you may be allowed to wear, just to show that you are a real member of the Club.

Thanking you once again for the nice painting.

Yours very sincerely,

H. W Lamb,

Hon. Secretary.

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On the wharf at Birkenhead. From left: Keith Salmon, Janet Stewart, Warren Stewart, Dave Moore, Ted Berry

Farewell to Warren and Janet

We took Warren on a tour of the new Club rooms and he was most impressed.

“ I have had a great afternoon, thanks to you all. I feel that I have made new friends today!I will keep in touch and I will keep on searching the old files for that certificate!”

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