The 1972 season swum in the "Ladies" pool and heats were 3x30 metre swims, the membership grew to 65 many from local surf clubs. One of the surviving members is our own Alf Carpenter. After the swim all members returned to Merewether Surf Club for hot soup, a drop of sustenance and a fining session conducted by Denis Portsmouth, regarded by the old stalwarts as the "best". Dee Why Ice Picks invited the Mackerels for a swim off on Sunday 16th July, 1972. It was so successful that the President of Ice Picks, Cameron Copeland organised that the subsequent
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annual visit would include other winter swimming clubs north of Sydney Harbour. It became known as the Northside Shield and the Mackerels are the only club outside of this zone invited annually. The Mackerel's being a social bunch decided in September to have the first annual dinner at Souths Leagues Club. Among the guest were swimmers Des Renford, across the English Channel fame, and Barry Rogers, Australian surf champion. The night was so successful that they decided to do this annually and over the immediate years developed into the "Day Light Ball".
In the year 1973 Newcastle Council decided that it would leave the baths open during winter and the Mackerels were granted permission to run races at the block end of the baths on Sunday from May to end of August and one Sunday in September for Club Championships. The Merewether Amateur Swimming Club was approached and they provided lane ropes. During the year member, John Flagherty penned the Mackerel song which still exist and will always be part of the club. The Mackerels entertained the crew of H,M.A.S "Brisbane" who presented them with a plaque. Also the city of Newcastle was visited by the American Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz (7 gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics) and our President Stewy signed him up. Another important event also happened, Club member, Doug "Doggy" Wilkins purchased a blue mackerel weighing 24lbs for $8. It was caught off the Gold Coast in May,1973 between Currumbin and Burleigh Heads, 800metres off the beach on pilchard bait. Under great difficulty Doug transported the fish to Newcastle where it was mounted by a taxidermist for a fee of $130 and was placed above the club's honour board inside the Surf Club.
The first Daylight Ball was held on September 23,1973 at South Newcastle Leagues Club starting at 11:30am and continuing to 4pm. The dress was formal evening wear, tickets $12 per double with 250 attending. The Ball has continued throughout the years but the best was at the Newcastle Workers Club where over 450 attended and people turned up and paid at the door. Top class local bands played including Gold Cadillac, Benny and the Jets and others.
By the start of the 1973 season the club had a constitution, member fee, swim fee, club colours and a song. Rules were drawn up for running the club, AGM, fines and in particular competitive handicap swimming and prizes. Swimmers to register for swim with the Handicapper before 8:15 on Sunday and to pay swim fee.
The first heat to start at 8:30 and the Rules for swimming were
1. Each competitor is given a 50 metre time. Swim times kept by the Handicapper 2. They are placed in a 6 man heat with their block No and start time. 3. The starter signals to the lane timekeepers with lowering a raised hand. 4. The starter yells out the time in seconds. With the first competitor off at "2"
5. Each competitor enters the water on their start time. 6. Break time is 0.5 seconds. If you swim faster you are disqualified from the race. 7. Winner of the heat goes into the Final. 8. There is no break time in the Final. Although the handicapper will lower a competitors time if seen to be breaking by more than 2 seconds! 9. Judges decision is final and the Handicapper is to be respected. Points are awarded:- All swimmers receive 5 points when competing in a club swim event and heat placers receive an additional points for:- 1st 3 points 2nd2 " 3rd 1 " The competitors points are aggregated and the highest season points becomes the Point Score Winner. Prizes for the club were written into the constitution and they were 100% Swimmer:- Had to swim with a winter club every Sunday in salt water from May to end of August. Point Score Winner. Age Championship. Mackerel of the Year. Mongrel of the Year.
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The 1972 season was hotly contested with E .Walton taking out the Point Score and the open champion was R "Bob" Carnell, the father of current member Dave.
Over the proceeding years different characters and personalities were attracted to the Mackerels and all made contributions to the club what we know today. One that springs to mind was Mick Eggleston who joined in the mid 1970's. A special tribute to Mick for he designed the club motifs, badges,T shirts etc. Then there were the beer kegs purchased from the Beaches, if not finished on Sunday were returned and credit given for the remainder of the keg. Current member Don Platt and others made sure no credit was given! Then there was Robbie Miller, keeper of the flag. He was like the butchers dog with a bone, no one could get it off him. The other Robbie was Robbie Wood, who loved to sing Rawhide and dressed if he rode his horse down to the pool. He was cleaner at one of the local Industries and on his belt he carried over 100 door keys. He just rattled!
In 1975 Greg Keys became Treasurer and remembered more famously by fellow Mongrels as the one to look up to, he set a high standard to be a Mongrel. When Greg passed on he wrote the Mackerel's into his will which has given today the club a long future. The Mongrel was held in high esteem and recognised as such with a "dog collar" and duly registered with Newcastle City Council.
In the 1970 and 80's the Mackerels would volunteer for beach patrol when the Surf club was down on members. It was understood that Alf Carpenter, Roy Gibbs assisted in getting some members their bronze medallion to assist in the patrols.
The Mackerel's from the beginning were very competitive, taking out the annual Northern Districts Carnival on numerous occasions and even suggested by other clubs that "stacking" was going on. To alleviate such distain a rule suggested by the Mackerel's that all competitors had to be financial members and competed in 4 Sunday club swims before the Northern Districts, was adopted and still exist today.
In 1976 and again 1981 the Mackerel's hosted the WSAA Swimming National Championship. It was the young members who performed well in the Open Relay. Our member Brian Schrader has been the longest Mackerel representative for over 25 years at the Nationals. It's been a long time between drinks but we are hosting the Nationals again at Charlestown pool on 18th September, 2016 with presentations at Belmont 16 footers.
The Mackerel's were not only a competitive club but were equally a very social club and it was the social attachments that the true bonds were made and became embedded into the folklore of the club. Many stories were recalled on the bus trips to the Nationals as well as the travels to the Northern Districts and the Sydney trips. It was here that many Mongrels were born. All these stories will be remembered and recalled in the particular time period as the club grows and continues into the future. Not only does the club remember the Mongrel , like all clubs have those people who work behind the scenes to make the club "work" and are recognised as being a Mackerel.
As tradition dictates after the Sunday swim members would volunteer to make soup for all the members. There had been some very good recipes as well as the odd bad one and during the 1990's a trophy was presented to the worse soup maker and was called the Lucrezia Borgia Trophy. Apparently she removed her husband by serving up soup laden with poison. Thankfully this tradition no longer exist. At the start of the swim season, first Sunday in May another tradition is to introduce "ice" to the Baths and heralded by the emotional sounds from a true Scottish band. The event publicised by the local TV NBN 3 and the Newcastle Herald paper.
Over the years the membership has always been strong, reaching a peak of 85 in the mid 1980's. Our founding President said we have to make sure that everyone gets a prize or be rewarded for being a member. To show off the club publicly the Burwood Hotel donated the honour board (housed in the Surf Club) that showed the club's Executive, Life Members, Mackerel, Mongrels, Point Score winner and Open winner. Additionally, 100% swimmers, Age Champion perpetual trophies and to cater for the "Ziggy" class swimmer the MAC-HI-U trophy, named from the ␣ 3 o f 4␣
members who donated it. The latter was a handicap race with 10 swimmers who were at the bottom of the point score ladder. Later on past members donated the Hawthorn Shield (John Hawthorn) and the Gnome Shield (Keith Wilson) and if you missed out there was the Rum Relay (Mongrel Greg Keys). All were in relay format closest to the teams nominated time, however, in the Rum Relay each competitor must drink a tot of rum before entering the water, which assisted in increasing one's time!
In over 45 years the original constitution had only been amended no less then on two occasions, one was in the definition of 100% swim. It was raised by the first President Stewy Hetherington in 1992 and had to past with 60% majority. The amendment was "100% swim includes one lay day" and was duly carried. This enabled a member due to unforeseen circumstances could have a Sunday off, however, would loose 5 points towards the competition Point score.
In the early 2000 the Club moved from Merewether Surf club to the Baths for a point of meeting as the development of the foreshore and Surf House made it too difficult to continue at the Surf Club. The roots will always be with the Surf club but as time goes on the Mackerels still enjoys everyone company in "Friendship and Fitness". It is now and all gender club with age ranging from 10 to 99 years with long term members now introducing their grand kids to winter swimming. The traditions live on with swim races followed by soup, some sustenance and fines. Stories will be developed as in the past will live on as tall tales in the future.
As the Club moves forward our computer members have developed the Merewether Mackerel's web site showing Mackerel photos, swim results, honour board and champions. We also have our own Facebook page. Over the years the club gained members from surfing clubs, RSL members, other swimming clubs, water polo members, people who love swimming and or the camaraderie of a club. It is the members who make a club and the club is a reflection of it's members. We have the best ocean pool in the Southern Hemisphere so all is good for the future, and who knows, any development at the Baths may include a Mackerel room.
Holy Mackerel pass the bottle around!