The History of ECSAC
The first club meetings were in the Highwayman public house in Rainow which was owned by our founder member Neville Oldham. Over the formative years these meetings moved to a coffee bar in Queen Victoria Street, then to a rented house scheduled for demolition in Commercial Road and on to more cosy meets in the bar of the Bate Hall pub. All of these after weekly training sessions in Macclesfield baths on a Thursday night.
We still hold our pool nights on a Thursday to this day.
Our club members can be seen meeting at the Bate Hall pub in the photo taken in 1964. A very smart bunch they look.
The breakthrough for the club came in 1965 when founder Chairman Stewart Davison negotiated a lease on the club’s behalf of some premises in Lower Bank Street owned by Frost Mills. An exceptionally lively hot-pot supper with our Landlords as hosts resulted in the rent reduced to peppercorn proportions – a technique still utilised by the club today to solve tricky problems!
Everybody mucked in with all the building works required to make the building suitable for club meetings and socialising including the installation of the bar, which was a clinker built boat neatly sawn in half. In honour of this, a copy of that boat has been constructed above the existing bar in our new custom-built premises as can be seen in the photo below.
Once the bar became operational club funds rapidly improved and with the help of a grant from the sports council it was not long before the club started to accumulate an enviable array of its own inflatable boats with outboards and an excellent ex-American compressor.
Over the years the club continued to improve and grow with exciting times had by one and all – a truly family club with every one involved.
The stories are endless as you would imagine but a typical one is about a group of six members who caught a train to Holyhead in 1962 and walked with their equipment on their backs to Trearddur Bay complete with camping gear to spend a weekend diving in and around the bay.
The club has developed over the years training hundreds if not thousands of people how to dive, drive boats and generally how to make the most of our wonderful seas.
The club was forced to vacate our beloved premises when the land was acquired for the building of the bypass (the new Silk Road) but in the true spirit of this merry band of members, which at the time numbered well over 100, this only represented a challenge which resulted in the fine custom built clubhouse we now own. When in 1991 planning permission was granted work commenced on building what must be one of the very best dive club facilities in the UK.
The 18th September 2010 saw East Cheshire Sub Aqua Club, celebrate its 50th birthday party and this year, 2020, we celebrate 60 years!
We held a suitably grand party back in 2010, attended by the Mayor of Macclesfield and his wife; Gordon and Felicity Baxendale, Macclesfield’s former MP Sir Nicolas Winterton, the newly elected MP Mr David Rutley and BSAC representatives Phil Clifton and Debbie Powell.
We also had the club’s founder and life member Mr Neville Oldham and over 150 past and present members, with some coming from as far as the US just to join in the celebrations.
The birthday party was the culmination of a year of activities to celebrate the 50th year of the club which included a ‘Diving Through The Ages Event’ at Macclesfield leisure centre, where club members had a chance to try a variety of equipment including a hard hat supplied by the Historic Diving Society, the re-launch of the photographic competition and a very special Annual Dinner Dance at the start of the year.
Since then the club has continued to develop, we have faced some challenges but always come out stronger.
One of the many notable items in the story of the club was our involvement in a piece of maritime history. On 19th December 1981 the Penlee lifeboat the “Solomon Browne” was launched in hurricane force winds to go to the rescue of the Coaster the “Union Star” that had got into difficulties off the coast of Cornwall. A Sea King Helicopter from RNAS Culdrose was unable to lift any of the crew or passengers from the ship.
Whilst the Solomon Browne managed to get 4 of the crew off the “Union Star” the lifeboat made further attempts to rescue the rest of the people on board but to no avail and both vessels were lost together with the loss of all crew and passengers. In total 16 people died.
It was one of the worst disasters in the RNLI’s history and a devastating blow for the village of Penlee. How, why and where the boats went down remained a mystery despite the RNLI employing a team of professional divers to look for both wrecks for a number of months.
The mystery remained unsolved until Easter 1982 when a group of divers from East Cheshire Sub Aqua Club were diving on Buck Rocks out of Lamorna Cove. Here they found a maroon anorak that turned out to belong to the Coxswain Trevelyan Richards of the “Solomon Browne”.
They left a marker on the anorak and reported the find to Falmouth Coastguard. A further dive was done and the wreck of the “Solomon Browne” was found: a rope was found round one of its propellers and a hatch allowing the crew access to the propeller was missing. The divers who did these initial dives were John Wright, Stuart Andrew (Angus), Pat Heron and Tony Wilkinson. Further dives took place and photographs were taken of the wreck and can be seen in our clubhouse along with the letter of thanks we received from the RNLI. These divers were Neville Oldham, Mick Everett, Mick Pepitt, and Pat Heron.
The information provided by ECSAC divers proved invaluable to the inquest into the loss of the “Union Star” and the “Solomon Browne”. For a start both were outside the area the professional divers were looking and they were much deeper, over 40m (130ft) rather than 20m (60ft). It seemed that the “Union Star” had been thrown on top of the “Solomon Browne” and it was her rope that had fouled the lifeboats propeller, rendering her unsteerable.