South Staffs Burgee
South Staffordshire Sailing Club
RYA Volvo Champion Club National Lottery - Sport England
© Neil Hawkins

In the Beginning

by Nicholas Jones,
son of founder member J. Clement Jones

A newspaper article published in 1953 by the Wolverhampton Express and Star under the headline "Why not a sailing club for Staffordshire?" was the catalyst for the formation of the South Staffordshire Sailing Club. It was written by the paper's features editor, Clement Jones, and to his great surprise (and to his great credit) it drew together a disparate band of enthusiasts who can rightly claim to have been among the early pioneers in the rapid post-war expansion in the development of inland sailing clubs.

The club's official opening in April 1955 by the Duke of Edinburgh's sailing companion, Uffa Fox, put Calf Heath reservoir on the map. Fluttering from the club's first flag pole was the South Staffs' burgee, a Stafford knot in gold on a red background. Clem had taken the precaution of having his design for the club's pennant registered with Lloyds Register of Yachts and the Yacht Racing Association long before the first Fireflies, GP 14s and Cadets took to the water.

Looking back on my days as a schoolboy in Wolverhampton, I realise now that my father's role in the club's formation - and his perseverance during what at first must have been a pretty desperate search for a suitable stretch of water - cannot be under-estimated. Clem's great strength was his encyclopaedic knowledge of local and central government. He knew just where to apply pressure for maximum effect, whether at town hall or in Whitehall, and he was equally astute in finding ways to extract money and resources from reluctant authorities. One powerful weapon in his armoury was publicity and time and time again he demonstrated his deeply-held conviction that a local newspaper should use its influence to help the local community it served.

My father had been putting his wealth of experience to good use long before he wrote in the Express and Star about his dream of being able to find somewhere around Wolverhampton where it might be possible to go sailing; and his tireless work as an initiator of worthwhile local projects continued well into his retirement. Nonetheless I think the part he played in creating South Staffs S.C. was probably his most notable achievement in helping others to find pleasure and enjoyment, whether on water or in the countryside.

Wherever he lived the club's red and gold pennant was always on display and it had pride of place, pinned up on a bedside bookshelf, in his room at Sandy Cross, a residential home run by the Newspaper Press Fund, when he died in November 2002.