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In 1913 a group of like-minded Manchester businessmen found they shared
the same leisure interest in boating, sailing & cruising …

  They were aware of the ‘Cruising Association’ which had been formed in London 5 years earlier and wished to create something similar but more accessible to the amateur sailors in Manchester and the North West of England.   This group hadn’t formed from some ‘chance’ meeting but certainly knew one another from belonging to other yacht clubs, particularly Blackpool & Fleetwood Yacht Club and the Royal Mersey Yacht Club.  They had participated in various races and regattas at these clubs but wished to propagate their interest on ‘home ground’ and particularly during the winter closed season.

   Although these early meetings seemed to suggest they were an excuse for a Gentlemen’s drinking club, some form of order was quickly established by the appointment of a committee guided by it’s chairman Mr Sawley Brown.  The ‘Chairman’ title subsequently endured until 1957 when it was changed to the more nautical sounding ‘Commodore’ from 1958 to the present day.
    The form of ordinary members meetings began to gather some form of sophistication where guest speakers would be invited to talk about particular experiences or divest their particular expertise to the assembled company.   As an alternative members would read articles they thought of interest to the cruising sailor.
     A year after the formation of the MCA, a notable diversion to world order was brought about when someone shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo to bring about what became known as the Great War.  This created something of a ‘sea change’ in the workings of the MCA when several of it’s stalwarts joined the war effort including founder members RS Newton, E Gaukroger and H Battersby.   All those on active service kept in touch and some presented papers about their wartime exploits.

  Once war hostilities had ceased, order began to return with races and regattas. A racing committee was formed and co-ordination with other clubs brought about by a conference at the Royal Mersey Club. Racing seemed to be quite a feature of those early days; probably due to the members’ interest being closer to home than they are now. Many trophies were donated and raced for throughout the year.

  After the war, meetings became more diverse with the introduction of outside visits to the Manchester Ship Canal, the A V Roe aircraft factory, a look around a large liner in Liverpool docks & hospitality visits with the Royal Navy aboard the training ship HMS Irwell.  Members meetings continued to the same pattern of talks and presentations mixed with outside activities throughout the 1920’s. The annual membership fee had risen to one guinea(£1.05p) in 1919 but was later cut down to 10 shillings(50pence) in 1924.
     By 1931 the membership had grown to 81, a lady member first appeared in the records but this was probably due to some family influence.  She was Winifred Brown, the daughter of our first chairman, who, as a pilot, had become rather famous in 1930 for winning the prestigious ‘King’s Cup’ Air Race.  Winifred went on to become an accomplished cruising sailor with trips around Britain, Norway, and up as far as Spitsbergen.  Much more can be learnt about Winifred Brown from the excellent book recently written and published by Past Commodore Geoff Meggitt. It’s available via

  During the 1930’s membership had blossomed despite the gloomy economic outlook the world was facing.(Sounds rather similar to today!)  The members meetings continued at various venues, most notable being the Wellington Hotel but that too was superceded by the elegant Grosvenor Hotel at the end of Deansgate and opposite the Manchester Cathedral.  The committee, however, seemed to prefer the more intimate surroundings of the Nag’s Head, The Thatched House and the Mitre on Cathedral Gates.   This period eventually became overshadowed by the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 and it was decided to suspend formal meetings but to meet informally whenever possible.  Many members were called to serve their country and they returned to give talks detailing their escapades and reminiscences.  Many who joined up were commissioned into the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.
   At the outbreak of peace in 1945 there was a sort of new dawn due partly to the effect of post-war austerity with many things being rationed or in short supply. Dr John Kennedy-Young reminded members of the joys of sailing and controversially criticised ‘motor boats’ and people who only used an engine. He said: “All our members should know how to sail a 12ft dinghy and how grand it would be if our members could acquire some Snipe Class small sailing boats.”  

  This was a ‘mission statement’ which Dr Kennedy-Young took to heart and he organised a supply of boats from the Scottish firm of Fairlie Yacht Slip who just happened to have some spare timber lying around their yard.  They agreed they could build an International Snipe dinghy(an Olympic Class) for £60 each and subsequently 9 members became prospective purchasers.  Dr Kennedy-Young  also organised to lease the sailing rights for Budworth Mere from the Arley Estate and so the Budworth Sailing Section of the Manchester Cruising Association was born.  In 1960 another venue became available on the east side of the city at Debdale Reservoir and the Debdale Sailing Squadron of the MCA came to fruition too! For the next 25 years the MCA membership grew considerably bolstered by the influx of young people anxious to sail in dinghies. The MCA became a major force in co-ordinating the sport of dinghy racing with the formation of the North West Dinghy Conference as well as representing local interest at the RYA.
      The Debdale Squadron thrived up until 1968 when the section was put under immense financial pressure by the council’s requirement to divert the access road and probably build a new clubhouse as well.  Several members decided to seek their sport elsewhere and the Debdale Squadron disintegrated and ceased to exist.   In 1969 the committee of Budworth Sailing section expressed an interest in becoming an independent club in it’s own right and in 1970 Budworth Sailing Section became Budworth Sailing Club.  Since then Budworth members have enjoyed affiliate membership of the MCA and many are welcomed at our monthly meetings.


      Picture of Budworth Clubhouse opening

And so “What goes around comes around”.  The MCA has returned to its cruising origins with a greater focus on larger and probably more comfortable craft. The racing trophies have now been discontinued and the current membership probably consists of many of those former dinghy sailors who acquired their aspirations for cruising when attending the monthly members meetings. We hope you’ll consider doing the same.

This brief history is nothing when compared to the excellent narratives contained in the official centenary book by Roger Cleland entitled “100 Years of the Manchester Cruising Association”
Roger Cleland has squeezed-out so much detail from the Association’s minute books that only a small fraction can be featured on this web page.

The book is generally on sale at the monthly members meeting or you can obtain copies by contacting Geoff Meggitt via the contact page.

“100 Years of the Manchester Cruising Association”
is £5 per copy
+ £2.00 p&p.


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  The initial gathering included Messrs E Gaukroger, H Battersby, H L Cunliffe, H A Swire and R S Newton at the Bush Hotel on Deansgate where they agreed to meet each week to exchange views, anecdotes and general matters of sailing interest.  It was the frequency of these weekly meetings which goes some way towards explaining why, in 2013, we are currently up to meeting number 1330 ….. and counting!  At subsequent meetings the group also included Messrs J P Scott, TLC Preston, FM Smith, W Winship, J Hazelwood and H Bowden.   Some of the group had later visited the Garrick Hotel on Fountain Street and for a while this became the venue for future meetings.

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Dr John Kennedy-Young opens the new Budworth Sailing Section Clubhouse in June 1963 watched by, left to right, Alec Okell, Douglas Turner and Clifford Swinglehurst.

First MCA Chairman Mr Sawley Brown

Budworth Sailing Section in the 1950’s

The Bush Hotel, Deansgate.        /Neville Bradley

105 Years - Established 1913