Medway Sub Aqua Dive Club, Our club in Medway has been established since 1958. So Medway was among the first Scuba Diving clubs in the U.K. We have a long tradition of safe diving. We are an active club with diving going on all year round and we have been known to have the odd BBQ from time to time.
In October 2008, we celebrated our fiftieth anniversary, and invited members old and new to attend.
Below is a brief history of the club excerpted from Ron Bignell's dive biography, (one of the club's founders) written by Les Crowder, of which the club Secretary has a full copy for those interested.
'In 1958 Tony Vincent, a biology teacher, moved from Portsmouth to the Medway area to take up a new teaching post. He had been a member of the Portsmouth branch of the BSAC for several years, and he decided to try and start a new branch here. He placed an advert in a local paper, and the first meeting of the Medway club was on a street corner on the A2 in Gillingham. Three people turned up Tony himself, Harry Morris, and Ron Bignell.
To start a branch of the BSAC, the minimum number required was twelve, and they were well short of that. At the time Ron was a keen water polo player, and had represented Kent in national competitions. He decided that the Maidstone water polo club where he was a member, would be a good source of recruits for the new dive club, and with a few of their wives included they had the required number and Medway 59 branch was born.
The Medway club had to find a place to meet, and the main requirement as it still is today, was a swimming pool to do their training, and somewhere to have a drink afterwards. Virtually the only pool available was the old baths by the river at Maidstone, and The Lamb pub was used for their meetings afterwards. In those early days the club was short of people to take the training, so they had instructors down from the London branches to help out.
The early sites they used included the Laughing Waters, (there was no motel there then) where they changed under a hut and were regularly asked to go spear fishing there to rid the lake of large pike, because they were eating the ducks. Other sites they used were New Hythe lakes, the river Medway at Burham, the Mulberries, and around the Royal Sovereign Lightship, which Ron recalls was still manned at the time; after their dive they used to tie up the boats and go up top to have a cup of tea with the lightship men.
At this time Ron was regional sales manager for a tyre company, and whilst out on his rounds along the south coast, he took the opportunity to talk to the local fishermen about where they could suggest for good dive sites. As a result the club began going on hard boat trips in fishing boats, out of Eastbourne, Rye, Brighton and Folkestone
By the early sixties membership had risen to over 50, and Ron began organizing the first club trips abroad; to Benidorm and Magaluf. The cost of the first trip was £18 for a long weekend's flight, accommodation and lodgings. While on one of these trips abroad, the club became friendly with a group of divers from Belgium, and organized for them to visit Medway the following year.
Because of a general shortage of divers in these times, the club got involved in all sorts of jobs, such as dock wall inspections, clearing boat props, and retrieving things that people had lost. One recovery job was at the 'blue lake' at Snodland; Rugby cement had just installed a new dredging machine at a cost of £500 000 and the first time they tried it out a large part of it fell off into the lake. Six club members did a sweep search in very limited visibility, found the part and raised it. Subsequently, club funds were boosted by a sizable donation!
One bright idea that the club had at the time, was to be the first divers to do an underwater crossing of the Channel; the idea was that the divers would swim in relay, inside a large cage that was towed behind a boat. Several members had started serious training, and they had started to design the cage, when an American woman named Jane Baldisere did it on her own, so they abandoned the idea.
In the sixties a lot of thought was given to finding a clubhouse, but nothing suitable became available. The nearest they came to one, was a lighter moored on the river at Maidstone, but the cost of providing services made it out of the question.
The club diving remained much the same during through the late sixties and early seventies, although several members bought their own boats and the club started diving from inflatables. It was during this period that the BSAC, started to formalise their training and members became more aware of the safety aspects of diving.
In 1973 it became necessary for the club to find a new pool, since the old swimming baths were to be demolished, but fortunately the Black Lion pool was being built in Gillingham. For a while they met at local pubs, but the Royal Naval Association was running short of members, and they needed to share their clubhouse to survive; and a deal was struck up for the dive club to share it.
In the early nineties disaster struck when a fire completely gutted the main building. Fortunately, there was a reasonable insurance payout, and with a lot of hard work the clubhouse was transformed.'
Since then, the club has relocated to the Strood Sports Centre, details of which can be found on the Contact Us Page.
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