Australia New South Wales Branch

eets: Uniting Church Complex, Lord Street, Roseville, on the 3rd Thursday of the month, January to November, and the 2nd Thursday in December, at 8:00 pm.

Contact: Secretary, Stan Haviland, PO Box 215, Strathfield, NSW, 2135, email – [03.2022]

Publications: “World Ship Society New South Wales Branch Newsletter”, editor: Peter Plowman. [08.2014]

Incorporated as the “World Ship Society (New South Wales) Inc.”

On the Horizon – forthcoming NSW Branch meetings:

check with the branch representatives

Branch History:

‘New South Wales Branch celebrating 50 years, Fifty Years of the NSW Branch, by Alan Travers, 2007

In 1947 in the United Kingdom a young ship enthusiast named Michael Crowdy founded the Ship News Club which was renamed the World Ship Society during 1949 and from this small beginning it has grown during the past 60 years to encompass branches and members in many parts of the world. Australia was an early source of members and by 1952 a local WSS agent had been appointed to look after membership matters in this part of the world and New Zealand. In 1954 a local WSS Australian Section produced a magazine named The Log first appeared on a quarterly basis and was part of the Australia / New Zealand WSS subscription rate in addition to the UK produced house journal of the WSS — Marine News.

By 1956 moves were in place to start up local WSS branches in different states and the first branch commenced during that year in Hobart. In Sydney a meeting was held on 20 March 1956 at the home of Ron Parsons in Waverton for the eight WSS members then residing in Sydney in order for them to meet each other and generally catch up with the local shipping scene. At this meeting it was decided to hold informal gatherings at different members’ homes on a monthly basis. The second meeting, which was held on 24 April at the home of Kitty Dick at Balgowlah, saw attendance swell to 14 and agreement reached that a proper meeting venue should be found. Another decision was to hold meetings on the 4th Tuesday of each month and the third meeting occured on 22 May. Also during May the first outdoor activity was held — namely a ship inspection of the Adelaide SS Co vessel MANUNDA.

Monthly meetings continued throughout 1956 and the 12th meeting held on 5/2/1957 was in the form of a social occasion held at the Gladesville home of Arthur Corkill. Membership had now passed 20 and plans were formulated to constitute a WSS branch based in Sydney and this took place at a meeting held on 20 July 1957. One of the anomalies here was the name that the Branch operated under. Instead of Sydney it was known as the NSW Branch, due to the adoption of the UK style constitution and its interpretation of boundaries between neighbouring branches which of course in the UK were relatively close. In order to overcome this it was decided on the name NSW Branch which meant anyone living within the state borders was eligible to join. If Sydney had been used then technically membership was limited to within the boundaries of the city itself.

By early 1958 meetings had changed to the third Thursday of the month (as they are today) and were held at the North Sydney Council Chambers, on the corner of Miller and McLaren Streets, North Sydney. Meetings were held there till the building was gutted by a fire in April 1976. This caused a move to the Blues Point Community Hall, which was the venue until December 1995. From the January 1996 our present venue at the Roseville Uniting Church complex has been used. At the first AGM held on 17 July 1958 it was reported that Branch membership stood at 28 and joining in that year were three gentlemen who are still members today namely, Ken Lunney, Stan Welch and John Burne with the latter still a regular attendee at our monthly meetings. John has been a contributor in many ways to the Branch over this time. As he worked on the harbour he commenced giving a monthly round-up of local shipping news at each meeting, and this developed from September 1966 into the monthly Branch Newsletter which continues to this day, though the production techniques have changed considerably from the original spirit duplicator and Gestetner printed issues. Under the editorship of various members over the past 40 years the Newsletter has become a valuable reference to events in Sydney Harbour – a harbour that has now almost ceased to exist as a commercial shipping port.

The Branch has met continuously each month since July 1957 – a total of 600 meetings. During that time I would estimate around 600 people have been members of the NSW Branch at one stage or another. Today we have a mixed membership of full, senior and newsletter subscribers totalling 125 which considering the upheavals in the shipping scene in those 50 years plus the virtual demise of Sydney Harbour (Port Jackson) as a place to see ships is not a bad end result. I am led to understand that the NSW Branch is the largest as regards full members (ie those that receive Marine News in the WSS at present. We are certainly the largest of the five Australian branches in this regard though Victoria (Melbourne) is larger in overall member numbers.

The membership numbers of the NSW Branch grew steadily throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s and by 1981 it had passed 200, with 60 being the average attendance for monthly meetings, some meetings attracting attendances approaching 100. Outside activities also blossomed, with an annual harbour cruise each February which saw larger and larger vessels employed as it grew in popularity. Visits to ships (both merchant and naval) were another big activity as well as outings to various maritime facilities and landmarks dotted around Sydney Harbour.

There were also outings to places further afield, including a number of memorable “bus cruises” to Port Kembla or Newcastle. A cruise to Brisbane aboard P&O’s HIMALAYA in June 1972 saw us dabble for a while in this financially lucrative activity and this was followed over the ensuing years by day trips to Newcastle aboard the same companies’ ARCADIA and ORIANA. The Branch also organised (under the direction of the late Bruce Miller) a South Pacific cruise on ORIANA in February 1986 just prior to its retirement. These were well supported activities that kept the branch financially healthy and allowed the membership fees to be kept at a reasonable level. Unfortunately for us all the transactions to the UK had to be done in sterling and since the 1990’s the gap between the two currencies has continued to widen to the disadvantage of the Australian dollar and this has led to higher membership fees as outside activities dwindled and our revenue base began to shrink.

The 1980’s were the “golden years” of the NSW Branch when membership and activities peaked but for the past 15 years we have been in decline. This can be attributed to a number of factors, the major one being the many changes that have ocurred to shipping over the past 30 years (especially) with the traditional cargo liner replaced by containerships, bulk carriers, car carriers etc which to many peoples eyes are ugly monstrosities hardly worth a second glance. The de-nationalisation of world shipping which saw the demise of many well known shipowners to be replaced by a bewildering collection of flags of convenience (FOC) charters has not helped. To many of the older members these changes were too much and with the need to increase membership fees many just lost interest and did not renew.

The present decade has brought new challenges as the world has become wary of anyone who shows an interest in anything that could be construed as against the national interest and this has made the watching, noting or photgraphing of ships in some parts of the world fraught with problems. Although still reasonaly accessible in Australia, many local ports that one could just stroll around are now fenced off with security posts and have become in effect walled enclaves that to enter one has to go through a series of security checks, etc, and you wonder if it’s worth all the hassles and questioning just to note down or photograph a ship that has not been seen before. The once popular ship visits are also becoming a memory for much the same reasons as above.

Our one big failure has been to attract and keep as members the younger generations. The world has changed considerably since 1957 especially in the communications field where the advent of the internet has to some extent made the concept of the World Ship Society redundant. This is a problem shared by most branches worldwide and although new members continue to join they are usually in the + 50 age range – the youngest members of the NSW Branch are now in their 40’s but joined back in the late 1970’s when still at school. Others in this group unfortunately did not continue their memberships once leaving school and we have had few successes in attracting younger people to our cause and then actually retaining them as members.

What the future holds is like crystal ball gazing. At the last WSS – AGM, held in Dover, UK, in May 2007, the report on membership was far from encouraging with a large loss in members recorded over the past two years and it has now reached a stage where the overseas membership numbers almost equal those of UK based members whereas previously there was quite a difference between the two, with the UK well in front. It was also stressed that attracting younger members was probably the biggest challenge we face if the WSS is to survive the coming decades.

Anyway whatever the outcome I for one have thoroughly enjoyed my 38-year association with the NSW branch and hope all who attend our 50th anniversary luncheon aboard SOUTH STEYNE, itself once an integral part of the Sydney harbour scene that has sustained our branch for the 50 years, have an enjoyable time celebrating this event.