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THE SILVER JUBILEE OF THE CAURNIE ANGLING CLUB 1925 – 1950

---The following document by an unknown author has been passed down through the Club’s Committee---

– Roger Hughes, Secretary 2006

 

 
 

The Caurnie Angling Club, Kirkintilloch, founded on May 9th 1925, will celebrate its Silver Jubilee at the Club’s annual social evening on Jan 5th.
Several of its founder members will be present, men who are justly proud of the progress the Club has made since its humble beginnings in the hard-up twenties.
The handful who first discussed the idea, reckoned it was high-time Kirkintilloch had an angling club. After all, their forefathers had whipped the waters of Dunbartonshire and Stirlingshire for generations past. But even they were surprised at the enthusiasm they encountered. In no time at all 122 local men had forked out a shilling each to become Caurnie’s first members.

The General Strike, in 1926, gave them, if anything, far too much time for fishing. The Club had no home water. Few could afford the expense of outings to distant waters. But no man ever sat at home on that account. Those who were ‘flush’, gave generously and showed they had in their breasts the true spirit of Izaak Walton.
The Club fished Loch Ard, the Corrie Dam, Banton Loch, the Forth, the Kelty, the Endrick, the Clyde, the Teith, Blackwater and the Isla. And right heartily were they welcomed wherever they turned up with their rods and their creels.
We hear much today of the good old days, when anglers were fewer, travel was more difficult, the poachers took only what they needed for the pot. Our streams and lochs, then, it would seem, were chockful of fish.

Yet the Caurnie Anglers, despite their high reputation, enjoyed many a day of lean sport. Four outings, which took place within the months of 1927 are worthy of more mention. They are described thus: ‘No fish – failure’. ‘No fish – but lots lost’. ‘No fish – but had a great time’, and ‘No fish – worst ever – couldny fish’. Against this on two separate occasions total baskets of over 50 lbs of trout were returned. Did they worry? Not a bit of it. Nor did the committee lose any sleep if any particular outing resulted in a financial loss. The fishing was the thing that counted. They didn’t give two shakes of a trout’s tail for mercenary matters. A deficit of 9/- on one occasion is recorded as ‘very good’. A profit of 2/- made from a Club social evening is described as ‘very gratifying indeed’.

However, when they DID get money through their hands, they certainly knew best how to spend it. 10/- profit was made from one venture. The committee immediately ordered one bottle of port, cost 5/6 to fill the Champions Cup.
On competition outings, there were always prizes to be fished for, so the ability of the more skilful anglers might be recognised. And what prizes!
For ¼ lb of fish in 1928, (a fourth prize) – 100 cigarettes.
For 3oz of trout, (a sixth prize) – 2lbs of tea.
For 1lb of trout – a roast from local butcher Tom MacDonald.
For 2lbs of trout – a canteen of cutlery.

It happened once when funds were low, that there were not sufficient prizes to offer at the next competition. Were they stumped? Not they. It is solemnly recorded in the annals of the club that the members of the committee themselves resolved ‘to work the town’. How successful they were in this effort can be judged from the next list of prizes. It includes an astonishing item – a half-a-ton of coal. And, believe it or not, it was won with 2 1/2 lbs of trout, caught on the River Blackwater by a Junior Member. Small wonder that the day came when a rule was passed that any Junior winning a competition should automatically become a Senior.
Later for an outing on the same river, response to an appeal for prizes was so good that 14 entrants (8 men and 6 boys) fished for 13 prizes. Every boy got a prize and 7 out of the 8 men. It seems a pity there was no ‘booby’ for the sake of the odd man out.
They were fearless men, the founders of the Caurnie Anglers. In 1928 they wrote to the Railway Company asking if it would be all right if members continued to use the previous year’s season tickets until they could get up-to-date ones. The Railway Company thought this was stretching things just a bit too far.
Throughout the years there was one question that continually irked Kirkintilloch anglers. They had to jaunt around fishing their competitions wherever permission could be obtained. Yet they were barred from their own Town Council water supply – Antermony Loch.
The question was first raised in 1927 and an unsuccessful approach was made to the Council. In 1933 the Council took the initiative and wrote offering the lease of Antermony Loch on certain terms. These terms, the Club was reluctant to accept, and the opportunity was lost.
In 1937 another attempt was made to rent the Council water, but there were still difficulties in the way. In order to get a fishing water within easy access of Kirkintilloch, the Secretary in 1940 began negotiations for the fishing of the Glorat Waters, from Sir George Stirling of Milton of Campsie. Much good sport was had from these waters until the end of 1944, when they were given up on account of the ever-increasing trouble which was being experienced from weeds and poachers.
By this time however, the members of the Caurnie Angling Club had achieved their desire and were in sole possession of the fishing rights of Antermony Loch. Co-operation from the Town Council had enabled the opening ceremony to take place at the loch-side before a good turn-out on April 10th 1943.
The event was blessed by the presence of Council officials and that of the Rev. D. McMath, who has taken an active interest in the Club since the day of its first meeting.
The first fish caught in the loch was a pike. Not perhaps a happy omen. Later in the season another – a female weighing 33 lbs – was taken in the nets. It spawned when it was taken into the boat – just too late for its family to prey on the trout.

Their days of roaming over, the members settled down to a happy period of fishing their own loch. A completely new constitution was drawn up. New rules and regulations had to be formulated. A great deal of hard work went into the business of reorganisation. There was plenty to do, and never any lack of volunteers.
In the last few years more than £500 has been spent by the committee on boats, boat-house, nets, traps and all the other paraphernalia required to make the facilities as near perfect as possible.
£740/10/- has been spent on 21,000 trout (7000 fry, 5000 yearlings and 9000 two-year-olds). Nearly all were put into Antermony Loch. (Note from Roger Hughes - along with Antermony, the Club also leased Woodburn Reservoir, up the hill).
There are members who maintain that all these fish must still be there, for nobody ever catches them. But they mustn’t be taken too seriously.
In the last five years, 3,200 trout have been caught in the loch, 11,680 perch, and just over 1,000 pike of which only two were taken last year. It is thought that few pike remain. The biggest trout taken in that time – a 6 pounder – was landed by Mr. R. Stevenston last summer.
Membership of the Club has now had to be limited to 150 members who pay £1 each, compared to the shilling of 1926. And there’s aye plenty on the waiting lists. Twenty juveniles are also permitted. Applications for membership come from people who live many miles away, but local men always get first preference.
To-day the Caurnie Angling Club of Kirkintilloch is in a healthy state. There are hundreds – nay thousands of trout in the loch. The equipment for the most part has been well looked after, and is in good order.
Credit for all that has been done must go to many. Certainly the original members who started what might never have been begun.
It would be invidious to name only a few of those whose efforts enable the club to look forward to the good prospects of season 1951. Some gave money – gave lavishly when the need arose. Some donated cups to be fished for annually. Some gave of their sweat and laboured over the jobs that benefit so many, but so few like to do. Some gave of their time, to work out the plan by which every member of the 150 has the exclusive right to one of the Club’s four boats for one day during each of the four different periods of the fishing season. No easy task.
But every man who has striven on behalf of the Caurnie Anglers has his own reward in the knowledge that he has helped his fellow men of Kirkintilloch to the further enjoymrnt of their beloved sport.

Long may their rods arc to the spring of fighting trout.


Roger Hughes, the current Secretary, takes up the tale:-
They say that, ‘History is the lies of the winners’. Well I’m a fisherman, so I am expected to be ‘economical with the truth’, and in my prime I won a few of the Club’s competitions; therefore you are perfectly entitled to read the following, which is my version of the Club’s recent history, with a sceptical eye. Anyway it’s not really a history, its more a series of random recollections.
If you have information or anecdotes, which can flesh out the Club’s history please let me know? In particular I would like to be able to complete the lists of the Club’s Office Bearers, we owe a lot to these men and they should be remembered.

Since contacting several of our senior members, some information has been forthcoming. Peter Comrie and Jim More provided old Membership Cards, which gives information on Office Bearers, subscriptions and rules. Dave Thomson provided some ‘tall tales’, and Dr. David Primrose, who joined the Club in 1962 and who, along with the Rev. Willy McLeod, has been one of our auditors since 1967, has taken the trouble to search the archives of the William Patrick Library. He has produced several leads to follow up and amongst his findings are the following:
In 1927 a competition was cancelled because of the ‘depression’.
James Tennant was President for 18 years from 1947 to1965.
James Craig started his Presidency in 1965.
Jackie Stewart was President from 1980 to his death in 2002.
In the early days the only ‘lures’ permitted were, ‘artificial flies and minnows’.

I joined the Club in 1973, having applied, waited and having been vetted at an interview, for my suitability to be a member; membership cost £5. Names of previously active Club officers I heard mentioned, were Jimmy Craig, Jim Forsythe and Ian Cooper. I was elected to the Committee in 1977. The Committee met in a wee room upstairs in the Co-operative hall, at Broadcroft, on what is now the Kirkintilloch by-pass.

In my early days on the Committee, the then Treasurer, Joe Perkins used to organise fishing outings. I only went on a few of these, but I gather from the then Secretary Harry Miller, that my experience was typical. We started off very early and were driven in a mini-bus to a loch or river. The President and his cronies would commandeer any boats, leaving the rest of us to our own devices. We would fish happily till it was time to return and then would go to the nearest town or village for a refreshment. When it was time to leave, the search of the town’s inns, pubs and hotels would begin, looking for errant anglers. This was a self-defeating strategy, because as the search party grew larger, those who had been searching longest felt they needed a ‘quick half’ to sustain themselves and so became detached from the search party, requiring the search party to return to the establishment where they last seen. The search of the hostelries in quite a small village could take a long time, and usually was only successful when alcoholic exhaustion set in.
On one trip I was on, to an exclusive fly-only loch in Galloway, the bus-driver returned to bus, with a sack containing 23 brownies caught on the diving minnow. To Caurnie members in those days, rules were elastic and subject to interpretation. I remember our late President Jacky Stewart, in the 1980’s arguing that fly and maggot was alright on the fly-only Antermony Loch. In the Club’s boat shed, there is still a small plastic dinghy that for years was kept in Jacky’s garden, filled with water and minnows for bait.
At this time a ladies angling club, the ‘Invicta’ club, were given the use of the club’s boats, free for one day a year, and a Club committee member brought them to the jetty, bailed them out, put in the oars, and put them away at night. Thank God for women’s lib.

David Primrose remembers AGMs being held under gaslight in big hall. He reminded me of the perennial debates about bait fishing & spinning, which usually started off with a proposal to allow fishing with worms. This was followed by a number of amendment proposals, such as ‘only after June’ or ‘only when bank fishing’, or ‘only for pensioners’, or ‘only for Juniors, etc, etc until there were half-a-dozen amendments which were discussed round and round in circles, until someone proposed ‘status quo’ and this was always carried, to the great relief of all, otherwise meetings would have lasted all night. Generally the Committee was elected ‘en bloc’, with new members being drafted in to fill ‘dead men’s shoes’.

David also recalls the attempt by Ian Cooper to breed our own fish, which was heavily dependent on the efforts of a small number of members who attended the hatchery, built up near Woodburn, on a daily basis. Remnants of these efforts can still be found.

The Club held the lease of Antermony Loch and Woodburn Reservoir from Mid-Scotland Water Board. We had four wooden clinker boats and stocked annually with several thousand 6 inch brown trout, letting them grow on to taking size, which was I believe 8 inches. Spinning was permitted throughout the year on Woodburn and until the end of April on Antermony. In the early 90’s Woodburn was drained because of fears for the integrity of its dam. For every trout caught on Antermony, you usually caught two perch. This persisted until the late 70’s when Errol Burchell mounted a one-man crusade against the perch, netting over 15,000 in one season, which he sold to a course fishery at Kilsyth. From the proceeds he bought 200 rainbow trout, which were introduced into Antermony. This policy of stocking with a small number of rainbows in the summer dog-days continues to today. Over the years the stocking policy has changed from stocking fish below taking size, to grow on; stocking nominally at taking size, which resulted in a proportion of fish below taking size; to now, when we stock with about 3000 brownies above taking size at about 12 inches.

Throughout my 30 years on the Committee, by the way I am not unique, other Committee members have longer service, the ethos of the Club has been accessibility to all members of our community. This has been achieved by keeping subscriptions as low as possible, currently £85 - equivalent to five days on a commercial fishery, and to encourage Junior membership, currently 40+, with a subscription of £10. We have also tried to preserve traditional brown trout fishing, which is becoming increasingly rare in Central Scotland, There are two prices to be paid for this, first brown trout cost twice as much as rainbow trout, secondly, many new members accustomed to rainbow fishing have difficulty in adjusting to the reluctance of brown trout to be easily caught and so after their first season, leave the club to go back to easier fishing on commercial fisheries. When questioned they usually say there are no fish in the loch. This is easily disproved by visiting the loch on a calm summer evening and watching the ‘evening rise’. You would believe that you could walk across the loch on the backs of the rising fish.

For most of its existence Antermony has been a feeder reservoir for Woodburn, which was high enough to supply Kirkintilloch with its drinking water. As Woodburn emptied in the summer, water was pumped up to it from Antermony. In very dry summers this resulted in the level in Antermony dropping by several feet, reducing its area by about half. Now that Antermony is no longer used for this, the Stank to the east of Boat-House Bay, usually shows 3 courses of brick throughout the year. In one dry summer I remember counting 21 courses, about 6 feet. Although at the time we moaned about losing so much water, in retrospect, it was probably beneficial by preventing the build up of nutrients, which have caused the loch to become eutrophic, with major algal blooms.

Over the years the Club has been blessed with many characters who have enlivened proceedings. For most of my membership, Jacky Stewart was President and the heart of the Club. He was so valued that when he lost the place a bit, due to age and failing eye-sight, we had no hesitation in declaring him Honorary Life-President and electing a Chairman to conduct the routine club business. Jacky, was a Foreman Moulder at the foundry (look at the base of one of the old red phone boxes, if it says Kirkintilloch, Jacky made the mould for it); he lived for fishing; he never learned to drive but managed to fish all over Scotland by cadging lifts; he fished with nylon as thick as rope and a line twice as old as himself; he never stopped talking during competitions – you could hear him all over the loch. Even in his 80’s, when he was virtually blind, he attended work parties, acting as an interfering, unnecessary and even now, 4 years after his death, still a much missed foreman. Davy Thomson tells the story of taking Jacky, who by this time was virtually blind, over to the loch, because Jacky was concerned that ‘somethings no right with the watter.’ Because of Jacky’s failing eyesight, Dave was leading him by the hand as they approached the stile at Cattle Grid Bay. A white van pulled up and the driver shouted ‘f***** poofs everywhere. It must be something to do with the water.’ Jacky only heard the last part of the sentence and shouted, ‘You bet!’
Wattie Nisbett, another foundry man, had a wickedly dry sense of humour. I only once ever saw Wattie at a loss for words. It was in the early 80’s at the Dance and Prize-giving Night, held in the Woodhead Hall. Wattie had won the Summer Cup. Wattie, who did not drink, had asked his wife to buy a bottle of whisky to put in the cup to be passed round. Normally whisky from a trophy cup is barely drinkable, usually cheap stuff tasting of silver polish. On this occasion it was superb. On asking Wattie if I could have another ‘wee sensation’, which was graciously permitted, I enquired about the whisky. Wattie reluctantly told me that it was Royal Salute, which cost £28 for the bottle, a fortune in those days. His wife, who was not a whisky drinker, bought it because she liked the velvet bag that the bottle came in! Needless to say I sat next to Wattie for much of that night.
It was a delight to watch him fish the bank, very close in with so little disturbance it was like watching a heron. I remember when his ashes were to be scattered on the loch. In the event it was decided to sink the box containing the ashes. However when the time came, Walter floated. Awkward to the last. A few large chuckies soon sorted him out! I still have one of Watties favourite rods a 9ft Marco (American Arms Company) and his landing net. Both Wattie and Jacky utilised their foundry skills to make folding landing net mechanisms and several of our members are still using them.
Willy Grant a local optician: puffing on his pipe at committee meetings, in those days we all smoked. It was so bad you couldn’t see the people at the back of the room. Regularly someone would bemoan the lack of fish in the loch. There would be silence as we all sat and waited for Willy to slowly remove his pipe and say, ‘There’s plenty of fish, it’s just that YOU canna f*******g catch ‘em ’.
There are many more, all of whom have left some of their character in the Club and I’ve no doubt that we will remember some of our current members in the same way.

The ‘Silver Jubilee’ piece mentioned the dreaded ‘Boat Plan’; by my time, membership had grown to 196, there being 196 days in the trout season, with the club’s four boats, each member could have a different boat pre-booked on four days in the season, one in the first quarter of the season, one in the second etc. This was accomplished at a committee meeting and involved having a slip of paper for each member and a calendar with four columns per day. There followed an immensely complicated and prolonged procedure, which inevitably resulted in several members being booked on the same boat on the same day. Fortunately we have abandoned this system and now leave it to the Membership Secretary to work out the boat plan. I believe he visits a witch-doctor.

Throughout the years, the Club has maintained its boats, buildings and fishing by the goodwill of the members who make up the Work Parties. The work party traditionally get together at the loch on Sunday mornings in January, February and March before the season opens and on stocking days. Rarely do more than a dozen members attend and until recently it was all they could do to repair and maintain the six wooden clinker boats. A few years ago, however, we entered the twenty-first century by buying six 13 foot fibreglass boats, each costing £1700. These have transformed the work parties. Maintenance is minimal, giving members more time to attend to lochside vegetation control and paths. Currently we are installing wooden tracks in the boggy bits. We have also benefited from assistance of teams from the Community Service Unit of the Council, who have done a great job of maintaining the ground around the boat house and jetty, building paths, steps and even a bridge over the burn. They cut back some of the mature trees and put up bird and bat boxes. Along with competitions I find the work parties particularly enjoyable, because our sport tends to be a solitary pursuit and these give us an opportunity to meet and blether with fellow members. A tradition has developed, thanks to Iain Black, at the final Work Party before the season starts, of providing pies and Bucks Fizz to toast the new season. Inevitably Iain buys too many pies and so the Pie Ceremony becomes a Pie Orgy, with some members gorging themselves on half-a-dozen or more pies soaked in brown sauce.

The Club runs seven competitions for Members at Antermony; the Spring Cup, the Brown Shield, the Jewart Cup, the Summer Cup, the Brown Cup, the Autumn Cup and the Junior Cup. In addition, the Club Champion is determined by points gained fishing the competitions, and the Cafaro Trophy is awarded for the heaviest fish caught in the competitions. The Club Champion represents the Club in the SANA National Championship Competitions and the next three positions represent the Club in the SANA National Team Competitions.
The Club competitions take place monthly and are fished from the bank. They are characterised by good natured banter and mickey-taking, masking fierce rivalry between the two or three competent anglers, who are desperately trying to win, while the rest of us just cast and hope and wander about having a natter.
The trophies and prizes for the competitions are awarded at the annual Prize Night, usually on the last Wednesday in March, before the season opens on the 15th. We used to present the prizes at the annual Dance held in the winter, but support for this fell away to such an extent that it was abandoned in the 90’s. The Prize Night is similar to an old fashioned ‘Smoker’, with various things to occupy the attendees, a bar, quizzes, a bar, raffles, a bar, demonstrations such as fly tying, a bar, and videos or DVDs and a bar. Very popular are the videos and DVDs made by Robert Malcolm, which contain films of Caurnie doings over the past 40 years. If you can get hold of one of these, you will find it a delight. Robert also runs the Club website, www.antermony.com. Towards the end of the evening the congregation usually ends up in small groups drinking whisky and telling tall tales of deeds done and to be done and criticising the Committee.

As the years progressed, the Club saw a succession of water-boards transferring ownership and our lease, until the late 90’s when the East of Scotland water Board wanted to sell the loch, but only to a local authority. East Dunbartonshire Council led by a local Councillor stepped in and bought the loch, giving the Club a ten year lease, due to expire in 2008. In 2005, a recommendation was put to the Council to sell the loch on the open market. Several commercial groups expressed interest in buying Antermony, but the Club mounted a strong defence, which drew support from many quarters, including councillors, MPs and MSPs. This culminated in a visit to the loch by the Council Committee making the decision. They made no pretence of their surprise at the scenic beauty of the loch and the work carried out by the Club members and others to maintain the loch and its surrounds. As a result the Club has been given a 25 year lease. This will enable us to demolish the derelict pump-house, extend the car-park, to build disabled access and to build a new fishing-hut for members to use. It will also enable the Club to welcome its Centenary at Antermony.

So our future at Antermony now seems assured and it is up to us all to keep on with the work started 80 years ago, when a group of like-minded men decided they wanted to form an angling club. We have inherited this and like them no doubt, we will have problems to face. To start the debate, I believe that there are three issues we should be considering. The first concerns accessibility. We pride ourselves that the Club is accessible to all, but we have very few female members, we don’t discriminate against them, so why don’t more join the Club? Secondly, as the price gap between brown trout and rainbows, continues to increase, can we afford to maintain our Club tradition of stocking with brownies indefinitely? Finally, we all know our loch is eutrophic. How can we increase its vitality?

Roger Hughes 30.9.2006

 

   
       
     
 
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