The D&WAA 110th anniversary – the early years
By David Chamberlain
One of the oldest and still active sea angling clubs in Britain is holding its 110th anniversary this year. Formed in 1904, the Deal and District Angling Association comprised of a group of fishers who wished to hold competitions from Deal Pier, the beach and boats. At their first AGM they boasted a membership of 165 and elected Percy Edgar as their chairman. Mr Edgar was also owner of the sprat canning factory at north Deal.
With a growing membership of 217 in 1906 they changed the club’s name to Deal and Walmer Angling Association. The thriving society held many Dinners, Dances, Smoking Lectures and Concerts to raise funds. These were very popular and it was noticed in one of the monthly meetings that the hire of the Royal Marines Band for an event was £3.0s.6d (approx £3.3p). The club had access to a cabin on the pavilion end of the pier where members could bait-up and hang their coats. This was kept clean by the association’s cabin steward. Unfortunately the cabin was destroyed in gales and the anglers had to wait for another to be rebuilt.
By 1911, the membership had exceeded 400 with many of the anglers coming from London and the Home Counties. The amount that were fishing in the angling festivals and competitions warranted the club to request that the South Eastern Railway reduce fares and alter timetables to accommodate their members travelling arrangements. All of the festivals were held as a three day event and 50 boats were recorded as being launched from the beach in the 1911 boat festival. These competitions were not only for the men, the association also held an annual pier festival for women. The women’s event always attracted over 50 female competitors.
Fishing in those days was not as high tech as it is for the modern day angler. Rods were normally made from heavy greenheart wood with pulleys or fragile agate encased top rings. The reels, or winches as they were known by, were also made from walnut. These ‘star back centre-pin reels’ were so called because of the brass framework that held the reel secure to the rod. With thick cutyhunk line the outfit was not meant to be cast any distance. Dropping over the side of the boat or pier would suffice.
During the First World War, membership declined although the association still tried to maintain the clubs function and competitions. In 1916 they put a fishing match on Deal Pier for wounded service men who were convalescing. This was noted as the first of its kind held around the English Coast; and even brought the comments of King George V, expressing his appreciation of the Association’s efforts. As the competition progressed, the invaliding soldiers were inundated with gifts of cigarettes, tobacco, sausage rolls and meat pies. The proprietor of the Clarendon Hotel donated a cask of ginger wine to fortify the men against the chilly northerly wind. Of the 150 men who fished only 43 managed to catch fish, which comprised of dogfish, congers, codling, soles and pouting. The Deal and Walmer Angling Association made sure that all of the competitors won a prize. The winner, Pte Borthwick, with 2lb 13oz was presented with the main prize by Lady Haig and General Neville White.