“Fishing is a delusion entirely surrounded by liars in old clothes” D. Marquis
By Tony Williams
This old expression was given to me for inclusion in my local Laingholm fishing club’s newsletter. It struck a few chords.
After spending some hours one day attempting to lure fish to my rather aged bait, I arrived home, sugar sack bare, to be greeted by my lovely lady and howling cats, both parties expecting fresh fare for the evening meal. Despite my tales of woe regarding ‘those that got away, and ‘if only the hooks were sharper, I was looked upon with definite suspicion.
Now I am not really a liar, but must confess to wearing old clothes and a ‘big one’ did have a go, but did I get sympathy for my efforts? Of course not. So what better place to go than the Fishing Club to get some. There I can discuss piscatorial facts (or fallacies?) over a cool beer. Down there at least I won’t get my ankles shredded by cats!
Clubs are an integral part of New Zealand society. Think about this. From the R.S.A’s and such to the Sporting Clubs, Community Centres, Ladies Clubs, Garden Clubs, Children’s Clubs, Maraes. The list goes on and on. Each little pocket of this country would have some form of community gathering venue would it not?
Auckland’s Manukau Harbour is home to a number of Boating and Fishing Clubs, all of varying ages and histories, all worth mentioning. For this article, I will mention but one.
Nestled on the harbour’s North-western shoreline is the semi-suburban community of Laingholm. This delightful valley haven is only 40 minutes from central Auckland but has a laid-back lifestyle that makes it poles apart from general suburbia. It is divided into two regions being Laingholm Central, which sports the community hall, school and kindergarten and Laingholm Beach, home of the kid’s playground, scout den, store and takeaway (which sells the best fish and chips north of Bombay Hills) and the Laingholm Fishing Club.
Laingholm Fishing Club Gets a Home
The idea of a local fishing club was first mooted after the Second World War and led to a first ‘official’ meeting being held on a seat outside the Laingholm Beach Store. Minutes were taken on the back of a tobacco packet, which invariably ended up in a participating member’s fireplace. The ‘club’ as such had no premises, but a local owned a houseboat which lived (and died) in the Laingholm Creek. This was open to those who wanted a place to store their boating and fishing gear.
Around 1950, a resident procured a property in Auckland City that had a couple of old, unwanted bungalows and suggested that if anyone was keen enough to transport one of them out West, it might make a useful place for the fishermen to have a permanent home of their own.
The Auckland Harbour Board had allotted land on the foreshore for community purposes. They had land to spare, mainly because nobody in their right mind would buy in the area accept wharfies. Did they make a killing! Half acre sections on Laingholm Drive which sold for 50 pounds then now sell for around $70.000.
This road was a little like the original Haast Pass, only shorter. Still, with typical Kiwi grit, and the help of a friendly carrier, the materials arrived but sat for some months until several stalwarts got together, and fortified by a local lady’s scones, built the Laingholm Fishing Club, albeit on the opposite side of the bay from the originally planned site. This is now home to the Laingholm Beach dunny and changing shed.
A Harbour Board levy of fourteen pounds per annum was charged, membership was 2 shillings and 6 pence (half a crown for we who remember) and 5 pence to enter, providing you were a resident in the area, the store owner, bus or taxi driver and owned a boat.
Laingholm Fishing Club’s Sloping Floor
The floor was littered with paraphernalia that surrounded those who fished the Manukau. Can you imagine a roughly 8 x 10 metre shed crammed with dinghies, outboards, oars, leftover bait, dripping nets, old socks and oilskins? The floor even got in the act by deciding that rather than being level, it assumed a 5 or so degree slant towards the road just to make life much more interesting, especially during spring tides. Members sat around on beer crates and watched the incoming tide through holes in this floor.
Until local people donated old sofas, chairs and even a piano, this was not the most comfortable place in the world. Yet it was a Club! A place where people could meet. Besides, it solved a major problem. West Auckland was a dry area and to imbibe the nut-brown ale, locals would have to travel to Huapai, some 40 km distant North, or into Auckland City with its inherent problems ie: traffic cops.
As the Club was unlicensed, a locker system was initiated. Now, this technique had its foundations in many clubs throughout New Zealand. The idea was to purchase tickets, which were then exchanged for the right to open up your own personal locker and see what the Tooth Fairy had left you. Worked pretty well too, as no money changed hands for the sale of drinks. The doors were never locked as members would come and go at any old time, day or night, to fish the Manukau.
An honesty box was placed outside and a small fee was charged for the use of facilities. As most had nothing bigger than a pram dinghy or small clinker-built, the official limits for Club competitions finished at Puponga Point to the south-west and an area known as The Horseshoe to the south-east. People did venture beyond these boundaries but were considered certifiable. This harbour is well known for its currents, rips and changeable weather. To attempt a run over the bar was deemed the ultimate form of insanity! Research has shown that some tried and succeeded, others failed but fortunately survived.
To Promote and Foster the Recreational Aspects of Fishing and Boating
In 1976, the Club became incorporated, with a constitution written up to (1) ‘promote and foster the recreational aspects of fishing and boating in the general area of the Manukau Harbour‘ and (2) ‘provide and maintain a Clubhouse, launching facilities and amenities in connection with fishing and boating etc.
President, Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer and a Committee were elected. Much to the chagrin of some local residents, the ‘inner sanctum’ of the Club remained a mystery for many years. Membership was not an easy thing to gain. Some believed it to be the local chapter of a gang, as Harley Davidson motorcycles were seen outside and furtive, leather-clad figures were observed coming and going at strange hours.
The reputation was not good. Comments like ‘just another booze barn’ or ‘those jokers don’t do any fishing’ were finally laid to rest in 1994 due to two events.
Firstly, a Club newsletter was produced and published in the local paper ‘The Roundabout.’
Secondly, and most importantly, following the funeral of a Life Member, the Club doors were opened for the local residents. To their surprise they found the Club walls adorned with photos, competition shields, and shelves full of trophies, in the main relating to fishing! Of course, there was evidence of the social side. The Club has a bar and pool tables for starters, but all who attended left with a very different concept of what this rather unique Club is about.
Most were astounded to learn that donations to other community organisations and projects were from this source.
People sit, viewing Laingholm Bay while enjoying their fish and chips, not realising that funds towards providing the tables they occupy came from THAT building on the foreshore.
This is only part of the story of the Laingholm Fishing Club. Many other tales lurk untold and would fill many pages. Most are good, most fact, some fiction, few are bad.
As the rules of society have changed, so has this Club. Not dramatically, but trends dictate. It now holds a bar licence, is affiliated with the N.Z Angling and Casting Association, holds regular fishing contests, has a gamefish weigh-in gantry, provides food, and darts are the most dangerous game that can be played due to the position of the board.
Visiting clubs look forward to returning. Harley Davidsons can still be seen outside. And it still has a floor that slopes, barely tolerating the weight of two pool tables and a good crowd.
In the not too distant future, internal additions will create more room and this Club must change further. It is not unique for the fact that it is a place for people to meet but unique for the people who meet in it. Without them, and liars in old clothes.