Flotilla for centenary

RANDALL WALKER
Last updated 12:03 14/02/2013

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Kapiti Observer

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A flotilla of craft will head out to sea off Paekakariki Beach on Monday - about 100 years to the hour that a man drowned there.

Paekakariki Surf Club is organising the commemoration, to honour the event which is credited for starting the club, which this year celebrates its centenary.

Two other men's lives were saved that day, and the New Zealand Railways (NZR) workers who made up a large proportion of the town went on to form the surf lifesaving club.

On February 18, 1913, three NZR employees were fishing in a rowboat about a kilometre off shore in what was described as calm conditions and a steady surf, but a large swell developed and while they were returning to the beach, their boat capsized, said Paekakariki Surf Club treasurer John Hook.

Five colleagues swam out to help, battling heavy surf for 40 minutes in an attempt to rescue the trio.

Two of the men, Frank Malcon and James Guinnane, were rescued, but Walter Francis Pengelly, who had disappeared when the boat capsized, drowned. His body was found two days later.

The death had a big impact on the small community and less than two weeks later, on March 2, a public meeting voted to form a Railway Surf Lifesaving Club.

It was the 10th surf lifesaving club formed in New Zealand, the first "non-metropolitan" club, said Mr Hook.

Meanwhile the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand awarded the five rescuers, John Cross, John Sanderson, Thomas Cairns, James Ashley and James Glascow, a silver medal for their gallantry.

Mr Hook said club membership grew steadily in those early years, and was strong today with about 160 members aged under-14 and about 100 patrolling members. He said it had always been a family-oriented club and this had kept it alive.

To mark the anniversary of Mr Pengelly's drowning, club members will conduct a service at the Beach Rd end of The Parade, followed by a wreath laying at sea with members taking out a flotilla of surf craft at 6.30pm.

The club will celebrate its centenary at Labour Weekend and is also working on a book, expected to be available from August.

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- Kapiti Observer

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