SSAA Illawarra History
The Illawarra Branch started life as a group of keen shooters meeting at Tuloch McPhail’s property in West Dapto, a few blokes shooting in a paddock. It was a very social and family-orientated group of people. As word spread and numbers grew, Jim Rook from the Sydney Branch assisted the locals to form the Illawarra SSAA in 1964.
The first committee was made up of local legends. People such as Doug Watchorn, Col Payne, Tuloch McPhail, Les Eccles, Alois Ambs, Campbell Greig, Roy Potter and Ronny Reed. The meetings were held at the Dapto Hotel with the publican, Jack Duggan, being the patron. This was a most satisfying relationship, with Jack providing fuel for thought and staff earning overtime to service the needs of the committee.
By now the first range was deemed to be inadequate for the needs of the growing membership and a second range was acquired. Voluntary work commenced to build the six benches out to 200 yards. This range was officially opened by Jim Rook with his .22 Varminter.
It was not long before a third range was sought and land was leased from Jack Hayes. The land was ideal but there were two small hitches - a large creek and no road. The angel of sporting shooters must have been looking out for this dedicated band of people. Through what can only be deemed a miracle, four lamp posts and many boards appeared near the creek. Construction of the bridge began.
The facilities at the range grew to include 12 benches, barbecue facilities, and to entice the ladies to partake in this sport, amenities were built. Trees were fine for the males of the club, but the fairer sex did require a little more privacy. Remember, that was in the days when families did things together!
The club was strong in membership, funds, sport, talent and social activities for entire families. Many semi-formal social gatherings were held at the Master Builders Club in Wollongong, the only venue large enough to accommodate the number of shooters wishing to attend. Our current National President, Bill Shelton, was a regular at these gatherings.
The club had facilities to enjoy shooting in all disciplines - turning targets for pistols, rimfire, muzzle loading, lever action and shotgun.
During this peak period of the club, several female members, including Margaret Lowry, Jan Payne, Anne Watchorn, Rosemarie Ambs and Marie Greig, to name but a few, provided all the refreshments in the after-competition socials. These women not only competed, but supervised children and husbands while cooking up a storm. A truly amazing bunch of sporting shooters!
The branch went through many changes throughout the eighties and nineties.In April 1998 a meeting was held in Wollongong Town Hall. Around 200 people turned up to voice their support for the branch.
In those days Bill Shelton, David Cook, Ned McIntosh, Bob Findlay and Brian Nubley formed the Executive. Other long serving members such as Alois Ambs, Col Payne, Clyde MacDonald, Barry Wooton, Lex Whelham, Ian Garling, Al Cartwright, Chad Peterson and Alan Batey were also members of the committee.
With such a driving force, the branch was soon holding regular competitions in long arms and also shotgun, with their monthly meetings being held at the Illawarra Gun Club.
Throughout the past presidencies of Barry Wooton, Lex Welham and the current leadership from Alois Ambs, the club has continued to grow and strengthen.
The meeting are now held at the Kemblwarra Portuguese Club and we now run two competitions each month. One in Rimfire and the other for Centrefire, with lots of variety in the disciplines such as field rifle, benchrest, silhouette, service rifle, to name a few.
These competitions are held at the Illawarra pistol Club, Bass Point and the Southern Highlands Regional Shooting Complex at Hilltop.
Over the course of the year no less than four general meetings are held. It is our intention to bring information to the members that will be of interest to the sport. Past meetings have dealt with scope mounting, knife skills, butchering, map reading etc.
Once again, as in the beginning, the branch is seeking to have its own range. It is a slow process dealing with councils, architects and engineers let alone to secure enough funding to build a modern indoor range, but with the dedication and tenacity of the members , assistance from the State and National body of SSAA, it will eventuate