top of page
  • Writer's pictureBill Manning

Three sailors who have passed away

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Billy Burrows

Billy Burrows owned a 40 foot boat named Wombat. Now for the non Australians a Wombat is about the size of a small dog and it lives in burrows, Billy Burrows get it!

Now Billy liked to take his Christmas break up in Yeoman's Bay, in a marine park about 20 nautical miles north of Sydney Harbour. His regular crew were his wife and a large poodle. The boat Wombat (40 foot) was usually moored on the western shore of the bay, bow out, with a stern line ashore. To help his morning chores he habitually rigged a plank on the stern so the dog could go ashore for his ablutions. Of an evening he would raise the plank to an upright position with the boom topping lift attached to the outboard end.

On this particular pristine morning Bill was up and out of his bunk early. His wife was cooking breakfast in the galley which was located by the main hatch. The dog was by now eager to get ashore after spending the night aboard and was very active at the stern waiting for Billy to lower the plank. Billy, as was his habit, lowered the plank ashore. The dog brushed past Billy in his eagerness to go ashore. As soon as he was ashore he went to the nearest tree to do his business.

Now unfortunately for Billy as the dog finished his business he spied next to him a 2 meter goanna looking at him. The dog barked and rounded on the goanna. The goanna looked for an escape and found it across the plank and onto the Wombat. As it ran across the cockpit it was seen by Mrs Burrows who let out a very loud scream. It ran past Mrs Burrows going down into the galley, through the main cabin and up the forward hatch. The dog followed the goanna, adding to the commotion, barking and attempting to catch it. The dog then treed the goanna up the mast. Billy in the meantime he firstly had to attend to his wife who almost had a heart attack and had to be calmed down and rested. He then turned his attention to the dog barking and the goanna. The dog was proving more difficult to handle than the goanna. He eventually decided that he had to put the dog in the dinghy, row it across the bay, tie it to a tree and return to the boat. He did this. Mrs Burrows was not moving from her bunk until the goanna was off the boat.

The best Billy could do was to come below in the boat until the goanna found its own way ashore the same way it came aboard. This took an hour. Billy then had to row across the bay and retrieve the dog.

It was a lost morning to forget as Mrs Burrows was in no mood to provide breakfast!


Arthur Byrne

Arthur earned his money through Byrne and Davidson Ltd and their product which went world wide, marketing Roller Doors (known as B&D). In the beginning Gordon Ingate through Rigby Jones Pty Ltd, Sheet Metal jobbers made the first prototype for Arthur but turned down an offer to continue to manufacture them, but that is another story. Arthur owned a 49 foot Sparkman & Stevens sloop called Salacia 2. He kept it in immaculate condition. If any work on the yacht had to be done Arthur would phone the CYC (boatshed) and ask the manager to provide the keys to So and So at what time and specifying the nature of the work to be done.

Enter the so called villain in this story. The youngish man with a foreign accent came down to the CYC to reconnoitre the boats at the marina with 170 plus boats. He was struck by Salacia 2. It had beautiful lines and was obviously very well kept. He then went to the marina office and borrowed the keys to Salacia, and went aboard. After a good look around on deck and below he left the club without returning the keys to the boat.

The marina manager knew Arthur very well and noting the missing keys and the fact that Arthur had not phoned him, phoned Arthur to report the incident. Arthur immediately sprang into action and organised the club boatshed staff, the Police and the Water Police to be at the club that night incase the intruder returned to the boat. Arthur had his team located, hiding but covering all the accesses to the boat. Come 2am Arthur decided that that was enough and he was about to call it a night when the intruder appeared. They allowed him to board the Salacia and open the hatch. That was enough to prosecute him so Arthur sounded the alarm and the team went into action. They chased him up the marina and into the boatyard. He then climbed a drainpipe and into a window. He stepped onto a bed by the window where a club stalwart David Good was sleeping. There was a great commotion as a startled David woke up and captured the intruder. The Police took him into custody.

Then came the trial before a magistrate a week later. A pumped up Arthur was sitting in the front row next to his solicitor. At the trial it was revealed that the intruder was a homesick Frenchman, broke and wanting to return to France. He had planned to steal a boat and sail to New Caledonia and then be repatriated to France. That was his story anyway.

The magistrate then asked the Frenchman why had he picked Salacia of all the boats on the marina. His reply was

“Sir when you see a good looking boat it is like seeing a good looking woman, with beautiful curves and very seductive”.

Upon hearing this description of his boat Arthur stood up immediately, and said to the court

“enough let him go, I no longer wish to prosecute this man”.

The man was then allowed to leave the court.


Richard Arthur (Dicko) Dickson

There are many stories about Dicko Dickson this is but one of them. Dicko was a big man weighing in at 140 kilos. He was chairman of several Public Companies and Commodore of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. He had 3 sons and a daughter. He was the owner of an 8 meter yacht Norske.

I had the good fortune to sail with Dicko and his son Bruce for several years in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He was a leader of men as testified by his long serving crew on the Norske.

Sailing on the Norske was always an adventure. A crew member Mark Ross sailed on Norske for many years but never saw a spinnaker set. The reason was that he manned the bilge pump down below, he was pumping the boat at the end of the on-a-wind leg. The Norske sure did leak on the way to a windward mark.

We were sailing on Sydney Harbour in a good 15 to 18 knot south east breeze, hard on a wind going to the Shark Island mark to starboard. It was touch and go as to the Norske being able to lay

the mark. Dicko was on the helm and son Bruce was on the bow calling the mark.

“Up a bit Dad”

came the call,

“your OK on the mark”

called Bruce. At about 2 boat lengths from the mark Bruce called to the helmsman

“pull away”

and then the message was drowned out by Dicko. On getting this message Dicko swung the tiller back over his head and stretched flat out on his back such that the maximum rudder angle was reached and the boat turned in a very tight swerve. Dicko was herd to say while doing this manoeuvre

“I hate these pansy pull aways”.

It was unfortunate that Dicko did not hear the rest of Bruces message which in full was

“Pull away a bit Dad”.

It was then Dicko saw something coming down the port side.

“What is that Freedy”

(John Freedman).

“That is the mark Boss”

was the reply from Freedy. (At this stage I should note that the mark should have been on the starboard side of the boat. It meant that the Norske must go back and round the mark leaving it to starboard a procedure which took approximately 2 to 2.5 minutes to complete.) Well if Dicko could have got out of his seat and if Bruce could have come near enough to hit his Dad it would have been on for young and old.

On another day we were sailing back from the Manly mark in a hard south westerly. With an out-going tide it was our habit to tack into Middle Head and avoid the current. We had as our guest the military aid to the Governor General (who was Sir John Kerr at the time). Well, on this day Dicko went to tack a fraction too late. Attempting to tack we did not make it and we went into irons. (That is when the boat stalls in the tack, stops head to wind, losses way and cannot be steered) We then drifted onto the rocks and there we stayed with an out-going tide. We were wedged onto rocks at the bow but we could not reach the bottom with the spinnaker pole. After about 15 minutes the crew went below got their sailing bags and stepped ashore. Dicko was not going to attempt to go ashore. He sat in the helmsman’s seat with his arms folded. There we were at the bottom of the cliffs at Middle Head.

In a short space of time the Water Police arrived and towed us off the rocks at Middle Head. The Norske does not have an engine. The aid to the Governor General judged the mood of the crew very well. To brighten us up he suggested on the way back to the mooring at the Squadron that we may like to come back to Admiralty House (the Governor General’s residence) and have an afternoon drink. Well this certainly livened the crew, that is except for Dicko knew his crew and the signs of trouble. We put away the boat and had a shower and change of clothes and got into our cars for the 300 metres trip to Admiralty House. The aid noted that the crew were in good spirits and requested we do not do any wheel spins on the gravel drive as we go in the gate. Once in we were asked what would we like to drink.


was the reply. Next came the tray full of dainty cut sandwiches which lasted less than a minute. Barry Russel found Sir John Kerr’s homburg hat and wore it in style. Malcolm Levy phoned his wife for a lift home and explained he did not require dinner. On telling her he was at Admiralty House she called him a liar. We were tipped out at 8pm as the Governor General was due home any minute from an afternoon trip to Leura.

As we always say,

"there is no such thing as a bad day on the Norske.”

414 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All
bottom of page