The History of the 2 Clubs
How the Club(s) started… Late 1920’s…
A few local WW1 veterans loosely called themselves “The Dirty Diggers”.
These vets met in an old hut perched above Freshwater Beach where they talked about the war and the mates that did not return.
A vision was born based on three main objectives the Dirty Diggers (D.D.’s) wanted to achieve:
Look after the widows and kids… “Welfare”.
Remember the service of those mates that were killed… “Ceremonial”.
Support the returned veterans… “Wellbeing”.
Freshwater Beach was becoming extremely popular, especially during the spring and summer where the D.D.’s raised much money by selling hot tea, water, and other cold “refreshments” to support their objectives.
They were involved and supported Anzac Day services held in Soldiers Ave, Freshwater from the 1920's onwards.
The old hut was destroyed by a violent and brutal “black nor’easter” storm in 1932. In 1933 they set up shop in an old shed at the back of the Harbord Hotel (The Hilton) and as their numbers grew, they moved to 34 Moore St Freshwater in 1935.
Two clubs were formed –
The sub-Branch members were “Returned Veterans” only, and was more formal, it met in the Harbord Literary Institute up the road.
The Diggers Club was more social.
New members joined the latter from all over the Northern Beaches and the returned veterans that lived locally joined the RSL sub-Branch. The Diggers Club held sing along every Sunday, borrowing a large piano from a neighbour, Mrs Hughes, who had great delight in watching the merry men struggling to wheel it back to its home, before nightfall.
World War Two (WW2) broke out, during which time both clubs joined forces to support the families of local soldiers serving.
At war’s end thousands of veterans settled on the Beaches, the Diggers club’s membership grew rapidly. About this time the RSL sub-Branch focused on the “Returned Veterans” and the Dirty Diggers focused on the social and wellbeing of all its members.
A new clubhouse was desperately needed for the Diggers Club, so a plan was hatched in 1952.
Beginning of a Great Era in Club Life on the Beaches…
In 1950’s, The Diggers club lobbied to obtain the crown land to build on the site of our current premises in Evans St., which was to all intent and purposes the local garbage tip. The main players in acquiring this unused and unwanted land were, Mr M Campbell, Mr F Evans, Mr S Taylor, and Mr E Madigan, plus others. All these men worked hard, firstly to acquire the land and then eventually build their first “licensed” clubhouse, focussing on members social activities and community wellbeing. All were welcome. Many of the members who were tradesmen, helped built the clubhouse, giving their time and skills to work on it, weekends and after hours, over many years, finally opening its doors in 1957.
The sub-Branch continued to hold its meeting at the Harbord Literary Institute.
To ensure that both clubs remained close, the Diggers club offered the sub-Branch office space in their new clubhouse.
Both clubs also agreed to a reciprocal agreement where new Diggers Club members who were eligible for RSL membership, be encouraged to join the sub-Branch and vice-versa.
Also, each club suppled, three (3) guarantors for needed “Bank Loans”, with these three men holding three positions on each other’s committee.
It worked; the sub-Branch membership grew from about 100 to over a 1,000 in a short space of time. As the Diggers Club continued to grow its membership, it kept pace with new extensions. The Diggers becoming the largest “licensed” club on the Beaches, offering first rate entertainment, and inexpensive, good club meals.
Anzac Day march to the Diggers club from Jacka Park 1964
The sub-Branch organised the Ceremonial events, like Armistice Day and Anzac Day. The sub-Branch members would conduct a service in Jacka Park and then march in their hundreds all the way back to the Diggers where a lunch was supplied by the Club. We now hold our family friendly Anzac Day service from 0800hrs (form up at 0740hrs) at the Harbord Diggers Club's "Ocean Terrace". ALL Veterans are welcome to our special service attended by over a thousand locals. This service is the only one in Sydney that has an official RAAF Flyover, every year. The service is followed by a traditional Veterans "Gunfire Breakfast" hosted by the Harbord Diggers Club....the tradition continues.
Wellbeing… from old to new
The Diggers Club was the first club to offer a world class gym with swimming pool, sauna, and spa facilities from the 1960’s, open to all members for a moderate fee, with RSL sub-Branch members entitled to substantial discounts.
Unfortunately, both clubs fell on hard times in the 2000’s as many of the WW2 veterans had either moved away or had died.
Fast forward to 2006, the Mounties Group came to the rescue and hatched its own plan, again based those original 1930’s objectives.
Commencing in 2014, over the next three years, the Mounties built and completed a new $200m plus complex, resulting in a modern state-of-the-art clubhouse, including 96 (over 55’s) apartments, housed in six residential blocks, bearing the names of the local soldiers.T
Two buildings are named after Reynolds and Saunders, both killed in WW1, the other four buildings are named after the WW2 veterans, who built the original club back in 1957; Campbell, Evans, Taylor, and Madigan, a fitting tribute to these special men.
The new Diggers Club also includes a world class wellbeing centre.
a state-of-the-art gym and
swimming complex, including
allied health services, physio and alike, alongside are
a hairdresser and
a baby care outlet
As in the spirit of the 1960’s the gym and pool fees are greatly discounted for our Harbord Diggers RSL sub-Branch members.
Welfare Is Still an Objective of Both Clubs…
Over the last 25 years to the present day, both clubs have welfare programs in place. One outstanding WW2 veteran, Mr Wal Edwards OAM, a member of both clubs, still serves with passion as our “welfare officer” at the age of 104 years young.