It was with great sadness that we heard of the passing of Tony Clery, one of Sutton Dinghy Clubs most active, progressive and colourful Commodores. As remembered by close family friend and former Commodore Muriel O’Tiarnaigh, Tony arrived like ‘a Thunder Bolt’ in Sutton in the late 70’s. Obstacles were to be surmounted, no job was ever too big or too small for him to tackle and all done with large dollops of fun. With the full support of his late wife Pauline, Tony organised a range of fuctions and social gatherings to help Club fund raising that was really quite breathtaking. Dream Auctions, Grand National nights, St Patrick Day parties, Champagne Breakfasts, BBQs and many others, Tony organised them all. Not just happy to organise, he would act as butcher, chef, pour the drinks and even offer his professional services as prizes. As a respected surgeon, specialising as a proctologist in Beaumont Hospital this always drew a laugh.
Originally from Wexford, Tony Clery took up dinghy sailing having moved to Sutton, living right on the waters edge at Sutton Creek not far from Sutton Dinghy Club. Tony became invoved in the GP14 fleet, becoming Class captain when the Club fleet included Pat Murphy, Hugh Gill, Riocaird O’Tianaigh and Padraig Boyle to mention a few. Tony competed in both Club and Open events travelling around the country and even to World Championships abroad. His early crews included Gilmore O’Neill and Davy McBride and the stories are legion of the banter and crack had by anyone in Tonys party either in Sutton or indeed at an event. Tony struck up a very close friendship with well known GP14 sailor Riocaird O’Tiarnaigh becoming the best of pals and regularly travelling to events together, however friendship turned to intense rivalry when the pair hit the water. According to former GP14 sailor and close friend Padraig Boyle, the stories about Tony and Riocaird are such that “you could write a book“. Tony was Commodore in Sutton between 1986 and 1988 and played a hugely active role in fund raising and helping improve sailing facilities through his term and beyond into the late 90’s. This was a period of significant racing achievement at both senior and youth levels with the Club and its sailors at the forefront of the GP14, IDRA14 and indeed the Mirror fleets.
One such luminary, is former All Ireland Sailing Champions Ruan O’Tiarnaigh who began his GP14 career crewing for Tony in 1981 in Fingal Runner (#12142). Ruan recounted this week, “We club raced and competed on the Irish GP14 circuit, making lifelong friends along the length and breadth of Ireland. We also competed in a number of World Championships, firstly in Mumbles in Wales where the 13m tide required a slipway which Tony christened, ‘Cardiac Hill’. Tony encouraged me greatly and allowed me to take over calling tactics on the water. In 1984 Tony couldn’t make the Nationals at East Down Yacht Club, but he generously offered me the boat if I could get a crew. This began my sailing with fellow Sutton Dinghy Club member, Stephen Boyle, a partnership which continues to this day. Tony encouraged me to read around the subject of tactics and recommended such titles as ‘The Tactics of Small Boat Racing’ and ‘Advanced Racing Tactics’. Tony was instrumental in me becoming the sailor that I am today and for that I shall be forever thankful.”
Ruan also remembers the commitment to the Club and its members and its visitors. “Tony was a very generous club member and I remember well coming down to an Annual Prize Giving at the club when he was Commodore to find him with a jar of Brasso, polishing the Club Sign before the guests, visitors and members arrived, whatever he did was done as well as possible. But mostly I remember Tony for the fun that was had at Sutton throughout the 80’s and 90’s. The dinners, the whole roasted venison which Tony shot on one of his hunting trips in the Wicklow mountains which was cooked, it is reputed, in the ovens at Dublin Airport and transported whole to Sutton Dinghy Club by Ambulance. The Irish Coffee Mornings on Easter Monday, Grand National day. The piper piping accompanied by SDC members singing and marching around the clubhouse to ‘The Sash’ much to the shock, amazement and delight of our Northern visitors on the occasion that the Leinsters were hosted in Sutton on the weekend of ‘The Twelfth’. The fact that Tony personally phoned each and every GP14 club in the country twice before that GP14 Leinster Chps, resulting in 78 boats on the startline, surely a record entry to this day. Tony, with Pauline by his side, were fantastic members and friends. For me Tony was always greeted with ‘Hello Helm’ and his response always ‘Hello Crew’. ‘The Craic’ as they say was mighty and they are both very much missed.”
Tony was also a member of Howth Yacht Club and shared a cruiser racer with friends and fellow GP14 sailors Pat Murphy and Declan Gray. As mentioned, Tony had a tremendous sense of humour and one of the best stories was recounted to me during the week by Curly Morris, the current President of the GP14 International Class. The pair becamse very good friends through sailing and regularly stayed in each other’s houses. Curly remembers that Tony would tell everybody that his house on Sutton creek was built on piles. Architecturally and financially correct as much of the money came from operations on haemorrhoids!
In later years, with Paulines ilnness, Tony was a more infrequent visitor but still made the time to drop in to support significant events such as when the Club held the GP14 Championship of Ireland back in 2013 and when after a gap of 16 years Sutton held and re-captured the Book Trophy from our rivals Royal Cork Yacht Club in 2014. Tony attended our annual dinner in the company of Pat Murphy and friends a number of years ago.
Tony Clery was a one off and his time in Sutton Dinghy Club and within the GP14 Ireland fleet is fondly remembered by all those who knew and met him. The Sutton Dinghy Club Committee would like to extend its thoughts and condolences to his son Tony, his daughter Elizabeth, his brothers and sisters and extended family and friends. .
Finally, in the words of Ruan, “Goodbye Helm“
There will be a gathering for family and friends on Sunday (March 6) from 3.00pm to 5.00pm at Colliers Funeral Home, Old Connaught Avenue, Bray. Requiem Mass on Monday (March 7) at 10.00am in the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, Main Street, Bray, followed by Committal Service at The Garden Chapel, Mount Jerome Crematorium, Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W at 3.45pm. Family flowers only please. Donations, if desired, to R.N.L.I.