Are Clubs dying?

Clubs in Newry

Comment was earlier promised on the perilous state of survival of one of the longest lasting traditions in our town, the social club.  In the nineteenth century, the middle classes had their hotels and private Clubs  for their exclusive entertainment.  The working men’s clubs filled a niche for the other five eighths. 

In Northern Ireland, these often catered mainly for one section of our divided population, and indeed, also for men only.  I still remember clearly the furious debate that raged on the admission of women!  I recall too, being ‘chosen’ by a friend for the more exclusive branch rather than the everyday club membership of one nationalist-minded body.  The ‘swearing-in’ ceremony had me in stitches, literally, and I was ignominiously dumped.  Now that club cannot get sufficient customers to pay the bar-staff’s wages. 

Clubs In Newry

There was a time, not so long ago, that they paid social benefits – such as sickness allowance – to working members.  The other ‘nationalist’ clubs are similarly bereft of regular support.   St Catherine’s committed hari kari by morphing to Bosco and flitting to Water Street.   

Shamrocks have long ago dropped Saturday Night music and are lucky to attract ten on this weekend night.  Mind you, when there was recently a vote taken on the admission to membership of the police service, ‘members’ in Mercedes and BMWs appeared in droves, to push their point of view:  those ‘members’ who never stand in the club premises, or help with teams, but keep up the subscription, just for such a case!  What use are members like that?

The Catholic Workingmen’s Club dropped the Catholic, admitted women and ignored the ‘working men’ label, and still cannot attract members.  There is one night a year when food is laid on, a free drink provided etc. where members more than recoup their fee.  It’s the only remaining packed house.  People were being admitted last New Year’s Eve, up to and after midnight.  What does that tell you? 

The Hibs cannot even produce a quiz team any more.  The Indo has recently invested heavily in extensive renovations, but the gamble is unlikely to pay.  Out of town clubs are faring little better, despite better community spirit.  The Protestant Clubs, Henry Thompson Memorial, Masons, Hockey, Rugby, Newry Town are similarly blighted for lack of support.  What has happened?

We will speculate on that soon.  Meanwhile expect them all to fall like ninepins in the coming decade.  It’s an evens bet we will be less a few this time next year!

INF, Warrenpoint

This was another successful ‘Rock Night’ for the Warrenpoint INF (Irish National Foresters on The Promenade) in what must surely be the heart and soul of the Newry and Mourne music scene!
Headlining was the group ‘Existing Threat’ who bashed out their own brand of Death Metal.  This four-piece from Newry may not be for everyone but the set was fast and heavy and seemed to appeal to the greater part of the audience.
The night also saw local heroes ‘Black Alley Screens’ woo the crowd with their mix of funky Grunge and Inde.  Just back from  a brief stint in Oxford, England the Screens have honed their set to help appeal to the majority of musical styles and tastes.
‘Savage Hennery’ certainly got the crowd jumping as they opened the night’s shenanigans.  This jazzy four-piece raced through an interesting set ranging from white stripe covers to their anthem ‘Simultaneous Rainbow Lovin”.
All in all, a great night out (for those who can remember it!)
The INF Warrenpoint hosts these weekly ‘Rock Nights’ with doors opening at 9.30.  

Railway Bar

The ‘Railway Bar’ session unfortunately missed by our Oz visitors John and Annette Macan proved one of the best for a long while.  We had three visiting sessionists, an excellent bluegrass banjoist from Belfast, another prize-winning banjo player and a singer/guitarist.  We also had many ‘student’ sessionists who join us this time of year, among them Rosie Ferguson and a beautiful young fiddler whose face I recognise but whose name I don’t know.  We were crowded – up close and personal – and the latter, and her friend had to squeeze past me on the way to the bar.  My wife was highly amused at my painfully-obvious attempts to keep my hands to myself each time they passed!

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