John McCullagh December 24, 2003
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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.  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!

 

 

 Photo shows Margaret Kimberly, Brenda D’Arcy, Sally Gray and the late Desie Kimmons in St Catherine’s Club, Merchants’s Quay 1990

 

 

 

 

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