Archive for January 13, 2011

The Club Has Gone: What Are Your Memories Of It?

January 13, 2011 2 comments

If the startling space in Station Road took some getting used to what about the greenery that greets you in  Sleetburn’s Unthank Terrace?  It is clear that the disappearance of the two clubs located in those areas diminishes and dims the culture and memory of local working men’s clubs.  All is not entirely lost: there is the New Brancepeth club at the top of Unthank Terrace, as well as the Catholic Club in Ushaw Moor, both of which serve the present social needs of some villagers; the latter with an added religious dimension.

So what has been lost apart from remnants? I can only recall one visit to Ushaw Moor working men’s club; it was in the company of my fellow Ushaw Moor County full back, the late Tommy Wilkinson, in the spring of 2002. It was a reunion after 42 years and I found him pleasant and reflective as we drank our pints and chatted. We had sat  in the bar and by doing so doubled the number of customers in the room.I am aware that a few years ago there was a tragic fatality outside the working men’s club in Ushaw Moor, but I will put that to one side. It was all a far cry from the glory of yester-year when beer would have flown and crack about pit outputs and pigeons very likely danced off the walls. 

My observations about the clubs are largely from primary sources. Brian M recalls the miners that bought pints for   the tired and grateful German prisoners of war that had been spotted walking up Unthank Terrace. Norman Hope recalls the Ushaw Moor cricketer that was too often drinking in the Ushaw Moor club when it was his turn to bat; Dickie Hope, the somewhat alarmed captain, often had to send someone to the club with an urgent message to ‘get yourself down to the club house you daft bu…. it’s your turn to bat’   That same drinking player wore a red ribbon that served as a belt.

So what caused the demise of many working men’s clubs?  There are some rather obvious causes: the closing of coal mines, drink and  drive limits, smoking bans,  cheap supermarket booze, and the indifference of modern youth.  Can you think of others?

Back in the 60s some Northern clubs were ambitious and the Greasborough Club, near Rotherham, is one of the best examples of that. It was built in the early sixties and in its prime had long queues waiting to get in. Top stars performed there such as Johnny Ray, Bob Monkhouse, Elkie Brooks, Jayne Mansfield and The Seekers; sometimes on the same bill! But by 1969 it had gone, partly I suppose for the reasons given earlier.    

So what are your memories of the clubs that have gone?  Was the  beer cheap at Christmas and Easter? Did the club run trips and if so was the Crook Town v Derby County cup-tie of 1955 one of those trips?  Redcar? Roker Park? St. James Park?


Categories: Memories