Memories of the Calder Club
Last updated at 11:31, Thursday, 15 August 2013
I N its heydey, the Calder Club in Whitehaven was the hottest ticket in town. For the most popular nights – memorable Bank Holidays, Boxing Days and New Year’s Eves – they’d wait outside from early morning, with regulars queuing over the railway bridge, many with a packed lunch to keep them going while they waited – just to get a seat.
Entertainment came courtesy of star names from music and television – along with the best local performers – enjoyed alongside bingo, darts and a drink or two.
But it was the camaraderie and the sense of community spirit that the place fostered that is remembered so fondly by those who spent their time in this thriving club.
“It was a marvellous place,” said Bill Perry, the club’s last ever trustee, having been involved in a number of capacities over the decades.
“There was a fabulous atmosphere; there was no place like it in the area,” added Arthur Kane, who held many roles including secretary and football manager during his time at the club.
While former committee man William McKinney recalls a “fantastic place, and the hub of the community”.
The Calder Club was built in 1955 by Sellafield as a social outlet for its employees. Opened under the banner of SASRA (Sellafield Area Sports and Recreation Association), 25 of the site’s apprentices helped build the premises.
Among them was Mirehouse lad and electrician Alan Barnes, who still has a copy of Nucleus – the in-house Sellafield magazine – which reported on opening night, September 23, 1955.
Alongside photographs taken by D Hitchen, R Wilson and G Weldon, the magazine’s correspondent D Borsch wrote: “It’s a wonderful club and it was a wonderful night. Before the evening really got under way, there was a presentation of bouquets to Mrs Davey and Miss Annie Mitchell by Mrs Landles, the chair of the ladies’ section.”
Congratulations were also extended to Stewart Sinclair, superintendent during the construction, Ike Blacklock, the bar steward, and caterer Mrs Robinson.
“One thing only marred the evening,” reports Nucleus, with tongue in cheek, “and that was to see poor Barney Stevens weeping for a lost pint. Beware all frequenters of Calder Club – don’t leave your pot on the window-sill or thieving hands from the outer darkness are liable to seize it and tip its contents down childish throats. We don’t want to see the innocent children of Mirehouse completely debauched.”
And not forgetting the forceful opening night remarks of Mr Tuohy, who observed that if the Calder Club couldn’t make a go of it after such a good start, then they were “ a poor lot”.
And make a go of it they did. When it opened, Sellafield employees were the only full members with voting rights. Wives and children of Sellafield employees, plus non-Sellafield workers, could be named associate members but were not permitted to take part in votes. This set-up would be phased out over the years, as would some of the polices of their time that precluded women from some aspects of the club.
And having started out as a single hut, demand for space grew and a hanger was brought over from Sellafield to enlarge the premises.
A committee man for many years, Bill Perry says he worked with some “fantastic people”.
“In the early days, the finest secretary we had was John Money, and as time went on we had Newton Dodsworth, Ron Evans, Archie Fell, Ron Robinson, and in the ladies’ section, Pam Robinson and Pat Evans. All marvellous people.”
Also remembered fondly by Bill is Jim Clarke, a talented keyboard player at the Calder – and your author’s Granda.
“And not forgetting George Lilly, who was a very fine entertainment secretary,” he added.
Among the acts George, and his colleagues, booked over the years reads like a memory lane who’s who; Freddie Starr, Tommy Trinder, Stuart Gillies, Little & Large, Portus Albus, Rue and the Rockets, Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown, and The Real Thing to name a few.
William McKinney, who was a member of the committee in the eighties and nineties and had his wedding to wife Carla there in 1996, says the social side was a highlight.
“We used to attract groups and acts from all over, and had some real stars from the North East once a month. And the pensioners’ parties and Christmas parties we had were choc-a-bloc, with people queuing from 9.30am to get in.”
Bill added: “We were packed on these nights – tickets were like gold dust.”
Arthur Kane was involved with the Calder, on and off, over the course of 30 years, having first gone there for a drink with his father-in-law Malcolm Campbell, now 81.
He said: “I started running the football club in the late seventies and we had one of the best clubs around. We ran two teams, the Lions and the Cubs, plus a kids’ team.
“The heart and soul of the club – our captain and one of our best players – was Alfie Chambers, from Mirehouse. He tragically died in his thirties, and we had various fundraisers in his memory and raised around £8,000, which was a staggering amount in the mid-eighties.
“Darts was always a big part of the club too. My brother, John Kane, was one of the finest players I’ve ever seen in his heydey, and we had other top players like Alan Parkes and Scanner Bone too.
“One of the best events was always the August Gala Day, where we had fancy dress, a tug-o-war, and a shopping trolley race between ourselves, Mirehouse Social Club, the Labour Club and St Benedict’s. You had someone pushing the trolley, another inside it, and they had to race round each club, downing a pint in each, with a prize for the first back!”
Following the sad trend of many clubs of its kind, the Calder’s popularity declined in latter years until it finally closed its doors for the last time five years ago. It was demolished last month.
“There were a number of reasons for the decline,” said Bill. “Numbers were down as the older generation was not there any more, and the younger ones had other places to go.
“That, coupled with rising maintenance costs and artists’ fees, meant it just wasn’t viable any more.”
Arthur said: “It’s sad that it ended. It became independent of SASRA in 1992 – renamed Club 92 – and I think if Sellafield had continued to run it, it would still be open today.”
William added: “It was a terrible shame that it closed, because when it closed, you lost contact with good people who you would only ever see in the club.
“For me, it was the people who made it what it was.”
First published at 11:24, Thursday, 15 August 2013
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
Have your say
I was one of the Joiner Apprentises, that helpt to build the Dance Hall, at the Club, it's a pitty to hear that it no longer exists
what about George n betty Hewitt great steward n stewardess