A SOCIAL club in South Tyneside is bucking the trend – and celebrating 50 years in business.
It a time when clubs and pubs are struggling, the Iona Club, in Hebburn, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
One man who remembers its beginnings is original member Michael Malley and the 93-year-old, of Hebburn, is still a regular visitor to the club, in Station Road.
Mr Malley, who has five children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, holds his 1963 diary close to his heart.
And the entry for Friday, March 1, reads ‘Hebburn and District Iona Club opens 4.30pm’.
But it wasn’t until October 10 of that year that the friends secured a license to sell alcohol.
Mr Malley said: “There was a Catholic club in the town but they didn’t sell beer. It was part of the borough’s parish facilities. There was about three billiard tables and table tennis, but the only drinks they had was lemonade.
“We wanted to start up our own club but the local priest was against it, and he said under no circumstances could we name it Aloysius, because he didn’t want it to be associated with the church.” Mr Malley and a group of friends formed the club, which started out at a doctor’s house, in Argyle Street.
He added: “The first secretary, Billy Kilgallon, came up with the name Hebburn and District Iona Club and we all said that was a brilliant idea.
“We stayed there until the club got bigger and bigger and there wasn’t enough room for everyone.”
The Iona Club, as it stands now, was built in 1970 after Mr Malley signed up 100 members and put down £100 to secure a loan from the bank.
He said: “The town has changed a lot over the years but the club has remained here and it’s just gone from strength to strength. It’s in a prime location and members have brought their sons, and their sons here. It’s still going strong.
“A lot of pubs and clubs have closed down, but not the Iona, and I still enjoy coming here, but I can’t drink as much as I used to.
“The club is well patronised and I’m sure that in another 50 years it will still be here.” Mr Malley said the current committee has done a wonderful job of keeping the club going, in particular, the current secretary Terry Smith.
He also said he’s looking forward to celebrating the club’s milestone anniversary.
Mr Malley was once a head foreman at the town’s shipbuilding company, Hawthorn Leslie’s, and was one of the people involved in building Lord Mountbatten’s ship, HMS Kelly.
He said: “Lord Mountbatten would often come to the shipyard to check on the progress of the ship.”
The club is celebrating its anniversary by holding a string of free events for its members.
The first, on Wednesday, September 25, is a country music night. It will include performances from Jimmy Clarke and country band Dillinger.
The second, on Friday, October 4 is an Irish night and will feature singers Liam Turner and Edwina Hayes.
Both start at 7.30pm.
The final night, on the club’s birthday, Thursday, October 10, will feature duo Airbourne, female singer Trudi, male singer Robert Craig, and comedian Alan Fox. It starts at 7pm.
All events are invitation only to members.
Anyone wishing to book an event or part at the club, should call 483 2773.