ST PATRICK’S Irish Club in Leamington Spa is to this month mark 50 years since it was first founded.
Founded in November 1963 by members of the many families who had left Ireland for the town,the club is still going strong and has proved itself as one of just a few such organisations across Britain which has managed to stay in the black, while retaining a vibrant Irish membership that welcomes many new friends from their neighbouring communities.
Those achievements were on splendid show recently when a week-long celebration held to mark the 50th anniversary brought the Irish and their supporters out in green, white and gold in Leamington.
For club Chairman Brian Thurlow, who worked hard to organise the bustling line-up of activities and events which marked the occasion at the club in Adelaide Road, it also proved a perfect time to reflect.
“When we set up this club in 1963, it was to create a place to keep our Irish culture and heritage alive,” he said.
“In those days times were tough for the Irish community but the safe haven which soon became popularly known as ‘The Hoot’, kept our spirits and community together.”
He added: “In 1993 we took the decision to demolish the old ‘Hoot’ and reopened the new club in 1994.
“Bad luck struck though as the Good Friday floods of 1998 hit us hard. We were four foot under with dark and murky water running through the club, but the Irish spirit once again came through and we recovered, like the Phoenix that rose from the ashes.
“And so here we are in 2013, celebrating out 50th anniversary year on the very same site that was established on the banks of the River Leam all those years ago.
“And we are still providing a home from home for our community, although with a slightly more cosmopolitan feel.”
Events celebrating the milestone ran at the centre from October 12-20, including a BibleCode Sundays gig, a special performance of The Irish Rambling House Show, and a well-attended Mass held at St Peter’s Church ahead of lunch at the Irish club, welcoming members, local dignitaries and long-term supporters.
Elsewhere an art exhibition highlighting the legacy of the club in Leamington was on display at the Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum, organised by former Irish Post photographer Brendan Farrell and curated by the gallery’s Vicki Slade.