Now Boris has got all of us at the Comrades walking round doing favourable Dick Turpin impressions, and given that we’re in the grip of a pandemic any future plans we had at the Comrades have now been thrown into chaotic uncertainty. However we are still continuing planning events for next year’s Club centenary celebrations. In the words of Captain Sir Tom Moore “things will only get better”. His optimism inspires us all in the fight against the unseen enemy of Covid-19.
After the end of World War One the men who had fought and survived and their friends and relatives formed the Crich Branch of The Comrades of the Great War. With money collected by public subscription and funds raised by whist drives, dances and other functions, in 1921 they eventually had enough funds to open the Comrades Club.
Reading some of the Comrades of the Great War Crich Branch meeting minutes (I must get out more) it was decided to hold a prize draw at the start of 1921 to raise funds. Prize money made up of 2 x £1.00 prizes, 4 x 10 shillings (50p), 8 x 5 shillings (25p) and 20 x 2 shillings and sixpence (12 and 1/2 p), a total of £8-10 shilling (£8-50p) (they knew how to gamble in those days). This got me thinking of our hugely popular Find the Joker Game. Introduced to the Club approximately two years ago by members, Pete and Andrea Scorah, the first time it was won the prize totalled a whopping £9,207. Currently the game is suspended due to Covid-19 with prize money standing at £3,514 and we are all keen for it to re-start again, hopefully in the not too distant future. But remember to take part you must be a fully paid up member of the Club to turn a card over and claim the prize money.
In preparation for the opening in 1921 the Club was registered on 6 June under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act, the cost of membership was set at 5 shillings per annum (25p) and the membership numbered 118 (current membership is now well over 300).
On 20 June an order for 6 tables was placed with Smith Brothers of Crich, tables to be stained and varnished, 3 foot 6 inches x 2 foot 3 inches at a cost of 32 shillings and sixpence each (£1-621/2p in today’s money).
On 18 July the new billiard table, a Riley’s Imperial was delivered to Whatstandwell train station and the Club Secretary arranged with Mr R Bowmer to transport it to the Club. For the table lighting two gas fittings and two green and white light shades had to be fitted, with the gas pipe being 8 feet from the floor and the lights to be 100 candle power brightness. (The Crucible of its day, Rocket Ronnie O’Sullivan eat your heart out) .
Then on 12 August the billiard table had been erected and positioned and the erection of the bar was completed and fully equipped.
The official opening in 1921 took place on the 17 September at 6.00pm carried out by Mr and Mrs Maurice Deacon of Chase Cliffe House, Whatstandwell and the address was given by a General Geoffrey Meinertzhagen Jackson of the Clay Cross Works. The Comrades Club Ladies Committee decorated the room and arranged for a daughter of one of the members to present Mrs Deacon with a bouquet and Mr Deacon with the key. All members were invited to bring one guest and the Ladies Committee was invited free of charge. Other invited guests included J. B. Marsden Smedley and John Smedley of Lea Mills, Reverend Douglas Wood Vicar of Holloway, Charles Lester and Son, Major Hurt, Captain Johnson, F. N. Smith, Samuel Bower, Joseph Smith Snr. Charles Else Snr. Mr Higgleston, Vicar W McDonald, Mr Lynam and Dr Rankin.
The opening ceremony was followed by a game of billiards between Mr Leslie Wright, Managing Director Butterley Ironworks Company and Mr Joseph Payne the Club Chairman, there is no record of who won the game. This was followed by a concert and dance at Crich Junior School organised by Mr J. Barker and Mr R. Newman with all in attendance receiving their first drink free.
If anyone recognises any of the names of the founding members or other names mentioned above, or there are any of their relatives reading this then I would love to hear from you, please do get in touch, via the Club or email me.