Belfast Telegraph

Veteran's sadness as British Legion club faces closure

By Chris Kilpatrick

A Royal British Legion club in Northern Ireland is set to shut its doors after more than 80 years.

The future of the Coleraine club is in jeopardy due to the harsh economic climate and dwindling membership, a spokesman said.

If it does close it would be “a disaster” for the town and the 400 ex-service personnel who use the facilities, said club secretary John Clanachan.

Mr Clanachan said that the club had more than 700 members just six years ago.

But with the current economic climate just 30 people on average use the club each week.

“The problem is a dwindling membership and the economic situation,” he added.

“We are not getting the money in but the money is going out.

“The members have been made aware of the situation and it is up to them. We, as a committee, can’t do anything. The members have to vote for closure.”

The club has already taken steps in an attempt to cut costs including closing facilities during the week but are still struggling to make ends meet.

It is understood that all members were contacted by post recently requesting they each pledge £10 to the club but the response was poor.

Branch president Bill Mills said: “I’m sorry to hear the situation the club is in but this is a club matter and the branch will be carrying on no matter the outcome with their welfare and charity work for the Royal British Legion.”

In recent years large-scale redevelopment took place at the club including the installation of disabled toilets and a lift.

The club was once a hive of activity with darts teams and snooker competitions held on the premises.

On one occasion it hosted an exhibition match in which Alex Higgins took part.

Mr Clanachan added: “People think its a closed-door policy but they can be signed in and have a drink.

“We have also tried to get young people in but there are five social clubs in the town.

“If the worst did happen, it really would be a disaster for the town as the club has been here for over 80 years.”

Quotes

Eighty-nine-year-old George Lapsley is a regular face at the club and says he is saddened at news it may close. Mr |Lapsley served in the Navy and UDR. “It’s a sin because we go there and have our meetings there,” he said. “If it closes we will have nowhere to go. It’s very sad people are |forgotten about. The British Legion club should be |sacrosanct, it should be kept open no matter what.”

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