We go back fifty years. From the four Provinces beyond the sea have come exiles of Erin, settling in and around the district of Newton-in-Makerfield. They are not here of their own desire. They have been forced to leave their native land to earn a livelihood. Strangers in a strange land, they are God’s creatures, with the right to live. They are the poorest of the poor in this world’s goods, but in their poverty they are richly endowed with the spirit of faith, self-sacrifice, and affection, one towards another. Over in the Emerald Isle they know that the Irish Land League is fighting the atrocities which have forced themselves to cross the sea, and, being patriots, they are in sympathy with the movement.
“In lonely exile here their spirit flamed.”
And with this simple epigram the birth of the Irish National Club in Earlestown is acclaimed.
They first met in Thomas Glynn’s (Senior) parlour in Grafton Street, in the year 1887, and from this meeting they organised to collect funds to support the Irish Land League. Distance was no object to these men of fidelity. They visited the outlying districts each week-end, giving confidence and consolation to their fellow exiles. These patriots were the pioneers of our Irish National Club. They were filled with national sentiment, and in their enthusiasm were sowing the principles of freedom in this country, being forerunners of the development of democracy in our own locality.
It was in the year 1887 that they rented their first meeting-room. This was in Grafton Street, approached through an entry from Market Street, next door to where the present Mr. Smith’s butcher’s shop stands. A Mr. George Bailey had got at variance with the local authorities over a cottage which they had condemned. Not to be thwarted, Mr. Bailey made the two upstairs rooms into one, and these pioneers took possession on November 5th, 1887. They held their first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in these rooms on March 17, 1888, the Golden Jubilee of which we are now celebrating.
We are glad to record that two of these pioneers are with us to-day, in the persons of Mrs Luke Murphy and Mr. Patrick Duffy, who are to be seen on the enclosed photographs. We are happy to be able to give the names of these pioneers: Mr. Luke Murphy (President), Mr. John Hughes (Secretary), Messrs. Patrick Duffy, John Ryan, Thomas Glynn (Senr.), David Collins, Patrick Dwyer, John Fleming (Senr.), Thomas Gallighan, Thomas Dagnall, John Gleeson, John Keegan (Senr.), Dominic Caffrey, and Patrick Corcoran.
This Clubroom caused quite a sensation at the time, and investigations took place regarding its legality.
Earlestown only possessed two policemen in those days, namely Messrs. Cameron and Lloyd, The guardians of the law made careful inquiries, but were satisfied that the headquarters of the Irish Land League conformed to the laws of the country.
It was in the year 1889 that the authorities condemned the cottage altogether as •unsafe, so new rooms had to be found. About this time Mr. J, H. Forster (son of Mr. Thomas Forster, of the Ram’s Head Hotel), took over the licence of the Houghton Arms, in Houghton Street, and he provided a temporary shelter.
In the year 1890, Mr. Dominic Caffrey provided them with a room In Oxford Street, where they met weekly.
In 1891 they were in rooms ‘in Sankey Street, provided by Mr. Thomas Gallighany who kept a small provision shop, where the present Co-operative Stores stands. In 1892 they moved to rooms over Austin’s Provision Shop, where the present Austin York’s shop stands in Legh Street.
They had been continually sending money over to the Irish Land League, and found sympathetic friends over here in the Liberal Party they arranged for Mr. W. Redmond, M.P., to come from Westminster to speak the Primitive Methodist Schools on behalf of the Liberal Party.
The same year they held their own first red-letter day, when in the same schools they held a social, the principal speaker being T, D. Sullivan, M.P.; Margaret Fleming, John Gibbons and Tom Clare being the soloists.
In 1893 they moved again to Derby Street, accornmodation being found for them by the late Michael McDermott.
Inspired with confidence at the success of their gathering in the Primitive Methodist Schools, they hired the Viaduct Institute Rooms, and Mr. William Redmond again visited them. The room was packed to overflowing, Mr. Redmond giving a spirited address, and thanking the people of Earlestown for their great support to the cause.
In 1895 the first big move was made. Over where the present Miss Walker’s shop stands, near the Railway Station, in Queen Street, they rented the two top rooms. They registered as club to sell intoxicants, opening each night, and taking turns as caretaker of the premises, their first purchase was a quarter cask from Toft’s outdoor licence, in Bridge Street.
This cask was wheeled on a truck to the rooms, a sixpenny wooden tap bought, and the ceremony of their first initiation to the brewery industry performed. That night was a great tirne for them, but not so the following evening, for upon arriving at the club they found the tenant of the basement waiting to claim compensation. Either the tap was defective, or it had not been shut off properly the night before, with the result that the tailor’s cloths in the basement got the benefit.
The year 1897, on June 25, saw them take possession of the top floor of the present premises, shown on photograph.
These premises were intended for a non-political Social club for an Earlestown Syndicate. They were built for Mr. J. H. Forster, by Fitzgerald Bros. Matters did not materialise with the Syndicate, and these Pioneers interviewed Mr. Forster through their President, Mr. Luke Murphy, and took possession as stated above. They also, through Mr. Forster, rented a billiard table, which he obtained for them from the New Market Inn. In their new rooms they had additional Pioneers in Messrs. John Rodgers, John Burke, Mark O’Brien, Patrick Connor, Thomas Cosgrove, Andrew Tully, Martin Garrity, and Tom Doherty.
Now thoroughly established, their membership increased. Independent of their contributions to the upkeep of the Club, they voluntarily paid 9d. per month to the Land League. They arranged Socials and Lectures in these rooms, at which many prominent speakers attended, amongst them being Mr. Dulanty, the present High Commissioner in London. On the occasion of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, they hired the Town Hall Concert Room.
Amongst the celebrated singers who visited and entertained them was Mr. Ludwig, the leader of the Carl Rosa Opera Co., with members of his Company The chair for many years was occupied by the late Dr. O’Keefe, of St. Helens, and practically all the Irish M.P.’s from Westminster visited Earlestown as a token of respect to the work these exiles were doing. Mr. Crilly, the organiser to the Cause, always attended, and we have it on record that when Mr. John Dillon came, he was met at the station by the Earlestown Prize Band, and escorted with torchlights to the Town Hall. In the above we mention through the years going over a period from 1897 to 1918, when the club progressed under the Presidencies of Messrs. Luke Murphy, Michael Flanagan, Thomas Glynn, Jnr., Patrick Beirne, Andrew Kelly, John Lane, and John Haverty. The various secretaries serving under these presidents were John Hughes, Martin Fleming, John Burke, Peter Spelman, Jnr., Peter Tully, and Patrick Casey.
From 1901 Earlestown sent over £4,000 to the cause to maintain the M.P.’s at Westminster, whilst they in return attended all the functions at Earlestown in appreciation.
In 1911, when the payment for Members of Parliament was introduced this considerably reduced our responsibilities.
Upon the decease of Mr. Crilly, Mr. Loughrey, of Liverpool, became organiser, and he has piloted us through some diffcult periods since we first knew him. Being attached to the Northern Circuit, he can guide us with reliability. In passing, we may mention that at the present time he has the honour to be Supreme Knight of the Order of St. Columba in England, Scotland and Wales, and we have pleasure in recording his letter and photograph.
It was in the year 1920 that Mr. Loughrey was our adviser on a delicate matter regarding the present premises. We had been tenants for 23 years, but the building was put on the market for sale. Certain people made moves to deprive us of our club-room. Complications arose, and matters looked serious, and it was touch and go whether we could hold out.
It was at this stage that the late Mr. Charles Blundell, himself an exile, stepped into the breach purchasing the whole of the premises and the land adjoining, on behalf of the club making our position secure for Irish posterity.
The same year we sent our first nomination to the local Urban District Councill. Under the auspices of the local Labour Party, Mr. Andrew Tully successfully contested Crow Lane Ward, which he has continually represented for past 18 years, He was Chairman of the Council for two years, and has occupied Chairmanships and Vice-Chairmanships Of Health, Gas and Water, Electricity, Housing and Valuation Committees. He is also Governor of the Hospital, and manager of St. Mary’s and St. John’s Schools.
It was in the year 1921 that the Club held a great Athletic Festival, under the A.A.A., When leading runners and tug-of-war teams competed. This was held at Vista Road and included a Hurling match and Irish dancing. So successful was venture that we were able to hand over a nice sum to the Irish Benevolent Fund, It is worthy of note that that the late Mr. P. O’Connor; M.P, succeeded in obtaining free Entertainment tax when all other sources failed.
Time marches on, and the year i924 saw the upstairs rooms too small to accommodate the increasing membership. The club took over the basement, in the occupation, an upholsterer was employed with converting this into a Billiard Room, the members themselves doing all other alterations.
In the Year 1929 it was deemed advisable to enlarge the club further. The late Mr. Patrick Owens took the job in hand, instructing the late Mr. E. Fitzgerald, who had built the premises some 32 years ago. Mr. Fitzgerald carried out the structural alterations, adding more rooms, an additional bar, and a large cellar. A high-pressure heating apparatus was installed throughout the building, making all rooms comfortable. Later a second billiard table was purchased.
In 1930, under the direction of Mr. Harry Clarke, we organised a great Concert Party from the younger element.
The mixed party, 36 in number, gave a fine account of themselves, having to repeat the performance, and also gave shows at St. Cuthbert’s, Pemberton, and All Saints’, Golborne, to packed audiences, in aid of their missions.
In 1933 we sent a second nomination to the Urban District Council, Mrs. Carr successfully contesting the Town Hall Ward. She has held the seat for the past five years. She is Vice-Chairman of the Council, Chairman of Maternity and Hospital Committee, Vice-Chairman of Health Committee and General Purpose Committee, a member of the Finance, Valuation, Education and Town Planning. She is also a member of the Court of Referees, and Federation of Child Welfare for Lancashire, Cheshire, Westmorland, and Cumberland.
Throughout the years the officials have been ably assisted by the lady members. They are a great acquisition to the Club, supporting all functions, and contributing to the success generally. The Club has been well staffed with able officials, the various Committees doing their work admirably, and the success obtained is due in no small measure to them throughout these fifty years. Mr. John Heverty has occupied the position of President for the past twenty years, and the Secretary, Mr. Patrick Casey, has held that position since 1918.
To-day we are in a very happy position, and a visitor to our rooms will find them very cosy. have just added a Lounge Room, and our Concert Hall has been redecorated. Our aim is to be courteous to all, and make each and every member feel at home within the rooms. Our large membership is made up of every school of Thought, and we respect all and value their membership.
Whilst accepting all who come along of good character, as an Irish Organisation we reserve one treasured rule which was first introduced by these Pioneers, namely, “That no member shall be eligible to hold office unless of Irish birth or extraction.” All members are assisted as much as possible, and no charity brought to the Club’s notice ever goes a-begging, and, as in the olden days, when it was unknown to turn adrift any man on the road without providing him with a meal and a night’s shelter, we keep up the tradition of benevolence to all.
From March 14 to March 20 we celebrate. Look at the programme. The Children’s Party will not be lacking, and everything will be done to give the members’ children a real good time. Friday, the Great Ball. No expense has been spared to make this the best ball we have ever held.
The final wind up of the Jubilee is on the Sunday night. Well, you will not regret your attendance. These Festivities will be carried out with the same enthusiasm as we carry out the Christmas Parties for the children, and the Annual Summer Picnic for Adults. You, who have experienced these pleasures, know the result, and finally, on this our Golden Jubilee we look with pride at the present organisation. Since these worthy Pioneers organised their first meeting in Grafton Street, many and varied have been its activities—National, Political, and Social— the main object being the abolition of Landlordism in Ireland, and Home Rule (now a thing of the past), growth of Democracy in this country we have taken an active part, and the success locally is due in no small measure to our assistance.
In passing, it is with pleasure we record the good feelings existing between the two great Democracies after the long misunderstandings which kept them apart, and our earnest wish on this, the fiftieth year of our existence in Earlestown, is that we may also celebrate a just and lasting settlement of that long-standing difference between the country of our adoption and the land of our birth, with Eire as divinely designed as one geographcal unit.
Since the foregoing was written we deeply regret to record the death of our oldest President, Mr. Luke Murphy.