Centenary celebrations at Derbyshire comrades club launched by First World War soldiers

A club founded by soldiers who survived the horrors of the First World War is celebrating its centenary.

Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 8:09 am
Crich Comrades Club darts team with a haul of trophies in 1948. Pictured standing, left to right, are: George Bratley, Herbert Turner, Bill Martin, Henry Heappy, Bill Critchlow, Clarence Hartshorne; seated, Joe Redfern, Jim Tomlinson, Wilf Wragg, Jack Holtham.

Crich Comrades Club will launch its 100th year festivities on Saturday, September 11, with a music hall-themed afternoon including a magician, folk group and brass band, followed by a wartime singer, folk band and disco in the evening.

Kevin Oliver, chairman of the club, said: “It’s a good local community club – friendly, welcoming and family orientated.

"I’ve been going to the club since the early Sixties when children were first allowed into the club on a weekend only, as long as they were accompanied by parents. I was made a member when I was 15. I might be the longest serving member but there are people who are older than me using the club.”

Crich Comrades Club is a place for members to socialise and enjoy a variety of entertainment.

Money to build the club’s home on School Lane was raised by the Crich Branch of The Comrades of the Great War, comprising men who had fought in the Great War, their friends and relatives. The dedicated team collected money from public subscription and boosted it with whist drives, dances and other functions.

The object of the club was to provide for ex-servicemen the means of social intercourse, mutual helpfulness, mental and moral improvement and rational recreation. While everyone was welcome to join, those who served in the armed forces got cheaper membership.

The Comrades Club is now an independent members club and run by annually elected management committee. Nowadays everyone pays the same membership fee regardless of whether they are former service personnel.

Membership stands at nearly 300, rivalling the heyday of the Sixties when bingo was a big draw. Much of the club’s success in recent years has been attributed to a Find the Joker game in which the winner of a raffle turns over a playing card on a board.This competition is rolled over until the joker is uncovered and the proceeds of the accumulated raffle takings are split between the winner and the club. Kevin said: “The last time it was won the prize was £9,500 and there was only six cards left on the board which brought in a lot of people on a Friday night.

During lockdown the club was given a makeover with new furnishings, carpet, ceiling and lighting, estimated to have cost in the region of £25,000

"We’re starting the Joker game again on September 18 and we’re restarting it where we left off before lockdown, so there’s £3,500 in the pot.”

During lockdown the club was given a makeover with new furniture, carpeting, ceiling and lighting, estimated to have cost around £25,000. Kevin said: “Once we’ve got the funds we want to refurbish the gents and ladies toilets.”

Centenary celebrations will continue throughout the next 12 months with a wartime singer and buffet on November 14, a quiz on the past 100 years, a street party in June and a big finale in September 2022. Other suggestions being considered include a Peaky Blinders evening and a beer festival.

Halloween and Christmas parties and a New Year’s Eve disco are also on the cards to complement the live entertainment which the club hosts most Saturday nights.

John Dawes, who was steward at Crich Club in the late Fifites and early Sixties, is pictured with his wife Lilian (nee Barnes) and family Elsie, John (known as Ken) and Jennifer.
Joseph Payne, the first chairman of Crich Comrades Club, was a stonemason who built the current Crich Stand in 1923.
William Thomas Ellis Curzon was the first secretary of the Comrades Club in 1921 and was later appointed treasurer.