“Club Day” came with excitement. The sun shone and there was a mood of happiness in the heart of a small boy. The club members, my uncle among them, wore dark suits and rosettes and were led by a silver band. The club called for refreshments at various farms in the neighbourhood before gathering for lunch at the manor farm in the village.
The opportunity to ask someone for a first hand verification of those distant memories of the proceedings was too good to pass.
The nonegenarian sat with his legs outstretched at the fireside and described the twenty-four hours in the life of our community.
“Townsends would bring their fair up from Weymouth. They were not allowed to set up on the village green until after the evening service at the church on the Sunday evening. On Monday morning, the club members would all meet at the church for a serviceand would then be led by the Kingsbury Episcopi Silver Band. It was Whitmonday, but must of the men were farm workers, so didn’t get bank holidays off work, club day was accepted as a day they did get off. The walk would visit the farms where one or other of them worked and the farmer would provide them all with a glass of beer or cider. There would be a good lunch at the end – and then a whip round to pay for it. Then there would be the fair in the evening.”
“The club was a friendly society?”
“It was, they would all pay in a small amount each week, literally pennies, and if someone had problems, or died, they would do what they could to help.
Club day was a great day.”
Far be it for someone decades junior, who has spent most of his life away from the area, to challenge the story, but in memory the day was Trinity Monday and not Whitmonday; given the propensity for church festivals to move around, the detail is immaterial to the telling of the story.
Once, there were many such friendly societies in communities across the country, each performing similar functions. Maybe club day was mirrored by other such societies holding annual walks to enjoy the hospitality of local farmers. Perhaps nothing comparable now exists, who would pay in a handful of coins to a common fund in case they needed to be buried?
The friendly society in a small Somerset village was aptly named, it was the embodiment of friendliness. The paucity of financial wealth was counterbalanced by a rich sense of community; club day cemented the day in the thoughts of members throughout the year.