The Old Govan Club

With the decline of the Govan Weavers Society coinciding with historic changes to every aspect of life in Govan, there existed at the turn of the 20th century a void in the social component which had helped the population to rise so rapidly and maintain its traditional socialist working class charm. The formation of the Old Govan Club in 1914 went some way to filling this void. The complete transactions of the club from 1914 to the 40s are available from the Mitchell Library, where the following is stated:

“On Wednesday evening 29th April, 1914, a meeting was held in the Cardell Halls (now Brechin’s Bar on Burleigh Street), Govan. It was convened by the old First Ward committee, with the object of taking steps to form an Old Govan Club.”

oldgovanclub govanfairrev

After ‘prolonged discussion’ the club was agreed upon as well as the eventual name of the Old Govan Club – although the need for prolonged discussion to name a proposed Old Govan Club the Old Govan Club is a head-scratcher, possibly down to discrepancies of the recording at the time. It seems that the inception of the Club was an amiable process however, with “the inaugural meeting of the Old Govan Club [being] held on Thursday evening, 17th September 1914, in the Christian Institute, Govan Cross.” There is no specific reference of a building or space named the “Christian Institute” that I have been able to find although there is a high chance it was in the Pearce Institute, the history of which is told in more detail here.

This inaugural meeting allowed for a more thorough fleshing out of the purpose and principles of the Club. The named Honorary President D.T. Holmes had this to say of the Club:

“As a student of Scottish life he could not speak too highly of the purpose of the Old Govan Club. Its purpose was to perpetuate the old local traditions, and keep them from falling into unmerited oblivion. In honouring our ancestors we honour ourselves. Those who do not pay some little chance of escaping oblivion in the future, and they will deserve it.”

The Constitution and the rules of the Club were varied and numerous, but the purpose and intentions were also summed up succinctly by their opening:

“The club shall be called the ‘Old Govan Club’ and have for its objects the study and discussion of matters relating to local history, the collection by donation or purchase, and exhibition of articles of local and historical interest, and generally to conserve the social and communal interests of old Govan.”

The Club started with a very healthy membership of local men and women, dozens of names are on the original list of members with several being added each year after. After World War 1 some stability returned to Scotland which allowed the club to begin organising trips ‘doon the water,’ which were a great delight for the young and old members.

While the Club initially provided an occasion for the residents of Govan to convene and socialise while preserving their memories of the place, the Club played a very important role in reviving a custom which had lain dormant for decades and which remains in place today thanks to them – the Govan Fair. There’s more to come on that later though, and as ever the existing resources available at the Mitchell Library in the archives section are a treasure trove for anyone with an interest in this particular part of history.

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