WE love a good shindig in a place where drink is cheap and the toilets have bog roll. A few times a year we are invited to a family do in a local bar. Usually this bar will be affiliated to a particular sporting or political grouping. If your family dos only take place in hotels, then you are posh and have no cause to read any further.
On the road, we have clubs for the GAA and English football. We’ve got clubs for the Sticks, Irps, Provies and Dizzies. We’ve even got clubs for pigeons. We have clubs like the Shankill has Churches.
Have you ever walked into a social club and everyone stares because you are a stranger? These clubs have their regulars and they know you aren’t one of them. Have you ever made the mistake of sitting in someone’s booth even if they themselves haven’t left the house yet? It can make for a frosty atmosphere.
As I passed the gates of The West, a laminated sign read ‘Visitors Welcome’. How unfriendly is the place if a sign has to be put up? The West is one of many clubs that doesn’t allow women as members, therefore on free drink for member’s days – the only women in the place are the ones behind the bar.
I asked my Da, the famous barman with the big moustache from the Roddies for his view on women in social clubs. He said, “Well, the thing with social clubs is that they all started off as working men’s clubs. Women weren’t allowed in at all but as time went on; if you were a member you could bring your wife or girlfriend in but had to vouch for them.” I get it; women weren’t to be trusted when there was drink involved.
He continued “The Roddies did have a women’s committee at one stage but anything they wanted had to be passed through the men’s committee. It was wrapped up because the women were seen to be asking for too much.” Damn women, always pushing for equality.
Not too long ago I was at a surprise 60th birthday party in the Christian Brothers club on the Antrim Road. Holy God, talk about backward.
The club is an old house with a large open fire in the foyer. On a table beside the fireplace are three types of coloured application forms. A white page for is for ‘normal membership’, yellow is for ‘student membership’ and the pink is for… drum roll please… ‘lady membership’. The criterion doesn’t specify if ladies are restricted to drinking Pimms with their pinkies raised.
I rang my local GAA and asked if they had any women on the committee. The man who answered the phone sounded like he was having an asthma attack and wouldn’t continue the call. I resorted to the internet for my research on women in the GAA and came across this letter to the Irish Independent. I wonder if it was him I was speaking to.