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Devonshire Rec have reason to celebrate ‘17’

Devonshire Recreation Club have marked a milestone with their final mortgage payment.The achievement has been held up as an example to other community clubs across the island.

Now the parish fixture, known as Devonshire Rec, are to celebrate the 17th day of each month for a year after the ceremonial burning of their mortgage on September 17.

Club president Nadine Henry told The Royal Gazette: “Everyone sacrificed and gave what they could — it was a real struggle.

“We had to remember how the club was first built. We went back to the grass roots of our operation.”

She added Devonshire Recreation Club have enjoyed a proud history but “wanted to be able to achieve owning our property”.

Ms Henry said: “When I became president, we had tens of thousands of dollars to pay. Then we experienced the recession, and many times we had the bank calling when we were unable to meet the payments.

“We never wanted to stop our community outreach.

“We were trying to manage and still meet our commitments, but there were some dark hours when we didn’t know where the payments would come from.”

Potluck fundraisers were used to raise cash and members pitched in to help the club cover their last deposit with the Bank of Butterfield. The occasion was marked with a Thanksgiving service at Christ Church in Devonshire, followed by the burning of mortgage documents outside the club.

Ms Henry said: “It was extremely big for us — this club comes from a proud group of community men.”

She added that longstanding member and former president Ellsworth Christopher urged her: “Don’t let this moment pass without recognising its significance.”

Ms Henry, the club’s first woman president, follows the legacy of her mother, the late Dame Lois Browne Evans, who in 1963 became Devonshire Rec’s first woman member.

Membership has flourished in recent years and now stands at 82.

Ms Henry said the club wanted people to know that “if they come here they will see a community environment”.

She added: “We’re trying to give everybody a safe place to relax, and to empower them to take part in our celebrations. People are feeling good about it.

“Now we await out annual general meeting on October 30.

“At that time we will have a big conversation on our way forward. We want to make sure everyone is involved.”

Devonshire Rec set the former Pond Hill Workmen’s Club on the way to becoming a major venue for sports as well as politics when they secured the premises on the parish’s Frog Lane.

The club became popular for political meetings, especially for the Progressive Labour Party, and guests at the mortgage burning included Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, who called it “a great achievement”.

Mr Roban said: “Community clubs were created to make a difference.

“We have them across the island. They are part of an effort that came out of slavery and segregation.

“People knew they had to help themselves and their communities. Many clubs emerged, big and small — all indicative of the same spirit and determination.”

The original founders of Devonshire Recreation Club were David Augustus, Samuel De Graff, Wilfred Furbert, Wilkie Furbert, Matthew James, Herbert Stirling and Charles Thompson.

Mr Roban added: “The founders clearly had a vision and that achievement continues. It’s the heart of its community, and we hope other clubs will be in the same position in the future.

“We like to see the continuance of the club tradition.

“More young people are getting involved and new generations are running these organisations and continuing their traditions and that needs to be supported by the community, despite the challenges they face.”