The Club's Development
The original lease of Mourne Golf Club stated that the club could be wound up by either party (R.C.D.G.C. or M.G.C.) unilaterally during the first fifteen years of its existence. The factor of insecurity and the additional factor of financial constraint meant that no improvement was made to Mourne Golf Club or its environs save that of tar - macadaming the forecourt during the Captaincy of J E Marshall in 1960.
In late 1961, however, on completion of the aforementioned fifteen years the then President, P J McEvoy, raised the question of replacing the two Nissen huts, which formed the Billiard Room and Locker Room with more substantial structures. Both huts were stone flagged, draughty and rat infested - but the club was deeply in debt.
Things began to look up however. P J Rodgers took over as treasurer from Stanley S McCammon (Sen.) in June 1961. Stanley had laid a strong hand on the club’s finances but found that this duty, combined with running a successful business, too demanding and he resigned, mid term, in favour of Pat Rodgers.
Pat’s meticulous book keeping and strong financial control continued and enhanced the firm foundations laid by his predecessor. Bar profits jumped from 19% in 1959 to almost 40% and continued at this from then onwards. Pat remained Hon. Treasurer and subsequently Secretary to the Club from 1961 - 1993.
Encouraged by this development P J McEvoy convinced a reluctant Annual General Meeting that we could afford the cost of the new building.
Belfast architect, Gerry Marshall, was engaged to draw the plans which were then put out to tender. The firm of Dornan Bros. submitted a price of £3,000 which was the lowest by far. Work began in 1962 in the Captaincy of George Crilly and the building was officially opened by G F Annesley on 6 February 1964 in the Captaincy of Francis Dornan - one of the contractors.
As mentioned before, the lockers from the old locker room were adjusted by Jimmy McCormick and installed in the new building. The addition of a wood block floor in the Billiard Room, the purchase of a new Billiard table and the installation of showers and other amenities not covered by the contract added another £2,000 to the contract price. Another interest free loan was floated, a building levy was imposed and these together with fund raising activities, especially Bingo, cleared the debt in three years as the President had forecast at the Annual General Meeting.
Good husbandry during the remainder of the sixties enabled the Club to take another step forward towards the end of the decade.
This time it happened almost by accident. As the photograph shows the lounge consisted of two corrugated huts similar in shape and style to the huts in and around the Army Camp at Ballykinlar. In the immediate post war years many of these huts were plastered and converted to substantial looking dwellings.
Coming as he did from Ballykinlar, the then Hon. Secretary, Stephen Keenan, proposed in Council that a similar exercise be undertaken to enhance the look of the Clubhouse.
Sean Dornan, however, advised Council that, unlike the huts at Ballykinlar which were made of corrugated iron, ours were made of corrugated asbestos. It would not be feasible to nail the wire cladding, necessary to hold the plaster, to asbestos. The only way, Sean told Council, that the exterior of the Clubhouse could be enhanced was to build a masking wall outside the asbestos.
It was at this stage in the debate that Brownlow McClean, with an eye to the future, proposed that if a wall was to be built, it should be built some twelve feet out from the existing wall thereby giving the Club an extra lounge plus a new Secretary’s Office/Committee Room. The existing Committee Room which doubled as a T.V. room was later converted into a kitchen situated where the present kitchen now stands. The new Secretary’s Office is now the Members’ Bar.
Council agreed and Gerry Marshall was again engaged. His plan was passed by the Annual General Meeting in 1968. The estimated cost based on the square footage was £7,000.
This time the work was carried out by direct labour by Jim Doran assisted by Ricky Coyne. With furnishing and carpeting added the completed structure cost around £12,000 and was officially opened by the Captain, G F O’Boyle, in 1971.
This extension became known as the Sun Lounge and doubled as a bowling alley and dining room for twenty years.
During the next decade inflation was rampant so that the tender for the next extension was a phenomenal £100,000 plus carpeting and furnishing.
This time the plan was to build a new Locker Room and Squash Court and to convert the current Locker Room into a store room and Council Chamber. The Secretary’s Office remained in its old position.
This project was made feasible by Grant Aid from the Department of Education. This Grant, £50,000 was acquired through good offices of Paddy O’Donoghue, a local Councillor. As a member of Mourne he was naturally interested in the advancement of the Club and as a Councillor he was interested in the provision of another amenity in the town.
Squash was the craze and the most popular fitness activity at that time. Since there was no such facility in Newcastle as a squash court the Department Officials authorised the Grant providing that our exclusive laws were relaxed.
The co-operation of Royal County Down was sought and acquired. They agreed to alter and extend to term of the lease to accommodate the requirements of the Department of Education. Gerry Marshall was again the architect and the tender of McCall of Clough was successful. The new extension was opened in 1981 by the Captain, D S Hanna.
Unfortunately a sudden death in the Squash Court had a detrimental effect on the games popularity in Mourne and with the permission of the Department of Education it was converted into a Juvenile Games Room in 1987. The lockers for the new Locker Room were built and installed by Rodgers Bros of Castlewellan.
In 1985, the Captain of that year, William Holmes, convinced Council that it would be a good idea to remove the Secretary’s Office to the Council Chamber (which was divided for the purpose) and to convert the old Secretary’s Office into a Members Bar/TV Room. Council agreed and the work was carried out by Rodgers and Graham of Annalong.
Carpeting, built in furniture and chairs raised the cost to some £8,000. However it was a well conceived project and became the most popular room in the club for the next eight years. It was the first direct development in the Bar Area - the only revenue creating area in the Club.
This concept of developing the Bar Area was the basis of the plan submitted by the successful firm for the renovation of the entire Clubhouse for the Golden Jubilee in 1996.
The approach of the Golden Jubilee had engaged the mind of Council for a number of years but it was not until 1992 in the captaincy of Norman McCready that he and the Hon. Secretary, Theo Gallagher, decided that the time had come to put some flesh on the skeletal ideas of the previous few years.
Their proposal, which Council accepted, was to contact a number of contractors who specialised in the type of work envisaged by Council, to present each of them with a plan of the existing Clubhouse, to give each a broad idea of what Council had in mind and to ask each to prepare a plan and estimate for the development of the Club.
In all, five contractors submitted proposals and in 1993 in the Captaincy of John Dornan, the plan of architect Eamon Larkin of the firm of Kelly, McEvoy and Brown was accepted by Council.
The plan was exhibited in the Clubhouse for some weeks and an Extraordinary General Meeting was held in the Clubhouse on 30 July 1993. Eamon Larkin was in attendance and made the presentation on behalf of Kelly, McEvoy and Brown.
The meeting accepted the idea enthusiastically with one proviso. Led by Tom Mullan the members were of the opinion that the corrugated, plastic covered metal roof would make the Clubhouse look too much like an industrial complex and would be subject to rapid deterioration due to its close proximity to the beach and the corrosive sea air. They advocated a traditional, slated hipped roof.
Kelly, McEvoy and Brown were commissioned to draw up a plan for the new roof. This was presented to members at a second Extraordinary General Meeting on 11 October 1993. The vote in favour of the plan for the slated roof was almost unanimous.
Work began on 26 October 1993 and was finished on 24 May 1994. The new Clubhouse was officially opened by the Captain, Theo Gallagher, on 1 October 1994.