Home Functions Facilities Waterwheel Bistro Menu Dress Rules Membership What's on Accommodation Photo Album
History of the Finley Returned Soldiers Club Ltd
The initial chapter in a record of the establishment of a Returned Soldier Club in Finley was introduced through the ranks of the Returned Services League Finley Sub Branch which was formed towards the end of 1919.
Written records of the initial days are not to had but it is known the League had no permanent meeting place and usually congregated at a hotel or private residence. Membership did no exceed 35 with only a percentage at meetings.
On record is the indication "smokos" were held annually in the School of Arts Which was also an alternative in inclement weather for organisation of Anzac Day marches and services at the cenotaph after its erection in 1922.
Personalities who featured in the early records were Ernie Breen, Sid and Jack Malone, Ray Mason, Malcolm McDuffy, Tom Sleeman, John (Jack) Westerdale, Jack and Bert Boyd and Bob Simpson. In the absence of written proof there is universal agreement the first president was Ernie Breen with Cliff Thomson secretary.
The number of soldiers of First War membership was not large and therefore the work to be accomplished not extensive, but adequate to cover the needs of the times. The sub branch had an injection of "new life" as men from World War 11 returned and took up membership.
Then came the sons of local families, and later the soldier settlers who came to the district to take up land or work. Among the local sons were Richard (Dick) and Ian Killeen who were among the leaders in setting up facilities for activities and a meeting place.
Ian’s memories of the earlier years of RSL were as a young man joining Bill (Cocky) White in singing and entertaining a sub branch annual dinners.
There was no official meeting place although buildings as the former printing office, vacated after a move by owner Percy Clements to another area, were utilised. The sub branch purchased that building for 1,000 pounds from Michael J. Murphy of the Terminus Hotel (Country Club). The building was sold to Jeff Taylor and Jack Westerdale (Junior) both members of the sub branch, to start a grocer’s shop. Tuckerbag Supermarket currently occupies the site. Many can relate to social activities and even weddings held there.
Increased and more active membership was generated in the wider activities of the RSL. The first delegates to annual congress in 1950 included Murray Hovendon. From 1952 to 1970 Ian Killeen was the sole delegate to Congress, and brought back RSL and club news.
An occasional club licence was being issued to branches of in NSW during late 1940s and interest was generated at the prospect of one for Finley. A club, Finley Returned Soldiers Club, was formed, the membership two shillings and sixpence. President of the sub branch, and the initial club year was Jack Egan, Manager of the Bank of New South Wales.
Greater interest in the prospect of more suitable premises for future requirements was evident, and an allotment purchased in Denison Street, from Mr Jim O’Connell, for twenty-five pounds. It was later decided to exchange the block (now a vacant block with garden) for one next to the post office and then with a home occupied by local barber Bob Sutton.
A proviso of the exchange of the block was the removal of a peppercorn tree, which ultimately made way for growth of a garden, and there were many manual and voluntary hours with mattock and shovels expended in meeting the requirement.
Around 1949 two army homes of four rooms were purchased in Hay. Keith Barnes and volunteers, including Charles Simpson, Stan Larsen, John Brown, Arthur Walsh and Bill McDonald (with his Chevrolet truck) travelled there at weekends to dismantle the buildings and cart them back to Finley with Ernie Willard, local carrier, hauling the major constructions, with a view to re-erection on the acquired site. The volunteers had the assistance of George Edwards who was commissioned by his brother Kessell Edwards, then president of the Sub Branch, in completing the "very attractive" building which ultimately had the Rising Sun insignia at front to denote its purpose and theme, with move in in 1952.
Meetings, social and musical evenings in the Denison Street venue are well remembered, along with Melbourne Cup Calcuttas and other organisation activities.
The Block and the RSL building was sold in 1959 to Dr Cedric Vear for 1,500 pounds. Subsequent additions and modifications have rendered it to be the service for Finley Medical Centre.
A liquor licence becomes available in the Shire in 1950. An attempt to acquire the sole licence proved unsuccessful, Finley losing to Berrigan.
Shortly afterwards an inquiry into hotel conditions recommended that licensed clubs might be the answer. Another application was submitted in 1954, but despite the efforts of a locally based solicitor and a Queen’s Counsel from Sydney, the application was not granted. The president, then Ian Killeen, pad the legal fee of 100 guineas and sub branch membership cut a load of firewood to raffle to re-imburse him.
At this time the Finley racecourse (then comprising the area now occupied by the High School, RSL and extremities) was closing down. Part of the area was already set aside for the High School. Branch president Ian Killeen sought an interview with the then Minister for Lands, for a portion of the area to be granted to the RSL. An application for 5 Acres of land through the District Surveyor was reduced by him to 3 acres and this area conditionally granted (subject to certain conditions). Eventually seven hundred pounds had to be paid before it was finalised. Enter parish priest Father Gallagher who suggested that instead of spending additional funds on the Denison street building which was already proving too small an allotment, members should inspect a building at Tocumwal (former CWO HUT). It was purchased for twelve hundred pounds.
The licence was granted, and the building moved from Tocumwal by the firm headed by Jack Hardman of Deniliquin, the cost 400 pounds. Method was to cut the building in half with a cross-cut saw and haul on half at a time to the present Tocumwal Street site.
The branch however had only fifty members and double the number was required to finalise a licence. A hurried canvas-of locals and others from Berrigan, Jerilderie, Tocumwal and as far as Nathalia, ensured the number requirement was met.
But then came a funding requirement and the guarantors for a 4,000 pounds loan from the National Bank were Ian Killeen (then president), Dick Killeen, Allan Larsen and John Clayton. (The Bank of NSW would not entertain a loan for a club project.)
The liquor licence was granted on December 24, 1955 and the Returned Soldiers’ Club commenced as a licensed club on Christmas Eve that year. Facilities comprised three one shilling "Aristocrat" poker machine, two billiard tables and one table tennis table, one bar and temprite.
At this stage the Finley sub branch and Finley RS Club began to function as separate entities. But personnel interchanged between the two.
Two billiard tables, still in use 2003, have a history dating back to the Deniliquin area. Considered obsolete they were stacked in an old building near the Deniliquin saleyards, and news of their existence came through Jean Adams’ brother, Les Simpson. Ian Killeen investigated, and found the people on Harwood Station had imported one, the other had been removed from Deniliquin Town Hall, The RSL had discarded the tables to make extra room for a ladies’ lounge.
Deniliquin’s shire clerk invited a tender, and Ian submitted a 30 pounds offer which was accepted on the spot. Ian, Charlie Thomas and Fred Walsh made two trips to transport them to Finley, Jack Bowen fitted and set them up (in the former Tocumwal Street building).
The table tennis table had been purchased earlier by the sub branch.
But then came the law of the day – meetings of the sub branch were not allowed on licensed premises. In effect the members were "kicked out of" their own club. Meetings were held in the Senior Citizens rooms, in Denison Street, until a side door was installed for a separate entry to an RSL meeting room (as is evident in today’s building).
The first new building development took place in 1963, comprising a new bar, billiard room, meeting room, mixed lounge and small kitchen at a cost of forty thousand pounds during which Allan Larsen was president. Allan served in that capacity from 1961 to 1965, and officiated at the opening of the extensions on November 6, 1963.
The second phase was completed in August 1970 during Jock Nicholls’ term as president. The new additions, costing two hundred thousand dollars, consisted of an upstairs dining room, cocktail lounge, reading room and, at ground level, a spacious auditorium, state and dressing rooms, plus additional storage space. Squash courts and a Bowling Green were also added.
The Club expanded rapidly, and on October 9, 1972, became the "Finley Returned Soldiers Club Limited".
Inaugural chairman was Selwyn Nichols and board members Keith Matthews, Courtney Thomas, Arthur Walsh, Ansley Adams, Jack Blomeley, Bill McDonald, Vince Hehir, Allan Larsen, Harold Taig and Jock Nicholls.
Subsequent development which have taken place are additional staff housing comprising a manager’s residence, a staff cottage and three self contained flats, built on land purchased by the club.
Foundation president of Finley Returned Soldiers Club was Ian Killeen, with secretary and licensee Doug Cruikshank (of the National Bank), Charlie Thomas was the first employee. Charlie was barman, cleaner and manger who worked for the first six months in a voluntary capacity. Later he received six pounds a week.
He was succeeded by Jim Farrell, secretary manager in 1957, who resigned for health reasons in 1960, to be succeeded by Ken Kennedy.
Mr Tom Lynch was appointed secretary manager in 1961 and had 20 years service, to 1980 before handing over to Keith Morrish who served from 1980 to 1991, Adrian Vermeulen 1992 to 1994, Dean Maher 1994 to current.
Presidents who have served the club to 2003 are Ian Killeen 1955 - 1957, Norm Dunkley 1958 – 1959, Ian Killeen 1959 – 1960, Allan Larsen 1961 – 1965, Keith Mathews 1966 –1968, Benjamin (Jock) Nicholls 1969 – 1971, Selwyn Nichols 1972 – 1973, Keith Mathews 1973 – 1975, Harold Taig 1976 – 1977, Jim Hogan 1978 – 1981, George Thomas 1982 – 1985, Jim Hogan 1986, Ansley Adams 1987 – 1990, Jim Hogan 1991 – 1993, Mel Boucher 1994, Tom Lynch 1995 – 2000, Robert Braybon 2001 – 2004, Peter Mott 2005 - 2010, Robert Haynes 2011 - current.
Is gambling a problem for you? G-line (NSW) is a confidential, anonymous and free counselling service.
for Members and their Guests