I remember the excitement of club day arriving. The sun shone and there was a mood of happiness in the heart of a small boy. The club members, my uncle among them, wore dark suits and rosettes and were led by a silver band. The members of the club called for refreshments at various farms in the neighbourhood before gathering for lunch at the manor farm in the village.
Last year, a man in his nineties told me about the bits that I had forgotten.
“Townsends would bring their fair up from Weymouth. They were not allowed to set up on the village green until after the evening service at the church on the Sunday evening. On Monday morning, the club members would all meet at the church for a service and would then be led by the Kingsbury Episcopi Silver Band. It was Whitmonday, but must of the men were farm workers, so didn’t get bank holidays off work, club day was accepted as a day they did get off. The walk would visit the farms where one or other of them worked and the farmer would provide them all with a glass of beer or cider. There would be a good lunch at the end – and then a whip round to pay for it. Then there would be the fair in the evening.”
“The club was a friendly society?” I asked him.
“It was, they would all pay in a small amount each week, literally pennies, and if someone had problems, or died, they would do what they could to help.
“Club day was a great day.”
Given the propensity for church festivals to move around, the date of club day could shift by as much as a month. Times have changed and a more sensible way of fixing the date now pertains. It is held on a Saturday now – last Saturday it was Langport club day; this Saturday is Long Sutton club day. Perhaps there are other local communities where similar events still take place.
The friendly society in Long Sutton, a small Somerset village, was aptly named, it was the embodiment of friendliness. The paucity of financial rewards from farm work was counterbalanced by a rich sense of community; club day cemented the day in the thoughts of members throughout the year.
The sun has shone on this fine June day, and the club members will have been suitably refreshed.