It is 18 years and still going strong for the Monaduff Social club, which was first formed back in 2001.
The club is aimed at senior citizens, those living alone or people suffering from rural isolation, and offers them a chance to socialise with their friends, whom they might only normally get to meet once in a blue moon.
Club chair, Mary Gillooley explained, “We first started in 2001.
“A few people were just chatting and for the people of that generation, there wouldn't have been many drivers.
“They would have been whisked to mass by their families, who had good intentions, but they couldn’t talk to their friends afterwards. It was usually just straight home. That was the idea behind it and how it all started,” she told the Leader.
The first chairperson of the club was local businessman Anthony Mulleady, followed by Pat Donnelly, Adrian Lennon and finally, Mary Gilooley, who still holds the role.
The committee behind the club is now made up of Mary Gillooley (chair), Sheila Blake (secretary), Betty Creegan (treasurer), Dymphna Davis, Mona Davis, Pauline Diffley, Adrian Lennon, Bridie Reilly and Irene McNally.
After successfully holding their first night back in 2001 and with twenty one interested parties attending, the club has since grown from strength to strength. They currently have in excess of fifty members, all coming from throughout the Drumlish/Ballinamuck parish and surrounding areas.
Mary Gillooley told the Leader, “At the first meeting we had twenty one people come.
“That was very good going to get twenty one people from around the parish to come out and say they would go regularly.
“It’s not just for pensioners, but also those who are retired, living on their own or just in need of some company,” Mary continued.
To help try and drum up some interest and get the word out about the newly formed club in their maiden year, it was decided that a door to door canvass was in order.
“When we first met, we decided to do a house to house canvass,” said Mary.
“It is better to be personable. So we just went from house to house in the whole parish, and canvassed everywhere to see if people would like to come.
“That generation would be shy and sometimes when you are talking to them in person, you can encourage them to come along. We have gone from strength to strength since,” she continued.
Next up for the club was their introductory day, which was a sign of fun things to come for all involved.
“We then had the introductory day.
“Father Pat Lennon opened the day and we actually had live music on the day as well,” Mary said.
“Everyone came in here and the chat that went on, the buzz. It would lift the roof. I get goosebumps now just talking about it,” she exclaimed.
As mentioned, the social club now contains in excess of fifty members from all walks of life, with their oldest member aged 97 years young. They meet once every month in their base, the clubhouse at Monaduff park.
Betty Creegan explained, “We meet once a month, on a Saturday.”
“Thanks to Fr Manning Gaels, we have this beautiful hall for dancing and games, free of charge,” Mary Gillooley added.
Betty added, “We are 18 years here now and it is great to have the facilities to use here.”
Meetings offer members not only a chance to socialise, but also an opportunity to have some much needed fun, in a very relaxed and comforting atmosphere.
Mary remarked, “Our club is very light-hearted, I have to stress that.
“It is all about having fun and dancing. We have our own games, our own stereo system and we also have a lady who comes in when we need her to do fun, chair exercises,” she exclaimed.
Club secretary Sheila Blake added, “Nobody is pressurized to do anything, they do what they can, have fun and don’t bother with what they cannot do.”
“We also play bingo every once in a while and we have our own bingo machine,” Betty Creegan adds.
This is not where the fun ends for members of the Monaduff social club either, as they also undertake a day trip away once a year each June/July, and they also embark on an overnight stay away once every year, usually in September. Recent trips saw members depart for Glasnevin cemetery and Cong.
Betty Creegan told the Leader, “Initially, we went on day trips away. We would have the breakfast on the way and dinner on the way home.
“We then progressed to going away for an overnight stay for one night.”
“That has since expanded from one night to four,” Sheila Blake added.
Continuing she said, “The best trip we had was a recent trip to Glasnevin cemetery. We had a great time. The narration and everything was great. It was just brilliant.”
As excursions like these cost money and with the vast majority of members at pension age, the club undertake fundraisers throughout the year to enable them to provide trips away at the lowest possible cost. Fundraisers include community-led initiatives such as table quizzes and church gate collections, though they are always open to new suggestions.
“We always look for the best bargains in the hotels and shop around, as our members have to save up,” said Betty.
Another event which all members look forward to is the annual Christmas party, which takes place in their base at the clubhouse in the first week of December. Members are treated to music, dancing, food and drink, with music provided free-of-charge by some of Longford’s finest artists.
To members, the club is much more than a social outing, but also a support network for all involved.
Mary remarked, “It is such a close knit community here in the parish. We have a great community spirit and I think everyone who has come into the parish of Drumlish/Ballinamuck, would know that.”
“If you get involved, you are completely welcomed with open arms by everyone, from both ends of the parish,” Sheila added.
“We as a group, look after one another. We always seem to know when someone needs something, like taking a member to hospital if they cannot themselves. They would never ask you, but someone will always offer.
“Members take a hell of a lot of responsibility on. They are not asked to do it, it is all voluntary. It is just the community spirit within. It is really a complete support group for people. You can’t buy friendships like that,” Sheila continued.
The benefits of being a member of the Monaduff social club are clear for all to see.
Mary reccounted, “One woman told us that she would be ‘looking at the four walls’ if she didn’t have this and now she can come in sit and have a chat with her friends.
“There is nowhere else you can go to sit with your friends, but now there is.”
Members wished to thank Longford county council and the local community for all of their support over the last 18 years.
“Thanks to everyone who has sponsored us in the past.
“Especially Fr Manning Gaels for the use of their premises,” Mary said.
The committee are encouraging anyone who may be interested in getting involved with the club to contact Mary at 087-9074806. The club is currently on a summer break until October, but hope they will add to their 50+ membership by then.
“We have got some new members, which we are absolutely delighted with,” Mary said.
“We know there are more lonely people out there, so maybe we will go door to door again.”
Concluding Sheila added, “New members are very, very welcome and It is not necessarily just open to senior citizens.”
So why not get out of the house and explore all the Monaduff Social club has to offer, you'll regret missing out on all of the fun!