Celebrating 70 years
As Devonshire Recreation Club celebrates its 70th anniversary, it is focusing on the spirit of “restoring, revitalising and rebuilding” its place in the community.
The club, affectionately known as the Devonshire Rec, has been hosting a series of celebratory events, including a special old-school dance party, “friendly” football, cricket and pool games, bingo, a church service, and a history night.
This eclectic raft of events is a reflection of the work this well-loved club has being doing since its inception on June 1, 1945. On that date, the club was incorporated by a group of entrepreneurs and has since played host to local and international sporting events as well as countless social and political gatherings.
With strong affiliations with the Progressive Labour Party and the Bermuda Industrial Union, the club has thrown its weight behind a number of political movements over the years. It is the home of the PLP’s annual delegates meeting and was used as a safe haven for protesters involved in the 1965 Belco strike.
In recent years, the club has come under some criticism for losing its voice along the way. The struggle has been compounded by the downturn in the economy, but as patrons and management celebrate 70 years they see a bright future ahead.
Nadine Henry, daughter of Dame Lois Browne-Evans, is the president of the club, having worked her way up from the bottom when she used to cook for her boyfriend’s football team.
She told The Royal Gazette: “Devonshire Recreation Club has a rich and very illustrious history in Bermuda. Over the years it has been a support to families, it has been a place for sports and it has been a support to civil and political movements.
“We’ve faced very difficult times and had to endure quite a bit of criticism. The club is very much in the stage of restoring, revitalising and rebuilding.
“We stand firm in doing what is right and sticking close to the constitution this club was founded on. We understand that reward comes after work and we are in it for the long haul.”
Ms Henry admitted she was “not a sports kid”, but that was where her right-hand man, vice-president Vance Brown, came in.
Mr Brown has been involved in the club for nearly 20 years, starting off as the coach of the women’s football team. He later moved into management of the club and has been on the executive team for the past ten years.
“We represent a vast majority of sports now and we are just in the process of revitalising our youth football team,” he said. “We are trying to encourage some of the older players that we had to come and participate and then if they come to bring their children. We are trying to grow.”
Asked to recall some of the club’s sporting highlights, Mr Brown said: “Definitely winning the Triple Crown in 2012 as well as winning the FA Cup in 2007/8 season — we celebrated for a few days after that. We were invited to Cabinet to get citations from the Premier. It was a good feat.”
One of the longest standing members of Devonshire Rec is Ellsworth Christopher. He became involved in the club’s sporting committee in 1955 and has assumed various roles over the years, including president from 1985 to 1993.
“I’ve seen the physical size of the club quadrupled,” he said. “Our trustees are the men who put up the money to secure the premises — Herbert George, Attride Stirling, David Augustus, James Wilkie ... these people were interested in developing the community.
“At no time has the club remained silent. In the 1970s when we had the Bermuda Football Union and the Bermuda Football Association, Devonshire Rec, along with PHC and Somerset, encouraged them to come under one body and it strengthened the financials of the BFA.
“We challenged the football authorities if they did something wrong and similarly in cricket. I would imagine the way cricket is going there needs to be another challenge.”
Mr Christopher recalled the club’s involvement in the Belco strike.
“The club took in the protesters on the day of the riots in 1965 and they stayed there for the better part of five days,” he said.
“It had a negative effect. We were blacklisted and we were unable to get much money from the agencies that would lend money. That went on up until the 1970s.”
As well as attempting the club’s youth football drive, management is looking to boost youth netball and softball and will soon be launching a $70,000 fundraiser to support the renovation of the main bar.
• Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Devonshire Recreation Club can call 734-0494 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org