Socialising does not have to end at 26

Senior Club founder member Mitch Kirkwood chats to Jenny Sleight, former YFC County Chairman.
Senior Club founder member Mitch Kirkwood chats to Jenny Sleight, former YFC County Chairman.
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Members of Young Farmers clubs across the country are always faced with the same problem when they reach 26, what to do next?

With active membership ending at this age, they have to choose between being a non-competitive club leader or joining another organisation.

For one group of ex-young farmers there was nothing suitable so they started their own group. Called simply ‘Senior Club’, the organisation is about to enter it’s 55th year and has the same format as when it was first started in December 1960.

Yvonne Prescott, the club’s secretary, said: “The idea was simple, to create a club where farming people could keep on socialising and meeting up with like-minded people.”

The club had three aims; to maintain and foster the friendships made in the Young Farmers Clubs (YFC), to further the YFC movement in the East Riding and elsewhere and to widen the interest of members to enable and encourage them to feel part of rural life. Meetings were established once a month instead of weekly as older couples found they had more demands on their time and often had children.

Each month the group met at a venue in the East Riding, to have a two-course meal and a speaker, and it’s a tradition which continues today.

“We aim to choose a range of venues and add new ones each year to give members a nice night out,” explains Yvonne. “This year we had a new venue at Beverley Racecourse but we also meet at golf clubs, pubs and garden centres, who often open specially for us.”

Speakers vary from the Children’s University to Shire horse breeders and the topic can be anything, from life in previously war-torn Sarejevo to providing water supplies for people in Thailand.

Yvonne believes the club is unique in having an even mix of men and women. “It’s a very welcoming club. Lots of our members also belong to other clubs, such as Country Women’s, WI or discussion groups, but Senior Club is different as couples can come along together.”

With no seating plan and the venue changing each month, members are encouraged to mix and chat to different people each time they meet.

Yvonne said: “We run at cost price, the monthly charge pays for the meal and we ask for bookings the weekend before, so people only pay when they have booked in and come along. If you can’t come you’re not charged.”

Members also pay an annual membership fee of £10.

The club still maintains its links with the East Riding Federation of Young Farmers. Each year they organise an inter-club darts evening with a pie and pea supper.

Young Farmers who are going on trips or taking part in competitions are invited to be guest speakers and a member of Senior Club sits on the ERYFC executive committee.

Jack Caley, current chairman, and founding vice-chairman in 1960, said: “We like to give some money to charity each year. The chairman for each year chooses a charity and we give them £100. As chairman this year I have chosen Densholme Community Care Farm. Once a year we go on a visit and I’ll be asked to organise a trip, or away meeting for the end of June.”

As with any club, Senior Club has had its ups and downs, with membership reaching a low of just 30 members during the 1990s.

Club secretary at the time, Cleone Bloom rallied round friends and potential members and kept the club running, and there are now 75 members on the books.

There aren’t many clubs that could cater for men and women and juggle a 60 year age gap in members, but Senior Club manages to do just that month after month, and with more than 350 meetings under their belt, it doesn’t look like that success will end any time soon.