ONE of Scotland’s oldest ex-servicemen’s clubs is being wound up after becoming mired in debt.
Founded in 1918, Loanhead Ex-Servicemen’s Club had been preparing to mark its centenary but instead called last orders last night after running up debts totalling thousands of pounds.
Creditors have called in the receivers despite the club’s last- gasp bid to strike a deal and fundraising efforts to keep the doors open.
Members have told how ageing veterans – some as old as 90 – have been devastated by the news and say they will now have nowhere else to go. The closure will also impact on several local groups – including Loanhead and District Community Council – which held meetings at the venue.
It is understood mounting bills from beer suppliers, as well as other costs, have driven the club to the brink of collapse. Falling membership has also been blamed for ramping up the financial pressure.
The 96-year-old club still attracts more than 200 members and, while it is said to be a focal point for the community, there has been a sharp drop in new applications.
Long-standing member James Green said the committee held a meeting to launch a rescue bid but a visit from the receivers put paid to the move.
Mr Green said: “Some of the bills were going to be paid in bits, but some of the companies went to court for their money.
“There’s a veteran who’s 90 years old that comes every week, and I had to break the news to him that it’s shutting down. “He’s devastated as he’s been going for decades.
Mr Green said the club’s dwindling membership was no longer able to meet its costs.
“There used to be thousands of members, but they’ve been dying off,” he said. “We don’t have many young members, most of them are pensioners.” Plans were being drawn up to mark the 100th anniversary of World War One, but those have had to be cancelled following news of the closure.
The club is also due to serve as a polling station in next month’s independence referendum, with polling cards delivered on the same day the club was issued its winding up notice.
“We were talking about doing some big things to mark the occasion, but this just came out of the blue,” said Mr Green.
The club has faced financial difficulties since 2013, when a fundraising drive was launched to stave off the threat of closure.
James’ father, Jimmy Green, a club committee member, said: “It’s a lack of members, pure and simple. In the last few years we haven’t been able to attract younger members in. A lot of people in the community like the club. They don’t know what they’re going to do. They’re going to have to find somewhere else. They’re certainly going to miss it.”
Loanhead and District Community Council chairman Pat Kenny said the closure was a “very sad occasion” for the Loanhead area.
He said: “It’s a sad time for everybody involved. A lot of people have put a lot of time and effort into trying to keep it going but sadly it’s been forced to close its doors. It’s been the centre of people’s lives.”
The community council has held its meetings at the club since the town hall closed several years ago. Mr Kenny added: “We are now homeless and looking for another venue in the local area. There were lots of other groups who used it. We don’t want other organisations to disband because of a lack of facilities.”