Established 1885

President's Report 2022

Perhaps one of the most important developments during my year as President has been the significant growth in Membership. I’m pleased to report that, over the last 12 months, we have attracted nearly 100 new Members. This growth has largely been due to an initiative undertaken by the Membership and Marketing Committee which involved reducing the initial joining fee for a fixed period. This has been an undoubtable success and could not have come at a better time.

As I am sure you are aware in spring last year, just before the AGM, the decision was taken by the Management Committee to relax the dress code, and more specifically, to no longer require members or their guests to wear a tie. I know that this is an issue that many of you feel strongly about so I think it is worth pointing out that:

  • Firstly, this relaxation was agreed for a trial period only and will be reviewed this spring,
  • Secondly this decision was not taken lightly. Indeed, the recommendation came from the Strategy Committee which includes seven Past Presidents and was unanimously endorsed by the Management Committee.

Another initiative that was introduced at the same time was Thursday evening opening. This ran for seven months with mixed results. As things stand, due to staff shortages and low attendance, the decision was taken to suspend this, however I am hopeful that, in the coming months, it will be reinstated on a monthly basis, as I feel that this is a vital way of attracting and retaining new Members.

I would also like to update you on the excellent work that is being done across all the various thriving committees.

The Remuneration Committee is chaired by Dick Mackenzie and the Committee continues to ensure that the staff remuneration and benefits are kept under review.

The Membership and Marketing Committee is convened by Mark Blackburne. As I mentioned earlier, over the last year Mark and his fellow committee members have done an outstanding job in growing the membership during extremely difficult trading conditions. Today, we have 813 members. To date we have received 28 resignations and have 20 pending applications.

The House Sports and Social Committee is convened by Peter Rainey. For a large part of the year, due to covid restrictions, this committee has been unable to hold events. However, I am happy to report that we have several events planned over the coming weeks including Valentine’s Day, which I believe is already fully booked, and the President’s Dinner on 8th April. I’m also pleased to announce that the toast to the Club will be given by the artist and architectural historian Marcus Patton whom many of you will know.

Art Restoration Committee is chaired by Past President Harry Sproule. I am reliably informed that the restoration of the portrait of Sharman Crawford is nearing completion.

Ulster Reform Club Building Company Ltd is also chaired by Past President Harry Sproule. The Board met several times during over the last year and their current plans include a potential refurbishment of the Old Billiard Room. This committee continues to keep watch over the fabric of our historic premises, and they have done an excellent job in maintaining it to the highest of standards.

The Strategy Committee is chaired by Past President Chris McCleane and has met several times over the last year. As I mentioned earlier, this committee had been tasked with generating ideas that will help secure the long-term future of our club.

In terms of the Club finances, I am pleased to report that they remain solid and that we have a healthy cash balance which should stand us in good stead over the coming months. I would also like to put on record my thanks to Past President Adrian Bannon who will be standing down as Honorary Treasurer at the next AGM. Adrian has been an excellent person to work with and he remains a tireless champion of our Club.

This afternoon also provides me with an opportunity to thank Mr. Michael Copeland who, as President, had to take the unprecedented decision to cancel the President’s Dinner in mid-March 2020 and then, in the following week, close the club entirely. Michael did a brilliant job of steering the club through the early uncertain months of the pandemic.

In addition, I would like to acknowledge Jonathan McAlpine. Jonathan’s presidency covered some of the darkest days of the pandemic. During this challenging time, he provided an extremely steady hand just when it was needed. We could not have asked for a better person for the role during this period.

Although I still have several months to go before the AGM one thing I can say unreservedly is that I have really enjoying my time as president of the Ulster Reform Club. It is a great honour to have been asked and I hope that I have contributed, in some way, to the future development and growth of this historic institution.

Christopher J Sherry