In financial terms, our Club has had a record year. Turnover from the bar, dining room and functions has exceeded £400,000 for the first time.
Total profits of the combined Club and Property Company surpassed last year and our cash resources at the year-end are very satisfactory.
Our thanks are due to Lorna McCrudden, our Accounts Manager, for her financial diligence.
Our Club’s Chief Executive, Alex Graham, has overseen another great year for the Club. He manages a highly motivated and tight team of staff expertly, who deliver a good product for Members. The Club continues to produce a high standard of food at all times, which is much appreciated by Members and their guests. Robert Fulton, our Head Chef, and his team in the kitchen are to be congratulated.
The Club flourishes as the result of the work of a large team of people, made up of both staff and Members who give of their time voluntarily.
My thanks go to the Club Officers and Members of the Management Committee, and also to the members of the various sub-committees referred to later in this report.
The Sub-Committees are:
This Committee meets under Convenor Trevor Hinds to review staff remuneration and benefits. They also consider suitable staff to benefit from educational trips and courses from the Sir Cecil McKee Bursary for Management Development. Their findings are passed to the Management Committee for ratification.
A sub-committee was formed this year to deal with the Government’s mandatory pension auto-enrolment for staff. From 2016, such a scheme will be introduced for our staff and work is progressing well on this important initiative.
Membership and Marketing Committee
This Committee is convened by Terry Winnington. The previously separate Membership and Marketing Committees were merged during the year. A sub-committee, the Marketing Advisory Group, convened by Mark Blackburne considers marketing initiatives and Mark reports back as a member of the Membership and Marketing Committee.
This Committee has been busy in 2015, some examples of its work include;
· Despite 49 leavers in the year, 52 new Members were elected, leaving us on the cusp of a total membership of 900 at the year end.
· The Marketing Advisory Group prepared and issued a very well-focused and concise membership questionnaire in the last quarter of 2015. This received a good response from Members. The results are being presented to the Management Committee shortly, which, no doubt, will form the basis of new initiatives in 2016 and beyond.
· A lunching programme to attract new younger members commenced late in 2015 and results so far have been encouraging.
· A new Club tie and scarf were launched in November. Special thanks should go here to Peter Rainey and Patrick Thompson for their work.
House, Sports and Social Committee
This Committee is convened by Louise Smylie. They have had a very busy and successful year of well-organised and well-attended events.
A few of these were;
· In January, a rugby speaker lunch with Jeremy Guscott being interviewed by Past President Jim Neilly.
· In June, the Clay Pigeon Shoot sponsored by Cunningham Coates Stockbrokers.
· In August, the 1915 Anniversary and Commemoration Dinner with Guest Speaker Professor David Fitzpatrick who spoke after dinner on the involvement of the Irish at Gallipoli.
· In September, our annual golf tournament, the Stirling Cup, was held at Royal Belfast Golf Club for Members and their guests. This event was, once again, organised by Past President Geoffrey Menary. He has now stood down from this role and we thank him for carrying out this task on many occasions. John Leckey and Alan Moneypenny have agreed to coordinate this event in 2016.
· In October, a visit to Leinster House and the RDS organised by Alan Moneypenny was another fully booked event.
· Also in October, the Annual Sporting Dinner took place, with guest speaker Andy Nicol. This remains a key fundraiser in the Club’s calendar and special thanks must go here to Jim Neilly.
· In November, the Game Dinner, a very special event, was held with venison supplied by the NI Branch of the British Deer Society and their Chairman, our Member, Greg Kane.
· Also in November, the Club’s 130th Birthday Celebration took place with a Gala Dinner and Casino Night. We entertained the Presidents/Chairmen of The Stephen’s Green Hibernian Club, RDS, The Royal Scots Club and Northern Counties Club, along with their wives, in the Club that evening. Thanks are due to Mark Blackburne and his sub-committee who organised this event so well.
This Committee was also responsible for two refurbishment projects this year;
· The refurbishment of the Reading Room funded by a legacy from Past President Leslie McAlpine. This generous bequest has been permanently acknowledged by a plaque in that room.
· The improvements to the female washrooms.
An important initiative this year has been the formation of a number of societies for Members. Christina Johnston, our Membership Relations Manager, has been the driving force and she is to be congratulated in this regard. There are three Societies up and running currently.
· The Arts Society, with around 20 members, led by Mrs Naomi Patrick. This Society has held a wide variety of events over the last year. These have ranged from Afternoon Tea at Montalto House to tours of the Public Records Office and Belfast Harbour Commissioners.
· The Photographic Society with around 12 members, led by Lloyd Crawford.
They ran a mixture of practical sessions both in the Club and outside on location. They also have been on trips to exhibitions of interest, most recently, to an exhibition by Bertien Van Manen at Belfast Exposed.
· Mr Michael Moore is just in the early stages of establishing a Fly Fishing Society and we look forward to the development of this society in 2016.
All Societies are keen to welcome new members. If you are interested in starting a society, please contact Christina. Society activities are often held before noon so that the meeting(s) can be rounded off with a good Club lunch!
Ulster Reform Club Building Co Ltd
The structure of the Club as a tenant and Ulster Reform Club Building Co Ltd as landlord continues to be of mutual benefit. Thanks are due to the Company’s Chairman, Harry Sproule, and the Board of Directors for their input and management of the Company.
A very loyal servant of the Club died during the year. Tony McMillan was a Club Trustee, Past President and former Director of the Ulster Reform Club Building Co Ltd for many years. A prominent solicitor, keen golfer and former Irish International hockey player; he will be sadly missed.
I expect to hand over the Presidency to the current Junior Vice President Chris McCleane, at the AGM on 15th April. I commend Chris to you, as I know he will do a good job.
As I move into my last few months as President of this fine Club, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Members for their support.
I would also like to thank Alex Graham for his guidance, attention to detail and unstinting dedication to the Ulster Reform Club.