I am pleased to report that the Club as has achieved several new records. Turnover has continued above budget; in particular, Dining Room usage has increased significantly, which is a very pleasing outcome. Membership has grown during 2018 and at year-end is at an all-time high. With the support of the URC Building Company, the Club continues to maintain healthy cash reserves which, I am confident Members will agree, is satisfactory.
The Club progresses as a result of the work of a large team of people made up of staff, Committee and sub-Committee members. Many members give of their time to the good of the Club voluntarily and my sincerest thanks go to all of them for their contribution and support.
Members will be aware that our Chief Executive, Alex Graham, moved to a phased retirement on 31st December, succeeded by Lorna McCrudden as General Manager. The Club is greatly indebted to Alex Graham for all that he has done for the Club over more than twenty years. Standards have improved and progressed during that time; we wish him a long and fulfilling retirement. We welcome Lorna McCrudden in her new role; working with Katie Walmsley and a highly motivated team, I am confident that the Club will continue to provide unparalleled facilities.
Our Head Chef, Robert Fulton and his team provide a high standard of food; Robert has engaged with new menus and welcomes member’s suggestions. On a number of days during the year, the Club was the busiest fine-dining room in the city. I acknowledge the effort of all the staff - kitchen, bar, waiting, house and management.
I pass on the Management Committee Members’, and my own thanks, for all the hard work and dedication of Alex, Lorna and all of the staff.
The Club flourishes as a result of the hard work of a large team of people made up of staff and members who give of their time voluntarily. My thanks go to the Club Officers, members of the Management Committee, Conveners of the sub-Committees and the many members who sit on those sub-Committees.
The sub-Committees are:-
This committee meets under Convenor Trevor Hinds to review staff remuneration and benefits. They also meet to consider schemes and concepts to benefit staff and develop their knowledge through experience and learning, using the funds generated by the Sir Cecil McKee Bursary.
This year our staff benefitted from a visit to the Pasqua winery in Verona (the then accounts manager and senior bar steward), a visit to Deanes Eipic (senior management team) and a rugby match at the Kingspan Stadium (all staff invited, 13 attendees including myself).
Membership and Marketing Committee
This committee is convened by David Wilson working with our Membership Relations Manager, Christina Johnston.
This committee has been successful in its efforts to attract suitable new members. During the year membership numbers were at their highest ever and we turn the year with over 900 members. All members are encouraged to help increase our membership, particularly with younger members. This contributes to the clubbable atmosphere.
We have added new clubs throughout the world to our list of reciprocal clubs and those are available to view on the Club’s website.
An Extraordinary General Meeting was held during the year to allow your Management Committee to vary changes in the annual subscriptions. I am pleased to report that these were very closely scrutinised and modest increases were introduced this year. I believe that the Club continues to offer considerable value for money by any comparator.
There is increasing use of the Club facilities for business presentations and promotions. The various rooms can cater for a diverse range of meetings. It is welcome that more members come to the Club Reading Room mid-morning for a short break (with tea, coffee and newspapers). As I have noted, dining room usage has reversed that downward trend of recent years; we would like to see members at more lunchtime and evening functions.
I am very grateful to David Wilson and his committee for their very successful efforts.
House, Sports and Social Committee
This hard-working Committee is chaired by Patrick Thompson. Working with our Hospitality Manager, Katie Wamsley, they have delivered an endless stream of successful and imaginative events. Our thanks go to the many members who have made presentations.
The Stirling Cup competition was held in the wonderful setting of Belvoir Golf Club on a most beautiful September afternoon. Michael Copeland and Alan Moneypenny organised the event. We would like to see more members competing for the chance to hold the most wonderful beaten Irish silver tyg cup.
Your Past President, Jim Neilly, continues to produce, from his vast contact book, a wide range of diverse guest speakers for lunches and evening functions, all of which were sold out. I am sure that members will join me in thanking Jim Neilly for all his ongoing endeavours on behalf of the Club.
I thank Patrick Thompson and his Committee for all their great work.
This committee is chaired by our Senior Vice-President, Harry Sproule. The beautiful Victorian bookcases have taken their place and settled well in the Reading Room. Work is ongoing to ensure that the quality of our many paintings is maintained.
I wish to thank our Senior Vice-president for this work on this committee. I readily acknowledge his great support, contribution and sagacity to me and the Club during this year.
Ulster Reform Club Building Company Ltd
The structure of the Club as tenant and the Building Company as landlord continues to be of mutual benefit. Our thanks are due to Jonathan McAlpine as chairman and his fellow directors for their input and management of the Company. During the year, they and the Club had to deal with the considerable disruptions that arose out of the terrible fire at the old Bank Buildings. Thankfully, we escaped without any real damage to the fabric of the building. Members and staff safely evacuated the premises. The Club only closed for three business days. Much work was done by Lorna McCrudden in the first instance and then by her and Alex Graham to ensure that the good of the Club was maintained.
Sadly, during the year a number of members have died. In November, our Past President, Leslie Thompson passed away suddenly. Leslie was a distinguished stockbroker and a great supporter of the Club. A man of gentle demeanour and warm smile, he will be sadly missed. Our thoughts are with all the bereaved at this time.
I expect to hand over the Presidency to our current Junior Vice-President, Michael Copeland, at the Annual General Meeting on 12th April. Michael has been a great support to me, the Management Committee and the Club staff throughout the year. I commend Michael to you as I know he will do a great job.
As my year draws to a close as President of this fine Club, I would thank all members of their support and advice. I thank Alex Graham and Lorna McCrudden for their unstinting guidance and dedication to the Ulster Reform Club.