Established 1885

The President's Report for 2023

President’s Report

At the beginning of my year as club president the Management Committee set a number of objectives. These included the introduction of more open hours, one hundred new members and an increase in the use of the Club. The number of new members in the year was an impressive 104, the largest number for many years. As is the nature of life we lost some members throughout the year but membership, at the end of the year, stood at 881, an increase of 61, 7%.

In 2023 we were open for 260 days compared to 246 for last year. The number of times people visited the Club at 13,356 was up 1,207 or 10%. This was, to a significant extent due to the introduction of Sunday carveries which have proved very successful.

We continue to measure ourselves against 2019 – the last year before Covid intervened. We are still short on the number of times people came in which in 2019 was 15,056.

The increased opening and usage contributed to higher sales with the combined income from catering and the bar at £275,000 growing by a very respectable £36,000, 15%. It was also ahead of budget by £14,000, 5%

In 2022 we had grant income of £20,000 and a six-month rates holiday which saved us £12,000. These are not present this year and our rates along with other utilities have increased substantially. The adoption of the new strategy of more events and more open hours requires additional up-front staff costs. Some of you will have noted an increase in the dining room and bar prices this year. We limited price increases last year but had to face the implication of increased costs.

Both the Club’s and the Building Company’s financial position remain strong and we have added to our investment funds in order to add to the investment income through the purchase of £250,000 worth of short dated UK Gilts.

Although we have not returned to the same levels of Club usage as in 2019, as many people have become used to staying at home in the evenings, I am pleased to note that the previous problems with late night taxis seem to have resolved. The introduction of the Sunday carvery has proved to be very popular but it is only once a month. House Sports and Social Committee put out good programmes of events which Members have commented on with enthusiasm and have expressed delight with the diversity of events meeting a variety of tastes.

Three Year Strategy

I am pleased to say that the majority of the items on our three year strategy have either already been addressed or have been translated into action by the Management Team in a variety of areas. We all want a thriving and dynamic Club operating in attractive, well-maintained premises. We want the Club to be constantly busy across all months of the year and all days of the week, generating income from a consistently high level of dining and service offered to members and their guests, overseen by a well-trained and happy team of employees. The role that Christina Johnston performed in terms of membership and marketing has not yet been filled and we are keen to appoint someone to engage with members.

The management committee has addressed some issues that arose during the course of the year and I’d like to thank Ray Coughlan, Junior Vice President, and the officer team in general. Thanks to our Hon Secretary, Ciaran White, for his wise counsel and Ivan Laird, Honorary Treasurer, for their hard work.

In addition, I would like to acknowledge Senior Vice President, Mrs Diana Fitzsimons and her on-going role in supporting and advising the Officer team and bringing her experience to the table.

Subsequent to the Strategy sign off, Management Committee agreed Terms of Reference along with the establishment of a new Audit and Risk Committee chaired by our Honorary Treasurer, Ivan Laird. Ivan leads on all of this with great energy and commitment. The Committee is responsible for keeping the Risk Register updated regularly and bringing it to MC twice a year for discussion and sign off. It also has a range of other responsibilities in relation to compliance, audit and the Club’s finances.

Thanks go to Past President Timothy Quinn for introducing us to John Robinson who supports in the management of club finances and produces quarterly accounts. Although the club’s accounting system is fairly outdated and a modernised accounting system at the Club is planned, John has been really helpful in all that he has done.

The Remuneration Committee

This committee is chaired by Adrian Bannon and the Committee continues to ensure that staff remuneration and benefits are kept under review as well as ensuring that the Sir Cecil McKee Bursary is properly spent. The Bursary can be used for staff training as well as supporting the new GM in developing links and learning from other UK Clubs is sitting at just over £6000 as it was not used last year.

Staff pay rose to 10% above national minimum wage.

The Membership and Marketing Committee is ably convened by Nigel Macauley. The production of a glossy style booklet was given to new members and a copy was posted to each of our reciprocal clubs in the UK and Ireland at Christmas; future items on the agenda are a range of Club merchandise; along with updating the club’s Website; and social media. Engagement with Gold Alliance which is a grouping of club members from various club’s across Europe fosters our reciprocal ties to other prestigious clubs and we hope to send a couple of younger members to some Gold Alliance events later in the year.

The Arts Society and the Historical Society are now fully established and the club is grateful to the work of Richard and Linda Wright who head up the Art Society and give so graciously of their time and also Jim Fitzsimons whose enthusiasm and skill in choosing wonderful speakers for the Historical Society has led to a high quality offering for club members at a time of the day when the club would ordinarily be empty. Both the Art Society and the Historical Society have attracted large numbers and thought is being given to have at least one evening event in each society throughout the course of the year.

We have improved the visual system in the Club by the installation of two large tv screens in the Old Billiards Room but the audio system is very poor and the HSS Committee have been tasked with resolving this as a matter of priority.

We continue have a thriving Ladies Lunch and a Golf Society with events this year in Bangor and Dublin, the latter of which I attended. But we have also the potential to start or re-establish a whole range of societies to meet member tastes.

In terms of the House, Sports and Social Committee, which is convened by Keith Willett, they have organised gourmet evening, the Hog Roast, and Burns Supper, Club Christmas dinner and a number of guest speaker ‘cultural’ lunches and afternoon teas. Jim Neilly was his usual enthusiastic self in his organisation of sporting lunches and we welcomed David Humphreys in January past who answered questions and discussed Ulster historic win of the Europen Cup 25 years ago.

Regarding our Strategy for longer opening hours the staff have shown a willingness to work longer working hours as long as this is shared fairly amongst staff and through the offices our General Manager Matthew there has been the development of a positive “yes” culture with new staff members. The use of the Sir Cecil McKee bursary to train new staff members is something that is being considered and our general manager is trying to source the correct course for one or two members of staff.

Ulster Reform Club Building Company Ltd is chaired by Past President Harry Sproule. The Board met during over the last year and their current plans include a potential refurbishment of several areas of the club.

As I am sure most of you know the Art Restoration Committee is also convened by Harry Sproule. The club has accepted the loan of three portraits from the Andrews family including John Millar Andrews whose portrait will be hung in the stairwell leading from the cloakroom to the first floor. These items have been graciously loaned by membership and marketing committee member Johnny Andrews.


It was a great honour to have been asked to be Club President. It was natural that after so many changes in personnel and with the departure of familiar faces coupled with the challenges of the new strategy that had been implemented the previous year my year in office was very much at a transitional time in the history of the club. Rightly, or wrongly, I felt that a pause button had to be pressed on some matters.

During the course of the year I attended the Stephen’s Green Club Chairperson’s Dinner along with Past President Michael Copeland and his wife Roisin and it is Michael I wish to thank for organizing the Sterling Cup at Malone in early Autumn. I made personal visits to both the British Club in Singapore and the Royal Bombay Yacht Club in Mumbai in February where I made presentations of our book and club ties on behalf of the club.

Finally I’d like to put on record thanks to our General Manager Matthew Laird and his deputy Deborah Galloway and our team of chefs headed up by Robert Fulton along with all our staff for making our club a special place to visit. I am pleased to report that it is the intention of our General Manager to visit several of our reciprocal clubs in the UK and Ireland during the course of 2024.