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60 stories Charlie Newlands MBE

Charlie Newlands MBE

The Renfrew Enable Branch is a very happening place.  Around 55 to 85 people come along every Thursday night for a disco or a ceilidh and a sing song.  In fact so many people want to come along that for the first time in the club's history there is now a waiting list to join.  

Founded in 1962, the branch has come a long way since its humble beginnings.  Long time volunteer and honorary member Charlie Newlands MBE looked back on the club's history and explained why the branch was set up.  He said; “The Renfrew Branch was started in 1962 by some parents who were already members of the Glasgow Branch but they felt they had to have something in their local area.”

And so the search for a permanent home for the Renfrew Enable Branch began and it was to hit a few speed bumps along the way.  At first the branch met in the local town hall or Orange Halls.  Soon the members and local community began fund raising so they could build their own hall. 


Eventually a piece of land was gifted by the council to the branch and British Airways also gave them a timber building they no longer needed.  Everything seemed to be going well and on the 14th January 1968 the new hall was erected. However disaster struck when hurricane 'Queenie' hit Renfrew and members arrived to see the hall completely flattened just the next day after it was built.  But the committee dusted themselves off and started all over again with their fundraising efforts.  In the mean time the branch moved in to The Silver Wing Club in the town; unfortunately they weren’t the club’s only tenants.

“Whoever went in first on a Thursday evening had to rattle the doors and stamp their feet to chase the mice away,” said Charlie.

Thankfully after lots of hard work and dedication, funds were raised for a new hall to be built and on the 26th October 1974 the hall on Sandy Road was officially opened by Sir Samuel Curran.  The Renfrew Enable Branch had finally found a home.  

The club is thriving with its discos on a Thursday night and a drama club on a Monday night.  The drama club puts on a production every year, making their own costumes and painting their own sets.  The last production, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, was a roaring success.  The branch holds an annual fete every May and organises outings and day trips for its members throughout the year.  

Joining the branch in 1972, Charlie sees how important the branch is to local people and is proud of the way the branch funds itself. 

“We built our own club.  We pay for our own club.  We don’t apply for grants and we don’t apply for funding.  We are totally self sufficient.”

Awarded a MBE along with fellow committee member Shelia Cant in 2003, Charlie gets great joy and a real sense of achievement from volunteering in his local area. “I’ve always had energy to spare for local clubs and societies,” he said.

Charlie puts the success of the branch firmly down to the people.

“The people who were involved at the beginning are still involved.  We work hard to keep the branch going.  It works because we’ve got dedicated folk who put the effort in.  Local branches are of great importance and it’s a great pity that we’ve lost a lot of them.”

The Renfrew Enable Branch continues to grow and with people like Charlie Newlands and the hard working committee at the helm, the only way is up.

Charlie was a part of the 60th Anniversary steering group and was instrumental in the development and production of ENABLE Scotland’s Tartan.

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