KIMBERLEY Miners’ Welfare is closing down after 86 years leaving the couple who run it homeless.
Steward John Harvey and his wife Denise have ran the welfare for ten years and will be left with nowhere to live when they are kicked out in two weeks’ time.
Mr Harvey, 52, who has also been on the committee for over 30 years, said: “I’m gutted. I felt like I had been hit by a tram when I heard.”
The popular steward has now put himself on the council house list and says he will just have to ‘hope and pray’ that the council is sympathetic to his situation and something comes up quickly.
He said his regular customers were ‘devastated’ when they heard the news and said they would not drink anywhere else.
“It’s like a community. People come here who don’t drink anywhere else,” Mr Harvey said.
“People have said they will just stay in. They have got nowhere else to go.”
Kimberley Town Council chairman Shane Easom said it was easy to replace a pub, but nowhere else offers the same mix of activities for the older generation.
“Socially, I think it plays an important role,” he added. “If they shut a pub in Kimberley then there’s still somewhere else to go.
“But if you shut the welfare there’s nowhere else to go for bingo, live bands and for the elderly to go for a bit of a jig. It’s a real shame from that point of view.”
Kimberley born and bred Ian Campbell not only drinks in there himself, but says both his parents and grandparents were regulars and it had been a huge part of his life.
“I’m terribly, terribly sad about it all to be honest. That place has been a big part of my life – all my life. And all of a sudden it’s going to disappear.”
“It’s the end of an era.”
Mr Campbell’s dad used to be on the committee and ran the welfare football team and his mum, who still drinks there every weekend, used to be a barmaid.
The Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO) stepped in to shut the welfare down while it still had enough cash to cover enforced redundancies before it went in the red.
Mr Harvey said he knew he was not making enough money but he thought he would last until at least the end of the year.
He put the slump in takings down to today’s generation not being interested in miners’ clubs.
“We are losing members to age and death and over the last five years they are just not being replaced. The younger people like pubs more than welfare clubs.”
The building was valued last week and it is not known what will happen to it. Mr Harvey said he had heard a rumour that a property developer had put a bid in, but said he would not like to see the iconic building knocked down.