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Editor at Large

A captain & a rose


Towards the end of the last decade Social Clubs were falling like 9 pins; The RAF Club in April 2018, The Edinburgh Masonic Club June 2019 and The Ex-Servicemen’s October 2020 (slipping in to this decade).

The Dockers Club was thriving at this time and more than happy to entertain some new faces from The Masonic Club – in particular the ladies who are lovely! In no time at all they instigated a Wednesday Domino Tournament, which is flourishing to this day and they hold regular charity events in aid of Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday were the dangerous days. All the tribes were in: The Wiseacres filled the area across from the bar; The Golfers the middle right; The Neighbours at back right; Charlie Chuckle’s Gang back left, and the Waif’s and Strays middle left. The crack was mighty and time passed (far too) quickly. You’d walk in at lunchtime and the next time you looked up at the clock you’d missed your dinner…

On 23 March 2020 the First Minister announced the first national lockdown which included the “stay at home” order and once-a-day only exercise.

At this point I was on the committee and saw at first-hand how lucky we were to have Rab Bell as club secretary. He was the master of tracking down everything we were entitled to, grants, subsidies etc. His masterpiece, counterintuitively, was not to batten down the hatches and wait till the whole thing blew over, rather he decided to take on the refurbishment of the whole damned club. Craziness, no?

Writing now in June 2024, the entire mad scheme is nearing its end; the beer garden, the blue room, the gents and ladies toilets (upstairs and down), the roof, the big hall with its state of the art sound system, the back hall, the office and the hallway and backstairs, a complete rebrand of the Dockers brand (logo etc) and a very snazzy looking website. Not to mention top of the range air conditioning, televisions and superfast broadband.

I hope I’m right in saying this, refurbing the bars is last on his, very long list, though he’ll no doubt have other ideas up his sleeve…

A few weeks ago I had the chance to hear that sound system at full belt. The headline act was Delbhoy Kennedy debuting a song written for his daughter, I Leave It All To You, an epic ballad with a stunning guitar refrain. He then launched in to a covers set with his full band, which showed them at the top of their considerable game. I hope to catch up with him soon for this magazine.

Supporting (in Edinburgh) was Aziz Ibrahim who took over as guitarist for the Stone Roses when John Squire ‘decided to go back to painting’. He stepped into the breach and has been there ever since. He’s also worked with Paul Weller and Simply Red. He played a few Roses songs, singing as well, they were absolutely blistering and LOUD. I’ll wager he was better than The Stone Roses live experience.

Aziz was on a solo tour and he and his manager told me that The Dockers was by far the best venue they played and also had the best sound. Testament to Rab’s vision.

Getting back to the first lockdown, my friend Pat Illand (one of the Waifs and Strays) was in The Kirkgate when a big lad ran into him at pace. He was very badly shaken and never left the house again. He had a catastrophic fall and went into hospital, when I called he sounded like he had full blown dementia overnight. Later they found something pressing on his brain, they sorted it and he became more of himself.

But he never returned to his flat or The Dockers. He died on 28th March in Castle Green Care Home.

We used to go to the Masonic Lodge on St Anthony’s Place as guests of Alec Paton when they had their Trafalgar Day celebrations. Pat loved it, he’d been a Chief Officer in the Merchant Navy and could serve as Captain in British waters.

The hall has a nautical theme and the whole evening was inspirational. He always wore his blazer and tie ship shape and Bristol fashion. He was, of course, the ‘smertest’ man in the room. Later, as the night wound down, he would weep when they doused the lights and a lone bugler played The Last Post.

I like to remember him like that. ■

The Dockers Club


The hall has a nautical theme and the whole evening was inspirational


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