More than 20 years ago 'The Longhorn CWC' in Irvine/Ayrshire was the only club in the area and most of the existing clubs in the area today still have some kind of connection somewhere along the line.
Danny Strachan remembers: ”Approximately September 1980 'The Longhorn CWC' had to move from Irvine to Saltcoats for a little while and it was during that time my ex-wife Lynda dragged me along to see what it was like and I must say that from the moment I walked through the door I was hooked! Before long I had the shirts, the guns - the lot! This music everyone called 'Country' was just what I liked, but had never heard anyone call it that before then!”
After a few weeks 'The Longhorn' moved back to Irvine and the local people, who had joined the club couldn't get there so easily, so it was decided to open a club of their own. The new club was called 'The Lazy Ace CWC' and the venue was the Commodore Hotel in Ardrossan, but moving to the Westfield Hotel in Saltcoats after a short time.
Everything settled down and everyone enjoyed it that much that a little while later a Committee was put together, consisting of: Danny Strachan as President, Lynda Strachan as Treasurer and Linda Anderson as Secretary. Committee members were: John & Brenda Selvey, Glyn & Mavis Kelly and Willie Anderson and for a short time Jim Strachan. The first ever Committee meeting was held in Linda and Willie Anderson’s house! The Committee decided to change the name to 'The Westfield CWC' and John Crozier was the very first doorman!
Some great nights were had, and they were even followed by sessions on the Sunday mornings, when Brendan Dunne, also known as 'Don Whitman', would lead the way in a Country sing-song - with some ‘refreshments’ taken!
The venue was dressed with loads of posters and record sleeves, which created a real good atmosphere! There must be a lot of fond memories of the bands who played for everyone in those days: Country Blues, the Dallas Girls, Bakersfield, Jolene & Part 3, Carmel & Country Pride, Legend, the Duke Boys and of course Tommy Truesdale and the Sundowners and many, many more! (Can you remember any others?)
Everything was going well - then disaster: The building was in quite a bad state and when the water pipes burst everything was seriously damaged and the building was condemned! Everything was lost as nobody was allowed back into building! Panic stations! Where to now?
A lot of suggestions were made and in the end the Club decided to move to the Labour Club in Saltcoats. Once again the club's name had to be changed and the 'White Horse CWC' was born. A letter was written to the White Horse Whisky company to ask permission to use their name, which they kindly gave. So in August 1982 everyone moved into their new venue and the club continued to thrive for many years.
The first doorman at the new venue was James ‘Rocky’ Breckenbridge, these days on the Committee in the Labour Club. He did this until work commitments stopped him, and Nancy Murdoch took over, and did it for many years, not standing any nonsense from anybody. She was only a little person, but she could handle the largest unruly cowboy coming through that door!
Margaret Haldane took over from her and carried on where Nancy had left off, looking after the door for many years, never taking any nonsense from anybody. Margaret carried on a for a good number of years until her health started to fail and Graham Hamilton, the president’s son, took over, faithfully doing a great job for a few years until other commitments forced him to give it up. A big ‘Thank you’ to everyone of you, it always gives the Committee great peace of mind knowing that the door takings are in safe hands!
Unfortunately Nancy is not with us anymore, but her name keeps coming up every so often which proves that she is still missed!
A lot of good years followed and some of the characters around at that time will always be in everyone’s mind. A few of them are: Glyn & Mavis, John & Brenda Kelly, Mad Max, Rab Chalmers, Morag Workman, Sandra & James McNicol, and of course Nancy Murdoch and her daughter Enid. Anna Gibb, Morag Local, Ina Gray and John Colvin still are regulars and members after all these years, having missed very few club nights over the years! Linda & Willie Anderson also still come when work permits!
The White Horse has always been proud that it was a Country & Western Club, meaning that all the things one would associate with that scene would happen on a club-night: good Country Music, gun-fights, line-dancing, making friends and of course lots of fun! In those days there even was a Ladies section for the gunfighters, unfortunately a rare thing these days. Nancy Murdoch had put up a trophy for the Ladies and the last known champion was Brenda McIntyre (…unless you remember different!)
Among the gun-marshals over the years was young Darren Kelly (John & Brenda Kelly’s son), and he did a fine job. For many years John Boyce looked after the gun-fighters, creating a great atmosphere of fun, but also taking it all very serious. (Unfortunately ‘Boycey’ died only a few weeks ago, but we remember the dedication and fun he gave the Club over many years!) Chic Richardson took over from him for a couple of years, until a new job forced him to give up Committee work altogether and John Corbett now has been gun-marshal for a few years, doing a great job. Dominic Dunne is his assistant!
The Club is proud to have had some of the biggest names in their club, including: Brendan Quinn, Carol & Bobby Silver, Sarah Jory, Stu Page Band, Country Dawn, Manson Grant & the Dynamos, Jody Smith from Baton Rouge in America, Vision Country, J.C. & Driftwood, Colorado (now: Geordie Jack & Caledonia), George Allison from Texas, who came with A Band Named Sioux, T.J. McCall Band, Nashville Fever (The Fever these days), Silver, the Mel Hague Band and who can forget the Foster Boys! There was Rhodes County, Gambler, Maggie & Tennessee Express, Tom Lee and the Blue Ridge Band. (Are your memories coming back?) ….and what about Dave McQueen, Ruby Rendall and John F. Stone, what about Stoneybroke, Stars & Stripes and Honest Sam and the Dealers… the list goes on! Some of these bands are still around today, but unfortunately a lot of them have completely broken up and have disappeared or are doing other things, and some unfortunately are no longer with us.
Brigitte Lyell (as she was until her wedding to Danny Strachan in October 1992!) was with the committee of the Stagecoach CWC in Irvine, but visited on a regular basis and eventually was persuaded to become a member of the White Horse and then got roped on to the Committee. She finally became Secretary in 1992, taking over from John Selvey, who had done the Secretary's job for many years before that.
Other Secretaries over the years had been Sarah Jane Thomson, Kay McWilliam, Jean Logan and Rosemary Gordon.
The president at that time was Gordon Hamilton, a position he held for 12 years until his health faded and John Selvey became President in 1996. Gordon was made Hon. President, and he hardly missed a night until his sad death in August 2000.
Then, when the line-dancing craze hit the British Country Music scene about 6 years ago, everyone thought it would mean extra people through the door, and to a certain extend it was! But it also brought the ‘non’ Country people, a lot of times they did not fit the scene and would annoy the ‘old-hands’ by trying to take over and change just too many things, including everyone’s beloved Country Music. Of course this didn’t go down well, not just in our Club, but all over the Country, and a lot of people left, sickened by what they saw and eventually in the year 2000, attendance was down to around 30 people a night!
Up until then the club had been quite healthy, but night after night the bands couldn’t be paid and the club's money had to be used and it went down fast! Various fund-raising events took place, including a Race-night! Low and behold not a lot of White Horse members came along, but the Labour Club and its members helped raise nearly £600.00. The night was run by the then Labour Club manager, Mr. John Steven. Local duo 'Greyhound Express' kindly gave their time for free and one of the band’s members’ (Tom) wife Jeanette even sold a lot of the horses! It was a great night!
The committee was very disappointed that the members didn’t support this crucial night and decided, that if the members didn't really show much interest in keeping the club going, they should just call it a day. So with a heavy heart it was decided that once the money in the bank was finished - it would be the end of the White Horse CWC!!
The first gig in January 2001 with the 'Dez Walters Band' would be a free night for everyone; and it was in the Committee’s mind that this would probably be the last night for the club, as it would take all the money that was left!
American singer/fiddle player John Permenter was in Scotland on a little holiday at the time, and he decided to come along too! Low and behold, the place was jumping, people who hadn’t been to the club for ages came along and it turned out to be a very special evening! Everybody dug deep and the raffle, stand-up bingo and silver dollar just about raised enough money to pay the band.
This evening seemed to have 'kick-started' the club again and there have been some very special and busy nights since then. A lot of new people have joined the Club and things are doing nicely!
It really is hard to believe that 20 years have passed since it all began, a lot of things have happened, but mostly a lot of friendships have been found which otherwise would not have been possible! In my mind that is one of the most important things in any Country & Western Club. We all have our own problems, but its these friends who help us through them and that is what makes this scene unique!
A special ‘Thank you’ must go to the Labour Club and all who work in it! They have supported the Club well, even paying some of the bands, when things were really tight! Every Friday they donate the bottle for the Silver Dollar and they pay the bands for our Christmas Dances! Not a lot of Clubs get that kind of support - we appreciate it a lot!
Last, but certainly not least a big ‘Thank you’ must go to all the people who turn out every fortnight in all weathers and help to keep our Club going! Without you all our efforts would be in vain!
Lets all take a drink and wish for the very best over the next 20 years!
Band of the Year Awards
Four years ago it was decided that the White Horse CWC would give a Trophy to the Club’s Most Popular Band.
Each person in the hall is asked to give their opinion of the band on stage that night by giving their votes between 9 to 10.
This is added together and divided by the number of people who have voted! It works out fair to the bands that way, rather than just adding the votes together, which would mean that if a band played on a busy night, they would win regardless if the crowd liked them or not!
The winner is announced at the AGM every year. The winners so far have been:
Good Luvin’ Band
Dez Walters Band
Some absolutely useless information:
Over the last 20 years the White Horse CWC has had 460 Club-nights, with 32200
people through the door paying £96600 in door-money.
The Club has paid £138000 to the Bands and has taken in £20700 in Raffle money.
….and believe it or not…. ...at least 18400 bullets have been fired during gun-fights over the years!!!!
aaaaand….at least 36800 pints of beer have been supped……