I have never been allowed, nor wish to have been allowed, membership into the hallowed halls of a private members club. 

That said, I have visited them, of a sort, over the years. Now when I say, ‘private members club’, I don’t mean ‘private members club’ such as the Garrick, but clubs where membership is a necessity, no matter how low rent the environment (see the Hastings fisherman’s club, Merthyr Tydfil ex-serviceman’s club and working man's clubs scattered along the south coast of England).

The vibe in all was, and is, peculiarly similar, with the manager cum barman cum security operative often wearing a short sleeve shirt with a clip-on tie (now, as then, a big fashion no-no) as they eye you accusingly as you made your way through the wooden entrance doors which could do with a lick of WD40. 

Like sniffer dogs, they could tell in an instant if you were a member, past or present, even if your membership had lapsed 35 years ago, as you order a pint before raving to your assembled guests, all sitting around a rickety, stained wood, round table with a leg on the way out, as to how the round only cost £4.16 for four pints! 

Brett Ellis has been to members clubsBrett Ellis has been to members clubs

The pool table which still takes 20p pieces is a boon! Before you realise that the cues were last maintained when Ray Reardon was at his peak and the tips haven’t seen chalk since WWII.

Your feet stick to the floor as you make your way across the bar area to the toilets which still have a picture of Linda Lusardi adorning the wall before noticing the tap has rusted solid and there is a distinct absence of hand gel.

So yes, that is the type of members club I am used to, which is markedly different to the Garrick Club, which was recently in the news having finally, belatedly, voted to allow those pesky womenfolk to become members after 194 years of existence. 

Located in London’s theatreland, it boasts ‘excellent’ dining facilities, accommodation, and a theatrical library (the librarian does jazz hands with every borrow?). 

With a dress code of jackets and collared shirts and no jeans or trainers, they are certainly firm in their assertion that the hoi polloi will not pass! and, although the fairer sex is allowed entry, it's only if accompanied by a male member.

But change is a natural, normal state and the Garrick allowing women members must be seen as a belated positive, yet the decision leaves me with but one question: Why on earth would any self-respecting female want to be a part of such a club? 

Give me the Hastings old town fisherman’s club any day where anything goes, and you don’t even have to know owt’ about fish or wear your Sunday best to receive a cheap pint of John Smiths!

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher.