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There was a Fremantle Working Men's Club with 35 members in 1893. This is known from an application for a club (liquor) licence which was considered and refused in December of that year, as reported in the Inquirer and Commercial News, quod vide. The [first] Fremantle Club was also in existence at that time, and had no difficulty in having its licence granted.
The Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club was established on Monday 2 February 1914, when the inaugural committee met and named the Club. According to an article in the Westralian Worker of Friday 6 February 1914, the first President was William Roche and the Secretary Herbert Taylor. All those involved were unionists.
It began in response to a perceived need for meeting-place for the workers of Fremantle, many of whom were lumpers (waterside workers, wharfies, stevedores, longshoremen). The Club bought its first premises, the former Lodge's Hotel, at 1 Henry St [now a carpark]. The Workers Club was able to open as a licensed premises on 2 June 1914 after it acquired a liquor licence.
Lodge's Hotel had been built in 1876, but lost its liquor licence in the 1890s. It became a seminary, a school for young ladies, and then the Fremantle Club, an organisation serving the needs of Fremantle businessmen. After the Fremantle Club moved on, the building was available for the use of the FWSLC, which purchased it from the AMP Society for £2000.
The documents which follow—newspaper reports from the time—give an account of the difficulty the Club had in obtaining a liquor licence. Objections were raised by nearby licensees, who presumably did not want to lose that part of their business which was generated by thirsty waterside workers who would prefer to drink at the Club—not only because it was theirs but also because the Club could afford to charge less for drinks as it had another source of income, namely, membership fees.
The Club had three commencement dates to celebrate in the 2014 centenary year: first, 2 February, when the building was purchased. It is not known what activities if any took place in it between then and 2 June, the second date, but they should not have included drinking, as it was until then a club licence was issued and the Club could commence trading in alcoholic beverages. The third date is 2 September on which, as reported below, the Club was officially opened.
Two things in the 3 September report are worthy of note. First, a lady was present. Given that it was a men's club for many decades, it is remarkable that it couldn't be opened without the assistance of a Mrs Parsons, who must have played an instrument (the piano, perhaps) which no man could play as well as she. Second, Mr Burchell, the member for Fremantle, who 'opened' the Club is quoted as saying that the main object was 'to conduct the club on model lines and keep out the gambling element'. It is ironical that there is now a TAB terminal in the room which used to be the Library and Reading Room, and that gambling in this form is now an accepted part of the business of the Club.
FREMANTLE WORKERS CLUB.
APPLICATION FOR LICENCE.
The Fremantle Licensing Bench gave further consideration yesterday to the application of the Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club for a licence to sell liquor on their premises, in Packenham-street. Mr. E. P. Dowley, R.M., and Messrs. Purdie and Nicholas, J's.P., were on the Bench. Mr. F. G. Unmack represented the applicants and Mr. M. Lavan appeared on behalf of 20 resident objectors.
The West Australian, Tuesday 24 March 1914, page 8
[This report mentions that the Club premises were in Packenham St. This may be an error on the part of the reporter, as the Club has always been in Henry St, afaik.]
Fremantle Workers Club.
Application for Registration Refused.
The reserved judgment of the Fremantle Licensing Bench (Mr. E. P. Dowley, R.M., and Messrs. F. Nicholas and Purdie. J's.P.) was delivered this morning in connection with the application of H. H. Taylor (secretary
of the Fremantle Workers' Social and Leisure Club) for a certificate of registration for premises in Henry street, proposed to be utilised for purposes of a Workers' Club.
The Daily News (Perth), Tuesday 24 March 1914: 10
Herbert Henry Taylor renewed his application for a club certificate for premises in Henry-street, known as the Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club. Mr. P. Unmack represented the appellant.
The Daily News (Perth), Tuesday 2 June 1914, page 8
Club License Granted.
Perth, June 2.
Herbert Henry Taylor renewed his application for a club certificate for premises in Henry-street, known as the Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club. The police submitted a report favorable to the application.
Kalgoorlie Western Argus, Tuesday 9 June 1914, page 9
Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club.--Last night about 100 members and their friends of the Fremantle Workers Club assembled in one of the club rooms, the occasion being the official opening of the club by Mr. R. J. Burchell. Mr. Paton presided in the absence of the president (Mr. W. Roache). In addressing a few words to the assembly Mr. Burchell stated that it was time Fremantle possessed a club for the workers. Every port in the Commonwealth had one. He paid a great tribute to the foundation members and to those who had selected the club premises. The main object, he said, was to conduct the club on model lines and keep out the gambling element. During the evening a musical programme was rendered by Mrs. Parsons, Messrs. Taylor, Meyers, W. Howell, Salter, and J. Sands.
The West Australian, Thursday 3 September 1914, page 6
A NOVEL EXPLANATION.
PERTH, March 14
The Register [Adelaide], 15 March 1916: 5
Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club Inc.
SFFC, Fremantle Oval
PO Box 1623 Fremantle 6959