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Varis Club, Forres disbands after 52 years and leaves remaining funds to Riding for the Disabled


By Garry McCartney

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The final meeting of The Varis Club at the Mosset Tavern.
The final meeting of The Varis Club at the Mosset Tavern.

A GROUP for local retirees that has run for more than half a century has disbanded.

The Varis Club secretary, Sheila Thompson, confirmed that the remaining members agreed to stop their first Tuesday morning in the month gatherings for good, during a final meeting with lunch at the Mosset Tavern.

She said: “Fifty two years on, times are a-changing, and the diminishing appetite for this kind of social gathering/meeting during the day has been reflected in the declining membership of The Varis Club.

“Its viability had been under discussion for four years as the number of members had been reducing annually, with no new members.

“People are no longer retiring early in the 55-60 age group due to changes in pensions.

“Also, more people now look to travel on extended holidays or have part-time employment or grandparent responsibilities.”

The majority of the remaining members did not wish to move meetings to the evenings.

The committee initially decided to wind-up with effect from July, 2019 but it was decided to keep going until 2020 so the club would reach its 50th birthday.

Mrs Thompson said: “While the Covid-19 pandemic intervened, membership continued to fall and in the spring of 2022 the committee again proposed winding up.

“This time there was a unanimous agreement.”

The Varis Club was founded in Forres in 1970 to encourage retired business and professional men over 60 to socialise via talks and discussions on topical, non-political issues.

Thirty four years later, in 2004, women were admitted and the age limit was relaxed.

In the early days, club business was carried out with strict protocol and formality appropriate to business practices.

Meetings were recorded in long-hand volumes and, as recently as 2008, full minutes were read out at the start of each session. Norman Thomson discontinued the practice when he took over as secretary in 2009, a role in which he continued for many years.

Summaries of the many talks were often published in the Gazette and the full minutes are complete from 1995 to the present.

For many years, meetings were held in the North Room at Forres Town Hall.

In 2018, the club moved to the Blue Room in Forres House Community Centre then in September 2019 to the Tolbooth Courtroom.

Total membership in 2017 was 47; by 2020 it had fallen to 28; and when the final meeting was held at the Mosset Tavern on Tuesday, May 17, only 15 active members were present.

The remaining membership was asked to suggest which local charity they would like residual club funds to be donated to. Several were suggested, the majority mentioning Riding for the Disabled: Les Clyne Pony and Forres in Bloom.

“Norman spoke in support of Forres in Bloom,” said Mrs Thompson, “followed by Carolyn Pitstra who spoke in support of Riding for the Disabled.

“The result of the ballot was 10 votes to four in favour of the Les Clyne Pony. This was most appropriate as Leslie Clyne had been a stalwart member of the club for many years and an active supporter of the RDA.”

A cheque for £400 was handed over to the RDA at Muiryhall Equestrian Centre with children from Applegrove, Pilmuir and Alves Primary Schools present.

Valerie Burt, Carolyn Pitstra, Michelle Lucas, Allan on pony Lucy, Alice Sutherland, Michael Thompson and Sheila Thompson. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Valerie Burt, Carolyn Pitstra, Michelle Lucas, Allan on pony Lucy, Alice Sutherland, Michael Thompson and Sheila Thompson. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Varis Club president Michael Thompson hands the cheque over to RDA chairwoman Sonia Howell. Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Varis Club president Michael Thompson hands the cheque over to RDA chairwoman Sonia Howell. Picture: Daniel Forsyth..


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