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Hackney's General Browning MOTH Club in financial straits

PUBLISHED: 14:55 08 October 2012

Associate member Roger Lawson, with MOTHWA members Sheila Lawson, Maureen Stoakley, Doreen Pont, and Christine Walton.

Associate member Roger Lawson, with MOTHWA members Sheila Lawson, Maureen Stoakley, Doreen Pont, and Christine Walton.

Supplied by Jon Sharman, freelance reporter

It has occupied the Old Trades Hall in Valette St, a stone's throw from the Hackney Empire, for 40 years - but the General Browning Club's financial struggles mean another landmark anniversary is a distant dream.

Founded by the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTH), which serves to remember and support ex-service members, the club is the last of its kind in the UK and needs to raise £2,500 for a new boiler, with members at a loss for ideas.

Without the boiler, the hall where the club’s 40th anniversary celebrations took place, and where social nights are held, would effectively be out-of-bounds.

Christine Walton, 60, used to work at St John and St James primary school in Homerton, but now drives from Dover every Saturday with her husband, Brian, 66, to run themed social evenings.

She said: “I don’t really know what the answer is. We thought of a jumble sale — but how much do you make at a jumble sale?

“We thought about doing an open weekend but now we’ve got no heating and the toilets are broken, it’s hard to get the people in. It’s a fantastic place; it just needs a bit of T.L.C.

“Give us a try. Come in on Saturday night and see what we have to offer.”

‘Cash over the bar’ is what is needed, says Kevin Swords, 60, of Nisbet House, Homerton, who has attended the club for 15 years.

He said: “We welcome everybody here. You do want ex-servicemen to continue the MOTH organisation in this area but it’s not just about them — it’s about the community getting involved.”

Kevin is also concerned about the fate of the club’s extraordinary collection of military paraphernalia, crammed into an overflowing meeting room.

It includes a decommissioned Bren gun and the skin of a desert rat, signed by British soldiers in the North African campaign of World War Two.

He added: “There’s so much stuff up there, there’s no way we can store it all. Maybe we’d have to give it to the Imperial War Museum.”

Margaret Holt, 81, lives in sheltered accommodation in Hackney Wick and summed up why the club is different to other venues. She said: “When you go into pubs round Hackney it’s drugs and trouble, but here I feel safe. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done, to join.”

For more information about the club, call 0208 985 7963 or email info@mothchq.co.uk.

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