I know that all sounds a bit of a mouthful, but I’ll try and explain it to you. Golden Friendship is a club run in the 543 Club. What type of club? Jim McLaren explained it to me a long while ago. And I’m not really sure he knew himself. Like most folk, I said, ‘Aye, Jim,’ while waiting for it to fall on its arse.
His mum said much the same thing today. That first day of the Golden Friendship club, Jim, his mum, Molly Kelly and a handful of folk, some in wheelchairs, in two big, unheated, draughty halls. But Jim stuck at it, the social glue that brought so many diverse groups together and filled those halls. He fills them with hundreds of people. None as daft as him. And I’m still not really sure how he does it, but it is working and his mum said she’s proud of him and who can blame her?
The Lord Provost was there and someone joked that Jim would soon be wearing his gold chain of office. Well, I think they were joking.
Jim seems to do the impossible. When centres and clubs are closing down and doors are shutting Jim is opening them. And it costs nothing.
You got to Jim’s Club and he doesn’t ask you for a £2 or a £1 or ten pence. It’s free. That’s one of the big secrets of his success. Jim recognises lots of folk, just don’t have cash. But they can just walk in the door and be welcomed.
What Jim’s good at is asking those that have cash to give him some. Davie Hamilton of Clydebank Private Hire, for example, joked when he saw Jim he opened his wallet. And Tom Sheridan of Clydebank Estate and Letting Agency said much the same thing. It’s good to be associated with success. And Jim has proven, time and again, he can pull the punters in.
The ‘Grab a Granny’ initiative has a buzzword and it is loneliness. Jim wants more punters to come through the door of the 543, but they don’t need to be grannies, they just need to be lonely and want a bit of company. He’ll do the rest. And they are going to leaflet the fifteen to twenty thousand households in Clydebank to provide those interested with a phone number.
Jim again, of course, has bitten off more that he can chew. What he also wants to happen is for other towns to do the same thing that he is doing. To set up a place in Dumbarton or Drumchapel where people that are stuck inside their own house with nothing to do but watch telly can go out and meet others, play bingo, dance, sing Karaoke, go to a play, or even abroad to Blackpool and ride on a donkey. Have a catered Christmas meal, with three or four courses served at your table and all for hee-haw.
Nah, Jim, I don’t think there’s many like you, pal. But then again, I can remember going to a meeting in the side room of the church hall about thirty-five years ago; Ruth Dorman was talking about something called Dalmuir Credit Union. I wonder what happened to that? Jim, if you run for Provost of Clydebank you’ll get my vote. If you run for MP you’ll get my vote, but nae singing for your supper.