Singapore Recreation Club
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The Singapore Recreation Club (SRC) is a social club founded on 23 June 1883. It is the third oldest club in Singapore after the Singapore Turf Club and Singapore Cricket Club (SCC). Founded by 30 members from the Eurasian community, it began as a sports club and since then, has expanded to include many other social activities.
The club began as the Straits Cricket Club in 1881 with a group of young Eurasians cricketers who frequently played matches on the Padang. It was said they were troops from the Royal Engineers while the founder was their colonel. The club was officially established on 23 June 1883 as the Singapore Recreation Club and played its first cricket match against the Royal Artillery on 1 September that same year. J. R. MacFarlane was the first President, B. E. D' Aranjo was Secretary and C. V. Norris was Treasurer, while its first patrons were W. H. Read, Henry McCallum and John Anderson.Physical developments of clubhouse
With the formation of the club in June 1883, permission was granted the following month for the use of the lower end of the Padang for cricket matches and later lawn tennis. The club members however, met in a building at Waterloo Street. On 24 March 1884, the government granted permission for a pavilion to be erected between the present building and St Andrew's Road. It was a simple structure occupying the present carpark of the club and possibly built by convict labour who had helped in the constructing of St Andrew's Cathedral. Leftover tiles from the church were also used to roof the clubhouse. Completed in November 1885, this first pavilion was opened in January 1886 with funds raised by public subscription.Second pavilion
By 1901, with increasing activities and growing membership, suggestions were raised to build a second pavilion especially to accommodate the crowds during cricket matches. The pavilion was first enlarged before a new building was built on 8 August 1905 through funds raised by increased subscriptions. The clubhouse was formally opened on 2 September 1905 by Governor John Anderson.
This second pavilion was built by Messrs. Hogan & Co contractors, under the direction of D. M. Martia, the architect and also the vice-president of the club. The servants quarters were on the ground floor while the members' rooms were above. Beside the large hall, there were rooms on either side of the hall to accommodate to the committee's meetings as well as to serve as a reading room. There was an exit that led directly to Stamford Road. By 1 March 1931, the pavilion expanded with the additions of two wings to provide extra space for a billiards room, ladies' room, reading room, cards room and a grill room.
With the outbreak of World War II, the building was requisitioned by the British Military Authorities at the beginning of February 1942. Many members fought against the Japanese, serving in the Eurasian Company of the Singapore Volunteer Corps. When the Japanese was invading Singapore on 15 February 1942, the Eurasian community assembled at the Padang and the clubhouse was used as a registration centre from where many were sent to internment camps. The club was reinstated on 29 July 1946 after the Japanese Occupation. Unfortunately, club records had either been lost or destroyed during the war.
Cricket was the main sport played at the club. Before the clubhouse was constructed, sportsmen had to take shelter under large mango trees. In January 1884, lawn tennis was introduced and the club began to hold tournaments. Within months of completion of the first pavilion, the club hosted its first ever 2-day sports event on 1 July 1886. The crowds, made up of European and Eurasian communities, were strong in their numbers and support. There were complaints that those in the front of the pavilion blocked the view for those behind during the meet.The sports meet was considered successful and included everything from three-legged and sack races to pole vaulting, tug-of-war, high jump and hurdles. The 2-day sports meet became an annual affair until it was disrupted by the First World War. It continued in 1919. By the late 19th century, land sport events were held at the Club side of the Padang while the sea games were carried out in the waters nearby.
The collocation of the club with the Singapore Cricket Club on the other end of the Padang made for a friendly yet competitive relationship especially during cricket matches. Similar clubs such as the Penang Recreation Club, the Malacca Cricket Club and the Selangor Cricket Club competed with the club. The first cricket match played outside of Singapore was held in 1887, in which the club competed against Malacca Cricket Club.
Besides cricket, other sports played on the club grounds were football, athletics, tennis, hockey and rugby. Thus, the clubhouse became the venue that encouraged organised sports in the colony. Through competitive games, the club became recognised as a premier club in Malaya, nurturing many national sportsmen and women over the years. In 1923, three members were credited for helping to clinch the Championship Shield of Malaya for Singapore in the athletic meet. There were social activities like dances and tea parties after Atheletics Meetings. Dances were held at the Victoria Memorial Hall and was the highlight of the year.
The Club served as a venue for non-white members in contrast to its competitor, the Singapore Cricket Club which was located opposite. However, membership was limited to only men and Eurasians. Women were allowed in the club premises in 1933 with the inclusion of a ladies' rest room and toilet for ladies. The women however, were expected to keep to their room. It was only in 1955 that the club opened to non-Eurasians. Memberships were only opened to women in following year. Dato Aw Cheng Chye was one of the first non-Eurasians to join. On 11 February 1963, the majority voted to open membership to all residents in Singapore.
Monthly committee meetings were legendary for its lengthy duration. They started off sharply at 5 pm but often ended at midnight with the President falling asleep on his chair. Thereafter, committee members would adjourned to Empress Hotel for dinner. Membership rose gradually from 37 in November in 1887 to 70 in 1891. In 1905, it rose to 141 and then 200 in 1921. One of its long-serving members was D. M. Martia who had held various offices including treasurer, vice-president and president over a span of 12 years. In 2004, the Club had 6,500 members comprising mostly Chinese, Indians and then Eurasians. Honorary lifetime memberships were given to Dr Benjamin Sheares, David Marshall and E. W. Barker.
Club subscription was $2 with a monthly fee of $1 when it was first founded. Around the 1910s, subscription rose to $5 and a monthly fee of $2. Today, SRC club membership, like other club memberships, is treated more like an investment. Membership is transferable. It can trade on an open market for as much as $40,000 as it did in the late 1990s.
The Club adopted its red and blue corporate colours in 1886; red for brotherhood and navy blue for sportsmanship. The club logo was adapted from the winning design of Ms Hoon Siew Hong in a logo competition in 1978. It has four pillars representing the four main cultures in Singapore, who met at the Club in common fellowship and sportsmanship. The pillars are surmounted by an image of a lion. Gold has been added to its traditional corporate colours, symbolising the new era for the club with its adoption of a new constitution.
Throughout its existence, the club had periodically raised funds for the expansion and improvement of its premises. The verandah had been extended, the size of the hall was doubled, the card room was redesigned so that it could be easily converted to a stage or platform for band performances. In 1957, a major expansion project was carried out in the clubhouse. The burgeoning number of clubs and the redevelopment of other social clubs pushed the club to look for ways to attract more members. In 1975, the club embarked on a bold $150,000 modernisation program. A decade later, the clubhouse went through more renovations in 1986.
In the early 1990s, the club planned for a major redevelopment project. As a result, in January 1995, the entire clubhouse at the Padang was torn down to make way for a $65-million, seven-storey building. It was officially opened on 28 June 1997 by Dr Tony Tan, the then Deputy Minister and the Minister of Defence. The elegant clubhouse today boasts Singapore's first underground heated swimming pool, first underground gymnasium and first underground bowling centre.
Joshua Chia and Bonny Tan
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The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.