Finding friendship is at the heart of Probus Club ethos

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While some may breathe a sigh of relief when they reach the end of their working lives, there’s no doubt that for many it leaves a gap that’s hard to fill.

For members of the Probus Club – who must be retired to join – their meetings are one way to keep their diaries busy and their brains active.

And in the words of the club’s motto, they find friendship in retirement.

Members meet every second Tuesday in Falkirk Stadium’s Westfield Lounge to hear speakers on a variety of subjects.

They welcome such guests as the Provost of Falkirk, Pat Reid, Falkirk Herald editor Jill Buchanan, football historian Michael White and the recently retired Lord Lieutenant Marjory MacLachlan, who was the speaker when The Falkirk Herald visited.

“She came and spoke to us when she was very new to the role, so now she is retired it is fitting that she has come to see us again,” said the club’s Bill Laurie.

“We have gone from a history of bee-keeping to a history of surgery,” said current President Jim Gilfillan.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been disappointed by a speaker.”

The Probus Club introduces its members to new acquaintances who are happy to chat – perhaps even argue – and new experiences.

The meetings, which start at 10.30am, are preceded by a cup of tea and a blether, as around 50 retired gentlemen gradually fill the room which overlooks the football pitch.

After the speaker, there is time for questions and even a little debate.

Retired doctor Gillies Sinclair, now aged 90, says the debate is welcomed and, usually, good-natured.

He said: “We’ve seen life, we’ve got our prejudices and hang-ups and they can come out every now and then!”

For someone like Dr Sinclair, the Probus Club has been a welcome interest since retiring from an extremely busy career.

His incredible CV includes being a GP, Falkirk FC doctor and helping to found Strathcarron Hospice.

But the club has provided fellowship in his retirement.

When I asked how members would describe the club, he said: “We’re likeable elderly eejits!” prompting laughter from everyone.

More seriously, he added: “Some of us are not married or widowed.

“If you’re on your own it’s nice to get out and socialise.

“We’re from a huge mixture of different backgrounds – the whole spectrum of the community.”

As well as hosting speakers, the club also runs occasional trips, with members recalling visits to places including the Scottish Parliament and one enjoyable trip to Tullibardine Distillery.

“Well, we remember going but we don’t remember coming back!” quipped Dr Sinclair.

Unsurprisingly, any speaker on the topic of Falkirk Football Club always attracts a very good turnout.

Many of the members are from Falkirk and have a bond in their shared memories of life in the town.

But that’s not the case for everyone. Ian Hamilton, one of the club’s younger members at 63, spent his working life in the oil industry, away from home.

On retiring, he found his social circle had shrunk without his workmates.

“I was looking to build a social circle and the club has been very good for that,”
said Ian.

Formed in 1973 by Falkirk Rotary Club, at its height Falkirk Probus Club’s membership stood at 120.

These days, membership is still healthy at around 80 and turnouts to meetings are good, with 50 or 60 reguarly attending.

The annual fee is £30 and under the careful husbandry of Alex Bennie. This pays for all the tea, coffee and biscuits with a litle left over too for contributions to charitable causes.

“We are not a service club – we don’t raise money for charity,” said Bill Laurie. “But we usually manage to make a couple of donations.”

The club is keen to encourage new members, particularly those in their 60s, as many current members are in their 80s, with a few nonogenarians.

Several cheerfully admit to being paid up members of the ‘grumpy old men’ brigade, but there is much good-natured banter and a sense of camaraderie among them all.

Meetings are formal and the guests treated with great courtesy but, at its heart, this is a club that’s about fellowship and friendship in retirement.