Airth Welfare Hall trustees appeal to residents to make use of facility

(From left) John and Tracie Campbell, management committee members; Jean Tait, trustee and conveyor; and Bob Smith, trustee and treasurer. Picture: Michael Gillen
(From left) John and Tracie Campbell, management committee members; Jean Tait, trustee and conveyor; and Bob Smith, trustee and treasurer. Picture: Michael Gillen

A trio of trustees want to open up their fellow residents’ eyes to the potential of a facility which, possibly unbeknown to some, is owned by the community.

The committee at Airth Welfare Hall are eager to let those who live in the village know they are entitled to, in most cases, free use of the premises.

It’s the aim of Robert Smith, Jean Tait and Aileen Amos to get more people coming forward to make use of the hall for parties and functions in the hope of turning things around following five decades of “mixed fortunes”.

Originally built in 1930 for Airth Miners Welfare Society and villagers, it was once a hub for social activity which would host concerts, parties, dances and picture shows. However, trade took a downturn in the 1970s as more people who lived there opted to spend time, and money, outwith Airth.

New trustees were appointed in 1971 and the running of the hall was overseen by a committee who found it increasingly difficult to operate and maintain the premises, which were in need up substantial repairs, and make ends meet.

After taking legal advice and holding public meetings, it was agreed in 1980 to lease the hall to Airth Welfare and Social Club in order to preserve the building and the facilities for the community.

With the help of loans, the social club expanded and modernised the premises and for a few years it ran as a successful enterprise, so much so, say the committee, the trade of the two pubs in the village fell dramatically.

Yet the good times soon slowed for the social club, for a “variety of reasons”, as it amassed significant debts and unpaid rent to the trustees.

The general consensus was the future of the hall should be decided by the community, which eventually agreed to letting the building and, after interviewing several parties, decided to accept a bid from the local Orange Order, with a lease drawn up in 2000.

Yet further difficulties were not far around the corner as the cost of running and upgrading the facility took its toll on the new tenant.

Within six years the Orange Order was forced to enter into an agreement with the Stirling Campsie Apprentice Boys to run the premises jointly — a move which the hall’s committee says has “worked well”.

The committee’s ambition now is to entice others through the hall’s doors on a regular basis.

Robert, who is also the treasurer, said: “Currently, the premises are let to a group who use it for their own purposes but as a condition it must be made available to community groups free of charge.

“The agreement has worked well for the property and with help from grants, substantial repairs and improvements have been carried out. The tenant has also carried out substantial upgrading and repairs themselves and the premises are widely used for social events like dances, parties, funerals and fundraising activities.

“As Airth has doubled in size over the past 25 years or so, many of the new residents probably do not realise that they actually own the premises and that it is available to all community groups to let free of charge or for a small fee in some cases.”

For more details, email airthwelfarehall@hotmail.co.uk.