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A generous final act

A Wairarapa institution known for its high-energy stage performances is donating the profits from its old headquarters to keep the community singing.

After 112 years, the Masterton Savage Club closed its doors in January and sold the club buildings on Albert St in August.

Club patron Randell Mellish said its constitution required the profits of the sale to be donated to a charity. Hospice Wairarapa was one of 10 community organisations to receive a total of $321,000 from the organisation.

Hospice Wairarapa fundraising manager Tracey Harris said the donation was “fantastic”.

“This donation has come at a wonderful time – we are really grateful. This will go a long way in delivering our services and moving forward.”

She said fundraising had become difficult in the last three years, thanks to covid.

“We haven’t been able to hold a lot of our major fundraisers. Hospice relies on fundraising, retail stores and grants – which have all been affected.

“A lot of businesses we rely on for support are also struggling, so a lot of grants have been pulled.

“It hasn’t just affected us, it has affected many community organisations.”

She said many of the hospice residents had fond memories of the Savage Club’s performances – which would usually involve comedy sketches, show tunes, and poetry readings.

Mellish said the club’s committee decided to shut up shop earlier in the year as only “about half a dozen members” were still active.

“Our outgoings were getting expensive – about $2,500 a year for rates, power and insurance.

“We didn’t have the financials to make it to another Christmas.”

“It’s hard to put a concert on with just seven performers,” former secretary Judith Thomsen said.

“A lot of our income came from the concerts. We often had a full house – but we just never convinced the audience to join as members.”

The Masterton Savage Club was originally founded in 1910, for men to perform for one another through skits, comedy and musical numbers. Women joined in 1998.

The club was so popular in the 1950s – capped at 100 members – that an Orphans Club was formed for those who couldn’t secure a membership.

Mellish, who was a member for 54 years, said members had “many good memories” during the club’s heyday, including visits to other clubs around the country.

“We had a lot of fun going around the different towns. The visitors would put on variety concerts.

“There are still eight clubs left in the North Island, and about double that in the South Island.”

The club also made donations to Wellington Free Ambulance, Masterton Foodbank, Masterton Theatre Company, Riding for the Disabled, District of Masterton Air Training Corps, Life Flight Trust, Women’s Refuge, St John Ambulance, and Wairarapa Cancer Society.

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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