The Newcastle Kinsmen Club was founded in 1952 and later changed its name to the Miramichi Kinsmen Club. The 14 original founding members of the club were: Bud Palmer, Louis Legere, Murray Bolan, Brooke Young, William Bates, Jack Steeves, Lou Bursay, Edgar White, Willis Dickison, William Morrison, Cecil Stymiest, Lawrence Donahue, William Donahue and William Murray.
Brooke Young, Murray Bolan and Willis Dickison got together in 1952 to help establish a local Kinsmen Club here on the Miramichi. The three men approached other Miramichi men about setting up a club and 14 agreed to apply for a charter.
The late Judge Richard Miller, then president of the Moncton Kinsmen Club came to Newcastle and gave a presentation to our group on the role of Kinsmen. Later the Moncton Kinsmen Club became our sponsor for a charter. On May 4, 1952 the National Association presented the charter of the ‘Kinsmen Club of Newcastle’ and Brooke Young was elected the first president of the club
The first few years of existence were not easy years for the new club. From 1954-58 the club was nearly inactive, doing little fundraising and meeting rarely. During that time the National Association had strict membership and meeting requirements and these obligations were not being met. Rupert Kethro who joined in 1954 was instrumental in keeping the clubs charter active during these years. He forwarded meeting minutes to the appropriate officials, filled out the necessary paperwork and even paid the clubs dues to the Association.
When the members met, the meetings were held in the basement of the old United Church hall in Newcastle. The reasons for the near demise of the club were never revealed but Rupert Kethro refused to give in. He was asked by the other three remaining members to turn the charter in and fold the club. He at first said he would and then arranged for the Moncton Kinsmen Club to come to give a presentation on what Kin is about. They agreed and the remaining members were able to gather 10 other men to meet with the Moncton club at the skating and curling rink on George Street. After the meeting the new and old members decided to start a new and another meeting was scheduled at the Miramichi Hotel for September, 1958 with Hal Mann elected as the President and members were Rupert Kethro, John Dupuis, Sterling Bell, Ken Parnell, Mike Mitchell, Bill Siddall, Bob Dickson, James Stevens, Don Cleland, Lou Bursay and Willis Dickison. There were still tough times ahead, but with a strong group of members and wise decisions, the club flourished and was able to make an incredible impact on the lives of Miramichiers.
In the 1950’s and ‘60’s fundraising projects really consisted of selling light bulbs, selling Christmas wreaths and collecting pop and beer bottles from families at their homes. Many a senior citizen hearing that the Kinsmen needed bottles called members to collect their bottles but the bottles were so old they couldn’t be sold, but as good Kinsmen they were collected to help out the seniors.
The club started off doing a number of minor projects such as giving out Christmas baskets to the needy, and making donations to various recreation groups and other organizations. The club also built a wading pool, named for Edgar White, and provided park equipment for it as well, but the first major project organized by the Newcastle Kinsmen was the building of the school for the mentally challenged from 1966 to 1967. These children really had no place to study. Members felt that one of our community’s greatest needs was for us to build and establish a school for mentally challenged children here on the river.
The Newcastle Kinsmen was also instrumental in the chartering of the Kinsmen Club of Bathurst in the late ‘60’s.
Club fellowship central to being a Kinsmen – Friendships that grow while working on projects for the community are a key factor in keeping members active.
“Having been a Kinsmen for the past 50 years, I must say that for me the greatest part of being a member of the Kinsmen Club is the fellowship one experiences with fellow club members while working on projects as well as socially,” says Charter and Life Member Willis Dickison.
Even today, I still enjoy the fellowship and still wholeheartedly support the ideals of the Kinsmen Club and of course the K-40 Club as well,” Dickison added.
There are a series of various awards that Kinsmen Clubs give to their members but Life Membership is the highest honour.
In honour of his efforts to rejuvenate and save the club Rupert Kethro was elected the clubs first Life Member. To further honour him the club sponsors the District’s Public Speaking Competition and named the award in honour of Rupert, as well the club’s meeting room in the Beaverbrook Kin Centre is named the “Rupert Kethro Memorial Room”.
The eighties continued to see the club grow in members, projects and donations to the community. We also continued to be leaders in the association by having two members represent the zone as deputy governor; they were Blaine Jenkins in 1979-80 and Paul McGraw in 1984-86. We also hosted the spring zone conference in Newcastle in March 1985.
For the 30th anniversary, celebrated in February 1982, it was decided to hold a special night. The guest speaker for the night was former premier of Newfoundland Joey Smallwood. Joe was known for his oratory and he certainly did not let those down who were in attendance.
On March 15th, 1986 the Newcastle Kinsmen had the pleasure of a visit from the founder of our association, Hal Rogers. There was a dinner and dance at the Miramichi Gold and Country Club in honour of his visit. Founder Hal Rogers spent the night telling stories of Kin from across the country and he then honoured past president Robert “Bob” McCallum with life membership. Any member that was present that evening still recalls it as one of the highlights of their Kin career.
Throughout the decade through projects such as the Kinsmen bingo, chicken BBQ, greaser dances and the spring and fall sportsmen stags, the club was able to continue to donate to many of the community’s greatest needs.
Some of these donations included an ambulance for the St. John Ambulance, $50,000 to the building of the Miramichi Civic Center, Jaws of Life and rescue boats to the local Fire departments, Chatham Fire Training Center, Chatham Day Care Center and many smaller donations to local groups, teams and people in need. The club was also active in the winter carnival and Canada Day celebrations.
Major projects were held annually for cystic fibrosis and multiple sclerosis out national and district service projects respectively. One of these projects was a “Donnie and the Monarchs” dance, where profits went to multiple sclerosis. There was always great community support for these dances.
The major project for cystic fibrosis throughout the decade was the Bed Push. We pushed a bed around the river and relied on the generosity of the public for donations, and they never let us down. In the late eighties the Kinsmen became associated with Zellers and their employees, with the Moonwalk and all monies raised went to cystic fibrosis as well.
The eighties was a decade where the Newcastle Kinsmen continues to work to “Serve the Community’s Greatest Need” which is the motto of the association. Thanks once again to the community for its support of the Kinsmen and allowing us to provide funding for worthy causes throughout the Miramichi Region.
The Kinsmen started off the nineties with a bang, a $200,000 renovation of the Kinsmen Pool and accompanying building. It was a major financial undertaking by our members but as with all projects could not have been completed without the generous support of the community.
Our club also continued to be leaders having had elected three deputy governors. They were Ken MacDonald in 1992-93, Gordon Nelson in 1997-98 and Derrick Huskins in 1999-2000. We also hosted the Spring Zone Conference in March of 1991 and again in March of 1998. In the spring of 1992 we celebrated our 40th Anniversary by changing the name of the club from Newcastle to the Miramichi Kinsmen. That night we had the pleasure of having our National Presidents John and Dodie Glynn on hand to celebrate with us.
Throughout the decade we continued raising funds with such projects as a Vehicle Giveaway, Bingo, Bed Pushes, Dances, Catering, Raffles and our Spring and Fall sportsmen stag nights. In the late nineties we did modify our sportsmen stags to one project in the Fall, a Big Buck Night, which has been a huge success. As a result of these and other fundraising activities we were able to make donations to many community groups and charities. Some of these included Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple Sclerosis, a new rescue boat for the City Fire Department, a play ground at Ian Baillie School, renovations at the Lord Beaverbrook Arena and countless other donations.
In 1996-97 we took on one of our largest commitments in our history. We took over the former Newcastle town hall and theatre, renaming it the Beaverbrook Kin Centre. By taking this building over, we were able to sell our home, the Kinsmen School, and use the money to renovate the Building. The building was in need of many improvements and these included painting of the entire building, a new floor and curtains in the theatre, a new patio at the rear of the building, complete renovation of the second floor, a new kitchen and bar and we made the facility handicap accessible. These renovations cost in excess of $200,000, but have made it the clubs pride and joy and a beautiful facility to hold any meeting, function or banquet. We are continually doing upgrades and will continue to do so to keep this historic building available for the community.
We have been able to continue to “Serve the Community’s Greatest Need” through the generosity of the people in the Miramichi region, and we cannot thank you enough for your continued support. Now that we are in a new millennium our club has taken on many new and challenging projects and with continued support from the community the sky is the limit in our next 50 years.
Kinsmen in the 21st Century