Do you remember the 59 Club?

A number of the Geezers have happy memories of playing sport at Eton Manor – the sporting facilities which had been generously funded by Old Etonians at Hackney Wick.

Back in 1959 John Oates decided that twelve youngsters in the St Mary of Eton church youth club wasn’t good enough. He revamped the club, blagged an espresso machine, and persuaded Cliff Richard to come over and open the new teenagers’ club which he named after the year. 450 youngsters came on the opening night, the following week they brought their friends.

Last Saturday Canon John Oates visited his old church and I was able to speak with him and ask questions. He is seen next to Rev. Sue Makin, vicar of St Mary of Eton, in the centre of my photo. They are flanked by two of the first members of the youth club, who later married and still live nearby.

In 1962 Father Bill Shergold rode his motorbike to the Ace Caff on the North Circular and handed out flyers to invite a bunch of rockers to a church service at Hackney Wick. This idea was so mad that it actually worked. In a few years the 59 Club had thousands of members and the motorcycle section had to split off and meet elsewhere. The 59 Club is still going.

8 Comments

  1. Farther Oats, as he was then, became my God Father when I was head choir boy at St Marys of Eaton I was about 10 years old, I also used to sing solos at weddings on a Saturday for the princely sum of 2 shillings (10 pence)
    Father Digby Baker tutored me for my confirmation and Farther Mark De Wolf used to take the Drama group where we put on productions of Call Me Madam, Oklahoma, Annie Get your gun and the Boy Friend.
    The church was very much the centre of the Hackney Wick community
    I was in the 33rd group Cub pack held at the church hall.
    Lots of happy memories, to many to type out here.

    We moved from Hackney to an overspill town in Suffolk in 1964 when I was 12 years
    And did not see Father Oats again until I visited him and Sylvia when he was the Vicar of Richmond

  2. My husband and I met at the 59 club in August of that year and married at St Mary’s in 1965, sadly he passed away in October of this year. I remember Father John Oates, Father Shergold and Father Mary De Wolf who took me through my confirmation classes at the age of 17. I was confirmed at St. Paul’s Cathedral by the Bishop of London. I was at the club when Cliff Richard opened it, and also when Princess Margaret visited. We also used to go after evensong on Sunday evenings and my husband frequently sung on those evenings. In the summer a train would be hired to take us to one if the seaside locations and there would be a band in the guard’s van and we would dance all the way there. I have the fondest memories of those times and by meeting and marrying my husband there it formed the basis for the rest of my life

  3. I remember the 59 club I was the drummer with Ron and the Couriers and Fr. Oates helped us become good musicians and had time for everybody. We were the “Star Band of the 59 Club”. I am stil in touch with Fr. Oates or Farv as we called him then. I am still,playing even at my adcanced age and have. Fr.Oates to thank for my career as a musician and as a person. Great memories. Mike Johnson (Harwich)

  4. I remember going to the 59 at the start with club after Sunday’s evening service and Thursday night .Always preferred Cliff to Elvis after see him there ,now I’m 73 with good .memories.

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