A Trip Down Memory Lane
January 8, 2021
We recently had the opportunity to chat with one of our longest serving members, Elsie Byrne! She still attends the club and is an avid bingo player. Elsie gave us an insight into the club’s early days, and we hope you enjoy the trip down memory lane below.
My Time With Brothers Rugby League Football Club
By Elsie Byrne (Smith)
My husband Tommy and I came to live in Townsville in 1951. Our first outing was to a football match at the grounds in North Ward. While watching, I heard a voice coming from the grandstand that yelled, “Elsie, up here!” It was my friend Joan Montgomery and all of her other Brothers supporter friends. They looked like they were having a wonderful day as they were a very rowdy bunch.
Brothers’ first clubhouse was an “Army” type igloo at Queens Park (North Ward). All it had were a few tables and chairs, no other facilities, and temporary showers for the players to use after training has completed. Brothers had won the premiership in the early 50s and all players and supported were invited back to the clubhouse to celebrate. Of course, women provided the food and we would use the public toilet facilities at the opposite end of the park/field. For the players to use their temporary showers, the women would use Austin A40 (type of car), with the players standing on the running boards (side steps) and drive them across the park to their showers.
Tommy and I built our first house at Burns St in Gulliver. A few years later, Brothers build their second clubhouse at Gill Park around the corner from where we lived. One night at around 11pm, Tommy and I heard a large explosion noise that came from one end of the Brothers clubhouse. A large explosive was used causing a lot of damaged to our beloved clubhouse. The news broke out and police had nicknamed the person, “The Townsville Bomber”. The Townsville Bomber had gone on to bombing our toilet block and other areas of the park as well. He was a clever one as he was set the explosives to a mosquito coil, light the coil and hours later the bomb would erupt and the other local residents would feel the effect. Police finally caught the gentleman after a number of other bombings.
The clubhouse needed a fridge for the ladies in the kitchen area to serve the players after each game. I was the Treasurer at the time, so I suggested we run bingo one night a week to help raise the money. In that time, bingo was very illegal. One night while playing, we noticed an unusual car in the carpark outside. We thought the word had gotten out that we were playing bingo and the police had arrived to take all our money and charge us. I yelled out, “police”, and all the bingo players hid their tickets and out came the regular playing cards.
I panicked as I was holding some cash from the night’s takings, so I put the money onto the table in front of me and threw a cardigan over the table to hid it. It was my husband Tommy’s neighbors he had met from Chillagoe, not the police. Tommy did not tell me he told the neighbors about our forbidden bingo. Once I knew who they were, I asked them to pull up a chair and join in. The bingo players pulled out their tickets again and bingo resumed. After a few weeks of bingo, we soon had enough money to buy our fridge. Bingo was suspended and we did not play any more after that.
There was a piano at the clubhouse which my friends Terry, and Patty Duffy, would play for entertainment. Everyone in the clubhouse always loved to sing along and enjoy themselves.
In 1982, Tommy and I built our second house in Condon. Brothers built their third clubhouse in Kirwan (where we are now) not long after. I resigned from the Ladies Committee after a little while as the younger generation of ladies came onboard.
At my age now (91), I still like to support Brothers Leagues Club by attending any functions, having lunch in the Circa 20 room and playing legal bingo. During my time with Brothers, I have seen so many talented players some through the club. Some of these players I have seen are in the 100 Year Centenary Book. My time at the club would not be the same without two great men, Bunny Comerford & Jack Manski. The two of them helped form the club to where it is today.
Our daughter, Wendy, was born in 1953. Wendy still helps me to this day around the club and our house. Unfortunately, Tommy passed in 1992.