Membership and Subscriptions – An Ongoing Challenge
In the Sligo Chamber of 2023, increasing membership, retaining members, the cost of member subscriptions and the level of service delivery to members are topics that hold the attention of the Board of Sligo Chamber. Without members, a Chamber of Commerce cannot exist and so it is vitally important that a Chamber listens to its members, communicates with its members, remains relevant to the members and adapts to their changing needs. Arising from the suggestion made at a meeting of the Harbour Board in 1922 that a Chamber of Commerce should be established in Sligo, considerable interest and momentum was generated among the business community which led to the establishment of the Sligo Chamber the following year in 1923. In the years that followed through the 1920s and 1930s, the cost of membership subscriptions, retaining and increasing membership are all matters that are regularly returned to by Sligo Chamber for discussion. In this article, we seek to give readers insight into the ongoing membership costs and expenditure challenges faced by Sligo Chamber in those early years following its formation.
It was on the 2nd of November 1922 that Senator Arthur Jackson DL., made the suggestion at the Harbour Board meeting that a Chamber be established. In responses to a circular drawn up by Mr. A.C. Cook and Mr. R.S. Gorman, a total of 57 responses were received from the business community requesting that their names be entered as members of the Sligo Chamber of Commerce. A copy of the typed circular inviting responses, together with a handwritten list of the 57 names, is contained in the first recorded archive book of Sligo Chamber Minutes. Matters moved quickly and a meeting is held in the Café Cairo in Wine Street on the 29th of December 1922 for the purposes of inaugurating a Chamber of Commerce in Sligo. “On the proposition of Mr. H. Campbell Perry, Seconded by Mr. H.R. Woodmartin, Mr. Arthur Jackson, DL., was moved to the Chair.” Senator Jackson, following up on his suggestion at the Harbour Board meeting, proceeds to give a lengthy address explaining “the objects and the desirability of establishing a Chamber of Commerce in Sligo”. There follows the appointment of J.A. McLoghry as Secretary after which the very next item discussed is that of the subscription and it was.
“Proposed by Mr D. M. Hanley
Seconded by Mr. W.J. Tolan and Resolved:-
That the subscription for year ending 31st December 1923 be £2.2.0 and the Secretary be hereby instructed to collect same
The first subscription of Sligo Chamber having been set, it is evident that Secretary J.A. McLoghry proceeds diligently and with success in his task of collection as all but three of the 57 names in the archive book are marked “Pd” (Paid). The question of where to lodge the money collected from the members subscriptions is addressed at the first General Meeting of Sligo Chamber held in the Café Cairo, at 11.30am on Monday the 15th of January 1923, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair. There is great interest among the banking fraternity in becoming members of the Chamber. Letters were read from the National Bank Ltd., Ulster Bank Ltd., Bank of Ireland, and the Belfast Banking Company Ltd., “notifying their desire to become original members of the Chamber”. A poll was taken of those banks to appoint a Treasurer. This resulted in a tie between the National Bank and the Belfast Banking Company, and it was decided by lot that the National Bank “be and is hereby appointed Treasurer of the Chamber”.
The National Bank hold the role until the 1st of July 1928 when the Chamber decides to rotate the position on a three-year basis. Ulster Bank Ltd., hold the role until the 1st of July 1931 followed by Hibernian Bank Ltd., to the 1st of July 1934. All subscription monies received in 1923 are lodged with the National Bank to the credit of the Chamber. Any payment can only be made by cheque signed by the President or Vice-President, two members of the Committee and countersigned by the Secretary, J.A. McLoghry, four signatures in total.
The first reference to potential expenditure is in the Minutes of the Chamber Meeting of the 12th of July 1923, F. Nally, Vice-President, in the Chair. A letter was read from the Secretary of the Association of Chambers of Commerce of the Irish Free State (now Chambers Ireland) requesting to know whether it is the intention to this Chamber to join the Association. The Association is quite forceful, this being the fourth such letter received by Sligo Chamber in six months. In any event, it is decided to reply that for the present “this Chamber is not financially in a position to join”.
Undeterred, the Association continues to write inviting the Chamber to join. Eventually the Chamber relents. We read in the Minutes of the Chamber Meeting of the 15th of December 1924, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, of a letter received from the Association of Chambers of Commerce, Dublin requesting an annual subscription of £21 based on the number of members in Sligo Chamber. The President advises that in the case of the Dundalk Chamber, a modified subscription of £10.10.0 was accepted. “It was decided to reply that this Chamber would be prepared to affiliate if they are agreeable to accept a subscription of Ten guineas (£10.10.0)”. The offer is accepted and at the next meeting of Sligo Chamber on the 22nd of January 1925, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, it was:
“Proposed by W.C. Fair
Seconded by H.R. Woodmartin and Resolved:-
That this Chamber become affiliated to the Associated Chambers of Commerce of the Irish Free State and that a cheque be signed for the first subscription to cover the period to the end of March 1926
The President H. Campbell Perry and the Vice President, Mr. Frank Nally are then nominated as representatives of Sligo Chamber on the Executive Council of the Associated Chambers of the Irish Free State. And so began a long relationship between Sligo Chamber and the Associated Chambers (now Chambers Ireland). H. Campbell Perry would go on to serve as Vice-President of the Executive Council of the Associated Chambers, a distinguished and proud appointment for Sligo Chamber and one now surpassed today in 2023 with Fiona Candon, Past President of Sligo Chamber, currently serving a two-year term as President of Chambers Ireland.
The cost of the subscription paid by members of Sligo Chamber is regularly raised over the course of the 1920s and 1930s. As early as the 8th of May 1924, Mr. W.C. Fair suggests the subscription should be reduced from £2.2.0 to £1.1.0, now that the initial expenses relating to the formation of the Chamber have been paid, and with a view to increasing membership to the Chamber. Two years later at the Chamber Meeting of the 22nd of February 1926, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, the question of reducing the annual subscription is an agenda item and it was:-
“Moved by: Jas. J. Nelson
Seconded by: W.D. Peebles and Resolved:-
That on and from the 1st day of January 1926 the annual subscription to this Chamber be and is hereby reduced from £2.2.0 to £1.1.0
However, it is not so straightforward. A letter is received from the Department of Industry and Commerce regarding the proposed reduction, drawing attention to the procedures in the Articles of Association that must be followed before any alteration can be made. An Extraordinary General Meeting is called for the 15th of March 1926, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair. The Department letter and the proposed reduction are the only items of business. There appears to have been some reflection in relation to the subscription. The President points out that if Sligo Chamber is to hold its place along with the other Chambers of the Irish Free State, it will be necessary to have sufficient funds to meet maintenance charges, pay the subscription to the Associated Chambers and the costs of sending Deputations to Dublin. After discussion, it was the general opinion of the meeting that it was not prudent to reduce the subscription at present and it was:
“Proposed by: – H.R. Woodmartin
Seconded by: – H.C. Lyons and Resolved:-
That the Resolution passed at General Meeting held on 22nd February last agreeing to reduce the annual subscription from £2.2.0 to £1.1.0 be and hereby rescinded and that the original subscription of £2.2.0 per annum stand.
The matter does not go away however and may be a factor in decreasing membership. Mr. R.S. Gorman refers to the decrease in membership at the Chamber Meeting of the 14th of January 1929, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, and suggests that if the subscription was reduced, more members could be secured. It was decided that Mr. D. M. Hanley, Mr. A. H. Henderson and the Secretary J. McLoghry “interview the business people of the Town and ascertain if they would join the Chamber if the subscription was reduced to £1.1.0”.
How Messrs. Hanley, Henderson and Secretary McLoghry got on with their interviews is unclear. However, the decrease in membership remains an issue over the following years. Two years later at the Chamber Meeting in July of 1931, another discussion took place regarding the membership of the Chamber and it was decided “that an effort be made to get all the business-men in Town not yet members to join the Chamber”.
The annual subscription still remains unchanged at £2.2.0 in 1934 when we read in the Minutes of the Chamber Meeting of the 11th of June, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, comment from Mr. J.C. Cole who says that in other Chambers throughout the Free State, the annual subscription is only 10/-. The Secretary is directed to enquire from other Chambers what is the amount of their subscription. The decreasing membership appears to get more serious to the extent that it becomes a threat to the existence of the Chamber. Only Messrs. G.F. Coulter, J. Gilbride and H.C. Lyons turn up to attend the Chamber Meeting on the 14th of February 1935. As there were not the required number to form a quorum, it was decided to call a further meeting and to place on the Agenda “the question of the future of the Chamber”. At the next meeting, the Chamber Meeting of the 5th of March 1935, A. H. Henderson in the Chair, the main item of business is “to consider what action, if any, should be considered in connection with the continuance of the Chamber”. The matter having been discussed, it was:
“Moved by: H.C. Lyons
Seconded by: C. Bellew and Resolved:-
That the Entrance Fee of £1.1.0 be abolished and that the annual subscription be reduced from £2.2.0 to £1.1.0, subject to the sanction of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce as per Memorandum No. 5.
The sanction of the Ministry must on this occasion been forthcoming as at the next meeting on the 4th of June 1935, F. Nally, Vice President, in the Chair, an extraordinary resolution calling for a Special General Meeting to abolish the entrance fee and reduce the subscription is passed. It is poignant to note that President H. Campbell Perry, who in 1926 championed the retention of the higher subscription of £2.2.0 never knew of the reduced subscription, the announcement of his death while still in office as the First President of Sligo Chamber, having been made by Mr. F. Nally at that same meeting of the 4th of June. At the subsequent Special General Meeting on the 1st July 1935, D.M. Hanley, President, in the Chair, it was Resolved:
“That the Entrance Fee of £1.1.0 be abolished and the Annual Subscription be reduced from £2.2.0 to £1.1.0 subject to the sanction of the Ministry for Industry and Commerce as per Memorandum No. 5.
The last time in the 1920s and 1930s that a decision is recorded in the minutes to make a serious concerted effort to attract new members by getting “all the business-men in Town not yet members to join the Chamber” was at the Ordinary General Meeting, H. Campbell, President, in the Chair, held on the 7th of July, on this week in 1931.
Researched and written by Conor McCarthy
Supported by the Sligo Chamber Centenary Committee:
- Catherine Maguire – Admin & Photographic Research
- Geraldine Courtenay – Creative Direction
- Aidan Doyle – Review & Publication
The next Article in the series commemorating The Centenary of Sligo Chamber and entitled
“Improvement Works at Rosses Point and Strandhill” will be released on the 17th of July 2023.
Sligo Chamber Centenary