Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Saturday, 5 July 2008 12:27 UK

Bid to protect Lithuanian legacy

Hayley Rothwell
Lanarkshire reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Lithuanian Club
The club was founded more than 50 years ago.
The shutters of the Lithuanian Club in North Lanarkshire remain firmly shut, but members hope it will soon be business as usual.

It was closed amid angry scenes in May after a proposal by its treasurer to end its 50-year history was passed on the grounds it was "no longer a cultural club."

But regulars at the centre in Mossend, who were not allowed to vote on the motion, disagreed.

They gained an interim order from Hamilton Sheriff Court for the club to stay open and have since taken over its management.

"It was like washing away history in nanoseconds," said Councillor Harry Curran, who campaigned for the club to remain open.

"You don't know what you've got until it's gone. The community in Mossend has supported the Lithuanian club and vice versa."

The Lithuanian Club was founded in 1950, to provide social and cultural support to Lithuanians who had settled in the Bellshill area of North Lanarkshire after World War II.

Integration is just about complete and that's why I proposed to close the club
Cathy Blue, treasurer

Many were escaping persecution in their communist home country and gained work in the steel industry.

The Lithuanian Institute, as it was known then, provided a meeting place with everything from language lessons to dancing.

In 1979 its members renamed the organisation the Lithuanian Club and took out a loan to buy the current premises on Calder Road.

But by 2008 its committee members felt that the club had lost its original purpose.

Fewer Lithuanians were moving to the area, and those who did were not attending the club or using its language classes.

Cathy Blue, treasurer and wife of the club's founder Jo Blue, proposed the closure,

She said: "Integration is just about complete and that's why I proposed to close the club."

'Next generation'

Mr Curran has been a member since 1980, his wife is Lithuanian.

He admits the cultural role of the club is not as important as it used to be but thinks it is still an important facility in Mossend.

He said: "I'm delighted that we're getting to reopen it. I felt that we had lost a community facility, lost a monument to the people who have worked over the last 50 years to keep the Lithuanian name alive."

There are around 133 members of the club and Mr Curran is keen to urge more people to join once its doors reopen following repairs.

He pointed to a small number of Lithuanian families living in the area with children in local schools and said he thought the club could provide a "supporting role."

He said: "We're hoping to provide the club to the next generation of economic migrants. It's there to help people to integrate."


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