The Early Years
Established in 1878 as ‘Doon Club’; Incorporated in February 1901 as ‘Dehradun Club Limited’; Saved by the Allahabad High Court in 1947 from ‘Liquidation by the departing British’; Celebrating Life!
One of the oldest Clubs in India, it began in Colonel Young’s Bungalow on the main Rajpur Road in Dehra Dun. Col Young was an enterprising Irishman who was responsible for ‘discovering’ Mussoorie by building the first structure, a shooting lodge, up there. Today his bungalow in Dehra Dun houses the Heritage Building of the prestigious St Joseph’s Academy.
It stood on that campus for 25 years till 1903 when it finally shifted to its present location on New Survey Road near the Parade Ground after it purchased the land, then known as Rangers Court Estate, comprising a total land area of 23,378 SqMetres for the princely sum of Rs 18,200/- (Rupees Eighteen Thousand Two Hundred Only)via a Sale Deed dated 15-3-1903.
The Clubis one of the few institutions that came up in the Valley during the British times and can still be found in a good condition. Like the magnificent old colonial buildings of the Forest Research Institute, Indian Military Academy, the Doon School, and the Rashtriya Indian Military College, this historic Club, built primarily in stone, is also a wonderful reminder of Dehra Dun’s glorious past as a serene and picturesque town of “grey heads and green hedges”.The Club is a reminder of the times when the city was a favourite of the Britishers, along with Mussoorie.
The main Clubhouse was built in 1903-04 under the supervision of Col R H Philimore of the Survey of India, who is said to have went on to stay at the Club till the last days of his life, writing the history of his Department. The Club premises has definitely not followed the pace of a fast-changing city. Just a stone´s throw from the iconic Clock Tower, the ubiquitous symbol of Dehra Dun, it is a haven and tranquil island of greenery amidst growing urban build up.Clichéd though it may sound, the time has actually stood still in the beautiful gardens, imposing corridors, spacious halls,Guest-rooms, Dining Room, Bar, Family Lounge, Card Rooms, Billiards Room and the “Reading Room” adjoining the Library is full of the old classics of English literature and contemporary novels and magazines, while the old wooden floor in the Main Hall is truly tested at a dance or a ‘Ball’.
Over the years, the Club has been enriched with Indoor and Outdoor Badminton Courts, the Squash Court, Lawn Tennis Courts, a Swimming Pool, the Gymnasium and even a cricket pitch!
Crisis at Independence
The Dehradun Club remained a bastion of the Raj till 1947, functioning as an ‘island’ with intimate colonial relations prevailing within its walls and Indians being accepted as Members in miniscule numbers. With the Union Jack being lowered and India attaining Independence, the British Members resolved to dispose off the Club and distribute the proceeds among the remaining Members.
Thankfully, Colonel Kunwar Shamsher Bahadur Singh with the help of Mr B D Sanwal, ICS, the then District Magistrate of Dehra Dun and the tenacity of the few Indian members moved the Allahabad High Court. He won the case and the liquidation proceedings were annulled. The Dehradun Club survived the pull-out of the British and today continues to stand proud amidst age old trees in a tranquil island of greenery. In 1950, Col Kunwar Shamsher Bahadur Singh was unanimously elected as the first Indian President of the Club.
Whatever may be the changes the city or the Club have undergone, it is a fact that as the evening shadows lengthen and the sun begins to retire, many Members of the Club, along with enthusiastic friends, still head for the familiar and comforting haven which the Dehra Dun Club is; a prestigious institution that combines tradition and modernity remaining oblivious to the haphazard urban growth just outside its gates.
A walk around the premises makes you feel time has really stood still in this part of the town. ‘One of the oldest Letter Box in the country’ and the ‘age old weighing scale at the entrance’ is a testimony to the fact; and both in working condition will be a joy to discover.
One of the oldest Cubs of the country, the Dehradun Club is a microcosm of our society with Members being Doctors, Teachers, Educationists, Lawyers, Chartered Accountants, Businessmen, Industrialists, Officers from the Merchant Navy and the Defense Services with the best part of them all, the ‘Silvers and Greys’ in the graceful autumn of their life.
Mornings are generally for the sports enthusiasts for Lawn Tennis, Badminton, Squash and Swimming, in addition to the odd visitor wishing to enjoy the winter sun with coffee and pakoras, chatting with friends in the charming verandahs or lawns of the Club; or some keen readers who love to visit the Library at this quiet hour of the day to choose more books at leisure or glance through a new journal that has arrived.
Late morning and afternoons fill up the Card Rooms, Billiards and Snooker; while the evenings transform the Club into an exciting meeting point for groups of friends, after a tiring day at work. The evening chill of the Doon Valley does not deter them from driving to their “second home” and spending joyful moments in the Family Lounge, the Bar and the Garden, the Lawns, and the Patio overlooking the lovely green lawn with roses growing on the periphery.
The Club’speanut chaat and ‘zeher’ - a wonderful recipe of nimbupaani with a special chat masala – remains extremely popular; amongst of course, the cocktails and mocktails of the ‘barmen’ and the savory snacks and meals of the Kitchens.