Part 1: EARLY YEARS
The Rotary movement was born in Chicago on 23rd February 1905. An attorney, Paul Harris, had arrived in that city to set up his own practice after a successful university career and a few years of seeing the world. He found settling down difficult and life rather lonely. The idea came to him of founding a Club wherein members would not only get to know one another but could apply their energies and talents to improving their own vocations and also serving their fellow beings. His proposal met with the warm approval of others and a group of like-minded men met regularly, their meetings being held in each other’s place of business in rotation – hence the term “Rotary”.
Eleven years later, in 1916, the Leicester Rotary Club came into being; the 340th in the world and officially the 13th in Great Britain. The first thirteen clubs were:
Dublin March 1911
London August 1911
Belfast August 1911
Manchester March 1912
Glasgow March 1912
Edinburgh September 1912
Liverpool April 1913
Birmingham November 1913
Brighton February 1914
Newcastle-upon-Tyne September 1915
Leeds May 1916
Aberdeen September 1916
Leicester October 1916
The Aberdeen Club disbanded in 1932 (to be re-formed the following year) which gave Leicester its present position as the 12th oldest.
Eight men met at the Stag and Pheasant Hotel, overlooking the Clock Tower, on 17th March 1916 “to discuss the formation of a Rotary Club in Leicester”. They were W.K. Bedingfield, C.A. Charante, A.L. Franklin, C.E. Hudson, G.T. Hurren, P.McL.Keay, G.E. Pochin and A.W. Wells. They were addressed by Thomas Stephenson, of the Edinburgh Club (to which one of their number, Charante, had belonged) and at the end of the meeting a resolution was passed “That this meeting decides to form a Rotary Club in Leicester with a view to affiliations with the British Association of Rotary Clubs as soon as 30 members have joined”.
Another meeting was arranged for a week later but only three persons turned up, so no business was done and it was adjourned to 7th April. At this later meeting, held at Winn’s Café, Granby Street (opposite Bishop Street), no more than five turned up, but they did have before them the named of prospective members, and 20 of these were accepted.
Stephenson came again from Edinburgh and addressed another meeting at Winn’s Café on 18th April and at this a Membership Committee was formed. It was clear that a club would soon be a viable proposition. So well did things go there-after that a meeting was called for 6th June, at the Grand Hotel, which they termed the First Annual Meeting, and on this occasion a resolution was passed that the club be formally instituted and be affiliated with the British Association of Rotary Clubs.
There were 19 people at his meeting and 13 unable to be present, making a total of 32 founder members. They were: W.K Bedingfield, W.J. Callard, A.H. Chamberlain, C.A. Charante, W.J. Coltman, A.L. Franklin, D.M. Gimson, D.J. Graham, A. Hawkes, W.S. Hobson, R. Holt, C.E. Hudson, G. T. Hurren, H. Hyde, G.C. Johnson, R.C. Johnson, P. McL.Keay, P.C.V. Levesley, W.T. Mason, F.V. Murmann, E.M. Mylius, W.H. Pick, G.E. Pochin, J. Ramsden, F.C. Shardlow, T.H. Swain, G. Tarratt, A.W. Wells, A.D. Wheeler, F.W.Wildman, C.J. Williams and J.H. Williams.
G. Crawford Johnson was elected the first President, to serve for six months, W.K. Bedingfield Vice-President, C.A. Charante Hon. Secretary and W.S. Hobson Hon. Treasurer – a post he was to occupy for 17 years. It was decided to hold lunches every Friday at the Grand Hotel, at a cost of two shillings (10p). It was war-time, food was scarce and the hotel insisted on a guaranteed number. Owing to the difficulty of meeting this, it was decided that “two or three gentlemen be invited to lunch each week as guests of the Club”.
By the end of July the Membership Committee were able to bring the named of 56 prospective members before the Council. Thirty-nine were passed, 11 left in abeyance and 6 deleted. A Constitution was adopted and when the Council next met after a two-months’ holiday recess it was agreed to send the affiliation fee of one guinea (£1.05) to the British Association of Rotary Clubs. This was on 3rd October 1916, and this is the date of the formation of the Club according to the annals of RIBI (the successor of BARC). It should be noted, however, that Rotary International in Chicago still have the application for international recognition submitted on behalf of Leicester by BARC stating clearly that the Club was organised on 6th June! This was before the Aberdeen Club came into being the first-time, and might be considered the correct date of formation. Club publications always used to show 17th March as the date, the occasion of the provisional decision to form.
At the end of their first six months, the officers were re-elected to serve another such period, until the end of the Rotary year on 30th June 1917. This short period was perhaps the most difficult in the Club’s history. There was a great deal of dissatisfaction with the Grand Hotel, where lunches were now held on Mondays instead of Fridays; resignations were too many although exceeded by joinings; but above all the Club needed something to do, something to strive for. A letter was even sent to the Town Clerk asking for suggestions as to how the Club could assist the community, but the reply was unhelpful. Spirits were low and there were thoughts of disbanding until after the war. But the Council, fortunately, rejected the suggestion – and in the end it was the effects of the war which provided the stimulus so badly needed.
A wider interest too was to be shown in the Movement nationally. Under the BARC Constitution its Directors were nominated by Clubs, two from each, and then by districts from named submitted by Clubs. Between 1916 and 1926 when the Constitution was re-drawn, Leicester was represented in turn by J. Harrison (1 years), R.C. Johnson (3), W.K. Bedingfield (7), C. Stibbe (1), H. Hyde (3), and J. Carmichael (1). W.K. Bedingfield succeeded to the Presidency in July 1917, with G.E. Pochin Hon. Secretary. Bedingfield retained for himself the job of speaker-finder, which office he held for 16 years. Membership was 52. It was now realised that much could be contributed, in cash and kind, to the “war effort”. Help was given to a number of war funds and to a hospitality scheme for American soldiers serving in this country. A sum of £2 was sent to the Dover Patrol.
Then, early in 1918, a major scheme was embarked upon, the provision of a workshop for wounded soldiers at the Base Hospital, later part of the Wyggeston Boys’ School. Dr. N.I. Spriggs was appointed Chairman of the committee responsible for organising this and William Keay gave his services as architect. It was opened on 7th December by Colonel (later Sir) Jonathan North. The cost has been £600. When, a year or so later, it was no longer of use for the purpose for which it was built it was handed over to the Wyggeston Boys’ School and a plaque was fixed to commemorate the Rotary Club’s generosity.
Money for charitable purposes was raised in those days principally by appealing to members and having a plate for donations by the exit door after every meeting. The cost of lunches was increased to two shillings and sixpence (12 1/2p) early in 1918. E.L. Mylius became President in 1918 and C. Stibbe Hon. Secretary. At the same time it was decided that the Mayor should become an honorary member, to be joined two years later by the Bishop of Peterborough – for Leicester was then part of the Peterborough diocese. Honorary membership for our civic and diocesan leaders has been the club’s happy privilege ever since. When the Leicester diocese was reinstated in 1926 the Bishop of Leicester, of course, took the place of the Bishop of Peterborough. In 1928 the chief citizen became Lord Mayor instead of Mayor. From time to time honorary membership has also been held by other local worthies and has been conferred upon members of the Club.
Stibbe marked his secretaryship by offering a part of socks to any Rotarian who could find a mistake in the roster! It is not recorded whether any socks were won, but throughout his membership he frequently gave items of knitwear or hosiery from his own factory to important visitors. Only occasionally were they paid for by the Club.
Part 2: POST-WAR PROGRESS
Once the war was over in November 1918 great strides were made and important events took place. These events too, got considerable publicity for it was decided to invite to all meetings reporters from the Leicester mercury, Leicester Daily Post and Leicester Mail. The proprietor of the Mercury and Post was a member, and soon the editor of the Mail was invited too.
The local newspapers carried long reports, often a column in length, of all meetings, but this lasted a few years only. The inclusion in these reports of some domestic decisions made at meetings caused embarrassment and it was decided that meetings should in future be generally private. A Club member was deputed to send short accounts to the newspapers, but this presented difficulties and was soon discontinued. Since that time, press coverage has been invited only on very special occasions.
It was at a meeting of the Club on 16th June 1919 that the Mayor made the first announcement that Leicester had been granted the charter of a City. The general public heard a little later. The New York Rotary Club presented the American flag to the Club in 1919. It was handed over by the President of BARC at a dinner held in the Assembly Rooms, Hotel Street, and later J. Harrison visited the United States and presented tot he New York Club some etchings of old Leicester and personally expressed Leicester’s gratitude for the flag. The following year the wives of Leicester Rotarians presented a Union Jack to the Club, to be displayed alongside the Stars and Stripes.
At the 1919 annual meeting it was decided to change the Rotary year to run from 1st January instead of 1st July and the officers were therefore re-elected for a further six months. Another decision was to dispense with the saying of grace at meals. Could the reason have been, perhaps, the difficulty of finding someone to say grace? Speaker-finder Bedingfield complained bitterly of the reluctance of members to give a talk at weekly meetings! A few years later it was suggested at a Council meeting that new members be on probation only, until they had addressed the Club, but the idea was not accepted. There were occasions, though, when time was allowed for certain Rotarians to sing to their fellows. This was very popular, for there were some good voices in the Club. There were also some less acceptable ones, as was to be apparent when a whole meeting was set aside for community singing. But singing continued from time to time, particularly at Christmas, until the “fifties”.
The first Constitution of the Club laid down that is any member missed four consecutive meetings without adequate reason he could be removed from membership. This was done frequently, but newcomers were elected fast and membership soon reached 100 for the first time in 1922. One of the objects of Rotary incorporated in Leicester’s own first Constitution included the words ” . . .to co-operate with others in civic . . development”. That object was very much in the minds of Leicester Rotarians just after the war, and during the next few years was applied in full. In 1919 a Public Service Committee was formed and one of its recommendations approved by the Club, was that encouragement and support be given to non-party candidates in local elections.
Later came a proposal that 28 sub-committees – no less – be formed. Each would consist of three Rotarians and they were to hold a watching brief over the various branches of public service embraced by the Town Council committees – Watch, Finance, Markets, Sewerage, Asylums, Transport etc. This was turned down by the Club on the grounds that it might be considered an interference in the work of the Town Council! Instead, the Club approved the setting up of eight committees, each comprising 12 members, and these were: Education, Charities, Public Morals and Recreation, Housing and Health, Factory Welfare and Industry, and Young People.
Rotary generally did not have standardised committees at this time and it was Leicester’s Public Service Committee which was the forerunner of the Community Service Committee, so much a part of Rotary today. Out of the work of these 8 Leicester committees came a number of good suggestions, many of which were ultimately acted upon. Among them were the desirability of Leicester having an Information Bureau, that school playgrounds should be open for children during holidays, the provision of a theatre for Amateurs and the development of evening study circles (adult education). But the Licensed Houses of Liquor Control Committee chairman reported at the end of the first year that he was unable to give a detailed account of their deliberations as they were still collecting information.
The Education committee reported progress on the “University” Scheme”, an idea for a University College for Leicester and ultimately, it was hoped, for a full University. The project had been brought before the Club by Dr. Astley V. Clarke and it met with instant and enthusiastic support once differences with Nottingham had been ironed out – they wanted Leicester to join in promoting an East Midlands University based in Nottingham. Leicester University College opened in 1921. Rotarians were keen to provide entrance gates to mark their involvement, but there were persuaded that there were other, more urgent needs. In the end they became responsible for panelling and a dais for College Hall. Robert Hyde, President at the time, was appointed a life governor. The first Principal, Dr. R.F. Rattray, and the first Secretary, W.G.Gibbs, were Leicester Rotarians. Gibbs gave up the editorship of the Leicester Daily Post to take the job.
This link between the Club and the College, and later the University, was to be perpetuated. Dr. F.L. Attenborough, Dr. Rattray’s successor as University College Principal, and University Vice-Chancellors Sir Charles Wilson, Sir Fraser Noble and Maurice Shock all joined the Club soon after appointment. The Club also provided two Pro-Chancellors, Charles Keene and John Frears, and several members of the Court or the Council – or both: Charles Keane, Mac Goldsmith, Archie Carmichael, Ben Gimson, Charles Frears and Peter Kendall. Keene, as one of the founders, Goldsmith, a great benefactor, and John Frears were awarded honorary Doctorates of Laws by the University. John Frears’ name was given to a Hall of residence and the generosity and talents of his brother Charles, are evident in a number of places, particularly the Beaumont Hall botanical gardens. When the medical facility was established, the second Dean was a Rotarian, Robert Kilpatrick.
The Rotary Badge was not standardised until 1920. Clubs had hitherto designed their own and BARC did not move in the matter – and then only slowly – until urged to do so in a letter in the publication “Rotary Wheel” from a Leicester member three years earlier. Leicester’s bronze lapel badge, bearing name and classification, was designed by a new member, Frank Gayton in 1917 and was destined to continue unchanged.
Fellowship, an important factor in Rotary, was as strong in the early “twenties” as Service. There was even and Outings Committee which organised motor-car trips for Rotarians and their wives to various parts of Leicestershire, to Buxton or the Derbyshire Dales, and occasionally a picnic with another Club. When the 1921 International Conference was held in Edinburgh 38 people attended from Leicester, They took with then 350 woollen scarves provided by Charles Stibbe, each marked “a warm and woolly welcome from Leicester – the City that clothes the world from head to foot”. They were presented to 350 ladies from overseas.
In February 1921 meetings were transferred from the Grand Hotel to the Bell Hotel, Humberstone Gate (since demolished to provide for part of the Haymarket Centre). Within weeks the price of lunches was increased to three shillings (15p). But there were constant complaints about the food, of which it is recorded the Club was “not proud” and in December of the same year a move was made to Winn’s Oriental Café in the Market Place (nearly opposite Pearce’s and since demolished). The owner, J.S. Winn, was a member of the Club. Membership at the time was 134 and it was decided to appoint a paid Secretary. An accountant an former rugby international, P.W. Lawrie, joined the Club and occupied the post at a salary of £52 per annum. But not for long, for within the year it was decided to share secretarial services with Church House at 5 St Martin’s at £100 yearly and Percy Lawrie’s position became an honorary one again.
Canon W. Thompson Elliott, Rural Dean and Vicar of St. Peter’s was instrumental in arranging this. He became President of the Club in 1922 and two years later President of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland (RIBI) which was the new title for BARAC operative in 1922 following Ireland becoming a Republic in 1920. Canon Elliott moved to Liverpool as Sub-Dean of the cathedral a few weeks before taking office, but it was his Rotary work in Leicester which brought him the honour. Roger Levy’s book “Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland” says this of him: “He was a man of great business acumen and of wide culture, a brilliant and witty speaker and preacher, a considerable sportsman and a man regarded with the deepest affection by many”.
District recognition also came Leicester’s way. In 1923 W.K. Bedingfield became the first Chairman (later termed Governor) of District 7 (later 107), as well as being Secretary and Treasurer. Henry Hyde followed him as Chairman in 1926. The Secretaryship was held between 1923 and 1933 continuously by Leicester men Walter Bedingfield; Karl Russell and David Bentley. Bentley gave up on taking the Chairmanship, which he occupied from 1933 to 1935. When Districts within the British Isles were introduced in 1918 Leicester was in District 2 (Midlands: Birmingham, Derby, Leicester & Nottingham). In 1921 Leicester became part of District 3 (Eastern Counties: Leicester, Northants, Lincoln, Norfolk, Suffolk, Rutland and Cambridgeshire). Two years later Leicester belonged to District 7 (East Midlands) and in 1956 this was renumbered 107. In 1972 the District was split into 107 and 122 and Leicester remained in 107 (now re-numbered 1070).
Mention should be made of the Club’s involvement at this time in the Big Brother Movement. Fatherless boys, principally those who lost their fathers in the war, were allocated to individual Rotarians who were “to give counsel such as the father would have given, win the boy’s coincidence, encourage him, perhaps find him a job, and keep in touch”. This continued for several years with some excellent results. This kindled ideas of doing more for the young and the Club was instrumental in establishing the Young Peoples’ Organisation, which brought together a number of concerns working for youth and encouraged a more concerted community effort.
The good work done by the Club in many spheres and its excellent fellowship increased the interest in extension. Leicester formed Clubs as widely placed as Northampton, Norwich, Lincoln, Ipswich and Cambridge, with near-neighbours Loughborough (1924), Hinckley (1926) and Melton Mowbray (1928) to follow. Club visiting was not confined to individual members; frequently two Clubs combined for a meeting, and on one occasion the London club came in force to join Leicester at lunch and make a guided tour of the city afterwards. One of the most important events of Canon Thompson Elliott’s presidency of RIBI in 1924-25 was the drawing up of a new Constitution. The changes subsequently agreed at Conference were decided at a meeting he called in London of members of the Brighton & Hove, Leicester, London, and Portsmouth & Southsea Clubs. A.A. Ironside and Dr. W. Henry represented Leicester.
Part 3: SWITHLAND WOOD
The first mention of ladies in connection with the Rotary movement came in 1923, when the Club approved a suggestion by RIBI that Ladies Rotary Clubs be set up, with the proviso that they be essentially separate organisations. Eight years later, Leicester went further and proposed the formation of a Leicester Inner Wheel Club, but it was not until 1947 that it was in fact formed.
An event took place in 1925 which secured for all time the gratitude of the people of Leicester and Leicestershire – the decision to purchase Swithland Wood and safeguard for ever 137 acres of beautiful Charnwood Forest for the benefit of the public. W.K. Bedingfield was the prime mover. Club members subscribed £1,105 towards the appeal fund target of £6,000. The wood itself cost a little over £3,000 but further money was required for paths, fencing etc. necessary for preserving the beauties of the wood. This came from the public.
It took six years to complete the project and when Swithland Wood was finally handed over to the Bradgate Park Trustees, Colonel R.E. Martin, receiving the deeds and £600 war stock, said it was now possible to walk two and half miles from the top end of Swithland Wood to the far corner of Bradgate Park without passing over much land that did not belong absolutely to the public of Leicester and Leicestershire. Sir Arnold Wilson, present on behalf of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, said it was a gift “without parallel in history of the Council”. In acknowledgement of the gift, the Bradgate Park Trustees handed to William Bastard, the Rotary president, a key to Bradgate Park which was to be handed on each year to succeeding Presidents, giving them the right to pass through the gates of the Park at any time.
A bluebell service has been held annually in Swithland Wood in the Spring and at first this was under Rotary auspices, but its organisation soon became the responsibility and privilege of the parish of Swithland. In the Wood there is a plaque fixed to a rock and it bears the inscription “Swithland Wood. Secured as a national heritage by the Rotary Club of Leicester 1931”. This was erected in 1948 because the original inscription, in slightly different form, had been worked into the side of the quarry and was becoming partly submerged beneath the rising waters. All that could be read in 1979 was “The Leicester Rotary Club” and the second line “secured Swithland Wood”. In time of drought, part of their third line “As a national heritage” could be seen.
Gifts to the Swithland Wood fund included £416 from the Walter Martin Players. Walter Martin and his brother Harry were members of the Club. Long before he formed his group, Walter had urged the Club to do something about forming an amateur dramatic society in Leicester and when the Walter Martin Players came into begin they gave him every support. Shows were put on regularly at the Opera House in Silver Street, each in aid of a particular charity approved by the Club, and the Club acted as sponsors. Substantial aid was given to the Poor Boys’ and Girls’ Summer Camp, the Boy Scouts, the Nursing Association, the County Mission for the Deaf and Dumb and others. From 11 plays performed between 1918 and 1929 the sum of $4,650 was handed over to local charities. Later in this story reference is made to the Leicester Drama Society, which owed its inception in no small measure to seeds sown by Rotarians of those days.
Another contribution to the cultural life of Leicester was the founding in 1928 of the Leicester Bach Choir by a member of the Club, Dr Gordon Slater. He was its conductor until he left Leicester three years later, when another Rotarian, George Gray (later to be awarded a Doctorate of Music by Leicester University) took over and continued for a further 38 years. For 17 years a member of the Club acted as Secretary to the Choir, first Harry Tharp and then Kenneth Elliott.
Although by modern standards traffic on the roads of those days was sparse, the number of accidents was a source of concern to the Club. After all, people were getting more motor car conscious – a Club roll-call revealed that out of 150 members no fewer than 37 owned motor cars, even more than those 33 who played golf. At the instigation of the Club, representatives of City Municipal Departments, the Leicester County Council, the motoring organisations and the motor-traders were called together in the Council Chamber under the Lord Mayor’s chairmanship to consider “the alarming increase in the number of road accidents”. The result was the formation of a safety First Committee/ Mission accomplished, the Rotary Club then bowed out.
Although the Ladies’ Evening had been held since the very early days, it was not until 1927 that the annual Ladies’ Lunch was started – for wives only. In 1929 honour was also don for sons and daughters, a separate lunch for each. These three special occasions became permanent. Not so Founders’ Day, for founders were getting fewer in number and it gave way in 1934 to Past-Presidents’ Day, when six Past-Presidents were encouraged to speak. In the same year a Presidents’ Day was introduced, at which the Club entertained Presidents of other local social service and charity organisations. But neither of these events lasted for long. The rotary year was changed again in 1930, back to the original starting date of July 1st and once more all officers were re-elected for a further six months. Thus A.F. Cholerton served 18 months as President just as E.L. Mylius had done 10 years earlier.
The late “twenties” and early “thirties” were years of depression and mass unemployment. There was much the club could do, and to help raise funds threepence (1 1/2p) of each three shillings (15p) paid at lunch was set aside to create a Benevolent Fund. A sum of over £500 was given to the Lord Mayor’s Distressed Miners’ Fund, £1,000 to the Lord Mayor for depressed areas, two houses were taken in Sparkenhoe Street and Laurel Road for housing families from depressed areas such as Sheldon (Co. Durham) and South Wales. In co-operation with Toc H, assistance was given in forming and running the Shaftesbury Boys’ Club and later Bedford Street Boys’ club and a club in Bishop Street for government trainees.
Sufficient money was raised also to assist the Royal Infirmary. This was largely by publication of a magazine. “The Leicester Jester”, at a special bazaar, and the Infirmary shows its appreciation by electing two Rotarians as Life Governors. Many years later the first history of the Royal Infirmary was written by a Rotarian and retired surgeon, Ernest Frizelle. A dining hall was furnished at the Holt Convalescent Home in Norfolk and, thanks largely to F.R. Kendall, white sticks for the blind of Leicester were supplied, as and when required, until the Corporation took over this responsibility in 1952. This was one of many services the Club offered the blind, including also an annual sponsored entertainment and a team of drivers made available to the Society for transporting blind people.
In 1930 a fire at the Oriental hall destroyed a great deal of much-prized club property, notably the President’s chair provided by William Bastard, the charter, the gong given by James Carmichael and flags of many nations which had been a gift largely of his two brothers, Fred and Archie Carmichael. With the help of the insurers and William Bastard, a new chair was made, to remain a thing of beauty but great presidential discomfort. For King George VI’s visit to Leicester in 1946 it was offered as a Royal seat, but declined! The charter had to be replaced by one prominently marked “duplicate” and that is in the archives to this day. In due course all other losses were made good. The President’s lectern was the gift of William Richards in 1956 “In recognition of over 33 years’ happy fellowship in the Leicester Rotary Club”. The speaker’s lectern was given by J.A. Taylor, who was then Chief Constable of Leicestershire; it was the handiwork of a member of his force, Supt, Roy Boocock.
W.E. Wilford, a City Alderman, became Lord Mayor in 1931-32, the first of a number of men to become Chief Citizen while a member of the Club. To his Civic Reception he invited all his 177 fellow Rotarians and at the end of his year of office the President, Officers, Council and Past-Presidents gave a dinner in his honour. But he remained a Rotarian for only a little longer owing to the demands of his public work. His successors as Rotarian Lord Mayors, J.N. Frears (1947), Charles Keene (1953), Harold Heard (1962) and A.H. Kimberlin (1964) were able to give yeoman Rotary service over a large number of years, long after their City Council work ended.
Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, visited the Club in 1934 and was the chief guest at a special celebration dinner. He had received the cabled invitation while aboard a ship in the Atlantic. It was not unusual for the Club to entertain Presidents of RIBI and noted Rotarians from the United States, but meeting Paul Harris was a very special and inspiring occasion.
Chapter 4: SECOND WORLD WAR
With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 several members were drafted away with HM forces and many more had to go to other parts of Britain for war work. They were given leave of absence and excused from paying subscriptions. One, Sidney Brown, soon became a Prisoner-of-War on the Continent and with the help of Chicago headquarters (the USA were not then at war) a parcel from his colleagues was sent to him. Later a regular monthly supply of cigarettes was sent through the Red Cross. With them on one occasion he received a letter from a Rotarian friend, R.C. Winn, which was passed by both British and German censors despite bearing the following: “Had a good game of water ladders last night with your old friends Willis, Hardy and Freeman”. From this Brown correctly deduced that there has been a substantial fire Rutland Street at the premises of Freeman, Hardy & Willis as a result of enemy action. The Oriental Hall, due to a rationing and to restriction on serving large numbers, rules that it could supply lunches for no more than130 out of a membership of over 150. This presented no difficulty attendance-wise, but as a precaution, a stop was put on new membership.
The disastrous German air-raid on Coventry in 1940 resulted in an immediate decision to send £100 to the Coventry Rotary Club for relief at their discretion, while the Club would set about raising further funds. But before anything could be sent, Leicester itself had a big air-raid and in the event £50 was given to the Leicester Auxiliary Fire Service to fit out a mobile canteen and only £50 to Coventry. Later however, another £36 was raised for Coventry. Other early deeds of assistance were the “adoption” of two minesweepers, the setting up of a study group on post-war problems, the establishment of a United Services Club and the granting of £327 to various war charities. Cigarettes were sent at Christmas to members serving in the Forces. Later on, £800 was raised for the Red Cross. When flying bombs commenced falling on Southern England in 1944 there was a further influx of evacuees from that area, although not of the magnitude of 1939. This time Leicester Rotarians found homes for wives and children of Rotarians from the South, 14 wives and 40 children. In a few cases accommodation was offered in their own homes.
The country was still being urged to “dig for victory”, to grow vegetables and to cultivate fresh ground for this purpose. This prompted the Club to start a Gardening Discussion Group, and after the war this continued for some time and was, in fact, joined by other discussion groups on Art and Design, Business Problems, Travel and Photography. Weekly meetings continued at the Oriental Hall, despite food rationing and the war-time demands on many members. Speakers of very high calibre were obtained, often men and women temporarily stationed in the area and some from further a field who welcomed the opportunity to address an influential audience such as the Rotary Club. There were occasions, however, when speakers were interrupted by noises coming from elsewhere in the Oriental Hall, in fact from girls of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (later to become the WRAC) carrying out physical training, Courteous approaches were made to the military authorities and to the restaurant management, but to little avail.
Eventually, in 1945, the War Office requisitioned the whole of the Oriental Hall for use by the ATS and Rotary meals could no longer be provided. A move by Rotary to another meeting place had to be made, but it was far more easy to find anyone willing and able to provide over 100 lunches at one time, let alone offer adequate accommodation. After much looking around it was decided to go to the Little Theatre in Dover Street, where a very frugal buffet was set up in the club room and the meeting took place afterwards in the auditorium. This was not satisfactory for Club or theatre, but gave time for further prospecting. After a few weeks however, it was arranged for a meal to be taken at the Rex Restaurant, nearby in Granby Street, and members walked up Dover Street afterwards to the Little Theatre for the meeting. Lunch cost 4/3d (21 1/2p) including 3d (1 1/2p) for the charities fund and 6d (2 1/2p) for the Little Theatre.
The following year it was a great relief when arrangements were made for a move back to the Bell Hotel, although lunch there was a little more expensive. But it was not the end of the troubles over catering, for in the autumn of 1947, although the war was over, there was enacted “The Meals (Service of Social Functions) Order 1947” limiting the number to be served at any one time to 100. The Club’s membership was 148 and the average weekly attendance 120. So it was agreed to set placed for only 100 and to issue tickets to the first hundred entering the room. Anyone arriving after all tickets had gone was required to make his own arrangements for food elsewhere, but if he then returned for the meeting it would count as an attendance. Fortunately the restriction was lifted after five months.
This narrative must return for a moment to a war-time event unconnected with the war but of some importance. This was the setting up of a Commission in 1945 to enquire into and report on the future of Rotary in Leicester and the advisability of forming a second Rotary Club. The matter had been mentioned some years before, and was to come up again many times, in various ways, in subsequent years. This commission comprised the Club officers, the six most senior Past-Presidents and four members of the Council. It met many times, deliberated at length, but the views of its members were so divergent that it was decided to list the points in favour and against the submit these to RIBI for comment. That comment was brief and to the point, the principal phrase being: “There are constitutional difficulties in the formation of a second Club in Leicester as the RI Constitution lays down that there shall be only one Club in each city unless that city contains more than one well-defined commercial or trade centre”.
The Commission was in no doubt that Leicester did not meet that criterion and therefore recommend that “at the present time it does not seem desirable to form a second Rotary Club in Leicester”. Council and Club agreed. But out of the Commission came one firm proposal for the future, which was adopted. This was that the existing method of electing all committees at club meetings do not make for efficiency, and a better method would be for the Club to appoint a Selection Committee and that body to choose the membership of all Committees.
With the end of the war in 1945, although obviously purely coincidentally, the question of saying grace before meals was raised fort he third time. At last it was agreed that grace should be said – and that this should be the privilege of the Provost, Past-President H.A. Jones, or, in his absence, the President. In later years it became the President’s prerogative to invite a member to offer grace, usually the Bishop or another clergy member.
In 1947 John Frears became the second member of the Club to become Lord Mayor of Leicester, the youngest ever appointed. Everyone was full of praise and showed great pleasure, but the Council felt it had a slight constitutional problem on its hands. It was the Club’s custom to offer honorary membership to the Lord Mayor but could a serving member become honorary for a year and then merely result ordinary membership? Many years earlier, W.E. Wilford had been asked if he would like to be an honorary member during his Lord Mayoralty, and chose to be so. But this time the Council felt that the constitution did not permit such an option being offered. J.N. Frears knew nothing of the Council’s little dilemma and no doubt was thereby saved embarrassment.
Chapter 5: IN THE INTERNATIONAL FIELD
For a number of years after the war a Weekly Letter was issued to members with current information and a resume of the previous Monday’s meeting and talk. There were various authors, all of them showing quite outstanding writing ability. Quotation should be made from one by Geoffrey Lea, a witty and accomplished raconteur who, while President was once described by a colleague as having “a healthy disregard for Rotary!” Of a wives’ luncheon one day he wrote: “This was Seraglio Day, 85 wives being present, with Solomon in the chair considering the lilies in the field. In his wisdom Solomon referred to their autumn tints – do you think he’s slipping? I’m not sure if the electric atmosphere came before this or after, but my soup spoon which had been thrown under the table sparked when I touched it. I say opposite a charming girl and enjoyed myself immensely. No autumn tints about her, she is smack in the middle of May and very good medicine for old past-Presidents”.
One of Rotary’s greatest concepts, the Rotary Foundation, came into being in 1947, just 30 years after the President of IRAC (the predecessor of RI), Arch Klumph expressed it as a vision at the Convention at Atlanta. At the start 18 Rotary Foundation Fellowships were awarded to graduate students from seven countries for “the furthering of international understanding and friendly relations between people of different nations through the fostering of tangible and effective projects”. The awards were, and still are, financed by donations from Clubs throughout the world. At first, Leicester Rotarians were invited to contribute five shillings (25p) per annum, and this was of course readily done. The Club’s first nominee to be awarded a fellowship was in 1950-51 when Dr. C. Eaborn visited the United States and spoke to the Club on his return.
Many have followed since. But Leicester has been involved far more than any other Club in the District in acting as host to Foundation Fellows from overseas, principally the United States. This is because Leicester is a University City and many overseas students have elected to study at Leicester University or the Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University). Many members of the Club have acted as host to these young people and, while it could be said that the cost to Club and members has been far greater than to any other Club in the District, this becomes insignificant compared with the reward of closer contact with specially-selected students of many nationalities and many qualifications and interests. One prized possession these students have taken back with them has been a Leicester Club banner, a memento of their stay. These banners were first introduced in 1949, the first being designed by a Past-President, Frank Gayton, printed by another Rotarian, G.D. Wykes and made by a third, R. Johnson, with silk provided by a fourth, H.N. Bream.
The club inducted its youngest President in 1949. J.G. Hilton, at the age of 40. At the conclusion of his year of office the Council congratulated him on the way “one so young” had conducted the Club’s affairs, also the fact that he had become a father during his year in office. It was in his year that the Club was instrumental in providing a new Probation Hostel. The need for this was stressed by the Recorder of Leicester when addressing the Club, and in next to no time £800 was raised. Geoffrey Hilton became Chairman of the Hostel. In 1950 the Club office moved from Church House to 23 New Walk.
Leicester, through most of its history, has frequently been told it was “different” from other Clubs. This has also been said of Leicester people compared with those from elsewhere, and other Leicester organisations. If there is, and has been, a difference, then no-one is ashamed; in fact quite proud! Leicester Rotary Club has certainly been different in one important matter, in that it has always declined to accept the RIBI Standard Constitution. It preferred its own. In 1950 it very nearly succumbed to strong pressure from RIBI, and the Council actually decided to recommend to the membership that it adopt the Standard Constitution from 1st July 1951. But the Club turned the recommendation down! At an extraordinary general meeting, Past-President Alfred Groves pointed out that our Constitution had been worked out very carefully by Past-Presidents A.A. Ironside and R.W. Henry and it formed a basis on which the Standard Constitution was modelled in 1922. We were a Club of independent and critical thought, he said, and to change would sacrifice some individuality. We should be less adaptable to local conditions, we should have to manage with a Council the same size as that of much smaller Clubs, we should have to demote our Speaker-Finder “whose power for damage exceeded that of the chef” and if we surrendered our Constitution now we should do it for all time. Many amendments have been made to our Constitution over subsequent years and these have been subject to an Article in the RIBI Constitution laying down that “A Rotary Club admitted to membership before June 5th 1922 shall not change any provision in its Constitution except to make that provision conform to the Standard Constitution”.
It has been said that is it too large to be adequately active. But its record disproves this. It has been said that it is too large to be friendly – that it’s impossible for members to know everyone else. A word or two must be said about this. Through its first fifty years there was a frequent worry about “mixing”. Members were urged to sit in a different place with different people each week. The Council often took the matter up, and even tried numbering each place and making members draw from a hat to decide where they would sit. From the sixties onwards things seemed to change and it became quite unusual to see the same two people sitting together two weeks running. A friendly Club became even friendlier and except for those approaching late middle-age, who are inclined to forget event their best friend’s name occasionally, or those newly joined, everyone has known everyone else.
In the early fifties there was an even greater emphasis on the social side of things. More outings were organised (including ones to the Naval Museum at Greenwich and Fleet Review), visits to the Little Theatre were more frequent, it became a custom to have lunch at a member’s place of business each year and tour his factory, and golf proved increasingly popular with keen competition for the two main trophies, presented by William Bastard and George Tarratt. Joint meetings were held with the Round Table. With the Swithland Wood project always very much in mind, the idea came up of beautifying Bradgate Park. The Loughborough, Coalville and Ashby Clubs also expressed an interest in this and between them they bought and planted nearly 200 rhododendrons.
Another District honour came the club’s way in 1952 when Ernest Harbot became Secretary to District 107, the fourth Leicester man to hold the post. The third member to become Lord Mayor was C.R. Keene, who occupied the post in 1953-54. He invited the whole Club to join him at the Civic Service, and very nearly everyone did.
In 1954 a major change was made in the method of raising funds for charity. A new benevolent Fund was formed. Threepence (1 1/2p) of every 5/6d (27 1/2p) paid for lunch would still go to the Fund and in addition each member was invited to contribute £1 yearly. To start the scheme off the President made a special appeal for more generous donations from those who had been in the Club for 20 years and more, and this raised an extra £422. When the cost of lunch was increased the following year, the new figure became 6/6d (32 1/2p) of which 6d (2 1/2p) went to the Benevolent Fund.
Chapter 6: TWO GOLDEN JUBILEES
It was the Golden Jubilee of the Rotary movement in 1955, and it was decided to mark the occasion by sponsoring a special public appeal for funds for furnishing new premises for the St. John Ambulance Brigade, an organisation which did excellent work and in which the President, H.N. Bream, was particularly active. A sum of £2,000 was raised. Ladies’ Evening that year was appropriately outstanding. The ballroom walls were adorned with sketches of Ladies of Fashion over 50 years, the MC used a 1905 motor horn to call the assembly to order and Eric Pochin devised and Robert Martin compered a masque embracing some of the great events of the half-century, which was performed by the Leicester Drama Society. A surprise items was a calypso, hilariously performed by “six personal friends” of the President, in fact six Rotarians, extrovert and talented but too shy to allow their names to be recorded in the detailed Press report of the evening.
The efforts of the brothers Martin (father and uncle of Robert) and the Club in providing and supporting the amateur theatre in the city played a significant part in the eventual establishment of the Leicester Drama Society. And ever since that day both Society and Club have owed much to each other. No fewer than nine Rotarians have been President of the Society, Percy Groves, Herbert Russell, William Bastard, Eric Pochin, Roy Pochin, Frank Gayton, Alan Gayton, Geoffrey Hilton and Ivan Tarratt. Another, Geoffrey Burton, has been chairman of Leicester Theatre Trust, on which a number of other Rotarians have served.
It is interesting to note the competition in the fifties for the office of President. When Bert Bream’s name came before the Club for Vice-President (the automatic step to Presidency) in 1953 it was stated that his was the “only withdrawn nomination”. In fact, five names had been put forward originally, and before the election came along four had withdrawn.
The £2,000 raised for St. John Ambulance in 1955 was an impressive figure for those days. It was repeated four years later when the Club organised a May fair in aid of the Old Peoples’ Welfare Association. A van and some linen, at a total cost of £750 was handed over immediately; the remainder was held and dispensed as required. Two Rotarians joined the Committee of the Association. The welfare of old people was very much in the minds of everyone. Each year Rotarians, using their own cars, took elderly folk on an afternoon’s outing in the summer, to Wickstead Park, Overstone or Charnwood Forest, where tea was provided. This eventually came to an end when the increasing facilities available to old people reduced the demand. At the same time it could be said that in several cases the age of the Rotarian driver exceeded that of his passengers!
But in 1960 came a more permanent and constructive contribution to the welfare of old persons with the establishment of the Dorothy Russell Work Centre for the Elderly – then in South Albion Street but later moved to Chancery Street – chiefly the work of a Past-President, C.T. Barton, ably assisted by Harold Freer. The concept, which came from a Rotary idea used by the Bedford Club, was that industry supply work of a reasonably simple nature for old people to do – labelling, packing, sorting etc. A modest charge was made and a small payment given to the workers who were also provided with lunch. It gave a great number of elderly folk an opportunity for an easy occupation, a little pocket money and some companionship. An impression by Kenneth Nutt on the theme of “Tired hands, Working Hands, Satisfied Hands”, appropriate to the Work Centre, won the Club first prize of 500 dollars offered by Rotary International in 1961-62 for pictures illustrating community service. The money was given to the Centre.
Mrs Dorothy Russell, after whom the Centre was named, was Lord Mayor and a former employee of Clem Barton. A management committee was set up with the Lord Mayor as President. The Rotary Club supplied the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Hon, Treasurer, Hon. Secretary and five other committee members. The rest of the committee came from Leicestershire Social Services Department (2), Age Concern (2), Leicester and County Chamber of Commerce, Leicester Trades Council, Leicester Inner Wheel and the WRVS. The early years were not easy, and made less so by Barton’s sudden death in 1963. H.N. Bream took over the chairmanship and he guided its growing fortunes for 13 years. Before he handed over the reins the South Albion Street premises became the subject of a development order, and a move had to be made to Chancery Street. J.E. Savage succeeded him in the chair.
Leicester formed a Club at Lutterworth in 1953 and the Blaby, Oadby and Wigston club in 1962. In each case territory was ceded, as it had been on frequent occasions for the formation clubs with other parentage. Oadby split into three some years later, Oadby remaining officially Leicester’s offspring and itself becoming the sponsor of Wigston. Lutterworth became responsible for Blaby.
In 1962 and again in 1964, Leicester Rotarians became Lord Mayor, Harold Heald and A.H. Kimberlin. Throughout Leicester’s history, it has been a “family” club. Fathers and sons have constantly served together; brothers too. At one time there were three brothers, James, Fred and Archie Carmichael, whose combined membership exceeded 150 years! Four generations of one family was first achieved with Christopher Hilton joining in 1969. It was in 1964-65 that son first succeeded father as President, R.M. Evans following forty years after W.A. Evans. This was repeated the following year, with F.I. Tarratt, whose father, George Tarratt happened to have followed W.A. Evans in 1925. Other father and son Presidencies have been David Bentley (1936-37) and Roland Bentley (1969-70), Harold Nutt (1951-52) and Horace Nutt (1971-72) and Frank Gayton (1947-48) and Alan Gayton (1975-76). Harold Nutt was the only father to live to see his son in the chair, although at that time the father was no longer a Leicester member. George Tarratt died little more than a year before son Ivan guided the club through its Golden Jubilee in 1966. He was the last surviving found members with 48 years’ membership.
To mark the Golden Jubilees a sum of £1,200 was raised from members for a specially-equipped mini-bus for the conveyance of partially handicapped old people. It was presented to the City Welfare Committee, with an understanding that it be made available for Rotary and other organisations responsible for moving old people. The President of RIBI was among the distinguished guests at the Jubilee dinner. Among the District Offices was C.S. Owst, District Secretary, a member of the Club who had been District Governor in 1958-59 while belonging to Skegness. Although there was no founder member present, H.H. Gimson, who joined only some weeks after formation in 1916 and was now an honorary members, completed a half-century of membership later in the year.
He was to be followed by a succession of 50 year members, for whom a special badge was designed in 1969 and has been worn on all Rotary occasions since then by the small but distinguished band of qualifiers. They have been (with dates of their jubilee in brackets):
H.H. Gimson (1966)
A.B. Pick (1969)
L.O. Smith (1969)
F.T. Carmichael (1969)
S.H. Russell (1971)
C.R. Frears (1972)
H.W. Tharp (1973)
A.D. Carmichael (1974)
H.F. Smith (1978)
A comprehensive list of re-classifications came into being in 1957. It provided no problems, but removed an amusing ambiguity in the case of the 1966-67 President, G.P. Kendall, of the umbrella company bearing the family name. No longer was his classification to be the paradoxical one of “Dry goods – Umbrella Manufacturing” but instead “Umbrella and Rainware Distributing”.
Chapter 7: YEARS OF INFLATION
From the mid-sixties to the late-seventies, inflation increased apace. The annual subscription in 1966 was £8; ten years later it was £21. Between 1955 and 1966 the cost of lunch ranged from 7/-(35p) to 13/- (65p), but in the next ten years it rose 250% to £2.25, at which stage there was genuine alarm at the rising cost of Rotary. So much so that a committee was formed to examine the whole matter. It reported that the luncheon cost had gone up by 460% in sixteen years, more than twice the rise in the Retail Price Index or fall in the purchasing power of the £. Lunch in less attractive surrounding would be cheaper, but no satisfactory alternative accommodation could be found for 100-120 people (and on special days 200), less frequent meetings were most unlikely to be authorised by RI according to RIBI, and the Grand Hotel could not offer less expensive fare. What the hotel was prepared to do was to hold the present charge for nine months and then offset any additional cost by the withdrawal of the sweet course. This was agreed and it was nearly two years before members were called upon to pay more – albeit for a more modest meal.
The Club had moved to the Grand Hotel in 1969 when the site upon which the Bell Hotel stood was sold and the hotel demolished to become part of the Haymarket Centre. The previous year the office was also moved, from New Walk to St James’ Road, the home of the secretary Miss Dorothy Walker. Here it remained until 1976, when secretarial work was taken over by an agency in London Road. The Rev. A.H. Kirkby became District Governor in 1970-71, the fourth man to receive the honour while a member of the Club. He had been President in 1961-62 and Vice Chairman of the District for part of that time. He was then Minister of the Victoria Road Baptist Church, whose congregation had already provided five Presidents of the Club.
The Cathedral has also been closely associated with the Club. When the Provost, the Very rev. J.C. Hughes, was President in 1973-74 one could count among the Cathedral hierarchy also, of course, the Bishop, the organist (Dr. George Gray), the Diocesan Registrar (R.J. Moore) and three Lay Canons (D.S. Astbury, L..H. Millard and J.G. Selkirk). John Hughes was the fifth Provost to belong to the Club, the others having been F.B. Macnutt, H.A. Jones, M. Armstrong and R.J.F. Mayston. Hughes’ successor, Alan Warren joined the Club as sixth in line. On Raymond Moore’s death his son, Graham already a Rotarian, became Diocesan Registrar.
Reference has already been made to concern over the growing costs of Rotary. Indeed, throughout the history of the Club the matter has come up regularly when upward adjustments in meal charges came about. It did not appear to affect recruitment or retention of membership, but it did have an impact on the social side. The annual Ladies’ Evening dinner, for more than half a century one of the highlights of the social scene in Leicester, attracted fewer Rotarians as the years of inflation went by. The growing cost resulted in economies in presentation; the elaborate décor on a theme selected by the President and the cabaret often reflecting the President’s line of business were discontinued in the interests of economy. A less formal way of life generally also led to the substitution of dinner jacket and black tie for the so-elegant white tie and tails. So the need for watching individual costs, and the change to a less attractive presentation together led to a loss in popularity. Another contributing factor was the growth of noisy bands who steadfastly refused requests to tone down their amplifiers.
After the 1975 Ladies’ Evening dinner and dance presided over by A. Pilgrim the Club decided to have simpler functions, at first consisting of reception and buffet, with a minimum of dancing. This attracted, it is true, more members of the Club – but it must be said that with the disappearance (for the time being at least) of the elegance of earlier times something outstanding was lost. It was the end of an era. It may have been popularity of a reception and buffet at the County Rooms early in 1976, in celebration of the Club’s Diamond Jubilee, which also had something to do with the change. This took the place of the normal Ladies’ Evening and was exceptionally well attended and had about it a sense of occasion.
The Club’s Diamond Jubilee in 1976, like the Golden Jubilee before it, had been planned for a long time and it was decided that the occasion be commemorated by the creation of a new traffic-free square in Cheapside, part of the Market Place, and the erection there of a centuries-old High Cross. The High Cross has stood originally in Highcross Street, some 400 yards away, where it marked the centre of Leicester. From its steps public proclamations were read, town meetings held’ messengers arrived with news from London and abroad, and country folk sold their meagre wares.
Here in 1603 the Mayor received Queen Anne of Denmark and her children as they followed James VI of Scotland to London to accept the Crown of England. And it was reputedly here that Charles I in 1645 encouraged and witnessed the maiming and slaughter of prisoners after the Royalists’ victorious siege of Leicester. The cross consisted originally of a cupola supported by four columns, but in the nineteenth century its size was considered a traffic hazard and it was reduced to a single column with cross on trop. Early in the twentieth century this itself obstructed traffic and it was sold and re-erected in The Crescent, King Street. From there it found its way into a garden in Evington. The city fathers eventually rescued it and placed it in the Newarke House museum garden – where few saw it. The City Council and the Museum Committee of the County Council warmly accepted Rotary’s idea that it be moved again, this time to Cheapside. It seemed a particularly appropriate thing to do, in 1976 was also European heritage Year. An early distinguished visitor to the completed project was the Duke of Gloucester.
The “Heritage Project”, as it became known, came under the enthusiastic guidance of A.W. Gayton, the 1975-76 President. A sum of £10,000 had to be raised, and he roused the Club as seldom before. Most of the money came from a “Pro-Am” golf tournament held at the Leicestershire Golf Club, but there was also a football match between Leicester City F.C. and the Leicestershire County Cricket Club, a performance of “The Sound of Music” at the De Montfort Hall, and other events. The success of this mammoth project was very much due to Alan Gayton, but his year of office ended before the “square” was complete and the High Cross erected in its fourth and perhaps final position. It fell to his successor, J.F. Payne, to preside at the dedication ceremony by the Lord Mayor and Lord Bishop on 20th May 1977. (See photo below: Councillor Bernard Toft, Lord Mayor is in the centre, John Payne on the left.)
A plaque was unveiled bearing the inscription:
The Rotary Club of Leicester, to Mark its Diamond Jubilee in the year 1976, furnished this open space and restored to the centre of the city this ancient High Cross that first stood some 400 yards to the west in Leicester’s mediaeval market in Highcross Street.
Let the past, enrich the future.
John Payne also presided at the Diamond Jubilee dinner held at the Grand Hotel in October, sixty years to the month after the third of the three dates variously favored as the birth date of the Rotary Club of Leicester! The President of RIBI was there and Alan Gayton was given the honour of replying to the toast of the Club.
Chapter 8: INVOLVEMENT IN THE COMMUNITY
Another Diamond Jubilee followed in 1980, that of Bishops of the Diocese being honorary members of the Club. The Right Rev. Ronald Williams belonged to the Club for 25 of those years. He retired at the end of 1978 and went to London, but only a few weeks later he died suddenly. A tribute to him written by Past President the Rev. A.H. Kirkby and read to the Club in Dr. Kirkby’s unavoidable absence, included the following: “Many memories fill our minds. We recall Ronald Williams as the friendly man, ever ready to share as fully as possible in the life of the Club. He sought no privileged place . . . Though his office and status would have justified that. He was happy to sit at any table with any member, getting to know each and all as best he could”. “He generally arrived some ten minutes before the start, and used the time well in speaking to many. He was glad to be a member of Rotary, and used his membership of the Movement to visit other Clubs as he traveled around the world. He liked the friendship offered in so many places . . .” Dr. Kirby, supporting the election a few months later of Bishop Williams’ successor, wittily referred to the classifications of the new Bishop and himself as “Religion-Wholesale” and “Religion-Retail”.
After the great fund-raising effort of the Club’s jubilee, everyone was glad of a short respite, but in 1979 came a cause which proved irresistible. This was the Lord Mayors appeal for £500,000 to provide a whole-body scanner for the Royal Infirmary. It was an appeal which captured the imagination of the people of city and county as never before, and it was right that the Rotary Club of Leicester should do something to help. By taking all the tickets for one night’s performance at the Haymarket Theatre and selling them as a package to include supper, and from the production of a souvenir programme well filled with advertisements, a sum of £3,200 was raised. This was handed to the Lord Mayor on the stage during the interval by the Presidents of the Rotary and Inner Wheel, for the operation had been mostly ably supported by Inner Wheel.
Leicester Rotarians have always been widely involved in many good works outside the Club. Indeed on more than on occasion a “census” has been taken of that involvement. Another came in 1979. This time it was inspired by the experience of the President of two years earlier, Brian Thompson. He had represented the Club at a meeting in the City Council Chamber called by the Lord Mayor to inaugurate the Leicester Organisation for the Relief of Suffering. Reporting to the Club the following Monday he said that the meeting had been attended by representatives of virtually all local social service and charitable organisations and that, as he entered the Council Chamber he at first thought he was at a Rotary meeting – and with a better attendance than usual – so large was the Rotary representation among those many organisations!
Undoubtedly there was a measure of jocular exaggeration in that remark, but he was indicating the very wide and active involvement of Leicester Rotarians in voluntary work outside the Club. And when the 1979 census was taken it showed that well over one hundred local service organisations, charitable, cultural, social, educational, medial, environmental or religious had the assistance of members of the Rotary Club of Leicester. These included those caring for the blind, the deaf and sufferers from muscular dystrophy, arthritis and rheumatism; the Leicester General Charities, Thomas White Charities and H.J. Riddleston Charity; The Charity Organisation Society, Red Cross, St. John ambulance, Y.M.C.A., old persons’ homes, the Anchor Club for Discharged Prisoners, the Samaritans, the Area Healthy Authority, County Nursing Association, Medical Research Foundation, special schools for the mentally handicapped, the Adult Literacy Scheme, the Area Disablement Advisory Committee, International Friendship Association, the Scouts, Sea Cadets and Girl Guides, Boy’s Clubs, Playing Fields Association, Council for Sport and Recreation, the Coty of Leicester Schools Orchestra, Leicester Symphony Orchestra, Leicester Male Voice Choir, Leicester Competitive Festival of Music, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Movement for World Evangelisation, Historic Churches Preservation Trust, Trust for Nature Conservation, Rural Community Council, Council for the Protection of Rural England, the Farming and Wild Life Advisory Group and the Committee for Small Industries in Rural Areas.
The List goes on. More than a tenth of the Club were Justices of the Peace, many were school governors, several on the Court and Council of the University of Leicester and the Council of Loughborough University; others Honorary Canons of the Cathedral, local preachers, church wardens; there was a large representation involved with the Leicester Drama Society and Theatre Trust, and also the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society, whose list of Presidents included many Rotarians. Three members of the Club have received the highest honour the coty can confer, that of Honorary Freeman, for their services to the community. They were Arthur I Groves in 1926, Charles R. Keene in 1962 and Mac Goldsmith in 1971. For his services locally, Charles Keene was knighted in 1969.
Some of the many services available to the people of Leicester and Leicestershire were started by the Rotary Club of Leicester. Others owe their existence to the stimulus provided by the Club in the first place. The third object of Rotary is “The application of the ideal of service by every Rotarian to his personal, business and community life”; it is hoped that this story shows that Leicester Rotarians have been abundantly true to that ideal.
Chapter 9. CHARITY ABOUNDS
As the ninth decade of the century opened, the year to come saw the Moscow Olympics boycotted by 45 nations, insider dealing in shares became a criminal offence, Barnum hit the New York musical stage, Ronald Reagan became US President, ‘Solidarity’ emerged in Poland, John Lennon was murdered, Leicester’s ‘own’ C.P. (Lord) Snow died and, horror upon horrors, MCC members assaulted the umpires at the abandonment of the Centenary Test at Lords after ten hours’ rain!
The Rotary Club of Leicester, however, maintained its “Service Before Self” stance, and saw no reason to change from its time-honoured principles, although an international threat was once more to manifest itself within a very few years. Local charities, and groups of people all over the world continued to benefit from the munificence of the Club’s deep pocketed members, even though that membership was falling as the years progressed. Nonetheless, practically every charity one could name became included on the almost endless list of bodies dealt with by the Club. All this in spite of the fact that the Club Council had reported that charity cash reserves were, as the 1980s arrived, in a parlous state. But gradually the money came in and there is no shame in listing some of the charities and groups that benefited from the Leicester Club’s efforts.
Sums of cash and practical help in the form of goods went to (mentioning just a few) technical Books for the third World, the Shoebox Appeal for Romania and Moldova, spectacles for vision Aid, the Leicester Royal Infirmary Child Asthma Centre, Holidays for Sick Children, the Rainbow Appeal for a Loughborough Hospice, 1000 books from Loughborough University for use in prisons. “Kids Out” days at entertainment parks for under-privileged children, a Railway Corridor project by Leicester Polytechnic students to video the lineside between Leicester and Wigston, for safe botanical and other purpose studies, the Bosnia/Croatia relief fund (over £17,000 raised in the District), sponsoring disabled athletes for the 1992 Special Olympics, funds for two schools for handicapped children, MacMillan Nurses, day visit for young Scouts to Nottingham, Sir Andrew Martin Trust for young people and even a request from Kitwe, Zambia, for spectacles and Easter eggs, items which were paid for via one of the many Starvation Lunches at the Club.
These only show the diversity of the appeals answered, but the means of raising cash and goods were equally prodigious. These included special performances of musical productions at the Haymarket Theatre, Leicester, each Christmas, raising an average of £3,000-£4,000or so at a time; Pro/Am golf tournaments, sponsored walks, cycle rides, plus the innumerable private house functions. In 1998/9 the Club supported and sponsored the Toy Trades Association Alternative Cup Final event, when the TTA handed over £20,000 to the Club towards the National Children’s Home. Links with local radio were forged when the Club supported the Leicester Sound Radio Auction for funds to buy two fibrillates for Leicester ambulances, probably making Leicester the first club in the District connected with such an appeal. That charity funds never made any great showing on the balance sheets was due entirely to the fact that as soon as the money came in it went out again to some good cause.
Practical help abounded, such as finding accommodation for the daughter of Taunton Rotarian visiting Leicester, arranging transport for a Rotarian’s father visiting Leicester nursing home, dealing with a request from a Swiss Rotarian asking to send flowed to comedy actress Irene Handl who was appearing in a Haymarket Theatre production. This resulted in a letter of thanks from Miss Handl and two tickets for the show!
Another typical situation arose when a letter was sent to the Club’s then President, Keith Gayton,, asking Rotarians to sponsor a week’s holiday for a 12 year old girl, Marie, from Western Park Day School for a delicate and handicapped children aged between five and 19. That May the school was taking a party of 20 pupils for a residential experience at Barmouth, north Wales, and the previous year Marie, who suffered from cerebral palsy, could not go because her parents could not afford to pay for her, and felt unable to accept a charitable donation. The letter described Marie as “a cheerful young lady who works tremendously hard to overcome problems associated with her medical condition”. She led a rather sheltered life and she would definitely benefit from the trip. The Leicester Club unhesitatingly stumped up £100 as a donation to the school.
But the outstanding achievement by the Club, both in charitable fund-raising and in social responsibility, came in 1991, when in the celebration of the Club’s Anniversary, a Leicester Bone Bank Appeal was launched. With the help of the Leicester Club’s associated bodies, Inner Wheel Rotoract and Interact, the aim was to raise £25,000 towards equipping the United Kingdom’s first Bone Bank of its kind. The Bank was to be situated at Glenfield Hospital. By 1991 it was feasible to build up a ‘bank’ of bones preserved by deep-freezing, which could be used in the treatment of bone tumors and the salvaging of joints which had failed. Rotary would raise funds for the freeze-donated bones, deep freeze equipment, plus publicity, a pc-based computer system, sophisticated photo-copying and facsimile transmission equipment, plus the salary of a part-time administrative assistant for 12 months. As Mr Huw Thomas, Medical Director of the Leicester Bone Bank, who retired from this post in December, 1999, said at the time: ‘‘ This is a gift of life and a gift of mobility.’’ Fund co-ordinators at Rotary. were John Aldridge, Club President, and John Saunders, vice-president of the Club. Among Club events to raise the sum required was the raffling of the ‘nut-and-bolt’ rebuilt and fully restored 1952 Austin Somerset saloon, in May 1991 at Leicester Mercury Historic Transport Pageant at Abbey Park. This raffle alone raised £4,500. As the year passed, it was clear that the Appeal would be huge success and when eventually it closed in August 1992, just under- taken. As for the Bone Bank, in nine years of operation some 3300 bones have been transplanted to nearly 13000 recipients throughout the UK.
By 1998, records show that the Club was regularly raising over £20,000 a year for charity, and this in spite of gradually declining membership. Nor were the efforts centered around Leicester. An appeal was made for the Life Education. Caravan Project, the intention of which was to have a mobile caravan visit schools with education programme warning pupils against drug abuse. Leicester Club became involved in a Group 2 scheme to raise £130,000 for the project, and in the event Leicester and Leicesteshire clubs alone raised £60,000 by March, 1995, as part of Rotary International’s appeal for the RIBI to improve its cash raising efforts. RIBI also initiated a ‘‘Raise Million’’ scheme for the RIBI Foundation, plus a similar amount for the individual club.charities. One idea was the selling of tickets for a luxury car at £1 a time, 40p going towards the Rotary Club selling the ticket and the same amount to RIBI, plus 20p for expenses, any left over going towards RIBI FUNDS. The scheme was success. By late 1994 the RIBI with all Clubs’ help, had completed a Wateraid Campaign for £50,000 to supply water for the Dodomo region of Tanzania. For this effort RIBI won a Gold Award at the Professional Fund Raising Awards ceremony.
Chapter 10. THE RESOLUTION 83-8 SAGA
In 1993 Leicester Rotary Club once again faced something of a constitutional crisis. Rotary International put forward proposed Enactment, known popularly (or infamously) as Resolution 83-3 at the Council of Legislation at Monaco, making it compulsory for all pre-1992 Clubs, such as Leicester’s, to adopt the Standard Rotary Constitution. The Leicester Club resisted such an overtrue back in 1950, as mentioned earlier in this history, but this time the matter took a rather serious turn.
The constitution of the Leicester Club is something the members cherish, and any threat to their independence would then, as now be totally unacceptable to the Leicester Club Council. The irony of this situation was that this Constitution was written in 1916 and was actually used as a model by Rotary International when they were formed 1992! Orders from above were not always welcome and the Leicester Club felt alone, until the minor miracle occurred. Contacting other Clubs formed in the early days, Leicester found that they were in the eminent company of clubs in a similar situation in New York, Paris and London. Talking to the President of the New York Club, Leicester Secretary M.J Kennedy (from whose 1982/3 report this information is derived) discovered that New York were filing a lawsuit asking for an injunction to restrain dramatic sequence of court hearings followed. RI’s general although he had already left for Monaco conference on the second occasion. RI was subsequently forced to withdraw the proposed Enactment and to substitute a much watered-down version ‘‘urging clubs to adopt the Standard Constitution by January 1, 1985.’’ The cost of victory was high- the New York Club face a legal bill for 30,000 dollars and Leicester Rotarians sent a constribution towards defraying New York’s expenses. A letter of gratitude returned from New York, plus a standing invitation to lunch!
The Leicester Club’s Constitution sets out duties for its Club Service Committee which are different from the Standard RI Constitution. Club’s with Standard Constitutions look to Club Service for total running of the Club, whereas Leicester has the given responsibility to the Secretary and several other Committees, such as Membership and Classification. This allows Club Service free to ‘‘promote fraternal feeling in the Club,’’ fostering its social life and encouraging a sprit of fellowship and goodwill among members.
Leicester had felt more than annoyed at events as the trouble had originally begun when the Rotary Club of Birmingham, Alabama, USA, had made a ruling that only white members would be accepted at meetings. However, the matter did not end at Manaco. As only one of the five Rotary Clubs in the entire movement acting on its own constitution , Leicester faced continual sniping from RI for some time to come. In 1984 RI again requested Leicester (and presumably other mavericks) to adopt the Standard Rotary Constitution. Rotary International said that without necessary amendments there would be a loss of standing for the Club in the community, a suggestion ridiculed by Leicester members.
A further broadside was delivered by RI in December 1998 when RI (founded, as stated earlier, in Chicago in 1905 and named ‘rotary’ because members took turns for meetings in their homes and workplaces) introduced a resolution proposing the abolition of Rotary International in Britain and Ireland (RIBI). As the only territorial group in RI, this proposal was regarded by both RIBI and Leicester Membership as ”scandalous” and every effort was made to preserve RIBI’s status.
Then in October 1995 it was learned that RI had amended Standard Constitution by-laws so that instead of potential member. not knowing initially that he was being considered for membership, he would in future actually help in the completion of initial forms. This form would include a disclaimer which would avoid legal action should he not be accepted as a member. The Leicester Club membership decided that the current electoral procedure worked well enough and that the Club would keep its time honoured ways.
Rotary International’s last tilt at the Leicester windmill came in May 1996 with a letter from David Morehen, general secretary Adrian Keene, concerning the matter of Rules and Standard Club Constitution laid down by RI at Caracas in 1995. Morehen said that RI acknowledge that the Leicester Club has done its best to incorporate certain amendments to the SSC, but the RI committee agreed that the result was less satisfactory marriage of the new provisions with the old. For example, there were no provisions in the Leicester constitution for the election of former Rotaractors (young people who help with activities other than various committee fu8ctions, such as appeals and preparations of Christmas luncheons) to additional active membership, a decision that was brought into effect at the 1992 Council of Legislation and updated at the 1995 Council.
Nevertheless, said the letter, the General Council would be asked at their July 12 meeting to approve Leicester suggested amendments as far they went, since not to do so would leave the Club without constitution which did not accept former Retractors. Or retired persons as members, ‘‘and this was not in keeping with the spirit and provision of the changes made throughout the rest of the world..’’ Morehen then asked for specific identification of the rules, which Leicester took issue, which would perhaps make it possible to make substantial progress towards uniformity, ‘‘even if we cannot go all the way’’. Leicester agreed. The letter, in almost the form of a olive branch, represented the last of the RI’s attempts this century to regularise Leicester’s near unique position in Rotary and, in spite of the (to the uninitiated) arcane arguments surrounding an equally arcane series of differences between RI and Leicester, the whole needs recording as a tribute to the steadfastness of the Leicester membership in preserving its rightful and distinct place in Rotary.
Chapter 11. MORE MEMBERS NEEDED…BUT LADIES?
A number of factors contributed to the modest but seemingly inexorable decline in membership numbers. The first reason, but not necessarily the most important, was the equal decline in the number of diversity of the businesses in Leicester. The ruling that there should be only one member representing a particular profession or a specific section of that profession or trade had presented no problem in city numbering hundreds of different trades, as was the case up to and not far beyond the Second World War. But as businesses declined or even disappeared, so the number of available potential members. More firms were taken over by the national and international conglomerates, leaving the number of businessmen owning their companies on the wane. In 1953/4, for example, 70 percent of the Club membership of 161 exercised control over their business, but by 1992/3,with 113 members, this number had dropped to 40 percent.
This lead directly to the second reason-availability for regular meetings. An man his own business might afford to take time off for charitable work, it could be argued, but a man’s whose superior might even be working on the Continent may not be in so free position. There was even concern over the membership itself. There was a tendency for some new members to treat the Club in way that the membership was intended. In 1993, the Club Council officially expressed concern that some new members were not joining into the spirit and the activities of the Rotary. It was their sponsors’ responsibility to explain these duties fully to new members, were attracted to Rotary.
Consideration was being given to ways in which newer members could be fully involved in the Club and its activities. This might also remind other members of the Rotary that the gathering was more than a social Monday luncheon club. On the other hand there has been criticism that the Leicester club was too big and impersonal to some degree. In effect of new members found it difficult to get to know one another, let alone the established membership. At the same time, under the presidency in 1995/6 of Lars Helgeson, Leicester was larger than any other Club in the District. Northampton was next in size, with 77, while the average for clubs in the District was 38 members. It was the president’s declared ambition that the membership should return to 120 (‘‘You find the member, we’ll find the classification,’’ was the current thinking), a desirable complement, at least from commitment point of view. The danger of large numbers, said Lars, was that it could give some members the incentive to stay inactive in respect of the Rotary Club objectives, and to treat the club more as a luncheon venue with the purpose of making business contacts.
Perhaps another solution could be found? For generations since founding day, Rotary was for men. So would the Leicester Club ever boosts its membership by admitting women? which the distaff side were not only guests but absolved from making sandwiches and serving coffee (or something stronger). But actual membership? It had worked in other RIBI clubs but official involvement by women in the Leicester Club activities had been confined to the Speaker level. For instance, on March 16, 1992 the Rotary Club of Leicester had its first visit from a woman Rotarian, Miss Jane Wiggins, member of the Chiswick and Brentford Club and premises operations mamnager at the BBC. As Archie Pilgrim, editor of then the Monthly News sheet, wrote: Nothing happened, the ceiling of the Kings hall did not fall down, none of the members opposing ‘Women in Rotary’ collapsed with heart attacks or strokes, and her neighbors at lunch did not seem unduly distressed.’’
To compound the incident, on the following Monday, the Leicester Club was visited by a man AND WIFE from USA, both Rotarians. There was further embarrassment when Leicester appointed a lady Lord Mayor. Traditionally the Club confers honorary membership on the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Mayor (and Bishop of Leicester, although we haven’t had a woman Bishop…yet) but in the case of a lady being elected to the Lord Mayoralty, no such inivation could be made. Fortunately the new Lord Mayor was also a member of the all -female Soroptimists and understood the situation, remaining unfazed by what could have been regarded a potential snub. Rotary International first admitted women as members on July 1, 1989 but it took a further nine years before Leicester followed suit. Currently the Club has had two lady members on its books.
A consequential problem over falling membership also stemmed from the inability of many members or potential members to attend daytime meetings. Thus a Breakfast Club was set up in the County and a Evening Club was formed at Glenfield, both set-ups offering out-of business-hours for meetings. The mid – Nineties were awkward times for Leicester Rotary and associated bodies. Since 1992 Inner Wheel had suffered a decline but beginning to thrive again, while the Leicester Club received a termination notice firm the Rotary International concerning the Interact Club which had failed to submit an annual report to RI. Plans were laid to revive Interact which so far have succeeded.
Chapter 12. SPHERE OF CONSIDERABLE INFLUUENCE
Although because of its selective membership, the Rotary Club of Leicester is a comparatively small society, its influence in the city and county life. Is disproportionately great. Honours come to its members a fairly regularly basis, such as in March 1999 when Brian Smith and John Aldridge, a former president of the Club, were appointed for life as Deputy Lieutenants of Leicestershire. Gerry Aspell, at 84 the second longest-serving member of the Leicester Club, was Vice-Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Honorary Colonel of the Royal Anglian Regiment and of the Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Army Cadets. The late Michael Cufflin was appointed Lord Mayor of Leicester in 1985 and also awarded the Order of the British Empire. Many other members have been similarly awarded by the State and by Rotary, through Paul Harris Fellowship to the highest award Rotary International can make, the ‘‘Service Before Self’’ Award, made to Frank Norburn for his work in Eastern bloc countries.
Members come and go, move to other parts of the country, retire from the Club or pass on. Of the many of the latter, it is appropriate to mention Brian Thompson, President 1977/8, who compiled the bulk of this history, from the Club’s 1916 founding 1980. Brian, secretary, director and chairman respectively of the Leicester Mercury, and the last member of the family Hewitt which owned the newspaper, died in November 1997.
While the plethora of minutes of past meetings gather dust, and the Monthly Diary, in colour since July 1998 and renamed Bulletin under the editorship of Geoffrey Bromely, continues to present ‘all the latest’, the work of the officials of many committees strides on. On of the ‘unsung hero’ jobs worth recording here is that of the Speaker Finder, whose task of seeking out about 45 speakers on different and interesting topics each year must be regarded as considerable. The particular occupation of the Speaker Finder often helps, when in 1994/5 then President the late David Smith was able to call his year of office, the ‘Year of the Establishment’ as among Speaker Finder Graham Moore’s success were representatives of the Law Society, the House of Commons Clerk’s Department, Eton College and a former High Sheriff of Leicestershire. On the other hand, the interests between the speaker and the person chosen to thank the speaker after the talk, did not always coincide, as illustrated when bachelor the Very Rev. Derek Hole, Provost of Leicester, complimented as Mrs.Summerfield for talk on the Marriage Guidance Council.
So the Club still thrives healthily. The average age of members some four years ago was just under 60 and since then, many younger members have been recruited, although there is no upper age limit to membership. The nature of membership has, however, as mentioned before changed. As Colonel Gerry Aspell says: There is a changing nature of Rotary, and a changing face of business. The old industries of Leicester, once family owned, have now been taken over and sons no longer follow fathers as of right. Charities appear every week when once it used to be a major one every year. On the other hand I’ve enjoyed some amusing moments, like coming out of Mothercare with a Pregnant Mothers’ Appeal gift and running into a couple of Rotarians offering knowing winks!’’
Final words must come from the Club’s longest serving member, 85-year-old Rev. Arthur H Kirkby, a former District Governor and 52 years in the Leicester Rotary: I forecast a healthy future for Rotary in Leicester,’’ he says. ‘‘The character of a man is the first consideration. Having found him we can find a classification. Jokes are made about sub-divisions of sub-divisions, but when we come across a man of quality this is perfectly justifiable way of finding him a place. ‘‘Service Before Self’’ is our motto and we must maintain that high standard, not forgetting that work itself is services as well as spare -time activity.’’ When Mr. Kirkby joined Rotary he was soon fascinated by the fact that he, a mere parson, was rubbing shoulders with the great and the good, all men on the same level. His feelings then are the same as his feelings now. ‘‘Rotary fosters warm cherished friendships.’’ What other needs are there to enjoy such lives of service for this Millennium.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (First edition, 1980)
This story of the Rotary Club of Leicester was written at the suggestion of the 1978-79 President, E.C. Turner, who though it appropriate that the 75th anniversary of Rotary in 1980 should be so marked. He was mindful of the fact that the Leicester Club would then have been in existence for 64 of those years. His three immediate predecessors, A.W. Gayton, J.F. Payne and myself were invited to produce this little book. I am most grateful for the help given by Alan Gayton and John Payne, and particularly for the former’s work on the actual production.
I must also thank the three 50-year-service members, Rotarians H.W. Tharp, A.D. Carmichael and H.F. Smith, Past-Presidents J.G. Hilton and A.H. Kirby, the 1979-80 President G. Burton, and Rotarian M. Goldsmith, all of whom read the manuscript and helped me to avoid some sins of commission and omission. Many other members of the club, too, kindly provided recollections and allowed me to see some prized mementos. Daughter of the redoubtable W.K. Bedingfield, Miss Winifred Bedingfield, who presented a banner to the Club in its early days, which she herself has worked, has also been most helpful.
Special thanks are die to the Leicestershire Museums, Art Galleries and Records Service and its Director, Rotarian P.J. Boylan, for making a wealth of material available. This included Past-President Robert Holt’s “Recollections of Leicester Rotary”; an address he gave to the Club in 1939 and which was subsequently printed in booklet form.
Presidents of the Rotary Club of Leicester
1916 – 17 G.C. Johnson
1917 – 18 W.K. Bedingfield
1918 – 19 E.L. Mylius
1920 R.C. Johnson
1921 H. Hyde
1922 Cannon W.T.Elliot
1923 W Keay
1924 W .A. Evans
1927 Dr.R.W. Henry
1928 Dr A.L.McLeod
1929 – 30 A.F. Cholerton
1930 – 31 A.E. Young
1931 – 32 A.A. Ironside
1932 – 33 W.T.Mason
1933 – 34 A.P. Groves
1934 – 35 S.H. Russell
1935 – 36 R.Holt
1936 – 37 D Bentley
1937 – 38 Dr N.I Springs
1938 – 39 F L Attenborough
1939 – -40 J Ryland George
1940 – 41 Dr. C.K.Millard
1941 – 42 Very Rev.H.A. Jones
1942 – 43 G.K.Russell
1943 – 44 H.R. Pochin
1944 – 45 C.R Frears
1945 – 46 A.A. Groves
1946 – 47 G.W Brake
1947 – 48 F Gayton
1948 – 49 G.L.Lea
1949 – 50 J.G. Hilton
1950 – 51 A.B. Pick
1951 – 52 Harlod E. Nutt
1952 – 53 F.C. Bullock
1953 – 54 W.D. Keene
1954 – 55 H.N. Bream
1955- 56 R..J. Metcalfe
1956 – 57 C.T. Barton
1957 – 58 J.N Frears
1958 – 59 R. Kemp
1959 – 60 J.A.T.Rowlett
1960 – 61 D.E. Cameron
1961 – 62 Rev A.H. Kirby
1962 – 63 J.G. Selkirk
1963 – 64 E.R. Frizelle
1964 – 65 R.M. Evans
1965 – 66 F.I. Tarrat
1966 – 67 G.P. Kendall
1967 – 68 Dr.F.T. Doleman
1968 – 69 J.A. Chatterton
1969- 70 R.D.Bentley
1970 – 71 P.H.Franc
1971 – 72 Horace E. Nutt
1972 – 73 L.H.Dearne
1973 – 74 Very Rev.J.C. Hughes
1974 – 75 A.Pilgrim
1975 – 76 A.W.Gayton
1976 – 77 J.F.Payne
1977 – 78 F.B Thompson
1978 – 79 E.C. Turner
1979 – 80 G. Burton
1980 – 81 B.W. Smith
1981 – 82 R.C. Keene
1982 – 83 J. Savage
1983 – 84 J.W. Josephs
1984 – 85 M.J. Kennedy
1985 – 86 A. Easton
1986 – 87 D.N. Bettles
1987 – 88 Rev. Canon D.N. Hole
1988 – 89 R.W. Holmes
1989 – 90 John M. Joseph
1990 – 91 J. Aldridge
1991 – 92 O.J. Saunders
1992 – 93 K. Gayton
1993 – 94 B.G. Groves
1994 -95 D.W.Smith
1995 – 96 L.O. Helgeson
1996 – 97 M.A. Marvell
1997 – 98 R.W. Rawlinson
1998 – 99 D.H. Cloake
1999 – 2000 M.J. Page
2000 – 01 A.C. Keene
2001 – 02 E.A. Hargrave
2002 – 03 R.B. Spokes
2003 – 04 C.E. Smith
2004 – 05 P.J. Collier
2005 – 06 Moira Bartlett
2006 – 07 Michael Archer
2007 – 08: Derek Goodman
2008 – 09: Robert Mansfield
2009 – 10: Patrick Boylan
2010 – 11: Michael Kellett
2011 -12: Brian Smith
2012-2013 Richard Miller
2013-2014 Tony Jarvis
2014-2015 Stuart Almond
2015-2016 Paul Bonnett