The Rotary Club of Romney Marsh gave itself a metaphorical pat on the back with a gala dinner held at Lympne Castle last week to celebrate 50 years of service within the community on Romney Marsh.
Founded in 1969, the year that Neil Armstrong first stepped onto the moon, the earliest record we have of those far off days is a short piece written by the founder President Mr. Tony Clinch in which he tells us that the annual subscription for the first year was set at 6 guineas (£6.30p) and that highlights of that first year included the President and fellow member Joe Edwards winning the Rotary District Golf Tournament, the club agreeing to sponsor a project to transport mentally and physically handicapped children from the Romney Marsh Area, a Christmas cocktail party held in Littlestone, a joint outing with neighbouring clubs to visit the ‘new’ nuclear power station at Dungeness and the club acting as hosts to a group of Americans visiting the area on an exchange visit (including a visit to the RHDR).
How things have changed!! We still have to make an annual subscription charge, albeit a bit more than £6.30 even when adjusted for inflation, we still have a number of golfers in the membership, we are still helping with charities in our area to support handicapped children, we still have a members party at Christmas time, we visited the (now much older) power station in 2017 and we regularly host a group of visiting Rotarians from our associated Rotary Club in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. This proves that the basic tenets of the Rotary movement remain as they ever were, to enjoy the company and fellowship of like-minded people and to give something back to our local community here on the Marsh. Our two remaining founder members, Peter Russell and Peter Maddieson (‘the two Peters’), will tell you that there have been some changes, less emphasis on wearing a suit (although a jacket and tie is still the order of the day), members then were likely to be young businessmen, now we tend to be retired gentle folk but most of all, we now have the welcome addition of lady members – something that would have been unheard of in 1969.
We don’t have a record of how much has been raised for charity since the club was formed but we do know that in the last 10 years we have donated more than £70,000 to charities and good causes locally, nationally and internationally.
The event was attended by members with their partners and a number of distinguished guests including our District Governor, Brenda Parsons, representatives from local clubs in Hythe, Folkestone, Channel, Rye & Winchelsea, and six special guests who made the trip from Gelsenkirchen.
There were of course a number of speeches and award presentations, starting with the presentation of a birthday card and a special 50 year certificate from our District Governor recognising its landmark achievement. Raymond Moses then gave a brief explanation of the history of the Paul Harris Fellowship Awards for outstanding club service before our ‘the two Peters’ presented one each to Roger Constable and Frank Thrower, only the third and fourth ever to have been won in the 50 years of our club’s existence. They have over 75 years of service to the Rotary cause between them and have been wonderful servants of our club throughout. Frank then took over to propose a toast to our founder members who were each presented with a pair of commemorative cuff links with bouquets of flowers to their respective wives. Peter Russell responded on behalf of them both with a humorous address again relating some of their early memories with Peter Maddieson adding his thanks at the end.
For many, the highlight of the evening was a short talk from Spencer Buck, another one of our ‘senior’ members and the Bailiff of Romney Marsh who gave a very entertaining presentation on the local history of the marsh with especial emphasis on his own memories from his early days farming in the area and in his 35 years in Rotary. It is significant that as Bailiff, Spencer chairs the annual meeting of the Lords of the Levels which has met every year in times of peace and war without a break for the last 767 years, now THAT is history. The evening ended as all Rotary meetings do with the final toast to ‘Rotary the world over’ a reminder that the Rotary movement has no political or religious boundaries and is doing so much to help communities in just about every country in the world.
All members and guests had a thoroughly good time and with so much goodwill around there is every reason to believe that the club will still be around in 2069 to celebrate its centenary. It continues to organise a full and varied programme of charity fund raising events, guest speakers at its regular Thursday evening meetings, member outings to places of interest (especially popular if a ‘cultural’ visit to a nearby pub is included in the itinerary) and interaction with other clubs in our district and beyond.
The club meets every Thursday at the XIXth Clubhouse of The Littlestone Warren Golf Club, more information can be found on our website www.romneymarshrotary.co.uk.