Romaro (Romney Marsh Rotary) here again, we had a quiet beginning to February but we ended with a flurry of activity with three events in the last week of the month. First of all our president, Stephen Hagues, presented a cheque for £1,500 to ‘CARM’ (Caring All together on Romney Marsh) a local charity which provides support and services with dignity and respect to older and vulnerable people on Romney Marsh and parts of rural Ashford. Their mission is to support people living on the Marsh and its surrounding rural areas who are socially isolated and through this support improve their well-being, help them to remain independent for longer and enhance the quality of life of the rural communities in which they operate.
Then at our regular meeting on 22nd February we were treated to a talk from Betty Black on the story of post war passenger aviation at Lympne Airport. Betty used to work there for ‘Skyways’ in the sixties and has many interesting memories of the time and the people involved. The airport was originally used to fly rich Londoners and their cars (complete with chauffeurs no doubt) to and from Le Touquet but the grass runways often got too wet and muddy to land the Bristol Superfreighter aeroplanes that they used to land and so the operation was moved to Lydd. That gave Eric Reynolds, an entrepreneur of the time, an opportunity to form ‘Skyways’ which he did in 1955 with a service to Beauvais in France. He employed ex Battle of Britain pilots flying a couple of 32 seat Dakotas and was ahead of his time in providing the first passenger aeroplanes to have inside flushable toilets and employing the first female First Officer (women weren’t allowed to be Captains at that time – too weak don’t you know!)
A new tarmac runway was opened in April 1968 and the name changed to ‘Ashford’ Airport reportedly because nobody could find Lympne on the map and nor could they pronounce it properly. Unfortunately the company was made bankrupt in 1971 and the whole operation, aircraft, airport, and all back up facilities was bought by a group of 10 employees for the princely sum of £625,000 (about £8.5 million now) who re-launched it as ‘Skyways International’ and continued to fly to destinations in France until they were eventually taken over by Dan Air who moved the operation to Lydd and left Lympne to be used for housing. A fascinating talk on a very interesting piece of our local history, at its peak in 1968, 247,000 passengers passed through Lympne and the service was used by members of the Queens Flight, Graham Hill, Douglas Bader, and many others of the rich and famous.
Having satiated our appetite for history and serious matters, we turned our attention to the fun side of Rotary when a group of us took the bus for a ‘cultural’ visit to Hastings. There is much to see and enjoy in the town but the sea front was no place to linger on what was a very cold and windy day and so we were forced to explore the benefits of some of the ancient buildings in particular the ‘First In Last Out’ hostelry which had a welcoming log fire and a row of very inviting real ales to try. After a full day of putting the world to rights, we returned to the bus stop and those brave enough posed for a souvenir photo to commemorate the event. We were shocked on the way home when stopping off in Rye for a comfort break to discover that we had entered a pub that had no brandy to warm our tired joints and, after just one round, also ran out of gin! – We won’t be going there again!
Then finally we were due to join in with others in the Cinque Ports Group for a raid on the club at Sandwich but it was that day that the whole country came to a grinding halt due to the unprecedented (?) 2 inches of snow that fell in the morning. Joking apart, the forecast looked poor and the journey home in temperatures of -3 deg. C wasn’t very appealing so, in an admittedly unusual nod towards ‘Health & Safety’ the group thought it best to pull out and live to enjoy another day.
Finally we have all felt the loss of one of our senior members, Malcolm Sharp, who passed away peacefully on 8th February. Malcolm was loved and deeply respected by all who knew him, we will miss his cheery smile and our thoughts are with his wife, Sylvia, and all of his family and friends.
What’s coming up?
Forthcoming activities and events include..
Regular club meeting and dinner every Thursday at Littlestone Warren Golf Club; 7.00 pm
1st March; Presentation from Homeless Charity Porchlight
15th March; Raid on us from Channel Rotary Club
22nd March; Raid on Tenterden Rotary Club
5th April; Presentation on Victim Support from Citizen’s Advice Bureau
12th April; Presentation from Parkinson’s Charity
How do I join?
New members are always welcome, please contact Sarah Day on 07513 403398 or check out our website – www.romneymarshrotary.co.uk where you can also find out a little more about who we are and what we do.