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History of Rotherham Sitwell Rotary

The Founder members of Rotherham Sitwell Rotary (7th September 1988)

Ken Anderton, David Bambury, Ian Brookes, Tim Bryan, Vinod Burton, John Casey, Brian Chapple, Derek Cheetham, Robbie Cockburn, Chris Copp, David Hinchliffe, Alan Holloway, Peter Keary, John McKiernan, Edwin Moss, Gordon Moss, Barry Mynett, Peter Short, John Sparrow, Bhalchandra Thakkar, John Turner, Andrew Walker, Ken Walton, Michael Wild, Chris Williams, John Woffenden

Past Presidents of Rotherham Sitwell Rotary
1988-89 Robbie Cockburn
1989-90 Andrew Walker
1990-91 David Hinchliffe
1991-92 Derek Cheetham
1992-93 Chris Copp
1993-94 Peter Keary
1994-95 Mike Wild
1995-96 John Sparrow
1996-97 Alan Holloway
1997-98 Ken Anderton
1998-99 John Turner
1999-00 Vinod Burton
2000-01 Peter Short
2001-02 David Jones
2002-03 Philip Crutchley
2003-04 Kamal Zaman
2004-05 Roger Green
2005-06 Chris Williams
2006-07 Nigel Elmhirst
2007-08 Shaun Doherty
2008-09 Ian Saunders
2009-10 Trevor Johnson
2010-11 Terry English
2011-12 Stuart Lister
2012-13 Mike Frost
2013-14 Tom Knight
2014-15 Graham Hudson
2015-16 Yogesh Bhimpuria
2016-17 Ann Ogley
2017-18 Andrew Bates
2018-19 Melanie Hughes
2019-20 Gurnam Basran

Paul Harris Fellows
Robbie Cockburn 11th July 2013
Roger Green 11th July 2013
Chris Williams 11th July 2013
Joseph Brian Walker 16th July 2015
Andrew Bates 6th July 2017
Tom Knight 1st July 2018
Trish Lister 1st July 2018

"The first 25 years"
A speech given at the 25th Anniversary Meeting 12th September 2013

Tonight, we are celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Rotary Club of Rotherham Sitwell. Our Charter Presentation took place just over 25 years ago, on Wednesday 7th September 1988.
Perhaps wisely, our President has not given me a brief for this evening. So, what follows will be simply personal reminiscences of and reflections upon the first 25 years, which will focus on what makes us a little different from other Rotary clubs – not better or worse, but different.
I had the privilege of serving as Club President in 2005/06. The first event of my year was billed as a vocational service visit. That it was to Kelham Island Brewery will come as no surprise. To be fair to Trevor Johnson, who was Chair of Vocational Service that year, he did arrange a more conventional vocational visit - to the English Institute for Sport, where Olympic medallist Peter Elliott showed us around. Over the years our club has enjoyed many such instructive and entertaining visits.
But the “vocational” visit to Kelham Island demonstrates the club’s lack of convention as well as our long running interest in beer - witness our support over the years for the Rotherham Beer Festival at Oakwood School and lately at Magna. I remember in 1998 Peter Short, then Chairman of our Social Committee, organised a club visit to the Festival. As part of this we sponsored a firkin of beer and at a club meeting a week or so before the visit, a competition was held to select a suitable name for this. There was a three way tie between Phil Crutchley, Terry Gladwin and Geoff Mosson who all - inevitably - suggested the name "Short Measure" and shared a prize of six bottles of real ale. In recent years, thanks to Andrew Bates, we have held club meetings in local and not so local gastro pubs and welcomed as a speaker at a club meeting the Head Brewer of Welbeck Brewery.
It’s a short step from beer to wine – the late Pat Toone, whose Rotary classification of “Vintner” was possibly unique in our District, maybe even in RIBI, conducted a number of enjoyable and instructive wine tastings for the club in the room over his shop on Badsley Moor Lane. And then from wine to spirits – club meetings which include a whisky tasting by Peter Keary and John Woffenden are not held every year but live long in the memory. As Stuart Lister said of the tasting in his year “... a great evening when the non-drinkers had as much fun as the whisky tasters.”
Visits to theatres have long been a staple of our social programme. The earliest I can remember was around December 1990, to see Paul Nicholas in the Broadway version of “The Pirates of Penzance” at the newly restored Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield. Our theatre visits have usually been preceded or followed by a meal and one visit to a matinee performance at the Bradford Alhambra was followed by a meal at the oldest curry house in the UK, a short walk away. The following helpful advice appeared in the Bulletin – “Since the curry house, the Kashmir in Morley Street, was dry last time your editor visited, a period of time in one of the local pubs may be necessary before the meal and possibly again afterwards.”

A few present and past members could claim an alternative classification of “Thespian”, so there have also been many visits to Rotherham Civic Theatre. Not long before his tragic death, Stuart Lister gave us an entertaining talk on his life in amateur theatre in Rotherham.

Unlike our mother club, we do not have a formal twinning arrangement with a Rotary Club in another country. This has not been for lack of trying. In the very early days of our club a party of eight members travelled to Thurles in Ireland but no links resulted. Later Geoff Moore did his best to utilise the formal twinning link between Öhringen, a small town in Germany which is twinned with Wickersley. Seven Sitwell Rotarians and one from Rotherham club plus six partners took part in the Wickersley Parish Council visit to Öhringen over a weekend in July 2000. It was reported that the trip had been highly successful, with members enjoying warm hospitality from Öhringen Rotarians both at the semiformal meeting on the evening of their arrival and at other times over the weekend. Invitations were given to their members to visit our club and the indications were that twinning was a distinct possibility for the future. However, a subsequent letter from Öhringen Rotary Club explained that, because of previous unsatisfactory experiences with twinning, they were very cautious about entering into another formal arrangement – and nothing happened. Rotherham’s twinning link with St. Quentin has also been explored without success, even though a member of the Rotary Club of Saint Quentin was a welcome guest at a club meeting in 2012, when he was part of the Saint Quentin delegation on a civic visit to Rotherham. Our closest link, which has stopped short of formal twinning, is with the Rotary Club of Calvia in Mallorca, to which our former member Geoff Moore transferred some years ago. Shaun Doherty refers to Calvia as his “second club” and Terry English and Phil Crutchley have also made several visits there.

The lack of any formal twinning arrangement has not prevented overseas and international visits, however. There have been several overseas golf visits and, many years ago, our International Service Committee decided that an annual International Cultural Visit was an essential part of the club’s programme. Successive chairmen and organisers have ensured a series of memorable visits – the first to Dublin, the latest to Dubrovnik, with Prague, Alicante, Nice, Albi, Jersey and Budapest some of the destinations en route. However, there was an international visit before Dublin - in 1991 a 56 seater coach full of Rotarians, partners and a few children left Rotherham early on a Friday morning to catch a ferry at Dover en route to Ghent in Belgium, returning late on the following Sunday. We arrived safely in Ghent but an excursion to and from Brussels on the Saturday had to be completed by train after our “luxury transport” suffered mechanical problems in Brussels. I have two abiding memories of the trip - firstly Gordon Moss, whose Rotary classification was “Automobile Industry” took an almost obsessive interest in the coach’s engine problems; secondly John Turner’s watch never showed the correct time. The latter was explained by his sheepish remark when nearing Rotherham on the return journey that he was still on Belgian time.

To date we have never provided any District Officers and only one or two members have served on District Committees. However, in most years a sizeable contingent of members and partners has attended District Conference, with Shaun Doherty winning the pre-conference golf tournament one year. We have supported many District events, in particular the last District Disability Games, organised by Barnsley Rockley. However, we are perhaps best known for our record in the District Quiz. By my calculations, we have won this competition six or seven times during our 25 years, with the highlight being three wins in succession from 1999/2000 to 2001/02. Our team throughout those three years was Paul Boden, Geoffrey Harbord, Geoff Mosson and myself. During this time, Geoffrey Harbord, now a member of Abbeydale, was also our Sergeant at Arms. I can testify that membership of the quiz team increased the chances of being fined at the next club meeting. Understandably, Geoff Mosson – a geography teacher - was fined for arriving late at a heat of the quiz, after waiting for a lift at the Brecks rather than the Stag and then having to make his own way to Sheffield Vulcan. However, Geoffrey was known to fine both himself for suggesting an incorrect answer and me as Team Captain if I failed to correct or overrule him. Perhaps it was revenge for my frequent references to him as “The Archbishop of Kimberworth”.

Our club follows the five avenues of service that provide the philosophical framework for the work of Rotary clubs – Club Service, Vocational Service, Community Service, International Service and New Generations Service. Along with other clubs, we raise funds for local good causes and to help those in other countries less fortunate than ourselves. Perhaps where we differ from other clubs is in our recently adopted “Framework for Giving” and in how we raise these funds.
I think our first experience of large scale fund raising was when Martin Clark organised two highly successful fund raising events, one based on raffling a Jaguar car the other a hand-made rocking horse. As a result, the club was able to donate almost £10k to the District General Hospital scanner appeal. When the Jaguar was raffled, our stall at the Rotherham Motoring Weekend on Herringthorpe Playing Field was very busy selling tickets as a result of considerable press and other publicity. After the draw had been made, it was simply reported that the Jaguar had been won by a Mr. Holloway of Tickhill.
The Christmas Float at ASDA dates from 1999. The first club Bulletin of 2000 reported thus –
“In a project co-ordinated by Roger Green, members collected a fabulous amount from the Christmas Float - £3450 with possibly more to come in. Thanks to the co-operation of the management of Asda the float was positioned outside the door of the store on 17, 23 and 24 December. Also, Dave Nicholls arranged for it to appear outside Millmoor for Rotherham United’s home game on 18 December. This must rank as one of the club’s best team efforts with the float being designed and built using members’ resources particularly Shaun Doherty, David Jones, John Turner (Lynne also) and Ian Saunders. It is particularly encouraging to report that over 60% of members contributed to the project manning at least one three-hour shift on the float with several members doing far more. Roger Green is to be particularly congratulated on his organisation, enthusiasm and starring role as Father Christmas (all day on our float during the day of Christmas Eve at Asda then the evening with Round Table on their float).”
The following year the club took the float to ASDA for the whole of the week leading up to Christmas 2000 and, at the request of ASDA store management, assisted with a special shopping evening for disabled people in early December. Over £6,000 was raised and almost every member put in at least one stint with several members giving a great deal of time - not to mention wives, sons, daughters, at least one son-in-law and PDG Brian Midgley (Sheffield Vulcan) who had attended the breakfast meeting, phoned to offer his help and did a stint as Father Christmas.
Over 10 years later, the ASDA float (magnificently rebuilt last year by Andrew Bates and his team) is still a major plank in our fundraising, along with “Son of Float” operated in partnership with Rotherham Round Table and Continuity. We even receive requests to borrow our Father Christmas for special events. The float has generated many stories over the years –
• Roger Green was once asked by a mother to help her explain to her child why his requested toy, which was sold out in all the shops, could not be obtained in time for Christmas. Roger’s story, involving heavy snow fall in Lapland, successfully shifted all blame from mother to Father Christmas but reduced the child to tears. The mother was happy though!
• Peter Short, while doing a stint as Father Christmas, managed to lock himself in the hut on the float. Since nobody missed him he was not released for a quarter of an hour.
• One year a club member on float duty wore a blue, not red, Santa hat with the words “Santa was a Wednesdayite”: Phil Crutchley’s response was “We’ll get Ronnie Moore to sort you out”. I have never worn that hat since.
Besides fund raising, we have also “got us hands dirty” as Trevor Johnson said when President. Our many successful hands-on projects have included digging gardens for elderly people, decorating rooms at a woman’s refuge, an environmental clean-up at Whiston, tackling Himalayan Balsam at Wickersley and planting trees at the MS Centre.
Some years ago, John Sparrow put together some wise words about the characteristics of our club. He referred to
• the gentle pace of our meetings, with members intent on enjoying themselves and a fair amount of backchat and leg pulling
• the fellowship created by our random seating arrangement for the meal whereby, apart from those on the president’s table, most people do not know where or with whom they will be sitting.
He went on to say
“District officials often describe the club as being ‘irreverent’ something members would not dispute! However, most of them appear to enjoy visiting us. A casual visitor might be forgiven for believing that we are a dining club with fellowship the primary objective. However, behind the fun and fellowship of meetings the club has active service committees.”
John did not mention the role of our Sergeant at Arms, but I suggest this is also a factor in our lack of reverence. Everyone who has filled this post brings something different to it. In this connection, I must confess that the President who first invited Peter Short to be our Sergeant at Arms was … myself. I well remember Peter’s email accepting my invitation, suggesting a special uniform might be appropriate and asking if the post conveyed any special privileges. In reply (and this is a true story) I suggested he investigate whether the Sergeant at Arms might be authorised to drive a flock of sheep over Chantry Bridge on Saturdays when Rotherham United were at home. This would have the added benefit of increasing the range of pies available to Phil Crutchley at Millmoor.
To conclude -
• I must thank our mother club for setting in train the process which led to the creation of the Rotary Club of Rotherham Sitwell, in particular the work of Stan Hall and Len Wilson as Rotarian Aides during our formation, in conjunction with the then District Extension Officer, the late David Wortley of Abbeydale, Past District Governor.
• I apologise to my fellow Sitwell members if my ramblings have omitted anything significant or made light of your contributions to the success of our club and thank them for listening patiently and not falling asleep.
Chris Williams