HISTORY OF WESTON ROTARY
The journey from Chicago to the UK had taken a mere six years since the formation of the first Rotary Club in that city in 1905. The first club on this side of the Atlantic was Dublin in 1911 followed by London , Belfast , Manchester , Glasgow , Edinburgh , Liverpool and Birmingham , forming the eight founder clubs in Britain . Rotary came to Bristol in 1917, Club number 15, followed in 1920 by Gloucester and a year later by clubs in Bath, Cheltenham, Stroud, and Club number 51 in Weston-super-Mare.
Weston-super-Mare in 1921 was very different from the town we know today, with a population of 31,000 it was a thriving holiday resort attracting thousands of visitors each year from the Midlands and South Wales . In the summer of 1921 the formation of a Rotary Club was suggested and a group of prominent Westonians, including John Hodge, Barney Butter, Henry Butt, Ernest Macfarlane, met with one of the founders of the Bristol Club, Stanley Hill, to seek advice and information. As a result, a public meeting was held at Brown's Café in Weston High Street on July 15 th , and as reported by the Weston Mercury “in the middle of a heatwave and the tourist invasion”. The meeting heard a fine, clear account of the aims and procedures of Rotary, and passed a formal resolution that a club should be formed here. Thus the stage was set for the history of the Weston-super-Mare Rotary Club to begin.
On Friday 23 rd September 1921 the new Club held its inaugural luncheon under the Presidency of T Ernest Macfarlane. Other Officers were – Vice President: John Hodge; Hon Secretary: H A Dossor and Hon Treasurer: R A Hurst. The twenty-six founder members received the greetings from Sir Harry Hatt, President of the newly formed club in Bath and listened to an enthusiastic address by Ernest Walls, President of the sponsoring club of Bristol . The club received its charter on 21st October 1921.
Over the years we in turn have sponsored 6 Daughter Clubs - Yeovil, Taunton, Hereford, Bridgwater, Mendip and West Woodspring and from them 12 Grand-Daughter Clubs - Glastonbury & Street, Minehead, Hereford Wye Valley, Burnham-on-Sea, Wrington Vale, Crewkerne, Chard, Langport & Somerton, Yeo Vale, Wellington, Sedgemoor and Taunton Vale. These clubs have also sponsored other clubs giving us 7 Great Grand-Daughter Clubs - Avalon, Ilminster, Somerset Levels, Crewkerne District, Quantocks, Wiveliscombe and Hereford Marches .
One of the earliest major Club projects was the Boys House which gave holidays to disadvantaged children and ran for 50 years. The proceeds from this when it was finally wound up in 1979 formed a Trust which still to this day provides grants for children's holidays. The Club gave awards for driving proficiency before driving tests were introduced and an Old Folks Rest Centre was set up and ran for 16 years. The Club was instrumental in the formation of the League of Friends of Weston Hospital, the International Club, the local Samaritans Group and Eye Camps in India .
Weston-super-Mare Rotary is proud of its record of Service.
In 2021 we became 100 years old and celebrated our Centenary with a lavish Banquet and Ball at the Winter Gardens with over 300 Rotarians, friends and families. Also we hosted an exhibition of our history at Weston Museum opened by Mary MacFarlane, granddaughter of our founding President. We erected a Blue Plaque on the site of our first meeting place in Weston High Street and published an updated 'History of Weston Rotary Club' which is available from our Secretary. Our Centenary Charity was Weston Foodbank who we are continuing to support.
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