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Celebrating our Inaugural meeting - 100 years on

Looking back at our Inaugural Meeting February 1921

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It’s 100 years since the Inaugural Meeting of the Rotary Club of York on February 4th 1921, and the first part of our zoom meeting on February 5th 2021 was devoted to a reflection on our history and our future.


Graham Wilford took us through a fascinating tour of archive material covering the formation of the Rotary Club of York and its early development

This included insights into how the Club was set up, following an initial approach from Rotarians in Leeds, and the inaugural meeting held on February 4th 1921 chaired by the Lord Mayor (and then  first Club President) Edward Walker.

RCoY then became the 36th Rotary Club to be established in the UK (and the 1000th worldwide)

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Founder President - EdwardWalker - 1921.

He explained that meetings (initially every two weeks) were set for Fridays at 1pm, one tradition that has hardly altered over the years. Lunch at the Royal Station Hotel then cost 3 shillings – around £7.50 in today’s terms. The meeting location moved several times over the following 30 years, to locations including the De Grey Rooms, Terry's and the

Windmill Hotel, before eventually returning to the Station Hotel.

Graham recalled a number of anecdotes told about the hotel, its staff at the time, and the frequent “food spills” that resulted in multiple dry-cleaning bills! Finally, Graham explained the archaic “vocational classification” system prevalent in the early days of Rotary and the many ingenious ways found to work around the “rules”; and the use of the Benevolent Box as the early forerunner of fundraising for local disadvantaged people that continues in many different ways today.


It was a fascinating delve into the archives. You can download and read Graham’s full presentation here.

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Queen St Bridge and Station Hotel - 1920
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1920's photo of York Rotary meeting, themed "Mens Hats"

1927 flyer for York Rotary meeting in De Grey Rooms

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Certificate of Affiliation to British Association of Rotary Clubs - May 1921

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David Jesper was next to recall his memories of Rotary history, in a wonderful poem “what he wrote” about the early days of the Club.




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Peter Fox, one of our oldest yet still active members, then recalled his early days with Rotary, which he initially joined in 1980, introduced by Bill Mann (“a real gentleman”). He reminisced about the convenience of meeting at the Royal Station Hotel, and many friends and members who are still members today, and the “moderate” standard of the food served then. He welcomed the move to Churchill Hotel and more recently the Novotel. Peter fell foul of the “attendance rule” that was in force at that time – and strictly enforced – and, incredibly, was forced to leave Rotary.

He re-joined a few years later in 1999 and enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of what he describes as his “second family”. He stressed the need to maintain the fellowship and fun of Rotary as we move forward and change ,as we need to, to meet more modern expectations of potential members.

President-Elect David Fotheringham then ran through the plans for the Centenary Year celebrations (see illustration) and the many themed “Speaker months”, and other events during the year that will reflect on our centenary and the past 100 years in York and beyond.

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Brian Joscelyne then showed a short video “Our Centenary – Looking Back and Looking Forward” that has been produced, with the assistance of Mike Fieldsend and Eileen Davis (who read the voice-over) which featured video and still clips from 100 years ago followed by a montage of images showing the modern Rotary of 2021, which although very different in style, inclusiveness and informality, still retains the ethos, sense of purpose and fundamental principles that were set in place 100 years ago – in particular the motto “Service above Self”. The video can be seen here...


Our last speaker was Mary Lumley, a relatively new member and soon to take over as President of York Rotary in 2022. Mary talked about “What Rotary means to Me”, illustrated by her “ten F’s” theme. These included Fulfilment, a Feeling of belonging, and Friendship gained from joining 80+ strangers (initially) in Rotary and feeling welcomed.

She then explained how she has gained Further Learning from Rotary, Freedom of Opportunity to join different activities and causes within Rotary; and Finding new skills – even including managing a virtual Quiz Night on Zoom!!

She also included Fun on her list, reflecting on how important this is in whatever we do. Finally, Mary reflected on the Future of the Club and how we need to adapt – to Covid, and to the changes needed to enable us to continue to support the community we serve.

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President Kevin summed up the session by stressing how much Rotary has given to our community, and to each of us as members, over the years; but also the way York Rotary has adapted to the difficult circumstances recently and not let these get in the way of meeting, doing service and having fun.


In around 50 minutes in all, we heard and saw a wide range of thoughts, reflections and memories that made it a fitting start to your Centenary Year celebrations

Rotary's motto for over 100 years, and still as relevant in 2021

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