Sixty years of Rotary in Aberystwyth
For the individual Rotarian the date of entry into the Club is of great significance. However, when reflecting upon the history of Rotary at Aberystwyth a number of other significant dates come to mind. The first and most obvious is 15 March 1948 when the inaugural meeting of the Club was held (with the Charter being presented on 23 November 1948). The Club was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Machynlleth which had been formed a year earlier. The initial membership of the Aberystwyth Club was 23. This prompted the inaugural President to describe the birth of the Club as “the biological miracle of all time” because the membership of the mother club (Machynlleth) was only 16!
A second important date was July 1983 when the Club moved from Rotary District 1180 (North Wales and Merseyside) to Rotary District 1150. During its time in District 1180 the Club had played host to three District Conferences. Aberystwyth’s location had placed it on the geographical margins of District 1180 and increasingly it had been agreed that a location in the South and Mid Wales District was more appropriate, albeit still subject to the ‘tyranny of distance’.
A third important date was that of the April 2000 Annual General Meeting when members voted, by a significant majority, to change the status of the Club to that of dual gender. This matter had been discussed on a number of previous occasions with strong views being expressed on both sides. Ultimately arguments about changes in the nature of the workplace and equality of opportunity held sway. That said, the ability of the Club to recruit female members has been disappointing.
2005 saw Rotary celebrate the centenary of its Foundation. To mark this important event the Rotary Club in association with six other Rotary Clubs (in 1180 and 1150) embarked on an ambitious fund raising programme to equip a new palliative care centre at Bronglais Hospital. The response of Rotarians and of the general public exceeded all expectations and a sum approaching £100,000 was raised. Having satisfied the needs of the palliative care centre funds are now being applied to related projects within the catchment areas of the six Rotary Clubs. Aberystwyth Rotary Club had chosen to celebrate its own special birthdays by engaging in projects aimed at benefiting the local community. For its 25th anniversary funds were raised to purchase a specially fitted minibus for use by the elderly and infirm. For the 50th anniversary money was raised to aid the landscaping and the provision of a garden to surround the new addition to Bronglais Hospital.
The history of any Rotary Club is, of course, much more than a series of notable dates. It is a story of vision and commitment which translates into action in local and global communities and of making a contribution to the worldwide Rotary movement. In these respects the history of the Aberystwyth Rotary Club speaks volumes. The highlights at local level include holding Hobbies and Leisure Exhibitions, the formation of the Probus Club in 1971 and the opening of Jasper House in 1984 as the home for the local Abbeyfield Society. In terms of serving the global community there has been a ongoing commitment to Water Aid (especially a matched funding project in Uganda), emergency boxes (now known as aquaboxes), Book Aid International, Polio Plus and in 1996 two Club members participated in the District 1150 Convoy of Hope to Croatia. Being located in a University town has given Club members the opportunities to participate in a range of Rotary Foundation programmes. The Club has hosted in excess of 50 Ambassadorial Scholars many of whom have gone on to attain excellence in their respective fields. In similar vein Club members have opened their homes to members of Group Study Exchange teams from India, Louisiana, Australia, the Philippines, Philadelphia, Indiana, Oslo and, most recently, Charleston/Savannah. In all of these events and efforts the lives of Aberystwyth Rotarians and their families have been greatly enriched. The history of the last sixty years is ultimately about “service above self”.
Richard H Morgan