Wednesday, 9 December 2015

A year in the life of Leeds Rotary: 1938

In 1938, life was still going ahead fairly normally though the the impact of a war feared but not yet here was already being felt or reported by Rotarians in Leeds. Some items illustrating this - taken from the monthly reports of Hon Secretary, Charles Davis - are listed below:
  • Community service questionnaire about personal (hitherto unknown) contributions
  • Entertainment for foreign students at the university at which the countries represented were India, Egypt, Soudan, Greece, Jugoslavia, Canada & Czechoslovakia – two Indian ladies attended (March)
  • Disbanding of Rotary Clubs in Austria after country's incorporation into Third Reich
  • First “Sons and daughters” day (April)
  • Appeal by Dr Morton for a position for Miss Gertrude Lichtmann – a Jewish girl of 15 or 16 in Vienna (second appeal a week later but no outcome reported)
  • Running of Birk Crag camp with Harrogate Club (May)
  • Overseas students' outing to Fountains Abbey
  • Delegation to Rotary International convention in Nice – one party drove there by way of Belgium and France visiting many Rotary Clubs and bringing back many flags!
  • Weekly addresses listed including “What is a gentleman?”, “Truth in advertising”, “Trunk roads”, “The Motorist and the Law” and “Nazi Germany”
  • Discussion on “Is the modern tendency to develop retail trading through multiple shops a healthy one for the Nation generally?” (June)
  • Exchange visit of member's son or daughter with the son of Paul Jouville – a founder member of the Louviere Club in Belgium whose hospitality had previously been enjoyed by several Leeds Club members
  • District organising holiday for sons of foreign Rotarians at Ashville College (July)
  • Attendance at Stockholm Conference by two members (September)
  • Appeal for someone to occasionally take an old lady crippled with rheumatoid arthritis out for a drive
  • Leeds Club planning to give a previous, successful demonstration on “The reception of a new member” to forthcoming district conference in Bridlington
  • Other speakers to include Rotarian Ernst Ipsen of Denmark who worked for the repatriation of prisoners from Germany after the last war and Phyllis Bentley (to the Inner Wheel)
  • Conference (due to start Saturday 30 September) postponed during the week before “in view of the critical international situation”: some men in key positions already detailed to special work and others would want to be at home: conference would have to be broken up immediately if war occurred “on Saturday” and would add to disruption travelling home
  • Extracts from matron's monthly reports showing weight gain of children in the holiday camp (October)
  • Wreath laid by Club President on Armistice Day (November)
  • Situation required for former bank official in Czechoslovakia
  • Distress in Czechoslovakia reported and appeal for support for Rotarians and financial support for the people there generally
  • Questionnaire to all Leeds Club members about principles of evacuation and billeting in time of war (December)
  • Rotary disbanded in Italy from 31 December – last greetings to clubs or members invited in “The Rotary Wheel"
President's Centenary Charity

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Leeds United v Borussia Dortmund 1981

On Monday 27th April 1981, Leeds United played Borussia Dortmund from Leeds' twin city in a charity match from which all proceeds went to support the Leeds Children's Holiday Association. Manny Cussins, the Leeds chairman, said that this association "enables thousands of underprivileged children from Leeds to take a holiday every year at Silverdale overlooking Morecambe Bay."

The match was played during "Rotary Week", a national event to commemorate 70 years of Rotary service in the UK. Rotary Club of Leeds and that year's President, G Eric Forster, used the week to raise money for Silverdale - a camp that had succeeded our own camp at Harrogate founded way back in 1924. Leeds Rotary in fact arranged the match and the Leeds & Holbeck Building Society sponsored it. 

The Leeds team included such stars as John Lukic, Brian Greenhof, Terry Connor, Brian Flynn, Paul Hart and Trevor Cherry. The future England goalkeeper, David Seaman, was an unused substitute would you believe and none other than Clive Thomas was the referee. As it happens, Leeds United won 2-0 with Dortmund's Lothar Huber scoring an own goal on 55 minutes and Arthur Graham adding the second five minutes later. 

President's Centenary Charity

Friday, 25 September 2015

At the YMCA in Albion Place 1943-1946 (The homes of Leeds Rotary No 1)

Sadly, at present, no comprehensive record exists of all the places where Leeds Rotarians have met over our first century and one useful ambition in the centenary year would be to compile as full a list of these different locations as possible. Some would be venues for the regular weekly meetings, others would be where we held special events such as anniversary dinners or fundraising events.

One from the first category would be the local headquarters of the YMCA where the club met from September 1943 until May 1946. The move to the YMCA occurred after the Hotel Metropole - our previous home - announced that they could only do fortnightly lunches from August 1943.

The YMCA had opened in Albion Place on 9 February 1908 on the site of the former stock exchange. The architect of the four-storey baroque building in ashlar sandstone was W H Thorp - this firm was also responsible for the new frontage to Oxford Place Methodist Chapel and the Leeds Art Gallery. The YMCA stayed here until 1984 after which the interior was completely rebuilt and only the historic facade now survives. 

From Leeds City Council's website:
The new venue was not perfect but members seemed to make the best of it – at least initially. Said the secretary, Charles Davis: “The room may be dull, the sandwiches may be uninspiring, and the coffee may even be cold, but it is agreed on every side that the fellowship has never been better, and we have the added advantage of contacts with the Inner Wheel …” [Secretary's report 1944/05]

The enthusiasm for the YMCA waned however. In May 1945, the secretary reported: “Most members would prefer an hotel, and the sandwich, which is palatable in ones and twos, becomes less so when seen in its hundreds.” [Secretary's report 1945/05] It seems unlikely that the sandwiches so-described were those prepared by the ladies of the Inner Wheel – whose own meetings were at the YWCA in Cookridge Street. At least initially, the ladies provided simple lunches for the men. The presence of ladies was welcomed and they were said to be owed “a very great debt for making the present arrangement possible at all.” Instead, the offending food stuff is more likely to have been the YMCA's in-house sandwich known as the “Yorkshire Hussar”.

Despite such grumbling, Rotarians in Leeds did realise just how lucky they were. Charles Davis said, in June 1946, “We should be grateful that Leeds has escaped the worst horrors of war. Many clubs in RIBI were bombed out of their premises 5 or 6 times, and in one club in London the business or private premises of every member was damaged.” Thankfully, both serving members  of the Leeds club and those at home appear to have survived the war unharmed.

Club members hunted for over a year for a more suitable venue but without success: “nobody seemed to want us”, reported the secretary. Finally, on 15 May 1946, the club escaped the YMCA and Albion Place and held its first meeting in the dining room of the Leeds Co-operative Society in nearby Albion Street. Members were now said to receive “a meal which in these days of more austerity will stand a fair comparison with any at the same price and many at a higher one.” [Secretary's report 1947/04] On 13 May 1946, a carved lectern was presented to the ladies of the Inner Wheel to thank them for all their support during the war. 

President's Centenary Charity

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Leeds & Harrogate Children's Camp 1921-1957

Community service is a key requirement of Rotary and the Leeds and Harrogate Children's Camp was a major contribution by the Leeds and Harrogate Rotary Clubs from 1921 until 1957. It was the brainchild of Ben Collingswood of Leeds who built on a previous initiative by a Harrogate jeweller, James Ogden. Rotary club members paid an extra 30 shillings a year to finance the camp. 

The camp was opened in 1921 to allow children from poor families to have a holiday in the countryside around Harrogate. It began with two caravans and a small tent on land at Rosset Green kindly provided by Rotarian Ogden. Just five children formed the first complement. Subsequently, two army huts were purchased to provide sufficient accommodation for fourteen children and, in 1926, a dining hut was added. The sleeping quarters and dining hut were removed to a new site at Birk Crag in 1928 when a further £1000 was spent on additional buildings.

Camp re-opening 1925

By April 1938, 2680 children had been to the Harrogate camp - generally for a two weeks' holiday. By that time, 20 boys and 20 girls were visiting alternately and Rotary Club members drove the children there. On the children's applications, a note was made of the difficulties faced by each child and these were reported in the club bulletins. Examples include: “Mother deserted”, “Father blind” and “Boy one of ten in family”. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The inaugural dinner 25 May 1916

The Rotary Club of Leeds held its first ever meeting on 17 February 1916 and had met for three months before receiving its charter on 8 May. Now it was felt that a more formal launch was appropriate and so a gathering was organised at the Hotel Metropole to be held on 25 May. However, since it was wartime, a celebratory banquet was thought to be inappropriate. So a simple dinner was provided followed by a meeting. 

Hotel Metropole Leeds

There was no evening dress or music but there was still a little pomp and ceremony. The Lord Mayor of Leeds was present in his chain of office and his mace bearer acted as the master of ceremonies. Many representatives from other longer established Rotary clubs attended to give their good wishes to the new club.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Centenary President - Keith Harbage

Former President Bronia Cam welcomes Centenary President Keith Harbage
In 1916, the founding President of the Rotary Club of Leeds was Frank Horsell, a printing ink manufacturer. The Club's President in its centenary year is Keith Harbage, a retired Chartered Accountant and Everton FC supporter, who was the proud recipient in 2014 of a Paul Harris Fellowship for his contribution to the work of Rotary International in District 1040 (which has 79 Rotary clubs in North and West Yorkshire). Keith first joined Rotary in Leeds in 1983 and almost immediately accepted the position of Club Assistant Treasurer, responsible for the charity account. Unfortunately, in 1987 the pressures of a new job caused him to put in Rotary life on hold for twenty years, before early retirement allowed him to re-join in 2007. Keith was welcomed back with another post – this time of Club Secretary - which he performed for three years, until volunteering to be District Treasurer in 2010.