The Rotary Club of Anstruther and District - a true diamond!

Officially established on 25th July 1951, club members over those years have seen unimaginable changes in the ways of business, in technology and in society itself.

Who now remembers that in 1951 the Conservatives won the general election with a majority of 17 and that Winston Churchill formed the 40th government of Great Britain at age 77.

A house cost £2,100 - Petrol was 3 shillings and 6 pence a gallon - a loaf of bread cost 6 pence - a Morris Minor £520 and a cinema ticket 2 pence!

Films included 'An American in Paris' 'The African Queen' and 'A Streetcar named Desire'

It was the Festival of Britain, The term 'Rock and Roll' was coined, Nat King Cole was top of the hit parade with 'Too Young' and Bob Geldof, Phil Collins and Gordon Brown were born.  

But down all those years a constant has been the Rotary motto of 'Service above Self' - service freely given internationally, within the United Kingdom and locally in our East Neuk communities

The 60 years were celebrated on 23 September 2011 at a Black Tie dinner for Rotarians past and present - even some witty speeches and, without doubt, a visit down memory lane to 1951.


............ And from club member, Bill Batchelor ............  

On the 6th April 1951, a group of local businessmen met at the Commercial Hotel, Anstruther under the auspices of our 'mother club', the Rotary Club of Leven. This inaugural meeting led to the foundation of ‘The Rotary Club of Anstruther’ which was chartered exactly 60 years ago on 25th July 1951 with 24 members.

The founding president was James Gordon Dow – the then town clerk. There were two vice presidents; Robert Watson of the Oilskin Manufacturing Company in George Street, Cellardyke and Willie Miller of the Boat builders in St Monans. The secretary and treasurer was Robert Fairful – a local lawyer.

Other vocations represented included a baker – John Adamson; a farmer – Freddy Berwick; a vet – Laurence Dougal; a doctor – Andrew Gardner; a minister – John Inglis; a draper – John McGregor; a surgeon – Douglas Page; and a shoe retailer John Shearer … to name just a few. Obviously a fine body of men – and all 24 of them active in their jobs!

The annual subscription was fixed at 3 guineas – or about £86 in today’s money.

The club met at lunchtime on a Monday, initially at the Commercial – now the Smugglers Inn. I believe it moved to the old Anstruther Town Hall, (where catering was by the one and only George Barnett), before moving to the Craws Nest, when the latter was established by Eddie Clarke.

At the time I joined, almost 21 years ago, Anstruther Rotary had a great record of attendance at our District Annual Conference and at the national RIBI (Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland) Annual Conference. In fact at the RIBI conference in Bournemouth that year the club had been presented with the Cule-Lewis Trophy for having the most attendees from the furthest distance – there was a fancy formula for calculating it, but Anstruther won it. They actually won it again in 1994 - though if we are honest some of the attendees almost certainly spent more time on the local golf courses than in the plenary sessions!

In July 1997 after 46 years as a lunchtime club, and after a great deal of discussion about the potential for new members, we switched to being an evening club. I had the privilege of being its first president.

We maintained the discipline of starting at 6.00 pm and finishing by 7.00, although we did have occasional extended meetings when we had special invited speakers. My year saw the introduction of committee tables and the feasibility of scheduling council meetings immediately after the club meeting, and also the introduction of the then called ‘Whipper In’ – now the Sergeant-at-Arms. Not introduced to raise money; rather to raise laughs – though the fines collected helped fund the annual allocation to Rotary 'Foundation'.

Compared to the lunchtime club of 1951, the evening club today is a markedly different animal. It presently consists of 30 members plus 4 honorary members. Of the 30 members, only 8 are full-time active in their jobs !

The world has changed over the last 60 years. Nowadays people seem to be so very busy. Professionals in particular seem to take more work home than before. And the norm today is for women to have a job to help the family budget and to buy a house – as opposed to working as housewives. Men are expected to take their share of household duties, and so parents have very little time for other interests - particularly when children have to be ferried here and there for all of their necessary interests. Swimming, rugby, football, dancing lessons - you name it.

Work practices have changed; expectations of both employers and employees have changed and the available rewards for success have changed. The world just goes faster and faster. I blame the TV, computers and mobile phones. We should ban them all!!

But all of the above makes it more and more difficult for a service organisation to attract members.

So what has this service organisation accomplished over the last 60 years. Well it really has organised many projects for the benefit of communities in the East Neuk and has raised lots of money for local, national and international charities.

We saw the demise of one of the club’s earliest projects just last year, when the wooden bus shelter at the west end of Shore Street in Anstruther was replaced by Fife Council with a modern structure at a substantial cost – the original provided by Anstruther Rotary in 1958 cost the club £164, equivalent to just under £3000 today. £164 for more than 50 years!

In the 60’s George Barnett had some great community service ideas. He started what he called supper evenings, when he would arrange for some single lonely person to be visited by a few friends and he’d look after the catering and the transport.

George also instigated a series of candlelit dinners for the Club and was involved when Rotary promoted an Art Exhibition, for local artists, which required both floors of the old Anstruther Town Hall.

In 1980 the club members were instrumental in organising a special service at the Chalmers Memorial Church in memory of Dr Thomas Chalmers, 200 years after his birth in Anstruther. By then the church had been closed for three years and members had to get stuck in with mops and pails and clean up 3 years worth of accumulated debris.

In more recent times the club has funded the installation of benches along the Coastal Path to mark the Millennium and to mark the Centenary of Rotary – when we also had a Rotary floral display in Anstruther High Street.

Of course when the tsunami in the Indian Ocean hit Thailand, Indonesia and Ceylon our International convenor soon had some serious fund-raising organised in the area, and his team’s efforts were rewarded with a wonderful response which resulted in, was it 27 emergency boxes being funded for humanitarian use and also several new fishing boats being provided in Ceylon.

We have a long history of working with Waid Academy. On Waid’s Centenary we were instrumental in organising an Exhibition of Waid memorabilia and a fete. The club also helped school a team to take part in the Waid Academy Centenary Public Speaking Competition in March 1986, in the format of an inter-school debate against teams from Madras and Bell-Baxter, the latter teams schooled by the St Andrews and Cupar Rotary Clubs – the winner receiving the Waid Centenary Trophy, donated by the club. We continue to support the annual inter-school debates – providing judges, prizes and catering - and the inter-house debates, which prepare pupils for the annual debate for the Trophy.

Selected pupils have also benefited for many years from visits to RYLA (Rotary Young Leadership Awards) camps and more recently from the 'Euroscholar' program. For East Neuk primary schools, there was for many years an inter-school quiz for the Prime Trophy – and this has been revived within the last decade, thanks to the District Primary School Competition.

The club has always been willing to take stalls at the local Fairs, and for several years also ran the 'Whisky Wheel' at the RLNI fete – that was until the RNLI ruled that all monies raised had to go directly to them. When the Region organised the East Neuk Fish Festival at the Pittenweem Fish Market, we were there with the BBQ, selling kippers in a roll. We’d get started by 11.30 and we’d maybe close about 3.30 or 4.00. As I remember it, we were usually next to a stall selling all sorts of fishy tasty bits, run by the St Monans Fish Restaurant, and also next to the Laraghmhor. What a neighbourly combination!  When it’s hot and you’ve been slaving over a hot BBQ, it’s just wonderful to stop for some G & T’s and to sample a few oysters!  Particularly after a lunch of a couple of kipper rolls. And if it had been raining, you needed a wee pick-up!

However the gem in our activities for many years has been the Christmas Post, which really is a service project and incidentally raises substantial funds for the charities trust fund. When the 'Polio Plus Campaign' was started in 1987 - in Bill Motion’s year as President - the club had to come up with a project to help raise a targeted sum of £3300 allocated by District. At that time the Scouts in St Andrews were providing a Christmas Post service for OAPs – they collected cards from OAPs homes and delivered them within St Andrews as an extension of the Bob-a-Job week. Council decided to investigate this as a possible project.

After quite a bit of research to uncover the detail of the Post Office monopoly, it was determined that a Christmas post service could be run by the club provided that it was totally run by volunteers and that every penny collected for the service was given to charity. Technically any costs – such as providing stamping machines, chocolates for the shop girls, etc – must be paid out of club funds and not from monies collected. It was seen as a one-off project, and cards were charged at 5p for cards to be delivered within the receiving burgh and 10p for cards, which were to be delivered to a different burgh. The sum raised was £395, equivalent to about £825 today. Of course it was such a success that here we are in 2011 looking forward to the 25th anniversary of this service – we will need new posters this year, advertising the Silver Anniversary of the Christmas Post!

For me the Christmas Post is the project which has provided us with the best PR in the community over the last 20-odd years and in my mind is a real service project because it requires Rotarians to actually give of their time and labour for the community.

Last year we started a new major project - the East Neuk Coastal Walk – a project, which is winning us significant credit. I do not need to tell you the history of the Coastal Walk project – most of you have been personally involved in some of it. Again I look on it as a service project – for we are facilitating the support of charities by people who want to support them.

Our first year we raised over £8000 and made substantial contributions to CHAS and to Macmillan Cancer Support. This year the total funds raised from walkers’ sponsors, together with the tax reclaimable and the surplus on the administration side, is set to exceed £10,000. Truly an incredible result in these difficult times.

So today as we start on our 61st year of Service above Self, may we continue to be a credit to our Founders in Rotary and to the Communities we endeavour to serve.


From the 60th Anniversary Dinner


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