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Sir Tony makes speech at Banbury Rotary Club dinner

24 October 2015

On behalf of the guests, I should firstly like to thank Club President Ian Calderbank for the very kind way in which he has proposed the Toast to the Guests.

I consider it a privilege to be a Rotarian and I am particularly proud to be an honorary Member of the Rotary Club of Banbury as I know too was Sir Neil Marten, my predecessor as Member of Parliament for Banbury.

On 25th October 1935, 167 people sat down to dinner in this room to celebrate the presentation of the Club’s Charter.

The list of those present reads like a fairly comprehensive list of the business and civic leadership of the Borough at the time.

Led by the Mayor, Alderman Sidney Ewins, who was to become the Club’s first President; also present was Mr. Stockton, who was Town Clerk, and E. Owen Reid, who was in due course to become Town Clerk, and amongst the names of the other guests, are many names that are still recognisable to many of us here as being part of the Banbury business community over a number of generations, such as Anker, Blinkhorn, Cheney, Ellacott, Jakeman, and Lester.

Also present was the Editor of the Banbury Guardian.

Mr. Coales of the Rotary Club of Aylesbury proposed the Toast that night to “the success to Rotary International”.

He observed that: “All the great difficulties in the world today, might be settled by realising they were fellow citizens of the whole world”, and went on to observe that “Rotary had to remove misunderstandings between nations and all those barriers which made it difficult for the flow of trade which was necessary between parties in a contract”.

Reading the edition of the Banbury Guardian for the last week of October 1935 well illustrated to clouds that were gathering over Europe, as Britain and the world desperately sought simultaneously to avoid the prospect of a further war, and simultaneously to improve our nation’s defences in days of growing uncertainty.

So the Banbury Guardian of that week had a whole column devoted to the developing crisis in Abyssinia, where Mussolini and the Italians were seeking to invade and subjugate the independent kingdom of Haile Selassie.

Elsewhere in the paper, there were reports of a recent questionnaire which had been sent to every household in the town; the first question of which was: “Do you think Britain should remain a member of the League of Nations?”. That and other questions were organised by the Peace Ballot, and the reports of the inaugural meeting of the Banbury Pacifist Society whilst in the same edition the Banbury Guardian reported expanding activity by the RAF at Upper Heyford and a marked stepping up of recruitment of young men to join the Royal Air Force.

1935 was not only the year of the King’s Silver Jubilee, it was also a year that saw some considerable expansion and development in Banbury:

• The Northern Aluminium works had just arrived;
• The new open air swimming pool at Wood Green was opened; and
• A significant extension of new wards had been built at the Horton General Hospital.

It had been made clear in the speeches at the Charter Dinner that: “Rotary throughout the world could fill an honourable place in society by Rotary members having a sense of duty in their job and of being of service to the community.”

The essence of Rotary was “Service before Self”.

The eighteen founder members immediately started to put that principle into practice with emphasis on service to the local community, by helping to provide transport for patients to the Horton Hospital – which continued until curtailed by petrol rationing as a consequence of the war, and also by providing holidays for young people and children in the town who otherwise would not get a holiday.

The war years saw Banbury Rotary adopting a minesweeper and giving practical support to the hundreds of evacuees who arrived in Banbury from London, Birmingham and other big cities, organising practical support such as parties and cinema visits.

The war over, in 1945 Banbury Rotary organised the Banbury Arts and Crafts Festival, which saw some 3,000 entrants take part over a three week period and an Arts and Crafts Festival that ran for some 15 years.

The 1950’s saw Banbury Rotary organising Christmas Carols, singing with the Salvation Army Band, in Horsefair, and in which at one point some 3,000 people were singing carols.

A Christmas Barrel Organ collection started and the Banbury Old People’s Club was established with major support from the Banbury Rotary Club.

Throughout the past 80 years, a constant theme of Banbury Rotary has been the support that the Rotary Club of Banbury has given to the Horton Hospital.

Everything from the organising of jumble sales in the Town Hall to enable specialist beds to be bought for the Children’s Ward, for Donkey Derbies in the 1960’s to buy other equipment for the hospital.

The late 1960’s saw Banbury Rotary taking a lead in helping set up Abbeyfield House in the town, and the 1970’s saw Probus being established, charity balls, town and country fairs, sponsored walks, all to raise funds for local initiatives.

The 1990’s saw the Water Garden created at the Horton Hospital in memory of Reg Hunter, and the opening of the Katharine House Hospice which the Club supported with significant and continuing donations.

Firework concerts at Broughton Castle, and immediately after the turn of the century, into the Millenials, the very successful “Children Singing for Children” concerts started. It was then two evenings; it is now four evenings.

2013 saw the start of the Crocus Concert to raise funds for polio eradication and last year the Rotary Club of Banbury organised the packing and distribution of around 300 Christmas food parcels to Banbury residents.

They will do so again this year – a job that has been done previously by Banbury Cross Round Table.

I would suggest that this outstanding record of community service over the last 80 years demonstrates that every member of Banbury Rotary has lived up to the four objects set out in the original Charter, including “ . . . dignifying by each Rotarian of his occupation as an opportunity to serve society”, and “the application of the idea of service by every Rotarian to his personal business and community life”.

A few weeks before the Charter Dinner, at one of their early regular meetings, at Wincotts Café in South Bar, the Mayor, Alderman Sidney Ewins, had proposed a Vote of Thanks to the Speaker, and he said “I think we shall be determined that Banbury Rotary Club shall take a place worthy of the great organisation we have joined”.

Mr. President, on behalf of your guests, I should like to say that I don’t think there is anyone in Banbury or in the district, or anywhere in Rotary International who could other than confirm the existence of the Rotary Club of Banbury that each and every year during that time, the Banbury Rotary Club has demonstrated itself worthy of the great organisation of Rotary International which this club joined in 1935.

Rt. Hon. Sir Tony Baldry