Ron is retired having spent a lifetime in financial services with NatWest, Britannic Assurance, Abbey National and Standard Life.
He joined the Rotary Club of Barrow-in-Furness in 1992 and took part in a variety of club activities and eventually became club secretary, a post he really enjoyed.
Ron became District Governor of D1190 (Cumbria and Lancashire) in 2011-12, a roll he threw himself into with enthusiasm. “Even though I was DG I was no different to any other Rotarian” says Ron “we all do great work in our own way to help others.”Asked what he gets out of Rotary he says it’s the fun, fellowship and banter at his club. “Unfortunately there are fewer of us now, and it’s a situation we have to acknowledge and resolve if we can, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Take a look at Ron’s hypothetical ‘water-cooler’ chat following a modern-day businessman’s visit to give a presentation to his local Rotary Club. Or, as he asks…is it hypothetical?
It’s life Jim, but not as we know it
Picture the scene: – it’s 2.30 in the afternoon and Jim has just returned to his office. He bumps into Alan.
“Hey Jim – what’s with the tie? Bit overdressed aren’t you?”
“Hi Alan – just got back from making a presentation to the Rotary club and they all wear collars and ties.”
“That’s a bit much in these days isn’t it Jim? Even our MD doesn’t wear a tie any more unless he’s meeting the big wigs of course.”
“Well Alan it seems to be a bit of a tradition in some of the clubs according to the president. He was telling me that some of the members had tried to change the dress code to something a little bit more relaxed but still smart but it was voted down.”
“So how did the presentation go?”
“Pretty well I think Alan – only two of them fell asleep.”
“That’s pretty good for you Jim, It’s normally more than that.”
“Hey watch it you.”
“So did you manage to get any of the younger ones fired up to join our company?”
“There weren’t any Alan – according to the president the average age is 74.”
”Thought they’d have some younger ones – Rotary clubs always used to be a good mix of ages.”
“They do have younger people along from time to time as guests and some as speakers but none of them seem to want to join. They did have a possible member along recently and before he came he seemed keen but afterwards he said he was too busy.”
“Perhaps one of the problems is that they meet at lunchtime – it would be difficult for us to get along if we were asked to join.”
“Yeah – that’s something they discuss from time to time as well, but according to the president if they switch to an evening some of the older ones would leave as they don’t go out at night and they don’t want to lose any more members because of the contribution they make.
“I know they do a great job locally and further afield – I’ve seen some of the publicity they get, although I haven’t seen much in the local paper lately.”
“Yeah that’s another problem they have as they say they send stuff in all the time but there’s not much of it gets published. It’s not just them but the other two clubs in town are finding it the same since the new editor took over.”
“Oh there’s a couple of other clubs in town then is there?”
“Yeah and they meet in the evening but even they are having trouble attracting new members.”
“Could be an image thing perhaps. I think some people think Rotary clubs are a bit dull and stuffy.”
“It’s a shame really as the guys who were there were certainly were very friendly and there seemed to be a great craic at the tables as well.
One of them was telling me about something they did recently where they brought together a load of local school kids and some teachers to take part in something they call a Technology Tournament, where the kids have to make a working model from materials they are given.” Apparently there was a great atmosphere amongst the kids and teachers, and there were a good number from the club there. One said it’s one of the highlights of the year.”
“You said ‘guys’ Jim – are there no women in the club? Doesn’t quite sound quite right that but you know what I mean.”
“I asked the president about that Alan and he said they had no objections to women joining but they haven’t found one who wants to yet. They have quite a few women along to give presentations and they always ask them if they’re interested but most of them say they’re too busy.”
“Seems like they’re between a rock and a hard place Jim, and the club may die out in the course of time.”
“Yeah apparently a lot of clubs up and down the country are having similar problems Alan, although the president said there might be a bit of light at the end of the tunnel if they establish a satellite club.”
“What’s that Jim?”
“They’re aimed at everyone, but particularly younger people who can’t get to the club meetings now, or find them a bit stuffy and formal. The people who join them are members of Rotary, but they have the freedom to meet wherever they want, and perhaps only twice a month instead of each week. Some meet in coffee shops and others in pubs – it’s really up to the members themselves.”
“Sounds interesting that Jim – perhaps we could look into it a bit further. You only have to read the papers or watch T.V. to see that a lot of people still need help from groups like Rotary.”
“That’s right Alan – I thought the same myself when I was told about all the great work they’re doing now, so I told the president we might get back to him to see how we could help.”
“Sounds like a plan that, and you said they could meet in a pub?”
“Thought you’d like that Alan, especially with that new boozer in town.”
“Well you must be one of the oldest boozers in town now Jim – well into your thirties now!”
“Watch it pal. Anyway are you up for it?”
“Yeah – let’s have a chat with that president feller you keep talking about. You up for a pint or two tonight and we can talk about it a bit more?”
“I’ll drink to that Alan!”
Please note any similarity to a Rotary Club is purely coincidental.
Or is it?