THE Rotary Club of Gunnedah celebrated its 80th birthday last week with a gathering at the Court House Hotel and a prestigious Paul Harris Fellowship awarded to Roger Carter.
President Wendy Marsh welcomed visiting Rotarians from Coonabarabran, with the birthday cake cut by the club’s oldest member Les Eckert and newcomer Jamie Chaffey.
A display of memorabilia and photographs was of great interest to members and guests with Richard Day presenting a brief insight into the club’s early days.
A slide show of member portraits, sketched by the late John McDonagh, was a flashback in time.
Rotarians have made an enormous contribution to the community and beyond since the charter dinner on April 9, 1938, when Hugh Wragge was inducted as the foundation president.
Rotary was Gunnedah’s first service club, sponsored by Tamworth and Inverell clubs, and installed by District 76 Governor, Sir John Garran, of Canberra.
The foundation members included Bert Duff (Royal Hotel publican, MJD Austin (Clerk of Petty Sessions), Doctor Colin Anderson, Frank James (dentist), Henry Marcroft (manager Brunton’s Flour Mill), Les Gale (motor dealer), Eric Coates (refreshment rooms proprietor), Cyril Smithurst (chemist), Ashley Storey (general merchant), Jack Ahern (bank manager), Dave Owen (funeral director), Russell McDonagh (general merchant), Sam Morris (motor dealer), Dick Lightfoot (monumental mason), David Werner (farmer and grazier), Vic McAdam (dry goods retailing) and Herb Williamson (newsagent).
The charter year (1938-39) co-incided with the outbreak of World War 2, and Rotarians were kept busy on the home front when food, clothing and petrol rationing, plus travel restrictions, made life difficult for everyone. Charter member Les Gale served with the RAAF from 1940 to 1947.
The Rotary Club of Gunnedah was at the forefront of many community projects, including support for the construction of Keepit Dam, the Scout Hall, and donations to Red Cross, sponsorship of the Police Boys Club and the establishment of Mornington Park and playground.
Other projects supported by Rotary include the Water Tower Museum, the Village Homes and Alkira, the construction of shelters and picnic areas and the picket fence around Wolseley Park, funding for equipment for the hospital, and much more.
Vocational service has also been an important part of the club’s activities with support for the Youth Exchange program and the Dorothea Mackellar Society Poetry Competition for schools.
International service began in 1940, with contributions to a special fund to help war affected families, and continues today with projects such as building construction in New Guinea, group study exchange and Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA).
Gunnedah Rotary also sponsored the formation of the Rotary Club of Gunnedah West (1970) and Rotary 2380 (2010).
Community service has always been a priority with the club and Rotary’s wonderful contribution to the town and district and international projects have helped to make the world a better place.
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