Ilfracombe Rotary Club History

A brief history of Ilfracombe Rotary Club

A short history of our club with links to more details.

A Brief History of Ilfracombe Rotary Club

14 April 1926– 90 years ago: That is the date the club was chartered and so is the official beginning of the club. However, you could argue that the club was actually born on 1 February 1926, because it was on that day that Rev Johnson, Vicar of Holy Trinity Church and Prebendary of Exeter Cathedral, was elected President, along with officers and committee members. The club subscription was fixed at £1 – 11 – 6, and weekly lunches were to be held at Southcombes Restaurant on Wednesdays. The Rev Johnson and 13 other men were the founder members of the club, and were soon organising the sorts of things Rotary Clubs do, including a Christmas Tea and Entertainment for Old Folk which was started in 1927 and carried on until 1964.

28 July 1962: That was when St Nicholas Chapel on Lantern Hill above Ilfracombe Harbour was opened to the public by the Rotary Club. I think St Nicholas Chapel is a most fantastic project for the club to have been involved with. It is a story of how a building in a state of disrepair but of enormous historical interest was rescued by the Rotary Club, and, after much fund raising and detailed discussions with Ilfracombe Urban District Council, was restored and opened to the public. Over 50 years later, although the building is owned by North Devon Council (with whom we have an excellent relationship), the chapel is still managed by the club and is one of the finest attractions for visitors and residents. It is in outstandingly good condition and I doubt whether there is any other Rotary Club that has the privilege of managing a Grade 1 Listed building as a prime tourist attraction.

7 March 1992: That was the date of the first Startrek. This really is an amazing event which has been going for 24 years and still going strong. The idea of a sponsored tough 16 mile night orienteering event, meticulously organised with the welfare and safety of participants of paramount importance, has appealed over the last 24 years to 8239 walkers. On 7 March 1992, Startrek, organised by a committee under Peter Hughes’ chairmanship with Hunter’s Inn as the base camp, attracted 220 walkers who raised £9,800. Since then, Startrek has raised over £3/4 million – a truly astonishing amount. The amount raised in a single year peaked in 2008 at £62,000, but this year’s Startrek (2016), under Ann Doody’s chairmanship, has been another highly successful event.

9 March 2004: Controversial to some at the time but now so normal, this date marked the admission of the first women to Ilfracombe Rotary Club. Pioneers they may have seemed at the time, Erica Castle and Diane Denney were the first of many more women who have enriched the club in so many ways. Now, in a club of just over 40 members, 16 are women. That we are a mixed gender club is now so natural that anyone might wonder what all the fuss was about. The club has members, some of whom are male and some of whom are female. All can and do fill all positions in the club, including President. In our succession plan for the next 10 years or so, there are an equal number of men and women expecting to become President.

10 June 2015: We have recently sponsored an Interact Club for 6th formers at Ilfracombe Academy, thanks to the hard work of Martin Mather and others. The Interact club was chartered on this date and is flourishing. It must be to young people that we look if Rotary is to move forward during the rest of this century.

Further information can be obtained by visiting this link to a pdf file: History of Ilfracombe Rotary Club

With grateful thanks to Rotarian Ian Stuart for providing this information and allowing us to use it here.