I am honoured and delighted, though somewhat amazed, to have been invited, in February 2011, to be your 90th President, for the year 2013/14 to coincide with what we had all expected to be the then District Governor Nominee Harry Leadbitter's year of office.
Harry had really pushed for me to be the nominee for President during his year as District Governor as he said he needed someone organised to look after the planning for his District Conference.
So of course I said yes, because I didn't want to let Harry down. Sadly, Harry passed on just 4 months later on 9th June 2011, before I had even been given my JVP chain of office. However, I am delighted that Sheena is with us today, so that she can join us whilst we pay tribute to Harry.
As I said at our Club Assembly a couple of weeks ago, it would have been a great honour to have had Harry as the District Governor during this year, and I feel that it is appropriate to dedicate this year to the memory of Harry, and to ensure that we consider causes that would have been close to his heart, particularly to do with health issues, but also our community and youth work.
Harry kindly described me as being 'organised'. I recall being at a retirement dinner some years ago for a former colleague at the Scottish Crop Research Institute, with whom I had been involved in the organisation of a series of conferences. When he came to give his speech he went through each of the guests in turn, saying a few kind words about his relationship with each of them. When it came to my turn he announced that I was the second most organised person he had ever met and I remember feeling quite affronted. Who did he know who was more organised than me?!!!! That soon became clear, when he moved on to the person sat beside me, and said that she was the most organised person. It was, of course, my dear wife Jackie, and I have to agree, he was absolutely right.
With Jackie by my side throughout this year, I certainly hope that we will jointly live up to this expectation. She has, as you know, already proved service to Rotary well above and beyond the call of duty, having agreed to join me for the last two years on the 52 mile Cateran Yomp, when we raised, with your help, £10,000 for The Soldiers' Charity.
Jackie and I have been together for 30 years and celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary this coming May. I treasure the memory of Jackie being at my side when I gave my wedding speech with her holding on tightly to my leg to stop it shaking so much from nerves. It is still shaking, and I'm only sorry that Jackie isn't up here beside me today, because it is not the same having Past District Governor Bill holding on to my leg!
There have been a staggering 40 new members since I joined in 2002, so for their benefit and the many older members who I am sure I put to sleep when I gave my vocational talk a little bit about my background:
I was born in 1957, a vintage year for the Club which also saw the births of Past President Jim Patrick, and President Elect Robert Dunn, as well as Past President of the Dundee Discovery Club, Sam Eljamel. Unfortunately for me, Jim got the height gene, Robert got the hair gene, and Sam got all the brains, so I was left being vertically, follically, and intellectually challenged!
I graduated from the University of Bath with a degree in Crop Protection in 1979, then promptly totally wasted 4 years effort by heading down to the Antarctic island of South Georgia for two and a half years, where there weren't any crops to protect. The climate did, however, prepare me well for the east coast of Scotland, where I joined the Scottish Crop Research Institute in 1983, with the intention of staying in Dundee for just 2 years. That was of course before meeting and marrying Jackie, and making the very sensible decision to stay and make Dundee my home.
When I gave my Vocational Talk 11 years ago, I spoke about the 3 p's of my career which at that stage had been Penguins from my 3 years with the British Antarctic Survey; Potatoes from my 19 years with the Scottish Crop Research Institute; and Pottery, from my rather strange business for 5 years of manufacturing hand-made Haggis Hunting Whistles, which, as some of you may recall, perfectly mimic the mating call of the Haggis. To those 3 P's I then added a fourth P, as Business and Knowledge Transfer Manager for the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, based at the University of Dundee, where I have been for the past 6 years.
I am minded of the great British explorer, David Hempleton Adams who claimed that he had an impressive seven P's as his family motto, namely: Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. A bit vulgar perhaps, but the sentiments do epitomise what the Rotary Club of Dundee has always done best, and why, without doubt, the Club is held up as the exemplar within the District, and why we have produced such a high number of District Governors. Harry would have been our 13th District Governor within the 92 year history of the club. A truly impressive record, even given our status as the largest club in District.
It is pure coincidence that all my career directions somehow involved items beginning with a P and I certainly held no ambition to add a fifth P the Presidency to my list.
Which brings me back to my initial query to Graham Hay when he rang Why me?
Clearly I hadn't upset and offended enough of the Past Presidents during my then eight and a half years in the club. Never mind; I now have a whole year ahead of me to put that right!
I am under no misapprehensions I appreciate that the President is a mere figurehead for the club he has no end of people willing to give him advice, and, indeed, that is my hope!
I am indebted to Past President Charlie Scott who warned me about some of the pitfalls of being President. It's dog eat dog...or vice-versa, he said.
Past President Donald Hutcheson advised me to keep my announcements very simple for our senior citizens. Using double negatives is a complete no-no, he told me.
And my friend and mentor, Past District Governor Bill Macfarlane Smith, who brought me into the club, taught me all about the ABCs and the XYZs of standing up in front of the club members. Always be cheerful nd 'Examine your zip' Dress code in this club is very important!
To be serious for a moment - it is one of my greatest sadnesses that in addition to the loss of Harry Leadbitter, Past President Gordon Small is no longer with us. I have a note from Gordon which I treasure, which he took the trouble to send me just a few weeks before his death. Amongst other kind words he wrote,
There are plenty of bods who will keep you right if you feel the need. Just ask
And he concluded, with his characteristic dry humour,
Don't ask me, I will tell you to piss off. All the best, Gordon
I will very much appreciate all the advice, constructive criticism, and amassed wisdom from what is a wonderful resource within the club, and I am conscious that the club is made up of volunteers, whose motto is 'ervice above self'
When Past District Governor Bill Macfarlane Smith invited me to join the Club in 2002 he said to me, "Rotary will be good for you, and you will be good for Rotary". The first part is certainly true. Accepting the invitation to join was the best decision I have ever made. Rotary has indeed been very good for me.
YOU will, in due course, be the judge of whether I have been good for Rotary. You have put a lot of trust in me, and I do not intend to disappoint you, though I am tempted to think that I have been given this role to keep me out of harm' way, leaving the real experts in the club to do the job. A couple of weeks ago we had the Club Assembly, when you had the opportunity to hear from the Convenors of their committee' plans for the year, and it is very evident that yet again we have a wonderful team in place.
So what is my role?
Just about every year the new President says that he would like all members to try to do that little bit more for the Club.
Well this year I am going to be slightly controversial and declare that I have no intention of asking you to try to bring in colleagues, or to try to increase your attendance, or to try to do more on your Committee.
Having said that, if that brings a sense of relief to any members then I am very disappointed in you!
I came across an article a couple of years ago stating that if you say you are going to try to do something, it means you have already subconsciously decided not to succeed. The word 'try' holds little commitment.
So, I am asking you this year to intend to do your extra bit. One enlightened teacher told us that the difference between trying, and triumph, is a little bit of "oomph" - and I would like to think that in my Presidential Year I can encourage you all to give just that little bit of extra "oomph", in order for this to be a truly triumphant year - not for me - but for Harry, and the Rotary Club of Dundee.
Please give the Convenors your full support by attending and contributing to the Committee Meetings, and helping with the organisation of the fundraising, social and sporting events that are taking place. Too often the major tasks rest on the shoulders of too few. Remember, many hands make light work, and taking part is an essential part of being a Rotarian.
I' mentioned my Jewish background, and there is an old adage: Why do Jews always answer a question with another question? .. Well why not?
I want all members to ask a number of questions:
What can I do to become more involved in club activities in recognition of the fact that the more I put in the more I will get out.
Who do I know who I really should persuade to join Rotary, this year. Even though we sadly do not have Harry at the helm of District, I am keen that his club should set an example by continuing, as we have done in so many of the last years, to buck the national trend of decline that has beset so many clubs.
What can or should we do to change the image of Rotary as Men in suits?
At my school the uniform was, with hindsight, pretty funereal, with black jacket, black tie, and dark grey trousers. I don't recall any of us questioning the reason - it was just accepted that this was the standard dress.
It was not until over 25 years after I left that I read a piece in The Times, which mentioned how my old school had finally, after 100 years, come out of mourning for Queen Victoria, and striped ties and coloured jackets were to be allowed again!
Sometimes we just accept things, without really thinking whether it is time to move on. In that case it was clearly long overdue, and I have to wonder if the same is true for our rigidity on the jacket and tie rule for our lunches?
Should we consider the wearing of a Rotary jumper or polo shirt as an acceptable alternative?
So far I have rambled on without really saying very much of any consequence.
So, to finish, let' try and pack into the last few minutes the vital points of my first address that I would like you to take home with you:
Past President Robert Burns had, as his theme, the Three F's: Fun, Fundraising, and Fellowship.
As discussed at the beginning, Ps have featured predominantly in my life, so it seemed appropriate to summarise my intentions with that letter.
So, in a similar vein to Robert:
P for Pride. I remember Derek Shaw, who will be the Past President's representative on Council this year, starting his Incoming President's speech with the words I am a sinner, before revealing thankfully that his sin was one of pride. If Derek is a sinner, then I would hope that all members of The Rotary Club of Dundee are equally guilty.
P for Pennies. Raising funds for disbursement is very important, and every bit counts. This year I would like us to continue our increased support for Foundation, but also take every advantage of opportunities to ensure that our money levers additional funds for projects that we support or champion.
You may wish to consider that, quite appallingly, there is more money currently being spent on breast implants and Viagra than Alzheimer's research. If the ladies will excuse me - to quote an eminent Professor of Medicine - by the year 2030, there should be a large elderly population with perky breasts, never-ending erections who have totally forgotten what to do with either of them.
P for Prudence. In these times of austerity the work of the Ways and Means Committee becomes ever more challenging. I want all Committees to think hard about how they can assist with raising funds, and equally important, use due prudence as to how we can use the funds that we raise.
P for Party! I don't think many of us are Party Animals, but I do want you to enjoy yourselves. We will be having a good number of social occasions. I would encourage all of the newer members to please join in, and please bring along your partners.
I mentioned earlier that my leg was shaking. Public Speaking books give some advice on how to confidently stand up in front of a group of people who you hold in awe. They say that all you need to do is just imagine that your audience are sat on toilets with their trousers round their ankles.
Fellow Rotarians it is not a pretty thought so I shall, instead, continue to be in awe of all of you for your commitment to Rotary, and look forward to working with each and every one of you. Together let's make this a triumphant year for Harry, and the Rotary Club of Dundee.