A history of the 100 years of Rotary


It was in July 1922 that eight prominent local businessmen met to bring Rotary to the town, following the lead of Canterbury, Margate and Ramsgate the previous year. At the end of September a general meeting decided to form the Club. There was considerable enthusiasm, and the following month an inaugural dinner was held at the Burlington Hotel (right).


 A month later, a meeting at the Town Hall launched the Children’s Boot Fund which for some 25 years was to be the chief target of Community Service. It is hard to realise today that then there were children who needed boots or they would not be able to go to school. There was a soup kitchen in Market Street and a Charity Committee did great work in alleviating poverty. The Club was officially recognised by Charter dated 14th December 1922. The initial subscription was two guineas a year, and this remained unchanged until increased to three in 1950. Over the years, the Club has met in a variety of venues, some of which were destroyed in the Second World War and others by the developers - the Burlington Hotel, the Grand Hotel, the Lord Warden Hotel, the Creamery, the Garden Hall, the Crypt, the Café de Paris, the East Cliff Hotel, the Dover Stage, Webb’s Hotel and the Ramada Hotel, where we reside to this day.

At the outset, and for some years, the Club met on the first and third Thursdays of each month. Pressed by Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland (RIBI) to have weekly meetings, this was rejected on account of the cost, although tea meetings at Cave’s Café in Bench Street were tried for a while. Early in the 1930s a fifth Thursday was added until the war came, when only a monthly meeting was found possible. It was not until 1951 that the Club first met weekly. Membership fluctuated between thirty-five and forty-three before the war, and some fifteen members kept the Club in existence during those five years of bombing and shelling of Hellfire Corner. The early 1950s saw an increase in membership to nearly sixty.
A look through the classification of members before the Second World War is interesting – milling, horticulture, wine, optician, milk, dyeing, tailoring, drapery and butchery. The difficulties created by the war and rationing were considerable. When invasion threatened, two thirds of the population of the town left, and by mid-1940 normal Rotary activities ceased. Archie Green, President in 1939, continued in office, and some ten to twelve members met once a month at the Creamery, without fail, despite all the bombs and shells. As danger receded, many returned to Dover, and the Club began to function fully again towards the end of 1944. An informal party in October celebrated the end of shelling, but rationing was stringent for several years. Those years were marked by gifts of food parcels from overseas clubs, in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. One notable gift of two hams from Salt Lake City enabled a ‘magnificent’ supper to be held at the Garden Hall in 1948, but the next year it is recorded that the Ministry of Food would not allow gifts of fat or soap from New Zealand to be distributed.

About this time the Club was becoming revitalised. In 1949, eight new members were inducted, and there was a Ladies’ Night at the Town Hall when five Rotarians from St Omer were there to make the first contact. By 1955, the membership had grown to 50, and with that came additional activity. Mention has already been made of the pre-war Children’s Boot Fund, but the Club also organised outings for disabled children and at Christmas a carol party.

Over the years, our Club has marked Christmas in a variety of ways, with a tree and collectors outside St Mary’s Church in Cannon Street, with collections at local supermarkets, and more recent with our highly successful Santa’s Sleigh, which is now eagerly awaited each year by families around the residential areas of the town and its outskirts.

In the years following the Second World War, the Club made significant contributions to the community as the town of Dover struggled to recover from the years of conflict and deprivation. In 1949, £500 was raised towards a Kent Boys’ Hostel and in 1953 the provision of a Garden for the Blind cost £300. In 1954, the Friends of Dover Hospitals was started, and in 1956 the Club assisted with the reception of Hungarian refugees. The next year, the Marriage Guidance Council (now Relate) and the Forces’ Club in Maison Dieu Road had active help from Rotarians in their early days. The year 1958 was notable for the Citizens at Leisure exhibition at the Town Hall which attracted some 5000 visitors. The formation of the committee for the Cancer Campaign in 1960 was most actively supported. In 1964 it was planned to open a Citizens’ Advise Bureau, an idea which had a troubled beginning, but eventually came to fruition in 1971. A Probus Club was launched in 1970.

Our Club is proud of its Tripartite links with the Rotary Clubs of St Omer and Aachen. As early as 1938, four members of the Club played golf with Rotarians in France, but contact was not established with St Omer until 1949 when several French Rotarians came to our Ladies’ Night. Nine years later, Aachen was added to our contact. In 1966 and 1968 our Club hosted some 50 students from the Commonwealth Youth Movement.

Perhaps the most distinguished Rotarian from our Club (to date) was a gentleman by the name of Ron Proudler, a dentist inducted in 1948 who rose to become President of RIBI in 1970. Ron’s enthusiasm for the Rotary Club of Dover and all things Rotary led him to research the early history of our Club and commence the Presidents’ Book, last published in 2005 to celebrate the Centenary of Rotary International. Every President of the Rotary Club of Dover writes a report of their year, which forms a unique historical record not only of our Club, but also of changing and emerging social trends in the town of Dover and further afield.

By 1972, when the Club celebrated its 50th Anniversary, subscriptions had risen to £8 a year, and the cost of the weekly meal was £1.20, which included a donation to charity! Roy Shinkfield was President for the year 1972-73, when a Golden Jubilee luncheon was held at Dover Town Hall with 96% of members attending. The following year, during the times of the national fuel crisis and the three-day week of Edward Heath’s Government, Denis Weaver became President of the Club. Ladies’ Night at the Hythe Imperial Hotel was an evening with a difference, as the band failed to turn up, so Past President Roy Shinkfield and Greta Stone provided the entertainment at the piano. In 1976, the Club elected its fiftieth President, George Marsh, and lunches were held at the Dover Stage Hotel. Club members assisted in the Silver Jubilee celebrations of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with Past President Denis Weaver chairing the town’s ‘Spectacular Event’ committee.

The Club moved to the Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club during Ken Farmer’s Presidency in 1977-78, following complaints of ‘indifferent fare at increasing prices’ at the Dover Stage. Dover Rotaract Club was born, with Roy Shinkfield playing the part of midwife, and was chartered in the presence of District Governor Percy Hodge during the following year, under the Presidency of banker Norman Willis. During Phil Headon’s Presidential Year 1979-80, Dover Rotarians played their part in Rotary International’s efforts to raise millions of dollars for ‘The Three H Programme’ – Health, Hunger and Humanity. The following year, HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visited the town to officially name the new Dover Lifeboat ‘Rotary Service’. This was a proud moment for the Rotary Club of Dover, which had led fund-raising efforts across the nation for this vital life-saving craft.

The early 1980’s saw the cost of lunch increase to £2 for the first time, the foundation of a Past Presidents’ Club, inspired Ron Proudler, by then an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Dover, and the first award of a Paul Harris Fellowship to a member of our Club, Roy Shinkfield. 1982-83 was the Club’s Diamond Jubilee Year, celebrated with a luncheon at the Dover Motel (now the Ramada Dover Hotel where we meet for lunch every Thursday), attended by guests from St Omer and Aachen. That year also saw the first meeting of Rotarians from Dover, Deal and Sandwich to consider the formation of an evening club to serve the three towns. The Rotary Club of South Foreland was inaugurated in 1984-85 with a dinner at Dover Town Hall.

Also around this time one of our members, Brigadier Maurice Atherton, was made High Sheriff of Kent, the club gave £1200 to the Dover Community Association for the Bobby Barwick Room at Dover Community Centre in Maison Dieu Road, and we were also busy raising money for the Proddatur Eye Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, India, following a visit to the region by Past President Denis Weaver. Under President Mike Bodiam in 1985-86 a new Presidents’ Book (from which much of this history is taken) was compiled, and the Club moved from the Yacht Club to the Oddfellows Club in Pencester Road. Annual subscription was now £50 and lunches cost £3.50. Our stay didn’t last long, as the following year we decamped again to St Mary’s Parish Centre, a move which necessitated a switch to Friday meetings, and no alcohol being available with lunch!

Our sixtieth President (1986-87) was Keith Lawson, whose theme was the relationship between industry and the community. During Ladies’ Night at Canterbury on 6th March 1987, news broke that the cross-channel ferry Herald of Free Enterprise had capsized off Zeebrugge with the probable loss of scores of lives. Those engaged with the port and the ferry industry hurriedly left the party to head to work, and the latter part of the evening was very subdued. As it turned out, 193 crew and passengers perished. A packed memorial service was held at St Mary’s Parish Church the following weekend, and a stained glass window was installed in the church, which still welcomes visitors every year as the anniversary of this terrible tragedy comes around.

With Donald Soppitt as President (1987-88) the Club settled into its new surroundings at St Mary’s Parish Centre. We began holding mock interviews for secondary school children, under the guidance of Francis Watts. John Greig was elected President for 1988-89, the year that Rotary Club of Dover member Denis Weaver was District Governor of D1120. The members of the club became chauffeurs, taking Denis to all but a few of his official engagements, a scheme which was subsequently adopted by other clubs. The big debate of the year was on the admission of women to Rotary. It was agreed by Rotary International that women may join, subject to the decision of individual clubs. Our first vote on the proposal was held during the following year, and was rejected by a substantial majority. A testimonial dinner was held in Dover ancient Town Hall, the Maison Dieu, to thank DG Denis and his wife Elizabeth for their hard work during the year.

In April 1990, Club members voted to move to Webbs Hotel in Folkestone Road, which we did in July of that year. A charity auction was held at the Town Hall, raising £1800 for the St John Ambulance, and our Christmas collections under the tree outside St Mary’s Church raised a record £1730. The Club hosted a successful mini-tripartite, with guests from Aachen and St Omer, culminating in a dinner at the Town Hall.

President Peter Sherred (1990-91) was a busy man, simultaneously holding the Presidency of Dover Chamber of Commerce and the Dover Christian Aid committee. Subscriptions by now stood at £100. The vexed question of women members was debated again, with the balanced views resulting in President Peter using his casting vote, against his preferred wishes, in favour of the status quo. The Christmas tree collection smashed the £2000 barrier, raising £2317 for hampers to be distributed to the needy folk of the town. Memorials to two outstanding people were unveiled by the Club during the year. A memorial at Buckland Hospital remembered the wartime contribution to the town of Dr Gertrude Toland, and the unveiling of a bench on Dover sea-front was recognition by the Club of the community work of the late Rotarian, photographer Ray Warner.

In the year 1991-92 our club was led by President Ron Dryden, formally a senior air traffic Control officer in the Royal Air Force. Support for our community continued, with a joint project involving South Foreland Rotary Club, Dover Round Table, Rotaract, Dover Lions and others to buy a special wheelchair for Kimberley White, who suffered from spinal dystrophy. Almost twice the target of £7500 was raised and the remainder was devoted to other disadvantaged Dover children, very much a Dover club priority since setting up ‘The Boot Fund’ in the 1920s.

1992-93 saw President Chris Barnett and his team concentrating on assistance for the war-torn Balkan town of Split (twinned for many years with Dover). A used ambulance from Essex was located and purchased for £1200. Much to their surprise, when the team collected the vehicle they found that Essex had provided sound second-hand equipment essential to operating the vehicle, which was serviced by Coombe Valley Transport. Cross-Channel transport and customs formalities were provided free by P&O and a local freight agent. The coast road to the north of Split was under artillery fire, so Chris and his co-driver Jim Gleeson chose a route through Italy and across the Adriatic by ferry. Rotary clubs helped them along the way, with Anacona (Italy) and Split (Croatia) clubs capping the delivery effort. Anacona Rotary members sourced significant amounts of medication, dressings etc which were loaded on the way past. The year drew to a close with a visit from Dover’s contact clubs of St Omer (France) and Aachen (Germany) and a visit to ‘Hellfire Corner’ at Dover Castle (our association owes much to our nations’ search for lasting peace after World War 2). Lest we forget…….

Chris Barnett served subsequently as District Governor for Kent and East Sussex and District 1120 Rotary Foundation Chairman.

President John Hunnisett led us during the 1993-94 year, bringing his unique style to the task. John has a gift for organisation and cooperation with others which has led to everyone having a lot of fun. He showed us how to ‘do Rotary’ by encouraging visits to Bromley Sunrise club, followed by Crayford, Gravesend, Malling, Forest of Blean and Sittingbourne Invicta, about which marathon he observed ‘This appears to be a record’. They raised £100 for charity on the trip as well! One of John’s co-presidents was Tony Cook of Sandwich (who transferred to the Dover club in 2017), having a similar ethos! Both of these Rotarians have since been twice honoured with Paul Harris fellowships in honour of Rotary’s founder. For our ‘tripartite’ meeting with our contact clubs we visited Strasbourg, the home of the European Parliament. President John made reference, in his report of the year, to one of the things that makes Rotary more than ‘just a club’ when he thanked us all for bearing him up when his ‘business circumstances took a very big nose-dive’. Rotary is a network of friends above all else! ‘Service Above Self’ is the ethic and when friends work well together, who can surpass them?

1994-95 ‘kicked off’ with the Rotary International president’s motto: ‘Be a friend’, which rather epitomises Dover club’s approach hitherto! President John Graeme, a local lad, continued what he still influences in 2017, support for Dover’s young people. He instituted Dover Community Service Awards to honour local folk who exhibited ‘Service Above Self’. Betty and Keith Whitfield had worked for many years with the Clarendon and Westbury Community Association. Dover’s contact club of St Omer celebrated its 50th anniversary. After dinner, President John said: ‘I made a speech in French, though the French thought I was speaking in English, the Germans thought I was speaking in French and the English were sure that I was speaking in German. Everyone clapped politely!’ President John set a standard which is hard to follow. Although he is no longer with us, his legacy ensures that the Dover club continues to support the efforts and aspirations of local young folk through the years.

In 1995, David Hannent took over as president, focussing on fellowship in the club and upon three projects, two local and one in South Africa: The Emmaus project to re-motivate homeless folk; The Avalon Trust, providing homes for the disabled and a joint scheme with Vanderbijlpark in partnership with The Rotary Foundation providing a financial grant. These are available for both local and international humanitarian support.

Our next president, Rotarian Jim Gleeson, is truly an entrepreneur. 1996-97 saw his reluctant occupation of the role as he was awed by those who had gone before. He was not alone in this but he went on to be one of our most exemplary presidents, doing ‘stuff’ that hardly anyone else would dare to do. He challenged tradition (which is necessary) and brought us back to ‘the basics’ which upset some of the older members. An indication of ‘things to come’ came when Jim took part in a sponsored cycle ride from Dover, through the Channel Tunnel down to Dieppe and back from Newhaven to Folkestone. £6000 was raised for Demelza House Chidren’s Hospice. The unconventional approach to Rotary followed by Jim did much to challenge our view of what Rotary is, and seemed to mark a turning-point from ‘old Rotary’ to ‘what’s needed now’, a process which should be continuous (rather than a response to crisis) in any organisation, So it has proved for us! There were 28 members at the end of this year.

In our 75th year, 1997-98 we saw president John Clayton in charge. He had been a president before, at Amwell (1984-85) and his experience was very useful at a period of transition for the Dover club. We assisted in the Proddatur project, commenced by Past District Governor Denis Weaver, providing eye-hospital treatment for those with cataracts.

Estate agent Jeremy Barford took over in 1998-99. The usual and effective efforts took place to support our local community. Our conference was at Brighton and well supported. We hosted the Tripartite meeting with St Omer and Aachen. A Community Service Award Was presented to Coxswain Tony Hawkins of the Dover Lifeboat at the Dover Film Festival, an event which has had Rotary Club of Dover connections since Rotarian Ray Warner sought to publicise it with his unique perspectives. Our hosting of the Tripartite group allowed a visit to Hever Castle, dinner at Webbs Hotel and a brunch at The Royal Hotel, Deal.

The club was led in 1999-2000 by President Ian Pascall, who chose as his charity the Aspen Unit for children with profound multiple special educational needs, a function which had been first sponsored by Past President Phil Headon, inaugural Headteacher of Whitfield Primary School Aspen Unit. The unit was developed later to include those with secondary school needs.

On 23 September 1999, the club voted to accept dual-gender status, opening the door to the other half of the world’s talented people! The Bishop of Dover, The Rt Revd Stephen Venner was inducted as an Honorary Member. Membership remained at 28.
In June 2000, the president, wife Sally and daughter Gemma ventured to Aachen for the annual tripartite meeting, a large Dover contingent pausing at Lille on their way through. Gemma gave her father’s speech to Aachen Rotarians and was well-received.

In 2000-2001, Arnie Sanyal took over, inducting our first lady members, Rosie Barnfather and Yvonne Harris. The Raymond Cook foundation was set up to honour the last founder member of the Inner Wheel Club of Dover. Ray was our president in 1953-54 and died in our golden jubilee year. President Arnie sponsored an educational project in India for disadvantaged children, which was very much in line with our club’s ‘ethos’ over the years. The Rt. Hon. Michael Howard, QC MP, former Home Secretary, gave us his support during Arnie’s year.

Links were maintained with our contact clubs during the year at two events: in November members dined on a cross-Channel ferry with a group from St Omer and then, in May 2001, St Omer hosted an excellent Tripartite weekend, attended by strong contingents from Aachen and Dover. Our annual subscription was £110 for the year, including £10 to the Tripartite Fund, £6 to The Rotary Foundation and £4 to our Samaritan Fund. The cost of meals was £7.

President John Paul took over in July 2001, hosting a Goup Study Exchange Team from Mendoza, Argentina and Rotary in Britain and Ireland president David Liddiatt. We hosted the Tripartite weekend in Dover and enjoyed many good fund-raising evenings as the year progressed. Fellowship and fun were the watchwords! President John said: ‘Our star project proved to be the weekly second-hand bookstall run by Phil and Jill Janaway, using a unit at the Charlton Centre made available thanks to Past President Ron Dryden. It took £1700 during the year’.

Frank Holland, a Rotarian with a unique and very popular sense of humour, took the reins from John Paul in 2002-03. Our membership had grown to 30. Because of a short-notice change of use at Webbs Hotel, we were given two weeks to arrange an alternative venue. Thanks to Rotarian Terry Sutton we were able to move quickly to The Dover Court Hotel, later to become The Ramada (where we still meet in 2018). We hosted the incoming Group Study Exchange Team from Alabama, USA. Our Annual subscription was £120 and meal cost £7.50. Sadly, President Frank became very ill during the second half of his year, dying of cancer the day after he was due to have handed over to David Pike. His wife, Betty, however is carrying his torch as she, a member of Dover Inner Wheel Club, is still playing a leading role in many local initiatives, including the Hospital Shop project, carrying on into the scheme for a hospital to replace the old Buckland ‘workhouse’ building.

David Pike, our club’s seventy-seventh president in 2003-04, found himself leading a growing club of 33 members. Fund-raising for the year was strong. The Hospital Fete raised £6000 towards their Lymphodoema Perometer appeal, supported by South Foreland Rotary Club, Inner Wheel and Lions. Denis and Liz Weaver raised more towards the total at a Ruby Wedding party at Weeford House, the funds raised being split between the hospital and the Strand Educational Trust in The Gambia. Wine, Wisdom and Jazz raised over £1000 towards Community Service funds, adding to £950 collected in the town at Christmas.A ‘Murder Mystery’ evening raised £470 for ‘Hope & Homes for Children’ and our ‘Row to Shirley’ brought £2550 for Multiple Sclerosis research. This latter event was held in Dover’s Market Square (in the forecourt of Cafe Bar Elle), using static bikes provided by Vista Leisure. Our Tripartite meeting was held in Aachen, with the president and his lady being hosted at the Norbert Castle, home of one of our host club members.

2004-05 contained Rotary International’s centenary year and president Phil Janaway resolved to celebrate this with five ‘landmark’ events: A centennial dinner (attended by 360 Rotarians & guests and the President of RIBI, Gordon McInally), a Rotary Overseas Travel Scholarship, a ‘Dover Musicians of the Year’ competition, an Art Competition and ‘The Presidents’ Book’, featuring the reports of Dover Rotary presidents from 1922 to 2004-05. Our Tripartite visit this year was made to St Omer on the weekend of 11-12 September, when we were very well received and treated to visits to several historic buildings and holy sites.

Christmas 2004 brought news of the greatest tsunami known to our contemporary world, a disaster of truly global proportions. President Phil quickly made contact with affected areas via the Rotary network and determined where help was most needed (at that stage mainly financial via The Disasters Emergency Committee) and an immediate response was made from our charity funds. During the year we were saddened by the death of Past President Ron Dryden, whose enthusiasm for Rotary will be much missed.

In 2005-06 the Rev’d John Lines MBE led the club. Having been secretary to two other clubs, a Metropolitan Police motor-cyclist and a Methodist minister, he was uniquely challenging as a club leader. He brought his insights into community work in Stepney (for which he had been appointed MBE) to us in a way which challenged complacency and the ‘we’ve been doing it this way for years’ mentality which can often exist in long-standing organisations. John circulated his correspondence weekly so that none could say that they were ill-informed about what we were supposed to be doing. His approach made us think about why we were in Rotary and what we should be doing to make it effective. He had been made a Paul Harris Fellow (for his mission work) by his South East London club and that accolade alone should have been enough to shake us up!

Before passing to the next president’s year in 2006-07 it is worth making a diversion to discuss the dual-gender nature of Rotary world-wide. The Supreme Court of the United States of America had decided in the mid-1980s that Rotary could not maintain itself as a ‘gentlemen’s club’ because its ethos was as ‘a network of business folk determined to make a better world’. Although at the time women occupied far from half of business leadership positions, the key factor was that there was no logical barrier to that happening in due course. In the Dover club, the matter was debated several times before our first lady members were inducted and, sadly for many, several members could not accept the majority decision in favour of admitting them when it was made. However, their departure made it easier to make the necessary change of culture happen.

One of our early female recruits, Yvonne Harris (a local government Officer) was earmarked for leadership sooner than most and was elected as second vice-president in December 2003, to take that office in July 2004 and to become president in July 2006. She was outstanding in so many ways but before she could take the presidency she was offered a senior job in Slough, rather too far away for a commute to Dover. Consequently, Past President Don Soppitt (an old sailor) was asked to take the reins for 2006-07 so that the preparation cycle for Dover’s Rotary leadership would not be disrupted. As it happened, Rotary International HQ had decided upon a revised committee structure and this was tried for the first half of the year. Upon review, however, the club council decided to retain the ‘traditional’ approach, with committees dealing with each of Rotary’s principal functions. Nevertheless, within ten years our club would take the new approach, with the number of committees much reduced.

Another trial was to hold an evening meeting once a month to which families were invited, so introducing non-Rotarians to the fun with which our club went about its business of helping those less fortunate than themselves. Of course, there was some muttering about the role of tradition in an organisation but we soon got over that, having some hilarious skittles matches with other clubs at The Fox in Temple Ewell. The gathering of our ’Tripartite’ group of contact clubs took place in Aachen. A visit to the ancient city of Maastricht was a delight, with much to enjoy in history and culture. The ‘shopaholics’ loved it too.

One of the abiding duties of the leadership of any organisation is to take note of change and to meet the challenges it presents. Service groups around the world have to equip themselves to secure the means of doing their particular ‘services’ into the future. Just taking a look at historical records, as we are doing here, shows how resources, environment and ‘custom and practice’ alter with time. ‘White tie & tails’, ‘de rigeur’ in the 1960s are hardly ever seen now. The mechanical calculators of the post-World War 2 era have given way to hand-held devices which provide access to an unprecedented range of services and information. Education for all is improving constantly. One thing does not change, however: the need for folk with the will to serve.

The Rotary Club of Dover has shown by its actions over the years since 1922 that it can meet such challenges and at the end of the Rotary year in July 2007 it had its leadership set for the coming three years, a ‘rolling programme’ of training by which Rotary ensures not only survival but growth.

Thus Rotarian Dr Pankaj Premnath, a Dover GP, brought his unique set of talents and enthusiasms to the presidency in 2007-08. Educated at what he called ‘the Eton of India’, he set about using his range of cultural and managerial skills to challenge the accepted way of ‘doing Rotary’. He opened up his home to an all-age sports day and barbecue in aid of The Rotary Foundation (Rotary’s repository of funds for doing good around the world), raising a substantial sum in the process. At the end of his year he confessed that he had had his eyes opened to the many opportunities which Rotary offers, not least the eradication of Polio which Rotary has been ‘fronting’ as an official project since 1985. As a doctor he was alive to what the power of the Rotary network could do in both research and practice world-wide.

A landmark during the year was achieved by the Editor (immediate past-president Don) delivering our monthly newsletter electronically. Two copies still went to members who ‘didn’t do computers’ and one to the written archive. By a couple of years later even those two members had relented and subscribed to the digital world.

Pankaj’s successor in 2008-09 was builder Alan Traylor, who brought an ‘anything is possible’ message to our club. As the leader of the club’s International committee he had championed a ‘small is beautiful’ approach, by which funds could be raised in relatively small amounts while (say) enjoying a meal with friends. At the same time he would persuade restaurateurs that reducing their prices for a group could both give them a regular income and contribute to Rotary’s international charity efforts. His love of art led him to devise a competition for Dover’s primary schools which led to much fun with paint and crayon together with a well-deserved sense of achievement for the children. He still cherishes a photo album filled with smiles!

2009-10 president Simon Crowley freely admitted that he never saw himself as a ‘typical Rotarian’ as he was not at all good at accepting the status quo. He disliked the Rotarian habit of turning up to everything in formal clothes with tie, saying that if we were a network of business people we should accept whatever dress was appropriate (at the time of year) for working folk. We did, accompanied by a few mutterings from traditionalists of course. Nothing changes in that regard! Anyway, the news spread and we had lots of visitors eager to see this phenomenon of Rotarians being not so mildly informal. Much was going on ‘behind the scenes’ of course - our Rotaract (18 -35) club was being re-formed, the Dover Community Association was being given a new lease of life and lots more. We left it to Mrs Crowley to curb Simon’s wilder instincts but we had a lot of fun. Our visit to Trier in September 2009, hosted by the Aachen club and accompanied by St Omer Rotarians, was very popular. Its culture is many-faceted, drawing upon Roman occupation and the trade inspired by the medieval Teutonic Knights.

Typical of this was the travels of Teddy Harris, a small teddy bear (named after Rotary’s founder) who accompanied members of the Dover Rotary Club around the world, accumulating travel miles as he went. The total was a strict secret and was the subject of a ‘£1 a go’ sweepstake to raise funds for The Rotary Foundation, with a £100 prize for the winner. There was also a range of Bear collectibles and a visit to ‘Bearley House’. The bear had his own Facebook page, and many fans.

There was much charity support activity during the year, with the tragedy of the Haiti earthquake grabbing the headlines and needing very urgent support from Shelterbox, a Rotary-inspired group providing not only tents but materials to support a reasonable existence in such circumstances, such as water filters, tools and a children’s education pack. Our club raised money from local sources to send four boxes. Also on the international front, Rotary Headquarters promoted a new approach to its ‘Foundation’ fund, projecting a three year ‘Future Vision’ experiment in which our District (1120) was one of just 100 selected to try out the new systems. One of our number, Past President Chris Barnett, became the Assistant District Governor for our South East Kent area.

This brings us neatly to the beginning of yet another new Rotary year, 2010-11, when President Stephen Yarrow took over. An ‘old-boy’ of Dover Grammar School, Stephen is a member of a family of musically-motivated Dovorians. Dover Grammar School for Boys has a strong musical tradition, evidenced by its many contributors to local music and drama groups and possesses a very fine pipe-organ which has inspired a steady stream of musical graduates. Stephen, whose post-graduate work has included the post of musical director at St Mary’s Church, Dover and the formation and leadership of the Pharos Chamber Choir as well as leading roles with the Dover Choral Society, Dover Proms and Deal Festival of Music and the Arts. He has also appeared (in full colour) on the back of a Dover bus as an example of local community participation and leadership. His year as our club’s president contributed to this accolade. Stephen runs a business which provides sheet music and other essential music resources to schools and choirs nationwide.

Our Tripartite visit to St Omer on 11 & 12 September was a special time, with a visit to the museum of textiles (lace in particular) in Calais and to Blériot Plage, where French pioneer flyer Louis Blériot took off to make the first cross-Channel flight in 1909. In October, we supported District Governor John Dunkley at our district conference in Eastbourne. John is a Rotarian with our ‘daughter club’ South Foreland. There were many highlights but perhaps the most poignant was a performance by students from The Orpheus Centre with musician and broadcaster Richard Stilgoe, their founder. In January we were treated to a ‘Night of Music’ at The Dover Cruise Terminal presented by the founder members of our revived Rotaract Club, which duly received its new Rotary International charter from District Governor John Dunkley at a gala launch on 29 April, coincidentally the wedding day of HRH The Prince William of Wales with Miss Catherine Middleton.

In May we teamed-up with our South Foreland friends to welcome Falklands veteran Simon Weston OBE, author of the No1 best-selling autobiography ‘Walking Tall’ and sequels ‘Going Back’ & ‘Moving On’. Simon’s message is one of single-minded determination, not only to accept what is but to turn that to your advantage. The climax of President Stephen’s year was a concert at Charlton Church with his Pharos Chamber Choir and the Becker Ensemble performing Faure’s Requiem and a Haydn Mass.

2011-12 was in many ways a landmark year both for our club and our district. Both were to have their first lady leaders. President Gloria Barnett and District Governor Lynn Mitchell were worthy pioneers and Gloria’s husband Chris was District Governor Nominee in that same year. Not surprisingly, some time was taken up in working through the meaning for us at club level of the changes which Future Vision would bring about. Principally, these entailed simplified procedures for applying for global and district grants from The Rotary Foundation. Qualification, auditing and monitoring procedures were also ‘tidied up’. In the wider (non-Rotary) world, there were The Olympic Games in London and Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

2011-12 was in many ways a landmark year both for our club and our district. Both were to have their first lady leaders. President Gloria Barnett and District Governor Lynn Mitchell were worthy pioneers and Gloria’s husband Chris was District Governor Nominee in that same year. Not surprisingly, some time was taken up in working through the meaning for us at club level of the changes which Future Vision would bring about. Principally, these entailed simplified procedures for applying for global and district grants from The Rotary Foundation. Qualification, auditing and monitoring procedures were also ‘tidied up’. In the wider (non-Rotary) world, there were The Olympic Games in London and Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

The campaign to eradicate Polio, ‘Polio Plus’ had become ‘End Polio Now’ and world celebrities like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Microsoft’s Bill Gates were now actively involved. 2011 was the year when India became almost Polio-free as only one case was reported (whereas a year or two before there were upwards of 200 cases in Uttar Pradesh alone). At this point there were a few cases in Pakistan, Afghanistan and some central African countries (principally Nigeria). Rotarians, having ‘kicked off’ the international campaign in 1985 sensed that we were close to ultimate success of a Polio-free world. It will take a while longer, however, to reach our goal, with the end of the current decade a realistic target. (In March 2012 India was declared Polio-free by The World Health Organisation – good news indeed.)

One of the initiatives for this year was a social one, to take part in an activity with each of the Cinque Ports Rotary clubs, staring with a dinner hosted by the Sandwich Club in September and covering the ground as far as Hastings by the end of the Rotary year. Much fun was had by all and a fair sum raised for Rotary charities as a result.

Dover hosted the Tripartite weekend this year (September 16-18). A drinks reception was held at Cullin’s Yard, with music provided by Bill Barnacles A1 Quartet. We visited the Historic Dockyard at Chatham on Saturday, returning to dinner at The Dover Marina Hotel in the evening. fifteen guests travelled from Aachen and thirteen from St Omer, hosted by thirty from Dover on Saturday evening.

In October, our district conference was held at Bournemouth, as Eastbourne was undergoing some refurbishment to its conference centre and Congress Theatre. The principal theme was ‘Young Carers’, a personal interest of DG Lynn and entertainment was provided by Tenors Unlimited and a very noisy band! A sad note preceded our Christmas this year as Past President David Pike, organiser of many entertaining events, died in December only six weeks after having been diagnosed with cancer. We miss him.

The Rotary Club of Dover continued its participation in The Port of Dover Community Project, (chaired by our honorary member Bishop of Dover Trevor Willmott) which had started in Stephen Yarrow’s year. Rotary had been invited to represent Dover’s business community as a number of other candidates had declared themselves in favour of an alternative scheme. A Railway Swing Band event was held at Dover Cruise Terminal jointly with the Rotary Club of South Foreland, in aid of Rotary Children’s Projects, a ‘frugal lunch’ for Rotary charities and a children’s singing day at Dover Town Hall were among the events held during the year.

Another sad note intervened as Walter Bettag, a founder-member and joint instigator of our Tripartite gathering with Aachen and St Omer, died on 27 April 2012:

‘Wie lange ich lebe,
liegt nicht in meiner Macht
dass ich aber, solange ich lebe,
wirklich lebe,
das hängt von mir ab…’
Rest in Peace, Walter.

At the end of May 2012 the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was celebrated in Dover with a military tattoo featuring local regiments (including the Gurkhas) and spectacular displays by parachutists, motor cyclists and military bands. The organising committee included Past President Don Soppitt and one of the military advisors was Rotarian Major John Wiggell MBE, a future president of our club. The Saluting Officers were The Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Viscount De L’Isle and Admiral (now Admiral of the Fleet) Lord Boyce, Lord Warden of The Cinque Ports. Over £250,000 was raised to stage this event for the people of Dover at Connaught Barracks (a housing estate by 2017). The tattoo was dedicated to Past District Governor Denis Weaver:

Such a gentle man, but he did so much…

'What We Do' Main Pages:

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Our friends of Rotary are a great group of volunteers, who give their time freely to help and support the work of Rotary Club of Dover. For personal reasons they cannot commit for being Rotarians but share the same principals of helping others.


Some of our work throughout 2016


Everybody should have access to good food. Everybody values community. Your Local Pantries provide both – and more.


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An overview of events from 2019


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Martha Trust – transforming lives


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Some of the events throughout 2018


100 years of Rotary in Dover


Annual Dover Regatta


A list of Presidents since 1922


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Some of our work throughout 2017


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