Rotary in the media

What the World Thinks


Rotary’s most outspoken critics in the 1920s and 1930s included Sinclair Lewis, H.L. Mencken Clarence Darrow, George Bernard Shaw and G. K. Chesterton, who eventually recognized Rotary’s contribution to the community. A fuller account of this period is stated at pages 109-111 of “A Century of Service – The Story of Rotary International. The topic is also dealt with more extensively on the pages of RGHF at under the title “What the world thinks”

Since those early days Rotary has been represented in the various media forms such as radio, television, cinema and the written word, mainly in a benevolent manner but occasionally in a less flattering manner. For the enjoyment of our readers we now present a selection of such items.


Rotary is quite often mentioned in British television programmes.


British television viewers may have noticed that Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby (played by John Nettles) in “Midsomer Murders” often wore a Rotary Badge. According to Costume Designer at Bentley Productions, the badge was to signify the character’s membership of the Rotary Club in the mythical town of Causton. The idea, which came from the actor, was that it would be very appropriate for Barnaby and his family to be involved in the local Rotary Club.

In the detective series “A Touch of Frost”, Detective Inspector Frost’s (played by David Jason) chief, Superintendent Mullett (played by Bruce Alexander) is often going to or coming from a Rotary meeting or dinner.




A 2002 episode of the series of “Heartbeat” has Celia Beresford (played by Clare Clifford) in charge of the Ashfordly Rotary Club’s annual Old Folks Outing to Whitby

The Christmas 1974 episode of long standing comedy series “Dad’s Army” entitled “Turkey Dinner” had staunch Rotarian Captain Mainwaring (played by Arthur Lowe) preparing to be the guest speaker at his local Rotary Club.

In a 1984 episode of the popular series “Minder”, Arthur Daley (played by George Cole) is the invited speaker at the Rotary Club where Terry McCann (played by Dennis Waterman) [provides the security (at a Rotary Club!!)

Rotary has also been mentioned in television programmes from other countries

In the long running and very popular Australian series “Neighbours”, Rotary has featured in at least four episodes, twice in 1990 (where Harold Bishop (played by Ian Smith) is rehearsing his speech to Rotary and also where Madge (various surnames) (played by Anne Charleson) has to make a speech to a Rotary Club and once in each of a 2004 episode (where Stuart Parker (played by Blair McDonough) is presented with an award at a Rotary Club ceremony and in 2007 (where Paul Robinson (played by Stefan Dennis) is offered a job to manage a project at a Rotary Convention (sic).

A 2002 episode of the Netherlands series “Westenwind” , with a shipping background, has a minor Rotarian character called Judge van Ostaijen

The long running Belgium series “De Kotmadam” had a 2007 episode “Mantelzog” with a story line

Involving Rotary.

In a 2001 episode of the long running hit US programme “West Wing” various uncomplimentary remarks were made by a character about Rotary. This enraged Rotarians, who complained to the NBC Network to such an extent that the network issued a retraction and a public apology


The film “Catch Me If You Can” was the story of confidence trickster Frank Abagnale Jr (played by Leonardo di Caprio). His father Frank Abagnale Sr (played by Christopher Walken) was a member of the Rotary Club of New Rochelle, NY. (a real Rotary Club) One scene showed a real meeting of the New Rochelle Rotary Club when Frank Abagnale Sr. was named as “Rotarian of the Year”


At the end of the film “The Bodyguard” Frank Farmer (played by Kevin Costner) acts as a bodyguard to a speaker at the fictional Rotary Club of Iowa Rapids. The President of the Rotary Club is played by Bert Remsen. An interesting boob was made at the meeting when the clergyman was asked to give the benediction at the beginning of the meeting instead of at the end. The prayer offered at the beginning should have been the invocation.


In the 1990 French film” Un week-end sur deux” (Every Other Weekend) Camille Valmont(played by Nathalie Baye) an actress fallen on hard times has been booked by her agent to MC a Rotary Club Dinner but this clashes with the (every other) weekend that she sees her children as she is estranged from her husband. Confusion follows.

The 2007 Australian comedic documentary “Big Dreamers” stars Ron Hunt as a Rotarian.

Prepared by History Vice President Ian H Campbell from information supplied by himself, Senior Historian Basil Lewis and Others.

Provided by RGHF member PDG Ian Campbell, Scotland, and post 3 November 2010 by RGHF webmaster Jack Selway