RGHF Speeches

Tim Tucker at Rotaract preconvention 2008

Chairman of the RGHF Board 2011/12 Tim Tucker, UK, addresses the Rotaract pre convention in Los Angeles. At his left, is RGHF zone representative PDG Irène Lewitt

Rotaract Preconvention

13th June 2008

From Rotaract to Rotary – A Personal History

Rtn Tim Tucker
D1070 Rotaract Officer 2006-2009
Rotary Global History Fellowship – Rotaract Coordinator

Good afternoon to you all.

And thank you Mary Kathryn for your kind introduction.

When President Wilkinson asked me to speak of my own road from Rotaract to Rotary I didn’t realise that this could be summed up in a couple of sentences.

Two days ago, on Wednesday afternoon, District Rotaract Representative Gill Wood and I were up on Hollywood Boulevard by Grumans Chinese Theatre. We were considering taking an open top bus tour around Beverley Hills when the lady driver decided to help us decide. She offered Gill a student’s concession, and then myself, a seniors reduced fare. Yes, I realised that I had now taken that famous journey from Rotaractor to Rotarian.

Well, 103 years of Rotary, 40 years of Rotaract (we’re catching up) and now we are here for the 99th Rotary Convention.

Next year, the 100th Convention in Birmingham!

One of my favourite films, a great English film from 1985, is ‘Clockwise’, starring John Cleese of Monty Python fame. I looked it up on Amazon earlier in the week and it’s $10 to $12 if you are interested.

In the film, John is a school headmaster and a meticulous timekeeper. He is due to be speaking at the Head Teachers conference in Norwich, in the east of England, later that day. The speech (left early in the film by John on a train) starts with John saying ‘Who would have expected a headmaster from a very ordinary school to be standing here today…’ Before arriving in Norwich to deliver his speech there are, as one would expect, a whole series of disasters.

Strangely enough, 10 years ago, while I was Chairman of the Board of Governors of my daughters infants school (Oh, Robyn and Marifleur send their best wishes to everyone who was at Salt Lake City last June), one of the teachers made it through to the regional final of BBC Television’s ‘Teacher of the year’ competition. As my wife Joan and I had just taken delivery of a new 6 seat car, I was asked to drive the group from the school.

Just like in the film Clockwise, the awards ceremony was in Norwich, which seemed significant to me. I lent the head teacher my copy of the film for her to see a few days before the journey. The school party, for some strange reason, then decided to travel separately from me and meet me there. Similarly to the film, on the way to Norwich I was stopped by a policeman. Perhaps I was travelling a little fast. However, I also had no driving licence with me, which was a bit of a problem for both the officer, and myself.

Coming to Los Angeles to speak to you, I decided to make no mention of ‘Clockwise’ to DRR Gill before our journey over here on the same flight.

Probably also just like John Cleese in the film, just over 2 years ago I had never considered attending a Rotary Convention. I hadn’t even considered taking on a District role until just before 9.00pm one March evening, while on a train into London having visited my father in hospital, when incoming District Governor Richard Hyde telephoned me. The previous District Rotaract Officer had decided not to carry on for that coming year. By the time I was off the train a few minutes later I was signed up.

Tie and Rotary theme badge for the coming year were posted through my home letterbox early the next morning – so, no chance to change my mind!

18 months ago Rotarian David Morris, District 1070’s Membership Officer, suggested I attend the Salt Lake City convention. David is a fabulous Rotarian who I have a great respect for. Having said that, yesterday Michele (Guy) said ‘I don’t trust you Tim, you like everyone’. Well, so far, in more than thirty years I’m yet to meet a Rotarian who has let me down.

My daughters and I had a marvellous time in Salt Lake and I decided there that I should be here this year in LA. Not only being here though. Mary Kathryn (Delodder) helped me put information together for Rotary District 1070 to assist our DRR each year to attend Preconvention. Last year at Salt Lake, William Gates told Rotarians to ‘Think Big’. My project now is working for all Rotary Zone 17 and 18 Districts to assist their DRR’s to attend the Rotaract Preconvention in future years.

Following Salt Lake City, Megan (Cotungu) came to speak at the Rotary District 1070 Assembly – Youth Opportunities Session (via a DVD of her speech at San Jose last fall). Megan was loud. We got into trouble from the Rotarians in the next room for the sound from our session intruding in to their presentation. Well, Rotaract is something to make some noise about isn’t it!

In 1070 we also used presentations from last years Preconvention Rotaract awards at meeting of our Rotary Club’s Rotaract Officers.

When President Wilkinson invited me to speak today, I thought I ought to let my District Governor know. I emailed DG Tony (Martin) and the reply came back by return ‘Do you need help from the District Training Officer?’ Actually a very sensible suggestion for me, and the offer was most appreciated.

I am very honoured to be here today.

I was born in ’57 in Epsom hospital and lived a few miles away in Chessington at the southern edge of London just before the countryside starts. Chessington is famous for its zoo, now know as Chessington World of Adventures.

Life has lots of, what are seemingly, coincidences. Buying my train ticket to the airport last Saturday from Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire I was told at the ticket office that I could save £20 (about US $40) by buying a return ticket to Epsom rather than a ticket to London Heathrow. Heathrow is to the west of London and Epsom to the south. There are some strange quirks to the British transport system. The smart locals know not to ask for a ticket to where they want to go if they want the best price. I am not suggesting you adopt this policy when you come to Birmingham next June though.

I left School at the end of June ’74 and I started work as a trainee dispensing optician on 1st July. Since then Rotary and Rotaract have been a golden strand running through my life. For more on the Golden Strand have a look at the Rotary Global History Fellowship website, dev.rghf.org , and do a search for the Golden Strand.

While at work in September 1974, John Goddard, a Rotarian since 1970 and Rotaract Committee Chairman of Epsom Rotary Club, told me about the new Rotaract club they were just starting. I was only 17 and so too young at the time to join. Another Epsom Rotarian, Peter Wilson, worked with the same company as John and myself and was the regional manager. His son Tony became an early member as did yet another trainee optician from a nearby town, Phil Belsey. In August 1976, now aged 19, I was told by Peter (Wilson) to join Rotaract. It was not a suggestion. In those days employees, especially young trainees, did what their employers said – even in their own time. The influences of both John and Peter have been an inspiration to me all through my working and Rotary/Rotaract life. 30 plus years later John is again Rotaract Committee Chairman for Epsom Rotary Club.

The Epsom Rotaract club’s first meetings were at Westhill House, just outside Epsom town centre. This was home to the Civil Defence Association and their three remaining members. The association was a hang over from the second world and the cold war. There was no heating, apart from a tiny fire in the bar area, and the upstairs was too dangerous to venture up into. The drinks were particularly cheap though, and there was no charge for the room hire.

Back then, asking any British Isles Rotarian involved at the time with Rotaract about where Rotaract started, they would usually say Australia. Some other past Rotaractors from those early days have also recently told me the same. This was the perception in as much as the early clubs in Britain were probably more closely related to community clubs from Australia that college based clubs in America. Without written history, myths can soon become facts.

When I became a Rotaractor at the end of 1976 my week consisted of four full days working, one day and evening at college, and a day and a half or two studying. There was not a lot of time for anything else once I returned home from work. So at first I did little more than attend the fortnightly Rotaract club meetings and had little time for all the other Rotaract activities.

That was my start in Rotaract.

Coming home from London by train a couple of weeks ago with my family I wondered, would Paul Harris have been a Rotaractor? I was reminded of Paul riding the train to Manchester when he was a lad. Paul writes in his book ‘My Road to Rotary’, available from RI and also posted on the Rotary Global History Fellowship website:

(From My Road to Rotary, Chapter 10 – Paul Harris, 1947)

“We rapscallions of the Wallingford chapter had to keep ourselves posted as to everything going on about town. The barber shop, the post-office and the railroad station were important centers of information. In one way and another we learned all the important railway news up and down the line; even the names of the brakemen and the engineers were known to us. We knew whether they chewed tobacco or not and if not why not. It gave the rapscallions a mighty good feeling when they happened to wake up in the night and hear the two-thirty train come thundering through and to know that their friends were on it-Jim Gillespie at the lever and Jack McGuire shovelling coal.

Once upon a time when a rapscallion friend of mine was serving an apprenticeship at the depot he dared me to steal a ride on the cowcatcher of the ten-thirty p.m. train; to ride as far as Manchester and come back on the cowcatcher of the two-thirty a.m. train. He always had advance information when the two-thirty was scheduled to make a stop at Wallingford. He had studied it all out. When the ten-thirty train stopped, I was to start to cross the track in front of the locomotive but was to mount the cowcatcher when I had passed the view of the engineer, while Willie was to play the same trick on the fireman. The scheme worked perfectly just as planned.

We had a thrilling ride through the mists of the night on the rocking engine and what a thrill it was to dash in and out of the covered bridge in the vicinity of Manchester while grandfather and grandmother slept the sleep of the just. If some busybody had awakened grandmother at midnight and told her that her young hopeful was not in his bed; that he was in Manchester and that he would come back home on the cowcatcher of the two-thirty train, grandmother would have declared that either she, I or her informant had gone completely crazy, or perhaps, all three.

Oh, yes! rapscallions have many experiences and learn many things which their elders do not know. Most naturally, they have to keep much of their higher learning to themselves; their elders would not understand it, nor could they be trusted. What, for instance, would grandmother have said if I had told her not to wait up for me on that memorable night; that Willie and I were going to give ourselves an excursion on the cowcatcher. Better by far to do as I did; that was, crawl through a window when the sitting room clock announced the hour of ten p.m., join my friend Willie, and then all aboard for Manchester”.

So, would Paul have been a Rotarator? Most definitely! I feel it was the fun, adventures, and fellowship that Paul shared while growing up in Wallingford that led him to the meeting in 1905 that started Rotary. Or, was it a meeting in 1904 with Harry Ruggles, the fifth Rotarian? That’s another good story from Rotary’s history for you to look up.

In August of ‘77 I passed my professional examinations and had more time for Rotaract. I moved from being a quiet Rotaractor, through Chairman of Vocational and Club Service committees, President and then one of four Distict Vice-Chairman with responsibilities for 13 of the district’s 55 Rotaract clubs.

In the spring of ’91, while District Vice Chairman, I had a job interview over coffee at London’s Dorchester Hotel, in Park Lane. After a short time covering my career to date and the job I was being interviewed for, my new employer to be and I then spent far more time talking about Rotaract than the job I was being interviewed for. In a similar situation many years later, in February of this year, I was telephoned by a customer while I was walking through London in the city and it was recommended that I should contact a company where there was a job that might be just right for me. I stopped and sat on a concrete post by the Bank of England and telephoned. I was asked about non-work things. ‘Look up Rotaract History on Facebook’ was my reply. It turned out that was my preliminary interview. For both interviews, in 1981 and 2008, my Rotaract and Rotary involvement made a big difference to the outcome of the interviews. For that I am most grateful on both occasions.

Twenty two years ago today, June 13th 1986, I became 29, and so had to leave Rotaract two weeks later. At that time the age range for Rotaractors was 18 to 28.

I moved with my job in spring of the following year to St Ives on the southern edge of the fenlands of East Anglia – very flat landscape with beautiful sunsets and sunrises.

Every year since ’86, Epsom Rotaractors from my time meet up on the last Saturday before Christmas for a meal together.

I visit Epsom Rotary Club about once a year, and the Rotarians I know are hardly any older now than back in the 1980’s. I also visited Epsom Rotaract Club a year and half ago. They were different people and it was a different venue, not surprisingly Westhill House was long gone in it’s 1970’s guise. It was, however, a very similar style of meeting with many activities and events going on. I felt very much at home. I’m also, very proud that the club is as active and organised as it was in my time as a member all those years ago, probably more so.

One Saturday afternoon in September ’95 The Reverend Owen Swan, the rector of our Church near to St Ives, called in to our home with Church treasurer things to ask me to do. My wife Joan told Owen that I was at the Epsom Rotaract Annual Reunion Picnic with our daughters Robyn and Marifleur. “He was in Rotaract was he, he’d better come to Rotary” was Owen’s reply. So, in the autumn of ‘95 I was invited to join The Rotary Club of St Ives – the first new member for, perhaps, 5 years.

Almost two years ago I joined the internet based Rotary Fellowship Group ‘Rotary Global History Fellowship’ and innocently put on my application form ‘Wouldn’t it be good to see the history of Rotaract on the website as well’.

Last year Richard (Hyde), the District Governor from 2006-7 who asked me to be the 1070 Rotaract Officer, was on one of the convention buses at Salt Lake City and happened to be sitting next to senior historian Basil Lewis of the RGHF, neither having met before. As Rotary converstions sometimes go, Basil mentioned the suggestion of Rotaract History, and Richard, very kindly said that I’d be OK to help with that. And, as they say, the rest is history,

Shortly after SLC I was asked to be Rotaract Coordinator for the RGHF. Then in December I was elected to the board for 2008-09, and in the spring, nominated and elected as Chairman of the RGHF Board 2011-2012,

One of the strap lines the fellowship uses is ‘Slowly, we seek to serve others…’. From not a lot of information the project is moving along well with Rotarctor Damien Harris of Jamaica being the webmaster for all things relating to Youth History in Rotary. That is, RYLA, Rotaract, Interact and everything else similar.

The first posting from a Rotaractor went live last week when Damien added the history of Rotaract in Western Australia, written by past DRR Simone Carot Collins. Simone had suggested to the RGHF a few years back, perhaps in 2001, that Rotaract should be on the website too. The time wasn’t right just then (Sometimes with Rotary when you knock at the door it isn’t always answered straight away. You have to bide your time and try again in a different way a bit later). The door has now been answered and it is wide open. So, it is especially fitting that Simone’s has been the first posting.

RI Historian Robin Dillow has been digging though old Rotary magazines for articles on Rotaract. RI Rotaract Committee Chairman Irene (Lewitt) has also been most helpful and supportive, as has Haris. Irene mentioned something that she wasn’t sure was a dream or not. This was Rotaractors cycling across a canal in Holland some years ago. Within a few days the story was sent to me separately by both Robin and Haris, and I hadn’t even asked! I was then able to reply to Irene with the article attached saying,’ It wasn’t a dream, it really happened’. However, it wasn’t a canal that they cycled over, but the English Channel! That story is now on the RGHF website.

Well, that’s some Rotaract worldwide things. More locally for me recently has been the re-launch of Huntingdon Rotaract Club a few weeks ago. Along with other Rotarians and Rotaractors I was calling on local businesses in my home town of St Ives to tell them about the club and asking for display space for a Rotaract poster.

After about a dozen shops I went into Piggots the jewellers and saw Yvonne. As soon as I mentioned Rotaract her face lit up and she beamed ‘Rotaract – the best years of my life’

One of my favourite musicians and groups of all time are Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel. Look up their album from 1975. ‘You’ll think its magic’, it really is, Rotary, Rotaract, they’re ‘the best years of our lives’!

Enjoy Rotaract. Enjoy Rotary. Make a difference, and Make Dreams Real.

I’ll see you later and tomorrow, around the convention and at the Rotary Global History Fellowship and Rotaract booths.

And then, BIRMINGHAM 2009!

Thank you.

Tim Tucker