Rotary Club of Belfast

Celebrating 100 years

TheAuditoriumThe Rotary Club of Belfast on Monday 25 July 2011 proudly celebrated its 100th year Birthday, in the style of the times in 1911, in the Grand Ballroom, Europa Hotel. The many members and guests present (who included Presidents from the Clubs extended by the Rotary Club of Belfast, members who had been at the Club's Golden Jubilee celebrations and 4 third generation members) were treated to a lively and hugely enjoyable re-enactment of the first meeting held in the Royal Avenue Hotel at 1.15pm 24 July. 

The Re-enactment

TheOriginals1The re-enactment was written by a Past President Bryan Johnston having researched Club and local library records and members acted the roles. In the research he found reference to an account of the first meeting in Nomads Weekly and Belfast Critic July 29, 1911 written by one of the participants Alf Moore, a newspaper proprietor in Berry Street. This and the Club Minutes formed the structure for the enactment.

William Stuart Morrow (PP Brian Johnston) on his return to his native land from the United States, informed 14 of the leading businessmen of the City (various members and PPs) of the history, objects and methods of Rotary Clubs in America. Those businessmen were: W.K.Gibson, Solicitor Chichester St; H.E.Barrow, House and Land Agent, Garfield St; Alf Moore, Newspaper Proprietor, Berry St.; L.F.OBrien, Franklin Laundry, Ormeau Avenue; W.W. Kennedy, Furniture Removal Contractor, Academy St.; Greer Malcolmson, Grocer, Castle Place; John J. Cosgrove, Produce Merchant, Vernon St.; Edwin Dempster, Underwood Typewriters, Scottish Temperance Bldg.; John Williamson, Hides and Leather, Royal Avenue; William Wallace, Manager Cantrell and Cochrane; Sherman D. Neill, Jeweller, Donegall Place; D.E. Lowry, Ladies Outfitter, Donegall Place; Sam Martin, Boyd Martin & Co. Insurance Broker, and William Denby, Coach Builder, Antrim Road. After some discussion they unanimously agreed to establish a club in Belfast and, after some disagreement, (reluctantly) agreed unanimously to fix the same charges as were agreed in Dublin. 

ArticlePPBrianPresentsPresAdrianwithNewsThe important historical record had not been known of before and after the enactment PP Bryan was delighted to present a copy to President Adrian for the Club records stating that it should also be of interest to District, RIBI and RI. (click on image to enlarge)

Club Meeting

Following dinner the current day's Club Meeting ensued. Greetings sent from many Clubs throughout Ireland and the UK, from the Belfast Clubs of Maine, USA and Christchurch, New Zealand were recorded. As were the congratulatory greetings from President Burman, Rotary International Great Britain and Ireland which stated: "Today your Club continues to bring new ideas and fresh enthusiasm to a tradition of service that has spanned generations. This year, as you reflect on past accomplishments, I ask you to continue to provide and strengthen your club as you provide essential humanitarian projects in your local and international communities and to lead Rotary into the next generation. As you celebrate this important milestone in your club's history, remember the responsibility for Rotary is yours. Take pride each day in the decisions you make and the actions you take, because these choices continue to change and save lives."

DGBarneyCallaghanDistrict Governor Barney Callaghan addressing the meeting said on behalf of all Rotarians on the Island that:

"I am conscious of the importance and significance of this special event we are here to celebrate tonight and I am very honoured and proud to be in a position to address this historic gathering. I am conscious of the founding president William Wallace; I am conscious also of the presence of the men here who attended the club gathering fifty years ago and am humbled in their presence. I am also struck by the fact that people like Alan Whyte, Arthur and David Boyd and Alan Rundle who have familial associations with the Rotary Club of Belfast going back to the meeting marking the Club's Golden Jubilee and to the founding of this fine Rotary Club one hundred years ago. 

We heard earlier about the fifty years that separate us but that fifty years and indeed the one hundred years that separate us also unite us as we mark this centenary year of celebration with confidence and hope for the future...

He also read his formal letter of congratulations which he sent President Adrian: "In the context of the history of this island and in the global context of Rotary International as a force for good, the Rotary Club of Belfast stands unique. In the last hundred years the world has experienced much political, social and economic change. This has also been felt in these islands from forces internal as well as external. However, throughout the hundred years of change, some of it traumatic, the Rotary Club has been a rock, a foundation for the future and a force for good. The Rotary Club of Belfast is an example to all Rotarians and indeed to civic society of how to get on with the job of living with a diligent eye on our obligation to our fellow man at home and abroad."

Jubilee Black Box Opening

OpeningtheBoxBlackBoxThe members and guests present then waited with growing anticipation for the opening of the Black Box sealed by the Golden Jubilee President Stanley Boyd in 1961 and handed to their youngest member Alan White.

Aided by PP Arthur Boyd, Stanley's son, President Adrian, using a hammer and chisel, prised open the box revealing contents in several sealed envelopes. These were passed to several tables and opened simultaneously. It was found that the contents encapsulated those times as they contained mementos of the Jubilee Year including newspapers, maps, menus, bulletins and other Club memorabilia.

Of particular note are the inclusion of a gold sovereign and a letter from President Stanley to the Centenary President. In it he states that it is his privilege and pleasure to "send to you as Centenary President of The Rotary Club of Belfast, a message from the past, a message of fellowship and goodwill from the Belfast Rotarians of 1962, and the sincere hope that in the fifty years that separate us the Club has maintained the traditions which we inherited and which we trust we have passed on to our successors, untarnished and perhaps even a little brighter as each year has passed....With this letter from the past goes our very best wishes, and the knowledge that you will hand on the torch, as we have endeavoured to hand it on to you."

50yrsRememberedDG Barney with Hilary and LauraIt is also worthy of mention that this letter and all the envelopes were beautifully typed on an Imperial Typewriter.

The Club were delighted that Stanley Rainey and Bill Donaldson, who were members in the Jubilee year, were present but regret that Alan White, to whom the box had been presented as the youngest member then, was unable to attend due to ill health. Bill had brought with him some of his own personal mementos and told us about them.

Rotary RosesGetting into the spirit of the evening, Rtn Hilary Gault and Rotaract District Chair Laura Garland looked resplendent in period costume, pictured here (right) with DG Barney Cavanagh. President Adrian specially thanked Rtn Hilary for supplying Rotary Millennium Roses for the silver Vases for the tables. Picture shows Helen Johnston admiring them with PP Stanley and Ann Rainey.


  • 1.TheOriginals
  • 9.PresidentsAll

Join Us

Membership of the Club is an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable experience and we are actively looking for new people to invite to join and breathe new vibrancy and ideas into the Club and take Rotary into its second century in Belfast.

If you think Rotary may be for you, or for further information, please contact us.

Getting involved with Rotary could be the most important thing you ever do.

Contact the Club

If you would like to contact the Club,

please click here to use our Contact Form