Club History, 1970-1980

This article was adapted from notes left by Peter Donaldson (1928-2012); Charter Member; President 1971-72 and 1999; Paul Harris Fellow 1979 and 1999; Honorary Member for Life 2007-2012.

The inaugural meeting of Rotary Club of Gunnedah West  was held in February 1970 by Rotary Club of Gunnedah more or less at the instigation of the Past District Governor Albert Griffith and the then District Governor Roger Dulhunty of Port Macquarie The Club was chartered on 4 March 1970.

Moves were made to establish the boundaries of the proposed club which were: west of the Kelvin Road; northern and western side of Tempest Street; southern side of Conadilly Street to Abbott Street and western side of Wandobah Road to the Shire boundary. It was thought that the use of boundaries became too restrictive on membership growth world-wide and the concept of club boundaries was abolished in the 1970s.

The Charter Dinner was held on 9 May 1970 at the Town Hall. There were 33 Charter Members. Roy Waghorn was Charter President; Peter Donaldson, Vice President; Brian Tierney, Secretary, and Ken Thew, Treasurer. Directors were: Rod Dunwoodie, a high school teacher; Warwick Stuart, a farmer; Noel Jaeger, a transport operator and Brian Quinn, a refrigeration mechanic. Bruce Booth was Bulletin Editor and Lionel Walters was Sergeant-at-Arms. The Charter Dinner proceedings and the first changeover were recorded on film by ‘Curley’ Nowland.

Our Dinner meetings were held at the RSL Club’s Bamboo Room on Thursdays except for special occasions.

In 1973, John Longmuir and PDG Harold Funnel transferred to Gunnedah West. Also Dr Bob Pilcher designed and had received approval for the original cover and naming of our bulletin ‘Kowandi’ (Smoke Signal) and the club banner.

Gunnedah West has always been a substantial contributor to The Rotary Foundation and by June 1981 had reached the 1400% plateau in donations to the Foundation.

Inter-club visits to Boggabri, Manilla, North Tamworth and Werris Creek were held on an annual basis.

Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) have always been an important part of the Gunnedah West calendar and Gunnedah West participated in the long term Youth Exchange Program (YEP). In those first ten years Gunnedah West sent out ten students and accepted five inbound.

Gunnedah West has always been involved in hosting, by themselves or jointly, the inbound Group Study Exchange (GSE) teams from overseas – all of which have created lasting memories and friendships between those who were able to participate.  In 1971-72 our successful nominee for a GSE team to Indiana, USA, was Colin Campbell, the local detective. In 1980 Mike Fletcher, Soil Conservationist, was our successful nominee.

Since 1980 International Nights have been held jointly with the Gunnedah club.

Community Service has always been large in Rotary Club of Gunnedah West’s agenda. In the early days, for about five years, Gunnedah West manned the gates at the Gunnedah Show and the bar at the Riverside Racecourse bar. In 1974/75 the old shire caravan was converted and used at Ag-Quip and at the Gunnedah Dog show.

From 1975 onwards, for a few years, a chocolate wheel was conducted at Curlewis. We tried running Art Unions as a money raiser. The first had a Cessna plane as first prize, Bill Brady was promoter and more than $14,000 was raised. One year we tried a large grain silo which was a complete flop – all monies had to be refunded – what a headache!

Other projects were the development of the Rotary West Park in Rodney Street (Gallen Avenue); a picnic area on the Curlewis Road; toilet block at Curlewis; the tuck-shop building at the netball courts; the open air church on Hunt’s lane; the bush seating at the Longmuir Fields and more recently, as a community service effort and fundraiser, the planting of tree tube stock at coal mine sites.

In 1975/76 the Debutante Ball was brought into being by the Rotaryannes under the Presidency of John Nowland,

1976 also saw the establishment of the Gunnedah Rotaract Club. An Interact Club was attempted but failed to materialize.

In 1971 a cattle fund was started and for a few years this was an additional source of income. However, as the number of members involved in farming declined together with drought and low prices, so did the number of Rotarians able to participate decline. An effort was made in 1980 to revitalize this project.

One of the big efforts to raise money and community awareness of the Rotary club of Gunnedah West was the raising of funds towards the Alkira Hostel. A coin trail, termed “A Goldie for an Oldie” was run along Conadilly Street with club members running the trail under the guidance of Past President Gordon Turner. More than $10,000 was raised.

Peter Donaldson’s Year as President 1971-72

“I took over from Roy Waghorn. The Changeover dinner was at the RSL Club. The Vice-President was Ken Thew. Directors were John Nowland; Harry Rank; Rod Dunwoodie and John Warner. Sergeant-at-Arms was Harold Ryman (“a quiet night tonight fellows”) and Bulletin editor was Lionel Walters. The District Governor was Barrie Titcombe of Tamworth. The District was 965 and the club had 37 members of which 35 were active, one senior active and one additional service.

The original bulletin (Kowandi) cover and club banner were designed by Dr. Bob Pilcher.

Club service was active with inter-club visits to North Tamworth, Manilla and Boggabri.

The fine box yielded $340.00 which went to The Rotary Foundation.

The cattle project started with a herd of 8 cows and calves.

We donated equipment to the GS Kidd Memorial School; conducted a Raft-a-Thon; and raised funds totaling $2184.00 through barbecues, a sweep, race club bar and show gate manning.

Club members were also tested as a group for blood donors.

Two young people attended RYLA. There was a reciprocal visit by school children from Balmain and a careers night conducted at the High School.

With International Service, Gunnedah West became a 200% subscriber to The Rotary Foundation. Colin Campbell was a GSE team member to Indiana, USA. We hosted inward YEP student Elizabeth Lizaries from the Philippines, and sent two students, Ray Whitbread and Leonie Hanley as outward exchangees to Japan.

The club history was recorded on film by L J ‘Curley’ Nowland.”

 Edited by CJR, September 2012.