Birth of the Club

The Birth of west Wollongong Rotary

  • Harvey Chesterfield-Evans Charter Member Past President  Paul Harris Fellow Honorary Member 2003

Early in 1964, twenty-eight gentlemen in a wide variety of disciplines were extended the compliment of being invited to become Charter Members of a new Rotary Club, The Rotary Club of West Wollongong.

On the night of 23.3.64, at the Grand Hotel, the only suitable venue in those days, we became Rotarians. Our mentor that night was Jack David of the Rotary Club of Wollongong. Our first President, Elwyn Mackay, was wisely chosen, for, as one wag put it as a Primary School Headmaster, he was the only one to best tell Rotarians to sit down shut up, and listen!

A custom in those days was to sing at some stage of the meeting from the Rotary Song Book of American melodies. It soon became evident there were no Pavarotti’s in our group and fruitless interruption to affable conversation was created so the songbooks became safely stored.

Another custom then prevailing was that no alcoholic drinks be brought to the table. Early enquiry from Charles Jackson, an approaching D.G., ascertained that there was no rule to that effect, much to everyone’s relief, and the avoidance of many fines.

Early in our first year we learned that a small building adjacent to Cram House for Crippled Children needed to be converted into a schoolroom. This entailed wiring, carpentry, plumbing and painting. It was accomplished one very busy weekend, affording all of us Rotary new chums great satisfaction and enthusiasm for future projects, and a powerful thirst.

The night of its Charter the Club saw the beginning of many lasting friendships as we came to know more about what each other did and thus the philosophy of strong fellowship began. This still remains a notable characteristic of our club, though many members have come and gone. When Rotary International changed the rule a few years ago we were able to admit women as members. This move has made our Club even better.

Now in its 40th year the Rotary Club of West Wollongong remains as vibrant as ever.

Avenues of fund raising have naturally varied over time but those involved could never forget the many “Hillview” years. Donations on Change over Nights remain widespread, significant and purposeful as our Club continues to best serve our fellow humans. 

Harvey Chesterfield-Evans 

  • A Message from the President Kim Hockings
  • President 2003 - 2004

As we approach the 40th anniversary of the charter of the Rotary Club of West Wollongong  Inc. it is a fitting time to review the history of the club. This history recognises the contributions of the many men and more recently women who have been members of the club.

The history also recognises each of those members who have been President of the club, most often for one year of that 40-year history; it also will be invaluable for new members to obtain an understanding of Rotary and to hopefully carry on the tradition of the club into the future.

When you read the pages which follow you will see a history of “Service Above Self” in a special atmosphere of Rotary fellowship at West Wollongong. Over the years the club has built a chapel at the Wollongong Hospital; annually opened the former State Governors’ country residence for seventeen years (“Hillview” at Sutton Forest), the Sea, Food and Sail Festival at Wollongong Harbour for  nine years and has operated the Wollongong Capsule Service since 1991.

Funds raised from these activities have benefited a myriad of organisation including the Rotary Foundation, Illawarra Society for Crippled Children, the Wollongong Hospital, Australian Rotary Health Research Fund, an orphanage in India and a village in China, whilst club members have travelled to Fiji, New Guinea and recently to the Philippines on Rotary projects.

The club has consistently had an emphasis on helping young people with sponsorship to attendance at the Rotary Youth Leadership Award seminars, international youth exchange, the Model United Nations Assembly and Group Study Exchange. Our members have not only been active in the club but also many have made outstanding contributions to District 9750 (formerly 975).

Forty years is a long time to belong to a Rotary club and whilst two charter members remain with the club, Ron King and Harvey Chesterfield-Evans, one gets the feeling that “the changing of the guard” is taking place with a new era in the making and hopefully another forty years of this great club ahead.

The preparation of this history has been a labour of love for Barry Blundell. The thanks of all members past and present go to Barry for his work in researching the club history and then to document it in the present form.

To find out more about the first forty years of our club, please read on....

Kim Hockings

Author’s Preface

   Barry L. Blundell  Past President 1989 – 1990  Paul Harris Fellow

It is both an honour and a pleasure to be given the opportunity of writing the history of this great club.  One thing became apparent when reviewing forty years, the club has a ‘soul that this soul is based on fellowship, whilst people visiting the club cannot help but feel the spirit within the members and the fun each meeting becomes.
Upon browsing through this book one would conclude the format is different to the ‘norm’. Considerable effort has been put into making the reader feel that they are at every meeting of every year and besides discovering old members, the guest speakers are also there to take you back to the past. Some of the jokes that occur at meetings are also included to set the scene and provide the atmosphere.
As one would expect, gathering sufficient information to provide a meaningful history was exceedingly difficult to find, so it was therefore left to interviews with available past and present members and by raiding their ‘treasure trove’ of memorabilia that led to the publication of this book of memories.
Some presidential years provided a wealth of information whilst others had very little, thus the reader will find a great variance in individual presentations. However, the main focus was to cover as much of the club’s history as possible and to make it interesting to read and yet retain as much information as possible.
Having been in Rotary for twenty years I found it difficult to give new members or prospective members anything comprehensive to read that will give them an understanding of the club and district functions. It has usually been left to ‘word of mouth, but I have taken the liberty of adding extra information covering basic Rotary and its structure wherever possible.
It is sincerely hoped that all new members of the club will gain a better understanding of Rotary through the publication of this book.
My sincere gratitude goes to my wife Jessie who laboriously typed and helped structure and corrected the draft several times. A big thank you also to Noel Watt for finding photographs etc., Kath Ridley, Arthur Booth, Jason Hedley, Pat Roberts, Kim Hockings and Krys Dunn for battling with the typing. To John Chaplin, John Bown, Anne Mitchell, Noël Watt and Pam Webster for proof reading and to Bob Armessen for the copying of the ‘Presidential Years’
Finally, it is my dearest hope that the history as presented is acceptable to past presidents, to the Board and to the club.
It remains only for me to thank PP Bill Fancourt for introducing me to this friendly club in 1984, and now twenty years have gone!

Barry L. Blundell