Laurie looks back on an eventful year as President of his club

Jim Dunn wearing the presidential chain of office of the Morpeth Rotary Club that had been passed to him by Laurie Walker.
Jim Dunn wearing the presidential chain of office of the Morpeth Rotary Club that had been passed to him by Laurie Walker.

Morpeth Rotary Club

LAURIE Walker described the highs and lows of the last 12 months of Morpeth Rotary when he gave his farewell speech to the club at the end of his presidential year.

He had found the original letter inviting him to join the club on November 6, 2001, and named those responsible for getting him into this difficult, arduous and exhilarating year.

He blamed the late Dr Jack King and retired teacher Simon Foley for talking him into joining. The club at that time was based at the Queen’s Head, but moving on from what he called his ‘personal ramblings’ he looked at the events of the last year.

The District Governor of Rotary in the North East had set up a meeting in Rothbury to try to start a Rotary club in Coquetdale under the sponsorship of Morpeth Rotary, but for the second time the numbers were not there and it did not happen.

Morpeth Rotary already has three members from Rothbury and more would be welcome.

Then there were a few sleepless nights when the rain began to fall and it looked as though there would be a repeat of the devastating Morpeth floods in 2008. Thankfully, the rain stopped, but not before 50 people were flooded again.

Morpeth Rotary presented a cheque for £500 and other cash from Rotary clubs in different parts of the country.

Highlights during the year included the most remarkable, fantastic and memorable experience of a visit to a service at the Hindu Temple in the west end of Newcastle, followed by a communal meal with all who attended.

Laurie had previously been to India but found this an event beyond compare. Newcastle Rotarian Nitin Shukla organised it and was thanked again.

Thanks also went to the Rotarians who organised for members to go to Carlisle Park to plant the Jubilee trees. It was a dismal, wet and muddy day but they were all planted successfully and gave the club a great sense of achievement.

He had recently looked at the trees, including the Morpeth Rotary Jubilee oak that he had planted. They were all in good health, although the mud was still so bad that his dog would not follow him and he slid into a holly bush.

Another memorable event was an October walk on Holy Island with remarkably good weather. During the day, they had the interest and delight of seeing the Trinity House support vessel Galatea working on buoys off shore (one of the Rotary members is Master of Trinity House, Newcastle) and of seeing and hearing a large number of seals basking in the sun on nearby sand flats.

Laurie welcomed the high quality, informative talks that had been arranged for members during the year.

Many of the speakers were nationally recognised experts, for example London-based Tim Duffy, son of Rotary member Michael, CEO of M&C Saatchi, who spoke on multi-national advertising.

A very confident and impressive Sarah Cawse, a young lady from the USA, spoke of her year of study at Newcastle University as a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar.

There was Peter Middleton who turned up with his birds from the Trewitly Owl Trust. His partly tame raven did mess the floor but was careful to avoid the carpet.

There were memorable talks from some of our own members, including David Richardson on directing musical theatre at Rothbury and Alex Swailes on being the Gadgie. There was also the landmark and highly successful 75th anniversary celebration and dinner.

The year was not without sadness with the death of two members. Honorary member Robert Green had not been able to attend for some time, while Alan Smith, ex-headteacher and specialist in education at Ponteland Teacher Training College, had been able to attend Rotary every week until just before he died.

A collection at Morrisons again provided the main source of finance for local charity support and more large-scale activities must be considered. The club did well on fund-raising events that were dedicated to raising money for specific causes.

For example, the Christmas concert raised £750 for WaterAid and some funding for the Ellington Colliery Band and the Methodist Church.

In addition, money has been donated to the following local, national and international good causes and organisations: Barnabas Safe and Sound £300, Citizens Advice £250, Samaritans (Ashington) £200, the Stroke Association £100, Multiple Sclerosis SE Northumberland £250, Alzheimers Society (Morpeth) £250; Riding for the Disabled (Morpeth group) £100, Trewitly Owl Trust £50, 4th Morpeth Scouts £100 and Railway Children International £100.

He thanked the members of the Rotary-governing council for their support and all members for their encouragement. It had been a pleasure and a privilege to serve the club as President. A presidential handover has taken place, passing the chain of office from Laurie to Jim Dunn, who will wear it in 2013/14.