1.Background to the original formation of Probus
The Probus movement had its genesis in two ancestors- both in the U.K., and both established by Rotary clubs.
The first was known as the Campus Club. It was formed in 1965 by the Rotary Club of Welwyn Garden City, 20 miles north of London. (Its name was derived from the area of the town in which it was conceived-The Campus)
In July 1965, the Vocational Service Committee of the Rotary Club of Caterham commenced its deliberations as to its programme for the ensuing year –never and easy task for that Committee.
In September, the Chairman of the Committee retired from business and very shortly after the inevitable happened- trying to be helpful, he got under his wife’s feet in the kitchen, His wife made a comment to the effect that she was grateful that he went to Rotary once a week, and after a few moments thought she added” Why can’t you do something for the wives of retired men who are not Rotarians?” Although almost an exercise in “Women’s Lib”, thus was Probus born.
Caterham 18 miles from London is very much a dormitory area for commuters and it seemed that after a day in London with a fairly tiring journey each way, the professional and business mend nearing retirement age did not have the same opportunities or inclination for social contacts or for participation in the very considerable charitable activities in the district. Those who lived in Caterham, and were in Rotary, by the very nature of their membership had a large circle of friends and felt that the retired professional and business men who were eligible for Rotary were in a class completely ignored.
The members of the Vocational Service Committee decided that the least that could be done was to organise perhaps a monthly lunch to enable them to meet together for fellowship and social activities in their own club. This idea was put to the Rotary Club Council who agreed with the suggestion and told the Committee to see it through.
The Committee decided to publicize their proposals and called a meeting at a local hotel for all retired professional business men aged 60 and over living in the local government area. They offered light refreshments both solid and liquid and all Rotarians were asked to bring possible members to the meeting which was to be chaired by the then current President of the Rotary Club, Ken Perry who was behind the idea from the start. The meeting was held in February 1966, and 42 possible members turned up. The idea was put to them and adopted with enthusiasm–so much enthusiasm by one present that he thought they should at once start building premises with a billiard saloon, private lines to the London Stock Exchange , restaurant, etc, etc.! Another felt that there would be a wealth of expertise that they ought at once to float a hire purchase company! In both cases they were told that such ambitious matters should be dealt with by the new club after a probationary period and in any event neither men applied for membership!
So the club came into existence on 22nd February 1966, with its official title “The Probus Club of Caterham”
The initial meeting agreed to a monthly luncheon and it was suggested that as the individuals were virtually strangers to each other, it would be advisable if the Rotary Club President took the chair so that members of the new club could get to know each other a little before electing their own officers and drawing up simple rules. The inaugural luncheon of the first Probus Club anywhere in the world, therefore took place on 2nd March 1966 and in May that year a Committee was formed. It was decided that the Committee should consist of a Chairman, Vice Chairman, Hon. Secretary, Hon. Treasurer, Immediate Past Chairman and two ordinary members.
It was felt that members had suffered too many rules and regulations during their working lives and for this reason very simple Probus Club rules were adopted. The Chairman should serve for one year only, and the committee members on average only occupy their posts for two years. This encouraged volunteers to come forward and helped ensure a continual flow of fresh ideas.
Members were asked for suggestions for a name for the club and the usual fatuous suggestions were made (Ancient Lights, Has-Beens, Old and Bold etc.) but at last one of the more erudite members came up with the idea of PROBUS; Professional and Business. He stated that Probus was a Latin word from which probity was derived and the name was adopted with enthusiasm. It was later found that there is a village in Cornwall of that name, and also there was a Roman Emperor of the same name who in his day was famous for his cultivation of wine.
The club started outings by coach once a month-In the spring and summer to stately homes and famous gardens, and in the winter to matinees at London and local theatres. There was some difficulty in deciding from reports and advertisements what would be considered suitable matinees for an audience with an average age of 70.
On one occasion, a rather comely young woman was topless on stage for most of the first act- one or two members walked out, several more were led out by their wives, and most of the remaining members sat on the edge of their seats!
It was found that outings were very popular with the wives of members and in most cases when a member died, the widow liked still to be given the opportunity of going on the outings, so those who wished were retained on the Club’s mailing list. This has continued to the present day, and as a further extension of activities, holidays abroad, have been arranged from time to time.
There are now also bowls and golfing sections and an investment Club. The Club is not a charity, but many of its members are engaged in charitable works.
Right from the start it was decided to have a Christmas lunch with the wives, and because of the size of the club this meant having it at a hotel some way away as there was nowhere locally that could take the numbers involved-180 on one occasion. It is also the practice of the outgoing Committee to have dinner with their wives at the end of the year in office (for which the Committee pays)
“Probus” was recommended to Rotary Clubs by the Council of Rotary International in Britain as a valuable community service project. Probus was introduced into New Zealand in 1974, and to Australia in 1976.
2.Formation of the Probus Club of Blackburn South.
Following a decision made by the Rotary Club of Forest Hill in October 1988 to sponsor their third Probus Club, Rotary Past president Stan Harper was asked to proceed with the formation of a men’s Probus club.
The first interest meeting was held at the Horticultural Centre in Forest Hill on Wednesday February first 1989. At the meeting 30 names were recorded, and 4 weeks later on March first 1989 an organisational meeting was held. The various office bearers were duly elected and installed and Rotary President Ray Smith declared the club’s status as the “Provisional Probus Club of Blackburn South” Foundation membership was 54
On April 5th 1989 the official, accreditation certificate, the President’s Collar of Office, together with a Brass Gong and Gavel were presented to President Ron Henderson.
3.The change to the Men’s Probus Club of Blackburn South into becoming a “Combined Probus club”
In March 2013 the existing members voted overwhelmingly to have the Probus Club of Blackburn South become a Combined Club, and be known in future as The “Combined Probus Club of Blackburn South”.
The positives in this move to become a combined club were as follows :
- Improved Prospects of gaining new members of either gender,
- No change in venue, day or time.
- No change to Constitution
- Club name only changed by the addition of the word Combined
- People who have previously refused to join because we were a single gender club, may now join us.
We will still have a most interesting range of activities available for the benefit and enjoyment of all at the club
*A motion to ratify the significant change of name to the “Combined Probus Club of Blackburn South Inc.” was moved, seconded and passed by all members during the continuation of the 2013 Annual General meeting held on April 3rd 2013.
At the AGM in 2016 the first Lady president was inducted by the outgoing President.The club now has ladies filling various important roles within the club and on the Committee of Management.
The Probus club of Blackburn South Inc.
Commenced in April 1989, initially as a Men”s club, and in recent years the club changed to become a combined club
4.The club celebrated it’s 30th birthday in April 2019. Below is a selection of the photos taken at the 30th birthday meeting.
Club President Harish Shah with the 30th birthday cake
Foundation president Ron Henderson presenting 30th birthday certificate from PSPL president Ron Henderson presenting 30th birthday certificate from PSPL
Foundation members cutting the birthday cake
Remaining foundation members Ron Henderson, Ray Smith, and Alf reside being presented with 30 year membership certificates
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