Penarth Rotary Club – established in 1937 – has today confirmed it is to close down after 78 years of continuous service to the town and to the international Rotarian community
The club was started by 24 eminent local business and professional men of the town and grew, at one stage, to a membership of nearly 60. In recent years, however, changes in business commitments and social pressures have made the recruitment of new members difficult and the membership has declined.
In an announcement today the club said “The Rotarians that now remain are getting older both in their ages and membership of the club and no longer find it easy to undertake the activities that make a Rotary Club. It was with great regret, therefore, that the club voted at the beginning of May to disband at the end of June.”
Rotary International’s motto is “Service above Self” – and in Penarth tea parties and entertainment were regularly provided for children, refugees and members of the armed forces throughout the war.
Among those who were welcomed in wartime were the crew of a Norwegian cargo ship that had been torpedoed who found themselves stranded in Penarth. The club looked after them while they were in the town. Many years later, in 1986, one of the crew, Thormod Olsen, returned to Penarth to thank the club for what they had done for him and his ship mates.
After the war Penarth Rotarians were involved in numerous community service projects both at home and overseas – including visiting patients in what was then the Miners’ Ward in Llandough Hospital. The patients there at the time seldom had visitors because of transport difficulties.
Other activities included arranging Christmas parcels and entertainment for older people living on their own and providing holidays for families in need.
The Penarth Rotarians led a major fundraising campaign to raise funds – £20,000 – for the first scanner to be installed in Llandough Hospital, Penarth Rotary also more recently provided a state-of-the-art jukebox and entertainment centre to the Children’s Cancer Ward in the Heath Hospital in Cardiff.
For the past 38 years one of Penarth Rotary’s best known public events was the annual fireworks Fiesta held on every November 5th and organised in partnership with the Round Table and Penarth Rugby Club. The event provided a safe fireworks spectacle on Guy Fawkes’s night for thousands of spectators and, at the same time, raised funds to support charitable activities.
The Rotarians also organised an annual concert at which local children could enjoy performing in front of an audience and displaying their musical skills. This year’s concert was the 24th to be held.
On the international scene Penarth Rotary delivered practical and instantly usable aid for communities in need . It built a house in the “Rotary Village” in Indonesia for victims of the tsunami and regularly provided support for orphanages in India.
The main thrust of Penarth’s Rotary’s international efforts however was in the eradication of polio – a drive started in 1985 and now an initiative taken up by the United Nations, by national governments and by wealthy benefactors like Bill Gates. Work continues to remove the last stubborn pockets of the disease.
Val Cacal the club president says “Thanks to the generosity of the people of Penarth and district, Penarth Rotary Club has contributed many thousands of pounds to this project, of which the movement is justifiably proud, removing as it has the scourge of this terrible disease.”
On Cliff Walk passers-by can also enjoy the use of a map table presented to Mark Rotary’s 70th anniversary which helps walkers identify the places of interest on the other side of the Bristol Channel.
President Val Kacal says. ”Countless numbers of people have benefitted from the time that we have willingly given to helping them. It is, therefore, with the greatest of regret that we find that time has caught up with us and we are no longer able to carry on as we would wish. We hope that Penarth will always remember the work that we did in the lifetime of the club.”
The perhaps most poignant and lasting reminder of Penarth Rotary will be the Penarth Town Clock on the Windsor Road roundabout.
Now an iconic feature of the town it was presented in 1987, to mark Rotary’s Golden Anniversary. Mr Kacal says “Now, it will also serve as a memorial of the Club” .
Rotary Club of Penarth