Celebrating 93 years

On the 18 February 1924 a group of like minded individuals gathered together not too far away from
here and chartered the Rotary Club of Hamilton, only the fifth Rotary club in New Zealand at the
time. It initially began with 21 members, and their inaugural meeting was held on 23 November
1923, but the first club charter was not received until 18 February 1924.
Our first club president was Harry Valder, a general manager of Ellis & Burnand (a timber company)
and he held office for two years from 1923 – 1925. Valder represented the ideals of Rotary, as a
businessman and social reformer, and his passion was improving industrial relations for workers in
New Zealand. He later went on to serve as District Governor in 1932.
Some 93 years later almost to the day – similar, community minded individuals still gather and still
continue to devote their time, effort and resources to both the Hamilton community and to the
national and international community beyond through the Rotary network.

Let us share with you now a few facts about our club’s history:

  • The Rotary Club of Hamilton was the 5th club to be formed in New Zealand
  • The club is the foundation club for the present district 9930.
  • The club has sponsored the establishment of a dozen other clubs in Hamilton and the
    greater Waikato region.
  • Women only became members of the club in 1993, but we think they have more than made
    up for lost time with their contribution

We would also like to share two examples of historic projects which our club has been instrumental in,
and have left their mark on our local and Rotary community.
The first comes from the 1930’s. During this period the club was involved in a number of activities
aimed at alleviating the suffering of the unemployed and distressed. In 1936 the YMCA was in crisis
as its resources were not enough for the needs it was facing. The club took a special interest in
helping, and supplied many of the YMCA board members. Club member Bill Luxton (later president
1958/59) owned a property in Pembroke St, which he made available to the Club on generous terms.
It was on this site, that the present YMCA building was erected in stages as the necessary funds were
raised.
In the 1976/77 year the club president was Wilbur King whose major interest was in Rotary youth
activities. He was noted for his work in the establishment of the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards
(RYLA) which continue today adding much value to young people’s lives.
These events are notable in the legacy they have made for our community – an opportunity that
exists for every Rotarian today.
Over the years we have:

  • Provided Financial assistance to fund a coast guard rescue vessel at Raglan
  • Aid for schools in the Pacific Islands by the provision of tools, stationary and books
  • Provided experience for school leavers and career evenings for students
  • Organised the Hamilton to Waihi bike ride
  • Contributed to a vast range of Rotary programmes such as ROMAC, Interplast, and
    Shelterbox
  • Organised and helped the Hamilton Lantern Festival
  • Contributed to the development of the Hydrotherapy Pool at Te Rapa – Ron Hancock was
    one of the driving forces behind Rotary’s contribution to this valuable Hamilton facility.

A few weeks ago we also had a very timely reminder of the clubs involvement in the JR MacKenzie
Trust. Since the Trusts inception in 1940 the club has had continuous representation on the Trust’s
board. Current club members Murray Day and David Wright have both served on the board and
Patrick Cummings is currently in his second term as chair. The club is extremely thankful for the
significant contribution that those members have made and are continuing to make on behalf of the
club.
Our fundraisers continue with great success, two of which deserve mention if only to acknowledge
the people who make it happen year after year.
The club’s annual Golf Day commenced in 1989 and has been held every year since thanks to the
efforts of Murray Day , Pat Phillips, Richard Small and more recently Philip Curnow. Since its
inception this event has raised more than $350,000.
The clubs other big fundraiser is the Chefs Night Out held each year in late May or early June. A large portion of the proceeds go to the Hospice Waikato on Cambridge Road. This has been a true labour of love for Fred and Yvonne
Phillips – it is rumoured that they both had to dine out in each restaurant a number of times before
any chef would commit. Fred and Yvonne, we appreciate the gastronomic sacrifice you have made
on our behalf.
The club is always looking for the right opportunities to expand our reach and our generosity. It is
estimated that in the years that Hamilton Rotary has been in existence, we have contributed well
over $1 million in funds to our community in today’s terms. That’s a sum worth being proud of.