Rotarians hear of famous predecessors

A very unusual and entertaining ‘history lesson’ was given recently to Ellon Rotary Club by club member Doug Westland. President Bob Black first introduced the speaker by saying that Doug has been a Rotarian for 37 years, with a very distinguished record in Rotary, including being District Governor in 1999-2000 and being the recipient of five Paul Harris Awards for outstanding service.

Doug then said that he had chosen as his topic some famous Rotarians world-wide and particularly the great Sir Harry Lauder who was a member of the Glasgow Rotary Club.

Doug surprised listeners by first mentioning three famous music composers, Franz Lehar who was a member of Vienna Rotary Club, Jean Sibelius from the Helsinki Rotary Club and Sigmund Romberg from the New York Rotary Club. Other Rotarians mentioned were Admiral Richard Byrd, the intrepid Arctic explorer from the Rotary Club of Winchester, Virginia and Sir Nigel Gresley from Doncaster Rotary Club, remembered by many as the name of a famous steam locomotive. Duke Kahanamoku was a member of Honolulu Rotary Club and an Olympic gold medallist who was regarded as the father of surfing. Clarence Birdseye from the Rotary Club of Gloucester, Mass. USA, was the developer of a process for quick freezing food.

Sir Harry Lauder is probably the internationally best-known Scottish Rotarian and was once referred to by Winston Churchill as “Scotland’s greatest ambassador”. He was born in Edinburgh in 1870, worked in mines around Hamilton for about 10 years, during which time he was determined to become an entertainer. He became a member of Glasgow Rotary Club in its founding year 1912.

Harry was a robust patriot and raised huge sums of money for World War I charities, establishing the Harry Lauder Million Pound Fund for maimed Scottish soldiers and sailors. When in France he entertained troops in the trenches, coming under fire on several occasions. Sadly, his own son, Capt John Lauder was killed in action at Poizers at the age of 25. Harry never fully got over the loss and later penned one of his best melodies in his son’s memory, ‘Keep right on to the end of the road’.

As a result of his war work Harry was made a Knight of the British Empire in 1919. In the 1920’s he was a frequent speaker at Rotary functions throughout the world and during World War II he again entertained the troops and broadcast over the radio despite his advancing years. Eventually in February 1950 Sir Harry died at his home in Strathaven.

In the vote of thanks, Rotarian Bob Duncan said that all those present had not only been enjoyably entertained but were also reminded that many internationally-known people in the past were active Rotarians.