Rotary Club of Letchworth Howard

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The Club was formed in May 1976, when the original Letchworth Garden City Club was thought to have become too large and unwieldy.  It takes its name from Ebenezer Howard, who was responsible for founding Letchworth as the first Garden City in 1903.  The Club officially received its charter on 30 July 1976 as Club number 1271 in the 108 (later1080) district at a meeting at the Broadway Hotel with Geoffrey Howard, the grandson of Ebenezer Howard, as guest of honour, together with representatives of the Rotary Clubs of Letchworth Garden City, Baldock, Hitchin, Biggleswade and Stevenage. 

In the beginning the Club did not have a bell, which was traditionally to be sounded at the beginning and end of each Rotary meeting, so one of the earliest members, the late Ted Shaw, presented the Club with such a bell, which has the name “Lord Granville” cast on it, though research reveals no ship of this name.  It is thought to be possibly from a small vessel of the Irish trade between 1870 and 1885.  The bell did not have a stand so Gordon Innes, a machine designer, carefully laid out the design with 36 teeth.  Unfortunately once the stand had been made was it pointed out that the standard Rotary wheel has only 24 teeth, representing the number of hours in the day.  This brought the comment that “this Club works time and a half”.

Letchworth Howard originally started meeting as a lunchtime club, but with many of the members working, this became more difficult, and now meets on Monday evenings at the Broadway Hotel in Letchworth at 6.45 for 7pm usually on the 2nd Monday of the month.

Rotary, which had been launched in Chicago in 1905, was originally an all male movement, and remained so until the late-1980s, when an American Club was sued for sexual discrimination and lost.  International Clubs were allowed to decide for themselves by a 60% majority of members whether or not to admit ladies, with the Letchworth Howard opting to become a “dual gender” Club.  The first lady member in the whole 1080 District, Sue Cheshire, joined the Club in 1989 and to date the Club has had 4 Lady Presidents, the first being Bernie Osborne, who was the first Lady President in the whole 1080 District.

With the Rotary motto of “service before self” the Letchworth Howard Club has supported many fund raising activities down the years in a variety of different ways, including darts marathons, quiz evenings and even once a sponsored slim.  The most recent success was the inauguration of the Hertfordshire Air Ambulance, thanks to funding achieved with the co-operation of other Rotary Clubs in the area.

Many other charities have benefitted from the activities of the Letchworth Howard Club, by no means all of them local.  One of the first was eye camps in India, with the money raised providing treatment for sufferers from various eye ailments in up-country villages, and the Club regularly supplies Aqua boxes, filled with practical every day necessities of life, as well as the facility to purify local water supplies, to less developed countries where there is little access to clean water.

Although many different charities have benefitted on a regular basis, each President has had his or her particular favourite good cause.  These have included a handbook for the retired, action for multiple sclerosis, an office arranging part-time work for the retired, the supply of a heart defibrillator, Sue Ryder homes, the blind/deaf charity Sense, the National Deaf Children’s charity, Samaritans, Save the Children, MIND, Home Start, the Breakaway Club, and several others.