THE PROBUS CLUB OF EVESHAM HISTORY
On 16th November 1973 eight Evesham Rotarians and their President, Dr W C Astley, together with 17 visitors, gathered together at the Crown Inn in the town. The outcome of this first meeting of like-minded individuals was the formation of the Probus Club of Evesham, made up of retired or semi-retired PROfessional and BUSiness men - hence the acronym PROBUS - who were to meet socially every Thursday morning. The inaugural meeting of the Probus Club of Evesham on the 22nd November 1973, with 22 Founder Members, formulated a Constitution, elected Officers and Committee with Mr Tom Bottomley as Chairman.
Over the ensuing years a wide and varied programme of weekly talks by visitors and members as well as quizzes, debates and visits to places of interest, often including spouses and friends, saw the membership increase.
At the first Annual General Meeting on 14th February 1974, membership stood at 29 and it was agreed the Officers should retain their positions until the next AGM.
On 19th June 1974 the Club had the first of what were to be many enjoyable outings, on this occasion to Powis Castle and Gardens. In August of the same year the Club moved its weekly venue to The Round of Gras at Badsey.
The 100th meeting on 27th November 1975 was followed by a celebratory Lunch.
The Christmas Party in 1978 saw the start of a tradition which continues to this day - gifts to the widows of former members.
The Club moved to a new venue on 24th February 1993 - the BBC Club in Evesham.
The Club celebrated its 25 Anniversary on 26th November 1998 with a special luncheon at Dumbleton Hall, attended by 80 members and guests, including widows of five former members.
In that time the Club had accomplished some 1,250 meetings and achieved a healthy membership of over 50 led by an enthusiastic Committee and all was set fair for the years ahead.
The lifeblood of any organisation is its members and Evesham Probus Club is no exception. There are those who drive the vibrancy and make things happen for the benefit of the Club and its members.
At a Special General Meeting on 19th August 1999 the 'President's Badge of Office ' was presented to the Club by Mrs Bottomley, wife of the founder Chairman,
There are also the 'characters' and the Club has had many over its 40 years. Two memorable individuals come to mind. Cecil Slocombe, an active member for 33 years until he died in February 2008 at the grand age of 97, he was a war hero and former French master at Prince Henry's High School where he was affectionately known as 'Slogger' for his input to the schools cricketing skills. Cecil was not averse to making audible comments, in a stage whisper, regarding the quality or length of a speaker's address whether at a Club meeting or at an after-dinner speech. This was usually met with either gasps or gales of laughter!
The other character was Wolff Wahle, a former German POW from World War II who had been interned locally then after the war worked in the Evesham area and became a “local” he attended the club from1992 until 2012. Wolff's numerous talks and anecdotal stories were frequently peppered with the word 'bloody' and often delivered without notes but always containing humour and great detail.
The Club reached another milestone in 2013 and celebrated its 40th Anniversary at a Celebration Dinner, once again at Dumbleton Hall. A 'local lad made good' and famous TV presenter and humourist, Alistair McGowan proposed the toast to The Probus Club of Evesham. Alistair entertained the guests, the President, Ken Perkins, and members with how his father George ‘Mac’ had himself enjoyed the friendship and camaraderie of Probus.
Forty years on to the day that the Club was founded, on Thursday 21 November 2014, a special 40th Anniversary Morning with 'Old Time Music Hall' entertainment and a lunch was held.
The club moved to its current location The Boathouse Evesham Rowing club.
The key to the past and future of The Probus Club of Evesham is the informal and friendly atmosphere which prevails during these Thursday morning meetings with a programme of talks, events and activities to suit all interests. Humour, laughter and fun ensure that Probus lacks the stuffiness of so many Gentlemen's Clubs. So gentlemen if you are not a member why not come along and join us - and become a part of the Clubs' next 40 years.
We look forward to meeting you.
Minutes of the formation meeting of the Probus Club of Evesham
Proposed EVESHAM PROBUS CLUB.
Formation Meeting held on Friday, 16th November 1973 in the Crown Inn, Evesham, at 3 p.m.
President of Rotary Club of Evesham, Dr W. C. Astley
8 members of the Rotary club
17 visitors interested in formation of a Probus Club
Welcome to visitors and introduction of the Rotarians present, and outline of programme by Rotarian Fred Abbott.
Pres. Bill Astley explained the Rotary Movement and outlined the aims and objects of a Probus Club.
Mr V. Halstead, of the Probus Club of Cheltenham, then addressed the meeting explaining Probus in practice.
A short interval with tea during which questions were invited.
Rotarian Frank Higginson then summed up and put to the meeting the resolution that “a Probus Club of Evesham be formed, to meet in this room each Thursday morning at 10.15 a.m.”
This was resolved unanimously.
Membership forms were then distributed.
Programme for the first meeting was announced. To be held on Thursday next, 22nd November 1973.
Thanks were expressed by one of the Visitors for the work done by Rotarian Fred Abbott in connection with the formation of this club.
Meeting then closed
Thomas W. Bottomley
25 Years of Evesham Probus
On 26th November 1998, 80 members and their guests, including five widows of former members, attended a luncheon at Dumbleton Hall to celebrate the club’s 25th anniversary. The President, Cyril Harrison, presented a cake which was decorated with icing showing the Probus badge and the occasion. This cake was cut by founder member Ron Barlow and at the President’s invitation Ron spoke to the assembled company on 25 years of Probus.
This is a transcript of Ron’s speech.
“We are 25 years old. No, not me personally but the Probus Club of Evesham who held their first meeting on November 22nd 1973.
At that time I was living in Simon de Montfort Drive, when one fine sunny morning (all the days were sunny twentyfive years ago) a ring came on my door bell. It was my next door neighbour Frank Higginson, a retired banker and a Rotarian. “Ron, Rotary are forming a club for retired businessmen, how would you like to come along to our inaugural meeting?”
This rather took me by surprise, I was just 59 years old having taken an early retirement and I did not think this was quite for me. I had a vision of a Derby and Joan club without the Joans, - a men’s version of the W.I. or even a lot of old men playing dominoes and drinking tea and I did not think I was quite ready for this yet, but Frank Higginson was such a nice fellow and I did not want to hurt his feelings, so I said “Yes, I would be happy to go to the meeting.”
I duly turned up at the Crown Inn on Waterside on the fateful day, the club was formed, and yes, I did become a member despite my misgivings. I was one of the 22 present who were designated ‘Founder Members’ and Lo and Behold of the original 22 I am now the sole surviving founder member.
I console myself with the thought that, well, I was only 59, perhaps those who joined with me were already seventy plus in which case they would be around 100 years old if they were with us today.
The day I attended that inaugural meeting was to alter the pattern of my life, for I cannot stress too highly what being a member of Probus has meant to me.
First and foremost I have made many loyal friends, friends that I would not have otherwise known.
Secondly my outlook and knowledge have broadened. I have often likened the club to the Probus Open University, for each week I hear talks and lectures from experts in their field - and you are never too old to learn. I travel the world without even leaving my seat in the Club. Recently in three consecutive weeks I was present at a total eclipse of the sun in Hawaii, I toured modern China and went on a business trip to India - no hassle and no expense.
We soon outgrew our first venue and moved to the Round of Gras at Badsey where Buster Muster was mine host, and those were indeed happy days. We even formed our own concert party and with the assistance of the members’ wives we entertained members and their guests at our social events. And the evening would not be complete without Buster giving us his rendering of ‘Buttercup Joe’. We held our social events at night and I well remember leaving full of good cheer only to find thick fog above and ice under foot. After this we decided that our functions should be held in the daytime.
Changes forced us to leave the ‘Round of Gras’ for another location until, in February 1993, we moved to our present premises in the centre of Evesham where we are very happily established.
Every Thursday morning, rain or shine, I set out from Cheltenham and make a round trip of over 30 miles so that I can meet my friends and enjoy the proceedings of the club, and I would not miss it for the world. Did I say every Thursday morning? There is one exception, have you ever tried to go from Cheltenham to Evesham and back from Evesham to Cheltenham on Gold Cup day? I have, and my advice is “Don’t”!
Now 25 years on and some 1250 meeting later, with a wonderful and enthusiastic team at its head and around 50 members, Probus is as strong as ever and may it continue that way for many years to come.”
The one hundredth meeting of the Probus Club of Evesham
During the summer of 1973, the rotary club of Evesham invited a number of retired business and professional men who lived in the Evesham area to attend their weekly luncheon. Fred Abbott, Chairman of the Community Service Care Committee, put forward the suggestion that a Probus Club be formed in Evesham.
Thanks to the efforts of Fred Abbott and of Frank Higginson who undertook the secretarial work a meeting was called for the16th of November, to be held at the Crown Inn, Waterside (later renamed The Navigation) when the current President of Rotary, Dr. W. Astley, and eight other members of Rotary attended. Rotarian Frank Higginson proposed and it was carried unanimously that 'a Probus Club of Evesham' be formed.
On November 22nd, 1973, the first meeting of Probus took place, twenty-two Founder Members were enrolled. Tom Bottomley was elected Chairman; Alan Ross, Vice-Chairman; George Willcox, Secretary and John Payton, Treasurer. Meetings to be held every Thursday at 10.15 at the Crown. Later, in August 1974, a move was made to The Round of Gras, Badsey and the meeting time made 10.30.
The first speakers were our own members, George Willcox and Watkyn Griffiths. They were followed in later weeks by Tom Bottomley, Trevor Bowles, Reg Owles, and John Payton, thus proving from the start that our members had life stories to tell that interested other members.
Our first visiting speaker was on January 17th, 1974 when Harry Hargreaves spoke on "Rambling". He was followed in February by Mr L.Stones, the Deputy Governor of Long Lartin prison.
The first Annual General Meeting was held on14th February 1974 when it was agreed that the present Officers should continue in office until the time of the next A.G.M. Membership now stood at twenty-nine.
Our own members continued to give talks in February and March, 1974 with Ron Barlow, Alan Ross, John Payton, Bill Green and Tom Bottomley. A particularly interesting visitor was Fred Archer of Ashton-under-Hill, who entertained us with stories of country life around Bredon Hill.
In April and May, 1974, visits were received from Mr Staite of Staite's nurseries, Inspector Malcom Cummings of the Evesham Police, Harold Casey late of the B.B.C., Mr W. Beckley on sport, Mr George Aldridge on Russia with our own members Norman Finlay, Bill Green, and Leslie Poulter.
On June 19th, 1974 the first club outing took place when twenty-seven members and friends visited Powis Castle.
Two delightful talks were given by the Misses Lewis who spoke to us on their visit to Ethiopia on 11th July, 1974, and of their visit to Italy when they again visited us in 1975
The first of "Any Questions" was held in July when the panel consisted of Watkyn Griffiths, John Payton and Bill Green. This was repeated on the 5th of September with the same team. Visiting speakers in August and September were Harry Hart (Silversmith), George Carney (Administrator Evesham Hospitals), Ron Sidwell on Market Gardening, Harry Pilkington of Cheltenham on Model Railways,
Our own members in this period included Harold Kennedy and Bob Forrester.
An outing to St. Pauls Cathedral took place on 26th September, 1974.
It was with regret that in October we had to announce the passing of one of the first members to join Probus, Alfred Eyre.
Speakers in the end part of the year included Mr David Glazebrook of The Pershore College of Horticulture, Mr Fryer on collecting old books and from our own members, Watkyn Griffiths (Old Days of the Pharmacy), Roy Cureton (The Gas Industry), Reg Owles (Wood Carving) and George Willcox on his recent visit to Poland.
The first Annual Dinner was held at the Round of Gras, and a very enjoyable evening was held with seventy-two members and friends attending.
Into 1975 with the unfortunate news of the death of our Vice Chairman, Alan Ross, after a long illness and later in January of the passing of Jim Dale. At the start of the year our membership stood at forty-four.
Visiting speakers in the early part of 1975 included Major John Cheney (Beagling), George Aldridge (Russia Part II), Dr J.Woodman (Campden Research Station), Mrs Beesley (Italian Renaissance Art), Col. Richard Burlingham, Denis Falvey (Rome & Augustus) and our own members Stan Thomas and George Willcox.
A further "Any Questions" session was held on February 6th with John Major, Cecil Slocombe and Bill Redman providing the answers.
The second Annual General Meeting was held on February 2nd and the new Chairman for the coming year was elected, Watkyn Griffiths, with Harold Kennedy as Vice Chairman. The Secretary and Treasurer remained in office, Ron Barlow was elected Assistant Secretary and Roy Cureton Programme Secretary. The Committee was Frank Davis, Norman Finlay, Trevor Bowles and Reg Owles.
A speaker who has made three visits to Probus is David Abbott, who on different visits has shown films on Australia, New Zealand, India and New Guinea. Mr Abbott is off on his travels again and has promised to visit us in 1978.
Speakers during the April, May, June period were Ron Edwards (The Penine Way), 'Buster' Mustoe (Tales of a Landlord), J.P.Nelson (Upper Avon Navigation Trust), Major Webb (Wine Making), Mr Kearst (The A.A.), Ron Harley (Advanced Motoring) and our own members Ron Chalkley, Jim Hodson, Stan Thomas and Tom Bottomley and one morning with a Welsh flavour Trevor Bowles, Ron Chalkley with Watkyn Griffiths in the chair.
A most enjoyable visit to the Fire Service Training College at Moreton-in-Marsh took place in June.
In July and August visits from Rev. David Hayes (son-in-law of John Major), George Watton (Orchids), Mrs Smith (Fuschias), Pat Rust (Wychavon D.C.), Mr Careless (M.E.B.) and our own members, Leslie Poulter on his visit to the U.S.A., John Payton on "Characters I Have Known", and a most enthralling talk by Bob Forrester of his war-time experiences and his escapes from prison camp in Poland to Russia.
It was with regret that the death of Bill Shute, a founder member was announced at the end of July, 1975.
Speakers in the period September to November 1975. Talks from our own members, Reg Owles (Life in the R.A.F.), Bill Hopkins (Fossils), Leslie Poulter (Early Flying Days), Jim Hodson (Water Undertakings), and Ron Barlow (The Envelope). Visiting Speakers were Godfrey Baseley on the early days of "The Archers". Charles Walker, a film on Midland Canals, Bill Morgan on "The Royal Palace of Westminster, Wg. Cmdr. Davis, "Trenchard's Brats" and Derek Coupland from Long Lartin on "Prison Guard Dogs".
A Conference of Probus Clubs in the South West was held in Bristol and attended by Watkyn Griffiths, Tom Bottomley, David Heath and Ron Barlow.
In October Roy Cureton left Evesham to reside in the South of England and our thanks are due to him for acting as our Programme Secretary and arranging such an interesting series of talks. Cecil Slocombe took over from Roy and as talks are already arranged up till March next year it looks as though Cecil will prove a worthy successor to Roy.
Other visits have been made to the Arboretum at Westonbirt, The Horticultural College at Pershore, The Royal Worcester Porcelain Works, Postlip Paper Mills at Winchcombe and future visits are planned to West Mercia Police Headquarters at Hindlip Hall and Bulmers Cider Factory, Hereford.
This report would not be complete without a mention of the help given to those less fortunate than ourselves. Members regularly help John Major with driving and crewing the Wheelchair Bus for the Fellowship of the Handicapped and for the past two years we have distributed collecting boxes in the region on behalf of the Blind.
What of the future? - With a full complement of fifty members and an attendance at our meetings of around forty and now our100th meeting, The Probus Club of Evesham can be said to be fully established.
The success of the club is entirely due to the members themselves, with the happy spirit of friendship and co-operation that exists between them. Long may it continue.
November 1975 R.F.BARLOW
President’s Badge of Office
In July 1976 Mrs Bottomley, wife of the founder chairman, offered to present the club with a Probus “President’s Badge of Office”.
A special General Meeting was held on 19th August 1976 when resolutions were passed to:
Accept with grateful thanks Mrs Bottomley’s generous gift.
To amend Rule 3 in the Constitution to read “President”, “Vice President” etc instead of “Chairman”, “Vice Chairman”.
At the Annual Dinner held at the Round of Gras on 3rd December 1976 the President’s Badge of office was presented to the President, Norman Finley, by Tom Bottomley.
The lectern featuring the Probus logo and which graces the top table at every meeting was crafted by Founder Member Reg Owles and presented to the club by him in 1976.
Gavel and Board.
The President calls us to order with a gavel and board which were presented to the club by former member Arthur Henshaw in 1979.
Former member Oswald Kay put his screen at the disposal of the club on permanent loan. On Oswald’s death in 1977 his wife gave the screen to the club and it was dedicated to the memory of Oswald Kay and his friend David Heath.
This screen suffered the ravages of time and constant use and Jack Williams donated a replacement in 2003. It has since been replaced by the wall mounted screen purchased jointly by Evesham Probus and the BBC Club.
New Collar for Badge of Office.
During his presidency in 1991-92 Keith Ross recognised the need for a new ribbon for the President’s badge of office. The old one had become somewhat worn and had little space left for names of future presidents. He presented a new ribbon at the end of his presidency.
An unusual gift was made by Ray Gurden. Ray used to hand out boiled sweets to members at every meeting. After he died in 1997 his widow, Beryl, sent a cheque saying that it was Ray’s wish that we should continue to enjoy sweets at our meetings. This gift lasted for about four years. He also sent two bottles of Chivas Royal Salute 12 year whisky which lasted about four weeks!
When Bill Lowe (President 1993) left the area in 1997 he gave a cheque to Probus and asked the Secretary to spend its value to the benefit of all members. It was used to purchase a radio microphone.
Although this was used successfully for several years it was used in conjunction with the BBC’s amplifier in the meeting room and problems were encountered when the amplifier settings were changed by other users, and connectors sometimes missing. Ken Perkins, when Vice President in February 2005, designed and constructed an independent system using a lead microphone to a small amplifier with wireless connection to two speakers. Ken donated that system to the club.
Gifts to widows.
In 1978 the club first gave Christmas presents to widows of former members and has continued the practice since.
Cecil Slocombe legacy.
Cecil Slocombe, who died on 14th Feb 2008 after 33 years membership of the club’s 34 year existence, willed a gift of £300 to the club. At the time of publishing this updated version of Probus History the club committee is considering how best to use this legacy to perpetuate Cecil’s memory.