Club History

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A Brief History of the Rotary Club of Swaffham

Written by Rtn. Neville Robinson (May 2005)
Updated by Rtn. Denis Bishop (July 2009)


The Rotary Club of Swaffham was formed in 1969.

The club started with 21 members, with Rtn. Peter Dobbs being the only remaining active founder member. Mike Pilkington, our honorary member for the past few years, was also a founder member.

The first President was Rtn. Ken Reeve who was the Manager at the National Westminster Bank in Swaffham, and he is now a member of the Rotary Club of Lowestoft.

At the inaugural meeting on the 9th June 1969, there were 19 Rotary members and 112 guests present from twenty Rotary clubs, coming from as far away as Brentwood and Burnham-on-Crouch. The Chairman of Swaffham Round Table and two members of the press were the only non-Rotarians present.

Founder Members
K H Reeve J Gethin
G A Chapman M Laing
T A Akers H Livingstone
J Conlin W Marshall
D Bedford H Mitchell
H Blackburne G Newman
N Ellis C N Phillips
V Keller C Rawlings
J Mitchell G Scher
J O’Connor D Simpson
J Burton J Wildbur
M Cox D Wright
P Dobbs M Pilkington


The first Charter Night was held on the 19th November 1970 in the Assembly Rooms in Swaffham. It took the form of a Dinner Dance, with a total of 120 Rotarians and guests in attendance (as noted from the visitor’s book). The menu for the evening included:

Cream of Tomato Soup
Salmon Mayonnaise
Roast Norfolk Turkey with all the trimmings
Fresh Fruit Salad
Cheese & Biscuits

The first additional member of the club was Rtn. Dermot Impson, and his name was added to the first club card for 1970/71.


In 1968 Round Table revived the Swaffham Carnival which had lapsed some years earlier. In 1972 Swaffham Rotary joined Round Table in the organisation of this event and continued to do so for a number of years.


Jean Claude Triboulet was the first visitor from the Rue Club on the 4th August 1975. He arrived with family members following interest we had shown in twinning with them. Later that year, five members of this club visited Rue on a two day visit to make further contact.


Twinning resulted and the first visit by the Rue club to Swaffham was on the 29th March 1976. Since that time visits have alternated, the only year that was missed was when travel between our two countries was restricted due to foot and mouth disease in Britain.

Rtn. Dick Emmett and his committee formed the PROBUS Club in 1976. This continues to flourish.


1980 saw the formation of the Swaffham Rotaract Club.


The presentation meeting was held on the 14th January 1981. Neville Robinson’s son Tim Robinson was the first President, and there were 18 members. The club closed in 1991.

For the record, and to compare with today’s prices, on the 13th September 1981 the Club Charter Night Dinner was a five course meal as follows:

Egg Mayonnaise
Soup & Rolls
Roast Beef, Creamed Potatoes, Carrots & Peas
Fresh Fruit Salad
Cheese & Biscuits

The cost agreed with the caterer Mr Milne was £1.30 per head. Tickets were sold at £2.00 per head.

Although there is no formal record, it is believed that the dinner was held in the Assembly Rooms, and that 160 tickets were sold.


In 1992 four member families hosted Chika a student from Japan for a year, and in return the grand daughter of a member, Norman Phillips, spent a year in Japan living with Chika’s family.


1996 and this time Pollyana from Brazil was hosted for a year. Both girls went to school in Swaffham, and were able to speak good English at the end of their year.


Mike Cornwell led the GSE team to Africa in 1997. The visit prompted him to raise money on his return to help the people he had met. About £12,000 was raised and with a matching grant the total came to £24,000. As a result of this and other efforts, Mike was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship.


Malcolm Whittley was District Governor for the year 2003/2004, and a very successful conference organised by club members was held in Norwich.


The Club agreed to form a separate company (Swaffham Rotary Bears Ltd.) to produce, manage and market the Swaffham Centennial Steiff Bear. The project operated for 3 years and funds raised were paid into the Rotary Club of Swaffham Charity Account.

First edition of the Club Newsletter “The Pedlars Post” was published and distributed to all members, Honorary members and past members where possible in August 2004. The first editor was Rtn. Denis Bishop and others involved in the next few years included, Alan Henry, Keith Robinson, plus Denis Bishop and Alan Henry AGAIN!

Denis Bishop has returned for a third term as editor, with Jane Harding having performed the role twice.


It is 100 years since Rotary was founded by Paul Harris in Chicago, on the 23rd February 1905, and to celebrate, Swaffham Rotary Club held a civic reception at the Ecotech Centre in Swaffham. More than 130 invited guests attended, representing some forty local organisations who were provided with tables to advertise their work and display their literature.

2005 saw the first lady member join the Swaffham Club. Dorothy Pulsford-Harris joined in November 2005 and was quickly followed by four further lady members. The Club continues to welcome female members into the club.

The Club also launched its website this year which has been very successful in promoting the Club activities and the service to the community. Many thanks the Ellen Vardy for developing and updating the website on the club’s behalf.


Membership in 2006 stands at 29 plus 4 honorary members. Over the years, 72 other individuals have been members, and of these 24 are now deceased.

The Honorary Members this year included Baroness Gillian Shephard, who along with husband Tom, continues to be a great supporter of the Swaffham Club and of Rotary in general.


Working with the Worcester Rotary Club of South Africa, a Matching Grant for Cataract operations with £1028.00 being provided by the Clubs Foundation Committee.

Two RYLA candidates were sponsored by the Club.

The Clubs offer to host the incoming GSE Team from Australia was accepted, and the Team later arrived in Swaffham in May 2008.


In March 2008, Rtn. Claire Dunne and husband Liam were part of an international Rotary team to visit India and work on the construction of a school IT facility and also take part in the Polio Plus vaccination project.

Rtn. Denis Bishop was given the opportunity to work with District 1080 as an Assistant Governor for the West of the district.

PDG Malcolm Whittley continues to be heavily involved with the RIBI Environment Group and is also represented on District Com/Voc, Leadership and Training committee and the Charitable Trust. Dorothy Pulsford-Harris is a member of the District Youth Opportunities Committee.

Past Swaffham Presidents

2017 to 2018 – Bill Muir
2016 to 2017 – David Morris
2015 to 2016 – Denis Bishop
2014 to 2015 – Jane Harding
2013 to 2014 – John Wallace
2012 to 2013 – Claire Dunne
2011 to 2012 – Alan Jones
2010 to 2011 – Dorothy Pulsford-Harris
2009 to 2010 – Stephen Ward
2008 to 2009 – Colin Evans
2007 to 2008 – Simon Thair
2006 to 2007 – Alan Henry
2005 to 2006 – Keith Robinson
2004 to 2005 – Nigel Chambers
2003 to 2004 – Denis Bishop
2002 to 2003 – Gerry Burns
2001 to 2002 – David Impey
2000 to 2001 – Mike Lucas
1999 to 2000 – Chris Parsons
1998 to 1999 – John Green
1997 to 1998 – Mike Cornwell
1996 to 1997 – Derek Edwards
1995 to 1996 – Dennis Baldwin
1994 to 1995 – Malcolm Whittley
1993 to 1994 – Jim Bushby
1992 to 1993 – Stuart Nairn
1991 to 1992 – Hugh Green
1990 to 1991 – Arthur Royall
1989 to 1990 – Nigel Chambers
1988 to 1989 – Ron Coates
1987 to 1988 – Bill Pratchett
1986 to 1987 – Robin Rayner
1985 to 1986 – Tony Hopping
1984 to 1985 – Eddie Jenkins
1983 to 1984 – Eric Matthews
1982 to 1983 – Mike Cornwell
1981 to 1982 – Peter Dobbs
1980 to 1981 – Malcolm Whittley
1979 to 1980 – Dick Emmett
1978 to 1979 – Derek Simpson
1977 to 1978 – Neville Robinson
1976 to 1977 – Martin Laing
1975 to 1976 – Tony Hopping
1974 to 1975 – Mike Pilkington
1973 to 1974 – David Bedford
1972 to 1973 – Norman Phillips
1971 to 1972 – Graham Chapman
1970 to 1971 – Kenneth Reeve
1969 to 1970 – Kenneth Reeve