The idea of Rotary was brought to Ireland by William Stuart Morrow on his return to his native land from the United States. The first meeting was held in the Avenue Hotel on Monday 24th July 1911 with 15 gentlemen in attendance. Stuart Morrow informed the meeting of the history, objects and methods of Rotary Clubs in America and an agreement was made to establish a club in Belfast. The inaugural meeting took place in the Avenue Hotel on 14th August 1911 with 16 members present. Office bearers were elected with William Wallace elected as President of the first Club to be formed in the United Kingdom.
This first meeting was recently re-enacted by the Club, in full period costume, on its Centenary Anniversary. See here...
The then motto of Rotary America was adopted “He Profits Most Who Serves Best”, by January 1912 there were 124 members and at the first Annual Meeting the membership was 144.
Rotary Clubs do not function in isolation and in the same year the clubs of Dublin, London and Manchester were formed – “the 1911 Clubs”. In the early months contact was established with the headquarters in Chicago. Later that year Secretary Hugh Boyd visited Chicago and was the first Rotarian from outside the US to call at the HQ. Following this meeting Hugh Boyd was convinced that affiliation to the I.A.R.C. International Association of Rotary Clubs) was desirable and that there should be a separate organisation of the Clubs in Britain and Ireland affiliated to the I.A.R.C. The Belfast Club played a prominent part in bringing that organisation to fruition forming BARC (British Association of Rotary Clubs) subsequently now known as RIBI.
On 29th October 1912 the Club unanimously resolved to apply for affiliation and suggested that the other clubs in Britain and Ireland should be approached for all to apply at the same time. Within six months all the Clubs – Dublin, Belfast, London, Manchester and now Edinburgh and Glasgow – decided to affiliate.
The affiliation of the Belfast Club took place on 2nd June 1913, the Club being No. 67 on the list of affiliations. In that month Arthur W. Glessner of Chicago came to Belfast and was the first overseas visitor to the Club.
Thus sprang the roots of the vibrant club it is today.
The Rotary Club of Belfast...the second fifty years
Following on the booklet published in the Jubilee year 1961 which recorded the first 50 years history of the Club, to commemorate the Centenary, the Club has published The Rotary Club of Belfast...the second fifty years. Whilst not a complete historical record, it is liberally illustrated and leaves the reader with a vibrant impression of the many and varied activities, relationships, connections and contributions the Club has made.
Launching the book in April 2011 President Brian Clements said “As we approach our Centenary we do so with pride in the achievements of this great Club and we give thanks for the many Rotarians of vision and compassion who have devoted a part of their lives to the Rotary movement. We have served our community well both here and abroad and we have been true to our motto of “Service above Self”. The society within which we live and serve has altered greatly over the last 100 years and we have changed also. We must, however, be prepared to change even more in the future and continue to attract like-thinking men and women who share our desire to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Let us look back with pride and forward into the next century with confidence and enthusiasm."
Extracts from the book can be seen here shortly and it is available for £15.00 (proceeds to Foundation) from the Honorary Secretary.