History in the making as Enniskillen Rotary Club celebrates its 65th anniversary.

President Heather

New Rotary President Heather Ellis
is joined by her husband,
the Rev. Dr Canon Ian Ellis,
after receiving her chain of office.

As the Rotary Club of Enniskillen celebrates its 65th anniversary, it has been demonstrating history in the making!

"Rotary Opens Opportunities" is the Rotary international theme for 20/21 and the Rotary Club of Enniskillen bore this in mind as the Presidential handover took place for the first time ever outdoors and also during a Zoom meeting.

The new President Heather Ellis, who recently received her chain of office from Outgoing President Jisbinder Sembhi, explained: "The members were making preparations for the handover by Zoom as we had used this medium in our club meetings during the COVID-19 lockdown. However we decided to take the handover outdoors as well as meeting at the same time via Zoom.

"I believed that this choice would really allow our members to adhere to current COVID-19 guidelines but also prompt us to join in with the motto for the year 20/21 - 'Rotary opens opportunities'.

"We enjoyed meeting together for the first time after the relaxation of the COVID-19 regulations and we now look forward to the year of opportunities ahead."

As the club marks its 65th anniversary, Enniskillen Rotarians extend a welcome to new members to come along to the club, which was chartered on June 30, 1955 and has been a driving force in Rotary circles ever since.

'The Birth of Enniskillen Rotary Club' has been researched by Enniskillen Rotarian Henry Robinson, who pointed out that their outgoing President Jisbinder Sembhi had plans for the club to commemorate the milestone event "but unfortunately Covid-19 had other ideas and all plans were changed."

Sharing his research, Henry reflects that a Provisional Committee was formed comprising Cecil Whaley and David Devine and they had 14 meetings to try and drum up enough support to form a Rotary Club.

He noted that "they held the inaugural meeting of the interim Rotary Club of Enniskillen, which took the form of a dinner" held in the Townhall on 18 April 1955, with the District Chairman, George McCartney in the chair.

Key dates in the formation of the Club include June 30, 1955, Charter Date; October 5, 1955, Charter Dinner; and October 13, 1955, Presentation of Charter. Enniskillen was the 15th Club to be formed in Ireland. Henry recorded that "the death of the Founder-President Cecil Whaley in 1975 was met with great sorrow, not only in the club, but also in the wider community where he was so much involved. He was a stalwart in Rotary and as well as starting a Club in Enniskillen, he became an extension Officer and was responsible for starting Clubs in Sligo, Ballina and Monaghan."

From a Rotary magazine article, Henry noted that by 1975, of the original 33 Founder members, only seven remained 20 years on - Noble Connor Johnston, John J. Maguire, David Clarke, Samuel Burnside, Henry Burke, John Allen and Crawford Little. Crawford Little, who died in 2015, was the longest surviving Founder Member. He was President in 1968-69.

Reflecting on an early example of the success of the Club, Henry highlighted a project to raise funds for cardiac equipment in the old Erne Hospital in Enniskillen - inspired and initiated by highly regarded Enniskillen Rotarian, the late Sean Gilmartin, who was the Head of Science at Mount Lourdes Grammar School and a Past President of the Rotary Club.

Henry recollected that in 1982, Sean got the backing of the Club and they set up an Appeal Committee.

"Within one year and with the help of many clubs, churches and organisations, a total of £50,000 had been collected," recalled Henry, adding: "This enabled the purchase of not only a very sophisticated ultra sound scanner unit but also a mobile cardiac ambulance."

In honour of the late Sean, the Sean Gilmartin Trophy is awarded annually to the member who contributes most to the Club in the past year. This year, it went to Neil Jardine.

Henry acknowledged that the historical information gathered in relation to the club "is courtesy of the scrapbooks and photo albums and other memorabilia prepared and preserved by dedicated officers over the years."

As Enniskillen Rotary Club continues its journey, new members are encouraged to come along and join them.

President Heather proposes: "Come and join us to help us to serve our community, work on projects and events, and raise money for our local charities and causes. You can help bring new energy to what we plan to do together in 20/21."