Celebrating 70 Years of Community Service.

Long standing member Barry Cleveland reminisced about his time as a member as Wynberg Rotary celebrated their 70th anniversary on 30 November 2019 at Palm House Wynberg.

Rotary Club officially chartered 12 December 1949 celebrated it’s 70th year in service with sparkling wine, jazz and lawns games. Palm House set the seen for a anyone who celebrates 70 years.

While we looked back through our history and recognize the amazing years the club has had, we are also looking forward to our future. Our club celebrates its  youngest President this year with a younger board that is ready to take the club forward for the next 10 years.  Below you can read Barry’s speech to the club.



I joined the club in 1989, with the incomparable John Vivian as President. The week before the formality I said to Val, “I am being induced next Thursday, and you’re invited to attend.”  Val replied that nothing on earth would keep her away….

That same evening, John asked me which avenue of service would I like to join. Unhesitatingly I said “The Last Night of the Proms” …… which is where I have been enthusiastically involved these past 30 years. (I’ll come back to Proms.)

When Michael Johnson was DG, his slogan was ‘Unite Africa Through Rotary’. I was heading up International Service at the time and made contact with the Rotary Club of Kampala, with whom we then twinned. Shortly after, they were due to celebrate their 40th anniversary since charter and as my company had business dealings in Uganda at the time, I was nominated to represent their twin club, Wynberg at an elaborate function at the Nile Hotel. The twinning relationship blossomed and when Brian Dalton’s year of Presidency coincided with Wynberg’s 50th anniversary we invited delegates from Kampala club to join our celebratory function which was held at The Centre for the Book. They responded en masse!  I don’t think their members and partners exceeded ours – but it was close! They stayed a few days more, and we showed them the usual sightseeing spots around Cape Town, impressing them (from a land-locked country) greatly. 

In conversation it turned out that Kampala had sponsored a young teenage girl, suffering from a perforated bowel to travel to a paediatric hospital in England for corrective surgery. To everyone’s horror she returned carrying a catheter. It was all the English surgeons could do.

Now, returning to Proms: Around this time the main beneficiary for funding from the Last Night of the Proms was Red Cross Children’s Hospital, to the extent that we had developed a good relationship with them. At one of our meetings we mentioned the plight of the young girl from Kampala. Professor David Beatty immediately said, “Speak to Dr Sid Cywes. It’s a symptom, not uncommon in Africa, but unknown in Europe.” The upshot of this was having Kampala club send the girl to RXH, consultation with Dr Cywes and a corrective operation. At last count, she was leading a perfectly normal life – and without a catheter.

Our last venture with Kampala club was a Global Grant (Matching Grant at that time) to supply clean water via a borehole to a small village on the outskirts of the city. Disappointingly, contact with our twin club thereafter was lost through attrition.

Back to Proms again!

Wynberg’s first Last Night of the Proms predated my arrival by about three years; and the conductors I know of included Edgar Cree and Michael Hankinson. John Vivian may remember others. It was during Chris Niland’s year of Presidency that we learnt of a prospective hijacking of Proms. We had a PR agent called Jennifer Williams and her agenda became clear when she, Michael Hankinson and a group of Rotarians were conversing after a successful Proms concert. Jennifer cheerfully said, “Well, I think Michael and I will be able to run Proms ourselves next year.” Fortunately for us, Chris was a practicing lawyer. He leaned forward to Jennifer and quietly snarled, “I’ll see you in court.” Needless to say, there was no further contact with either of them again.

We then had a couple of years with Graham Scott as conductor. He saw Proms as a great big party, which he was unable to control. So when I took over chairmanship of Proms after Chris, I asked Tony Kuhnert, who had a responsibility for musical events in the City Hall at the time, who would he recommend as a ‘resident’ conductor for Proms. He said, “Have you thought of Richard Cock?” The rest becomes an enjoyable history, well known to members of Wynberg. 

I think Richard’s first Proms in the Cape Town City Hall was in 1995, which would make Proms 2020 his 25th year as ‘resident’ conductor of Cape Town’s Last Night of the Proms. Over the years Richard has used Proms as a ‘springboard’ for aspirant young musicians and singers to take on professional careers. There have been many, but Pretty Yende particularly comes to mind. She had her debut at Proms in 2008, and now has an illustrious career, singing soprano in numerous operatic concerts, mainly in Europe. She is now based in Italy.

From the heady days of generous sponsorship by Nedbank, during which time we gave a total of R1.5 million to Red Cross Children’s hospital (eventually Proms was seen as too Eurocentric!), we are now on our own, but still able to raise substantial funding for local beneficiaries, such as Childline, St Luke’s Hospice, Victoria Hospital, Learn to Earn, Voluntary Firefighters, Community Medics and this year, Friends of Orchestral Music. Over the past 10 years we have donated some R2.5 million to charity.

Finally, we move off Proms to another successful project, initiated by the late Are Hovstad: the Norwegian Liaison Committee. This project originated as a result of the liaison between Are and connections he had in Norway. As a result of Solidarity Day in Norway where students are given a day off from school with the purpose of having to earn money by working/fund raising, the Rotary Club of Wynberg has, since 2000, been receiving and managing the funds raised by the students of Oddemarka Junior School in Kristiansand and Haugaland Technical College in Haugesund. 

Our club originally selected 2 Junior schools in the Grassy Park area which figure has now increased to 2 Senior and 5 Junior schools. All these 7 schools currently benefit from the funds sent to our club. We support selected children from disadvantaged backgrounds through the annual allocation of bursaries (for uniforms, books and school fees), including the award of tertiary bursaries. Over the years we have also provided schools with computers, laptops, printers, projectors, sporting equipment, the upgrading of libraries and teacher training. 

Delegations of students and teachers from Norway visit our club at least annually when they are hosted by Rotarians and taken to the 7 schools so that they can appreciate the circumstances and interact with staff and students.

Since the beginning of the project a total amount of nearly R10 million been received, the latest amount being R396,000 from the Junior school in Kristiansand whose delegation visited us earlier this year.

Are was knighted by King Harald of Norway in acknowledgement for this extraordinarily beneficial project, assisting disadvantaged students towards something better in life. The NLC will endeavour to uphold this legacy for future generations.

So, from an entirely personal perspective, that about covers the Rotary highlights for the past 30 years of my life. I would like to end this synopsis about where I started it:               Past President Rob Southey invited me to early Wynberg Rotary meetings, allowing me to get a feel for the club before committing. I remember coming home from one of these meetings and saying to Val, “I have just spent an evening in the company of people, all of whom I could trust.” It was a rare experience, but one which I have valued greatly.

Thank you very much for your company, your fellowship and your trust, fellow Wynberg Rotarians.                      


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