Important meeting at Turnberry – 19 May 2019

Thanks to the strenuous efforts of Ayr Rotarian John Ewing, he and a few fellow members were able to meet a Rotary VIP from the US: Robb Knuepfer is a Rotary International Director and past-president of Rotary Club No 1, Chicago, Illinois. This was where Rotary was founded in 1905 by Paul Harris, a successful city lawyer, and was where he and his Chicago club colleagues began the world’s first Service Club. By the time of Harris’ death in 1947, Rotary International had grown to more than 200,000 members in 75 countries (now 1.3 million).

The main purpose of the meeting was to present Robb (also a successful ex-Chicago lawyer) with a duplicate of the Paul Harris, interactive picture which last year was presented by Ayr Rotary Club to the Turnberry Hotel and now hangs in the hotel lobby.

The picture was the brainchild of John and includes an audio link to a speech by Paul Harris made at the 1933 Rotary Convention in Boston and broadcast nationally in the US. This recording was edited to include only the tribute Harris pays to Robert Burns, the internationally renowned Scottish bard. Paul says in the recording that Burns’s philosophy embraces the true meaning of Rotary. Both, of course, were great humanitarians and the commonly held belief is that Paul Harris developed his love of mankind during his visits to Ayrshire with his wife Jean, and staying at the manse with her brother, the Church of Scotland Minister in Annbank. Interestingly, Abraham Lincoln, (yet another lawyer from Illinois) is reputed to have carried a copy of the works of Robert Burns at all times.

Chicago Rotary members are currently working to restore the former home of the Rotary founder. Harris and his wife, Jean, purchased the Tudor-style house in southern Chicago, Illinois, USA in 1912. It was there that some of the world’s first Rotarians met and fostered the friendship on which Rotary was built. After Paul’s death in 1947, Jean sold the home. It changed owners twice more before a group of Rotarians purchased it in 2005 with money they borrowed from the charitable foundation of the Rotary Club of Naperville, Illinois, USA. Chicago No1 club intend to return the house to the way it looked in the 1940s and to open the house as a museum and meeting place for Rotary members.

Robb thanked John for the Paul Harris picture and remarked that it was entirely fitting that it should find pride of place in the new museum.