Two Ayr Rotary Clubs Re-Connect across the World

In the last month of 1947 the BBC recorded, and subsequently broadcast in Australia, a meeting of The Rotary Club of Ayr at which a presentation was made to our sister club, the Rotary Club of Ayr, Queensland. The historic contact between the two Ayr Rotary Clubs goes back to the end of the Second World War, when the Rotary Club of Ayr, Queensland, sent food parcels to Ayr, Scotland for distribution to the poor and needy. In gratitude, the Rotary Club of Ayr presented the Queensland Club with a new lectern, or reading desk, which incorporated a piece of ancient oak, presumed grown in Ayrshire, and used as a support for the original construction of the Auld Brig o’ Ayr in 1491. Therefore, the timber must have been more than 400 years-old when it was removed during repair of the Auld Brig in 1907 (it was estimated that the tree would have been planted 1000 years before the presentation). To the desk was attached an inscribed silver plaque made by our own Wallace Allan’s father, a founder member of Ayr Rotary Club.

In year 2000, club member Jimmy Begg, with his wife Helen, travelled to Queensland where he took the opportunity to once again say ‘thank you’ (this time in person) for the food parcels sent from Ayr to Ayr after the war. There he presented our sister club with a friendship Quaich and formed a lasting, personal friendship with his hosts Rob and Lina Antoniazzi of the Rotary Club of Ayr, Queensland.

Thanks to the online endeavours of Katie Nicol, the current lockdown and the power of modern technology unexpectedly gave Jimmy the chance, last week, to re-connect with the Queensland Club and he joined their weekly Zoom meeting from the comfort of his own home. It was a fond reunion for Jimmy who had been invited by Ayr, Queensland club’s President, Narelle Hibberd, to join their meeting. In Jimmy’s own words, “when my mugshot appeared in their gallery, Narelle remarked ‘We have a visitor” – and I introduced myself as a member of Ayr Rotary Club, Scotland, who had visited them in 2000”. Then came a surprise for Jimmy when Rob Antoniazzi, although no longer a club member, appeared on Zoom! The next five minutes of their meeting was taken up with Rob and Jimmy enjoying their reunion and asking about each other’s families, while the others sat politely in their polo shirts and shorts, with their home backgrounds – in one case, white sands and rolling green Pacific breakers!

After a while both Rob and Jimmy felt it was perhaps time to say goodbye and leave the club to its meeting. Before he did so Jimmy courteously invited the Queensland members to join one of our own E-meetings but this offer was received somewhat hesitatingly when they calculated that 4pm our time would be 2am their time!!

It is inspiring to find our two clubs brought closer as a result of this current health crisis – an unexpected lockdown silver lining. Here’s to continued Rotary friendship and further connections across the ‘Ayr-waves’.