We meet on every wednesday 6.30 PM at Rotary Balbhavan in Panampilly Nagar

Rotary Comes To Cochin

Rotary came to Cochin on 26th of September 1936. The first meeting inaugurating an experimental period of three months was held on that date in the Malabar Hotel, Willingdon Island with 16 individuals intending to be Rotarians, present. In the absence of Sir Shanmugham Chetty, Diwan of Cochin, who had to be away on important State business Mr. R.C. Robert Bristow presided. Secretary Mr. H.R. Mills, then Principal, of the Maharaja’s College revealed that twenty members had signified their intention to join.

There were only fortnightly meetings on those days and it was decided that meetings should be held on second and fourth Saturdays. The entrance fee was fixed as Rs. 10/- and the subscription was Rs. 5/-per mensem, which included the price of two meals. During the experimental period regular meetings were held on alternate Saturdays and it was decided that a final decision may be taken in December. Sir. R.K. Shanmugham Chetty showed a keen interest in the scheme even though he was unable to attend the first meeting.

Sir H.W. Bryant addressed the group on “Scope of Rotary in the World” with special reference to the orient, illustrated with maps supplied by Rotary International. He said, on the occasion, that Rotary, although started in the West had penetrated the whole of Asia and Eastern territories. Rotary was found to satisfy all peoples of the world and it was not necessary for success to have a large membership. He said that fellowship, understanding and universal peace had been promoted through Rotary Clubs everywhere. There was a very useful question answer session at the end.

The club was chartered by Rotary International as 4377 on 23rd August, 1937 under the name of Rotary Club of Cochin State and British Cochin with its territory comprising of the whole of Cochin State and the tiny municipality of British Cochin. The charter was presented on 23rd December 1937 by Rotary Governor Sir Pheroze Zethna.

The charter membership of 22 consisted of 10 Non-Indians and represented a true cross section of business and professions and the community at that time. Sir R.K. Shanmugham Chetty, the Dewan of Cochin was the Founder President and Mr. H.R. Mills, Principal of the Maharaja’s College was the Hony. Secretary. Other members were another Educationist, 3 Advocates, 3 Doctors, a Judge, 2 Engineers, an Excise Commissioner, an Hotelier, an Oil Industrialist, and a Harbour Administrator, an Estate Agent, a Paint Distributor, a Port Officer, a Banker, a Cement Distributor and a Shipping Agent.

Rtn. Aniyan (Thomas John) and Rtn. H.R. Mills informed that a first informal meeting to assess interest of possible members was held under the initiative of Rtn. Sir. Shanmugham Chetty at the Dewan’s House, Ernakulam (present State guesthouse) when Robert Bristow, H.R. Mills, P. Neelakanta Menon and Rama Varma Thampuran were present. At this meeting it was decided to organise an interest meeting at Malabar Hotel on 16th September. This was how Rotary made its entry into Cochin.

Initial Years

The Club had a sort of bulletin from 1937 onwards which was mainly a single cyclostyled sheet. A photostat copy of the first surviving bulletin which is attached indicates that attendance at Club meetings were not different then than it is now. This bulletin mentions a dinner meeting – possibly an installation meeting - though it does not specifically says so. Yet the 8th of July, 1941 was the day on which the District Governor made his official visit to the Club. I am quoting the report verbatim from Bulletin No. 114 dated 11th July, 1941.

“The guests of honour, Rtn. Abraham Gardiner. Governor of the 89th District of Rotary International and Mrs. Gardiner arrived at the hotel at 7.45 p.m. from the Ram Mohan Palace (then State Guest House and now the High Court of Kerala) where they were put up as the guests of Government and were taken around and introduced to those who present.

The dinner commenced at 8.30 p.m. with the formal introduction of the guests by their Rotarian hosts. In the absence of Rtn. T.K. Krishna Menon, Rtn. R. Ainsworth presided. The toast to Majesty King Emperor was proposed by Rtn. Rao Bahadur P. Neelacanta Menon. The toast to H.H. Maharaja of Cochin was proposed by Rtn. A.G. Milne.

Replying the Governor dwelt upon the Rotary motto “Service Above Self “ and said that absolute unselfishness was rare among mortals, more so among business and professional men from whom bulk of Rotary membership is drawn. But Rotary does not preach self-abnegation. It only says “Serve others more and thereby serve yourself”. In other words “He profits most, who serves best”. Our organisation stands for international fellowship, for quality to all classes and creeds. Hence our clubs are encouraging in all democratic countries and suppressed by totalitarian powers “Through Rotary you can fight Communsm, not by actual physical force, but by getting round the people to be square and fair in their dealings with fellow men“. Great Britain is today fighting for those very ideals for which Rotary stands. The enemies of Britain happen to be our enemies. Thus “at least for self preservation”, we must do everything possible individually and collectively to further the war effort. “Sooner or later, when wisdom prevails, and freedom is restored, we will be called upon to go back to those countries from which we have been driven out.”

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