A POTTED HISTORY OF ROTARY ON THE COSTA BLANCA (from 1982)
By Ralph Worthington
When I first came to Calpe in 1980 I was pleased to hear of a Rotary club of Albir
I knew that Franco, when in power said that the enemies of his regime were communism, Freemasonry and Rotary, therefore they had been banned in his lifetime. When I came to live here in 1982 I became a regular visitor to Albir. I saw that it was a regular ‘meeting of Rotarians’ and not a properly constituted Rotary club. There were enthusiasts from Calpe, Javea area and Jack Cope from Denia who seemed to be permanent President at that time.
In the late summer of 1984 the Dos Estrellas Restaurant where we met was closing for holidays. President at that time was Alex Stirling who said he was opening a new restaurant in Javea which could be available for meetings. Good news for those who were travelling from that area and the idea of a club in Javea was born.
Concern was expressed by Albir members at the prospect of losing support but it was pointed out that every Rotary District has an Extension Officer whose duty is to enable Rotary to expand
President Alex was in an embarrassing position as he was providing the venue for the new club but as a business man he felt he ought not to miss the opportunity. I do not remember him attending any other meeting in Albir.
The prime movers of the club were Jack Cope, the late Denis Vincent and myself who drafted a constitution and a framework in which to operate.
Denis declined to be president so Jack did the first stint and I became treasurer. Jack made it clear at once that when there be any shortages in the till it would be my privilege to make it up.
The new venue ABAS Restaurant had four partners whos initials made up the name but later the two junior partners left. Alex and his wife Sheila catered very well for us, their speciality being bread and butter pudding.
Many happy meetings were held there with special events at Christmas and a Medieval Banquet where to augment funds a charge was made for the use of the salt which was in small sugar bowls.
Next day when the beloved bread and butter pudding was served to those requesting it they found that it had been sprinkled with salt instead of the sugar. A minor disaster!
Our good times at ABAS saw another strange event. An English member of the Cherbourg Club sat opposite one of our members known to be on a short fuse. An argument ensued about which of them had done most for Rotary, it continued after the meeting and there was a scuffle out in the street.
Sheila dashed out with a broom and said “I will not have you fighting outside my restaurant, Behave yourselves” which they did because she looked very dangerous with that brush.
Anglo French relations were never that good but we thought it was the first time Rotary had been involved. However at the following meeting the two antagonists greeted each other like long lost brothers.
When ABAS closed for holiday an American Rotarian visitor who owned the Black cat Restaurant on the Jesús Pobre road at Javea offered his premises for our meetings and the club met there for two weeks.
Sheila’s health deteriorated so she and Alex decided to close the restaurant and return to South Africa at short notice. Our new venue was the Upstairs Restaurant in Javea where the club had to share the dining room with other customers so that the President and speakers were in competition with the normal conversations and business of the restaurant.
As this was far from satisfactory members of our club who also belonged to Javea Bowls Club made arrangements for our meetings to be held at ‘The Inn on the Green’ The club continued to grow and meetings and special events were held there for several years until many felt that the standard of catering was below what we expected and there were complaints.
Rotary with fluctuating members are not welcome everywhere and it was
agreed to look elsewhere. Laurie Maltby
and I with wives went to explore the Colina Club Restaurant in Calpe. We enjoyed the meal and considered it would
make a suitable venue. We made enquiries to find that the management would be
pleased to cater for us at the price they quoted for our requirements. We reported back to Javea and it was agreed to
hold the next meeting in Calpe. Jack as President took the chair. All seemed to go well. A good meal and no complaints and it was
expected we would continue to meet there.
At this stage there was no suggestion of a new club at Calpe. At the
next meeting at the Colina club many of the Javea members were noticeable
absent and it became clear that their support for the Calpe venue had
diminished, so the Rotarians present decided to form the Calpe club. Meetings to be Tuesdays so as not to clash
with Javea who at that time met on Thursdays.
Tommy Handley was elected President, Mary Secretary I was the Treasurer and Roy Parkin the speaker finder.
I drafted the constitution which specified that Rotarian were to hold the main offices and given a vote so that all was under Rotary control.
Because our members were few it was agreed to invite friends who would otherwise qualify to for Rotary membership, but who were not now employed in a profession or business to join as social members and who would be able to vote on social matters only.
It is thanks to a few keen Rotarians such as the late Dick Phillips, Mike Hampson, Laurie Maltby. Norman precious and social members Bert Kellett, Jack Dare, Denis Bower, Arthur Porter, Rennie Halstead and others who kept the ship afloat so that it is the success it is today.
It was suggested that Banners be purchased and if possible the Calpe Coat of arms be incorporated. I went to the Town Hall and was told the permission of the Mayor would be required. After much ado and a long wait I was escorted into her sumptuous parlour, explained what I would like with her kind permission. She seemed keen to help, knew about the Ifach Rotary club, pencilled a date two weeks ahead in her diary when I should call her back.
On the appointed date and time I was escorted into her inner sanctum and presented with a coloured replica of the Calpe coat of arms by the queen bee herself who wished the new club would be successful.
Secretaries and others were buzzing around and all seemed in a light hearted mood but I completely misjudged the situation and the Spanish sense of humour by looking at what she had given me saying “but I was told that the Calpe coat of arms was one man working and four watching” I could see I had dropped a prize clanger looking at all their faces so quickly apologised for my poor Catalan when I should be speaking Valenciana and had it the wrong way round. What I meant was four working and the foreman watching. I feel convinced I narrowly escaped being arrested and put in the Town Hall torture chamber, although all laughed in the end. I put on a big smile and promised that the President would invite her to a meeting soon, apologised again for my error , said many thankyou’s and scarpered.
Mission accomplished and all in the cause of Rotary!
Three weeks later there was a rumpus at a council meeting and the mayor was out of office but later received the invitation promised and came to Colina Club accompanied by the Notario Sr. Nabarro.
Formation of the Calpe club created a them and us situation for a time. Javea members invited to speak or visit refused. After a while this changed so that a normal Rotarian relationship prevailed.
As news of the Calpe club spread other Rotarians joined and visitors increased so it was a tight squeeze sometimes at the Colina Club, where we did endeavour to estimate and advise members to help the chef.
However one day the president and a number of members of the Rotary club of Ifach arrived without prior notice just as the meal was about to be served. Chef David was unflappable and made meals for them although there was only room in the doorway and outside . It was a day when Spaniards dominated the scene with speeches welcoming us to Calpe. An invitation to visit their club and imploring us to seek their help if we had any problems.
At Javea and Calpe we made use of our contacts to obtain outside speakers and amongst others we hosted Edmundo Ross, British Consul John Dove, Journalist the late Neville Nisse and Lady Bailey wife of the inventor of the war winning Bailey Bridge, with drawings and slides.
Calpe was generous with donations to charity and they included British Heart Foundation, Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow appeal, Cancer Research , and Help along with other organisations, and contributions for defibrillators for ambulances and purchase of new ambulances, one of which came to the Colina club for members to see.
When Chef David left the Colina Club we were sorry because he had catered well for us. And we had enjoyed our time there. Although the club continued to meet there after he left there was insufficient seating space and the move to the Gran Muralla was a wise one.
Story left out
Know that an American Rotary visitor to a meeting at the Colina Club took me aside afterwards and began grilling me about these ‘irregular ‘ Rotary clubs here. He said he had been on other Rotary business in Alicante and been asked by RI to investigate. He seemed to know my past history and that I had been involved in setting up fellowship clubs which were not official, not recognised and therefore not contributing to RI funds. In defence I said that we were not drawing on resources either, we were Rotarians who are or were members of regular clubs who had paid their dues to RI; our clubs were affording them opportunities to meet fellow Rotarians in Fellowship – one of the principal objects of the movement.
He said we were breaking the rules. I remembered and quoted to him in reply that one of the greatest men who lived was Winston Churchill who said “Rules are made for fools but for the guidance of wise men. This seemed to stump him and I continued by saying that our meetings consisted of Rotarians and those with similar ideals just as members of a church or tennis club would gather together for a chat. He agreed that this was so. We had a drink at the bar. All ended happily when he said he had very much enjoyed the meeting. He could see we were doing good work in the name of Rotary, Spreading the gospel he called it, and we should continue with the blessing of RI.
To make happiness complete he bought me another drink. So you know that after all you are legitimate.
Seeing the President struggling with papers and controlling you all causes me to wonder what happened to the lectern and the ships bell which adorned my villa until I donated it to the club
Keep up the good work. It is good to know that the Costa Blanca now has three fellowship clubs doing well and giving pleasure to so many
Many thanks and best wishes to you all
Founder member Calpe Rotary Fellowship
A true and faithful copy of the handwritten open letter he left with us about our past