A Short History and Outline of the
PROBUS CLUB OF SANDOWN
by Basil Lythall
During several years experience of serving on the Club Committee, also as an organiser of various activities, I have been surprised how often questions arise on which it would have been helpful to have been able to refer quickly to any previous information. One particular occasion comes to mind, when Committee members, concerned with future membership policy, had set out to analyse the situation as best they could and reach conclusions on the way ahead. The process was almost complete, and I had written a summary paper, when after a somewhat laborious search through the available club records I discovered that some eight years previously a previous committee had been faced with the same problem, had carried out an identical analysis and had reached similar conclusions, expressed in almost the same words.
Questions can arise on almost any aspect of the Club's affairs, for example its history, its general business, finance, membership policy, matters concerning individual members, or one of the Club's many recreational activities. Much of this information does in fact exist, but not in a form suitable for easy reference, and some of it would require considerable time and effort to extract. It therefore seemed worthwhile to analyse the available data once and for all, and from this to build up a series of data bases, one for each subject of potential interest. These could then all be assembled into a single compendium for ready reference.
The basic archival material includes the minutes of Monthly Meetings, and those of the Annual General Meetings; the latter include the Chairman's report for the year and the Treasurer's Annual Staement of Account. To these may be added the Lists of Members (updated and published annually) and the Forms of Application for Membership held by the Secretary. There are no doubt numerous other papers, personal notes and correspondence which are held separately, for example by past Chairmen, other officials and organisers of activities, and it has been helpful to have a sight of several of these.
Analysis and Synthesis
The Monthly Meetings were used as the basis for constructing a Working Table (which eventually grew to large proportions) from which could be generated all the information eventually required. The minutes of each meeting, some 260-270 in all, were analysed and for each meeting any information of potential interest was extracted and put into one of a series of categories relating to the club, e.g. its formation, its members (collectively and individually), its officers, finance, speakers, etc, together with a category for each of the Club's many recreational activities. Other archival material was then analysed in the same way. and added to the Table. The information in each category was then assembled to construct an element of the final compendium. Now this process is complete it should only rarely be necessary refer back to the minutes of a specific meeting, whereas before it would have been necessary to comb through a who;e series of meetings without being sure that the required information was there anyway.
Compilation of this data has involved considerable effort, and it will be most important to keep it regularly updated, say on an annual basis. It should not be an onerous task if clearly defined from the start. Much of the general information is included in the Chairman's Annual Report to the AGM and the Treasurer's Statement of Account. Each organiser could be asked to update his activity each year, which he probably does anyway, This leaves the Directories of Members which could be updated when the List of Members is updated annually.
I am grateful to Jim Hunter, Sandown Secretary until recently, for the loan of all the Minute Books of the Club since its foundation, as well as other documents and notes., also to Brian Dexter, who has recently taken over as Secretary, for membership data and for numerous notes left by previous Club Secretaries. Contributions from other Sandown colleagues have also been helpful in filling in gaps in the story. Finally, especial thanks are due to Brendan Donelan, the Club's founder Chairman who did so much to shape the Club in its formative stage, for his helpful advice on the early years and for making available the most comprehensive notes taken during his chairmanship in 1978/79 and 1979/80.
Fig 1.1 Hobbies & Interests 19
Fig 1.2 Yellow Pages 21
Fig 1.3 Club Photographs 23
Annual Subscription and Club Finances
Fig 2.1 Club Rules 25
Fig 2.2 List of Club Officers 26
Fig 2.3 List of Speakers 27
Business or Profession
Fig 3.1 Age Distribution 2000. 30
Fig 4.1 List of Theatre Outings 31
Fig 4.2 List of Outings 32
The Club was formed in the summer of 1978. There were already two other Probus clubs nearby - Esher (formed in 1971?) and Claremont (started 1973?), but the rapid expansion of interest in Probus in the area meant that both Esher and Claremont had significant waiting lists. It was mooted by Esher Rotary, the prime mover in launching Probus clubs, that a third club should be formed, and a notice was put in the Esher News inviting those interested to attend a meeting to be held on the 6th June at Newlands, Thames Ditton. Five officers of Esher Probus attended, together with 14 prospective members of the new club. Norman Glanfield, of the Esher club, explained the object and aims of Probus, and a steering committee was set up, comprising Brendan Donelan, Norman Mustoe and Bill Bell. A second meeting was held at Newlands on 18th July, when the objects of Probus were again explained, and 23 people present completed forms of application for membership. It was agreed that the club should be called the Probus Club of Sandown, with an annual subscription of £2.50; an entrance fee was to be considered in due course. The steering committee then assumed executive roles, with Brendan Donelan as Chairman, Norman Mustoe as Treasurer and Bill Bell as Secretary.
At the invitation of Ember Sports Club (ESC) the next meeting was held there on 1st August. The three new Sandown officials, together with Norman Glanville and 28 others attended, with two apologies. A proposal to make Norman Glanville an Honorary Member of the club was enthusiastically supported , in view of the sterling help and encouragement he had given to the club in its formative stage. It was proposed to adopt the rules of the Esher club, modified as appropriate, and to meet at Ember Sports Club on the first Tuesday of each month (The Sports Club would make a charge of lOp per member per meeting until such time as the "optimum" membership had been reached and a rent could be established). It was resolved to form a club committee, which would consist of the three existing officials, a Vice Chairman, and three other committee members. Four volunteers from the floor were elected en bloc - Fred Cuttell, Charles (Spud) Loveridge, Martin Coe and Eric Hunt. The two recreational activities which appeared to be of most potential interest were Theatre Outings and Gardening, and volunteer organisers for each were invited to meet with their counterparts in the Esher club and learn from their experience. (After the meeting the Sports Club Bar was opened to those present by Norman Glanville. Freddie Bone, a new Sandown member, who was also House Manager of ESC at the time, volunteered to perform this function at future meetings. Thus was provided an informal opportunity for Sandown members to get to know each other. The practice continued until 1992, when Roger Butt who had acted as barman for many years, stepped down, and there were no volunteers, who also needed to be members of ESC, to succeed him.)
At the September meeting (attended by Howard Thome, Chairman of Esher Probus, ) the Sandown Chairman invited each member of committee to form a link with a group of five or six other members, in order to facilitate communications within the new club . A projected theatre outing, organised by Spud Loveridge was immediately oversubscribed, and Derek Venables announced preparations for setting up a gardening section. The meeting concluded with a film on the Thames Barrier organised by Brendan Donelan. After the meeting 24 members met for lunch at the Olde Swan, Thames Ditton.
It had been decided that the club membership would initially be set at 50; by the October meeting this ceiling had been reached and a waiting list became necessary. A wine and cheese party was planned for 1st December, and a Christmas Lunch would be held after the January meeting. In November the club rules were formally adopted, the theatre and gardening sections were making good progress, and Bill Bell had arranged a bowls match with Esher Probus. An outing to the Churchill War Rooms was planned for December, and speakers had been arranged for the next quarter. Norman Glanville presented the club with a brass bell, for the use of the Chairman; this was to be housed in a wooden box, hand-made by Ken May, another Esher member.
Thus within six months of the first exploratory meeting the club was up and running with a regular venue. Rules had been formulated, officials appointed, and the membership had already reached its initial ceiling. Speakers had been arranged for most meetings. A number of recreational activities were going well and several more were set up in the following six months. An informal pub lunch after each meeting had become a regular feature, with a more formal Anniversary Lunch planned to follow the Annual General Meeting, and social functions to which ladies were invited were planned for winter and summer each year. In short the club had established a modus operandi which has remained largely unchanged for twenty two years.
This first chapter concludes with a selection of items which were initiated during the first few years of the Club's life. One continues to the present day, others persisted for several years and were discontinued through lack of volunteer support, and one appears to have been strangled at birth. Together they convey some impression of the atmosphere of the club's early development and an impression of the friendly cooperation between the Sports Club and the three neighbouring Probus clubs.
List of Members' Hobbies and Interests
In August 1978 the Chairman drew up a list of members' hobbies and interests from the information then at his disposal, and urged members to add their names and interests to the list. The purpose was to enable members, and particularly new members, to see whether any of their own special interests were shared by fellow members with whom they might wish to get in touch. The list was added to as new members joined, and in October 1979 there was a last call for any corrections before the list went for printing. The list was subsequently updated several times; the last revision so far identified was dated June 1989; a copy of this is at Fig 1.1 behind. It will be seen that the list of interests was remarkably full, containing about 40 topics. Should the list be reactivated; annual updating would be an easy task?
Remembrance Sunday Service at Esher War Memorial
In November 1978 the Club was presented with a wreath by Dick Cullington of Esher Probus, the local Organiser of the Red Cross Poppy Appeal, to be laid by the Sandown Chairman during the Remembrance Day Service at the Esher War Memorial. This practice has been continued every year since. The Club makes a contribution to the Red Cross, and the Chairman lays a wreath, together with Chairmen of neighbouring clubs and representatives of other local organisations, and usually attends a service held afterwards in the Church nearby. The Vice Chairman usually attends as well, as a sort of'dress rehearsal' for next year's ceremony.
At the club meeting in February 1979 the question of a Sandown Club Badge for letter headings, etc, was discussed, and three members undertook to produce designs for this purpose. There are three separate sketch designs in the Chairman's personal file for 1978-79, but the idea was not taken further.
Ember Sports Club Michaelmas Fair
In September 1979 Ember Sports Club organised a Michaelmas Fair at which the 'local' Probus Clubs were invited to assist. There was to be a large variety of stalls; coffee would be available at 11 am, a ploughmans lunch from 12-2, and tea at 4 pm. Sandown Probus was invited to provide two stalls, a grocery stall, to be run by Mrs Donelan, and a gardening stall organised by Derek Venables. Members were asked to bring two tins of food to the September meeting, and those who neglected to do so were asked to contribute 50p towards the proceeds. In the event the food stall realised £36, the gardening stall £172 and the whole fair £1200.
At the March 1980 meeting the Chairman, Brendan Donelan, raised the suggestion that a list of recommended providers of goods and services should be prepared, to form a sort of Probus "Yellow Pages". After discussion this was agreed, with the provisos that the name of the recommending member should be included, and that the individual provider's agreement must be obtained before his name could be included in the list. Blank pro formas were distributed to members with the request that they should be returned by the next meeting. In due course the replies were collated, printed and copies issued to members. An enterprise of this nature naturally needs updating at intervals, itself no mean task. At first Brendan took on the updating himself, and revised issues dated March 1986 and October 1990 are in the records; a copy of the latter is at Fig 1.2 behind. In the absence of volunteers to undertake further updating the project appears to have been abandoned.
Inter-Probus/Sports Club Quiz nights
In March 1981 Esher, Claremont and Sandown Probus Clubs were each invited to provide a team of three members to compete against three teams from the bowls, tennis and drama sections of the Sports Club at a quiz evening on March 27. The Sandown team nominated, but subject to a fitness test, would be John Allen, Brendan Donelan and Alex Rennie, the last-named having been involved in the joint planning of the event. There appears to be no record of the results of this event, but a similar function was arranged a year later, on 12th March 1982, at which Sandown was invited by Esher to provide one of the Probus teams. The following month's minutes have Alex Rennie reporting a most enjoyable evening, with the quiz being won by a table from Ember with one of'our' tables as runner up.
In May of 1990 a photograph of Sandown Probus Club members was taken by a professional photographer, with the members seated outdoors by the Sports Club Building, facing the bowling greens. Several copies of this are extant (Fig 1.3). In May 1995, after the AGM, Peter Bennett took a photograph with his own camera of club members assembled inside the club house as if at a regular meeting. Despite the far from ideal lighting conditions the results were sufficiently good for many members to purchase copies. In July 1998 it was mooted that another official photograph should be arranged, but there was seemed to be little support for this. Should this be raised again?
Figure 1.1 List of members' hobbies and interests, June 1989
Figure 1.2 Yellow Pages: Revised Issue of October 1990
Figure 1.3 Club photographs of 1991 and 1995
The Rules of the Club (Fig 2.1) have remained unchanged since they were endorsed in 1979, with the exception of certain references to limits to be placed on the number of members to be appointed. These are explained below.
The pattern of chairman, other officials and committee has remained the same since the club was formed. Other members have occasionally been co-opted as required. A historical list of Club Officers is at Fig 2.2.
ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION AND CLUB FINANCES
At each Annual General Meeting the Hon Treasurer presents the accounts for the past year and proposes the level of subscription for the next year for ratification by the members. At the formation of the Club the annual subscription was set at £2.50, and an entrance fee of £1.00 was decided later. In 1980 these amounts were increased to £3.50 and £1.50. From May 1st 1982 the figures were further increased to £5.00 and £2.00.The AGM's of 1985 and 1988 approved that the subscription should rise to £6.00 and £7.00 respectively, the latter in view of the increased rental charge and the need for an adequate "float" to cope with fluctuations in the accounts for various activities. By 1992 the figure had increased to £12.00 and in 1994 a rise to £17.00 was approved, and has remained unchanged up to the financial year 2000/01.
The regular outgoings of the Club are not massive; they include for example the rent for the meetings, charitable donations in memory of past members, modest administrative costs and expenses of speakers. These all remain fairly constant, apart from the effects of inflation. This is reflected in the rises in subscriptions over the initial years. However the growing scale of recreational activities, whose costs are also subject to inflation, can exert major temporary fluctuations of the Club's balance. In general these activities are self-financing, apart from a small surplus or deficit arising from unforeseen circumstances. But it may be necessary to commit some expenditure in advance, for example for purchase of tickets for concerts or theatre outings, or for the hire of coaches or boats, and have it reimbursed when the event takes place. In consequence the Club's balance could decrease to a very low level at times, or even to go into arrears. It was therefore decided to increase the subscription significantly to allow the build-up of an adequate reserve fund. By 1999/2000 the reserve had risen to something over £2000 as well as coping with the somewhat reduced inflation over the last six years.
Compared with the regular annual outgoings of the Club this may seem at first sight to be a somewhat massive reserve. But when it is realised that the combined annual turnover of outings, concerts, theatres and social functions is now over £20,000 per annum it does not seem unreasonable to carry a float of about 10%.
Almost from inception the pattern has been for each monthly gathering to commence with a business meeting, typically lasting about half an hour, followed by a short break, after which there is a talk by a visiting speaker, or on occasion by a club member. Members foregather over coffee from 10 o'clock onwards until the business meeting starts at 10.30. This allows about an hour for the speaker with questions, to follow. (In earlier years the business meeting did not start until 11 o'clock with consequent pressure on the time available for the speaker.)
Over the years the club has enjoyed talks from a remarkably catholic collection of speakers; a full list will be found in Fig 2.3. It is the responsibility of a particular member to undertake the organisation of a programme of speakers, often working well more than a year ahead. At the start it appears that this task was undertaken from time to time by the Vice Chairman, then by individual members as shown in the Annex; at present it falls to the Retiring Chairman, but this may need to be revised in future.
Since the club was first formed it has been customary after each meeting for those members who so wish to foregather for lunch at a local hostelry. The choice of venue has changed over the years, in the quest for attractive surroundings and service not too far away from the club's meeting place. The first venue was the Olde Swan at Thames Ditton; in early 1981 there was a brief trial at the Old Paulines Club, then in June 1981 it was decided to go to Moore Place at Esher, where a private room was made available. After March 1985 this was no
longer possible and it was decided to try the Swan at Claygate, which was used for some years until June 1989 when discussions were held with about the provision of a separate room. For the next few months a count was taken of those intending to attend. Finally in September 1991 it was decided to go to the Bear at Oxshott, where a separate room was available. This continued until July 2000 when, in an attempt to find somewhere nearer to the club lunch started to be taken at the Hare and Hounds at Claygate.
The first social function after the club was formed was a Wine and Cheese Party held on 4th December 1978 at the Sports Club. By all accounts it was a great success, with 72 members, wives and guests in all;, a vote of thanks was expressed to the wives for their great help. This was followed in January by a Christmas Lunch at the Spear in Hand, near Weybridge . After the June meeting there was an Anniversary/Summer Lunch held at the St Georges Hill Tennis Club (cost £3). The Wine & Cheese Party was repeated in December 1979 (cost £1.50), and the Christmas Lunch in January 1980, again at St Georges Hill Tennis Club when 35 attended at a cost of £3.50.
It was then decided to replace the New Year Wine & Cheese Party by a Ladies' Nieht Dinner and make it a "black tie" occasion. The first was held in February 1981,when wives of former members (WFM) were invited as guests. Since then this function has continued annually as the club's major social event, eventually settling down in late March from 1988 onwards. The number of WFM grew over the years; in 1989 they were invited to pay a reduced charge, and now contribute the same cost as members. There has been a variety of venues, including Surbiton Golf Club, the Drift Golf Club at Effingham, Imber Court, the Exiles Club, the Hotel Antoinette and Glenmore House (Surbiton Masonic Halls).
The Members' Summer Lunch has also continued every year without a break, although from 1980 to 1987 it was held more nearly in the autumn. 1988 saw the Club's 10th anniversary and it was decided to hold an Anniversary Lunch after the monthly meeting in June. Since then the function has always taken place after the Annual General Meeting in May and is now referred to as the "AGM Lunch" It has been held variously at the Prince of Wales, Surbiton Golf Club, Imber Court, the Marquis of Granby, the Bear at Oxshott, and for the last seven years at the Hotel Antoinette.
The advent of Ladies Night resulted in the abandonment of the members' Christmas Lunch and the shifting of Wine & Cheese Parties to the late summer. The latter continued until 1989, mainly at the Drift, but on occasion at Moore Place and the Tiltyard, Hampton Court. These parties had in effect become Summer Social Events, at which wives and WFM were included. In 1990 the scope was broadened and events have since included Summer Buffets at the Thamesis Sailing Club and the Exiles Club, Afternoon River Trips followed by an early evening meal at the Barley Mow, Hersham, and Garden Parties at the Meadowbank Club.
The last addition to the social calendar came in 1992, with the reintroduction of a Christmas Lunch, but this time to include Ladies and timed well before Christmas to avoid the concentration of engagements in the Christmas season. It has since been known as the Ladies Pre-Christmas Luncheon . For the first three years it was held in the Claygate Village Hall, then for two years at Surbiton Golf Club, and since then at the Inn on the Lake at Silvermere.
Thus has emerged the current Social Calendar, consisting of three events in which ladies participate (Ladies Night, a summer social event and the Pre-Christmas Luncheon) together with the members' AGM luncheon Responsibility for organising these four functions, and those that went before them, falls to a particular member of the Club. Until 1985 this was handled by the same member that looked after theatre outings and general outings; thereafter the Social Secretaries were as follows:
|1985 -86||John Kerr|
|1986 - 90||Peter Bennett|
|1990 - 94||Ken Hunt|
|1994 - Dec 95||Jim Ramage|
|Dec 1995 - May 98||Basil Lythall|
|May 1998 - May 2000||Duncan Jelley|
|June 2000 -||Norman Whitehead|
Annex 1 is a Directory of All Members, Past & Present, arranged in order of joining, giving wife's name, name of sponsor, date of joining, date of resignation or death where relevant, occupation before retirement and date or year of birth where known. Annex 2 is a similar Directory of Current Members, but arranged in alphabetical order of surname. This is consistent with the Club Membership List, but omits addresses and telephone numbers and included date of birth and former profession.
To allow easy reference these directories they a placed at the very end and printed on coloured paper. BUSINESS OR PROFESSION
It can quickly be seen that members are drawn from a wide range of working backgrounds. It is difficult to condense these into a smaller number of more general categories, not only because of the variety but because there is considerable overlap between definitions used by the members themselves. For example there are many examples of "company director" (or executive or manager), but some of these are accountants or engineers. Again there is a substantial category of Government Service or Civil Servant, but these include architects, accountants, engineers/scientists, as well as general administration. About the only general conclusion which has emerged so far when comparing trends over the last twenty years is that the proportion of present-day members who were engaged in banking, finance or accountancy is somewhat less than when the club was formed.
An age distribution of members for each year of the club's life would be useful in monitoring trends and ensuring that there is a pool of members potentially available to contribute to the running of the club in the longer term. (The need for this is discussed in the following section.) However we do not have the necessary information for all members, particularly those who joined in earlier years. Although from the start each member was asked to state the date of his retirement, it was not until much later that new applicants were also asked for their date of birth. By May 2000 an approximate age distribution has become possible for 55 of the 65 active members and is shown in Fig 3.1 It shows a reasonable proportion of members in the younger age groups, although more than half the membership is aged 75 or over.
When the club was first formed the membership ceiling was set at 50. In October 1980 the committee decided to increase the ceiling to 55, and in August 1981 it was agreed to raise it further to 60.These decisions were endorsed at the AGMs of 1981 and 1982. By 1984 pressure was growing on the waiting lists of all three Esher' Probus clubs, and the idea was mooted of forming a fourth club from the waiting lists of the original three. After discussion this idea was eventually dropped, especially in view of the possible overloading of the facilities at Ember Sports Club. In any case the problem was alleviated by the formation of a Walton Probus Club in April 1984.
These discussions sparked off a review of membership numbers in all three clubs. Esher decided to remain at 60, whereas Claremont increased their ceiling to 65. At Sandown after taking soundings throughout the club, the Committee recommended that the ceiling should be raised to 65; this was endorsed at the 1985 AGM and has remained the ceiling ever since. It was also decided to close the waiting list, which had again grown uncomfortably large, until it was reduced to .an acceptable level.
In 1990/91 the Sandown committee identified another potential problem. The club was now 12 years old, and as the majority of members had joined within the first few months of the club's formation, they too were all getting significantly older. Many members were serving, or had already served, the club in one or more of its manifold activities and could not reasonably be expected to accept fresh responsibilities, and a significant proportion of the remainder could not by then be asked to serve by reason of age, indifferent health, or outside commitments. It was concluded that the pool of members available to contribute to the running of the club in the longer term was dangerously small.
To alleviate this problem the following addition was proposed to Rule 3:
"Should a member or members not attend club meetings for a period of twelve consecutive months due to illness or disability the committee shall have discretion to authorise an increase in membership equivalent to the number of members so affected. The number of active members shall however at no time exceed 65."
This proposal was submitted and approved at the AGM in May 1991. The committee was thus able to admit additional members, while keeping the nominal ceiling unchanged.
In 1999 the then Chairman again expressed some concern about maintaining an adequate pool of members able to contribute to the running of the club in the longer term. The Committee conducted a comprehensive review and concluded that the underlying reasons for concern were essentially the same as those emerging from the deliberations of eight years before, of which they were initially unaware. As it turned out losses of membership through death or by transfer to a 'non-active' capacity enabled enough new members to be recruited to allay these fears while still keeping the ceiling at 65. At the same time it was decided to abolish the somewhat unattractive term 'Non-Active' and refer instead to 'Associate Members'
One of the most attractive features of the Club is the wide variety of its extramural activities, and the welcome which is extended to the ladies, to which they respond with enthusiasm.
The first two activities to be set up (at the third meeting) were Gardening and Theatre Outings. It is a strange coincidence that of all the mainstream activities these two were the only ones to be discontinued. They both ceased about 1990, but Theatre Outings were resurrected in 1994 after a most comprehensive questionnaire had been devised and circulated by Kenneth Miller.
Derek Venables took on the job of establishing a gardening section in September 1978. After consulting with his opposite number in Esher Probus he set up monthly meetings from October onwards. These were typically attended by 15 -20 people and at each meeting one or more specific gardening topics were discussed, \there were occasional guest speakers and occasional visits to gardens, including Wisley, Savill Gardens, The Vyne, Winkworth Arboretum, Yew Tree Cottage, etc. There were seed-growing competitions, a "Gardeners' Question Time" with a visiting question-master, and meetings at which seeds, cuttings and plants were exchanged between members. The minutes of the November 1981 club meeting record that 45 plant items were exchanged at the previous gardening meeting. From then on until 1990 an extraordinarily wide variety of topics was discussed at meetings, and visits were paid to Bushy Park Woodland Garden, Jenkyns Place, Kew Gardens, and Frogmore (followed by a ramble in Windsor Great Park). At least one joint meeting was held with Claremont Gardening Section, which was reported as "lively". Derek Venables stood down in April 1981,after three years, and the section was run by Brendan Donelan and Bill Bell until Bob Fish took over in September 1982. He was followed at intervals by a succession of organisers until the gardening Section was suspended in 1990.
In July 1982 the section held its first Social and Flower Show, organised by Brendan Donelan. By all accounts this was a great success and the event was repeated every year until 1990 (see next page). In 1983 the event was followed by a lunch for about 30 people at Moore Place. In 1984 the club minutes recorded the show as a success, with 94 exhibits, and in the following year (1985) the Show was again followed by lunch for about 30 at the Swan, Claygate. In 1987 the show was reported a "success, but with fewer entries". In 1988 the show was again successful, and was followed in September by a 'mini-show' for members only. There were 43 entries for this and judging was carried out by the membership, rather than by a visiting judge. In 1989 it was stressed that all Club members were welcome to exhibit at the show, and in 1990 the show was not only open to all members but also to Claremont Probus gardeners. However at the next monthly meeting of the Club it was reported that the show had been enjoyed, but was less well attended. Indeed the Gardening Section as a whole was not being so well supported and after discussion it had been decided to suspend activities.
A warm welcome was soon received from Esher Probus for Sandown members to join in meetings and outings held by their Gardening Section. Several members from Sandown attended at least for the next few meetings, but as this was on a personal basis it is not known how many continued to participate over the years. From time to time a cordial welcome was also extended by Claremont Probus to join in their gardening activities.
In 1992 the possibility of restarting Gardening Section activities was raised by Basil Lythall, but the response was disappointing and the suggestion was not pursued.
|Derek Venables||Sep 1978 - Apr 1981|
|Brendan Donelan||May 1981 - Sep 1982||assisted by Bill Bell|
|Bob Fish||Sep 1982 - Sep 1984|
|Aldred Bowyer||Sep 1984 - Jan 1986|
|Harold Beard||Jan 1986 - Jan 1987|
|Wesley Lowell||Jan 1987 - Jan 1988|
|Brendan Donelan||Jan 1988 - Jan 1990||with Norman Mustoe|
|George MacFarlane||Jan 1990 -|
In August 1978 Charles ("Spud") Loveridge volunteered to be the first organiser, and promptly consulted the Theatre Organiser of Esher Probus. He soon extended his remit to include general outings (reported separately below), sometimes with help from other members with particular connections. This dual role continued until 1985, since when there has been a separate organiser for each function.
Spud quickly got to work, and at the next club meeting in September 1978 he announced that facilities had already been arranged for 29 people to go by coach to see "Lady Windermere's Fan" at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre at Guildford on the 19th October. This invitation was immediately oversubscribed. A further outing to Guildford was arranged in February 1979. The next outing was to Leatherhead Operatic Society in July, and it was observed that several members had asked for tickets and then, for a variety of reasons, had been unable to take them up. It was resolved that unless such tickets could otherwise be disposed of it would be necessary to ask those on whose behalf they had been obtained to pay for them, as the Club was unable to bear the cost. This guiding principle has since been adopted for all other types of club outing, except in exceptional circumstances, such as sudden medical emergencies.
Thereafter theatre outings continued to flourish for many years, with well supported visits, arranged by a succession of different organisers. There was usually a break in the summer of each year. Visits were mostly to provincial theatres, with the occasional outing to London, particularly to the National Theatre. An exception in 1981 was a visit to the Chichester Theatre. This had apparently been preferred to a joint outing nearer home with another Probus Club, and it was sufficiently successful to be repeated the next year, and again in 1987. Another interesting variation occurred in December 1982. The speaker at the monthly meeting was Roger Clissold, Artistic Director of the Thorndike Theatre, on problems of running a provincial theatre. Two days later a party of 57 attended the theatre to see the production of "A Criminal Suggestion", after which there was a conducted visit behind the scenes. A subsequent report reads " (The occasion) proved interesting, with a visit behind the scenes, but the play left much to be desired."
By 1988, however, there were signs of decreasing enthusiasm. There was a lack of support for a visit to the Follies at Windsor, and not enough people to make up a party to Chichester some time later. There were visits to the Ashcroft Theatre at Croydon in the autumn and early spring of 1989, by which time Bun Lane had taken over from Bill Peachey. There was another outing to Guildford in September to see the musical "Paris Match", but through 1989 there were pleas for more suggestions, and references to the difficulty of obtaining seats at popular shows, and of obtaining seats at reasonable prices. In November the Organiser was invited to discuss the problem with the Club Committee, after which a questionnaire on preferences was circulated to members. The results suggested that no more than three visits a year would be enough, and there was little preference between local and London theatres, provided the shows were good. In 1990 there was insufficient support for a visit to Henry IV at Guildford, but a full party went to see Shirley Valentine in June. There was a further visit to Guildford in September to see La Boheme, and more ideas were being sought during the first half of 1991. A choice between Don Giovanni and Beckett was mooted in June, but this was not followed up, as Bun Lane became unwell that month, and sadly died a few months later. Thereafter visits to theatres lapsed for some years.
In 1994, in an attempt to resurrect interest in theatre outings, Kenneth Miller devised a comprehensive questionnaire which he circulated to members. This embraced categories such as type of play (classical, modern, serious, tragedy, farce, musical), choice of venue, (London, various provincial), matinees and/or evenings, transport, etc. Not surprisingly the answers were extremely variable, but a degree of consensus emerged and there seemed sufficient interest to justify a trial venture. This was a visit to the Richmond Theatre in October to see "The Rivals". The success of this sparked off a regular series of visits, all well attended, which has continued up to the time of writing. Visits are normally restricted to three visits a year. Two of these, in the autumn and spring, are to 'local' theatres (Richmond, Guildford, Woking) when members provide their own transport to and from the theatre. The summer, visit is to a theatre farther afield, such as the Festival Theatre at Chichester, the Globe Theatre in London, or the Mill at Sonning, near Reading. An important ingredient of success is the care and attention which the Organiser takes to ensure that transport is available for those without cars or unable to drive at night, as well as frequent telephone contacts and a willingness to bring in volunteers if there are unexpected cancellations.
Tables of Theatre Outings and Organisers for 1978-1990 and 1994-2000, will be found in Fig 4.1.
General Outings are regarded as one of the major attractions of Sandown Probus. They tend to have the widest appeal to the membership, because they are not confined to any particular interest such as theatre, music, gardening, bowls, golf, bridge, or finance. A glance at the list of outings shown in Fig 4.2 will show what a catholic collection of visits have been made during the life of the club. The task of organising outings is one of the more onerous among the activities, because it often requires at least one dummy run to ensure the facilities are available and acceptable, and the timing practicable, especially when two sites are visited during the day. On one trip, for example, the morning was spent at the Channel Tunnel Museum and Terminal Area; the party then split into two groups for lunch at separate hostelries in the Folkestone area, after which the coach collected both parties and took everyone to Dover for a visit to the Castle.
Organisers have also been active in collaborating with nearby Probus clubs or other organisations, either as a fully joint undertaking, or with one club offering some seats to another club to make up reasonable numbers. Fig 4.2 contains a number of examples, but does not claim to be all-embracing in this respect.
Sandown Probus did not take to outings abroad so quickly and enthusiastically as some of its neighbouring clubs, some of which have been undertaking two or more visits abroad for some years. A first venture, to France in 1997 to visit the Normandy battlefields, etc, had to be cancelled for lack of support. Then in the summer of 1999 a 4-day trip (3 nights) to Arras was undertaken, with outings to Ghent, Vimy Ridge, etc, and was much enjoyed by all. In June 2000 a 5 day trip (4 nights) was organised to Rouen, with trips to Paris, Versailles, Giverny and Honfleur. The numbers from Sandown were barely enough to make the enterprise viable, but the addition of a Banstead Probus party from Tadworth, not large enough to sponsor a trip by themselves, made up a good-sized group. Again the outing was much enjoyed, despite a series of difficulties encountered by the travel company concerned.
In the summer of 1979 John Allen offered to investigate the possibilities for visits to concerts, opera and ballet, and in November he organised an outing to a concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon. Since then outings to concerts and other musical occasions have been consistently well supported throughout the Club's life. On most occasions there has been a full coach load , not infrequently over¬subscribed, and only rarely has a proposed outing had to be abandoned through lack of support or because the cost has been deemed too high.
A typical year's programme will include about five concerts, with a break in the high summer. The majority of outings have been to Fairfield, but other venues have included the Royal Festival Hall (RFH), the Barbican and others. Many, but by no means all the concerts attended have been given by the RPO, with whom the Club has developed a warm relationship. In late 1983 the club members were able to meet the orchestra for coffee and the RPO agreed for 1984 to waive transport costs for our outings. In 1985 the Club voted that a donation pf £25 should be made to the RPO Benevolent Fund, and this was repeated for several years, while in 1992 a donation was made to the King Edward VII Hospital at Midhurst towards the cost of a fibrillator.
Other orchestras enjoyed have included the Halle, the London Mozart Players, and a number of foreign orchestras, including the Hungarian State Orchestra, the Belgian National Orchestra and the Moscow Philharmonic. Several Christmas concerts have been in a somewhat lighter vein, including the Nutcracker Ballet at RFH, a Carol Concert at the Albert Hall, and a 'lightweight' Christmas concert at Fairfield.
Bert Fry took over from John Allen in September 1990 and Ken Hibberd became Concerts Organiser in June 1995. This period saw a closer cooperation with the Esher Recorded Music Society, with the latter making up any shortfall in numbers attending Sandown outings. Bert Fry stood in for Ken Hibberd during the latter's period as Chairman, and Tom Connor became the current Organiser in March 2000.
Most members who are active bowlers belong to one or other of the local bowls clubs and play there during the summer season. Apart from occasional inter-Probus matches the main activity of the Sandown Bowls Section takes place during the winter months at an indoor centre such as the Elmbridge Leisure Centre. This pattern, which continues to the present day, was set up early on in the life of the Club. By October 1978 Bill Bell was beginning to arrange matches with other Probus clubs; the first of these, which Sandown won, was played against Esher on 15th November; . By the new year Bill Bell was collecting names for an instructional course, and a session was held at Elmbridge Leisure Centre in January at which six novices and six experts attended. After further practice in February a return match with Esher was played in March, which Sandown lost.
During the summer there was some discussion on plans for an Inter Probus match and of an outdoor game at Oxshott, then in October 1979 enquiries were made of those interested in setting up a winter bowls session at the Leisure Centre. Enough people were interested to set up a programme of weekly meetings, at which about 6 or 8 attended, and this pattern has continued ever since. In 1982 and 1983 Sandown bowlers were welcome to play at the Hook and Southborough Club in the summer .
In 1982 the minutes recorded that Bill Bell had reached the final of the Ember Sports Club Handicap, and a tribute was paid to him for the generous amount of time he had devoted to Sandown novices. Bill was relieved by John Kerr, with Reg Maney deputising as required. Reg subsequently took over after John Kerr's death; he was succeeded by Robert Adams, who is the current organiser. Occasional matches with other Probus Clubs continued, but have since lapsed for several years. However a stalwart body of Sandown bowlers continues to enjoy regular winter sessions at the Leisure Centre.
Bridge meetings were started early in 1979 by Leslie Kingham, who continued to organise this activity for more than ten years. The aim was to hold two meetings per month, each hosted by a Club member, and to attract enough people to make up two tables. By and large this seems to have been achieved, with occasional sessions with only one table. Invitations were extended to learners, and a session for beginners was arranged. In the autumn of 1980 an invitation to a joint bridge meeting was received from Esher Probus, and this function was continued each year until 1983. In that year a spring bridge drive was organised by Esher , and the next year by Claremont Probus. This led to an annual United Probus bridge meeting in the spring of every year until 1989, almost a decade of annual inter-Probus meetings.
In the 1990s a drive was made to increase the frequency of meetings, and for the last several years these have been held weekly. Priority has also been given to arranging a rota of players so as to ensure that those members who for one reason or another are less mobile than before have the opportunity to enjoy their bridge sessions, either in their own home or with transport to other meetings. In the last few years this has extended to organising a bridge session for a member convalescing in hospital, and for an associate member confined to a nursing home.
Ken Hunt took over from Leslie Kingham in 1990; Jim Ramage took over a few years later, and Ken Hunt subsequently returned to become the current Organiser.
Most Probus members who are regular golfers play at their local golf club, and unlike bowls there is no close season outdoors, so any Probus activities have to be fitted in a busy programme. It says much for the spirit of Sandown that throughout its life the Golf Section has continuously maintained its own programme of events, including matches with other Probus clubs as well as Sandown's own annual knockout competition.
Golf activities started in 1979, led by Denis Squire. A meeting at Moore Place in February was followed by a second meeting at ESC in March. A match was arranged with Esher Probus and played in August, which Sandown won. Thereafter a few matches per year were arranged with other Probus clubs, including Wimbledon, Claremont, Esher and Dorking & Epsom, although from 1983 to 1985 the matches were almost exclusively with Wimbledon. For the next ten years there seem to have been almost no matches with other single Probus clubs, perhaps partly because of the introduction of Sandown's own internal competition. Matches were resumed with Esher and Claygate, from 1996 to date. There have also been occasional "Inter-Probus" matches or competitions arranged between several Probus clubs, including a Stapleford tournament at Banstead Downs in 1984 - which was apparently not judged a success - and in 1992 a competition for the Northcote Cup arranged by Walton Probus (won by Peter Hawker).Another competition is being arranged for 2000, in which Sandown will mount two teams.
At the beginning of 1984 it was decided to organise a knock-out competition open only to Sandown members. The first event was won by Martin Coe, and was deemed successful enough to make it an annual occasion. 1992 was a signal year in its history, when Isabel Bowyer donated a silver cup, to be known as the Aldred Bowyer Golf Trophy, in memory of her husband. A list of the winners and runners up appears below.
Peter Hawker took over organisation in April 1986. He was followed by Cyril Nailer who took over for the 1992 competition. Don Cox took over at the end of the 1998 season and continues up to the time of writing.
Aldred Bowyer Golf Trophy
|1988||Donelan, Hawker||at 19th hole|
(now known as the MONEY MATTERS GROUP) This was started by Martin Coe at the beginning of 1979. He originally planned to hold the first meeting at his home, but the response to initial enquiries was so strong that the meeting had to be held in the Sports Club. The meeting was deemed a success; future meetings were planned at monthly intervals and this pattern has continued ever since. There are typically 12-15 regular members who share the cost of the rent of the room. Initially the meetings focussed on various ways of ways of investing money, from bank accounts to the stock market, and on likely trends in the latter. Naturally this led to the corresponding tax implications, and in turn to the effects of changes in each successive national budget. Discussions are normally between group members but from time to time guest speakers have been invited, for example from the finance industry or from associated regulatory bodies. On occasion all main club members have been invited to attend, as well as members of neighbouring Probus "Money" groups.
1979 also saw the introduction of some light relief in the form a competition has since become an annual event. In its present form participants are each allotted a hypothetical sum of £10,000 to be invested in four separate shares. Within certain limits they may switch investments from time to time, and there is a prize for the most successful competitor at the end of the year. (There are also lesser prizes for the members with the most accurate forecast of the FT 100 Index at certain dates.) The progress of members individual entries is briefly discussed at each meeting, and provides interesting insights into the trends in each market sector.
Over the years the scope of discussions has widened to take in more and more other aspects of domestic and personal finance, and to reflect this it was recently decided to change the name to 'Money Matters Group' Examples of recent discussions include:
Gas, Electricity, Telephone charges; merits of competing providers
Mobile Phones for the elderly
Insurances - e.g. House, Motor, Travel, Healthcare
Banks and Building Societies
Income Tax & Self Assessment
Aspects of the current Budget
Wills and related matters e.g. Enduring Powers of Attorney.
Investments, e.g. Shares, Bonds, Unit Trusts, PEPs, ISAs and TESSAs. Members are not financial experts, but laymen, keen to learn from each other's experiences and mistakes. Questions on any aspect of domestic finance are welcome, and may well reveal others with similar problems.
Martin Coe was succeeded by Denis Squire in the summer of 1981.In May 1984 Denis was relieved by Len Sillick and Brendan Donelan. Geoffrey Hollis took over in January 1986, and when he became Sandown Chairman in 1989 he instituted, and still maintains, an arrangement whereby each regular member of the Group in succession is asked to take the chair for three months at a time. This shares the load, makes for an increasing sense of involvement, and provides interesting variations in agenda.
After a few abortive starts Rambling became established as a regular activity in 1983, with John Martin leading. Participants would foregather at a stated car park and then take a countryside walk, following a more-or-less circular route, eventually returning to the starting point fairly early in the afternoon. An essential feature was a stop for lunch at a suitable pub, preferably situated a little more than half way round the circuit. There were two such outings in 1983, also in 1984, and in the number of walks fluctuated over the next few years, building up to a marked increase in 1990, after which there was a further rise to reach the current pattern in which a ramble is held every month except December. Initially the length of the walks was typically about 3.5 miles; for the last several years distances have increased slightly, now being about 4 to 4.5 miles. The programmes of walks selected by Organisers normally include a mixture of old favourites and new ventures (which usually require a 'dummy run' beforehand to check the route). In the winter months the route is generally selected with regard to the firmness of the going (towpath walks can usually be relied on to be free from too much water and mud) but on occasion the walkers have found themselves somewhat deeper in the mire than they would have liked.
In the early years the number joining each ramble was rarely more than 6 or 7, but increased somewhat during the 1990s, when it was emphasised that ladies and friends were very welcome to join in. The maximum recorded attendance on a walk is 17 (and the minimum is 2!). Members are welcome to bring their dogs - there is a report of a walk starting at Hurst Park in the winter of 1986 which was "enjoyed by 6 men and 3 dogs", and care is taken to select a suitable pub which is prepared to accept dogs.
John Lytle took over as Organiser from John Martin in the summer of 1987, but was unable to continue after April 1989. John Martin then took over again until succeeded by John Hooper in April 1990. Basil Lythall became Organiser in June 1993 and was relieved in May 1996 by Ray Fuller and Geoffrey Davies. Ray unfortunately had to relinquish this task later, and Geoffrey is now pursuing a scheme whereby the organisation of walks is shared between regular members of the rambling group.
In February 1981 Aldred Bowyer announced that he would be at home to offer advice on winemaking. There is no further reference until September 1982 when the Club minutes refer to 'the next bi-monthly meeting' of the winemakers. Activities presumably dwindled some time later, because in September 1986 Aldred Bowyer announced the 're-formation of the Wine-making Section'. In September 1988 the Winemakers exhibited a selection of their wines at the Sandown 'mini' flower show described above under the notes on the Gardening Section. Wesley Lowell became Organiser after Aldred Bowyer's death at the beginning of 1992, and the winemakers have continued to meet at regular intervals, in one another's houses, to discuss such tasks as collecting fruit, preparing the wine and in due course for mutual tasting and considered judgement.
For the last several years all Sandown club members have had the opportunity of judging the quality of the winemakers' products for themselves. Each year the vintners have kindly arranged a reception immediately after the AGM before members make their way to the AGM Lunch. The occasion is very warmly appreciated by all present, with many tributes to the high standard of wines offered.
From time to time other activities have been mooted, some started successfully, others not. They do not necessarily require a large number of participants; and can be perfectly justifiable even if only a small number of club members find a common interest which they can pursue together. Of course if significant overhead costs are involved the numbers must be enough to make the shared cost reasonable.
In January 1994 it was announced that the then Chairman (Peter Keeler) and some of his colleagues had started to foregather for swimming sessions at Teddington Pool on Wednesdays at 12 pm. Other Club members were very welcome to join in. It is in the nature of such small gatherings that arrangements are settled between the members concerned, and progress is not reported at monthly meetings. But as far as is known the swimming meetings continued for some time to come, affording pleasure to the participants.
A similar small-scale venture was started by Bob Madill when he took over as Organiser of General Outings. Those interested, about half a dozen, met to play at the Sandown Park Golf Centre.
Water Colour Painting
In the summer of 1993 interest was expressed by several members in forming a water-colour class. John Gray volunteered to organise this if sufficient interest was forthcoming. In the next few months he investigated various possible meeting places as well as specifying the basic art materials which would need to be obtained by the students. A charge of £2 per student per class was aimed at, but in the event it did not prove possible to find enough volunteers to defray the costs of the preferred site - the Vera Fletcher Hall in Thames Ditton. A factor which may have influenced this is the wide variety of art courses and lessons offered by other organisations in the district.
More recently Ray Fuller said he would be prepared to organise trout fishing in the lakes at Effingham if any members would be interested, but again there was insufficient response.
Two Club publications have been introduced recently and have generally been welcomed by members.
Quarterly Diary of Events
This is a pocket-sized card, issued to all members, and intended as a convenient aide-memoire. It gives details of the next three meetings, speakers, coffee stewards, etc, dates of other events taking place during the period., and a list of useful telephone numbers.
Entitled The Sandown Probus News, this is a broadsheet, available to all members and also sent to wives of former members. It contains a miscellany of reports on Club activities, news of members, and various items of interest and amusement contributed both by members and the editor. The first issues drew encouraging comments ,and by the third issue the flow of contributions from members was enough to ensure a continued future.
For both these publications the Club is greatly indebted to Paul Stringfellow, the Diary Secretary. As well as making up the diary every quarter he acts as the editor of the newsletter, personally designs the complex layout of the broadsheet and superintends the printing and production, in all a most time-consuming task.