History of Rotary Club of Essendon

Club Organised - 13 January 1935
Admitted Rotary International - 27 March 1935
Charter 3764 Presented - 21 May 1935
Sponsor Club - Rotary Club of Melbourne

Past Presidents
W B REID 1935-36 P M SALMON 1936-37  N F WELLINGTON 1937-38 
A F SHOWERS 1938-39 B O'CALLAGHAN 1939-40 H J W GYLES 1940-41 
J M EDGAR 1941-42*  G KIFT 1942-43  F D NUNAN 1943-44 
J Le RAY 1944-45  J W S FRASER 1945-46  A GREEN 1946-47 
J A BRADBURY 1947-48*  W E STINTON 1948-49*  S C STEEL 1949-50 
A E SHORLAND 1950-51  H WINBUSH 1951-52  R K MORGAN 1952-53 
R R HINDSON 1953-54  S W MILLS 1954-55  R O PLARRE 1955-56 
P M JURSE 1956-57  D D ATKINS 1957-58  C H REID 1958-59 
A O MARTIN 1959-60  W L RUSSELL 1960-61  J A SMITH 1961-62 
W A GURNEY 1962-63  R A ABBEY 1963-64 *  L J STEELE 1964-65 
C CURWOOD 1965-66  I J G MUIR 1966-67  D W MANNING 1967-68 
F C BARNETT 1968-69  R W NICHOLSON 1969-70  S W STRACK 1970-71 
W EARLY 1971- 72  W J LAMERS 1972-73  M S HAWKEN 1973-74 
D R RHODE 1974-75  H C CURWEN-WALKER 1975-76  J R HUSSEY 1976-77 
A J H GREEN 1977-78  G A ALLISON 1978-79 *  S S SMITH 1979-80 
M MOLLICA 1980-81  J W DIBBEN 1981-82  J G HONSON 1982-83 
P I DURAS 1983-84  D A WHITE 1984-85  I E THOMAS 1985-86 
P NICHOLLS 1986-87  I MORGAN 1987-88  G GOODSON 1988-89 
K J STEELE 1989-90 *  M J CARRISS 1990-91  J L GREGORY 1991-92 
A S FEDOROWICZ 1992-93  S TARTAGLIA 1993-94  N HENDERSON 1994-95 
M BAKER 1995-96  S F LOONG 1996-97  J CHADDERTON 1997-98 
P CONDOS 1998-99  R PRIESTLY 1999-2000  A J MURPHY 2000-01 
I T SINGLETON 2001-02  J I SAUNDERS 2002-03  P BAKER 2003-04 
S CHANDLER 2004-05  S KUKK 2005-06   R LEASK 2006-07 
R LAWRENCE 2007-08  C BELL 2008-09  A ROGERS 2009-10 
G SMITH 2010-11  S ROE 2011-12  G SHELDON 2012-13
B STRUK 2013-14 L LOWCOCK 2014-15 P HALASEH 2015-16
M KOUPPAS 2016-17 J FOSTER 2017-18 V O"SULLIVAN 2018-19
K ABFALTER 2019-20 D ABBEY 2020-21 S PERERA 2021-22
V MALJEVAC 2022-23 M PORTELLI 2023-24  
* Past District Governors

Our original banner

Our first president (1935-36), Bill Reid 
Initial Meetings 
In 1935, The Rotary Club of Melbourne had been in existence for 14 years and was the only Rotary Club in Melbourne. The Mayor of Essendon Cr W.B.Reid instructed the Town Clerk to write to the Rotary Club of Melbourne requesting the approval to start a Rotary Club in Essendon. A meeting was arranged between prominent citizens from Essendon and Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Melbourne. Included in this group of Melbourne Rotarians were President George Coles and District Governor Angus Mitchell, (later to be World President of Rotary and a mentor of Royce Abbey). This would be the first suburban Rotary Club in Australia. 

After the preliminary meeting, a selection of business men from Essendon was invited to a preliminary meeting at Edenhope Receptions in Maribyrnong Rd on 13th February 1935. The meeting was chaired by W.J.Rose from the Rotary Club of Melbourne and attended by 9 other prominent Melbourne Rotarians. At that provisional meeting a provisional committee was appointed at which Cr W.B.Reid was elected president, Lt-Col. N.F. Wellington was elected Secretary and Allan F Showers was elected Treasurer. A by-laws committee was formed consisting of the President, Secretary, Treasurer, Cr P.M. Salmon and Mr E.W. Stinton. Also present at that initial meeting were Cr R.J. Gilbertson, Cr A.F.Showers, Lt-Col. J.M. Edgar, Dr S.J.Neweing, L.Gordon, F.E. Pugh, H.W. Gyles, M.McMahon, G.I.Woodhous, J.Gawne, B.O’Callaghan, W.S. Johnson and A.B. Carey. 

Following the provisional meeting on the 13th of February an educational meeting was held for the provisional Rotary Club of Essendon on the 19th of February that was attended by 17 members and 8 guests. Professor W.A. Osborne of the Rotary Club of Melbourne delivered an address on the “Aims and Objects of Rotary”. On the 26th of February a constitutional meeting was held at which 51 Rotarians from the Rotary Clubs of London, Mildura, Ballarat, Geelong and Melbourne attended. The meeting was chaired by Walter Rose, chairman of the extension committee of the Rotary Club of Melbourne. The office bearers of the provisional club were ratified and along with additional board members E.W. Stinton & Les.A.Gordon they were all inducted by Sir Angus Mitchell. The new Rotary Club of Essendon was presented with a framed portrait of King George V, a “handsome” brass gong surmounted with a Rotary Wheel and a gavel from the Rotary Club of Melbourne.
The Charter Members of the Rotary Club of Essendon were 
Alfred Carey Michael McMahon Arthur Showers
John Edgar Sidney Newing Eric Stinton 
(board member)
James Gawne Brian O’Callaghan Roy Stinton
Robert Gilbertson Fauntleroy Pugh Nelson Wellington 
Leslie Gordon 
(board member)
George Woodhouse Harry Gyles
Phillip Salmon 
(Vice President)
William Johnson Allan Showers 
Paul Harris pays a visit
The Rotary Club of Essendon began meeting at Edenhope of a Tuesday luncheon from the 5th of March 1935 and on the 19th of March the club hosted visiting Rotarian Paul Harris, (the founder of Rotary), from the Rotary Club of Chicago. In his address to the new club Paul Harris said “He congratulated the members in their decision to form a Rotary Club of Essendon. He was astounded at the success of Rotary in Australia and was greatly interested in the smaller clubs where he found the same spirit of good fellowship that prevailed throughout Rotary in general. He did not like to see clubs grow to fast.

Paul Harris congratulated members upon their custom of singing grace before meals. He felt that people as a whole failed to recognise the value of song in everyday life. He appreciated the value of music of a suitable type, not including jazz, in Rotary life.” 

At the conclusion of the meeting a photograph was taken of President Emeritus of Rotary International Paul Harris, the members and visitors for historical purposes. 
The First Charter Night

The Charter Night of the Rotary Club of Essendon was held on 21st May 1935 in the supper room of the Essendon Town Hall. The cost per member was 3/6. The guests included the Mayor & Mayoress of Essendon, Cr and Mrs G.A.Mitchell, supported by Cr W.T. Divers and representatives of the Rotary Clubs of Melbourne, Geelong, Sale and Dandenong. 

The meeting was opened by Walter Rose of the Rotary Club of Melbourne and a short address on “the Ethics of Rotary” was delivered by District Governor Angus Mitchell before he officially presented the Charter to President Bill Reid. Past District Governor Len Mitchell delivered an address on the “Aims and Objects of Rotary” and a musical and elocutionary program followed.

Shortly after his presidential year, Immediate past President Bill Reid lost his classification and along with Sid Newing was installed as an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Essendon. However the new members had wrongly interpreted who honorary membership could be given to and so Bill Reid & Sidney Newing had to leave the club they had helped found. Sidney Newing later rejoined the Rotary Club of Essendon in 1939 and went on to play an important part in its future.

A complete re-enactment of the first charter night and the Council meetings leading up to the Charter was conducted in May 2010 to celebrate the Club's 75th Anniversary.


1935 - 1939

Whilst the initial meetings to form the Rotary Club of Essendon were at Edenhope receptions, the charter was at the Essendon Town hall and the newly formed club continued to meet there until 1939, when it returned to Edenhope. Luncheons at the Town Hall were provided by Alex Russell at 2 /- per head. In the early years, functions in the form of “Smoke Nights” were held at the Northern Golf Club in Glenroy, at the Moonee Ponds Town Hall, at the Drill Hall and at Ascot House. In 1939 charter night was changed from a Smoke Night to a ladies Night. 

During the early years of the Rotary Club of Essendon, a number of gifts were presented to the club. A fine box made by Rotarian Goldberg was presented by Percy Oakley of the Rotary Club of Melbourne and Cr W.K. Clark presented the club with a portrait of King Edward VIII. Brian O’Callaghan presented the club with the presidential chain and jewel, Des Nunan donated the club cabinet and Alan Showers presented a speaker’s stand.


The Rotary Club of Essendon began its service to the community by inviting each Essendon School to send 2 students to a Rotary luncheon. The club began visiting Mt Royal home for the aged and arranging trips for the residents to Sunbury. In 1936 as a Christmas treat, the Rotary Club organised for Santa Claus to visit orphanages at Broadmeadows and Glenroy by plane with the plane landing in nearby field and Santa being driven to the eagerly waiting children. This became a regular Christmas function and the children were later taken to Wirth’s Circus.


1940 - 1945

During this period club luncheons moved to Ascot House in Fenton St Ascot Vale. Australia was at war in Europe and so Rotarians and sons of Rotarians were toasted at each meeting and all Rotarians on active service were made temporary honorary members. 

A “Business Advisory Committee” was formed to assist the wife’s of Rotarians serving overseas in matters of business, law and education as well as assisting them in digging Air Raid shelters. This service was later extended to all dependants of servicemen in the local area. American & Allied Servicemen were invited to luncheons and a suggestion was put forward by Rotarian Len Moncur to send vocal messages overseas by cheaply prepared gramophone records. The Annual Rotary Ball, which raised close to 250 pounds each year, was abandoned in 1942 due to the war.


Despite the war, the Rotary Club of Essendon continued its Community Service. Christmas visits continued to boy’s homes in Broadmeadows and Glenroy. As well children in other homes were taken on picnics to Studley Park by courtesy of Harold Hicks pleasure steamer. Visits were made to Mount Royal Home for the Aged and they were also taken on outings to Studley Park. During these visits parcels were given containing fruit, cakes, cigarettes, cigars, tobacco and confectionery. 

In May each year, youth day was held and over 50 pupils from local schools were invited to a luncheon. Some members of the Rotary Club of Essendon along with other prominent citizens formed the Essendon Community Centre Ltd and purchased the property for the Toc H Boys Club. A donation of 10 guineas was made to the Rotary Relief Fund for Distressed Rotarians. 

The “Pioneers Retreat” by the Maribyrnong River was a great success with the pioneers being invited to a luncheon each year. At one lunch it was worked out that the “Pioneers” had an average age of 72 years and the total of their ages was 1728 years. During this period a Lili-Pilli tree was planted by District Governor Stan Perry at the Pioneers Retreat with the wish that it would grow like Rotary. 

A 10ft x 10ft concrete draughts board was made in the surrounds of the Pioneers Retreat and Rotarians competed with pioneers for a trophy. A “sinking” fund was started for a “Pioneers Retreat” in Queens Park after an enthusiastic address by George Kift at a club assembly. The fund was kicked off with donations of 142 pounds and Harry Winbush did the architectural drawings. 

Since its charter, the Rotary Club of Essendon had enjoyed a very close relationship with Angus Mitchell who was District Governor at the time of charter and later became President of Rotary International in 1941/42. Angus was a regular at the Rotary Club of Essendon and in 1941 he and Jack Sutherland from the Rotary Club of Melbourne were presented with permanent club plaques inscribed with the word visitor. An annual bowls tournament was contested between local clubs for the Mitchell-Sutherland Cup which was finished by match and candle light in February 1942 due to blackout conditions. 

Other club happenings of this period were the starting of a weekly bulletin originally called “Steads Review” named after its editor George Stead. It was changed to “contact” to reflect its purpose and because of its significance to aircraft of the time. A decision was made at club assembly that committee meeting suppers should be plain consisting of sandwiches, cakes and coffee. Club Assemblies at this time were called “Grouch Night”. 

In 1943 consideration was given to writing the history of the Rotary Club of Essendon. A Club library was installed at Edenhope in 1943. Job talks were started as a means of finding out more about Rotarians and as a means of improving public speaking skills.

1945 – 1950

With the war over the Rotary Club of Essendon again set about helping the community. As well as the usual Christmas visits and boat cruises on the Maribyrnong for the elderly and orphan children the Club set out to really make a difference. In 1945 Harry Byrne was head of the Community Committee and was an earnest advocate of forestry development for the prevention of erosion. At the suggestion of Rotarian Jack Cahill a Forestry Camp for youth of the Essendon area was proposed. Eleven Essendon Rotarians donated 50 pounds each to purchase some land. After much searching, 180 acres of land in Catherine Valley, Gisborne, (now known as Riddell’s Creek), was purchased for 700 pounds. The local council were asked to build a road into the property and Rotarian Alan Showers helped build roads through the camp with his grader.

The property was originally offered to the Education Department but negations broke down because they wanted the whole of the state to have use of it and not just the youth of Essendon. The camp was then offered to the Scouts & Guides of the area who gratefully accepted it. The club then began equipping the camp with de commissioned equipment from prisoner of war camps. Working bees at the forestry camp became a regular feature of the Rotary Club and on one occasion President Joe Bradbury fell from a log while crossing the creek and hence that area became known as “Bradbury Falls”.

The Rotary Club continued to support the Pioneers Retreat and its members. Members of the Rotary Club of Unley in South Australia consulted the club about its Pioneer Hut with the idea of constructing one in their area. A later visitor from England to The Rotary Club of Unley’s “Pioneer Retreat” was so impressed with the idea; he left money for them to construct another one. Plans and fund raising were already well established to build a similar hut in Queens Park Moonee Ponds and money was donated to the Maribyrnong “Pioneers Retreat” to go towards equipment for their Trugo Club. Trugo is a game invented by workers at the Newport rail yards and played with mallets and large ring like a washer.

As part of the post war effort many European refugees were bought to Melbourne and the Rotary Club of Essendon began to assist them. Visits were made to the camp in Broadmeadows and the refugees were taken on outings. One young refugee while on a day trip with Rotarian Syd Steel suggested that the refugees should be called “New Australians” rather than the common terms of refo’s, emigrants, or displaced persons. Syd passed this onto the club who then approached the Minister for Migration, Arthur Calwell with the result that the name “New Australian” was adopted by the government.

An International meeting was also held in which the consuls of various embassies were invited. As a result of the meeting the club received a letter from a German prisoner of war in Tatura, suggesting that prisoners of war need information on how to live in a democratic society with this information having been suppressed in Germany. As a result Rotary magazines and books on democracy were forwarded to the prisoner of war camps. The Rotary Club of Essendon also assisted the needs of post war Britain by sending regular food parcels to be distributed by the Rotary Clubs of Wembley and Hounslow.

Other happenings of the Rotary Club of Essendon at this time were that Past President Jack Edgar was elected District Governor for 1946/47. Inter City meetings between the suburban Rotary clubs of the time became a regular feature. The founder of Rotary Paul Harris died in January 1947 and Essendon Rotarians were urged to support the Rotary Foundation in honour of him. The Gala Ball re commenced, attracting up to 750 people. Rotarian Col Arthur Green, (father of John Green) became the first returned service man from the Second World War to become President of the Rotary Club of Essendon.

Jack Edgar was District Governor in 1946-47.


1950 – 1955

On 10th December 1950 the Rotary Youth Camp at Riddell’s Creek was formally handed over to the Chief Commissioner of Scouts, G.W. Anderson on behalf of the Essendon District scouts and guides by President Ted Shortland. Past president Allan Showers outlined the history of the camp to the 200 scouts, cubs, guides plus their families. The initial idea was from Harry Byrne and Jack Cahill and then 11 Rotarians chipped in 50 pounds each to purchase the land after an extensive search. 

Three huts other and materials were purchased through the Disposal Commission from the Tatura POW camp. The huts were demolished by Mr Morris and then transported to the camp by Mr Lou Arthur and his men in 10 trips over hills and through paddocks as there was initially no road into the camp. The members spent many weekends at the camp working “without coats” to install the huts, holding tanks for the water pumped from the creek, 2000 feet of water pipe and planting of 250 poplar trees. Many local tradesmen were co opted to help with building, plumbing and electrical duties. Rotarians from Melbourne Rotary Club donated the materials for Essendon Rotarians to make the plaster on site. 

By the time the camp was handed over it had cost 4000 pounds with donations coming from the City of Essendon Mayor’s Committee, (1200 pounds), The Moonee Valley Racing Club, (300 Pounds), Rotarian George Limb, (500 pounds) and the Moonee Ponds Bowling Club, (200 pounds). The rest had come from the Rotary Club or smaller donations. As well as the money, the Essendon Rotarians had put in many hours of back breaking work to complete the project. The camp was named “Rowallan Scout Camp” in honour of the Chief Scout Lord Rowallan.

On Tuesday 8th April, the “Pioneers Retreat” in Queens Park was opened by Angus Mitchell and handed over to the City of Essendon. The Pioneers retreats were so popular that they were copied by Rotary Clubs from other parts of Australia with the Perth Rotary Club building an open air one to suit their climate. It was deemed that there was a need for another Retreat in Kensington and so the sports pavilion in the Racecourse Road Reserve was re fitted to become a Pioneers Retreat. Also the original Maribyrnong Retreat was extended an extra 10 feet by the City of Essendon in conjunction with Rotary Club of Essendon. 

As well as their work with the pioneer’s retreats and the scout camp, visits were continued to the boy’s homes, to the Mount Royal Aged home and to Gladswood aged home in Ascot Vale. The Club also agreed to assist in adding a wing to Gladswood at a cost of 7000 pounds of which the club would provide 5000 pounds. With all the projects that the Rotary Club of Essendon had going in the early 1950’s, its not surprising that they had the situation where spending was greater than income by 25 pounds. 

Other notable happening during this period were that a motion was put to board that “Senior Active” be achieved by a member under 65 with 20 years of membership. This motion was passed to District and then International to be adopted by Rotary International. Past President Eric Stinton became District Governor in 1953/54. The Rotary Club of Essendon recognised the need to develop relationships with Asian Countries and so distributed brochures to Essendon residents to ask them to help accommodate Asian students as well as putting a motion to district conference to form an Australian – Asian Association. 

A Rotary Stand for 100 persons was erected outside the Town Hall for the Royal visit of Queen Elizabeth in 1954. It was noted during this time that some members were not attending lunches and so it was decided to get members to pay for lunches in advance. John Steele and Royce Abbey both joined the Rotary Club of Essendon during this period.

Eric Stinton was District Governor in 1953-54.

1955 – 1960

1955 was the jubilee year for Rotary International and during this period the Rotary Club of Essendon continued its good work in particular with the elderly, the young and the disadvantaged in the community. The major project at this time was the building of a new wing for Gladswood elderly peoples home in Ascot Vale. Past RI President and great friend of the Rotary Club of Essendon, Sir Angus Mitchell, officially opened the building in July 1956. As well as providing the new wing the club regularly took the residents on outings which were greatly enjoyed. 

The trust deeds to the Rowallan Scout Camp were handed over to the scouts in a ceremony that took place at the camp in March 1955. Many thanks were made to the Rotary Club of Essendon for establishing the camp and also to the rotary Club of Melbourne for a donation of 12,500 pounds to make the Scouting Association financially independent. Essendon President Syd Mills was presented with a large size Scouts Honour Badge, (the highest form of scout appreciation), as were the original trustees, Des Nunan, jack Cahill and Allan Showers. 


The Rotary Club of Wembley, who the club first made contact with when Syd Newing met Ted Garner at an International Conference and then later through food parcels sent to England after the war, made contact with Essendon about the plight of a Yugoslav refugee Jacob Kaldor. Mr Kaldor’s father had been shot during the communist revolution in Yugoslavia because he was a Rotarian and now Jacob and his wife were refugees in Israel. The Rotary Club of Essendon was asked to sponsor the couple into Australia which meant providing them with accommodation and work for at least 12 months. Jacob was offered work with Ralph Plarre and his wife with Perc Jurss. Jacob eventually gained employment at Fairfield Hospital where he became a world respected research scientist.

The “Pioneer’s Retreats” had become enormously popular with the rotary Club of Essendon continuing to support the Retreats in Maribyrnong, Queens Park, Kensington and Ormond Park. The pioneers were regularly taken on outings and their clubrooms were refurbished and equipment provided by the club. Approaches were made to Rotarians exhibiting at the Royal Melbourne Show to invite them for a luncheon and this became an annual event. Like wise during the 1956 Olympic Games, international Rotarians were entertained at the club and signs were erected at Essendon Airport to direct visiting Rotarians to the club. 

Other happenings at the club during this period were Joe Bradbury was made District Governor in 1958. A wishing well was built in Queens Park with funds to go to the Mayors Charity Fund. The club organised a District Conference in Lorne and many inter -club visits were made. Royce Abbey began his rise to the top, first as Community Chairman and then as Vocational chairman.

In May of 1960, The Rotary Club of Essendon celebrated 25 years of service to the community with a gala night held at the Essendon Town hall. Over 200 people including 45 visiting Rotarians attended the night. Also attending were Cr J. Bastick (Mayor of Essendon), Past RI President, Sir Angus Mitchell, Elliot Black, (President of Essendon Club), Stan Morrison, (President Lions Club of Essendon), Ken Ward, (President Essendon Junior Chamber of Commerce), several widows of former Rotarians and 9 Asian visitors to Australia. 

President Allan Martin welcomed all and then Past President Allan Showers proposed a Toast to Rotary International and then thanked Sir Angus Mitchell and Walter Rose from the Rotary Club of Melbourne who were very helpful in the chartering of the Rotary Club of Essendon. Special mention was made of Bill Reid, Mal Salmon & Nelson Wellington who were responsible for the idea to charter a Rotary Club in Essendon. 

The main address for the night was from Past District Governor Joe Bradbury who gave a review of the clubs activities since its formation. Ron Budge, chairman of the Community Committee announced that the Essendon Council had agreed to make a section of Montgomery Park available for a Traffic School for Children. 

The entertainment for the night was in the form of a comedy sketch presented by Allan Curwood, Ron Budge, George Strack, Ted Allen, Jack Freeman, Vic Evans and their pianist Ted Lewis. There was also a note prefect rendering of a concerto movement by Dianna Weekes and an intriguing telepathy by Sonia & Rege which was noted as very entertaining and puzzling indeed. The 25th Anniversary cake was cut by long time friend of the Rotary Club of Essendon, Past Rotary International President Sir Angus Mitchell. 

During the year the club continued service to the community supporting members from the pioneer’s retreat and Gladswood Nursing Home. A playground was built at the Ascot Vale Housing Estate and fundraising for the Traffic School continued. Asian students visiting under the “Colombo Plan” were entertained at “fire side” meetings and members learnt a great deal from these meetings. 


Sir Angus Mitchell played an important part in the history of the Rotary Club of Essendon. When meetings began, to form a Rotary Club in Essendon, Angus Mitchell was Governor of District 65, which included all of Australia. Angus guided Bill Reid and the other members as they chartered a new Rotary Club. From that time on Angus was a regular visitor to The Rotary Club of Essendon, so much so that they had a permanent “visitors” badge made for him and was there to cut the 25th Anniversary Cake. 

Sir Angus Mitchell was born in Shanghai, China, to a Scottish born father and an Australian born mother of Scottish decent and moved to Australia when he was one. He was educated at Scotch College Melbourne and in 1905 he Co founded the grain and mercantile broker Mitchell, Bellair and Lees, that had offices in Melbourne & Liverpool. He retired from this business in 1936 and was then a director of Australian Cement, Noske Industries, (grain millers), Queens Bridge Motors and Queens Bridge Investments. 

He was one of the founders of the Melbourne Corn Exchange, was a Director of the Melbourne Y.M.C.A., Chairman of the Victorian Y.M.C.A. Defence Forces Committee, Honorary Treasurer and member of the State Executive Council of the Victorian Boy Scouts Association, and President of the Victorian Society for Crippled Children. 

Sir Angus joined the Rotary Club of Melbourne in 1927, was District Governor in 1934 – 35 and became Rotary International President in 1948 – 49. He is credited with re introducing Rotary to Japan after the war. He was knighted in 1956 for a lifetime of service to Australia and the Empire. 

Royce Abbey spoke fondly of Sir Angus. On one of Royce’s first visits to Edenhope he was greeted by Sir Angus who from that time on took it upon himself to make Royce feel a part of the family of Rotary and became a mentor to him.

In 1958 – 59 Joe Bradbury was District Governor.

 1960 – 1965

The major project for the Rotary Club of Essendon in the early 60’s was the Essendon Traffic School. The council had already allocated the land in Montgomery park for the traffic School but with the “credit squeeze’ that existed at the start of the 60’s, funds were hard to raise. 

Eventually the club put in 1500 pounds, the members and friends contributed a further 1700 pounds. Building supplies, equipment, advice from various government departments and contactors labour was donated and the traffic school opened in 1962 when Royce Abbey was head of Community. 


The club continued to run the traffic school spending hundreds of pounds each year until it was handed over to the council to run. By December 1964, 60 schools had visited the traffic school and over 10,000 children had been instructed. 

As well as the traffic school the Rotary Club of Essendon helped furnish the newly opened Essendon District Memorial Hospital with medical equipment. Many of the youth centres in the area were supported with purchases of equipment and also a YMCA training centre in Indukurpet in India. Club members helped form a YMCA centre in Essendon by assisting on the management committee. 

Gladswood residents and members of the Pioneers Retreat were entertained at Christmas parties and on outings and firewood was delivered to the homes of war widows. On Youth Day students from 38 schools in the area were invited to lunch with the students being picked up and returned to school by Rotarians.

To build better understanding with our near neighbours, Asian students were regularly entertained at the club and on outings with the club. Under International Chairman Jim Lamers, a student from Eaton Colorado, John Hyde was bought to Australia and attended Essendon High School. 

Student exchange became a regular feature of the club from this time on. The first 2 students sent out from the club were daughters of members being Susan Abbey and Kerry Monoghan who travelled to Pennsylvania. The first official Rotary Exchange Student to visit Essendon was Dianne Keller from Akron Colorado.

During Royce Abbey’s year as President a special visit was arranged to the Rotary Club of Seymour. Rotarian Jock Balding, who was head of Essendon Airport, arranged for the members to board a plane at Essendon and fly to Mangalore Airport where they were ferried to the meeting at Seymour. According to Royce the fellowship was supreme, a truly great adventure. 

Also in Royce’s year the “Wheel of Friendship”, from the Rotary Club of Wembley in England, was presented to the club by Ted Garner. The “Wheel” along with a book in polished wood was to travel around the district until an official visit to each club had been recorded, and then returned to our club. 

The relationship with the Rotary Club of Wembley was begun due to a chance meeting between charter member Syd Newing and Ted Garner on the way to the Nice Rotary Convention in 1937. The relationship continued when The Rotary Club of Essendon sent food parcels to England after the war via the Rotary Club of Wembley. A “Boomerang of Friendship” was presented to the Rotary Club of Tokyo by Rotarian Len Warner to promote inter club visits in Japan during John Steele’s year. 

During this period the luncheon meetings were moved from Edenhope to New Ascot House. Piano playing and singing were a regular part of Rotary meetings with a “song leader” being appointed each year. A bowls night, begun in the earliest days as an interclub event, continued to be a regular part of each Rotary year.


1965 - 1970

The major project during this period was the Royal District Nursing Service Building in Grice Cres Essendon. The land was the former site of a Caroline Chisholm Shelter that gave comfort to diggers on the way to the gold fields. President Ian Muir spent much time planning for the building prior to his year and a meeting was held with RDNS in July. He committed the club to raise $10,000 and the RDNS would put in a further $30,000. 

Vin Merlo as head of community was given the difficult task of raising the money in President Ian’s year and he took to it with great enthusiasm. The club organised 2 theatre nights to “Funny Girl” that raised $1500. A new XR Falcon De-luxe Sedan was raffled and raised $3500. A bowls night, envelope appeal and business appeal raised a further $1650. 


To raise the rest of the funds a Giant BBQ and family Picnic was held at Moonee Valley Racecourse in April 1967. With meat, sausages, bread and milk donated by local businesses as well as 20 BBQ’s at a discounted rate, a huge day was held at Moonee Valley. The crowd was entertained on the day with displays of wood chopping, dog obedience trials, toy train, pony rides, trampolines, marching bands, a police display and helicopter rides. At the end of the day an incredible $3300 was raised to go towards the RDNS building. The centre was opened on the 27th June 1967 by Ian Muir and was soon servicing 5000 patients a month. 

Another important event during this period was the first ever, Rotary Youth Leadership Award, (RYLA) held in Victoria under the guidance of the Rotary Club of Essendon. The concept was begun in Queensland and David Manning, was keen to get it up and running in Victoria. Royce Abbey was dispatched to watch a camp in Queensland and was then chairman of the first camp held in Victoria. There were 84 awardees from most clubs in the district that attended the weeklong seminar at Ormond College Melbourne University and it has been run ever since. 

In 1969 –70 Royce Abbey became the 4th District Governor from the Rotary Club of Essendon. As a result the club hosted the District Conference in Albury that year with the theme of “Rotary in the Space Age” which was appropriate as man first walked on the moon at that time. The conference was so popular that many of the sessions had to be moved to a larger venue as 1500 tried to squeeze in. 

Despite all the above events the club continued to support many other local and international projects. Some of the local projects supported are the Essendon Hospital, Gladswood Ladies Home, Travancore Special School, $4000 to the 14th Essendon Scout hall and student career nights. 

Some of the International projects were financing a Hong Kong student, Kenaf water tanks for Thailand, supply of knitting wool to Gemo Island Leper Colony in Papua New Guinea, sponsoring of exchange students, hosting a GSE team from Kuala Lumpur and toys for children in Vietnam. 

In 1969 – 70 Royce Abbey was District Governor.


1970 – 1975

The major project of the Rotary Club of Essendon during this period was the football hall of fame at the Royal Melbourne Show. Begun in 1973, Maurice Hawken’s year, it was an initiative of former Essendon Footballer and member Alec Epis. Graeme Allison & Alec Epis were in charge of collecting football memorabilia from footballers, football clubs and associations. 

A stall was hired at the show and the memorabilia was displayed. The public was charged 20 cents entrance fee and so popular was it that the club took over $5000 and netted nearly $2000 after expenses.

The stall was staffed by wives and retired Rotarians during the day and then those that worked would come in of an evening. Rotaractors were hired to sleep in the hall overnight to protect the valuable memorabilia. As well as running this very successful stall the club still found time to invite Rotarians working at the show to one our luncheon meetings. 


During this time the club also assisted in the building of a scout hall for the 14th Essendon Scout group. The hall was officially opened by president bill Early on the 30th June 1972. The club also continued to support the Essendon District Hospital with an insulcot purchased in Maurice Hawken’s Year and $2000 set aside in Don Rhodes year towards a ward at the hospital. During Stewart Strack’s year a van was purchased to be used for Meals on Wheels deliveries.

As Rotary celebrated its 70th birthday the Rotary Club of Essendon celebrated its 40th Anniversary of charter. During the year a theme of “inform and perform” was adopted. Regular “fireside meetings” were held throughout the year to instruct newer members on the workings of Rotary. Display boards about Rotary were placed in prominent meeting places such as the Essendon library and the Moonee Ponds post office to better inform the public. As well a 12 page supplement was published in the Essendon Gazette highlighting the many projects of the club such as the pioneer’s retreats, the Rowallan Scout Camp, the Royal District Nursing Service Centre, (by now making over 60,000 visits a year), help for the handicapped and strong involvement in the Essendon District Memorial Hospital by both the club and individual members. 

In 1975 a 40th Anniversary club photo was taken in the grounds of Ascot House and there are a number of current members who can be identified in it, that is 30 years of service for them. 

Some unusual things occurred during this period. In Maurice Hawken’s year, on the 20th of November, the Presidents of Essendon & Broadmeadows swapped clubs for a day. Also when Frank South, (the dancing instructor) did his job talk he bought along some dancing girls. The club held a clay pigeon shoot at the Metropolitan Gun Club under the attention of Norm & Maurie Mollica. The day raised $1300 after provisions of prizes including a colour TV set. The history suggests that it was a trade in on a set of retreads.