Newsletter 114: April 10th / May 8th 2019

This month Rotary International celebrates Youth Services.

News Update:

Obituary: Some sad news that Founder and Honorary Member Brian Underwood has passed away. Alan Morgan has penned a tribute to Brian:

"Brian was an engineer in his father’s business which was a major player in Bristol and Bath. This was a company designing very major engineering projects, one project was to design a proposed Severn Barrage for the government. It was obviously never developed but Brian proudly showed the plans and drawings to me on several occasions.

He worked for the business until he was called up and served as Lieutenant in the army, spending much of his service and his engineering skills in helping the recovery of Germany after the devastation of the second World War.

Brian has two daughters, Polly and Susie from his first marriage to Helen.

He later married Janet and worked with her at the nursing home she owned on the Downs in Clifton. They later sold the business and moved to Plymouth where they enjoyed life, being close to his daughters and his first wife, Helen. They were one happy family, reunited together. 

Brian was a founder member of Bristol Breakfast Rotary Club and subsequently served as our sixth President. He was awarded a Paul Harris fellowship. On moving to Plymouth, he joined the Rotary Club of Mayflower in Plymouth and became its President.

Brian was a truly unassuming gentleman who exuded charm, etiquette, humour, and kindness, always putting others first.

His humour in our club was always apparent. He was of small stature and whenever he stood to speak, members demanded that he stand up. He always managed to rebuff those members in the gentlest, yet poignant way.

On becoming President, Brian, who was then a smoker of Players Navy Cut cigarettes, rescinded a no smoking ban declaring that the ban did not apply to the President! No one objected".

And now some notices and thanks...

  • Know your Blood Pressure: Many thanks to Rotarian Willem Pietersen and his team for organising the ‘Know your Blood Pressure’ event held at Cabot Circus on 13 April 2019. A large number of people were examined, and some advised to seek further medical advice.
  • Thanks also to Rotarian Peter Hilton for organising another superb walk on the Mendips.
  • Maji Safi held their annual barn dance at Ashton Park School last weekend and was supported by Rotarian Mike Blott who told us that some 100 people attended.
  • The Young Enterprise Finals was held on 1 May and Rotarian Mary Cook was one of the judges.
  • We are partnering Bristol Rotary Club to stage a Rotary Young Technology Challenge at Bristol Free School on 11 June 2019.
  • Branded Rotary Clothing – please make sure you have made your order with sizes to Mary Cook.


Speakers Corner:

Job Talk

Our speaker last week (24 April 2019) was club member, Martin Smith who provided us with an interesting ‘job talk’. Martin is a Chartered Accountant and told us interesting facts about sea containers from his time working with Seaco.  ‘Seaco leases Sea Cells by the seashore’.

The company is among the largest shipping-container lessors in the world. It leases its 2.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units, comprising SeaCells (two-pallet-wide containers) and other equipment such as refrigerated containers, tanks, flatracks, and swapbodies (intermodal containers). It leases its containers via a depot network in some 175 port locations in around 50 countries. It offers domestic and international leasing, container sales, and third-party asset management. The company was initially formed in 1998 as a 50/50 joint venture between GE Capital and Sea Containers Ltd. Seaco is now owned by HNA Group.

Martin and his family moved to Bristol a couple of years ago and he now enjoys investing for himself and being able to spend more time with his family using the principles of Warren Buffet whose name is practically synonymous with his biggest success, Berkshire Hathaway when he became an integral part of Berkshire Hathaway in the early 1960s and helped the company expand into one of the largest conglomerates in the world.


Our speaker this week, 30 April 2019, was Norman Bowler the well-known actor appearing in the police series ‘Softly Softly’ and the ITV soap, ‘Emmerdale’. 

Norman Bowler has been active in charity work and adult education spending several years at Auroville International Township in Tamil Nadu, India where he engaged in development work with people in the surrounding Tamil villages and often entertained the village children. He also worked with and directed the amateur actors of the township.

Auroville is also known as the City of Dawn is an experimental township founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa known as "the Mother “and designed by architect Roger Anger. Alfassa’s vision was that Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity. Auroville has its origins in the French language, "aurore" meaning dawn and "ville" meaning city. Additionally, it is named after Sri Aurobindo.

The township covers approximately 15 square miles of what was barren wasteland, a few miles north of Pondicherry and quite near the coast.  

The inauguration ceremony attended by delegates of 124 nations was held on Wednesday 28 February 1968. Handwritten in French by Mirra Alfassa in a four point charter set forth her vision of integral living.

  1. Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.
  2. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
  3. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
  4. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity.

In the middle of the town is the Matrimandir, which was conceived by Alfassa as "a symbol of the Divine's answer to man's aspiration for perfection". Silence is maintained inside the Matrimandir to ensure the tranquillity of the space and entire area surrounding the Matrimandir is called Peace area. Inside the Matrimandir, a spiralling ramp leads upwards to an air-conditioned chamber of polished white marble referred to as "a place to find one's consciousness".

The Auroville Foundation headed by a chairman, is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The HRD ministry appoints the seven members of the Governing Board and the five members of the International Advisory Council. There is also a Secretary to the Foundation, appointed by the Government of India, who resides and has an office with supporting staff in Auroville. The Foundation currently owns about half of the total land required for the township. The remaining lands are being purchased whenever funds are available.

The township was originally intended to house 50,000 residents. In the initial 20 years, only about 400 individuals from 20 countries resided in the township. In the next 20 years, this number rose to 2,000 individuals from 40 countries. As of January 2018, it has 2,814 residents (2127 adults and 687 children) from 54 countries with two-thirds from India, France and Germany.   The community is divided up into neighbourhoods with Tamil, English, French and Sanskrit names like Aspiration, Arati, La Ferme, Auromodel and Isaiambalam.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Auroville on 28 February 2018 the Indian President Ram Nath Kovind sent a message to the community in which he called Sri Aurobindo "one of modern India's greatest sages". He also wrote that Auroville "represents humanity's aspiration for peace and goodwill" and that it is "a unique symbol of human unity."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville on 25 February 2018. He said, "Indian society is fundamentally diverse. It has fostered dialogue and a philosophic tradition. Auroville showcases this ancient Indian tradition to the world by bringing together global diversity." At the end of his speech he expressed his wish that Auroville may continue developing and supporting new and creative ideas for India and the whole world.

The speaker on 8th May 2019 was Gary Aldwell the Butler to the Society of Merchant Venturers.

Gary has been Butler for the past 13 years and oversees the Merchant’s Hall which puts on 4 dinners each year for the members but also hires out the hall for weddings and other events. The Hall contains very fine silver and wonderful chandeliers.

Gary explained some of the history of The Society of Merchant Venturers descended from a guild of Bristol merchants existing in the thirteenth century. More certainly, a century later the Corporation drew up ordinances for a Fellowship of Merchants under a master to be selected from those who had previously been mayor or sheriff of the city. Finally, in 1552, ‘The Master, Wardens and Commonalty of Merchant Venturers of the City of Bristol’ received their first Royal Charter from Edward VI. New Charters have since been granted by many subsequent monarchs and most recently by Queen Elizabeth II.

The earliest Charter granted a limited monopoly of maritime trade ‘beyond the seas’ to the Society’s members. Its purpose was the better-ordering of trade to the benefit, not only of Bristol and its merchants, but also of the Crown by simplifying the collection of customs, by encouraging investment in the nation’s shipping and by improving the supply of ships and sailors in times of war.

Bristol merchants had financed John Cabot’s voyage in 1497, which led to the first documented landing on Newfoundland. Individual members of the Society of Merchant Venturers were to play a vital part in the exploration and early colonisation of the New World, and the Society itself supported one major venture – Captain Thomas James’s voyage in search of the North-West Passage in 1631.

From early in the seventeenth century, the Society managed the port of Bristol on behalf of the Corporation, building and improving quays, adding cranes, maintaining towpaths and anchorages at Hung Road and King Road and licensing, as well as occasionally disciplining the pilots.

The Society was to play a major part in the creation of the non-tidal Floating Harbour, opened in 1809. This vast undertaking involving the construction of Cumberland Basin, Bathurst Basin, the New Cut and several locks, bridges and weirs, was far beyond the financial means of the Society and the Bristol Dock Company was set up to manage the port.

The Society purchased the Manor of Clifton at the end of the seventeenth century and subsequently developed the Hotwells Spa, which was to be a fashionable summer spa in the eighteenth century. The commons of Clifton Down were also part of the Manor and in 1861 the Society of Merchant Venturers, together with Bristol City Council, promoted the Clifton and Durdham Downs Act. This ensured that the 442 acres of both Clifton and Durdham Down were ‘forever hereafter open and unenclosed’ for the benefit of all. The Downs Committee continues to be made up equally of councillors and SMV members under the chairmanship of the Lord Mayor.

In the nineteenth century members of the Society and the Society itself were to play a significant role in the building of the Clifton Suspension Bridge and many of its members were directly involved in the building of the Great Western Railway.

Increasingly, today, however, the Society has concentrated upon its charitable concerns involving, education, philanthropy and the care of the elderly.

Help required:

Dragon Boat Festival 2019

The Dragon Boat Festival is the club’s major fundraising event of the year. This year we are again supporting Caring in Bristol to help those less fortunate than us, the homeless in our city. The event is full of fun and can I encourage members to help on the day or for a part of the day on Sunday 9 June 2019.

Please let David Wells know what you can do to help


Golf Day 2019

Our other major fundraising event of the year will be the Golf Day to take place later this month on 23 May 2019 at Bristol and Clifton Golf Club. If you can help on the day or wish to attend the dinner in the evening or perhaps  you are able to provide an auction item let Mary Whittington know -

2019 Young Enterprise Area Final

May 1st was a very inspiring day! Ten teams of young people (aged 14-17) from schools from Bath and Bristol set up their stalls at the Science Park in Emersons Green, hoping to impress the judges with their business ideas.

The business ideas ranged from recycled copper piping candle sticks, an emergency pack for "girls on the go", personalised woodcut coasters, scented candles and a World Atlas cookery book.

The winners on the night were "Reroot" from Bristol Cathedral Choir School for their eco-friendly cup bamboo travel mug. The judges were hugely impressed by the understanding and passion the team had for wanting to share the message of sustainability and educate about single use plastic. Their stand was very attractive, professional and creative, and reflected the quality of their product.

As one of the Com-Voc Projects for this Presidents year we sponsored one of the Awards for the Young Enterprise Company Program. Here is Mary presenting the Team Work award to the Atlas Cookbook team from Cotham School. Although narrowly missing the top spot the judges commended Cotham for the huge undertaking in putting together an inclusive, collaborative and professional cook book.



Join the club...

Membership is currently open if you would like to join our friendly pro-active group!
If you'd like to come along to a Wednesday morning meeting please email us at


Marathon success!

Our very own Harry Allen, of VWV ran the London Marathon on Sunday 28th April 2019. He was 37th overall and 12th amateur in a time of 2:23:30. Well done Harry!