History of the Club

The history of the Rotary Club of Burnie in a nutshell.

"I move that we form a provisional Rotary Club and apply for a Charter." This motion by Frank Abell, at a meeting on Dec. 3, 1941 chaired by President Frank Matthews of the Rotary Club of Devonport, was seconded by Charlie Guest and carried unanimously by the 26 Charter Members-elect who were present. This was the beginning of the Rotary Club of Burnie. The Charter (No. 5480) was granted and formally received from a Past International Director of RI, Angus Mitchell, at the inaugural meeting of Burnie Rotary Club on May 25, 1942. This meeting was attended by about 100 people (see photo below). Angus subsequently served as RI President in 1948-49.

Formed during World War II, the club participated in sending food parcels to Britain, in flax gathering; salvage operations and also in plane spotting. Another obligation saw club members welcoming arrivals on the twice weekly Bass Strait passenger ferry when it berthed at Burnie at 6 a.m.: Two Rotarians would greet passengers and hand out gifts and other items. One ramification of Australia being at war was that food rationing forced the club to be restricted to a maximum of twenty-five members.

In December 1942, club member T. M. Crisp accepted the position of Secretary of the club temporarily, as he said: “to enable us to find a successor.” In 1951, he was still in the job and he continued to ask that the temporary nature of his appointment be recognised!

The club commenced meeting at lunchtime each Monday. According to one club document: “An attempt (in 1952) to change from luncheon to evening meetings was not successful at that time, but happened in 1961. Take your pick! The venues used for club meetings have been: Club Hotel, Methodist Hall, Bay View Hotel, Breckenborough, Regent Hotel, Burnie Civic Centre, Burnie Bowls Club, and (currently) Burnie RSL.

Len Harris had been a charter member of the Rotary Club of Devonport in 1928 and was elected charter president of the Rotary Club of Burnie in 1942. His son, Lloyd, and grandson, Nigel, have also served as presidents of Burnie Rotary Club, making three generations of service by this Harris family. Nigel was inducted into the Rotary Club of Burnie in June 1992 - just 50 years and one month after Burnie's Charter Night.

Program for Charter Meeting in Burnie, May 25th 1942
Front page An inside page
Charter Program 1942 Charter Program 1942
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Photo of Charter Night attendees> Len Harris, Charter President of Burnie
Charter Presentation Night Charter President Len Harris
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For a brief history of the town of Burnie click here.

Over the years, the Rotary Club of Burnie was also active in establishing the Inner Wheel Club of Burnie (1981) - several members of which have played influential roles in the Inner Wheel organisation in Australia - the Probus Club of Burnie (1983) and the Ladies Probus Club of Burnie (1991).

In 2020, a new club was formed in Burnie; Burnie West Rotary Club

For a complete list of Club Presidents up to year 2020/21, see below.

Burnie presidents

Three members of the Rotary Club of Burnie have been District Governors:

Jim Loughran [classification - Electrical Contracting] joined Burnie Rotary Club in 1959, was Club President in 1970/71 and District Governor in 1979/80.

Harold Ogilvie [classification - Agencies: Stock and Station] joined Burnie Rotary Club in 1976, was Club President in 1982/83 and District Governor in 1988/89.

Ken Moore [classification - Engineer Consulting] joined Burnie Rotary Club in 1987/88, was Club President in 2000/01 and District Governor in 2014/15.

The District Conference has been hosted four times by the Rotary Club of Burnie; in 1965 (Club President Alan Gray); in 1978 (Club President Paul Rollins); in 1986 (Club President Bruce Clark) and in 2015 (Club President Jim Forsyth).