The Rotary Club, Dublin
Founded 22nd February 1911
All the news that's fit to print
President: Mariandy Lennon
Hon. Sec.: Tony Keegan
Telephone 087 244 2818
Volume 26 Issue 37
18 May 2020
Today‘s speaker is the President-Elect of Belfast Rotary, Ken Dixon.
Last week President Mariandy chaired what she announced was our 6th virtual meeting.
Forthcoming Speakers and Events
25th May Willie Maxwell, Rotary Fingal on District Plans for Community/Vocational 2020/2021.
1st June Public Holiday – no meeting.
Rotary Rangers Walks
Walking is possible again from May 18th.
If interested, members and friends should contact Past President Brian George or Honorary Secretary
Tony Keegan for further details.
At last week’s virtual meeting there were 23 attendees.
There were no virtual visitors.
Hon. Secretary Tony presented apologies from PP Tony Gannon, Brian Taylor, Veronica Kunovska, Houghton Fry, PP Ken Hunt, VP Alexander Kopf, and PP Randal Gray.
Hon Secretary Announcements
Hon. Secretary Tony regretted to inform us that Brian Taylor is back in hospital, not with Covid-19, but for a mobility issue. He is in a ward with one other.
The Leonard DaVinci weekend next year will be in Vienna from May 28th to 30th 2021. The event will be in Copenhagen in 2022 and in Dublin in 2023. (Pam O’Loughlin has sent a message to all the DaVinci Rotary clubs to say we are thinking of them this weekend and miss their company. We’ll see them next year in Vienna.)
Members wishing to speak
Bernadette spoke about the sandwiches delivered to the front-line staff at the Mater Hospital. At our first on-line meeting President Mariandy told us that members of the Dun Laoghaire club were planning to put some of the money that they would normally spend on lunch towards a project yet to be chosen. Bernadette thought that this was a good idea and had started putting her own contribution by, even when she didn’t get to some on-line meetings.
Some weeks later she heard that Council had agreed to make a financial contribution to a project, Feed the Heroes, organized by Doyle‘s Corner. They were making and delivering sandwiches to the front-line staff in the Mater hospital. Bernadette was delighted that a project had been chosen, but all the more so since both restaurant and hospital were less than a mile away from her home.
Tony Murray had the brainwave to send the cheque to her as she would be able to hand deliver it to Doyle’s. Arrangements were made with Ronan Flood from Doyle’s (many of you may remember him from GCH). Bernadette was invited into Doyle’s to have a look and, once she put on a mask, she met the men who did the work. The cheque was handed over and some photos were taken. She was assured that the money would be used the following week and maybe into the next one.
She was delighted, when she received the invitation to help with the delivery, to find that Rana, another of our members who lives locally, was able to join her to meet some of the Real Heroes, the frontline staff of the Mater Hospital. Having been in many a queue since the lockdown, it was first to have people queuing for her. Of course, it was the food for which people were queuing. Nonetheless, Bernadette said, it made both her and Rana feel that they were something on behalf of Rotary to show appreciation for the work front line workers are doing. Doyle’s informed us that they will be using our money again this week. Bernadette is happy that our first project has been a success and is making a difference. We need more ideas.
Learning more about us: Stuart Dicker
Our club has been privileged to have a number of members from the Salvation Army (SA) over the years. Stuart is the latest in this tradition; he has been an ordained officer in the Army (equivalent to a vicar, a priest or pastor) for 40 years.
From an early age, Stuart felt a vocation to help others. One of his first memories of the importance of service above self was in 1972 when Idi Amin, then president of Uganda, expelled the country’s Asian minority from the country. Stuart, then just 16, became involved in helping distraught families arriving at an army camp in England which had been set up as a reception centre, providing, inter alia, warm clothing for Indians arriving in thin saris that had been fine in Uganda, but were unsuitable for the chillier climate of the UK. A few years later, in 1976, when he and his Dad observed a massive gorse fire, visible from their kitchen window, the two of them sprang into action and were soon gathering food – everything from 25 kilos bags of sugar from the village bakery to bread rolls from the shelves in Tesco – and organising a team of people to deliver that food to the fire fighters who were working around the clock to put out the blaze.
Like all members of the SA, Stuart felt himself called by God to serve full time as an Officer – a decision made all the more rewarding when the young lady he was working alongside at the fire had a similar calling. That young lady, Gillian, and he have now been married for 43 years. Serving in the SA starts with two years of theological training and then, as in any other army, you go where you are posted. Stuart and Gillian’s first posting was a two-year assignment in the Channel Island of Alderney where they were state appointed Youth Officers, teaching in the school, looking after a youth centre and occasionally representing children in court. It was the start of a lifetime of service that is now drawing to a close with his current assignment in Dublin, where he is chaplain to 225 people plus the staff in the Salvation Army Dublin Homeless Services Unit.
A SA officer can never be quite sure what he or she will have to deal with: such as shepherding 50 elderly citizens on an outing when one of them started walking awkwardly. Stuart asked if she was OK (she was in her eighties), whereupon she bent down and removed her underwear from under her skirt. The elastic had snapped. Or the time when, conducting a burial service in a cemetery and saying a prayer over the just lowered coffin, a man arose out of the grave right in front of him. Apparently the “grave” was the entrance to a vault. One of his most difficult moments he recalls was a memorial service for the victims of the 1966 Aberfan disaster when, after a period of heavy rain, a slag heap slid down a hill and buried the village school killing 144 people - 116 of them children. Stuart was not there at the time, but he was there 21 years later for the civic service of remembrance which was conducted by Gillian.
Stuart and Gillian have been privileged to lead the SA in some notable and historic Corps (Churches) including the red-light area of Southampton! They have led worship with the help of the premier Salvation Band in the UK in Enfield, Middlesex and they helped to organise the 2012 Olympic Mountain Bike event which took place on one of the SA Farms from William Booth’s 1891 Salvation Army Darkest England project.
Stuart and Gillian will quietly acknowledge their 40th year of service as Salvation Army Officers on the 23rd May this year. They are two of just 12 active officers remaining in service out of the group of 120 with whom they trained. Sadly for us, Stuart and his wife will be leaving Ireland on June 15th as they are taking early retirement on health grounds. They will be retiring to the UK seaside resort of Eastbourne, scene of a happy previous posting, so they feel that they are going home. He hopes in retirement to enjoy many happy years with his two children and four grandchildren, not to mention his mother, now aged 92 and still going strong.
Last week’s speaker
Last week, PP Ted Corcoran stepped up to the plate to give us another of his memorable talks, this one entitled “All is changed, changed utterly– a terrible beauty is born” words drawn from WB Yeats’ poem Easter 1916, They could equally describe our emotions following the arrival of Covid-19 in this country and indeed in the whole world. A terrible beauty has indeed been born.
Lenin once observed that “There are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks where decades happen.” In the 1960s, Harold Wilson remarked that a week was a long time in politics. How true this is in our current situation. There have been so many changes in everyone’s lives in just a few short weeks. So many deaths, so many grieving families, so many friends left bereft. However, Ted did not want to dwell on the negative, but rather on the magnificent response of the Irish people generally and particularly certain sections of the workforce whom he referred to as our Hidden Heroes.
Ted considered the response at three levels. At the national level, he included the performance of An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the government in general, the latter having made timely and appropriate decisions. Ditto the opposition, which has responded constructively and, of course, the health services from Tony Holohan and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to the front-line workers. Some 70,000 volunteer medical staff have returned from abroad to help in the fight.
Secondly, we need to remember those who have kept our essential services, power, water, the Internet, phones, etc. running. Food supplies have continued almost uninterrupted. Pharmacies have functioned effectively. Many of the workers in these services turn up for work at considerable risk to themselves.
Thirdly, there has been a massive community effort.This has been apparent all over the country. Shops donating left over unsold food, GAA clubs packing and delivering food parcels and numerous activities raising money for charities. One of the most interesting of these has been A GoFundMe project that has raised $3.5m of a $5m goal for money to help the Navajo and Hopi nations in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. This was done in memory of the Choctaw Indian nation in Oklahoma sent $170 to Ireland in 1847 in the middle of the Great Famine. More mundanely, neighbours have offered to do shopping and other chores for those who are cocooning. Families are looking after their own. People are showing more friendship to others.
What have we learned from all of this?We have learned that the people on whom we depend turned up and risked their lives and their immediate family’s lives to keep us safe and well. These are our Hidden Heroes.We have learned that volunteerism is alive and well, that we can pull together when there is a great common threat and that the Meitheal lives on.For Ted, it is like old times.We have learned that Irish people have demonstrated remarkable social responsibility by placing their trust in the state, as shown by their general voluntary adherence to the lockdown rules etc. This is in stark contrast to some other parts of the world such as in Michigan, USA, the week before last, when protesters, some armed with military style guns like AK 47s, and some with nooses, turned up at the State Capitol Building in Lansing to demand the reopening of business in the state. We have learnedWe have learned the importance of excellent communication and leadership skills in today’s world. As the famous investor Warren Buffett once famously remarked, “It is only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” In today’s crisis, it would be probably more apt to say, “Only when the virus tide came in, did we discover the non-swimmers.” We have learned that we live in each other’s shadows and we have learned that many people currently may be in the shadows of depression, loneliness and isolation. We cannot forget the many people like this.
Ted concluded by summarising how our heroes rose to the challenge fighting the pandemic, some examples how our communities have responded to it and some of the lessons learned through this once in a lifetime event. Yes, all may be changed, changed utterly, but we can be certain of one thing - we shall return!
A unusually lively discussion ensued. President Mariandy thanked Ted for his uplifting talk with its hopeful ending. She hopes we can get together for a big party when all this is over. Like the wartime song “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when.” PE Alan Davidson asked Ted if he predicted the world would have ‘changed utterly’ after this is over or will it revert to type? Ted said getting back to normal will be a slow process, but that some things might change forever. The new peace for pedestrians and cyclists around College Green might survive. Alan worried about a second surge which could be worse than the first. Mariandy supported the idea of only easing the restrictions gradually.
Stuart Dicker talked about his sister in England who is nervous about being called back to work in a small office and yet looking forward to seeing her colleagues again. His son-in-law reported police being needed to break up a fight in England which developed in a two-mile traffic queue when too many people tried to get back to work at the same time. Frank Bannister told us that he felt there were only four ways forward. We could wait for a vaccine, we could tough it out and go for herd immunity, but many would die, we could manage society to keep the numbers of those infected low by social distancing, as in Ireland or we could follow the New Zealand model and try to crush the virus by isolating it with rigorous testing and contact tracing.
Mariandy said that we could follow Asian practice where people wear masks when they are outside. The experience of SARS in Asia 15 years ago meant Asians were better prepared than other parts of the world and the people were more ready to follow government guidelines. It is easy to see on YouTube how we can make our own masks. Maybe we can have a masked ball this year after all (Frank Bannister said he hoped that not too many would come as the Plague Doctor). PP Ted said that, from looking at Mark Doyle’s face well hidden behind a mask, maybe there was an upside to all this.
PP Bernadette asked Rana what her views were about wearing masks. Rana said that does not wear a mask at work as they make her work more difficult. She’s a believer in keeping 2 metres apart and frequent hand washing. So far, none of her team has been infected yet and they do not wear masks. Udo Reulbach used the text chat function of GoToMeeting to tell us that he agreed with Rana that social distancing and hand washing were more important than wearing masks.
Paul Martin says that it is still difficult for everyone to get hold of a mask. There is a massive world shortage and after some cases of poor design, China is only now exporting masks that have a government certificate. It will be a while before they are available for everyone. Paul’s business is mainly about tourists. His company’s sales at the moment are completely flat. He also worries about the open border with the U.K. and their high rate of infection. Kevin McAnallen was concerned that he may not be able to get back to Ireland because while they are opening up to and from travellers from Greece, Germany and Austria, the UK (and strangely Ireland) is still on their blacklist.
On the subject of social distancing Frank noted a novel way of getting people to give him space was when he found himself walking through Rathmines recently holding a fluorescent tube in his hand to exchange for a new one at a hardware store. By holding the light out horizontally, he found people who would otherwise have passed far too close, went around it. Tom O’Neill thinks Frank lives in the wrong part of the city. Dun Laoghaire folk are amazingly good about giving each other space but if you really want peace and quiet he recommends the little Dean’s Grange graveyard.
Pam O’Loughlin mentioned the sad woman reported in the Irish Times who had been shouted at for not getting out of someone’s way and had gone home and cried. We need to remember to say hello and give a smile to those who look like they might be living alone. We might be the only person who talks to them all day. Bernadette commented on the gorgeous weather over the past couple of months and wishes she could find a gardener. Frank shared the remarkable story of a duck and eight of her ducklings being discovered on an office roof in Ballsbridge and a collective effort to lift them all down to the banks of the canal where they immediately plunged in. Never afraid to talk into the ether, Alan Davidson told us that he would be giving his presentation on Scotch whisky to the Rotarians of Nairobi (online) at the invitation of our associate member from Kenya –Alexandra who always joins us for our Wednesday evening meetings. It would only be half of the talk. Frank wonder if Alan would be drinking the other half?