The Rotary Club, Dublin

Founded 22nd February 1911

The Dubliner

All the news that's fit to print

President: Mariandy Lennon

Hon. Sec.: Tony Keegan

Telephone 087 244 2818 

Volume 26 Issue 41

22 June 2020


Alan Harrison

Frank Bannister

David Booth

Delma Sweeney

Dermot Knight

Today‘s speaker is Phil Godfrey, of the Solihull Rotary Club, UK who will be speaking on Antiphospholipid Syndrome.


Last week President Mariandy chaired our 10th virtual meeting. Hon Secretary Tony Keegan gave the invocation.


Forthcoming Speakers and Events

Jun 29th           Club Assembly.

Jul 6th              Presidential handover.

Jul 13th            Li Yan. China in the early days of Covid-19.


Rotary Rangers Walks

Jun 23rd           Sugar Loaf, Kilmacanogue.

Jun 30th           Greystones to Kilcoole.


Social distancing rules will apply. More details are available from PP Brian George.



At last week’s virtual meeting there were 25 attendees.



Hon. Secretary Tony presented apologies from PP Tony Gannon, Brian Taylor, PP Ken Hunt, PP Randal Gray, David Horkan, Kenneth Carroll, Houghton Fry,


President’s Announcements


President Mariandy informed us of her good news that she is a new grandmother. Her daughter gave birth to a baby boy on the previous weekend and she shared a video that had us all mesmerised. She hopes to travel to London to meet him shortly depending on COVID regulations.


Mariandy also informed us of the grant application to support Focus Ireland concerning families suffering from food insecurity.


She reminded us of the upcoming Rotary Convention. The Convention is taking place virtually from June 20-26 and has a number of interesting topics on the agenda. All sessions will be streamed live – but on demand viewing is also available once they have been completed.  


Mariandy also led the virtual meeting in a rousing Happy Birthday for members who have recently celebrated their birthdays: Simone Nelson; Houghton Fry; Tony Keegan & Pat Fanning.


Members wishing to speak

Tom O’Neill explained he has taken his Chess game virtual and invited members up to the challenge to contact him.


Alan Davidson gave an update on contact with the hotel for the resumption of meetings. Although they hadn’t provided anything concrete, he noted they made mention of holding us in high regard and are looking forward to welcoming us back. A brief discussion ensued about the future of table plans and their benefits. It was noted that until we know the hotel’s plans on social distancing we should wait to discuss further.


Bernadette Mulvey informed us the hotel is open for coffee and would try to stop by this week


Last week’s speaker: Derek Byrne

Our speaker last week was our own Derek Byrne, who after long service as our convenor of speakers is retiring at the end of the Rotary Year.


The declassifying of what made Derek so successful for so long feels like it should have been reserved for a book deal or in this new age - a Netflix documentary. Perhaps wishing to cool the rising excitement of the audience, he switched the title of his talk from “Confessions” of a Rotary Speaker Convenor to “Reflections.”


Derek began by explaining his methodology to finding speakers. Firstly he targeted people he knew from work or socially, but he found this well ran dry after a year. He moved on to other Rotarians, and then their friends. Even this was unable to stem the inevitability of the next approaching Monday. He found himself scrutinizing newspapers and radio broadcasts for new people to ask. This is where he let us in on his first trade secret: reach for the Golden Pages and target businesses prefixed by the word “Irish.” Derek was encouraged by the responses from people he contacted. He found that most people were pleased to be asked.  


Next Derek described the skills needed in this role. Attention to detail, “gentle” nudging for replies and the ability to juggle multiple schedules are the most critical attributes. Another trade secret Derek gave us was how to deal with the difficult situation of a late cancellation. Club Members (particularly Ted Corcoran) is the answer.  


Derek also told us of the many awkward moments he experienced in the hotel foyer, waiting to meet someone one has never met before. It can lead to confusing conversations with strangers.


Despite his longevity in the role Derek admitted that remembering to find the person to give a Vote of Thanks constantly eluded him. He compensated for this by scanning the room to see which member was too polite to decline. A frequent target was PP Mark Doyle and Derek feels a little guilty, wondering if he is the cause of Mark’s lower than usual profile this year!


Derek concluded with some memorable speakers from his time in the role:


Barry O’Leary, former CEO of IDA Ireland & now a non-exec director of a number of high-profile companies

Declan Magee, immediate past president of the RCSI

Paddy Prendergast, Provost of Trinity College

Les Kiss, then asst. coach of the Irish Rugby team

Susan Denham, then Chief Justice

Dieke Potzel (pictured), German Ambassador

Bobby McDonagh, former Irish Ambassador & super IT columnist

Fergus Finlay, CEO Barnardos


Ambassador Potzel & President Mariandy

Paul McNieve, Director & uniquely also a former patient of the National Rehab Hospital


He reserved special mention for the person he considered the most memorable speaker – Christina Noble, of the Christina Noble Foundation – who does tremendous work for the under-privileged in Vietnam & Mongolia. She spoke passionately, in a unique manner & at great length. This was accompanied by her breaking into song at various stages & a complete disregard of numerous attempts by then President Brian to stop her over-running her time by 10 minutes, then 15 minutes & finally about 25 minutes.


Tom O’Neil, himself a former convenor, congratulated Derek for his achievement and sympathised with the anxiety of wondering whether the speaker will show up. He remembered one occasion where the minutes were clocking up and there was still no sign of the speaker. It later transpired the speaker was waiting at the wrong hotel.


Dermot Knight asked Derek how he thought the virtual environment would shift the role. Derek noted the challenges of “cold calling” people in this time but said that other Rotarians were a good source of support.


Alan Davidson noted that the irreplaceable Derek is not in fact going to be replaced. The plan would be for 4 members to share the role in the coming year.


President Mariandy, joined by her immediate predecessors Brian George and Bernadette Mulvey, all offered profound thanks to Derek for his dedication during their terms.


Derek thanked his well-wishers and, in the most perfect of stereotypes (with all the talk of retirement) requested he depart the meeting as his tee off time was rapidly approaching.


*The Dubliner pays a special tribute to Derek, congratulating him on his time of service and thanking him for his efforts and contributions over the years.



Learning more about us: Jonathan Pim

According to himself, Jono's biggest claim to fame is that his grandfather, Charles E. Jacob (of the Jacob’s Biscuits family) was a member of the Dublin Rotary Club way back in the 1930's. Jono came from  Mountmellick and went on to board at Newtown, the Quaker  school in Waterford (also the alma mater of Alan Harrison). After a brief, but unsuccessful career in a travel agency, he decided to do Economics at Trinity. This was a big ask as he needed to pass thee maths subjects and two languages in the matriculation exams. Somehow he ended up four years later with a degree. There were few jobs in those days so he decided to head off to a Goethe Institute in South Germany to learn German. German grammar in the morning and skiing in the afternoon was nice while it lasted. He spent a year altogether in Germany working in a bank and a factory in Cologne.


Then his luck turned. It was the early 1960s. Ireland had yet to join the European Economic Community, but the country was headed in that direction. Cora Trachtala (CTT) – the Irish Export Board – had been asked by the government to provide expertise on the implications and opportunities for Irish firms when the country moved into the EEC’s free trade zone. Jono joined CTT on a Monday morning and the next day found himself in Brussels where he would spend the following nine months.  Back in Dublin, he had an office on the corner of Baggot street. He recalls sitting there watching the sun setting on a beautiful evening when the Cuban missile crisis was coming to a head with the Americans and Russians on the brink of a nuclear war, and wondering whether any of us would see the dawn.


Overseas postings were the norm in CTT. Expecting to be sent to France or Germany, he was instead dispatched to the Caribbean where CTT had started a shipping service to Trinidad, Jamaica and other islands in the region. Supervising cargo loading was not enough to keep him busy so he found that he was also responsible for drumming up business for Irish companies. Shortly before he left for the Caribbean, he had met and married Peggy and they spent five great years there. The shipping line did not survive, but it taught Jono that he enjoyed both shipping and sales and from that moment the direction of his career, selling Irish goods abroad, was set.


Back in Dublin he landed a job as export manager for Lamb’s Jams selling jams and fruits mostly to the USA and Canada, but also in Germany, Denmark and (surprisingly) Italy. He moved on to Williams and Woods where they exported all sorts of good from sauces to chocolate. Then, one day, he saw a job advert for the American dairy giant, Borden. Borden had a milk powder plant in Mallow at the time. Borden may not be a familiar name to most Irish people, every American of will know Borden milk and ice cream. Moving to a small town in Cork was not easy for a Dubliner with an English sounding name and it was even more difficult for Peggy. However, there was a Rotary club in Mallow which he joined and that made fitting in so much easier. Jono was elected president of the Club for the year 1985/86.


His job included looking for contacts in some pretty exotic countries.  The Mallow plant’s nearest customer was the Moroccan army and Jono was in and out of Gadhafi’s Libya and Syria most years. Afghanistan was also one of their regular markets. This took him to Kabul just the once. Alas, he was unable to see the sights of Kabul as he was warned that anybody with fair hair was likely to be taken for a Russian and shot.


After eight years he was transferred to Borden’s HQ near Ascot in the UK. Luckily there was a Rotary club nearby and he had an introduction to one of their members. His travels continued though mostly in Africa – including Nigeria, the Congo and Rwanda where he was in 1993, leaving the day before the civil war erupted in that country. Borden went bankrupt in 1994 and were bought out by the break-up specialists KKR. The bosses and the sales staff were fired first and so Jono and Peggy decided to return to Ireland. As he was over 60 at this point, he decided to retire, returning to the Dublin club that he had first joined in 1976.  Jono greatly enjoyed the privilege of seeing the world at somebody else’s expense and his experience underlines the value of Rotary’s international reach – something that was important to him at each stage of his unusually peripatetic career.


Winding back the clock

On the 15th of May 2010, our speaker was John Holohan who talked about the history of Donnybrook and Ballsbridge. His talk included this nugget:


“Another major factory in the area was the Duffy Cotton Mill which stood on what later became the Johnston, Mooney and O’Brien bakery (now the Mount Herbert hotel and offices).  They used the 40 acres or so around what is now Herbert park for drying the cloth in the same way linen was dried in the fields of the North.   The bakery was built between the wars.”

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