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August 10th 2020

Dermot Knight

In today’s issue:
Last Meeting’s Speaker Derek Bell on Retirement
Rotary World Stamp Club – Tony Keegan
Virtual visiting – Frank Bannister on making visits to virtual meetings of other Rotary clubs

Today’s speaker is PP Paul Loughlin who will speak on the PhD process.

Forthcoming Speakers and Events
Aug 17th John Bruder. Best practice in construction, world-wide.
Aug 24th DG Conny Oversen.
Aug 31st Helen Perkins – Visiting 80 Rotary Clubs!

Rotary Rangers Walks

Aug 11th Phoenix Park .Led, and history narrated by Tony Keegan
Aug 18th Hill of Howth
Aug 25th Dollymount Beac

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

Past President Brian George chaired the meeting our last meeting on July 27th in the absence of President Alan.

Apologies & Invocation
Hon Secretary Tony McCourt presented apologies for non-attendance from Tom O'Neill; Mary O'Rafferty; Mark Doyle; Pamela O'Loughlin; Alexander Kopf; Mariandy Lennon; President Alan; Ethna Fitzgerald; Alan Harrison; Patrick White.

The invocation was given by David Booth who spoke about the impact of COVID on education.

At the last virtual meeting there were 18 attendees and no guests.

Last Meeting’s Speaker
The week before last we had our own Derek Bell speak to us on retirement in the COVID times. Derek began by saying there is a pretty even split between people who are dreading retirement and people who see it as an opportunity. The greatest focus is always around financial security. However, Derek felt that time – and how you use it – is actually a bigger issue. He noted that current life expectancy data suggests that many people should expect to spend as much time in retirement as they did in work. Most people have not fully considered what they will do with their time when work is gone. Everyone has a couple of one-word answers (like golf) but these are often inadequate as you are unlikely to be teeing off on a wet November afternoon.

Derek explained the need to think about this in the context of three crucial factors:
1. Purpose – a reason to get out of bed
2. Mental – something to occupy or drive your mind
3. Social – the interaction with real people
These will not find you – you have to go looking for them. He noted that the first major transition is that after the many phone calls one gets on a daily basis as part of a work environment – suddenly the phone is silent. Derek encouraged people to pick up the phone and make it ring on the other side of the line. After a lifetime of a network and colleagues defined by your work, you need to develop a different social network.

Some other suggestions he advanced:
• Avoid a constant stream of negativity – in times like COVID where there might be constant bad news – set intervals to watch news/read the paper – but then switch it off and focus on something else – avoid the repetition of bad news
• Be grateful for what you do have – recognize this and be conscious of it

Kevin McAnallen noted retirement for him could be summarized as “before the Camino and afterward” as he felt he had carried his work habit into retirement.

Jonathan Pim asked whether Derek works with people prior to retirement. Derek responded that the ideal balance is to start a couple of months before retirement to get the most out of it.

Frank Bannister agreed with all of Derek’s advice and noted that a useful phrase to encapsulate everything is “don’t stop.” He noted the benefit of learning a new language as something to keep active. He also suggested seeking guidance on “what to listen for” when starting a new hobby. Contact someone who knows about what it is you want to do and ask for advice on how to get started, what to read etc.

Paul Martin asked if Rotary had ever given a presentation to the courses preparing people for retirement. Derek responded that although Rotary is frequently mentioned it hasn’t been something formally presented by a club.

Udo Reulbach commented that there is a lot of evidence showing that there are useful things people of all ages can do that will help them advance. Using daily habits that over the course of time help you to find activities and interests outside of work. His advice was to find 5 minutes in the morning to do them and start a habit that is hard to break Derek agreed this is a good way to use time well.

Rotary World Stamp Club – Tony Keegan
In 1953 Earnest Reid-Smith, who had been a Vice President of the Wirksworth Club, joined our Club with the classification of past service. He became Chair of the international Committee and a member of Council in 1955. In October 1955 Earnest and his Committee obtained approval from Council for a project entitled ‘Rotary World Stamp Pool’. The idea was that each rotary club in the world would be contacted and asked to send us used postage stamps. These would then be made up into packets and sold on to Rotarian philatelists throughout the world. The proceeds were to be divided between the Foundation Scholarship scheme and our own project for assisting university students.
By early 1956 nearly one thousand letters and some eighty thousand stamps had been received. Some administrative problems began to emerge involving sorting, cleaning, finance and correspondence. However, in May of that year, Earnest who appeared to be handling everything himself was able to mount an exhibition of four thousand letters and some quarter of a million stamps so far received.
By early 1957, during Horner Beckett’s presidency, Council had become seriously perturbed to learn that there were three million stamps in stock with just half a million sorted. There were long and agonised discussions at general and Council meetings as to how best to deal with the situation by, for instance, employing temporary stenographic assistance. The pool was flooded with stamps and Earnest’s own attic was overflowing. Finally, in November of that year, following a report from Dr. Paul Singer and in the face of some resistance from Earnest and his Committee, Council decided to begin to dispose of the stamps in bulk lots. At that time there were in excess of five million stamps in Earnest’s attic. The following January, with Earnest unable or unwilling to provide a coherent account of the situation, a sub-committee was appointed to wind up the project. While this was underway an interview with Earnest Reid-Smith was published in the March 4th edition of the ‘Evening Herald’ in which he extolled the virtues of the project that had become a debacle.
In May 1959 the sub-committee was at last able to report that the ‘Stamp Pool’ had been wound up with all the stamps sold for £55 leaving the Club with two filing cabinets worth £20 and a deficit of £253 to be written off. To put this in context the annual subscription at that time was just £7.
A few weeks back we got an inquiry via our website from a Rotarian philatelist in the U.K. who had bought a box of stamps unseen and discovered a number of letters addressed to the said Earnest Reid-Smith at the Rotary Club, Dublin. He asked would we be interested in receiving them for our archives. I declined his kind offer. We have more than enough of Earnest Reid=Smith’s envelopes in our archives already.

Virtual visiting – Frank Bannister on making visits to virtual meetings of other Rotary clubs
As most members of our club will know, in normal times my wife Ivy and I spend about half the year in New York. This has given me the opportunity, over the years, to attend as a guest at the Rotary Club of New York (RCNY) luncheon meetings. In terms of numbers, the New York club is larger than ours, but with about the same, if not a slightly smaller, lunchtime attendance except on special occasions. It is however, a different world financially. For a start, the club employs a full time Executive Director, Andreas Runggatscher, who organises club meetings handles the finances, manages the web site and generally looks after the club’s administration. To this list of responsibilities has recently been added that of running the club’s virtual meetings. As a rule of thumb, the club meets weekly, but only every second week for lunch. There is one breakfast meeting a month held in or near the United Nations, with which the club has close links, and an evening event every fourth week. The club was designated the Host Club of America by Paul Harris and, in 1909, became the sixth club chartered. It is one of several Rotary clubs on the island of Manhattan alone.

One slightly disconcerting feature of the RCNY is how much it moves around. I have been in the Dublin club for nearly 30 years and in that time we have only ever had two venues – Jury’s and the Grand Canal Hotel (with a brief interlude at the Schoolhouse). Since I first visited the RCNY I have eaten in no less than six venues starting with the Harvard Club of New York and then moving on to Club West, the Union League Club of New York, Rossini’s Restaurant, the Penn Club of New York and most recently Tudor City Steakhouse! Of these, by far the most impressive is the Union League club where we dined in a wooden panelled room, known as the Grant room, surrounded by fine portraits of American civil war generals and politicians (Union, of course). The low point was Rossini’s. While it definitely served the best food, we were stuck in a corner of a large dining area where even speaking to the person across the table was a challenge.

When Covid-19, the RCNY immediately switched to Zoom for its meetings holding its first on-line meeting on April 2nd. These meetings are open to all, though for some you need to register in advance with Eventbrite. Over the past few weeks I have attended three of the club’s weekly lunchtime meetings which means tuning in at 5.00 p.m. Irish time - suitably armed with a cocktail of course. Many members will be now have used Zoom as it is the most popular of the numerous conferencing software offers out there. For those that have not used, Zoom it looks and feels similar to GoToMeeting, but it has one nice feature in that it enables participants to “put up their hand” electronically when they want to speak. The way that the NY meeting are run is that Andreas acts as gatekeeper and can determine who is heard. This is useful during discussions or question times, though they have the same intermittent problems with sound quality that we do.

The first meeting I attended was an ordinary meeting with a guest speaker, professor Chunhuei Chi who spoke about Covid-19 in the USA. Professor Chi presented webinar on his work studying the progress of the virus worldwide and particularly on Taiwan’s success in suppressing it. Another feature of Zoom is that it enables you to have a fake background. This works quite well provided you don’t move a muscle while you are speaking. Professor Chi gave his talk from what looked like a sidewalk on a leafy suburban street which, I have to say, I found a trifle discombobulating. Shelf-loads of books a la Tony Keegan might have been more appropriate.

The second meeting was the presidential handover and it illustrated one major difference between Dublin and New York. The incoming president, Gerard Schriffen, who is a judge by profession, is somebody that I have come to know well, having spent at least two long afternoons drinking with him in the Union League Club post club meetings. Prior to the handover, past president Ted Perednia said that he wanted to say something. He had recently found some nice thank you cards in a gift shop and sent one of them to one of the club’s donors. The donor had then contacted him, thanked him for the card and told him that he had decided to give the club a further donation of $1 million. I am not sure if this is regular occurrence, but it made me wonder if there are any equally generous Irish billionaires or multi-millionaires out there whom we might tap? Gerard has several innovative ideas for his year including taking the club out into the community, though this is clearly going to be made much more difficult by Covid-19.

The third meeting I logged into was to hear RI president Holger Knaack address the club. Like the handover the preceding week, this attracted a large turnout with 58 people on the system at one point. Many of these were, like me, international visitors there to hear Holger speak. He spoke well, discussing the challenges facing Rotary during the pandemic and more generally. One of the topics on which he focused was membership. I had the opportunity to ask him a question about this. Apparently the average age of members in UK (I think that he meant clubs in Great Britain) is 75. President Holger places a great stress on the importance of Rotaract and providing pathways for younger people to move into Rotary. He also said that the pandemic was giving him the opportunity to meet with and speak to vastly greater numbers of Rotarians than any of his predecessors had be able to do. Hopefully we will be able to arrange for him to address our club or possibly the Dublin clubs as a group this year.

Any Rotarian is welcome to log in to these meetings. While the three meetings that I have attended so far have each, for different reasons, been of interest to me, many of the speakers would probably not be of much interest to people in Ireland and the club calendar doesn’t tend to go more than a few weeks into the future. But for anybody who would like to know more or to join future meetings, you can keep tabs on what is coming up by look at the club website:

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