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February 8th 2021

David Booth

Our speaker today is John Joe Ryan telling us about Yugoslavia disintegration.

Forthcoming Speakers and Events
Feb 15th Hugh Loughlin - Japan, the link with opportunity
Feb 22nd Terry Nolan - Tom Crean, Antarctica Explorer with Shackleton
Mar 1st Business Meeting
Mar 8th International Women's Day (actually 11th March)
Mar 22nd Tony Fox, Fish Ireland, a review
Apr 26th James Innes, Bitten by the Black Dog

President Alan was in the Chair at our meeting last week.

Thought for the Day
The thought for the Day was given by Frank Bannister who mused as to whether spring had started or not. Google suggested March 20th as the start of spring. Met Eireann’s children’s page says March 1st but in ancient Ireland it was St. Bridget’s Day on February 1st. He would go with that. And to leave us with a happy thought he said that as those over the age of 84 made up a large number of Covid deaths and those in hospital, as soon as the vaccine rolls out for the over 70s we should see a significant fall in the numbers in hospital and in ICUs.

Visitors and Apologies
At last week’s meeting we had apologies from Alan Harrison. We had 24 Members in attendance. We had 11 guests as follows: Tim Murphy, of the Cork Rotary Club; Korahiza Macari, from Venezuela, living in Dublin, who is interested in joining our Club; Vasily Ogievsky, who may be interested in joining our club; Barbara Walshe, another prospective member. Other Rotarian visitors included Jeremy Opperman; Riana Pretorious; Yegalan Chetty; Memo De Wet; Rex IP Omameh; Merle ORyan; Dr Bettye Walker

Rotary Rangers Schedule

Rotary Rangers outings are cancelled until further notice.

Induction of a New Member
Eamonn Allen was inducted into the club by President Alan and introduced by Bernadette Mulvey. Of course, she reminded us, that Eamonn needed no introduction as he has been at Delma Sweeney’s side since she joined. He was one of the first Friends of Rotary and was an active participant from the word go, helping out at the Christmas dinner at the Rostrevor Centre and at the Christmas Remembrance Tree Collection. His brother-in-law ran a very entertaining quiz night for Rotary Foundation and Eamonn put great efforts in making the Art Exhibition night at U.C.D. the success that it was. Bernadette informed us that he had grown up in Palmerstown, three fields away, as he said, from Delma. His career was with the E.S.B., first in finance but mostly in IT. Eamon is a very welcome new member who does n ot need to be told what being a Rotarian is all about. Bernadette will never forget the help and kindness he showed when she broke her wrist while attending the Da Vinci meeting in Florence a couple of years ago.

Hon Secretary’s Announcements
• There were no announcements by the Hon. Secretary

President’s Announcements
• There were no presidential announcements.

Members Wishing to Speak
Having been welcomed back to our club by President Alan, Veronica Kunovska asked to say a few words. She was delighted to be back in Dublin after her fascinating experience of living in Barcelona for over a year where she was a member of The Rotary Club of Pedralbes. There was definitely a feeling of home-coming though she will always have a soft spot for the Catalan capital. The language was always a challenge though she felt she had got a pretty good grasp of it until she misunderstood ‘manana por la manana’ for the day after tomorrow, when actually it means ‘tomorrow in the morning’. The word ‘manana’ has three meanings – ‘tomorrow’, ‘morning’ and ‘later’.

If this is spring then the Seville oranges are here and that means Derek Griffith is slaving away in his kitchen preparing this year’s batch of delectable Rugglestone Marmalade. It’s highly recommended that you give Derek a ring to arrange collection.

Last Week’s Meeting
Our Guest Speaker was Grace Van Zyl from the Rotary Club, Johannesburg who was introduced by Mary O’Rafferty. Mary said she had attended (virtually) a meeting of the Johannesburg Rotary where the ideas of building a network of Peace Clubs was being discussed and thought it lined up so well with what we were already doing and with the aspirations of some of our members that she invited Grace to speak to us on Zoom from South Africa.

Grace is one of the prime movers of the Rotary Action Group for Peace whose motto is ‘Peace through Service’. She explained that the word ‘Peace’ can have different meanings for different people and goes way beyond the absence of war. Peace to a homeless person might mean a meal and a warm bed for the night. Peace to a woman suffering from domestic abuse might mean a safe refuge. Peace to a mother might be in the security in knowing that her children had been vaccinated and would not suffer from smallpox. Grace was wondering if our club would be interested in joining a growing number of Peace Clubs in Rotary Clubs around the world; after all, a central part of the mission of Rotary is to empower Rotarians to advance world understanding, goodwill and peace.

Her own club in Johannesburg was similar to the Dublin club, the first to be established in a new continent – Africa, in 1921. Their good works at the beginning included putting on Sunday night concerts in different wards of Johannesburg General hospital, promoting Boys’ Clubs, and helping with reconciliation after the miners’ strike and subsequent civil war in the 1920s. They were one of the 496 clubs which received a Peace Pipe letter from Keokuk Rotary in 1931 and duly responded. Keokuk is a little town of only 10,000 souls, on the Mississippi River midway between Chicago and Kansas. One of their members returned from an International Rotary conference in Vienna that year and was greatly disturbed by the rise of fascism and the looming danger of war. In 2019 the Keokuk Club sent out letters again to all clubs which had written back to them in 1931, feeling that again there was a need in the world for greater understanding and goodwill in the spirit of peace.

Would we consider applying to become one of the Peace Clubs? To start you only need to form a committee of at least two members and think about how the word ‘Peace’ can come into at least one of the projects we undertake each year. Educate, empower and engage. Maximise the peacebuilding impact of every project. It can provide a way to raise the profile of Rotary with its motto and the 4-Way Test. Just as ‘End Polio Now’ had become a rallying cry for Rotary, so too could the Peace Builder Clubs.

There are three main ideas: Simplify, Unify and Engage. Simplify – Individual responsibility and integrity, Respect and fairness, Intergroup Cohesion and Community. Unify: Shared identity, shared goodness and shared values. Engage: Infuse with empowerment and responsibility. Resonate, motivate and embrace.

Grace recommended that those interested take 20-30 minutes to read ‘Your Piece of Peace – a Peacebuilding Primer for Rotarians to be found at and click on ‘Peacemaker’. She would be happy to be of any assistance and expressed the hope that our two clubs could work more closely together in this new world of Zoom interconnection, especially as we are only two time zones apart.

President Alan thanked Grace for her most interesting talk and said that her suggestion would be given careful consideration, seeing that it had excited a high level of enthusiasm in our club.
We were delighted to host many members of the Johannesburg club who were online for Grace’s talk. Frank Bannister asked one of them, a Memo de Wet, if he was any relation of the hero of the Boer War of the same name. He broke into a broad grin and admitted he was. One of his relations had even gone to the trouble of naming their son ‘General’ in his honour.

Obituary: Colum McCabe (1929 - 2020)
Colum, who passed away on the 22nd of December 2020 at the age of 90 had for a number of years been the oldest member of our club.

Colum was born on the 19th of July 1929 and was a native of Ballybay in county Monaghan where his family owned a public house. He was one of six gifted brothers a number of whom, including Colum, won County Council scholarships to go to a Christian Brothers secondary school in the county. When his father died in 1950, the family decided to sell up and move to Dublin. Colum was 21 at the time and had recently completed a Batchelors degree in Mechanical Engineering at UCD. He was working for the Post Office in Dublin having (ironically in the light of subsequent events) turned down a job offer from the ESB despite the fact that his father had worked for the ESB for 14 years.

That career choice was, however, to be short lived and in 1952 he moved to the ESB and into the industry, energy, that would become his life’s work. During this period, Colum was contributing to the education of his siblings and he took up a second job in the evening in the then Kevin Street Technical College to help pay his brothers’ fees and expenses.

On Stephen’s Day in 1954 Colum met the woman who was to become his wife and lifelong companion, Patsy, in the Arcadia ballroom in Bray. They married in 1956 and shortly thereafter moved into their new home in Booterstown where they were to live for the next sixty four years.

Colum’s career in the ESB was long and distinguished. One of his major successes was winning the contract to help the government of Bahrain develop large scale electrification of their country. This contract was scooped by the ESB from under the noses of their British counterparts and led to a thirty year involvement with Bahrain. In a private memoire, Colum recalls a story written by Maeve Binchy after a visit to Bahrain in 1978:

“An Irish visitor in Bahrain a few months ago was complimenting his Arab host on how well the lights worked in a new building. ‘Now our ESB at home would never manage a job like that’, he said approvingly, if somewhat disloyally. ‘It is your ESB’ said the Arab gravely”.

After the success in Bahrain, Colum set about expanding the ESB’s consultancy business founding ESB International (ESBI). At that time, the ESB was finishing up or had finished most of its major projects in Ireland and was facing into the possibility that it would have to make a large number of its highly skilled engineers redundant. ESBI solved this problem and provided good, well remunerated employment - as well as contributing to Ireland’s balance of payments. Colum became a sort of international travelling salesman, a role that was to take him all over the world, to Nigeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan and many other south east Asian countries. One of his major contract wins was with the Philippines electricity industry. Looking back at this period Column noted that the ESB had most success in what he describes the less business friendly countries of that era, probably due to Colum’s willingness to venture where others feared to tread. In 1980, back in Ireland, he was appointed Commercial Director of the ESB, a job that was, as he said himself, inward facing. His last role with the ESB, as Director of Customer Operations, was outward looking and was during the transition from an era where electricity supply was a monopoly to an era of consumer choice of supplier. It was during this period that he joined the Rotary club, Dublin in 1982. Colum valued his Rotary membership and took full advantage of the opportunities being a member of Rotary provided – particularly when abroad. He often said that local Rotary contacts enabled him to meet local people, develop local links as well as to bypass local bureaucracy and get faster results.

Then, on New Year’s day 1987, a gas explosion that killed several people in the Raglan Hall apartments in Ballsbridge changed the direction of his career. It was a time when the Dublin Gas Company was converting to natural gas to take advantage of the newly opened Kinsale gas field. The Dublin Gas company at the time was a disaster: badly run, with poor work practices and even poorer morale so it was no surprise that it was struggling with the conversion from coal to natural gas. Gas was leaking out of pipes everywhere. The tragedy of Raglan Hall was the final straw for the government. Casting around for somebody to sort out the company, they turned to the ESB whose then chairman, Charlie Dillon, recommended Colum. Colum was to spend only five years at Dublin Gas, but in that time he turned the company around, clearing out the old management team, meeting and speaking with every employee in the company and introducing new rules like a total smoking ban – and not just on site (!), but in the head office. If the fitters were not allowed to smoke on the job, neither should management. In those five years the company went from an annual loss of IR£30 million to a profit of IR£40 million.

After having sorted out Dublin Gas, Colum returned to Bahrain as an independent consultant and thence to numerous other countries that were changing over the natural gas, now flowing in large quantities, particularly from Russia. He and Patsy often travelled together both enjoying the joy of new places and experiences.

Colum had four children Jeremy, Helen, Michael and Andrew and, at the time of his death, six grandchildren.

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