Most of you will have forgotten that in my letter to you last summer, I observed we lived in ‘interesting times’, a reference to the ancient Chinese Curse. Little did I know how much more interesting they were to become during my term – I lost a Secretary (careless), we had a December General Election and, in March, we were stopped in our tracks by the Covid-19 pandemic. In the background, we watched with horror and fascination America gearing up for the President’s election in November this year. Events in the UK weren’t much better.
All this will have made you forget that this is the first year when the Probus Programme had been prepared by a Programme Committee under the chairmanship of Robin Leake. He has toiled away tirelessly behind the scenes, seeking little recognition, in the smooth delivery of speakers to our rostrum. I, and the rest of the Club, therefore owe Robin a great deal of gratitude. The Programme Committee’s role has significantly reduced the burdens on the President’s day to day role.
I also have to extend my thanks to my committee whose support is essential to the smooth running of the Club. This year’s committee was spooked by Stewart Roy’s early forced retirement on health grounds. Stewart deserves a ‘mention in dispatches’ for resuming the Secretaryship due to David Moir’s ‘early retirement’, also due to health grounds in the previous session. He restored stability to the committee early in my Presidency. We were fortunate that Robin Hutchison could step up and take over Stewart’s role so quickly and once again restore normality. So, again, thanks to the team, past and present.
Probus & the Lockdown
With the pandemic we lost a quarter of our Programme. I had been looking forward to having a debate (planned around drugs as a public health rather than a criminal issue) and hearing about the Puffer Preservation Society. Also, I had wanted to know more about the growing dangers of Antibiotic Resistance from Andrew Roe, a microbiologist at Glasgow University. His specialty is infectious diseases. Anyway we’ll have to wait for another opportunity. I’ll bet he’s extremely busy just now!!
After the lockdown I trialled the Slack App with a group of volunteers. (To whom I extend my gratitude.) I hoped it would maintain the Club’s momentum. Joining the App proved a bit of a pain for members. Nonetheless, 29 of us, just over 40% of the membership, made the effort and enjoyed some eight virtual meetings on the App. Thanks are due to the blog writers who entertained us – Stewart Roy, Nick
Kuenssberg, Robin Leake, Dermot Kennedy, Graeme Pollock, Ken Wardrop, Ken Fisher and John Cammidge on a diverse range of subjects. As the meetings were effectively conducted in emails, one of our colleagues remarked that it reminded him of the Two Ronnies giving one of their ‘out of sync’ news interviews. Quite a good description as members’ messages hit our screens out of sync. Despite this, an
hour was easily filled with questions, comments and banter – even if ‘not in the right order’ to misquote Morecambe and Wise. Still the Slack App allowed us to do some housekeeping at the end of May when we would normally have had our AGM. Robin gave his Secretary’s Annual Report and Vivian presented the Cub’s Accounts. This gave members a chance to scrutinise matters and raise questions. It established that the ‘ship’ is well and truly afloat. Importantly this housekeeping allows us to have a ‘short and sweet’ AGM on Zoom in September.
Anyway, the experience does suggest that the Zoom App will prove to be a much more satisfactory app for the coming session. It is immediate and responsive and clearly more suitable for ‘remote’ speakers. It has the beauty of simplicity as members only have to click on the weblink to join the Zoom session. Here I have to say that our dry run trial on 25th August went well. Thanks again to all who helped in the trial, especially Alan Watt who hosted for us.) Twenty members participated including Bob Crawford. The atmosphere was good and there was a good Q&A session even if we struggled to work out how our mikes unmuted!
Committee : Again
The upshot of all this is that your Committee have continued to be busy since the advent of the lockdown. The membership has never received so many emails during the summer before. Let’s face it, your travel options have been significantly circumscribed and the Club has offered you distractions! Here I also have to thank Hamish Eadie for providing an outlet for the walking group. Once restrictions eased he had an intrepid group of walkers striding out. Each walked individually round a loop. Half of the group walked clockwise and the other half anti-clockwise meeting one another along the way. So an opportunity to catch up with peoples’ news and have a grump about anything which may have caused irritation, wives excluded! Needless to say, the committee are alert to the challenges which face the Club once the government determines social gatherings such as our Probus meetings can recommence. It has been discussed a lot by the committee as we are, regrettably, a vulnerable group. However, there are limits on how far we can plan ahead. So many of the parameters are unknown – we need to be guided by government and the requirements of the venue which prevail when re-opening. Reducing the risk of transmission of Covid-19 will be the Club’s priority. Here we will be asking members to exercise common sense and not attend any meetings if they don’t feel well or think they might be coming down with something.
At this stage of the annual renewal of the committee, I am saddened once again that we do not have a VP. A number of members have been approached. However, their commitments have meant that they haven’t wished to commit for fear of letting the Club down. Not knowing members’ commitments when approaching them makes the Committee’s task extremely challenging.
Last year Douglas Cook followed in my footsteps and volunteered to be VP. I, and you, were deeply grateful. So, again this year, I am asking members to consider volunteering to stand as VP. It is an ‘existential’ issue for the Club. If members aren’t willing to stand, the Club’s future is bleak. As I pointed out earlier, we now have a Programme Committee which searches for speakers, organises the annual
programme and delivers our regular bi-monthly events. This makes the VP’s and President’s roles much easier than in the past. So I would ask members to give this matter serious consideration and, if willing, to contact anyone on the committee. Think of it as payback for the pleasure you’ve had from Probus and other like organisations over the years.
All that remains for me to do now is to congratulate Douglas on becoming President, I wish him every success in these challenging times. I also would like to thank you for your continuing loyalty to the Club and wish you all the best for the coming session. Please take care and stay healthy!
President, Kelvin Probus Club
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Web : www.kelvinprobus.org