Kelvin Probus Club History

 The Origins

Kelvin Probus Club is one of many in the UK and overseas.  The British Probus Club movement did not start until 1965.  The idea of Probus Clubs spawned from members of the Rotary Club movement who, as they approached retirement, realised the need for continuing fellowship.  The name “Probus” is derived from the first three letters of ‘PROfessional and BUSiness’.  It had the advantage that it is a Latin word from which ‘probity’ is derived.  The movement provides the opportunity for retired and semi-retired professionals to meet up with likeminded others and keep themselves up to date with what was happening in the wider world.

This was certainly the motivation for the establishment of the Kelvin Probus Club in 1989.  In February of that year, Walter Caldwell, with the enthusiastic support of Jim Scobbie, and the encouragement of Kelvin Rotary Club, took the first steps to establish a Probus Club in the West End of Glasgow.  The two originators contacted many of their friends and advertised in a local newspaper the date for an exploratory meeting.  This meeting took place in Jury’s Pond Hotel on 7 April 1989 and was attended by 26 retired men, plus representatives of the Allander Probus Club, Bearsden.  A steering committee was appointed with Jim Scobbie as chairman and Walter Caldwell as secretary.  Duncan Carmichael, Bernard Caulfield and Bill Cameron volunteered to serve on the committee, and George Buchanan and Bill Gemmill were subsequently co-opted.

It was agreed that the name would be KELVIN PROBUS CLUB, and the inaugural meeting was held on 5 May 1989 in Esquire House, Anniesland, attended by 52 who became founder members. The draft constitution was duly approved and the annual subscription was fixed at the very modest sum of £5.

The first regular Club meeting took place, again in Esquire House, sixteen days later on Tuesday 16 May 1989, and the very first speaker was Tony Browning, Director of Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries, who later became a member of the Club.  There was a further meeting on 30 May, with Dr George Johnston speaking about the Commonwealth Games and other sporting events.  Thereafter the Club closed down for the summer, with the members already keenly looking forward to September and the start of the first full session.

The Early Years

On 12 September 1989 Club members assembled at what was to become its permanent home for the first twenty years – the pavilion of the Hillhead High School Memorial Sports Grounds at Hughenden. The pattern of fortnightly meetings, and occasional outings arranged to places of interest, established in that very first annual session in 1989-90, has continued ever since, with morning meetings being held regularly on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month from September to April ending with the AGM.  However, in the 1990s two May meetings were added.  To simplify arrangements for the incoming President speakers for the later talks were sourced from Club members.  By 2018, after many years of a September to May programme, it was decided to relocate the AGM to the last meeting in May resulting in Angus Murchison serving as President for an extra month!

All meetings started at 10.00 a.m. with coffee, home-made scones and socialising as members arrive and greet friends. The more formal proceedings begin at 10.30am, with Club reports, details of future outings, and information about members who are ill at home or in hospital. The guest speaker is then introduced by the President and usually speaks for around 45 minutes, followed by questions from the floor.  Meetings ended at 12 noon with a vote of thanks, and a soup and sandwich lunch were also available at modest cost to allow further time for social contact.

Recent years

 The above model has served the Club well with little change over the years.  However, the arrival of the Covid-19 Pandemic stopped the Club’s face to face meetings at the end of March 2020!  John Walls, then President, found himself facing an unprecedented situation.  However, it quickly became clear that the Committee wanted to see Club activity continuing during the lockdown.  After discussion and some investigation, it was agreed that the Club would continue to meet virtually over the summer.  Initially this was achieved by using the Slack App.  While members were kept entertained over the summer, the Club were happy to shift to the Zoom App which proved to be far more user friendly.  The virtual format proved to be a very acceptable for meetings including the first ever virtual AGM in September 2021 when Douglas Cook took over the Presidential reins from John Walls.  Incidentally the virtual format proved advantageous for the speakers who could attend virtually from their home or office.

Members quickly became familiar with the virtual meetings and, importantly, it helped keep the Club on an even keel.  President Fred Hay, who took over from Douglas Cook, easily slipped his feet under the virtual table when the AGM took place in May 2021 so used were members to the new medium.  Having said that it was clear that members really enjoyed the return to face to face meetings in March 2021.


In Glasgow’s west end in 1989 there was no shortage of retired professional or businessmen, and from the outset Kelvin Probus Club has been popular and well-supported.  Within a few months the number who had attended the original exploratory meeting had doubled, from 26 to over 50.  The first constitution provided for a maximum membership of 80.  Within a few years, this limit was increased to 90, and then to 100 in 2002.  By 2004 there was a lengthy waiting list, and the Club AGM approved the introduction of a new class of Associate Member.  This catered for members who for a variety of reasons were no longer able to attend Club meetings but who nevertheless wished to retain contact with the Club.  Associate members continue to receive information about Club activities and can attend outings and social events where possible.

Despite the healthy membership levels in the first quarter century, the waiting list started to shrink in the early 2010s and not long after membership levels were flatlining, if not showing modest decline.   In 2017 the decision was taken to open membership to women and a positive campaign was mounted to recruit female members and to involve them in the organisation of the Club. Now around 20% of members are women and the work to attract more female members is ongoing.President Fred Hay on assuming Office in 2021 embarked on a recruiting campaign which has helped stabilise the falling member numbers with an influx of  new members both male and female.  The membership in January 2024 was near to the maximum of 100.


Since its inception Kelvin Probus Club has been fortunate in the exceptionally high calibre of all its 34 Presidents.  Drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds, professions and business, every year brings an incumbent with a different past experience and a fresh approach to his presidential duties.

Until 2019 the Vice-President, each President-in-waiting was responsible for arranging his or her own syllabus of speakers during their year in office.  This results in a very wide range of topics and differing styles of presentation at our fortnightly meetings.  While this was to the great benefit and entertainment of the members, it was not perhaps as beneficial to the blood pressure of the President worrying about speakers turning up.  In time it was evident that this responsibility was proving to be a deterrent to members standing for the office of Vice President.  A key factor in John Walls, a Past President, standing for the Presidency again for 2019-2020 to fill the VP vacuum during the 2018-19 session. To address this issue the Committee agreed to the establishment of a Programme Committee who took on the responsibility of putting together the annual programme.  The Programme Committee has greatly reduced the burdens on incoming Vice Presidents and Presidents and it is hoped that this will ensure the Club’s continued sustainability in future years.

The retiring President had traditionally remained on the committee for one year as Welfare Officer, whose responsibility it is to keep in touch with members who are ill or in hospital.  With the end of Fred Hay’s presidency it was decided to seek a ‘standalone’ Wellbeing Officer.  This role includes providing updates at meetings on any members unable to attend Probus events through ill health or for other reasons and to keep in touch with them as appropriate, sending birthday cards to members achieving the landmark ages of 65, 70, 75, 80 and every year thereafter.

Office-bearers and Committees

The posts of Secretary and Treasurer are essential cogs in the continuity and smooth-running of any organisation, and Kelvin Probus Club has been well-served by its successive occupants of these positions. The first Secretary during the early years was Bill Cameron, and his successor Bob Paton served loyally for twelve years until his sudden death in March 2004 on his way home from a Club meeting.  He was followed by Iain Mann, who took over at short notice just before the AGM, in 2008 by Bob Stewart and in 2013 by Stewart Roy.  David Moir briefly took over the Secretaryship in 2018.  However, Stewart Roy took over the reins again temporarily until Robin Hutchison stepped into the breach at short notice in 2019 again providing stability in the Club’s affairs. The Secretary during the 2023/24 season is Valerie Kaye.

During the 2021-22 session President Fred Hay proposed that the administration of the Club be streamlined with a smaller Executive Committee. This currently consists of the Honorary President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Wellbeing Officer, Convener of the Programme Committee and two additional members.

Many members, not always on the Committee, have served the Club over the years, undertaking the more practical chores of putting out chairs and tables before meetings, looking after the sound and projection equipment, taking charge of the arrangements for visits and outings, and offering their experience and wise counsel at committee meetings.  These contributions have been greatly valued by members.


The Club had no access to start-up finance and has relied entirely on annual subscriptions to cover routine administration costs such as printing, stationery and postages. The first subscription was set at £5, and over the years this has been increased progressively to its present level of £40.Visits and outings are carefully budgeted and members signing up for these are asked to provide their per capita share of the cost in advance.

Christmas Lunches and other Social Events

The tradition of a Christmas Lunch was introduced in the first session of the Club.  Normally it is one of the highlights of the Club’s annual calendar and is always attended by a great many members and their guests.  A tradition established at this time was for the President to invite a local minister or priest to the Christmas Lunch as a guest speaker, to give a short Christmas message.  Without exception these short homilies have been both entertaining and often thought-provoking.  The minister at the very first lunch in 1989 was the Rev Bill Ferguson of Broomhill Parish Church, who was again the Club guest in 2015.

At the first Christmas Lunch on 19 December 1989 the President of Kelvin Rotary Club presented the Club with a very handsome “President’s Chain of Office”, which has been worn by every President at all Club meetings since.

Visits and Outings

Planning and organising visits and outings to places of interest is another of the responsibilities of the hard-working Social Convener, and down the years Bill McMurray, Andy Connell, Walker Leith, Alan Murphy, Archie Henderson, Gordon Barclay and currently Alex Ritchie, have worked very hard to make these trips successful.

Members and guests have in recent years enjoyed visits to such diverse venues as the Fairfield’s Heritage Centre, the RSC to see the Threepenny Opera, Tennant’s Brewery, BAE Systems, BBC Studios, Back Stage at the Theatre Royal, not to mention the ever-popular lunches at Glasgow Clyde College, Anniesland Campus.

Annual theatre visits have also been a feature much enjoyed by members and their guests until the covid lockdown.  Every year the Club takes a block of seats at the Kings Theatre for the annual musical presented by the Paisley Musical and Operatic Society, always a lively show full of melody and colour. In the past in May or June another popular was to visit the Pitlochry Festival Theatre for a matinee performance of one of the excellent plays put on in the “Theatre in the Hills”.  However, more recently costs and transport logistics have curtailed attendance.

Sporting and Other Pursuits

In 1991 the committee conducted a survey to ascertain members’ interest in sporting activities, and as a result three sections were set up to provide opportunities for golf, bowling and walking.  Volunteers were found to lead each of these sections, and these have provided good comradeship and suitable modest exercise for those members taking part.  Unfortunately, the annual golf outings fell by the wayside because of the increasing cost of green fees.  The loss of the bowls ‘volunteer’ also resulted in the bowling section lapsing.

On the other hand, the walking group, originally led by the intrepid Bob Crawford and now organised by Hamish Eadie, continues to thrive, putting its best foot forward every second Tuesday on diverse interesting routes through green areas, along waterways etc, within the city and surrounding area. 


From its inception the Club had always regarded the Hillhead Sports Pavilion at Hughenden as both its natural and its spiritual home, which it remained until 2008.  However, with a major re-development of the entire sports complex, Kelvin Probus moved to the main hall of Jordanhill Parish Church. With the return to face to face meetings in March 2022 the Club returned to Hughenden.

Past, Present and Future

Looking back, Kelvin Probus Club has been a great success, it has proven to provide a means of keeping our minds active and up to speed with what is going on in the wider world as well as providing welcome fellowship with likeminded people.  Today’s members are greatly indebted to the small group of gentlemen who conceived the original idea and to the founder members who transformed the idea into the reality of the Kelvin Probus Club.  Inevitably many of those early members are no longer with us.  However, their regular attendance at meetings, and their support of outings and social events will always be remembered and appreciated.

At present Kelvin Probus Club is still vibrant. Club traditions have been well established, and administrative arrangements have evolved and adapted as reflected in this brief history.

We look forward to the future with confidence, secure in the knowledge that Kelvin Probus Club is in good heart and is committed to prospering in the future.

Web : www.kelvinprobus.org