John Richardson – Sixty Years in Rotary

Meeting on Monday 6 January 2014

For our first meeting of the New Year we were treated to a talk on Sixty Years in Rotary by the founding father of our club, John Richardson.

John, who was born in Moortown in 1923 and celebrated his 90th birthday last year, talked us through his career.

Returning to Leeds from army service in 1948, and then engaged to Joyce, John took a lorry driving job which also involved acting as chauffeur to a celebrated interior decorator, who encouraged John to start his own business. With help from his father, John acquired an empty clothing warehouse opposite the Chained Bull, which became the celebrated and much appreciated interior décor, soft furnishings, carpets and curtains and latterly glass and china emporium which John ran until his retirement.

John took his first holiday after eleven years, only to be struck down with polio on his return. John described to us how he was assisted through that challenging period of his life by a ‘good samaritan’ and fellow Rotarian, Rev Dick Talbot, who visited him regularly while he was isolated in hospital, relaying messages between John and the business.

John joined Leeds Rotary Club in 1954. Such was his enthusiasm and commitment that he visited other clubs every week. After six years, he and two others were directed to establish a new club in Roundhay. Within a week they had five members, expanded to 30 within two months, and their inaugural lunch at the Astoria was attended by a hundred people.

The club received its charter on 8 June 1961, John’s 38th birthday. He has been with us ever since.

John picked out a few highlights to tell us about.

Service to the community started with the simple and effective idea of taking children from a care home in Devonshire Avenue for a weekly visit to an old people’s home in Chapeltown.

Later, John persuaded a business contact to provide a free matinee at the Clock Cinema for pensioners at Christmas.

A dilapidated barn at Askrigg was converted by club members into an adventure centre for school children.

An adventure playground complete with bouncy castle was established to keep children amused at the Flower Show.

Another adventure playground was built at a school in Harehills, and later a BMX track established at Fearnville.

There was a fishing competition for the disabled at Roundhay Park.

The above account cannot do justice to John’s skills as a raconteur. We listened spell-bound as he seized on vivid details that brought his stories to life – such as the tramp of Rev Talbot’s boots as he strode down the hospital corridor on his visits to the isolation ward. John complained that he couldn’t read his notes as he addressed us, but in fact he didn’t need any.

In giving the vote of thanks, Roger Cannon remarked that in today’s climate of Health and Safety and CRB checks, many of John’s initiatives would be impossible. John created our club, and has set an example of service to the community that is an inspiration to us all.

Notices

· The business meeting on 13 January will deal with election of club officers for 2014/15

· Burns Night is a joint meeting at Sand Moor Golf Club on Monday 27 January. Members are urged to apply for tickets and bring friends

· We hope to be joined by members of the Rotary Club of Leeds for our meeting on Monday 3 February

· The President’s trip to Budapest will be from 8 to 11 May and is now booked

· The President’s evening will be at Scarcroft Golf Club on Saturday 26 April. As a change from an after dinner speaker, we have secured the services of Edwina Hayes, an excellent folk singer and guitarist.