Tuesday 23 May 2017

Rotary Club celebrates a century of life in Dublin

Fergus Black

IT'S the tale of a city as seen through the eyes of its business people and traders.

A tale of those who survived and even thrived through two world wars, an insurrection in their own city, a war of independence and a civil war.

Dublin in the rare aul' times it may not have always been, but it was a city of interesting times as its business community worked and lived their way through a vastly changing political and economic landscape.

It's a story that has now been told in a new book 'First in Service' to mark the centenary of Europe's first Rotary Club, which was founded in the capital in 1911.

The Dublin club is part of a worldwide organisation formed in Chicago in 1905, in which businessmen and women raised funds to help communities at home and abroad.

When the organising secretary of the Dublin club arrived in the capital in January 1911, he did so to a city of both crushing poverty and increasing middle-class wealth with thousands living in one room tenements.

A lucky 3,000 of its citizens worked in the civil and public service while the vast majority remained unemployed, most of the country's 5,058 cars were garaged in the city while jaunting cars remained the prevalent form of transport until well after World War I.

The book by rotarian Tony Keegan tells how city traders tried to maintain business as usual as the first shots were fired in the 1916 Rising.

Rotary club member Alfred Fannin, the managing director of Fannin's Medical Supply company of Grafton Street, was playing golf in Greystones on that Easter Sunday morning.

As he was taking lunch after playing nine holes, he learned Dublin had been cut off and that Sinn Fein was "causing some trouble in the city".

"His attitude to this news can be gauged from the fact that he played another nine holes with his cousin Edwin Booth and his wife, Edith, before driving back safely to his home at 32 Herbert Park," the book recounts.

Jubilee

In 1961 former Taoiseach Sean Lemass marked the club's golden jubilee by commenting that some of those present might be alive to celebrate Dublin Rotary's first centenary.

Rotarian Alan King (79) from Rathgar proved Mr Lemass right as he joined other Rotarians yesterday to mark the book launch.

"I remember being there at the golden jubilee but I don't remember him (Mr Lemass) saying that," joked Mr King, who joined the Dublin club in 1959.

Irish Independent

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