Rotary luncheon, 1974
In 1930 Rotary was born in Kenya and the region. The driving force to this great achievement was Rotarian John Innes from Leeds, who had been inspired when Rotary’s Founder Father, Paul Harris visited his club in England two years earlier and encouraged him to use his next business trip to East Africa to initiate a new Rotary Club.
He approached the then Mayor Mr. Charles Udall of establishing a Rotary Club in East Africa. Mayor Udall was impressed by his talk and there and then got together twelve prominent citizens to a luncheon at the New Stanley Hotel on 11th March 1930. With this meeting the first Rotary Club between South Africa and Cairo and one of the oldest in Africa was born.
His Worship the Mayor, Mr. C. Udall, presided, and among those present were Mr. A.C. Tannahill, Mr. Gill, The South African Trades Commissioner (Colonel Turner), the Very Rev. Dean Wright, and Messrs. W. Tyson, R.F. Mayer,…After listening to Mr. Innes, everyone, without exception, agreed that the forming of a Rotary Club would undoubtedly be to the benefit of this Colony, if its principles were carried out.
Thus the Rotary Club of Nairobi was born and Mayor Udall was elected the first President of the club for the Rotary year 1930-31.
The headline on the East Africa Standard the next day, Wednesday, March 12, 1930 read… “ROTARY MOVEMENT COMES TO KENYA”.
These first Rotarians had a constitution drafted and approved within two months. The Club started with 12 ‘persons of high standing in the community.’ And by the year’s end, 16 Rotarians met at the New Stanley Hotel for their weekly luncheon. The speaker at the first regular meeting in Nairobi was Mr. H. Monck Mason Moore, later to become Governor of Kenya. He gave an address on Colonial Constitutions.
The Rotary Club of Nairobi was duly chartered in September 1930 although the charter documents were not received until a year later. By then membership had risen to 16. Since then the Club has gone from strength to strength as every Rotary Club in East Africa today tracing its roots back to the Rotary Club of Nairobi. In the subsequent years Rotary was founded in Mombasa in 1944, Uganda in 1947, Dar-es-salaam in 1949, Ethiopia in 1961 and Eritrea in 1997.
The founder members of the club comprised not only ‘prominent’ citizens but of amazing characters with the most fascinating backgrounds. For example, the South African Trade Commissioner, Colonel Turner and the Very Reverend Dean Wright had come to the Colony with a predetermined assignment; one to encourage business with South Africa and to spread the gospel respectively. Other professional Rotarians were engaged in local business adventures and are credited with the foundation of some of Kenya’s leading organizations. Among these was Eernest Beasley Gill the first qualified accountant in East Africa whose practice later became today’s Deloitte & Touche. He was also a co-founder of Unga with Lord Delamere.
Over the years, the club grew in leaps and bounds and its members comprised people who made a difference in the growing colony all the way to post independence and present day Kenya.
The seed planted on that day 78 years ago has seen it sprout to form the largest District in Africa (9200) comprising over 100 clubs in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda (www.rotary9200.org).