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How the fellowship Started
Rotary Fellowship History

[Rotary International lists "Esperanto" as the first fellowship, in 1928]

It all started in 1947 when John G. Barrett in Brixton, Great Britain, got the idea to hoist a burgee on his boat with the Rotary emblem on it.  Gradually that spread both in his own and other neighboring clubs. After some time that led to the forming of a Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians YFOR.  Because of that abbreviation the members came to call themselves Yforians. The idea soon spread also to the US and in 1954 the Rotarian contained an article about the club.  Shortly after the club became international and the abbreviation was changed to the present IYFR Fairly early golfers and flyers started similar fellowships, as did the ham radio amateurs.  Then Photographers, Taping Rotarians and even a Single Rotarian Fellowship has existed! Some become dormant, while new ones are created by and by.  But only in 1968/69 did RI take any notice of these groups, and a Recreational Activities Committee was formed.

In 1971 the founder of the Flying Rotarians declared that many flyers used their airplanes for job traveling and not only as recreation.  That led to a change of the fellowship label to World Fellowship Activities, WFA.  Already at this time Fellowships held annual meetings during the Rotary conventions. In Atlanta 1970, 35 Rotarians attended at a Hall of Friendship.  In 1976 the number had raised to over 500!  As a parallel, but considerably later, similar Vocational Contact Groups of Rotarians were established for members with similar occupations. They were however not officially recognized by RI until 1989.  That year was a marker in the development of rotary Fellowships, as the RI President Hugh Archer with his theme "Enjoy Rotary" was an enthusiastic supporter of the Fellowship "movement".

In the September issue of The Rotarian 1989 there was a fantastic presentation the then 25 Fellowships in 26 pages, including many interesting historical facts. (The translation, and compression of that article into 7 pages of the Nordic Regional Rotary magazine got me involved, first in both genealogy, coin collecting, home exchange and yachting, with a later concentration on yachting).  At that time Yachting had almost 2000 members in 55 fleets in 31 countries. Amateur Radio over 660 members in 43 countries. (I keep that special section of the Rotarian as a personal treasure! It is a gem in the world of Fellowships).  In 1993 these two main groups of Fellowships were combined into the Rotary Recreational and Vocational Fellowships, RRVF.  More recently a third category of Rotarian interest groups has been added called  "Medical/Health" interests, and there is an MS Awareness group started. 

This is of course a very rough and incomplete version but still. Some day somebody might write a more complete story.  In IYFR one of the seniors Andrew Mitchell in GB produced a "50th anniversary souvenir" 1997 with a compressed history of that fellowship's first 50 years.

Bengt Solve
Bastad, Sweden


 

 

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