It was THE Convention
- "perhaps the most amazing- and certainly the most significant
- of all the Rotary Conventions ever held".
cannot be dismissed as hyperbole.
The 1,243 Clubs of Rotary were now an international movement as
the Convention left the borders of the USA for the first time.
In preparation for the Convention, British Clubs, especially the
host Club of Edinburgh
to guarantee £4,000 of costs as well as hotel accommodation for
up to 2,000 Rotary visitors in order to bring the Convention to
the British Isles.
Edinburgh was an
obvious choice as not only was it the home of Rotary in Britain
and Ireland but the city was also home to the President of the
British Association of Rotary Clubs, Alexander Wilkie. It was
also, of course, the native city of Jean
On June 1st, the Cunard ships-the Caronia (which
docked in Liverpool) and theCameronia in
Glasgow-delivered over 1000 Rotarians and their families to
the shores of Britain. At Glasgow, 200 Glasgow
Club #60 members
welcomed the party by singing (uncharacteristically) to their
somewhat sickly fellow-delegates "I'm a Little Prairie Flower".
Harry Lauder would
offer the delegates a glass of friendship - "if we could drink
it in wartime, surely it will taste all the sweeter in peacetime".
A few visiting
Rotarians naturally enjoyed a glass of something stronger as
they escaped from newly-introduced Prohibition in their homeland.
Rotary arrived in Scotland's capital, Princes Street was amass
with Rotarians. The singing filled the air.
The journalist Vivian
of the soon-to-be created RIBI, sought to use his talents in the
field of public relations. It was the right time to exploit the
press. This was a unique opportunity for Rotary to continue its
rapid growth. The serious newspapers such as The
Times and the Manchester
genuinely interested and published pre-convention articles but
the so-called popular press reserved judgment. The press were
probably more interested with the American Rotarian renditions
of "Old MacDonald's Farm" on the streets of Edinburgh and
reacted with either incredulity or contempt. The visiting
delegates showed Britain "the boy-like spirit of America" to
quote Vivian Carter, and led the new Secretary to observe: "It
would now be a labour of years to persuade the British Press
that Rotary really meant anything serious."
There were, however, many climactic decisions taken at
Edinburgh; the (very limited) practice of Freemason-only Rotary
Clubs was utterly condemned. More significantly, the Fourth
Object was formally adopted to promote "the advancement of
international understanding, goodwill and peace through a world
fellowship of business and professional men united in the ideal
of service". At Edinburgh, a committee was appointed to draw up
a new Constitution for the Rotary movement.
unfortunately, could not attend due to poor health but he made
the significant move of appointing Arthur
the main speaker to give an inspired address to the delegates as
they gathered in the Usher Hall.
Edinburgh also saw the beginning of the end for BARC which was
soon replaced with the more familiar RIBI.
More importantly, however, the Brits at last pledged their full
allegiance to the International Rotary movement by accepting its
This was the Convention that truly defined Rotary as INTERNATIONAL.
Paul Harris' entire convention message here.