The 88th convention

The 88th convention
Glasgow, Scotland
June 15-18
23,506 in attendance
Luis Vicente Giay,
Arrecifes Bs. As. Argentina

The 1997 Glasgow Convention

As someone who joined the movement after this event, i find some of the stories about the Glasgow Convention fascinating. As a Scot and a Rotarian who has attended a few international gatherings I sometimes run into a veteran of Glasgow. To be generalise in a most dreadful manner, I find that the locals (from Britain) tend to criticise and condemn the organizing while those outwith the country praise the local hospitality and the people.

I have put together a few images from the local newspaper - The (Glasgow) Herald along with some letters in RIBI’s own regional magazine in order to provide evidence for such polarised opinions.

The first thing that strikes me when I look at the list of hotels here is the vast area they cover. There Are hotels that are located in all three Scottish districts. The distance to Glasgow from some of these hotels are up to forty miles. That must have had a detrimental effect. Could such a situation exist today. Could we hold a convention in one city and host Rotarians in another city? I doubt it.

The opening ceremony, held at Rangers FC stadium in Ibrox, Glasgow has been heavily condemned by many not so much for over running but for the poor transportation planning and lack of coordination.

I cannot be sure from the images above whether the many empty spaces are due to transport issues but they are significant.

By far the most interesting features here are the comments from Rotarians and non-Rotarians alike on the event as covered in the local newspaper: The Herald. The first image captures the general welcome given by Scotland to Rotarians of the world.

The newspaper did cover various aspects of the convention in its columns as we can see below. It is rather dad to note it misspelt Jean Harris’ maiden name – especially as her name was of THOMSON is how most Scots would spell it!

It may be possible to pick up through the press here that Rotary is often described as “The Rotary”. This was very much something that developed in the West of Scotland and possibly due to her most famous Rotarian – Sir Harry Lauder who frequently inserted the definite article in front of the word ‘Rotary’. It is a much coined phrase but one that is given with warmth and sincerity.

So now to the Readers letters pages where we can read for ourselves some of the invective towards the organisers. The word ‘fiasco’ seems to have prevalent in local Rotarians minds at that time.

The humourous diary page in the newspaper gives us a flavour of what the outside observer was thinking. It tells us how we as a worldwide organsiation came across.

The newspaper tells us below that this was the biggest event of its kind ever held in Scotland.

We see from the comments below what one Rotarian from Australia thought of the event: full of praise.

Now, we turn to RIBI’s regional magazine. Its honorary editor at the time did not hold back with the opprobrium but did attempt to be positive in parts.

The readers letters to the RIBI magazine pours even more censure onto the organisers.

And there we must leave it.

This Rotary Convention, I fear seems to have stretched goodwill to its limit. Hotels that were too remote from the main centre; a lack of an integtated transport system possibly meant the convention was going to struggle. Taken along with typical June weather in Scotland, it was going to be difficult to keep smiles on faces. There is nothing you can do about the weather and really the unsettled clouds and drizzle is not uncommon. And of course, neither is the ‘over long’ speeches. This is “The Rotary” after all and we do over long speeches better than most!

As preparations were being finalised for the 1997 RI Convention in Glasgow, Scotland, the Braids Rotary Club was asked by the Organizers to help restore the graveside of Jean Harris. RI President Luis Giay (and other Rotary International officials) made it known that they wished to visit the last resting place of Rotary founder Paul Harris' widow some 30 miles away in Edinburgh. The Braids Rotary Club - as the local club - decided to commemorate Jean's grave by placing a plaque at the cemetery gates. Jean's health, from an article "First Woman in Rotary"

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