skip to main content

Let’s get shovel ready - 18 August 2020


Barry McEwen gave us his Viewpoint tonight. He said, 

'How will things end up in New Zealand in the weeks or months to come following this Covid 19 pandemic?

'Things are certainty not straightforward in the world at the moment, are they? So what, as a Rotary Club can we do about it? Not a lot, but I don’t think we should ignore it.

'If I can go back two-plus years when I met up again with David Knight at an Inner Wheel “Pizza & Plonk” afternoon in the Reidy’s stunning garden. After a short conversation and a drink or two, David asked me if I would like to join Rotary. I replied, yes I have been thinking about it. My father was a Rotarian.

'Before I move on to my view Point, a little bit about my Fathers Rotary Club.

'I was born in Dunedin and I spent the first 10 years of my life (1947 to 1957) in the small South Otago rural town of Balclutha.

'My Father, Len McEwen, was a Building Contractor, building hospitals, schools, freezing works, bridges and the like.

'Like many others at this time, he was a returned serviceman.

'At this time, Balclutha had a RSA, a Rotary Club, and a Masonic Lodge, Dad was also a Masonic Lodge Member and served as a Town Councillor.

'I have been told that there was quite a bit of friction between the Balclutha RSA and the Rotary Club. My father never went to a RSA as did quite a number of other Rotary returned servicemen. I can recall him saying, ‘those clowns never saw the real war’. He never ever talked about the war.

'Back then, the Rotary meetings (for some reason) were held in quite a large workshop at the back of our house. It was quite well decked out, fold-up table and chairs that could fit twenty men around (yes men only). There was a sink with a cold water tap and a toilet (well a urinal of sorts, a length of roof spouting that ran through the wall to somewhere) but a nice open fire, I can still remember the men turning up on Friday nights, all dressed in suits with a flagon or a hip flask, probably after 6 o’clock closing. Friday was the day that farmers and out of towners came to town. Most had a cigarette, cigar or a pipe in their mouth.

'There were sheep and dairy farmers, market gardeners, a brickwork manager, a coal mine manager, freezing works managers, the town Mayor and of course a bloody Engineer, Accountant, and Lawyer. My father would have been aged thirty-eight, the others would have ranged from 30 to 50 at the most. It was a bit different from the demographics today.

'Here's what they did:-

'The Clutha River was the major problem in the town. It flooded regularly and it seemed to be the Rotary Club’s main project at this time - flood protection, sandbag filling, picking up truckloads of sand from the beach, and storing it by the river. As a kid, I went with Dad as did some of my school friends with their fathers, to help where we could (we all could swear like a trooper at a very early age.)  They also helped people in the town to find work, donating food, firewood and coal for those in need, and of course, helping the damaged return servicemen and their families who needed help.

'The Polio epidemic was still also around at this time. Vaccination was not introduced until 1956. How they pulled this all together and managed things, as only a small number of members had landlines or any other form of communication, I have no idea. But they did it. (No RMA Act would have helped).

'They did all this without funding. There were no grants back there. Farmers brought meat, milk, and firewood, market gardeners brought vegetables, coal came from the coal mine (all donated), and some bloody hard work!

'I do remember a fund-raising event my father ran at the end of a meeting one night. As the Rotarians were about to leave, Dad called them all over to a truckload of gravel he had in his yard, and said, ‘OK here’s some easy money for you Gentlemen’. Give me £1 each, and if you can climb up one side of this load of gravel and down the other side without falling over I will give you £3. They all had a go, but no one achieved it. My sister and I were peeping through the window. She was six years older than me and knew why they couldn’t do it - they were all smashed. He made over £25 for Rotary that night - a lot of money back then. And, then they all drove home - one farmer on his tractor with no lights, much to my mother’s disgust.

'Now, getting back to my viewpoint on what the Plimmerton Rotary could do if things get really bad (and let’s hope it doesn’t) I think we could follow to some extent exactly what the Balclutha Rotary Club did sixty-five years ago.

'Have a plan in place to follow. Help the people in need. Help local businesses. Maybe set up a help hotline. Deliver essential products and medical supplies to the elderly and needy. During the Level 4 lockdown, The Tuk Tuk Restaurant, down in Cobham Court Porirua, had an arrangement with Otaki Market Gardeners to sell and deliver vegetables. Perhaps we could team up with Inner Wheel and do the same and include other producers as well. We could have a good supply arrangement for masks and sanitiser suppliers. But to do the hard yards, we would need some younger/fitter members or volunteers. (Our age group are very vulnerable).

'So my viewpoint is this. I think we should maybe put a plan in place to be Shovel Ready if things go really bad.'

Let’s get shovel ready - 18 August 2020

+ Text Size -

Skip to TOP

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the server!