Club History

by John Maffey OAM

The Rotary Club of Moss Vale called an Interest Meeting on Thursday, 14th June 1984 at the Moss Vale Golf Club to see whether retired and semi-retired business and professional men would be interested in forming the first Probus Club in the Southern Highlands. The purpose of the Club would be to hold regular monthly meetings for retired men who would appreciate and value the opportunity to meet with others with similar interests and enjoy their fellowship. Guest speakers would be invited and visits to places of interest were envisaged.

The President of the Rotary Club, Ernie Thorpe, presided at this first meeting, which was attended by Rotarians, Probus Club members from Goulburn and Cliff Johnston from Probus South Pacific who explained the structure and history of Probus. Also present were 22 interested candidates who subsequently became the foundation members of the new Club.

Mr Thorpe invited Gordon Harman to take the Chair and he proceeded with the business of forming the Club, accepting the twenty-two foundation members, adopting the Constitution, electing the Management Committee, setting the annual subscription at $12.00 and resolving that the cost of morning tea would be 50 cents for each member attending. Before closing the Interest Meeting the Rotary President installed Gordon Harman as the Foundation President of the Moss Vale Probus Club. Rotary funded the cost of the President's collar, Members' lapel pins, advertising and printing to help establish the Club.

Meetings were always held on the second Thursday of each month at 10am at the Moss Vale Golf Club until March 2016 when the Golf Club underwent renovations and the Probus Club - unable to find a venue in Moss Val, relocated to the Mittagong RSL Club.

By the close of the August 1984 meeting, the Club had 31 members who came from all corners of the Southern Highlands. Most members in those early days had worked and lived in the Wingecarribee Shire, whereas in the 21st Century the majority of the 104 members have lived and worked around the world and have subsequently retired to the district.

Moss Vale Probus Club has always had a reputation for obtaining quality guest speakers. In the early days most speakers were locals, whereas today they are drawn from Sydney, Canberra, the South Coast, as well as from the Highlands. In recent times a Club member has also been invited to give a 10-minute talk on a topic in which he has a specific interest. Following the monthly meetings, some members stay on for lunch in the RSL restaurant. As age or lack of mobility preclude some members from attending meetings, they can become ‘non-active members’ and still receive Club newsletters. From July 2017, any man wishing to join the Club is first required to attend a total of three meetings or functions as a guest before being inducted as a member.

Outings, functions and concern for any sick/frail members have always been on the Club's agenda. The first Club outing in October 1984 was to visit the Goulburn Probus Club. In more recent times, day visits to Sydney, Canberra and places within our local district, as well as two to three day trips to regional centres have proved popular. These events have been organised by our intrepid Tours Leader, Gordon Dummer, who, together with Francis de Beaujeau, have recently been elected as Honorary Life Members for their services to the Club. Functions and trips have often included the ladies.

The first monthly Club Newsletter was published in July 1984 and the July 2021 edition was No 433. Ken Hope took over as editor in 1985, relinquishing the position in March 1998 having had responsibility for 152 publications. Over the years, the format has changed several times, colour added and the Newsletter is now published online. The typing has progressed from a manual to an electric typewriter and is now compiled on a computer by Bruce Pearson. Bruce has also placed all past Newsletter editions to the Club website (probusmossvale.org.au). Photographs also now enhance most editions.

Club interest groups have come and gone over our 38 years of existence: golf, bush walking, boules, bowls, military history, computer activities, along with theatre, cinema and musical outings – often with a meal – to name some. For a few years, the Club also had a marquee at the Bong Bong Picnic Races.

The formation of a Coffee Club, which meets at the Bradman Museum café on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 10am, gives members the opportunity of a little repartee on a wide range of topics from local matters to world affairs. Feeling a little left out, members’ wives have met since April 2019 at the same venue for coffee and a chat on the first Monday of the month.

Members’ birthdays have always been remembered, but the means by which the "lucky" boys receive a present (i.e. bottle of wine) has varied over the years e.g. drawing a lucky number, the length of a straw, a card from a pack etc.

For many years members provided and set up morning tea and then washed up afterwards. In recent years the RSL Club has provided this service, but the cost has increased from the original 50 cents per member!

Early on a Committee member was delegated to be the Sergeant-at-Arms and his role was to scour the local newspapers and listen to the radio for news of members who would be "fined", anything up to 20 cents, for “performing worthy deeds in the community”.

Each March following the AGM, a changeover lunch/dinner is held to thank the outgoing President and his Committee and to welcome the newly elected team. These functions are held at various local venues and the ladies are invited. As the years progress, the Presidential chain of office, displaying the names of all previous Presidents, is becoming a ‘weighty collar”! Towards the end of each year, the current President invites all Past Presidents to a lunch at a venue of his choice. This is always an occasion for much reminiscing.

The COVID 19 Pandemic brought about huge changes during 2020. For the entire year, no meetings could be held. However a successful Christmas luncheon was held at the RSL Club. The Moss Vale Probus Club has had 37 Presidents who have been ably supported by hard working Committees. As the 37th President during 2020 was prevented from presiding over a meeting until January 2021, a special resolution was passed that his term be extended for a further year. So for the first time in the Club’s 38 years, Malcolm Stephens was inducted as President for a second term.

During the Pandemic, the Newsletter proved to be the lifeline of the Club. Members responded to the Editor’s appeal for stories, poems, photographs, articles of interest, as well as the opportunity to listen to past radio interviews of interesting people from the local district. These contributions helped to keep Club fellowship alive during difficult times. During this period, the Committee, which normally met monthly at the Bradman Museum Café, had to resort to conference calls. The Committee now meets at the Bowral Golf Club

Whilst the average age of the Moss Vale Probus Club membership tends to creep inexorably upwards, the Club remains a vibrant group of about 100 men from many and varied backgrounds who continue to enjoy fun, friendship and fellowship. 

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