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Rotary Club of Doncaster

RIBI No. 49 Charter granted 1922

District 1220

Reg. Charity No. 501344

Twinned with Montbrison

Rotary began in Chicago in 1905 when a 37 year old lawyer Paul Harris organised a meeting with three other business men – a mining engineer, a coal merchant and a tailor. So began the idea of men from different vocations meeting on a regular basis.

They met weekly rotating the meetings at each other’s premises and this is where the name Rotary came from. They were all successful business or professional people from all walks of life at the top of their careers and were in the fortunate position to put something back into society.

The idea of Rotary meetings spread rapidly throughout the United States and then by 1911 clubs began in Great Britain and Ireland starting with Dublin then followed by Belfast, Manchester and Sheffield.

Rotherham founded our Club in 1921 and we received our Charter in early February 1922. Doncaster Club is number 49 in Great Britain and Ireland and there are now 32,000 Clubs worldwide with a membership of 1.2 million.

Rotary is a worldwide association of men and women who provide humanitarian service to the community at local, national and international levels. We encourage high ethical standards in all professions and work for goodwill and peace throughout the world.

Founder members in Doncaster were leading business and professional people and one of the best known was Sir Nigel Gresley who designed the Flying Scotsman and the Mallard. The Mallard still holds the world speed record for steam locomotives.

Paul Harris the founder of Rotary actually visited our club in 1928 during a tour of Great Britain. He was a man of great vision but even Paul Harris could never have imagined the immense amount of humanitarian aid and achievements undertaken by Rotary including the eradication of Polio worldwide.

The Rotary Club of Doncaster has done many worthwhile projects locally and internationally including:-

  • Building a sensory garden at Tickhill Road Hospital
  • Specialised wheelchair for an injured soldier
  • Dictionaries for school children in deprived areas
  • Victim Support and the Doncaster Rape Crisis Centre
  • Voluntary Services Overseas
  • Shelter Boxes for disasters abroad
  • Supporting the Rotary District Disabled Games
  • Sensory Play Room for Disabled Children
  • NSPCC, Barnardos, Bluebell Wood and Help for Heroes
  • Bentley Floods/Toll Bar School playground replacement
  • Sports Aid sponsoring sportsmen and women from our local community
  • Planting 400 trees on Town Fields with the help of local school children
  • Providing holidays for the disabled
  • Financing the digging of two water wells in Mali, West Africa
  • Eradicating polio worldwide by the mass immunisation of children
  • Many other worthwhile projects and charities are helped each year


This Club was also responsible for setting up eleven new Rotary Clubs three of which are abroad Budapest, Prague and Vienna.

The Vienna Club was the first club in Austria and was started by a Doncaster Rotarian Frank Molloy. As a consequence every club in Austria and Germany is a direct descendent of the Rotary Club of Doncaster. In previous years we have visited the Rotary Clubs in Budapest, Prague and Vienna. Every Rotarian can attend any Club meeting anywhere in the world and would be immediately welcomed as a friend.

The motto of Rotary is Service Above Self.

This is our history and to continue in the future we need like minded people who can put something back to help disadvantaged people all over the world. One candle does not remove the darkness but 1.2 million candles shine very brightly.

If you want to learn more about the history of the Rotary Club of Doncaster there is a book entitled “The Beginning” A History of the Rotary Club of Doncaster 1921-1996 written by Past President Ken Emmott PHF. A copy of the book is available from the Archivist and the archives of the Rotary Club of Doncaster are kept in the Council Archives.



Sir Nigel Gresley statue unveiling Kings Cross Station 5th April 2016, attended by members of the Rotary Club of Doncaster

Sir Nigel Gresley was one of the first two Vice-Presidents of the Rotary Club of Doncaster.  He designed the world famous locomotives “The Flying Scotsman” and “The Mallard” and the latter still holds the world record for steam locomotives at 125.88 mph on 3 July 1938.

Both were built at the Doncaster Plant Works at a time when the town was renowned for the quality of its railway engineering.

Sir Nigel was born in 1876 the fifth child of the Rector of Netherseal in South Derbyshire and could trace his ancestry back to before Agincourt.  He developed his interest in railways as a boy and after completing his education at Marlborough College commenced an apprenticeship at the Railway Engineering Works in Crewe.  He later studied locomotive design and then worked in various capacities before coming to Doncaster in 1905 to be Superintendent of the Great Northern Railway’s Carriage and Wagon Works.

In 1907 he developed the first articulated passenger coaches, bringing great improvements in safety and comfort.  He was awarded the CBE in 1920 for his services during the War.

1923 was the year of the amalgamation which created the LNER and Gresley had to leave the Doncaster Club when he accepted the post of Chief Mechanical Engineer based in King’s Cross.  He maintained close links with Doncaster for many of his designs were built here.  He was Knighted in 1936 and died suddenly of a heart attack in 1941.  A Pacific A4 class loco No 4498 was named after Sir Nigel and is now operated by the A4 Society.  “Mallard” is in the Railway Museum in York and “The Flying Scotman” has recently been refurbished.

The Rotary Club of Doncaster made a donation towards the statue at Kings Cross Station and a group of Doncaster Rotarians attended the unveiling on Tuesday 5 April 2016.

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