Arbroath Speakers’ Club celebrates 40th anniversary

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SEVERAL former members joined guests from speakers’ clubs across the North Tay area, including representatives from Dundee, Dundee Ladies’ and Strathmore Speakers’ Clubs, to mark the 40th birthday of Arbroath Speakers’ Club at a dinner held in the Meadowbank Inn on Thursday.

Founded in 1972, the Arbroath club was one of the clubs that chose to break away from Toastmasters International and join together to create a new national body, the Association of Speakers’ Clubs.

After an excellent dinner, club president Robert Hill handed over to the chairman for the evening, the club’s education director, Christine Watkin. Speakers included former member David Baker who, in his speech ‘Fond Memories’, reminisced about the old days and acknowledged just how much the skills he acquired had helped him in his career. His description of what he learned “as best, cheapest and most cost-effective professional development course ever” met with agreement from many others in the room.

In his speech ‘The Club and I’, local historian Eric Buick shared the highs and lows of his progress through the club, highlighting a number of important milestones including what he believes to have been the most significant change ever to occur in the Arbroath Speakers’ Club - the decision taken in 1987 to open up the group to women.

In her speech ‘Breaking through Barriers’, Lis Hill, the first lady member and the only one until two years later in 1989, recalled how it felt to be part of that momentous change not only when she attended her first meeting in Arbroath but also when she repeated the experience just 18 months later when she was the first woman ever appointed as the Association’s National Secretary.

June Jelly, a more recent member, spoke warmly in her speech ‘The Arbroath Speakers’ Club Today’ of the friendly welcome and professionalism she and a number of others have experienced as the club membership continues to grow.

In his toast to the Arbroath club, North Tay area president John Craig noted that in addition to enjoying something of a renaissance having attracted an unprecedented number of new members over the past 18 months, the club was unique in its contribution to the national scene with three of the Arbroath members – Robert Ramsay, Robert Hill and Lis Hill - fulfilling the respective roles of National President, National Webmaster and editor of The Speaker magazine.

In wishing members well for the next 40 years, he noted that in 2012 there has been yet another momentous development. Since its inception, the Arbroath Speakers’ Club has been known across Tayside as the club that never went in for competitions whether at club, area or district level but that this year Mark Masson, a new member, having come first in the area and district competitions will represent the Northern District – Highland, Grampian and North Tay – at the National Speech Competition taking place in Cardiff at the end of April.