Category Archives: Governor’s Blog

District Governor’s Blog

Rotary Day

On 23rd February 1905, Rotary International was founded by Chicago-based lawyer, Paul Harris. This year, ‘Rotary Day’ will celebrate 116 years of our incredible organisation! 
During that time, Rotary has united people in a common purpose – making connections and making a difference.

That ethos is happening right now in District 1200 in a variety of ways. Despite the ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have found ways to stay connected and serve our communities when they need us most.

In particular I am most grateful for the wonderful support for the vaccination project given by volunteers helping at vaccination hubs. I do realise that many of us have been unable to help because they themselves are at risk but nevertheless it looks like approx 200 Rotarians and partners have been volunteering in the District and while still awaiting a response from some of my fellow DGs I have counted at least one thousand from just a few Districts.

Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland President, Tom Griffin, has recorded a special Rotary Day message, which I encourage you to watch here –

Days such as Rotary Day are a wonderful opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to all the members in our District for your continued dedication and commitment to Rotary. Our impact truly does start with you.

I hope that those hosting events or activities today have a great time. Rotary Day is also a great opportunity to promote what you’re doing in the community. There are a number of resources available for clubs – social media posts, graphics and a press release template can be downloaded here –

Conference 27th March

Registrations are coming in mainly from Rotarians so please remember to spread the word among your non – Rotarian friends and colleagues. Watch out for the social media on District Facebook and Circa 1200 and if you have not already registered please remember to do so. I promise you a fun and interesting day.

Rory O’Donnell


Then think again – meet our Tyrannosaurus!


Blood and gore will delight (some!) adults and budding palaeontologists alike. (Phew – do you know how many times it took to type that correctly?)

Caring for our World

Up to 2000 extinctions still occur annually: let’s look at the causation of the loss of animals who will sadly never roam our world again.
(Though we may feel grateful we’re not face-to-face with flesh-eating dinosaurs.)

Film-maker Paul Wooding brings you his totally unique T REX AUTOPSY. Do you have the stomach for it?

Join our Rotary District 1200 Virtual Conference on Sat March 27th. Free of charge but booking essential.

Caring for our World: 2020 District 1200 Rotary Conference


Caring for our World – book now

NASA’s Perseverance lands on Mars lake – sources of water explored.

Africa: 0

But Rotary helps many countries score in sourcing water.

Funding/practical help eg WASH water/sanitation/hygiene/Shelterbox/Aquabox/Water Survival Box/Shelterbox/Busoga Trust in Uganda.

Check into Project & Friendship Zones, District 1200 Virtual Conference, March 27.


Rotarians – you’re a knowledgeable group of people – but did you know that the world’s best coffee should be eaten with a spoon?

No, we didn’t believe Rory’s excuse either! But you might learn the truth about coffee from ‘Mr Miles’ in the Entertainment Zone of our District 1200 Virtual Conference.

And you could WIN​ a luxury Mr Miles Tea Rooms hamper – just for attending virtually. (Ts & Cs apply)

Mr Miles Tea and Coffee – Tea & Coffee, Shop, Taunton, Somerset, Devon, Avon – Mr Miles Tea Rooms, Tea and Coffee

Mr Miles is a hark back to traditional english tearooms, when time was taken to enjoy a good cup of tea. Mr Miles is a Taunton based Coffee Shop.


Join our Rotary District 1200 Virtual Conference, Sat March 27th. Free of charge, but booking essential.     Register now!

“Don’t be the product of your environment – let your environment be the product of you.”

Think drug crime isn’t going on under your nose? Well, it’s not just in city centres…


Meet Simeon Moore, the ex-gun-carrying, drug-dealing gang member who turned around his life and now dedicates his time to trying to prevent young people following in his previous footsteps.

Through his music, poetry and YouTube channel DatsTV he is on a mission to steer others away from what he sees as glamorised violence in our media and arts.

“Don’t be the product of your environment – let your environment be the product of you.” Simeon Moore

What inspired Simeon to leave behind his old life? What has he had to overcome? What’s his plan for the future?

Lessons to be learned – and a must-see for young people, parents, teachers, any youth worker, and Rotarians alike.

You must have some burning questions for this young man – you have a unique opportunity to ask him, live, on Saturday March 27th.

Rotary District 1200 Virtual Conference – 100% free-of-charge to attend.

Caring for our World: 2020 District 1200 Rotary Conference

Booking essential. Please do share this post and invite others, including non-Rotarians, to attend.





Rotary is still a well-kept secret for too many people, so I’m hoping that you will take up the challenge of spreading the word about our outward-facing conference – a one-day event on Saturday March 27th.

Showcasing Rotary in Action and featuring many of our projects, it’s a great opportunity to encourage our non-Rotarian friends and contacts to see what we do – and, hopefully, grow our membership.


OK – maybe email and social media is ‘old-hat’ nowadays, the nearest I have to the newest tech gadget is zoom, and I’m still a novice on social media platforms!

But every week leading up to conference we will be sending out promotional snippets which will feature on CIRCA 1200 and District FACEBOOK pages and TWITTER – WHICH YOU CAN SHARE.


We’re busy collating and filming contributions to our conference, ready to shout ‘Action!’ on March 27th, with a blend of pre-recorded and live presentations. One thing’s for sure: we don’t want this to remain under-cover!

PLEASE do your bit as a Rotary ambassador: please share the posts, as outlined above, with your own social media network (and/or email your social and work-related contacts) and make this one-off FREE virtual conference your opportunity to grow your membership.


Good luck in your mission


Code name: District Governor

This message will not self-destruct in 5 seconds.

With apologies to anyone who has never watched Mission Impossible!


DG Blog 19th January 2021

There are several calls to action in this blog – do please take the time to consider how you might be able to help with some of these initiatives:

  • Marshalling at vaccination hubs
  • Encouraging local schools and individuals to take part in youth competitions
  • Assisting with recycling of laptops
  • Joining in the next 4-district meeting
  • And don’t forget your questions for our key (virtual) conference speakers!


Photo by Brue Valley Rotary

I am delighted at the response from clubs and Rotarians offering help and taking part and thanks also go to David Welch and his team for their role in co-ordinating the effort. I was at the coal face myself on Saturday at the hub in Taunton and have booked further slots including tomorrow when we are threatened with a deluge of rain! You feel the buzz of knowing that you are making a contribution and in the company of so many volunteers greeting the apprehensive elderly as they arrive for their vaccinations. However, I have to say that much of the excitement was in the car park with kerbs being mounted, and rubber bollards scattered or run over! I have definitely decided to leave my car elsewhere.

Please remember to wear your Rotary tabards so that the public can recognise us in action and also (without videoing individual patients) take and send me video footage for a collage that I hope to present at conference. If a member of the public does happen to be in the shot, we can blur out faces and car registrations.


It was a massive disappointment that our outward-facing conference could not go ahead last July, nor can it physically happen this coming April. Instead it will be virtual, but the great news is that it will be 100% free for everyone! It will showcase what we do in our communities and internationally and we hope will be an invaluable tool to help you grow membership by inviting non-Rotarians to join in on the conference date, but also after the event as a legacy product referencing the work that we do. The date is still to be announced as we’re trying to navigate avoiding key dates such as the Six Nations and Rotary training, whilst allowing us the greatest window of opportunity for filming our key speakers – hampered of course by current restrictions!

“Eddy the Eagle”

A Q and A opportunity – please send in to me by 31st January ( your questions for Eddie the Eagle, the famous Olympic ski-jumper and featured in the film of the same name: ‘Eddie the Eagle’.


Simon Moore



Also for Simeon Moore, an ex-gang member who has turned his life around and devotes his time to persuading young people not to be lured into these criminal activities, and who is now studying for a degree in business management – see the conference website to learn more about him.


Despite the restrictions caused by the pandemic, we have received many entries for Young Writer, Photographer and Musician competitions and so we should not assume that the competitions are not taking place. Quite the contrary as we also have our first entry in the District for Young Environmentalist and one school has enquired via RGBI as to how they can submit their entries as they hadn’t heard from their local club! Obviously schools and young people are very competent in using technology and many competitions are easily operated this way. Our Youth Chair has a National District Leads meeting on 22nd January so there will be an update following the meeting. Some good news for a change!


There are many children distance learning with no or inadequate equipment. Several individuals have already started to support their local communities in this and I have been asked if Rotary can help with different tasks and also publicising the work even further. Do please let me know if you are already involved in such a scheme or know of individuals in your area who could do with some help, and let’s see where we can try and give some practical help.

Specific things – finding old equipment, collecting and distributing to schools, using IT skills to wipe them clean, publicising and even taking phone calls in respect of the schemes.


We had a very successful 4-District joint seminar on Friday with over 100 attendees learning how to create flyers and post them on Facebook and Instagram. The great news is that we had a step-by-step guide which was recorded, so please find the link to the You Tube Video

The next joint seminar is on Thursday 18th February, entitled A Glimpse into the Future presented by Nicki Scott, Rotary International Director 2021 – 2023, and will provide a valuable insight into the plans for the development of Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland.


DG Blog 30 Nov 2020

What a year! We now approach the Christmas period with severe restrictions on activities. Our District Secretary, Chrissie, has kindly updated us on Santa Sleigh but there is no doubt that important fundraising opportunities are compromised. However, I am heartened by the amount of community support that has been provided by Rotary volunteers over the last few months. Christmas is a time for celebration and the decision to make the major proportion of the December 12th forum a celebration affords an opportunity for us all to relax and have fun.

It’s an opportunity for us all to raise a glass and toast the enduring friendship focus of Rotary, and I am relying on those thespians and performers amongst you to volunteer to perform (a few minutes only – we won’t sit in judgement!) to make this a truly enjoyable forum, and it may even end with a Christmas carol or two. 


District has been doing all it can to support clubs during the pandemic, including the allocation of £10,000 before July, and again since July to distribute funds to clubs to match-fund club support for community projects. I am delighted to report that, of the latest release, club grants totalling £9,750 have been made. We do not rest there though, and at District Exec last Friday we decided to critically review our reserves again to ensure we pass back to clubs any funds deemed in excess of our requirements going forward – more news of that early next year.

Lastly, I want to talk about conference. Unfortunately, for obvious reasons, we have had to cancel the postponed physical conference set for April next year, and instead we are moving forward with a virtual conference. This is likely to take place earlier in 2021, and speakers such as Eddie the Eagle have already confirmed interest in participating. It will use the existing conference web platform in order to save on costs which otherwise would have been wasted, and I assure you that it will be as professional an event as we can muster in these strange times! We will be using a young filmmaker and composer and, as intended with the original conference, it will be outward-facing to attract new members and – best of all – 100% free to attend! We will also have a legacy, in that most presentations will be free to view post-conference – a real showcase of what Rotary does in this district and internationally! So just giving you a heads-up: it will be easy to invite your friends and family to take part in the conference; you will be able to pick ‘n’ mix which sessions you attend – and believe me, there will be a great selection; and it won’t cost you a penny! 

In the meantime, however, I wish you all a very merry Christmas. Please continue to stay safe and let’s look forward to the light at the end of the tunnel in 2021.



DG Blog 9th November 2020

The Colour Purple

I was saddened to learn of a return to even harsher restrictions which are with us for November, but at least just before this second lockdown we were able to celebrate World Polio Day.

Like many of you, I spent the morning on my hands and knees pushing crocus bulbs into holes dug by my Rotary colleague Terry Rowcliffe. The photograph made the Somerset County Gazette and there was other publicity gained for Rotary re polio including a slot on BBC Radio Somerset for AG Bruce Bailey. I cannot stress enough the importance of improving public awareness of the great things we do in order to grow Rotary, and allow others to share the same experiences that we have had in being part of our great organisation. 

 Rotary Global Hub

There is a new initiative to grow Rotary called Gobal Hub. It’s designed to take account of our changing world, and indeed our changing Rotary world, and to complement our existing traditional club format. I’d urge you to register for the 3-district presentation on the Hub by our General Secretary Amanda Watkin taking place this Thursday 12th. The link is set out below.

 You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Nov 12, 2020 07:00 PM London

Register in advance for this meeting:

However, I realise that membership retention is just as challenging as growing Rotary in these difficult times so click here for a list of potential activities/ideas that clubs around the country have been employing to keep their meetings stimulated. Why not try something different?

 On the matter of stimulating club meetings, there is a growing list of speakers on the public pages of our district website which also includes a link to a similar list on the RGBI website.

District Conference – in pursuit of the positives

On the matter of our already-postponed District Conference, I’m sure you will not be surprised to hear that we have had to abandon our plans for the event at Taunton School. Even if we happen to be outside a lockdown period by our planned date next year, we are doubtful that many will have the appetite to be at large gatherings, or indeed it may not be permitted. I am gutted, because the conference committee had put so much time and effort into crafting an event that was innovative and different. Well, it’s certainly going to be that now!

As with most other events of any kind, our conference will now be delivered to you in the virtual world.  However, in the spirit of looking for positives at the moment, there could be some unexpected advantages to this – more of you across the district should be able to attend; you’ll have a ‘pick n mix’ of sessions from which to choose; and as we still hope to focus on recruitment to Rotary and showcase our work, it should be easier for your non-Rotarian friends and family to dip into Rotary life for a day via the conference. So – more on this as soon as we firm up some details.

Stay safe

‘Stay safe’ has become a new norm in our signing-off now, hasn’t it? Naturally, I am urging you all to please keep safe during these difficult times. Incidentally, I have had some PPE given to me – including face masks and overalls.

Happy to post it out to any clubs which feel they can make use of it – perhaps for homeless people, or volunteers on projects (a charity helping homeless people and the YMCA have already benefitted from some of the PPE here in my local area.)


Rory O’Donnell

District Governor

DG Blog 28th September 2020

This coming Friday Speak out – on social media

Another opportunity to join in our tripartite meetings – our District in tandem with Districts1100 and 1150.  These have been hugely successful and are ‘must see’s! Previously, we have focused on crowdfunding and building relationships with the press, and the feedback has been extremely positive.

This time, we will focus on social media.  I, for one, know I could improve my skills in this area. Perhaps by the end of my year as DG (which is increasingly looking like it will be conducted virtually in its entirety!) I will be able to claim competence?

Please note that you do need to register in advance – we have to do our best to ensure ‘zoom bombers’ don’t disrupt the meetings. Always delighted to welcome guests to these meetings, but unfortunately people with other than good intentions have been trying to access and disrupt. If only these people used their time and IT skills to better effect!

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Oct 2, 2020 06:30 PM London

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Speak Out at Meetings

Club speakers for Zoom meetings – please share with Penny Underwood details of entertaining speakers of whom you know, so that we can include them on the District website list.

Now more than ever, there is a need – and an opportunity – to engage with a diverse range of speakers for our virtual meetings.

District Forum last Saturday

I’m thrilled to say that this was a successful event with 93 attendees and some powerful content, not least the personal message from Habib Saba, President Rotary Club of Beirut Cosmopolitan.   

Also the vote to release a further tranche of £10,000 from District Reserves to match-fund donations to worthy causes.

One of the main themes of the event was Growing Rotary, and membership chair and DGN Ric Canham presented on different club models and the Rotary Hub – on that subject watch this space.   He also appealed to clubs to share their ideas and experiences with their AGs so that we can pool them and share the best practices with you all.

Rotary supports local causes to the tune of £40,000

As mentioned above, Rotary District 1200 has released another huge £10,000 to local Rotary clubs to support worthy community initiatives.

In spring, individual grants of £250 were being awarded to match-fund club donations to worthy projects which focused on Covid-19 related issues. Consequently nearly £20,000 had gone to help relevant projects in this period.

We realised that, with the ongoing situation affecting our communities and their health and wellbeing, it would be appropriate to keep that vital support for local initiatives going.   

Examples of community initiatives to have benefitted include food banks, family support services, a school making PPE, community response team, carers’ groups, and arts and crafts materials for a homeless hostelry.

So in total, Rotary will have benefited the area to the tune of almost £40,000, and I’m very proud of our ability to support others in need financially, as well as delivering practical help in any instances.

And finally…

I asked for a caption to the photos from the Young Photographer competition.

Thank you, Jackie Henderson, from Yeovil Club, who suggested using Boris Johnson’s mantra of, ‘Hands, Face, Space’. A prize is on its way to you! 


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