Category Archives: Governor’s Blog

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! 


DG Blog 19th September 2020

Forum 19th September

Please don’t forget that Forum is imminent – one of the four occasions per year when we try and pull together as many members of Rotary as possible. This will of course be a virtual event and an agenda and zoom invitation will be forwarded shortly. The aftermath of the Beirut explosion remains with us, and we are therefore pleased to announce that the President of Beirut Cosmopolitan Club Habib Saba will be talking to us about the disaster.

The main theme of the day will be Growing Rotary and we will be discussing ideas as to how to grow our membership – so challenging in today’s virtual world.

There will be:

Briefing for Presidents Elect

Crowdfunding partnership for Rotary projects – Global Giving

Dave King (editor of Rotary magazine) video on Growing Rotary

Do try and attend!

A snapshot in time

The National Finals of Young Photographer took place this year via electronic submissions and desktop judging at RGBI. Obviously, youth competitions have been affected by the pandemic, but it is very gratifying to see that all three candidates from District 1200 – Junior, Intermediate and Senior – gained places, and that the clubs below supported these young people. Photography is such an important medium, affects how we view life and the world in general, and can capture one moment in time, an historic happening, or a mood. More of us than ever before take photos with the ease of using mobile phone cameras, whilst some continue to perfect their art using specialist equipment.

Congratulations to the following talented young people:

Junior: Sam Mathais – 3rd (sponsored by Brue Valley)

Intermediate: Sophie Goggs – 2nd (sponsored by Brue Valley)

Senior Emily Bunce – 1st (sponsored by Calne)

You can see for yourself the quality of the images produced, and the judges were certainly wowed by them. As well as providing constructive comments, praise included:

Emily Bunce: ‘Three superb images entitled ‘Bio Creature’. Bright, colourful and a joy to look at and technically very well accomplished.”

Sophie Goggs: ‘ Well done, Sophie, three excellent images. Picture 1 has captured the bee in precisely the right spot as it approaches the bloom, good composition. Picture 2 is spot on, a very good image. Picture 3 I find thought provoking and technically very good.

Sam Mathias: unfortunately the judge’s comments weren’t available at the time of writing this – so please judge for yourselves! In fact, why not give a caption to Sam’s picture of a frog spouting out water? Do comment here, or email me, and I’ll send a prize for the best one.

Martin Carter has received a couple of enquiries from clubs wanting information about youth competitions for 2020/21, in particular Young Writer and Photographer. This is encouraging given the focus schools will have on students ‘catching up’ after the Covid break. Rotary is very good at sponsoring such contests and therefore helping to nurture talent in so many fields. However, perhaps we are not so good at building on these relationships we establish, for example encouraging young people to join their age-appropriate part of the Rotary family (probably because we don’t have many opportunities for that currently!), or encouraging schools to set up these clubs, as per Midsomer Norton Rotakids. I do feel strongly that this is an area where we need to focus more, and to that end Martin will be circulating a questionnaire to capture what our clubs are all doing in the youth arena the connections we have with educational establishments, and helping us to map out a way forward for the District. We’ll incorporate this in future membership discussions (as in Forum – thought I’d give it another plug!) and do feed in your ideas to your AGs.

Talking of capturing information to help us all evaluate what we are doing and provide us with more Rotary good news to tell (you’ll hear more about that in Dave King’s session in – yes, you’ve guessed it – Forum!), I’m also asking all clubs to provide more detail as to the causes they are supporting for example, a club may say – gave money to polio, or foodbank, or whatever – but may not tell us how much they did give. My objective is not to draw any comparisons between clubs, but to be able to put together some newsworthy soundbites as and when opportunity affords itself. An example of this is that as a District we have given £28,718 to Polio in the year ended 30th June 2020 and this has been matched 2 to 1 by the Bill Gates Foundation meaning an impressive £86,154 raised for polio because of our fundraising. Rotary and the Gates foundation combined contribute approx. 28% of the total funds raised for Polio eradication around the world. Individually each club should be very proud of what they have fundraised and donated, but collectively it makes for an even bigger picture and helps demonstrate our impact. So please update your AGs with details of monies raised for local causes.

Feedback and evaluation

Still on the topic of feedback, I was minded to look at some of our club websites as a direct result of a comment made by a potential future Rotarian. They had read the article about my DG appointment in the Somerset Gazette, and made contact with me. However they said they had gone to their local club’s website – and had been put off immediately! I’ll save this person’s other comments for discussion at the aforementioned virtual get-together (another reason for you to join in!), but as a result I’ve asked all AGs to do a quick review of the home pages and photo pages of their clubs, and feed this in. Observations from you all about club websites most welcome – it’s not a bad idea to just scan the pages and not look in depth – after all, that’s what most non-Rotarian visitors to the site will be doing. Or ask a friend or family member to take a very quick peek and provide feedback.

Of course, I’m conscious that our club websites are affected by many different factors including different club ‘styles’ and demographics, and not least, who is available to create and manage content, but I believe that in this period of stasis for most clubs, we should be taking a good, hard look at what image we are creating, whether or not it truly represents our clubs as they are currently and as we want them to be in the future, and whether or not some of us can learn from others. So – yes, I’m asking for a lot of feedback from you all via these blogs and meetings, but do bear in mind that I can’t get to visit you in person!

How to keep your Zoom meetings Interesting

I was asked recently whether there was a list of Speakers for clubs.  There is a Speaker’s List on the district web site  and we would like more contributions to add to it.  If you have had interesting speakers at your zoom meeting, and they are willing to be added to our list, then please send details to Penny Underwood.   

Also, what else have you done to make your Zoom meetings interesting?  Have you run competitions?  Have you invited prospective new members?  Have you found a way of fundraising online?  We would love to add your ideas to our online list.  

The power of 6?

My article last week about risk assessing face-to-face meetings and events apparently sparked off some debates, and I confess that I am pleased that it did. One club pulled back from its planned face-to-face meetings, whilst another went ahead this morning. It illustrates the need for each club and individual to judge the risks for themselves.

However, at the moment that decision-making has been pulled back from us with yesterday’s announcement re no more than 6 people meeting indoors or outside. Nevertheless, as that is eased at some time in the future, we will need to re-visit this risk assessment piece, so it’s been no bad practice run!

Best Wishes
Rory O’Donnell 


DG Blog 2nd September 2020

Facing up to things

Having just been to Turkey where people are now accustomed to wearing masks outdoors at all times (and we saw this enforced by the police), and where 80 per cent alcohol-based lemon cologne is used everywehre and anywhere (even pre-Covid-19 times), this was a reminder to me about clubs contemplating face-to-face meetings and what the requirements might be.

As we’re all aware, it is important to follow government advice, which changes from time to time. As to assessing risk in the context of face-to-face Rotary meetings, I’m aware of various discussions within the district. RGBI insurers Bartletts are advising that we have a risk assessment for ‘every activity or event’. In respect of meetings in Covid-compliant locations, eg restaurants or meeting venues, they are still needed – it is not enough to rely on the risk assessment carried out by the venue. The risk assessments also need to cover travel to meetings. The requirement for risk assessments is a condition of our insurance. The policy wording says:

It is imperative that you produce and retain all documentation from the organisation and planning of the event. Ensure that you keep a written copy of risk assessments and/or event plans which can be sent to the insurers in the event of a claim.’

Some sample risk assessments will be sent out to the secretaries.

Beirut disaster

Some useful press coverage for Rotary and what we can achieve in the following article in the Somerset County Gazette:

For the slightly differently-worded online article – see the link below. Sadly though, they got it wrong and billed it as being the new president of Taunton Vale. Apologies to Tony Blackshaw – that is obviously not what I told them!

RORY O’Donnell, the new president of the Rotary Club of Taunton Vale, is going to be doing things differently. For starters, you won’t catch him wearing red trousers as he tries to demolish the …

Youth Update

There is no doubt that the future of Rotary lies in attracting younger people, and what better way and place to start than with Rotary’s specific youth initiatives? We need a new Rotary Youth Exchange coordinator – and also someone to take on the role of Young Writer coordinator. Please do consider taking on one of these roles – there is so much experience within the District which can be put to good use here.

KidsOut have circulated information about a new initiative to supply toy boxes to local refuges in club areas. The KidsOut data will identify the number of children in your local refuge(s), in order to provide a Rotary Christmas Toy Box. ‘Every Refuge, Every Child’. We are asking clubs to consider sponsoring toy boxes for £25.00 each child, each refuge.

For further information or if you’d like to volunteer to help in respect of any young people initiatives, please contact Martin Carter or me.

Certified free!

Important announcement

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Africa region, has officially been certified free from wild poliovirus [LINK], signifying a major milestone in the battle to eradicate the disease worldwide
This progress is the result of a decades-long effort across the 47 countries which make up the WHO’s African region and now means that five of the six WHO regions, which represent 90% of the world’s population, will be free of wild polio.

Rotary members have played an invaluable role in the effort to rid the African region of wild polio.

By raising funds for polio eradication, advocating with world governments and national and local leaders, and raising awareness, Rotarians have contributed nearly US $890 million to conquer polio in the region.

Opportunities to attend other meetings

RGBI, PP Gordon McInally has advised of two upcoming meetings hosted by the Kelso Club on 17th September and 5th November.

On Thursday 17 September, the Rotary Club of Kelso is welcoming RI Past President John Germ who will be giving an update on Rotary’s Polio Eradication Campaign and then on Thursday 5 November the current RI President, Holger Knaack will share his hopes and aspirations for Rotary.

Each meeting will commence at 6:00pm and will run for around hour.

The registration links for both meetings are below:

17 September – John Germ:

5 November – Holger Knaack:

Best Wishes
DG Rory O’Donnell 

Yeovil Hospital Breast Cancer Unit Appeal

District has supported the Yeovil Hospital Breast Cancer Unit Appeal for the last couple of years. The appeal in total is for £2 million with Rotary aiming to raise £100K.

The Rotary appeal has struggled as you would imagine since March with clubs and fundraising events being adversely affected. As an example, a wing walking day has had to be postponed for at least a year, and the latest blow being the removal of some global grant benefits. This on its own will result in a £20K hit. Therefore, I would like to remind clubs of this district-supported appeal for a cause that will directly benefit members, their relatives and friends.

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