Rotary International, District 1160 (Ireland)

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The Origins of Probus

The first non-sectarian Probus Club specifically for active retirees was formed in 1966 by the Rotary Club of Caterham, England, to allow retired professionals to continue to meet together for fellowship. The inaugural luncheon took place on the 2 March 1966 thus officially forming the first Probus Club. The previous year, the Rotary Club of Welwyn Garden City, England, had formed the "Campus Club" that had the same purpose. The Campus Club soon changed its name to Probus also.

About the latter part of 1965..... an active and notable Rotarian of Welwyn Garden City in ENGLAND assembled some retired Professional and Business men (some Rotarians and some not), to form a club. In a Probus newsletter, we find a report "A Simple Idea" by the Founder, Fred Carnhill

"I used to meet a few retired men for morning coffee - mostly ex-commuters (to London) with professional or business backgrounds and with a wealth of experience behind them. Conversation was always brisk and entertaining. One was an architect, responsible for many public buildings over the country, another an ex-borough treasurer, an ex-railway official, a headmaster, an ex-journalist, an ex-newspaper editor and an ex-secretary to a Prime Minister. This gave me an idea: really a very simple one..."I telephoned 33 friends that night and they said, "Put me down, Fred." Thus the Campus Club, (because it faced the centre of town, called The Campus), was formed."

Coincidentally at the same time, Rotarian Harold Blanchard of Caterham Rotary Club sponsored and formed the Caterham PROBUS club. In his writings of "The Birth of Probus" he states:

"..One of our more erudite members came up with the idea of PROBUS, - PROfessional and BUSiness. He assured us that Probus was a Latin word from which "probity" was derived, and the name was adopted with enthusiasm."

Due to the success of these two clubs. Probus Clubs were promoted through Rotary in adjacent towns. As a result Rotary International in Britain and Ireland (R.I.B.I.) were informed and a promotional pamphlet was established urging other Rotary Clubs to form Probus Clubs in their areas. There are now approximately 1,700 clubs in Great Britain.

Source - (Probus Fact Sheet)
    (A Service for Rotary)

In 1971 the first Probus Club in Ireland, Bangor Probus Club, was formed by the Rotary Club of Bangor. In 1974, Probus expanded into New Zealand and by 1976 the idea had spread to Australia. The first Probus club for seniors in North America was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Galt in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada in 1987. Although Probus membership has its greatest concentrations in Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, clubs exist today in all parts of the world, including the U.S., Belgium, India, South Africa and several other countries in Africa and Asia.

Membership Statistics

Probus Worldwide
  • 5,000 Clubs - in 22 countries
  • 400,000 members
Probus All-Ireland
  • 134 Clubs
  • 95 male, 34 female and 5 dual gender clubs
  • 4,700 members

Although sponsored by Rotary clubs, Probus clubs enjoy autonomy once they have been established. Clubs meet fortnightly or weekly but have no attendance or service requirements, and membership fees are nominal. Members may and do belong to other organizations, including Rotary. Most Rotary clubs retain ties with the Probus clubs they have sponsored, but the ties are informal.