‘Ladies only’ invite to join Inner Wheel of friendship and service

Inner Wheel's Jenny Barker
Inner Wheel's Jenny Barker

LADIES in the Eastern Bordersare a becoming a force to be reckoned with and the appointment of Jo Pawley as first lady president of Eyemouth & District Rotary has been swiftly followed by the appointment of Jenny Barker, member the group’s sister organisation, Inner Wheel, to the post of district chairman.

Jenny, a member of the Eastern Borders Inner Wheel has taken up the reins as chairman of the organsiation’s District 2 area which covers East Central and Southern Scotland, from Lanarkshire through Edinburgh to the East and down to the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

In Inner Wheel circles the Eastern Borders branch is still a junior, as Jenny explained: “Our club is the baby in District 2 as we are only 11 years old! We were formed by a group of wives from the Rotary Clubs of Eyemouth, Duns and Kelso. So I am well used to travelling around and look forwards to visiting the 13 clubs in the district.”

For Jenny, who found that as she and her husband John were moving around Scotland regularly because of his job, Inner Wheel was a perfect introduction to a new area and an excellent way of meeting people and making new friends.

“Inner Wheel has been a great source of wonderful friends, and I look forward to making contact with clubs in Melbourne, Australia when I go out there in the late autumn to see our new grandson who is expected in October,” said Jenny.

“My husband, John, has just finished his year as president of Kelso Rotary, and I have so much enjoyed going to the Rotary functions in the Border area with him.

“We have lived in Scotland now for many years and brought up our family in Peebles before we moved to Helensburgh and I went to work in hotels in the Glasgow area. John having become a Rotarian in Peebles, when we moved I joined the Inner Wheel Club of Helensburgh.”

Inner Wheel started in 1924 for the wives and partners of men in local Rotary clubs, and now has over 100,000 members across 101 countries. The ladies came together for friendship and to help others less fortunate,in a Non Government Organisation (NCO) rather than a charity.

Rotary International began in America 19 years earlier. They often worked on community projects which involved the co-operation of their wives, and it was common for a ladies committee to be set up then disbanded when the project was completed. However, some groups stayed together and unofficial groups of ladies with Rotary connections started to meet on a regular basis.

By November 1923 a group of ladies, encouraged by their Rotarian husbands, called a meeting in Manchester, and Inner Wheel was born - set up on Rotary lines. The object of the club was to foster friendship between the wives of Rotarians and to increase the opportunities for service. And these remain the basis of Inner Wheel 2012.

Jenny joined the Inner Wheel in the early 90s. “It was originally for the wives and partners of the Rotary club then we increased it to members of the family.

“A few years ago we started having honorary members and people came in on a two year basis as a guest of the club. At the last international conference in April it was voted through that worldwide we should open membership to all ladies.”

Women were able to join Rotary in 1989, and many have, but for others Inner Wheel has been a better choice for them.

“Quite a few ladies found that the Rotary, meeting weekly, wasn’t for them and as we meet on a monthly basis it suited them better,” said Jenny, who stressed that the Rotary and Inner Wheel still retain close links and work on many projects together.

“The thing about Inner Wheel is that we are an all women organisation and under EU law that could be challenged but because we are open to all ethnic origins and all religions - a lot of women feel it’s important worldwide to remain just women because in some countries if men were there at a meeting then husbands wouldn’t allow their wives to join.

“Eligibility for membership is approved by a club and that person then becomes a full member of the Inner Wheel; and of course we are always delighted to welcome those ladies with Rotary connections .”

As district chairman Jenny can nominate a charity to support and she has opted for the Tools for self Reliance charity, which involves recycling old tools people no longer need.

The tools are refurbished and put into kits at Garvald Institute for the mentally handicapped, then sent out, either home or abroad to help people set out on a trade that can earn them a living.

“My husband had been in Ghana a few years ago and saw that in prison men were being taught skills so when they came out they were trained and could work. Women in Africa can use refurbished sewing machines to earn a living.”

Encouraging ladies to give the Inner Wheel a go, Jenny said: “You will meet some very interesting ladies from all walks of life who will become very good friends.

“Being district chairman I’m discovering that I’m making a lot of friends throughout the area.”

“By working together as friends our clubs have an outstanding record of personal service to the community. Some examples are: staffing the tea bar at the local hospital; support at the local stroke club; helping at the local hospiec; filling Rotary aquaboxes and shoe boxes; running a charity shop; supporting national charities.”

The Eastern Borders Inner Wheel meets at the Black Bull Hotel, Duns on the second Thursday of every month and has a full and varied programme.

Anyone interested in joining the ladies and wanting to find out more information about the group can contact Jenny on 01573 229465 or club president Danies Walker on 01361 883733, e-mail daniesm@hotmail.co.uk.