Our guest speaker talking to John Isles this month is Daniel Boatwright who is President of one of the Torbay Clubs but was formerly in Rotary in America.
Daniel: Before I was born was my first contact with Rotary! My mother and father owned a restaurant in Kent where Westerham Rotary Club regularly met. Many of the members were school friends of my mother so as she waitered on their meeting pregnant with me inside many of them would rub her belly and ask “when is little Dan due?”.
I grew up in the family business and in my teens worked behind the bar for many Rotary functions, my favourite being the Churchill dinner ( Sir Winston being an honorary member of Westerham Rotary Club.) Then spent a spell as an Estate Agent and met my wife Valerie. Fast forward 10 years, married and joined back into business with the family, we all owned a hotel in the centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells. The Pantiles Rotary Club came to us for a function, and I became particularly friendly with the organiser John Hill an architect who proposed me to join the Rotary Club of Pantiles.
Some six years later we were made an offer we couldn’t refuse and decided to sell the hotel – it was like winning the lottery and becoming homeless on the same day….. so as not to jump into something too quickly we decided to take a trip to the USA, buy three motorhomes and do six months touring. Now living back in England since 2009 we bought a small 16 bedroom hotel and fish and chip restaurant/takeaway one mile up the road. Last year we entered the National Fish & Chip Awards and achieved joint second place in the South West (beating the guy around the corner who is a multiple National winner)
John: I know you first became involved with Rotary in the States. How did that come about.
Daniel: During the American trip in 1997 we fell in love with small town America namely North Conway, New Hampshire (New England). We decided to buy a 32 acre, 260 pitch, riverside campsite accommodating anything from a pup tent upto a $3m motorhome towing a trailer with $.5m worth of sportscars.
During negotiations to purchase the campground we visited the local rotary club and in no uncertain terms were told “when you move in, you WILL be joining us”. What a fantastic introduction to the community and a new town, instantly gaining 50 new friends ( that’s the beauty of Rotary ). In due time I was invited to be president of the Rotary Club of North Conway for 2003/2004.
My son Oliver is now 22 (mechanical engineering degree at Exeter University) as a mature student and Elizabeth 17 is in her first year of A Levels. Oliver has settled very happily back into England after 11 years away, but Elizabeth has taken more time to adjust and misses the big yellow cheese wagon (school bus) and the informality of the US school system. Her biggest surprise was the introduction to religion in the British school system (religion is forbidden in the US school system although outside school, the church plays a much greater role in American life)
To be continued on 27 March 2014.