Welcomed to Cranleigh
When my wife and I arrived in Cranleigh in 2002 it was to retire from a large family home only 12 miles away in the village of Shackleford. We had found a new home suited to our new life in retirement in a large village with all the facilities we could want easily available at walking distance. What we soon realised we were missing was a fulfilling social life. My wife who never became a driver had been able to enjoy friends’ company at close hand and was active in the WI in Shackleford. I had just retired from my own marketing consulting business and almost overnight the many contacts I had enjoyed with business colleagues and clients evaporated. This important vacuum in our life was surprisingly speedily filled by the welcome we received from Cranleigh’s Probus A Club whose chairman Mike Kateley was a neighbour. In next to no time I attended an introductory lunch, applied for membership, was accepted and became good friends with several members. In due course my wife benefitted from this monthly luncheon club by attending the special Ladies Lunches, where she met wives of members and learned much about local opportunities for social and cultural involvement. In addition we both participated in Probus social events, such as outings and carol services, in which the two other local Probus clubs were also involved. What I wish to communicate with the foregoing personal description of how we arrived in Cranleigh, is how important the fellowship of the Probus clubs concept can be to newly retired couples, especially if also new to the area.
Involvement in managing a Probus club
The other significant effect on me was finding myself rapidly involved in organisation and administration of the Probus A club in Cranleigh. Having retired in 2002 from my consulting business where meetings with staff and clients were frequent , I was delighted to be involved in committee work again within a year. The management of Probus clubs is an important aspect of how the concept has developed and is continuing to evolve. Everywhere a committee is elected annually which constitutes of the main officers needed: a chairman, a vice chairman (usually chairman designate), a treasurer, a club secretary, a speakers secretary, a table secretary who organises lunches, a social secretary , a membership secretary. These portfolios can have be added to for reflecting the local requirements. Cranleigh Probus A club has been a good example of the development of the original concept. The club started as early as 1973 with only three club officers and did not have what would now be a full complement of officers until 1986/7 when Walter Winterbottom, the ex-England football manager, started his second term. That was also the year when the Cranleigh Probus B club was formed because the waiting list for the original club had grown too large. The Bramley Probus club commenced in 2003 which again reflected the demand in this area from qualifying retirees. All three clubs with minor variations have been managed in much the same way.
Much of my broader knowledge of Probus clubs has come to me in recent years when I have undertaken the recruitment function for Probus A. I became vice chairman for 2004-2005 and chairman for 2006/7 -2007/8. Subsequently I experienced the work of speakers and social secretary when I came to appreciate the importance of cooperating with other local clubs. The best way to find speakers is to ask other clubs about their contacts. Social activities I found were best developed in tandem with Probus B and Bramley, and over the years we are all indebted to Derek Bonham of Probus B who has directed the Cranleigh and district Probus social events programme with consummate brilliance. He has managed 160 social activities this century which included 21 overseas trips albeit they had specific tour supervisors. My main social activities contribution was to launch the annual trip to the big musical at the Chichester Festival, but I also enjoyed running a tour to Hungary, when my main concern was not to lose any of the party. Colleagues in my club organise the Probus annual carol service held alternatively at the C of E church and the Baptist church which are both well represented in the membership.
I feel sure that being part of Probus can be a boost to living longer. My personal experience of friendship with our mature members in my time has often astonished me when I observed their continuing vitality and curiosity. Our longest living member Don Simmons, an ex banker, at age 104 was continuously checking his emails whilst I interviewed him for an article. Another colleague and neighbour, Eric Unwin, at age 98, gave a talk to our members about how he trained airmen in Canada for the Battle of Britain, most of whom did not survive the war. John Sharp died last year having recently given a talk to the membership about his time in the commandos in WWII, a truly heroic man. These stalwarts are no longer with us. Hence my role in seeking persons who will help to ensure the club continues to have such admirable members.
Recruiting the next qualifying generation
The most common, indeed traditional, way of bringing in new members was by members attracting their contacts. As clubs have found all over the UK, the pool of potential candidates can be smaller when the members have been retired for some time. Hence the use of wider publicity of what we can offer in the way of fellowship, friendship and fun. In addition we decided to follow the example of other clubs in the UK and overseas, asking our members to vote on inviting ladies to join. It was carried by the necessary two thirds majority at this year’s AGM in March and the constitution duly amended to reflect the change. Once the pandemic abates Probus A’s membership is looking forward to welcoming retired local ladies from the professions and business.
Continuation of the prime benefit of Probus membership
We must continue to offer when normal times return, the prime benefit, the opportunity for a monthly lunch, for all persons who have retired from business or the professions, when a warm comradeship will be enjoyed. We meet at Cranleigh Golf and Country Club on Barhatch Lane, on the second Tuesday of every month where Probus B also meet on a different date. We enjoy a two course meal and shall continue to hold special lunches when members’ partners will attend, although some will probably become members themselves in due course. The number of active members all Probus clubs in the UK try to have is between 50 and 60, as that is ideal for booking suitably sized venues. Often lunches involving spouses are held in alternative venues with larger facilities. During the nearly 50 years since the Probus movement started in the area over 300 men have registered for this fellowship which reflects both the enduring appeal of the concept and also the need to refresh the membership.
Contact for Joining
Cranleigh Probus A club has room for more men or women retired from business or the professions who would like to meet for relaxed comradely lunching and socialising. Club activities will be resumed once the health related current restrictions on meetings are safely removed. As the Queen said, we shall meet again.