Early in 1985, the late Patrick Evans-Watt, a Past-President of the Rotary Club of Rondebosch, was given the task of forming a new club.  After considerable discussion and with the agreement of the National Botanical Gardens of South Africa, the name Kirstenbosch was chosen with the Disa being selected as the Club’s emblem.  The first edition of the Club Bulletin, the Disa Digest, appeared on 6 May 1985, and our Club was admitted to the membership of Rotary International on 7 May 1985. The Club met on Monday evenings at the Fairmead Hotel in Rondebosch.  The Charter Dinner was held at the Fairmead Hotel on 10 June 1985 with 23 of the 26 Charter members plus 50 visiting Rotarians and Anns from 15 Clubs attending.  The DG then was the late Ernie Bettesworth, and the President of our sponsor Club, Rondebosch, was PDG Michael Johnson.

The Charter President, Patrick Evans-Watt donated the Fellowship “Bokkie” to the Club which was to rotate among members each month, the member in possession being requested to invite three other members and their Anns to a “get-together” to stimulate fellowship and get to know one another better.  Bokkie was eventually lost by one of our members, and subsequently replaced by “Monty”, the Fellowship Mongoose, which was made and presented to the Club by Ruth Browne in 1999.  Monty unfortunately did not circulate as planned and was returned to Ruth Browne in 2010.

The first Youth Exchange Student was Laurel Lowes from Courtland, New York State, who arrived here in August 1985. The Club has supported this project annually. The Club’s first Christmas party was an excellent supper at the Jonkershuis at Groot Constantia after a cellar tour and wine tasting.

At the end of February 1986 the Club had to leave the Fairmead Hotel, and has since then, met at the Oasis Restaurant at the Old Mutual in Pinelands (March – June 1986), The Penny Farthing bar/lounge at the Royal Standard Hotel in Mowbray (July – October 1986), the Kaffee Haus Restaurant at the Riverside Centre, Rondebosch (November 1986 – March 1993), the Josephine Mill in Newlands (April 1993 – July 1994) before moving to Kelvin Grove Club, where we are still meeting.  The Rotary Club of Kirstenbosch was the first Rotary Club to meet at Kelvin.

The Club celebrated its 25th anniversary with a dinner at Kelvin Grove Club on Monday 26 July 2010 attended by 60 Rotarians, partners, former members, DG Shan Biesman-Simons, PDG Mike Saxby and Eve, and AG Mike Walwyn and Sheila. Congratulatory messages were received from PDG Michael Johnson and Carla Evans-Watt, widow of Patrick Evans-Watt.

The first Merit award presented by the Club in 1986 was given to Dr Ailie Key for the work she performed with the physically handicapped.  At a Club meeting on 12 January 1987, the Club overwhelmingly supported female membership of the Club. The Club’s first lady Rotarian, Dr Krisela Steyn was inducted in August 1990, and has since then had five lady Presidents.

In April 1987 the Club hosted its first GSE Team, who came from District 757 Virginia.  In 1999 Past President Vyv Deacon was selected as GSE Team Leader to District 9920 New Zealand and Fiji.

On District level, Past-President Richard Browne has served as Chairman of the Youth Exchange Committee as well as arranging registration of Clubs as Public Benefit Organizations.  Rtn Di Rigotti and Past-President Kay du Toit have served on the Youth Exchange Committee.  Past-President Graham Buchholtz served as the co-ordinator of the Centennial Conference Committee as well as on the District Rotartact Committee and District Finance Committee. Past-President Paul Faure has served on both the PR Committee and the Literacy Committee while Past-President Adre Smit serves on the DG Nominating Committee.  Past-President Vyv Deacon has served as chairman of both the Literacy and GSE Committees, the District Trainer, an Assistant Governor for three years and has been Chairman of the District Services Projects Committee.  He becomes the club’s first District Governor in July 2013.  In 2006, he was awarded the Rotary Foundation Citation for Meritorious Service, an honour previously bestowed on PP Patrick Evans-Watt in 1979.

The recipients of Paul Harris Fellowships awarded by this Club are: Dr Alan McMahon (Head of the Cape Town Emergency Services Centre), Yvonne Bowker, PP Peter Price, Dr Oscar Wolheim, Rusty Evans (then deputy Director-General of Foreign Affairs), Frank van der Velde, Patricia van der Velde, Louis de Waal (Cable Way Company), Dr Barry Smith (organist St George’s Cathedral), Sister Marina Lawrence (Maryland Adult Education Centre), Fr Ralph de Haan, Dr Wayne Smith (Metro Rescue Services), Prof Brian Huntley (National Botanical Institute), Jan van Eck, PP Alan Collins, PP Kay Bergh, PP Vyv Deacon, PP Paul Faure, Erica Faure, PP Richard Browne, Ruth Browne, PP Graham Buchholtz, PP Adre Smit, Rtn Klaus Bubenzer, Rtn Dai Davies, Rtn Bob Harvey, Rtn Lynn Veldhuizen and PP Paul Stohrer.

In November 1987, the Club sponsored an Interact Club at Maitland Holy Cross Convent, but this Interact Club no longer exists.  Our Club is also the sponsor of Interact Clubs at Windsor High (closed in 2008), Rustenburg Girls’ High (1999) and Rondebosch Boys’ High (1999), as well as the Earlyact Club at Rustenburg Girls’ Junior School (2010) and Oakhurst Girls Primary (2011).

The Club hosted the District Centennial Conference in 2005

Some of the successful projects undertaken by the Club include:

• The Maitland Garden Village Home Improvement Competition

• Assisting in establishing a home in Langa for the Hole-in-the-Wall children

• Assisting with the establishment of the Friends of the Liesbeek (PP Peter Price was the first chairperson of that organisation).  Involvement with “Friends of the Liesbeeck” in helping to clean up the river

• Arranging outings for elderly and disabled people at Kirstenbosch gardens

• Refurbishing the dining room at Conradie Hospital

• “Retailer of the Year” competition in the Rondebosch area

• “Scrummage for Rummage” – the sale of rummage at Mowbray Station

• Painting the eye clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital as well as projects at Somerset and Victoria Hospitals

• Literacy training at Kirstenbosch Gardens and Maryland

• Establishment of a new Braille Trail at Kirstenbosch Gardens

• Painting of Cheshire Homes

• Establishing a library, sports goods and trees at Joe Slovo School in Khayelitsha

• Bursaries for schoolchildren

• Inter-schools indoor soccer tournaments – started in 1988

• Schools Mountain Bike Challenge on the Rondebosch Boys’ High grounds as well as on the mountainside above the German School grounds

• Sponsored golf days (1987) and marathon of golf

• Selling Christmas puddings

• Prosthesis Project in Rundu, Namibia

• Schools and crèche playground equipment

• Erecting the Christmas lights in the Norfolk Pine tree at Marsh Memorial Home

• Supported Ascott House for Sisters Incorporated

• Started the Probus Club of Kirstenbosch in 1996

• Donated 3 ambulances to the Cape Town Metro – “The Pulse of Rotary”

• Inter-schools quiz’s and spellathons

• Literacy projects to upgrade the level of literacy in primary schools in conjunction with Literacy-for-All

• Upgrading the DG Murray Senior Citizens Residence in Retreat

• Distribution of medical equipment received from the USA to hospitals

• Distribution of library books received from the USA and England to schools

• Distribution of Usborne Dictionaries to schools

Fund Raising:

Our first Carols-by-Candlelight was held in the Kirstenbosch Gardens in December 1990.  A stage was erected on the sloping lawns in front of a flower bed which had a clock in it – the actors changed in the bushes behind the flowers!!  The Rotarians and Anns managed the flow of traffic, parking of the cars, sold the tickets, acted on the stage which they erected themselves and cleaned up the mess left over the next morning.  When we moved to the present site with the concrete stage, we had to erect lighting along the paths out of the garden so that the patrons could find their way out.  This function has grown to what it is today, with many people from overseas attending the annual performances.  In 2008 Pick ‘n Pay became a sponsor of the Carols-by-Candlelight, and from 2009, tickets for Carols were available from Pick and Pay retail outlets in the Western Cape.  From 2011, candles were phased out of Carols and replaced by glowsticks.

Over the years, the club has been involved in running a stall at the Rondebosch Village Fair, running the tea garden at St Lukes fete, looking after the car park at the Community Chest carnival in Maynardville, served beer in the Rotary tent at the Cape Town festival, assisting the Crankhandle club at Maynardville, assisting at the Big Walk, Two Oceans marathon, One-to-One Day at the Good hope Centre, and looking after the cycle park at the Argus Cycle Tour since 1993.  In all these years, we have lost only one bicycle.

In the early days, the Argus Cycle Tour ended at Maidens Cove in Camps Bay.  The roads were closed at 7am and only re-opened at 6pm, so we had to be in place before 7am.  We had the use of a caravan for shelter and rest, and took our own braai equipment and liquid refreshments with us to sustain us from breakfast until after 6pm.  The helicopters used to land on the gravel right next to the exit which we were manning, covering us in dust on each take-off and landing.  Moving to Green Point became sheer luxury, where lunch is even provided.  At one of the Cycle Tours at Green Point, two of our Rotarians took ill and ended up in the First Aid tent.  The one lady member did not respond to treatment, and was whisked off to hospital in an ambulance, with sirens blaring and traffic being stopped! She ended up having an emergency gall bladder operation that night!

Penned by PP & PDG Vyv Deacon (November 2011