What is Probus?
Probus derives from two words, PROfessional and BUSiness. It is an association of retired business people who join together in a non-political, non-sectarian Club which provides a regular opportunity for them to meet like-minded persons, make new friends, maintain a social network and listen to speakers on diverse subjects of interest. Probus Clubs worldwide are primarily not there to serve the community, although members may be active in other local organisations
Although Probus membership has its greatest concentrations in Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, clubs exist in all parts of the world, including the U.S.A., Belgium, India, South Africa and several countries in Africa and Asia. Today there are over 350,000 members in approximately 4,500 Probus clubs worldwide, of which approximately 1,700 are in Great Britain
Probus Clubs have no central governing body, but Probus Centres have been established by country to disseminate information and assist clubs. Offices are staffed largely by volunteers.
In 1981 the Rotary Club of East Grinstead celebrated its 50th anniversary. One of the projects chosen to celebrate the occasion was to form a Probus Club in the town. The inaugural meeting organised by the Rotary Club was held on the 25th November that year at the Dorset Arms with 29 founder members present. In March 1982 the first Annual General Meeting was held with 32 members attending. The joining fee and annual subscription were both set at £3, and a membership ceiling of 60 was agreed, only for that limit to be reached in no more than 8 months. The Rotarians withdrew leaving the fledgling Probus Club in the words of the minutes “to be the master of its own destiny”. That independence of spirit, thought, and action survives to this day.
Desmond Hopkins became the first Chairman who laid down a formidable challenge which included assisting with fund raising activities, an involvement in community affairs, lunch in France with our ladies, discounts on tyres/exhausts, household goods etc. The seeds of many of our current activities were formulated in those early days. Many have matured, a few fell on stony ground especially where we have chosen to distance ourselves from ‘good causes’ which were such a hallmark in the activities of our founders.
We are no longer involved with providing volunteers to support local fetes, sit on welfare or crime prevention committees, act as Father Christmas, or raise money for worthy charities other than in special circumstances, and have ceased to set aside a set percentage of subscriptions for a chosen charity of the year. We feel those activities are best left to the judgement of individuals.
Instead, and unashamedly our aim, set out in the rules, is to ‘to promote fellowship amongst retired professional and business men’. The way this is achieved does not vary much from Desmond Hopkin’s vision.
Membership has continued to grow over the years with the ceiling raised from 60 through 80, eventually to 100 as interest in the club increased. In response to concerns that the club was becoming too big, in April 2009 following much discussion, a decision was made to form a second Probus Club in the town. The Meridian Probus Club was launched in July 2010 with its inaugural meeting held on the 10th November 2010. At this time our membership limit of 100 was withdrawn with the introduction of a more flexible ceiling.