Look Back with Little: Celebrating 50 years of Banbury Lions Club

In 2019 Banbury Lions Club will be celebrating 50 years during which its members have brought '˜friendship and help to those in need'.

Even the bar staff dressed for the occasion at the Lions Old Time Music Hall
Even the bar staff dressed for the occasion at the Lions Old Time Music Hall

Back in January 1969 the club became the newest branch of the largest service organisation in the world, Lions International.

One of the 21 founder members, Les Hyde, made a memorable speech at Banbury Charter Dinner.

In proposing the toast to this town he hinted at an appropriate motto based on that well-known golden syrup tin depiction of a lion ‘out of the strong came forth sweetness’.

The club’s aim is the same today, to serve the local community and provide help to the less fortunate wherever they are in the world.

An example of this was provided 30 years later by incoming president Vic Ince, who revealed that the new millennium would have special meaning for the 40 or so Banbury Lions Club members.

This was because of the Lions International involvement in a project to set up ‘eye camps’ in India. Their approach was to raise money to fund the movement of local doctors out of their hospitals to perform the vital eye operations.

Inventiveness within the Banbury Lions was encouraged by an unusual monthly memorial award to the member who had carried out a task with particular excellence.

This was highlighted in the Banbury Guardian for July 15, 1993.

The first Peter Taylor award, a badge, which combined four inches of blue elastic with brass fitting derived from the late solicitors trademark braces, was given to Lionel Breedon for his hard work in organising the Donkey Derby at the Banbury Show, and also for arranging prizes for the Lions Golf Tournament.

High profile events to celebrate anniversaries have been a feature of the Lions calendar.

Readers of the Banbury Guardian issues in January 1989 could not have failed to anticipate what chief reporter Keith Wood described as ‘Lions big birthday festival’ to mark their 20th anniversary.

It consisted of a series of events aimed at raising money for local charities including the Horton Hospital special baby incubator appeal and national charities.

The music festival got underway in February with dancing to Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band. Come Valentine’s Day entertainment switched to Freddie and the Dreamers, best remembered for their hit You Were Made for Me.

The Rhymney Silurian Choir, National Eisteddfod winners in 1988, provided a contrast.

Celebrations came to an end with a folk and ceilidh dance when Dave Pegg entertained audiences with an all-star band that included fellow members of Fairport Convention and friends.

On the eve of their 40th anniversary in 2009, readers of the Banbury Magazine were reminded of the numerous ways in which the Lions had given community service.

Great emphasis is placed on service to the community at large and provision of entertainment has always been seen as the means of achieving this objective, often working with other service organisations such as Rotary and Round Table.

High on the list was the Old Time Music Hall that began in 1971.

Although not the only venue, the North Oxfordshire Technical College theatre proved to be an excellent location.

Especially significant was the unusually wide stage space.

Each year music hall acts included groups better known in other venues, including Fred Nicholl’s Big Cats said to be appearing by special request and also the Bodicote Hamsters who had been ‘released from hibernation for another season’.

By name they were John Cheney, Richard Walford and Pete Goodway.

There can be no better comment about the Music Hall Shows than one from Fred Nicholls: “The provision of entertainment on the scale of 1981 enabled the Lions Club members to achieve their financial and other objectives”.

Besides large fundraising events the Lions is a hands-on group helping individuals and local groups.

A recent example was the rebuilding of the garden at the Redlands Resource Centre benefitting clients both young and old.

Currently the club is working to provide defibrillators at key points around the town and education in their use.