The year 1972 was the year of formation and here we are thirty five years on with lots of memories, lots of lasting friendships, many, many projects completed and just as importantly
a great deal of money raised for the community. The Club was formed with thirty eight members and during the first few years the membership grew to fifty and although we are now down to thirty five members, for the greater part of Club life, the membership has been fifty.
The celebration of receipt of the Club's charter was held on 17 February 1973 and this memorable evening was held at the Wigram Air Base, one of our charter members was commanding officer of the base so that smoothed the way for the function to be held on base. Wigram Club was sponsored by the Christchurch North Lions Club and their members were always very supportive in the early planning not only for the Charter night function but in all aspects of Club activity. We still have two charter members of our Club.
The Halswell and District Lions Club was sponsored by Wigram and chartered in 1978. Wigram also sponsored the Avonhead Lioness Club (now Christchurch-Avonhead Lions Club) and this Club chartered in 1987. A Leo Club was also formed by Wigram and although very active for a number of years it has since disbanded.
The Wigram Club has always been well represented at District and Multiple Conventions. The District Convention in particular has always been regarded as a good opportunity for members to strengthen their fellowship during a weekend away and also an occasion for Lions partners to enjoy. The 1985 202E District Convention was hosted by the Wigram Club and most of the activities were held at the Wigram Air Force Base, the place where it all began. It is interesting to note that the Air Force Officer who acted as liaison between the Air Force and the Convention Committee later became a member of Wigram and in subsequent years has filled positions of Club Secretary, Club President and Cabinet Secretary District 202E. We are of course referring to Alan Turner. In the year 2000, Wigram again hosted the District 202E Convention, aptly carrying the motto "Forward into the Millennium".
Over the years Wigram members have filled many offices of responsibility at District level. The offices held include, Region Chairman, Zone Chairman, Cabinet Treasurer, Cabinet Secretary, District Almoner, Cabinet Committee Chairman, Deputy District Governor, Vice District Governor and the Club has been proud to have three Club members elected to the position of District Governor - Tom McCleary (1991-92), Stuart Barr (1994-95) and Ian McWha (2002-03). Past District Governor Marion McWha (2006-07) is now a member of our Club.
We must make special mention of member Norman James who has given outstanding service to 202E Cabinet. Norman served on Cabinet for sixteen years, twelve of those as Treasurer - a remarkable record.
The services and contribution to the principles of "Lionism" by ten Club members has been recognized by enrolling them as a "Melvin Jones Fellow". This award was also given by the Club to a previous Mayor of Christchurch, Vicki Buck, in recognition of her continued assistance to the Club, particularly with regard to the Club's annual find-raising project, "Canterbury Wine and Food Festival". The efforts of several Club members have also been rewarded by enrolling them as Life Members or Honoured Members of the Lloyd Morgan Lions Clubs Charitable Trust.
The Wigram Club has always been fortunate in that members wives have always taken a very full and active part in Club activities. Not only do they give their full support to all social events but always get in and do the work when required. When the Club has hosted District Conventions the ladies have always helped with the organization and with the hard work. At the Club's annual Wine and Food Festival for example, the ladies played a full part and it is fair to say that it would be difficult to have the manpower! (sic) to carry out all the tasks on festival day without the help of the ladies.
Obviously there have been many Club Tea Meetings over our thirty five years and we have been fortunate compared to some Clubs in that our members have been held at the same venue for nineteen years. In all we have only met at four venues.
Projects have been many and as would be expected - varied. When our Club was formed the Orana Wildlife Park was in its infancy. The park is now a real attraction in Christchurch city but we were involved right at the beginning. It was one of our first Club projects to plant a shelter belt of trees for the fledgling park.
1974 Commonwealth Games - We obtained the rights to the Games emblem and used this licence to print packs of playing cards with the Games emblem. Great fund raiser and packs of these cards pop up occasionally.
Whisky Galore - Probably the most talked about and most popular project undertaken by our Club. This project took place many years ago and probably just as well as we wouldn't get away with it today. One of our members had a contact whereby we could buy a barrel (yes a barrel) of Scotch whisky and it was a weekend project for members to decant the contents of the barrel into containers of a more convenient size. Members had to obtain orders for a bottle, bottles or a half gallon jar!! It will be appreciated that we did not have to call for volunteers for weekend duty.
Oxford Fires - Another project that is still talked about is the time we rebuilt a farmer's barn at Oxford. The Oxford area suffered a great deal of damage through what originally started as grass fires. The Oxford Lions were working hard in their area to help those whose properties were damaged and our Club in offering to help accepted responsibility to rebuild a farmer's barn. The easy part was the actual repairs, the hard part was getting back to Christchurch afterwards. As it extended over a few weekends the other hard part was obtaining a "leave pass" to go the following weekend. Yes, the barn was repaired to the farmer's satisfaction.
Playgrounds -The Club has built three childrens' playgrounds - two on public reserves and another at a local school.
Bavarian Evening - Another project that would not even be considered today was one that we held annually for quite a few years. The Club sold tickets to a Beer Hall evening, complete with a "German" band. Beer and supper provided and this is where our ladies played a vital part in the success of the evening - with the supper, not the beer.
Wine and Food Festival - This project is undoubtedly the most successful undertaken by the Club particularly from a fund-raising point of view. The Festival grew from very small beginnings and was regarded as a major summer attraction in Christchurch city. The first event was held during the month of November at the Riccarton racecourse nineteen years ago and was not a great success as it was rained out. Over the next three years the Festival was held in November still at the racecourse but the then Mayor Vicki Buck convinced us that we should hold the event in the city (Hagley Park) and make it part of the Summer Festival organized annually by the Christchurch City Council. We took the Mayor's advice and the Festival grew from strength to strength. The Festival is no longer held but during its life the Club raised $400,000.00 for worthy charities and community projects. Some of the grants made from the Festivals are:-
Foundation for the Blind - From the proceeds of an earlier Festival a vehicle was gifted to a Guide Dog trainer. When this vehicle needed replacing another vehicle was purchased.
Arthritis Association - Two cars purchased for this organization from one years proceeds.
Nurse Maude Association - Two cars purchased for this organization from another years Festival.
Christchurch Symphony Orchestra - Car purchased.
Court Theatre - Car purchased.
Christchurch Hospital Thoracic Unit - Festival proceeds given to unit for equipment.
Camp Quality - Several grants made to this deserving group over the years. Members always enjoy assisting at Camp Quality's annual camp, in fact we have so many members who volunteer we have to restrict numbers.
Life Education Trust & Riding for the Disabled - Substantial cash grants.
Casino Evenings - Wigram was introduced to this fund-raising project many years ago by the New Brighton Club who instructed our members how to organize a Casino Evening and how to handle the various "games of chance". The Club purchased and manufactured the various games and over many years visited Company Social Clubs and other organizations conducting these fund-raising projects. Interest in this type of evening has now waned with competition from the real thing - the Christchurch Casino.
Other Projects - Projects undertaken over thirty five years are too numerous to detail but we have done our share of:-
Cutting and delivery of firewood to the needy.
Street and house collections.
Delivery of citrus to the needy - in cooperation with North Island Clubs.
Painting of classrooms at local school.
Landscaping at local school.
Golf Tournaments and Raffles.
And so on.
Youth Activities - In past years our members took an active part in the hosting of exchange students and tried to involve the Club as a whole. Now that our members fall into an older age group, hosting is not as appropriate as it once was. However programmes that involve the youth in our area still remains a priority in our Club.
There then. As other Clubs will find, it is difficult to condense the life of a Club into a few pages. Something important is sure to be missed but we have our memories and if this article does nothing else but help someone remember a special occasion then some good has been achieved. There is no doubt that it has all been lots of fun regardless of whether it has been a working project or a Club get-together and that's what it's all about. If we can have fun, enjoy the fellowship, make friends and at the same time put a lot back into our community then, we have achieved.
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