The Origins of Rostrum

The Rostrum Movement originated in England. It was founded near Manchester on 21 July 1923, by Sidney F. Wicks, journalist, publicist, author of "Public Speaking for Businessmen" and other books.

Several members of the original Rostrum club, including R Alan Crook, later came to Australia. Mainly through Alan's efforts Rostrum was established here. R Alan Crook subsequently became known as "The Founder of Rostrum in Australia."

The movement was established here seven years later in 1930. By coincidence, the inauguration took place on the same day as in England, the 21st of July, under an Angophora tree on the shores of Middle Harbour, near Sydney. Rostrum is now active in all states of Australia and in New Zealand.

A more detailed history of Rostrum is available on Wikipedia (the Wikipedia article is maintained by Rostrum members).

Rostrum in South Australia.

On the evening of 3rd December 1935, Mr J G (George) McNicholl, Treasurer of the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works and Chairman of the Australian Institute of Secretaries, moved a very gracious vote of thanks to the guest speaker of the S.A branch of the A.I.S. At the supper which followed, complimentary remarks regarding his ability as a speaker were passed to Mr McNicholl by those seated at his table, Rex Dingle, Alfred Basson, Reg Murray and Len Wilson.

Mr McNicholl replied that whatever skills he had as a speaker had come from his association with Rostrum. When he heard that there were no Rostrum Clubs in Adelaide, he urged the table companions to form a club, to which he would offer his assistance. He then offered to meet any interested parties at lunch the next day, before he returned to Melbourne.

Maple Leaf Cafe. 21 Rundle St (Cnr James Place). Source - State Library of South Australia [B 60652]Maple Leaf Cafe, 21 Rundle St (Cnr James Place). Source - State Library of South Australia [B 60652]On the 4th December 1935, the table companions met for lunch at Ellis's Maple Leaf Cafe, James Place, when Mr McNicholl outlined the Rostrum history and procedures and explained how to set up a club. It was at this meeting that the decision to form a club was made. In addition to the table companions were Athol Johnston, Clive Featherston, Jack Troake, Charles Ryan and Cliff Jenner.

On a Tuesday evening, 11th February 1936, six men attended a business meeting at Balfour's Cafe in King William Street. The meeting resolved to form a Rostrum Club in Adelaide and proceeded to elect office bearers and also resolved that all those attending the first meeting of the Rostrum Club be Foundation Members. Meetings were held weekly, on Tuesdays at 1pm in the Wentworth Cafeteria in the basement of the Liberal Club Building, North Terrace, the first meeting to be held on 18th February 1936.

The officers elected were:

  • President Rex Dingle
  • Critic Athol Johnston
  • Secretary Clive Featherston
  • Treasurer Alf Basson
  • Committee Jack Troake and Len Wilson
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