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Skål International Melbourne
Founded December 4, 1961

The following is a modified extract from the book 40 Years On. A Celebration of Skål International Melbourne. The book is a compilation of anecdotes from members of Skål International Melbourne .

ONE DAY IN DECEMBER 1961

17 MEN MET AT THE RACV…

By John Richardson
(Deceased Skålleague, Melbourne)

Skål International Melbourne No. 222 dates from 4 December 1961. On that day 17 travel executives met at the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria and resolved to form theSkål Club of Melbourne. They adopted a draft constitution and decided to seek affiliation with the Association Internationale des Skål Clubs (AISC). The inaugural luncheon was held on 14 March 1962.

Since then the club’s membership has been valued by hundreds, the elite of Melbourne’s travel industry over four decades. There is much of which to be proud. The club was judged international Skål Club of the Year in 1983 and from the ranks of its members have come two international presidents. Skål is a great worldwide movement and such distinction is rare.

Over 49 years, the Melbourne club has developed its own character, its own traditions, a consciousness of its own unique past. The most powerful benefit of Skål in those years, and its enduring legacy for those who have experienced it, has been the ‘friendship, mateship, fellowship’ developed by its members meeting for lunch on the third Thursday in every month.

Conditions of entry and the make-up of the membership have changed since the club was founded, in response to the changes to the industry itself in the intervening years. They have been many and profound. The business affiliations of most of the founders would puzzle those joining travel enterprises today.

But industry changes have not altered the purpose of the club nor the function it fulfills for those who qualify for its membership. And so it is right that we should remember our founders. They have given us 40 years of fellowship, the strong club we have today and what is to come in the future.

The idea of forming a Melbourne Club goes back to the 1950s. It was in those years that Stewart Moffat, one of the great pioneer travel agents, and A.D.G. (Sandy) Shaw of British Overseas Airways Corporation, the predecessor of British Airways, pressed for a Skål Club to be formed in Melbourne. They had been members of the London Skål Club and appreciated the benefits a local club would bring to the Melbourne Industry.

At first, there was some thought of trying to convert Travel League, a Melbourne club with a history dating from 1929, but this was not practical because of different membership requirements. Eventually, the Skål Club of Sydney became involved in discussions with Walter Edney, then representing Canadian National Railways in Melbourne. Subsequently, Edney, Bert Kellock (Bank of New South Wales Travel) and Joe Pease (Pan American World Airways) called the meeting which formed the club at the end of 1961.

Edney was elected President and Kellock, Secretary. Other office bearers were George Stogdale (Matson Lines), Vice President, and Alan King (Qantas Empire Airways) Treasurer. Joe Pearse was elected to the committee along with John Tyerman (Thos. Cook and Son), Tony Archer (Stewart Moffat Travel), Doug Laurie (Trans Australia Airlines) and lain Glen (Canadian Pacific Steamships).

To complete the list of those at the foundation meeting we must add the names of John North (Ansett-ANA), Peter Buttfield (Cunard Steam-Ship Co.), Ernest Hardy (British Overseas Airways Corporation), Maurice Harkins (VictorianTourist Development Authority), Sam Heifetz (World Travel Service), Gerry Lee (Thos. Cook & Son), Captain John Lower (Qantas Empire Airways) and Stewart Moffat (Stewart Moffat Travel).

The constitution they adopted limited active membership to 70 and only male executives were eligible. Candidates had to occupy a responsible position with an organisation actively engaged in the promotion and/or sale of travel, located within Melbourne, or within a radius of 25 miles from the General Post Office, having a minimum of three years service in the travel industry and representing one of the following branches of the industry:

(a) Scheduled airlines

(b) Steamship lines

(c) Agents and tour operators

(d) Railroad companies and government tourist bureaux, including travel promotion bureaux not directly selling transportation or travel.

There was to be proportional representation of a kind, with 25 membership places allotted to airlines, 20 to passenger ship lines, 16 to agents and tour operators and 9 to railroad companies and government tourist bureaux.

There has always been difficulty in defining precisely what constitutes the travel industry, but in the 21st century this first constitutional view of it appears curiously old-fashioned and limited. It was quickly seen as too narrow for the times also and the constitution had to be amended ‘at an early date’ to include representatives of hotels.

Other alterations were to be made from time to time to reflect industry changes. In the early 1990s Skål Melbourne defined its by-laws within the framework of a worldwide standard Skål constitution.

Much has changed in the years since the founding of the club. The industry was much smaller then, less cut-throat, more laid-back, less driven by management decrees. Everybody knew each other and people from different companies in different sectors would get together for a beer or a lunchon a regular basis.

The value of money over the years has also changed and this can be illustrated by club charges. In the first year, membership fees were five pounds ($10) and remained at that figure after the introduction of decimal currency in February 1966, and until 1971. From 1972 to 1975 they were $12. The luncheon fee of one pound five shillings ($2.50) did not survive the currency switch, however, and in 1966 rose to $3 for the customary open bar, three course meal with red and white wines and, of course a complimentary port to accompany coffee.

Membership now stands at $198, luncheon is a 2 course affair with beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages followed by tea/coffee. Lunches are completed by 2pm and then a mad dash back to the office …… Here’s to the next 50 years.

SKÅL!