Roaring with the pride who like to serve

PUBLISHED: 13:39 20 April 2006 | UPDATED: 13:23 04 May 2010

Ben Jones

Ben Jones

I M at a meeting of Isle of Ely Lions Club and I m getting stick. Friendly banter, of course, but stick all the same. You do realise, don t you, Ian Newstead is saying, that if you put a team up for our quiz night, you will get soundly thrashed? Tish

I'M at a meeting of Isle of Ely Lions Club and I'm getting stick.

Friendly banter, of course, but stick all the same.

"You do realise, don't you," Ian Newstead is saying, "that if you put a team up for our quiz night, you will get soundly thrashed?"

Tish and pish. Newstead, you will learn, is full of this type of braggadocio. He is, of course, merely setting himself up for a fall. Anyone who knows me understands that I guard my reputation as a general knowledge whizz with something approaching zealotry.

Anyway, this is much beside the point. Meetings of the Lions Club are full of these friendly verbal exchanges - it's what makes them fun.

For those of you who don't know, the group is a vital part of Ely's heritage. Having been established since 1977, they raise thousands of pounds every year for different causes, be they individual or collective.

If there's a community event in the city or surrounding area, chances are the Lions will have some representation: Applefest is one example, the Christmas lights is another.

They organise and run, with two other clubs, the Two Counties Motor Show at Newmarket racecourse every July, part of the profits of which this year will go to East Anglia Children's Hospice at Milton.

If any organisation could be said to be true to the terms of its motto, the Lions is surely it. Two words, 'We Serve', adorn all the group's literature and paraphernalia, and it sums them up perfectly.

Happily, Newstead, the fund-raising chairman, is happy to 'serve' in another way, when he buys me a drink. He's a good man, and he's passionate about the Lions.

A project manager, he is one of a wide range of professions which make up the club. There are teachers, businessmen, retired people. Contrary to what you may think, the Lions is by no means the sole dominion of men, either. There are currently two female members (albeit out of 19) and Caroline Cross, next year's president, is the first in Ely's group to be president of the Leos, the organisation's junior division, and then hold the top position with the Lions.

See, women are useful. It clearly means something to be a Lion. Most of the members have smart polo shirts with the Lions insignia on, and those who don't don pin-badges.

The room they meet in, the Coach House at the Lamb Hotel, is covered wall-to-wall in pennants. These are from clubs who have visited Ely or clubs visited by Ely Lions members. They come from far afield: St Lucia, Canada, Malta, Australia, New Zealand and the United States are just some of the countries represented.

When I'm not scanning the walls, I'm reading Lions Roar!, the monthly magazine which highlights the work of groups in the area. District governor is Tony Talbot, a kindly-looking man who addresses his readers with a piece at the beginning of every issue. Not exactly Ken Bates's programme notes, but entertaining nonetheless. On the bottom of every page is the slogan: 'Ordinary People, Amazing Things', which is another pointer to the hard work that the Lions put in.

The meeting is a lively discussion forum. There is a gavel too, which president Bob Smith can call on if necessary, but proceedings are all very civilised and jovial. Throughout, there is a burning desire to achieve. A number of proposals are discussed, including how to increase coverage of the group and its activities. I put my best Rupert Murdoch/Alastair Campbell hat on and pass on a few tips to the assembled throng.

It feels nice to be able to help. It is a good club which is trying to do the right thing for the community in which it lives. Newstead is in my ear constantly, giving me information, or passing on some titbit or other, when it's not his turn to speak on the ongoing fund-raising issues within the club.

The meeting closes, and they will see each other for the next get-together in two weeks' time. I'm thanked profusely for attending - it's good to know that there's still some respect these days - and we go our different ways.

If you want to help a very worthy cause, join the Lions. It'll be well worth it. They welcome new members so for more information, ring Caroline Cross on 01353 862362 or Ian Newstead on 01353 669090 or 07711 492075.

And Newstead, put that quiz book down!

BEN JONES

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