The first non-sectarian PROBUS club specifically for active retirees was formed in 1966 by the Rotary Club of Caterham England to allow retired professionals to continue to meet together for fellowship. Rotarian Harold Blanchard of Caterham Rotary Club in his writings of “The Birth of PROBUS” states:
“..One of our more erudite members came up with the idea of PROBUS, – PROfessional and BUSiness, He assured us that PROBUS was a Latin word from which “probity” was derived, and the name was adopted with enthusiasm. Incidentally we found there was a village in Cornwall called PROBUS and also there was a Roman Emperor of the same name who in his day was famous for his cultivation of the vine.”
About the same time the Rotary Club of Welwyn Garden City, England, formed the “Campus Club” that had the same purpose.
In a PROBUS newsletter, we find a report “A Simple Idea” by the Founder, Fred Carnhill
“I used to meet a few retired men for morning coffee – mostly ex-commuters (to London) with professional or business backgrounds and with a wealth of experience behind them. Conversation was always brisk and entertaining. One was an architect, responsible for many public buildings over the country, another an ex-borough treasurer, an ex-railway official, an headmaster, an ex-journalist, an ex-newspaper editor and an ex-secretary to a Prime Minister. This gave me an idea: really a very simple one…”I telephoned 33 friends that night and they said, “Put me down, Fred.” Thus the Campus Club, (because it faced the centre of town, called The Campus), was formed.”
The two soon merged and flourished under the sponsorship of the Rotary Club of Bromsgrove, Birmingham, England.
Due to the success of these two clubs. PROBUS Clubs were promoted through Rotary in adjacent towns. As a result Rotary International British Isles were informed and a promotional pamphlet was established urging other Rotary Clubs to form PROBUS. There are now approximately 1,700 clubs in Great Britain.
In 1974, PROBUS expanded into New Zealand and by 1976 the idea had spread to Australia. The first PROBUS club for seniors in North America was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Galt in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada in 1987. Although PROBUS membership has its greatest concentrations in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, clubs today exist in all parts of the world, including the U.S., Belgium, India, South Africa and several other countries in Africa and Asia
The first PROBUS Club in the South Pacific was originated by Gordon Roatz at Kapiti Coast,-Paraparaumu north of Wellington in New Zealand in November, 1974. In the mid 1970’s Rotarian Cliff Johnstone from Australia discovered PROBUS on a visit and began PROBUS at Hunter’s Hill in Australia. These origins were so successful there are now 1900 clubs in Australia and New Zealand under the umbrella of the PROBUS Centre – South Pacific.
Most other countries have followed the Australian example. The Netherlands has 300 clubs, Ireland 75, Belgium 60, South Africa 75 (including 7 Women’s clubs). In India there are at least 20 clubs, in the U.S.A. there are approximately 12, Bermuda has 1, and others have started in Germany (1991, now 12 clubs), Chile, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain (1996), Trinidad, and Zimbabwe (3 clubs).
Growth in Canada (since 1987) under the leadership of John Morris, has since successfully developed 244 clubs across Canada from Saint John’s Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia, with a membership of over 36,000.