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Probus originated in the United Kingdom in 1965. The name is derived from two words, PROfessional and BUSiness. The Probus club was conceived by three businessmen travelling to London by train. The three, James Raper, Harold Blanchard and Edward Mockett OBE (died 1978) were reaching the point of retirement and realized they had a need for fellowship.

The first Probus Clubs formed in the South Pacific area were New Zealand in 1974, with Australia forming in 1976. The first club in Australia was Hunters Hill. The Clubs ceased to be a men’s’ only Club on 5th September 1995 when women were made welcome to join.

Probus is now a worldwide movement in twenty three countries.

What is Probus?

Probus is an association of active retirees and semi-retirees with the purpose of participating in activities to keep their minds active, and to expand their interests and make new friends.

The Formation of Gympie Club and Extravaganza Days by Jackie Hyam

The following is a brief history about the formation of the Gympie Probus Club as we know it today and an insight into the “Extravaganza” days, kindly written by Jackie Hyam. Those Extravaganza concerts must have been something special.

The Gympie Probus Club began in Gympie in 1983, under the management of Horrie Ham and Bill Runge.

My association in Probus began in 1987. My late husband retired from Primary Teaching on 7th March, a Monday, and joined on the Wednesday 9th March, courtesy of Horrie Ham.

At that stage in Probus, women were not allowed to be voting members. We were called “Associate Members”, so I tagged along to meetings and social activities until the Men’s Club realised they could not form a Management Committee only of male members and needed the “ladies” to keep functioning as a club. So we became a “Mixed Club”, with Mrs Joyce Sexton as the first President in 2001.

The club had tried twice, in my memory, to have the ladies as full members before, but it was voted in the negative each time. I became Joyce’s secretary and remained in that position until 2013.

Gympie Probus Club met in Wesley Hall, Channon Street, for many years until we relocated to the Bowls Club at Southside, where we have been since 2011.

An “Entertainment Extravaganza” was a feature of the Club’s activities. It was instigated by Horrie Ham, and the first one was held in Gympie Civic Centre with approximately 15 clubs participating. Clubs came from the Sunshine Coast, Maryborough and of course the Gympie Clubs. All performing with great aplomb! This first one was followed by many more at Hamilton Hall at Gympie State High School and became very competitive. Clubs competed for the “Witham Shield” and when activity closed down, the shield was given to Maryborough Ladies who had won it the most times. Gympie Club won it once as did Gympie Widgee Club.

Jackie Hyam


Gympie Probus Club Inc

Through the Years

By John Stark


I retired back to Gympie in May 1983 and settled down into our new home at Corella the Thursday that Keith Brown saw me sitting on the seat at the Memorial Gates reading the Gympie Times. I had not seen Keith since school days. Neville, his brother, was one of my school mates. He took my photo. Keith was the photographer for the Gympie Times and on Saturday, out came The Times, with my photo on the front page. “Welcome Home John, a man with time on his hands” was the headline.

My sister, Joyce, was married to Irv Runge. Irv was the brother of our first Probus President. My wife, Rosalyn, and I went out to visit them as soon as we could after coming back to Gympie and Irv asked us to join the Historical Society with five old Gympie boys, all retired around the same time. So, we decided to give the Society two years voluntary service, to repair the old 2 South Great Eastern mine. We stayed 13 years, and the rest is history.

Horrie Ham spoke to me at church, the Surface Hill Uniting Church, and told me about his interest in the new project of Probus. Bob Martin was our founder from Buderim. Bob was known as Mr Probus. I told them about my project at the Museum and that I had given the next two years to the building and restoration of the 2 South Great Eastern Mine. After that, each Sunday, Horrie informed me of his progress with the forming of our Probus Club. Six of the men from Surface Hill were the first to say they would join. Horrie asked me to change my mind and spend one Wednesday each month with the new club. Looking back, I was after all retired, I could have gone along with Irv to the meetings.

They formed the Probus Club for men only, and Horrie continued to press me to join after church each Sunday.

They invited, Joyce and Irv, and Rosalyn and I, to their Christmas Party and Bob Martin was also present. Yes, we should have been charted members, but what a wonderful 35 years we have had, and made some great friends. So, few are left nowadays, but I have great memories.

Well, back to our start with Probus. I thought Probus was like Lions and we had to wear a suit and tie. Matt Router told us no coats and presented me with a Probus tie and said dark trousers with a white shirt and a Probus tie was the norm. So many of my old school mates were all brought together by Probus. Ros and I spent wonderful times together as Ros was a Gympie girl.

Our meetings were held in the Blue Nurses Hall. It was a real shock to be dressed in a suit and tie, as I was in Lions for 14 years, President of Brisbane The Gap, in 1970 when protocol was to the fore and always went to meetings in a suit. We used to meet in the Commercial Club in Spring Hill, the room plus with smoke. Rosalyn hung my suits out to air as they reeked of smoke. How times have changed!

In 1983 our Probus Club was all men. Ladies were associate members with no voting rights. Our trips were very well attended as our members had never been to places so close to home to be able to go for a day trip. We had 48 members plus wives. We had four single male members those days.

We had a very strong bowls team. One year we had two teams of eight in the competition run by Buderim Probus Club each year. We never won a trophy, but the members and wives had a wonderful day away together.

We moved to the Uniting Church Hall in April 1987. Matt Router, as program director, took us to places as far away as Bundaberg for a day. We started at 7 am and left Bundaberg at 3.30 pm to come home. The new Arnott’s Biscuit Factory at Geebung tour was a wonderful day. Trips to Northern Rivers were for three days. Duncan Polley always gave us a lot more for our money those days. Duncan said he could take us to places that his drivers were not allowed to as they had to stay to the planned routes.

All of this was new to most members, as before we came back to Gympie, many were in business in other places.

Our third birthday was in the Blue Nursing Centre and our fourth was in the Wesley Hall. Our old bulletins show our wonderful Programs. We had mystery trips as well as local days. Such as Wood Works Factory, Nestle’s, West of Scotland Mine Crushing Battery and interesting guest speakers. We had many of our members speak in those days. As most of us were strangers when we joined our club. We only sort of knew our church members. Some of the club were boyhood mates, who we had not seen since high school. We all had such great stories of life to tell.

Changeover and Christmas parties were great. The first Christmas Party went to Parish Hall because quite a few of the members drank beer and the church would not allow liquor on the premises. Such deep discussions!

The Incorporation was a beauty! It went on for months, till the wealthy members were all going to leave. They were not prepared to take the risk of our members. So finally, Bill Runge and John Kretchmer won the day and we became incorporated. This is what Rotary International required of all Rotary Clubs and so Probus was next, being an offshoot of Rotary for members who wished to have fellowship only.

The extravaganza was a beauty! I can recall the day that Horrie Ham said to me that he had an idea to draw the clubs together. We often had morning tea with Ron Witham. Ron was Australia’s longest serving “Nonpaid Mayor”, 29 years. Horrie, Ron and I discussed it fully and thus “The Ron Witham Shield” was born. Ron wanted to buy and set up the shield. Speaking of Ron Witham, a little-known fact is that Ron and I were the instigators of Horrie Ham receiving the Order of Australia ma inly for his work for Cricket in Gympie. It was a proud moment when the news came through. Horrie rang me and asked me straight out, did I know anything about it? I had to watch my words, I never let on, and Horrie t church on the following Sunday looked at me across the church and pointed his finger at me. He was sworn to secrecy as his notice came through 6 months before it was announced to the press.

We put the Extravaganza to the club, and they agreed to put on the show. A lot of time was put into those shows each year. First year 400 members from 21 clubs attended at Gympie Civic Centre Heritage Theatre. The next year 600 from 22 clubs in the ballroom at the Civic Centre. The third year we had 1700 members from 27 clubs at the Hamilton Hall at Gympie State High School and the fourth year 2100 from31 clubs. Horrie Ham and I would visit the clubs and explain all about the Extravaganza. Then, Horrie died and with me so involved at the museum, I discussed this with my wife, and we decided to withdraw from the event. I remember the board meeting at Ray Wilbraham’s (President) home, when I dropped the bombshell. Ray ran it the next year and it slowly declined each year over the next five years till the club decided it was too much work for so few members interested in running the show. The shield was returned to us by the last winners and is stored in our locker at the Bowls Club.

Protocol went down with each President stating a wonderful club with the entertainment and friendly way always now to the fore. Rules were relaxed, but now we have a Probus Shirt which is great and lots of friends around. I am the oldest serving member (in time) still alive in our club and the oldest Past President. It is now over thirty years since I was President.

Our club in 2019 has 100 members and a waiting list. I cherish my Life Membership and I thank the past members for all the love and fellowship we had over the years.


John Stark.