All you need to know
In early 1965, Mr Cliff Parry, the St John Ambulance Brigade Secretary for Wales, visualised the formation of a fraternity of past and present officers of the Brigade to meet as a social fellowship aside from Brigade activities and to function similarly to a Rotary club. The idea met with the blessing of the Prior of the Order of St John, the Rt Hon the Lord Aberdare KBE, and as a result on 25th March 1965, the Hospitallers’ Club was born. Invitations to join were sent out to officers from Monmouth to Mumbles and Cardiff to Brecon and the response was magnificent.
The Club had three objectives:
(1) To promote social fellowship
(2) To provide benevolent assistance to its members
(3) To support selective charitable projects
In later years, membership extended to all ranks of the Brigade and to a limited number of associated members. The Club reached a total of over 200 members with an average attendance of 120, the meetings taking place in Cardiff. The pattern of meetings was to meet for a pre-meal drink, followed by a three-course dinner and a guest speaker. Speakers included a Home Secretary, a Speaker of the House of Commons, Politicians, Chief Constables, Professors, a Criminologist, an Astronomer and many others from all walks of life with a story to tell. The Club soon expanded to other parts of Wales and branches formed in West Glamorgan, Gwynedd, Clwyd, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Blaenau Gwent, embracing some 600 members. A Constitution was devised with an obligation on the Club, its branches and all members.
The status of the Club was enhanced when HRH The Duchess of Gloucester, Commandant-in-Chief of the St John Ambulance Brigade in Wales, consented to become Patron of the Hospitallers’ Club. The active patronage of Her Royal Highness and the steadfast support and influence of the late Lord Aberdare have been prime factors in the success and progress of the Club.
Activities over the years have included trips at home and holidays abroad, members travelling to America, Canada, Sweden, most of Europe, Egypt, Morocco, Gibraltar, Malta, Rhodes, Crete, Cyprus, Majorca and Israel/Palestine, including the St. John Eye Hospital in East Jerusalem. Perhaps the most important outings close to home have been the once regular visits to the Houses of Parliament, which have included tours of both Houses and lunch, hosted by the late Lord Aberdare and, more recently, by Mr Lembit Opik MP. Also memorable are the pilgrimages to the Church of the Knights Hospitaller at Dinmore Manor near Hereford, to the Church of St John at Ysbyty Ifan and to the Church of St John at Carno, all of which have a connection to the Hospitallers, as well as an occasional visit to the ruined Church of St John at Slebech, Pembrokeshire.
The most important social functions have been those held under the patronage of the Duchess of Gloucester, notably at the Cardiff City Hall, the presentation of Brigade Colours by Her Royal Highness in the forecourt of the City Hall, anniversary lunches in the Houses of Parliament attended in the presence of Her Royal Highness (mostly hosted by the late Lord Aberdare) and a dinner at The Angel Hotel Cardiff, also in the presence of Her Royal Highness, held in honour of the Club Secretary on his retirement from the post of Brigade Secretary of the St John Ambulance Brigade in Wales.
The Club has published a two volume booked entitled “The Story of the Order of St John in the Principality of Wales”, written by the Secretary Cliff Parry, to which the Duchess of Gloucester wrote the Foreward. The book received Royal recognition with a reception held at Kensington Palace in the presence of the Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Gloucester, Grand Prior of the Order of St John and Princess Alice, a former Commandant-in-Chief of Nursing Divisions of the St John Ambulance Brigade.
There have been other notable events including the annual Hospitallers’ Ball which, for many years, was held in the Connaught Rooms and later in the City Hall, Cardiff. Stone plaques have been unveiled and dedicated at the Church of St John at Ysbyty Ifan, on the site of the Hospice founded in 1190 by the Order of St John for pilgrims setting out for the Holy Land during the days of the Crusades, and at the Commandery Church of the Knights Hospitaller at Dinmore Manor in appreciation for services held at the Church.