• Thursday , 1 December 2022

A visit to Ely in England leads to help from the Rotary

I grew up in England near Ely and everyone in that area remembered 1947. East Anglia has some of the best farmland in England but much of it is very little above sea level. The Fens, as the area around Ely is called, were drained hundreds of years ago. George Vancouver’s ancestors came to England from Holland to assist with that process. Canals were constructed and large banks were built to contain the water. Much of that water drained via the river Ouse which flows north to Kings Lynn.
The snow fall during the winter of 1946/47 was much larger than usual and as the melting started, it was obvious that a problem was developing. Thousands of people worked day and night to strengthen the banks of the Ouse with sand bags. As the flood waters rose, the army came to help but it wasn’t enough. Water levels continued to rise at a rapid pace and on March 16th flooding occurred in Ely and the surrounding area. A hurricane wind storm added to the challenges and parts of the banks built to contain the drainage failed and water flooded huge areas.
This year we planned a trip to England and I wanted to learn more about the floods of 1947. I found out that there was a small book titled “The Battle of the Banks” written by the Rotary club of Ely. I made contact and purchased a copy of the book. It turned out that my contact was the president of the Rotary in Ely, Phil Smith. It is a tradition of the Rotary that flags are exchanged and he asked me if we could bring a flag from Peachland. I was able to meet Wendy Howard and get a local flag to take to England. Phil invited us to attend a Rotary lunch there, during the time we were staying in Ely. We exchanged flags and we took a photograph of Phil Smith accepting the Peachland Rotary flag from me.
On Saturday we were able to present the Ely flag to Ken Klein who is the current president of the Peachland Rotary. Exchanging flags can be complicated but it does show just how significant the Rotary is, in many different countries.
I had another interesting Ely experience when we travelled to Las Vegas years ago. We stopped overnight in Ely, Nevada and when we checked into the hotel, I told the staff that I was born near Ely. “So you are a local girl” the receptionist said. I explained that I was from Ely in England not Nevada. She expressed surprise that there was another Ely. When I told her that it was famous for its cathedral, she was more surprised. After checking on her computer she told me that she hoped she could visit Ely in England one day.
Marion Hall

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