I was sitting in the cool under-croft of the Louis Marchesi
pub in Norwich one evening, listening to the strains of my
daughter playing violin at one of their excellent musical
events, when I set to wondering about the man whose
portrait I remember seeing on a sign outside in the 1990's.
Erminio William Louis Marchesi was born 19th January 1898
of an Irish Mother and a Swiss Father. Their family name lives
on in the small town of Poschiavo for the donation of the
Church and Hospital to the local community.
Quite how the family ended up in Norwich, I have no idea but
an under-age Erminio joined the British Forces in WWI and
served throughout the war. In letters home he initially called
himself 'Erminio', later to become 'Louis.' Torpedoed off the
Cape of Good Hope, he spent 10 hours in the sea, only
surviving due to his strength as a sportsman and prowess as
a swimmer. He also served in WWII.
Between wars, as a young man of 29, and as a newcomer to Norwich Rotary Club, Louise heard and took to heart the message of the Prince of Wales' speech 'ADOPT, ADAPT and IMPROVE' from the February, 1927 British Industries Fair in Birmingham.
'The young business and professional men of this country must get together round the
table, adopt methods that have proved so sound in the past, adapt them to the changing
needs of the time, and wherever possible, improve them.'
During his Maiden Speech and fired by the sentiments expressed, Marchesi quite literally took the Prince at his word. Within a month a meeting was arranged at Suckling House (now Cinema City) in Norwich for 14th March 1927 and Round Table 1 with its motto of ADOPT, ADAPT, IMPROVE, was formed.
Marchesi became the club's Secretary and meetings took place at the restaurant he owned, Langfords in London Street. Norwich Round Table was established as a non-political, non-sectarian association open to men between the ages of 18 and 40, from any profession or trade.
Now the movement is truly global with more than 43,000 current members in the UK alone and many thousands more around the world offering “Lifelong friendships, unforgettable experiences and the chance to make a difference to those around you”. Events nowadays include hiking, cycling, and running challenges; socialising; volunteering; and charity fundraising to the tune of £3.3 million per year and has surely exceeded anything Marchesi could possibly have dreamed of.
Note: There have been many extensions and improvements over the years and among them is a sister organisation called Ladies Circle which runs along similar lines to Round Table.
The phrase 'adopt, adapt, improve' is the slogan of the Round Table organisation, and is often seen on literature and regalia.