Round Table History

The first Round Table was formed in Norwich, England in 1927. The founder, Louis Marchesi, was a young member of Norwich Rotary Club who felt a need existed for a club where the young business men of the town could gather on a regular basis. At their meetings they could exchange ideas, learn from the experiences of their colleagues and play a collective part in the civic life of Norwich. Within a year of inception the membership of this Round Table had grown to 85 and interest was being shown in establishing Round Tables elsewhere. From a very early stage it was agreed that Round Table would be a non-religious, non-political club and this has continued to this day. A second Round Table was established in Portsmouth and subsequent growth was rapid, with 125 Tables and a membership of 4,600 by the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Round Table proved it had international appeal with the first overseas Table formed in Copenhagen in 1936. During the war years Round Table in Denmark continued to expand although in the British Isles activity was restricted and was in the nature of a ‘holding operation’. After 1945 the pattern of growth was rapidly re-established with Tables being ‘chartered’ all over the UK. Round Table now flourishes in the majority of European countries, throughout Africa, the Middle East, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand and America. In fact Round Table is represented in every continent of the World.

Name and Badge

Round Table owes nothing to Arthurian Legend, deriving both its title and its maxim from a speech made to the British Industries Fair in 1927 by the then Prince of Wales – ‘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 times and wherever possible, IMPROVE them’. The phrase ADOPT, ADAPT, IMPROVE is a key facet of the organization and is often seen on Round Table literature and regalia. The design of the Round Table emblem is, however, an adaptation of the table which hangs in the Great Hall in Winchester. Although this is claimed to be the Round Table of the mythical court of King Arthur, it is in fact a representation which was made in the 13th century.

Aims & Objects

The Aims and Objects of Round Table International are:

  • To promote fellowship and understanding between Round Table Associations worldwide;
  • To promote the formation of new Round Table Associations throughout the world;
  • To initiate, develop and improve working relationships with Club 41 International and Ladies Circle International for fellowship, networking and Joint Service objectives;
  • To promote and administer Joint Service Projects worldwide.

The Founder

Erminio William Louis Marchesi was born 19th January 1898 of an Irish Mother, and a Swiss Father. His father was of the small town of Poschiavo. The family name lives on to this day in the town for the donation of the Church and Hospital to the local community. He joined the Army, under age, in WW1 and served throughout the war. He was torpedoed off the Cape of Good Hope and spent 10 hours in the sea. In his letters home he called himself “Erminio” , later using “Louis”, but whilst in Table he called himself “Mark”. Mark became a member of Norwich Rotary Club. In his Maiden speech to the Club, he was obliged to speak on a subject about which he knew more than anyone else in the room: What it is like to be 27 years old. He developed the idea whilst on his feet, to create a club which was exclusively for young men. At the British Industries fair in Birmingham, the Prince of Wales said “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.” This speech quickened Mark`s enthusiasm, and led to a meeting at Suckling House in Norwich on 14th March 1927 at which “Round Table” was formed. Its motto was and still is “ADOPT, ADAPT, IMPROVE”. In June 1929, Mark having been secretary, started “News and Views” continuing as editor until 1932. On 11th October 1934 he married his wife “Dolly” who was to be his ever present support until her terminal illness. 1935-36 He was President of RTBI. One of his proudest moments came in 1936 when RT Denmark was formed. 1939-45 WW2 He was involved in espionage because of his linguistic skills. Mark was always a keen sportsman, particularly football and boxing, played Tennis even over the age of 50. He was a strong swimmer, which saved his life in WW1. One anecdote reveals his imperturbability: he had forgotten his dress trousers, but was unruffled as his brown ones could not be seen behind the tablecloth. He was very fond of practical jokes, at a farewell party at a National Conference, he turned up in overalls with a broom to sweep up, he was delighted no one recognized him. He aimed to live until 70 ( 3 score years and 10) at 68 he was given 6 months to live by his doctor, but he did make 70, he died on 10th December 1968. He regarded Rudyard Kipling’s “If” as his second bible, keeping a framed copy at his bedside. Over 3000 people attended his memorial service in Westminster Cathedral, at which Rt. Rev canon FJ Bartlett said that it was obvious to all by the nature and size of the congregation that Mark was a man of foresight and inspiration. He referred the congregation to the words of Christopher Wren on the floor of St. Paul’s Cathedral “If you want to see a memorial to this man, look around you”.