Rotary Club of Cape Town Noon Gun

The Rotary Club of Cape Town Noon Gun is the 60th Rotary Club to be chartered by Rotary International in District 9350, which includes territories as far-flung as parts of Namibia and Angola. The 25 members of the new Noon Gun club represent five different nationalities making it already exceptionally international in character. The Noon Gun Club was successfully chartered within six weeks on 16 March 2010.

Focus

To embody the Rotary creed of “Service Above Self” and in line with the motto for the Rotary year 2010/11 “Building Communities, Bridging Continents” the new club will focus on local communities especially in the fields of education and international relations. Within the global network of Rotary Clubs as well as within our local District, our new club aims to combine the experiences and networks of local and international businessmen and women from many nations.

Cape Town Coat of Arms for the Club

The club secured the old Cape Town Coat of Arms for the logo of the Rotary Cape Town Noon Gun Club by getting the permission of the owner, the City of Cape Town. This permission was granted as the Coat of Arms is no longer in use.

The Noon Gun and its History

The settlement at the Cape of Good Hope was founded by the Dutch in 1652 and the signal guns were originally part of the regular artillery at the Imhoff Battery at the Castle in Cape Town. In 1795, Britain took the Cape Colony from the Dutch East India Company and shortly afterwards the two Dutch guns were removed from the Imhoff Battery and placed in town as signal guns. The Castle received the latest English 18 pounders. Because the very loud report of the cannons upset people living nearby, the guns were eventually moved from the city to the more remote

Lion Battery on Signal Hill. The first signal fired from this location was on 4 August 1902. Originally the guns were used to announce the arrival of a ship, possibly requiring provisions for an onward journey to India.

As sailing ships were slow by modern standards and fresh food could not be stored for long periods, so the provisioning of vessels was one of the major commercial functions at Cape Town. The city was widely referred to as “The Tavern of the Seas”. With no telephones or telegraphs before the latter half of the 19th century the sound of guns traveled faster than a dispatch rider on horse. The use of the guns signaling a ship was in port was discontinued more than 100 years ago when more modern means of communication were developed.

Besides the signaling duties, the guns have had the task of firing a time signal since 1806. At first the primary purpose was to allow ships at sea or in the port to check the accuracy of their marine chronometers, an instrument necessary for the accurate calculation of longitude. Observers on the ship would watch for the smoke from the muzzle, rather than listen for the sound of the cannon. This tactic increased precision as light travels faster than sound. Since 1864 the Noon Gun has been fired from the master clock of the oldest timekeeper in the country, the South African Astronomical Observatory. One day in June 1895 the gun fired at 10h30 rather than 12h00 because a spider interfered with the relay used to remotely fire the gun.

The original two guns – 18-pounder, smoothbore muzzle-loaders – are still in use today. The ritual represents one of Cape Town’s oldest living traditions. These are the oldest guns in daily use in the world. Excepting for Sundays and public holidays they fire every day at 12 noon sharp, signaling the members of the Rotary Noon Gun that their fellowship is starting.