HOD Speakers 20th Anniversary

HOD Speakers Club is based in Harrow, North West London and is funded by members on a non-profit basis and run solely by the efforts, energy and enthusiasm of our members for our members.

HOD Speakers celebrate their 20th anniversary
HOD Speakers celebrate their 20th anniversary

Its Origins

Not a lot of people know this but HOD is not 20 years old.  It is more than 100 years old.  And the first question everyone asks is, ‘What does HOD stand for?’ The answer is stranger than you might imagine. These days we have rebranded and decided that it stands for Harrow Orators and Debaters.

But it was not always so. In the early 1900s Jewish immigrants to London’s East End formed a Friendly Society into which they subscribed, so that they could help newcomers as they arrived.  Someone, no doubt with a sense of humour, gave it the name The Order of Druids. This to imply with tongue in cheek that it had ancient British origins.

Many of the original members subsequently emigrated to South Africa and the ‘Order’ died away in the UK.  However, it prospered in South Africa, changed its constitution to a non-masonic ‘Lodge’ and called itself ‘The Hebrew Order of David’, which abbreviates to HOD.  This was to pretend to themselves that its origination went all the way back to biblical times…

Then in the 1970’s many of its members left South Africa for London again, bringing the new HOD name with them.  The group now prospered here and one of these new immigrants, Jeff Margolis, decided that he wanted to help its members improve their public speaking.  So was born the in-house HOD Speakers Club, affiliated of course to Toastmasters International.

Its Founding Members

HOD TM launched 20 years ago with around 20 members, all Brethren of the HOD Lodge. Jeff Margolis was its founding President. Angus Galbraith was the already established Toastmasters member, who mentored the new club. He gave it a brilliant start. I was a founding member along with others like Hilton Lewis, Hilton Katz, Colin Friedland and Eric Shapshak, to name just a few whom some present day members may remember.

The Club’s Crisis

The difficulty with an in-house club is the churn.  As members left the HOD TM club, the pool of potential new members was not there to replace them. Within three years we were down to about six members.

On the other hand, the joy of the Toastmasters’ part of our constitution is that it is completely multi-denominational and inclusive in its ethic. I told Jeff that I was willing to put my back into gaining membership from outside the HOD Lodge – for six months – to see what happened.  I actually continued in the role of VP Membership until two years ago, building the club to around 50 members from all parts of the world and all walks of life, a rich and vibrant community.

Such that today I am the sole surviving member from the originating HOD Lodge and we have lost all connection with it. The Harrow Orators and Debaters Club has morphed into a new, independent and thriving body, of which I am extremely proud – and in which I take great joy, especially in its enriching inclusiveness.

Michael Freedman, the founding member

My Best Memory

It was the contest in Cincinnati. My wife Pam and I went there to support our friend Bill Dempster.  I first met Bill when he was playing on a neighbouring badminton court around 15 years ago.  We combined our groups and chatted a great deal between games.  Bill became interested in Toastmasters, attended an HOD meeting and was hooked.

He went from zero to UK champion in about two years.  At the Area stage I was a counter. Bill’s speech, ‘Whisky, the way to a better life’, was a scorcher. It began with his helpers passing a tot to every person in the audience. At the Area level this was deemed to be part of his speech and he was disqualified for exceeding his speech time. As a counter I was able to object, on the grounds that the timekeeper himself had in that case not signaled the correct red light moment to the speaker. Bill was judged the winner after all, went on to win at national level, and to represent the UK in Cincinnati. We traveled there with many HOD TM members and their spouses in support of Bill and this ranks as the highlight of my Toastmaster experience.

Bill came only second in the semi-final there. But he did win the rather glamourous head judge, who could be seen on his arm for the rest of that amazing week. It was his Scottish kilt. It had all the ladies agog.

HOD current President Chantal Clairicia with the past Presidents

HOD current President Chantal Clairicia with the past Presidents

Advice for New Members

Toastmasters is that safe place where you can make all your mistakes, and they just don’t matter, except that you learn from them.

First and foremost, always volunteer. The more you give to Toastmasters, the more you will receive back from it. Remember that TM is not just about speaking to a crowd, it is about organising (writing) a speech and learning to organise others, too.

Most important of all, remember that speech evaluation is a speech in itself.  Evaluate every speech you hear, whether or not you are going to be asked to deliver your evaluation. As you improve, and become recognised for your improvement, you will be amazed how many people ask you privately, later, for your feedback. You will learn more by teaching and by mentoring than you can ever learn just by learning.

Do all this, and master the social grace of being able to speak impromptu to any topic (table topics) and your whole life will improve, inside and outside Toastmasters.

——— Michael Freedman, one of the founding members who is still a member and part of the committee.


From Margaret Page, Toastmasters International President

From Jeff Margolis, the President Founder