Rx Communications turns 21 on November 13th 2021 and we thought we’d kick off the party by finding out why the 21st birthday is such a big deal. This proved tricky because, as with many traditions, the origins have become obscure. Celebration of the 21st is thought to stem from the ancient Greeks and the Romans who divided life into seven year phases with 21 an extra significant year as it represented three full phases. Three was a deeply significant number to many ancient cultures, especially the Pythagoreans who thought it was the perfect number and tended to revere it. The ancient Greek lawyer and poet Solon defined 21 as being the age that would “ripen to greatest completeness the powers of the man and his worth becomes plain to see”. As this chap is often credited with laying the foundations for Athenian democracy his thoughts are probably worth listening to. In a much later time and in England, 21 was the age a man would be promoted to the knighthood. The age at which becoming old enough to enjoy sufficient privilege so that one may be gored to death was lowered during the mid- 20th century to 18 – as many nations realised they could draft their young men into military service so much sooner if the age of majority was lower. Interestingly, a 21-gun salute is also the internationally agreed highest honour a nation can render. Warships originally fired seven-gun salutes. When the use of potassium nitrate improved the quality of gunpowder this salute increased threefold to 21 for ships afloat.
Nowadays we still celebrate 21 as a milestone, even if we do not know quite why. In New Zealand and Australia, birthday boys and girls now consider it their privilege to smash a yardie, or neck the contents of a “yard glass”, on their big day. Thus they often barely remember their transition into traditional adulthood and videos of many a yardie scull can be found on social media. This is not to condemn or condone such behaviour as the potential for alcohol use disorder lurks here but they, and much of the rest of the world’s youth, celebrate their 21st birthday without lasting damage. Youth is never wasted on the young, after all they’ll be spending a long time as grown-ups.
Back in 2000 our CEO, Ruth Whittington, founded Rx Communications with a clear vison of making accurate, valuable information, particularly in health economics and outcomes, accessible to all via excellent communication. Rx Communications was to be based on the then relatively new concept of a network model. This prescient decision would ensure that, whatever our clients’ communication objectives, Rx would have the flexibility and capacity to respond. So, in a green and leafy corner of north Wales Ruth, utilising her many years of experience in healthcare and as a medical writer, set about creating Rx. Eighteen months later, and with the clients appreciating the new approach, the business grew so much that the team was increased and Rx moved to new, larger premises. It wasn’t all plain sailing – the only place success ever comes before work is in the dictionary. Ruth was determined. She knew that a united team, focused on the same goal of providing excellent communication, was axiomatic to success. Ruth worked to create an environment at Rx where each member of the team is equally supported and challenged and is given the opportunity to do their best work.
She succeeded and, 21 years later, Rx is now the longest established and largest medical communications agency specialising in health economics and outcomes communications, publications and training.
The pandemic has been a reminder that the future can steer us into uncharted waters and sometimes there indeed be monsters here. Rx has been fortunate, all souls still accounted for – and we will always remain thankful for that. Admittedly our time spent docked in lockdown has resulted in a few expansions of beam overall, so some of us would probably do better on hard tack rather than birthday cake this weekend. Unlikely though – as the sun is now well over that yardie-arm and we have lots to celebrate.
The next 21 years beckon and Rx eyes are already on that horizon. As she charts our course Ruth has done something totally Ruthy to celebrate Rx Communications 21st birthday and now we have trees. Lovely trees. Lovely native New Zealand trees, 124 of them, planted for us by the Greenhithe Community Trust in Auckland1. A lovely gift from an amazing lady. Thank you Ruth, enjoy your very special 21st Rx birthday – your worth has always been plain to see and all of us at Rx very much love what we are looking at.
1Trees that count/Te Rahi o Tāne