CHAPTER 8: Concrete and Symbolic Temples

Almost every ‘lodge’ mentioned in this text thus far has had the word ‘Star’ in its title. This was another of the more popular 19th century versions of ‘the light’.

The Lawson poem most-regularly quoted by commentators in their search for his essential ‘message’ is ‘The Star of Australasia.’ This is not a coincidence. Neither is it accidental that his ‘mateship’ is fanciful, and his ‘Bush’ a vision, not a real place. Roderick, Lawson’s biographer, wrote in 1972:

The Bush..symbolises the Australia of his vision: a world where “‘Brotherhood and Love and Honour!’ is the motto for the world”.. That visionary world..must rise from victory on the violent battlefields of the mind..The Star of the South – the symbol of his ideal republic – will rise from the lurid clouds of war.[dccvi]


Nineteenth century critics, the Australians particularly, could not perceive that Lawson’s notion of mateship was a substantive representation of the ethic that should govern the conduct of this ideal world.


Brereton [a contemporary writer] thought of Lawson’s proclamation of it as a gospel that was the hope of the living world. Lawson’s contemporaries deceived themselves into believing that it was something peculiarly Australian.[dccvii]

In context, there is nothing surprising about these assertions, nor that Lawson, himself, had no mates of the kind he sought, and experienced no mateship of the kind he imagined.[dccviii] Frances Yates, writing about the 16th century’s Hermetic tradition in the 20th, would have immediately understood his quest and its context. Reflecting a lifetime’s study she wrote:

It is perhaps fanciful to end this study [on Shakespeare] with an allusion to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. Yet, after immersing ourselves in the historical situation surrounding Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Victorian age looms as her very distant and transformed successor.[dccix]

Noting that The Idylls were dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria’s late German husband, ‘an ideal knight’ who had organised the mid-century Crystal Palace Exhibition glorifying the marvels of modern science, she went on:

(With) calm confidence the Victorian seer contemplates the advance of science, and celebrates the Monarch and Empress in terms of Arthurian romance. The Elizabethan chivalric Puritanism survives to become the vehicle of Victorian ethic, the millennial vision of an ampler day continues the Rosicrucian dream…For pious Victorians, the Bible and Shakespeare were the props of British character..

Consistent with its ladder of internal achievement, ie, its degree structure, fraternal societies employed a complex, inter-related range of artefacts, colours, ceremonies and allusions. These were mainly Biblical, as might be expected, but they could also be trade-oriented, astrological, or organic, as in flora and fauna.

Collectively, in the 19th century, they all fed into a single idea which had begun its journey many centuries before – that an integrated human and spiritual context merges at its highest level into ‘the One’, the Creator.

Conceptually, and at its simplest, this is a hierarchy, broad at the base and narrow, very narrow at the top.

Symbolically and visually, a triangle best conveys the effect.

Historically, the temple form – massive columns topped by a (triangular) pediment where is found representations of ‘the Light’, ie the Saviour, ‘the Great Architect of the Universe’ – has been most commonly used.

The essential points for an historian are:

* This synthesis of physical and conceptual hierarchies has proved extremely fertile for the communication of ideals, eg, in Judaeo-Christianity.

* The synthesised ‘building’ metaphors are common to all fraternal societies because of their common history and ideology.

* In the real world, throughout the social evolution from the ‘Divine’ to the ‘Managerial’, the hierarchical arrangement of decision-making power has remained in place. ‘God’ may have been replaced by ‘the Pope’, ‘Grand Master’ or even ‘the Secretary’, but the organisational structure has remained hierarchical.

Over the lifetime of fraternal societies the symbolised light source has transposed from ‘God’ as an old, bearded man to a star, a flame or the sun to a generalised ‘sunniness’ but the essential idea has remained – the nearer one is to the top, or the more strongly one expresses a belief in the idea, then the closer one is presumed to be to an embodiment of, if not divinity, then the valued human characteristics – truth, wisdom, tolerance, and ultimately, enlightenment.

From their first known illustrated examples in the 19th century, trade-oriented societies in particular were keen to display themselves as a Temple in which humans fill the base, angels and the Divine the heights, and female muses the middle levels. In this way, the social and the sacred hierarchies were depicted simultaneously. Other well-known symbols used by trade-oriented societies similarly have had much earlier origins. Mackey’s Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry includes in its entry for ‘Eight’ the claims that the name of Jesus in Greek numerals corresponding to Greek letters was 888, and that a single eight had special significance among the Pythagoreans. It signified friendship, prudence, counsel and justice, and referred to ‘the primitive law of nature which supposes all men to be equal.’ Perrot was moved in her article on ‘modern’ European May Days to remark:

(The) famous ‘Three Eights’…expressed both a quasi-structural representation of the world and the projection into the future of a harmonious and balanced society.[dccx]

Commentators have acknowledged a range of influences on the symbolism of the supposedly radical and secular May Day, one asserting ‘Perhaps most used of all images in the art-work of the early May Days was the sun…’. In the contemporary words of labour-supporting newspaper editor Whitelocke at Broken Hill in 1890:

(The) freeman’s golden sun will rise up and…kiss the majestic figure of Freedom which holds aloft the flaming torch to light a world to liberty.

The minimal amount of Australianised fraternal iconography at the turn of the 19th century is a marker of just how entrenched the traditional symbols were in the minds of local ‘brothers and sisters’. Society-wide celebrations, such as those for Federation, were conducted under the influence of the fraternals, and of a generalised fraternalism which together assisted the creation of a mythic atmosphere around that event. Achieving critical mass in 1914-18, a romanticised ‘mateship’ growing out of this collective myth-making has remained a potent, if petrified, cultural force ever since, shaping among other things, the fanciful history constructed and maintained by all fraternals to the present time.

Australian Freemasonry was drawn along by, and belatedly, almost at the last minute, was able to add its weight to this collective schizophrenia. Although a London observer had thought in 1863 that it was likely that ‘a large number of the Australian lodges will shortly secede from the English rule’[dccxi] autonomy was not achieved in any State for another two decades. South Australia first achieved a self-ruling ‘United Grand Lodge’, in 1884, NSW managed a similar result in 1888, Victoria in 1889, Tasmania in 1890, WA in 1900, and Queensland after much tribulation, in 1921. None of these amalgamations was pretty. In all cases, lodges shattered or totally refused to comply, at least for a time, and numerous brethren walked away altogether.[dccxii]

In NSW the delay in the movement for independence was due almost entirely to the loyalty to English Freemasonry of the same John Williams we’ve already met.[dccxiii] In 1878 and again in the early 1880’s he was censured by London for his language toward his opponents but not for his recalcitrance. Today, he’d be seen as an impossible ‘Colonel Blimp’ figure, repeatedly extolling his own virtues as a reluctant ‘District Grand Master’ forced ‘to come to the aid of NSW’, and beset by opponents fortified only with ‘un-masonic, Communistic, Home Ruleism’. He wrote to his ‘Head Office’ in December, 1881:

(No) man or body of men will ever make me forget (my) heartfelt pledge and..solemn obligation (to be faithful and true to the Grand Master in London and the GLE).

His local opponents repeatedly appealed to their ‘Head Office’ that not only was Williams incompetent but he’d engineered his return as DGM with some very doubtful manoeuvres, including nominating Sir Hercules Robinson, the then-State Governor who he, Williams, knew was both unqualified and uninterested. Williams was certainly not above cancelling the Charter of any lodge such as Braidwood (NSW) which ‘failed in its allegiance’, in his terms, by joining ‘the seceders’.

Williams had to be ‘counselled’ in 1887-8 by senior diplomat and Freemason Lord Carnarvon who was then in the country partly at the direct request of the head of the English Constitution, the Prince of Wales, that ‘the problem’ be sorted. Before Union of the three constitutions was attained on St John’s Day, 1888, the then-Governor of NSW, Lord Carrington, also wrote ‘Home’, ie to the English Grand Lodge, asking for instructions about his nomination as Grand Master of the ‘United’ body, commenting:

If the Union is effected we shall be very strong in this Colony. If the proposal fails, I fear that the English Constitution will be broken up and will cease to exist altogether.

As it is, many prominent English Masons under present circumstances never go near a lodge and the District Grand Lodge cannot be said to be very flourishing. [dccxiv]

Williams died in June 1889, shortly after resigning as DGM which made possible the ceremonial consolidation of the new (Craft) Grand Lodge. It also gave impetus to Masons’ need to celebrate, eg, in Cootamundra (NSW) where they marked the opening of their new lodge hall in 1890 with a procession wherein were borne wands, swords, and other insignia of office, while one of the founders of the lodge carried the Bible on a ‘very handsome cushion’. Seven guineas were given during proceedings to the Hospital.[dccxv]

Williams had also resigned as Grand Superintendent of Royal Arch (RA) Masonry, EC,[dccxvi], in New South Wales, a post he’d held for 27 years. Officers of the eight RA Chapters operating under the English Constitution immediately attempted a coup. Their opening shot was the statement:

With his retirement comes the necessity of speedily organising a Grand Chapter under the prerogative of the United Grand Lodge.

What was intended by most RA Chapters was a GL for all. The English Chapters sought to control its role and function, whether or not the nine Scottish Chapters and the one Irish Chapter agreed or not. The subsequent discontent rumbled on for decades. When in 1933 records showed that the number of RA Chapters in NSW had grown to 216 of which 139 expressed allegiance to the RA Chapter of Scotland rather than a locally-organised body, a Memorandum prepared in Edinburgh refused to countenance the continued push by the minority English for control. It pointed out:

That…the designation Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of New South Wales in circumstances which ignored a subsisting serious local difference, of itself neither created nor accomplished anything.[dccxvii]

Asked to make recommendations, the Foreign and Colonial Sub-Committee of the Scottish Grand Chapter recommended to its 1933 Executive that ‘in the circumstances there can be no departure’ from the exercise of sovereign rights by the Scottish body in NSW.

‘Spurious’ was one word used by West Australia’s ‘District Grand Lodge of the English Constitution’ when complaining to London about the ‘Grand Lodge of Western Australia’ in 1898-99, that State’s attempt to gain its Masonic independence. Among other things, the reformers claimed in response that their GL of WA was formed:

to rescue masonry from the maladministration which had long prevailed, particularly under the English Constitution..The District Grand Master [of the English Constitution] has now issued invitations to ‘his’ lodges to participate in the formation of a ‘Sovereign Grand Lodge’ which the GL of WA would then have to denounce as ‘a pseudo Grand Lodge’, ‘bastard’ and ‘spurious.’


Australian Myth-Making

McEncroe’s first issue of the (Catholic) Freeman’s Journal in 1850 combined an image of temples with forward-looking civil rights, as in:

(Manhood suffrage as) the broad and safe path whereby the people can advance on their way to the Temple of Civil and Religious Freedom.[dccxviii] (My emphasis)

At the opening of the Catholic Guild Hall in Sydney, in 1876, Archbishop Vaughan boldly turned other well known fraternal metaphors – the Eye of Providence (God), the stone block or ashlar, the compass and circle, ‘God’ as Chief or Commander – back on Freemasonry and all secret sects ‘where oaths to communist atheism are explicit.’ He looked down through 2,000 years of struggle between the Catholic Church and the ‘foul monsters of the dark regions’ and saw that these had threatened ‘Supernaturalism’, the rule of the ‘Supreme Governor’, in two historical waves – a past ‘Paganism’ and a developing ‘Materialism’.[dccxix] As Franklin has pointed out, Vaughan’s targeting of Freemasonry as the ‘hidden spring’ ceaselessly topping up the ‘international Communist conspiracy’, was paranoia of the keenest kind, and reflected no understanding of local Masonic weaknesses.[dccxx]

Suttor has seen a search for ‘the Light’ in the aspirations of both sides of the religious/education debates of the time.[dccxxi] In asserting that Protestantism was the reason for and the source of all that was great and good, spokespeople beckoned constituents to a physical and moral health within ‘the Light’. In 1873, at Bathurst (NSW) one pleaded:

Come to the light, to liberty, to manliness, in the enjoyment of the blessing which God holds out to you.[dccxxii]

Another at the same ‘Orange Celebration’, organised, incidentally, by the ‘American’ company Cobb and Co, spoke of ‘England’, not ‘Britain’, as the enemy of tyrants and oppression. A third maintained that ‘the light’ was ‘Orangeism’:

(It) was nevertheless a fact that the (Orange) Society had for its aims the enlightenment of the world and the proper government of the country, and this was why he intended to adhere to Orangeism so long as God gave him light and reason.

Masonic lodge rooms were, of course, known as ‘Temples’. Most other fraternals had their own versions, many deliberately built in that form, with columns, a portico and ‘light’ finials if not a triangular pediment. Bringing the sun and the Temple[dccxxiii] together is doubly significant. The Grand Master’s Chair in NSW’s Masonic Grand Lodge Room has a pediment in the canopy over the seat. At the three corners of the triangle are three stylised ‘divine flames’, or sources of life and salvation, and thus God. The same three flames on a temple mark the peak of the Worker newspaper building, built in Sydney in 1905. A stylised sun, as appropriated for use on a digger’s slouch hat, adorns the facade of this Sydney Worker building just below the central ‘flame’. Such a sun also appears just below the highest flame on the Grand Masters Chair, similarly enclosed within the pediment.

Lord Carrington’s chain of office, when he was installed as the first Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of NSW in 1888 and when he officiated at the opening of Sydney Trades Hall the same year, incorporated linked ‘8’s’ in the form of numerous serpents swallowing their tails. This is the form in which buckle clasps on all fraternal aprons have been made. It represents immortality, or a belief in an endless ‘infinity’ greater than human effort, unknowable.

The very Greek Temple in form, Melbourne Trades Hall was intended to have at its top a cluster of female-angelic figures similar to those on various AMP office-buildings of the same era, and to the female groupings specially prominent on ‘Friendly’ and trade-oriented literature.[dccxxiv] This group stood in some places for ‘the Divine’, but in general, angels as supporters to God in the divine hierarchy were evolving into the more-secular but romanticised ‘protectors’ in the sense of providing insurance and relief to the family unit.

The Temple forms proliferated throughout supposedly secular society and by the end of the century the same symbolic message was being used in tableaux where, standing in for a tiered representation of the divine and the secular society simultaneously, there were chivalric males, comrades in arms, succoured in battle by a virginal but strong female. The whole was effectively keeping in place prevailing power relations by maintaining the male’s supposedly superior role as the Divine/the breadwinner, and the female’s supposedly inferior role as Angel/nourisher, albeit on a pedestal.

The single female figure in a protective role, and there are many throughout the fraternal literature in the 19th and 20th centuries, is so strong and so common an image that, on its own, it almost can be taken as exemplar of the whole ethos.[dccxxv]

Catholic re-invention happily shared references to Knights and the military since the mediaeval world was that Church’s domain. Demonstrating its resurgence after centuries of repression and disorder as we have seen, its strategists gleefully named their new associations ‘league’, ‘sodality’ ‘guild’ or ‘fraternity’, and renewed exhortations for chastity and fidelity. For exactly that reason, mediaevalism contained traps for Protestantism, but the period’s powers of visual and emotional seduction could not be denied.

Female lodges, female ‘Orders’ and female membership of mixed ‘lodges’ became more prominent at this time. The temperance fraternals had always been driven as much by female desperation as by male ambitions and had had large ‘sisterly’ memberships from their inceptions. A Female Rechabite Order does not appear to have reached Australia, but IOR and some other Orders had up to 40 female-only ‘lodges’ each, the IOOF ‘Rebekahs’ being perhaps the best known. The Melbourne-based ‘Daughters of the Court’ was a very apposite example.[dccxxvi]

The exception, here, has been Freemasonry. ‘Clandestine and irregular’ has been the cry consistently hurled at any ‘masonic-like’ body having women as members while numerous brothers have been expelled or cautioned for ‘unmasonic behaviour’, ie, attending such a society:

No woman can be a Freemason according to the original Plan of Freemasonry to which English Freemasons have from time immemorial adhered..(UGL) will continue to exercise its disciplinary powers towards any member working under the English Constitution who violates his Obligation by being present at or assisting in assemblies professing to be Masonic which are attended by women.[dccxxvii] (My emphasis)

Although they had marched on their own a century before, by Federation female fraternal members were appearing as decorations on floats in parades, not as women who held equivalent membership.[dccxxviii] The relevant conclusion is that precisely because they were claiming solidarity and pride in their manhood, the male marchers in the late-19th century Hospital Sundays, Eight Hour Day and other fraternal demonstrations were consciously attempting to protect the borders separating ‘correct’ behaviour from dangerous transgression, in other words keeping women, and themselves, in check.

The romanticised fraternal images of both males and females simmer with confused, suppressed sexuality. The Federated Clothing Trades Union of Australia banner features a naked Adam and an almost-naked Eve.[dccxxix] The Classically-draped female figure, so common on fraternal ‘naming’ banners, was sometimes Muse, sometimes Britannia,[dccxxx] and thus was both the Protestant-claimed attributes of the British/English race, Reason, Justice, Mercy, but also a soft, safe haven.

During the debate over the Soudan contingent going to war in 1888, Australians were urged to show they had come from ‘infancy to manhood’, that they knew how to be ‘a living sacrifice at the ceremony of maturity’ but also to show ‘a daughter’s obligation of loyalty to her august Mother’ by asserting ‘the wonderful birth of a new fighting power.’’ In the interests of Imperial and nationalist patriotism, both males and females were being excited but suppressed, aroused only to be disappointed.

When on 1 May 1891 central Queensland striking shearers and bush workers rode out to celebrate ‘labour’s chief festival’ they were led by a ‘(Goddess of) Freedom’, an un-named woman. This, Australia’s first ever May Day procession had as its only other ‘carnival’ elements an Odd Fellows band and a bandmaster, wearing a Forester’s feather in his hat. [dccxxxi]

The tableaux on the backs of trucks for Eight Hour Day and May Day and other demonstrations express the male view of women in Britain/England and its white outposts – virginal but seductive, aloof but alluring, pure but available. Thus the combination of gentleness and militarism, the sword and the erotic pose, the combination of all the virtues and strengths in one God-Head, the complete Other. Here are clear signs of the insecure male in a changing world. Indeed, these images are as much about men as they are about women. For, in this particular universe, ‘She’ cannot really be God. ‘She’ can only be the means in building the Temple, the stepping stone to the ‘real’ Deity, the male of the Old Testament, Jehovah. In the Temple ‘She’ is the Pillar, as well as the entrance or gate.

At the peak of Queen Victoria’s popularity and of the Elizabethan ‘Virgin-Queen’ myth reincarnated as the ‘Benign Empress’, female forms were ‘permitted’ to be vigorously presented. This ‘window of opportunity’ lasted until the 1914-18 War strengthened the male self-image sufficiently for the vigorous ‘hero’ figure to once-again supplant the female. The muscle-bound ‘proletarian’ of industry then replaced the earlier ‘mediaeval knight’ figure, as it, earlier still, had replaced the (male) Divine.

When Australian fraternal members claimed, along with their UK contemporaries, a line of heritage for their Orders back through the mediaeval craft guilds to Classical times, Jesus of Nazareth and the Old Testament, they were not stepping outside their own experience to ‘borrow’, for pragmatic reasons, from a culture they wished to join. They were already inside the relevant cultural flow, generalised and reduced to basics no doubt, but securely committed to the Judaeo-Christian ideas of Nation, Church and Family. At the turn of the century, that culture was ‘British/English’.

In order to later celebrate the supposedly more militant and riskier May Day, Australian workers had to replace the already-established Eight Hour Days event. Since the replacement was being imported from the northern hemisphere, its advocates had to argue that May Day was politically more radical, and therefore more meaningful to an ‘industrial’ workers’ movement. The fact that in Australia, May Day and Spring did not coincide did not faze local activists intent on using the momentum generated in Europe by the ‘springtime/rebirth/new beginnings’ rhetoric.

The advent of the springtime imagery coincided with the end of the period of mediaeval nostalgia. After a brief flowering in the 1890-1900 period, both succumbed to a resurgent Bible, and the imperatives of a war-driven economy which set the tone for the new century.[dccxxxii] Only the second was a threat to a continued fraternalism.

Australia’s variation of the mediaeval/springtime fantasy was a ‘mythic continent for a mythic man’ – Nation as Man, Man as Nation – conjoined, melded, inseparable, with women as necessary but secondary handmaidens. It reached a peak in publicity for the 1901 celebrations. Here, were combined female ‘muses’ wearing Grecian robes in a rural idyll with male/military power signifiers, in this case, State and Federal Coats of Arms. The more baroque decorative elements of this dropped away fairly quickly, but Australian identity, the country’s sense of itself, has been stuck in this fanciful construct ever since, unable to move forward.

Examples of romanticised Australian ‘mates’ were put up to rival the British/English version but the local variety could not prevail until ‘Home’ had lost its allure, which was not to happen until well into the 20th century. And the confusion was not just sexual. On the one hand was the image of the young, proud vigorous ‘Cornstalk’, on the other the beaten down ‘faces in the street.’ Although associated with radicalism, the late-19th century ‘mateship’ did not contain the threat or potency for the mainstream that the maturing of the ‘coloured races’ image did, and still does today.[dccxxxiii]

Until Gallipoli, British/English men bonding in British/English wars were preferred over local experience. British/English victories were well known and required no embellishing – Waterloo, Trafalgar, Battle of the Nile. The heroes were household names, and they were always the leaders – Nelson, Wellington, and latterly in Africa, General Gordon at Mafeking and Lord Kitchener. Hadn’t good always triumphed, and weren’t ‘the good’ always white, male, British/English and Protestant?..St George, Robin Hood, Richard the Lion Heart, or King Hal at Agincourt. Along with many ‘Suns of..’ and ‘Stars of..’, Australian lodges took names from the Royal and military pantheon, not ‘Eureka’, ‘Digger’ or ‘Ned Kelly’.

The ‘Ned Kelly legend’ has been skewed in the heroic direction, but mateship rarely features in the Kelly literature, presumably because of the Irishness of the protagonists and widespread uncertainty about just how an emerging national identity should deal with a gang of desperadoes who had died so badly.

Federation optimism might perhaps have produced a ‘mateship’, even a fraternalism, to match the rhetoric by forging a rational, progressive way forward. Real men, and women might have imagined and depicted triumph over all real enemies – poverty, oppression or ignorance – and been used educationally to advance Australia as, for example, Richard Carlile had suggested in 1834 in response to the Tolpuddle trial.

Carlile had assumed that the function and the significance of secrecy in fraternalism were already being lost on insiders, and that anything covert had only negative connotations for outsiders. In the wake of the Tolpuddle Trial he had opposed any principle or device that did not entail honesty and straightforwardness, and argued that trade societies should

be wise and do without secrets; and then they will be approaching a more respectable situation.’[dccxxxiv]

After 10 years in jail on various charges relating to political reform, he published an important expose of Masonic ritual, in which he asserted that, like Christianity and Judaism, Freemason’s adherents had fallen victim to a preference for a cloak of mystery. Like those faiths, the value of Freemasonry should, in the future be, not in mysterious ritual, but in its revelation by allegory of the potential in humanity for enlightenment, for peaceful coexistence and for rational problem-solving:

The true secret of universal brotherhood must be in equality of knowledge, and honesty of its application…Let the Synagogue, the Church and the Masonic Lodge, become schools for that purpose.[dccxxxv]

In Carlile’s mind the struggles against evil, superstition and ignorance were one and the same, and ‘the Messiah’, of whatever religion, was never a real person but a symbol of ‘the Logos’ or ‘the principle of reason’. ‘His’ cross, in whatever form, was ‘the great symbol of science.’

In the 1830’s, fraternalism could not jettison its historical basis in, and dependence on the Bible. Neither could members of the Protestant societies, people of the Bible, abandon the secretive, ritualistic trappings of fraternalism. His suggestions were never going to be taken up later, and not just because he was regarded as a radical and a ‘Freethinker’. Such an ‘alternative fraternalism’ would have had to use real-time stories rather than Biblical parables to exemplify fraternal principles such as ‘friendship, love and truth’. In order to work, adherents would have had to openly discuss the relationships between the moral principles and the here-and-now, especially whether the reality of Australian life bore out the slogans.

The Secular or Freethought Movement did spread to Australia in the 1880’s, but only in a minor way. Even so, it took up the same fraternal trappings. ‘Court True Freedom’, an unregistered Newcastle (NSW) ‘lodge’ for the ‘Independent Order of Free Thinkers’, seems from newspaper reports to have followed fraternal procedures for initiations and ranks based on degrees.[dccxxxvi] Their temple, a ‘Hall of Science’, for which a foundation stone was laid with trowel and mallet in 1890,[dccxxxvii] accommodated up to 1,500 people. In such places around the country, travelling lecturers spoke on a broad range of literary, economic, social and historical topics, close to what Carlile had had in mind:

Solomon’s a figurative allusion to the building up of the temple of the human mind..Another meaning signifies a temple to be a convenient building, containing all the necessary implements, both as to men and things, for the culture of the human mind.[dccxxxviii]

At the end of the 19th century, self-styled Australian ‘radicals’ assisted in the construction of precisely the sort of popular but shallow, fanciful history which made Carlile’s vision impossible. As labour-oriented ‘chancers’ began in the late-19th century to seek legitimation and a State payroll to support their individual dreams of getting beyond poverty and limited opportunities, they found a very useful vehicle, the idea in which Marx sought the Holy Grail and found salvation. They found that Socialism could be glossed with Imperialism to conjure up cheerful, honest and clean living Australians who would build a sun-filled workers’ utopia, where at least there would be paid billets for forceful phrase makers.


The Role of The Bulletin

The Bulletin played a crucial role in the making of the era’s romantic myths and in then leading labour‘s search for the fanciful ‘Promised Land’. Early on it appeared open-eyed and critical, but any genuine scepticism soon evaporated. When ‘the jingoes’ attacked Queensland’s Jennings government in April, 1886, over the annexation of Papua and the New Hebrides, during debates over Home Rule for Ireland, when a statue to JD Lang was mooted, and each time Protestant or Catholic reverends manipulated history, The Bulletin roared, or appeared to roar.[dccxxxix] Over time, the rage became more rhetorical, done for show and for profit.

In its very first issue, 31 January, 1880, it recorded the fact that at Burrowa, rural NSW, collections for yet another ‘Irish Famine Relief Fund’ could not be carried out due to ‘sectarian differences.’[dccxl] Over the next two decades it strenuously pilloried and satirised the advocates of both ‘Orangeism’ and ‘Hibernianism’ and their carrying on of quarrels from a past ‘barbarous age.’ It saw a serious, political side in what it might have dismissed merely as frustrating and absurd. The foisting of faith-based candidacies on duped electors, it believed, prevented honest and progressive candidates being successful and therefore reforming policies being introduced. The Bulletin named public figures it thought corrupted, and especially excoriated Parkes, its frustration increasing as that politician’s stratagems continued to work. In 1885, for example:

It may be safely said that the ballot box influence possessed by the Orange lodges of New South Wales is a standing proof of the unfitness of a section of the electors to hold and exercise the franchise…

Orange puppets in Parliament agree upon no one point save their aggressive and often assumed hatred of the Romanists, and their devotion to Sir Henry Parkes, to whom the idiotic jealousy of various sects has been the secret of power in the years past. He has been most powerful when best able to work any point for the oppression of the Irish or the Romanists..

By raising a religious cry Sir Henry was able to pass the Education Act by a large majority and to retain power throughout that Parliament..[dccxli]

In 1890, a ‘Hop’ cartoon objected via the front page when the Loyal Orange Institute lobbied to have the Party Processions Act removed, and the magazine predicted that street fighting would result if the campaign was successful. In 1896 and ’97 when rioting did break out, its ‘I-told-you-so’ assertions benefited the bottom line by being in the form of another ‘Hop’ cartoon on its front page.[dccxlii]

Early on, The Bulletin declared Freemasonry ‘a sham’ and, among other things, complicit in the British massacres in the Soudan and Egypt to which war local troops had been sent,[dccxliii] but it was bemused by the Australian Natives Association, upon which it also expended much space and ink:

If the Australian Natives Association be simply what its enemies allege it is, viz, a crowd of high-toned young men with haughty social and political convictions, who endeavour to give their society an air of magnificence and distinction…by a sonorous and reverberant title, we should be amongst those who would be first to condemn it..

On one point we do join with the [Daily Telegraph) in asking the (ANA) for an explanation..In its constitution it announces that it is not a political society, yet it attempts to discuss “Federation, New Guinea, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, the Recidiviste Question, and National Defence.” If not political, what is it?[dccxliv]

The Bulletin did not appear to realise that the ANA had to claim to be a-political because it was actually a benefit society, a concept seemingly beyond it. A long critique of the Directors of the Randwick Orphan Asylum in 1880 included:

(A) coterie which lives and gets fat on ‘honorary billets’ (they) belong to every friendly society and to every other association..They are of various religions and lose no opportunity of insidiously stirring up and fomenting sectarian disputes, which, indirectly and directly, are the chief means whereby their odious names are kept before the public.[dccxlv]

By January, 1888, The Bulletin was trumpeting a ‘Centennial Oration’ to coincide with what it referred to as the official celebrations of ‘the (colony’s) first gaol and its first gallows’. Ranting against the ‘loathsome tyranny’ which had been established on the 26 January, 1788, it sought a celebration of Eureka instead:

..Whilst New South Wales was hanging boys and flogging virtue into the hides of hardened criminals, its young southern neighbour was springing forward with a wonderful nascent vigour in a race for first place..Victoria enjoyed a respite (from convicts) for 30 years. Then came a race of hardy adventurers, steady, sturdy men with strong arms and a free look of liberty in their eyes.[dccxlvi]

Fanciful, militaristic ‘history’ is here being read back into the past to create a sense of something-never-done-before by bands of vigorous new-men intent upon winning liberty or finding nobility in death:

Revolt is the parent of reform, and though Eureka Stockade fades into insignificance when placed beside Bunker’s Hill, the meaning and the impulse in each case of armed resistance is the same.

In both the USA and Australia, ‘the editor’ (Archibald?) claimed to see a slipping back from earlier idealism, and a need for a new beginning:

In America of the past, heroes, patriots, farmers. In America of the present, capitalists and their human property. In Australia of yesterday, pioneers, diggers, Democrats. In Australia of today, toadies, grovellers, lick-spittles.

And so, stirring but fanciful, masculist ‘history:

The people of Australia – the true, the genuine Democrats, the AUSTRALIANS – refuse to celebrate the landing of PHILLIP; they look across the Murray for the one representative act of their nationality; they look across the ocean for the one representative utterance which foretells their future, and they find their exemplars in the rebellious miner, LALOR, and the irritable parson, LANG. (Bulletin emphasis)

Six months later, as another burst of ‘Boyne’ music stirred the pot, the un-named editorialist retrospectively detailed JD Lang’s character and exploits, concluding:

LANG was one of the most deeply and rankly prejudiced men that ever came to this refuge of bigots that we have established in Australia. His outlook was narrow. The squabbles of religious sects were of more importance to him than the welfare or the future of a nation..[dccxlvii]

Yet, there are no Catholic or Irish heroes in The Bulletin, its yardsticks for good or ill are Protestant, just as they are male, white and British/English. When the paper lamented the deaths and destruction visited on Aborigines by whites, as (Sylvia) Lawson notes, it was only to assert that whatever fate was to befall the remnants of the ancient civilisation it would be decided by their conquerors.[dccxlviii]

Labour rhetoricians – contemporaries and drinking mates of Archibald – spoke from ‘inside’ the same heritage and used the same imagery to express the same attitudes. This is not to say that labour’s ‘modern’ image makers did not see themselves as innovators,[dccxlix] nor that they did not arouse or were not involved in controversy, but that their harking back to mediaeval/fraternal themes, their emphasis on craft skills and their evaluation of the place of labour was neither an outlaw position nor new.

Archibald and his co-writers first announced in May, 1885, that to replace the ‘spurious loyalty’ of the ‘yelping bigots’ the paper was seeking a successful outcome to the ‘Revolt of Labour’. Already, in stirring military terms, its flowery rhetoric was emphasising newness, inevitability and the universal nature of the endeavour, while insisting that success was contingent upon applications of discipline and unity. In April, 1890, its leading article, on the ‘Eight Hours Campaign’ began:

There needs no soothsayer to interpret the signs of the times. The struggle of the future – the strife which cannot cease until victory shall have been won by the predestined cause – has commenced in downright earnest..

In Great Britain, in Germany, in France, in Austria, and in the United States of America, Labour, with menacing simultaneousness, makes a uniform demand upon Capital…The eight hours movement is merely an advance upon an outwork of the enemy. That gained it will be used as a point of vantage for further and more comprehensive operations, until the very citadel of Capital is stormed..(etc)[dccl]

And not surprisingly, given Archibald’s own marriage, women, too, were almost entirely absent from the pages of The Bulletin. In (Sylvia) Lawson’s sad, evocative prose:

It was not only that (the roles of Archibald and his wife, Rosa) and spheres were separate, and not only that the childless wife who was not equipped for good works had hardly a role at all. A chasm of sensibility divided them, as it divided many others.[dccli]


The Knights of Labor and other Secret Societies

One of the more forthright Australian protagonists, the Church of England Association claimed near the end of the century that its church remained:

honeycombed with secret societies, guilds and brotherhoods, some under episcopal patronage, yet all secretly instilling the false doctrine of soul-destroying error that underlies Romish ritualism…Ritualists were un-anglican, un-english, anti-Reformationist and Anti-Christ.[dcclii]

At this key moment, this Association leafleted and campaigned for help from like-minded Protestants to oppose ‘the present ritualistic wave..overflowing the Colony.’ Clearly, the fraternal trappings had not died. In addition to that being celebrated in churches, the gathering evidence insists that there was, in fact, a lot of Australian ‘secret work’ going on, in the bush and in many cities.

It’s well known that Irish nationalism achieved a potent symbolic and practical success when the Yankee whaler Catalpa, funded, not through Fenian circles, but through Clan na Gael (‘The Irish Race’) and the Irish Republican Brotherhood [IRB], snatched six prisoners from Fremantle authorities and returned them to the northern hemisphere in 1875. Also known as ‘the United Brotherhood’ this Clan was organised in clubs or numbered branches, with public names, in the fraternal fashion. Originally the result of a secession from New York Fenian networks and known as the ‘Knights of the Inner Circle’, the Clan/United Brotherhood strictly enforced secrecy to guard against infiltration:

Both the IRB and the Fenian Brotherhood were organised in small, well-disciplined circles..Each circle was designed for up to eight hundred members and was commanded by men identified not by title but by letters. At the head of each circle was a centre, referred to as ..A; assisting the centre were nine captains, or B’s, who in turn had a staff of sergeants, or C’s.[dccliii]

Its elaborate initiation ceremonies involved blindfolds, tied hands and an oath:

..(We) are Irishmen, banded together for the purpose of freeing Ireland, and elevating the position of the Irish race. The lamp of the bitter past plainly points out our path, and the first step on the road to Freedom is Secrecy…(etc)[dccliv]

After the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, Irishmen happily acknowledged the thread of organisational connection from the Clan, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and the (US) Ancient Order of Hibernians back to the ‘Circles’ and ‘Centres’ of 18th century fraternities.[dcclv]

That the very old, shared fraternal heritage was being maintained is clear. In 1885, the Newcastle, NSW, branch of the Operative Stonemasons Society was still ‘making’, ie initiating, new members. When branches of the Progressive Society of Carpenters and Joiners were being established in regional NSW, a list of intending members and their initiation fees were being collected and forwarded to Sydney.[dcclvi] Tylers, or Door Guardians operated at meetings of the Sydney Coal Lumpers, which was not established until 1882, of the United General Laborers’ Association of Newcastle and of the United Laborers Protective Society of NSW in 1892. This last body included in its assets for 1892: banner boxes, books, regalia and other lodge property to the value of £110 out of a total of £146/12/-.

Laffan has recently shown that the Orange affiliations of labour activists in the Hunter Valley from the 1860’s on is ‘quite remarkable in number and variety’ and that it remained so well into the 20th century. As he rightly says, this finding runs ‘contrary to a number of well-established assumptions about the Australian labour movement.’[dcclvii]

For the period before the emergence of the Labour Electoral Leagues in 1891, many labour activists were Orangemen. Amongst the region’s largest union, that of the coal miners, many of the elected positions both at a lodge and district level, were filled by Orangemen.

Newcastle’s 1891 8-Hour Day ‘Sports’ were held under ‘Wallsend Rules’. This strongly-fraternal, mining community was the home of ‘Miners’ Home Refuge’, thought to be the largest GUOOF lodge in the colony, perhaps the world at the time. Not too many years before it had been insolvent but under hard-headed leadership its membership passed 500 in the early 1890’s. It fostered a branch for juvenile members from 1876 and instituted a Ladies Temple, the ‘Southern Cross’, in 1891, before the Order officially admitted women.

Francis ‘Frank’ Craig was at the heart of all these developments. He had been involved with ‘Miners’ Home’ since its founding in 1868, and its officers included his brother, Robert Fergus Craig. Wallsend Lodge appears to have had no banner or to have been very keen on spending money on processions, making exceptions for funerals, but just after ‘Frank’ Craig died in 1893, two banners were procured.

In 1895, ‘Miners’ Home Refuge’ refused to adhere to directions issued by Hunter River District officers, and with a neighbouring miner-based branch, Lambton’s the ‘Rose of Australia’, was expelled from GUOOF altogether. The following year, after thirty years of experience in GUOOF, and specifically over a detail of benefit conditions seen as ‘not being in accordance with their requirements nor the spirit of Odd Fellowship’, these two branches established a totally-new Order, the ‘Australian Odd Fellows’ Union’ [AOU]. It followed the usual fraternal form, in structure and in its Rules, until its lodges re-joined Grand United in 1905.[dcclviii]

While Archibald was absent in the UK in 1884, ‘the editor’ of The Bulletin (Traill?) was made a founding member of the ‘Fraternity of Mutual Imps’. [dcclix] This secret society was founded in the early 1880’s, under the motto, ‘Friendship and Hospitality’ by HT Towle, conductor of the orchestra at the Theatre Royal in Sydney using the nom-de-plume, ‘HW Harrison.’ It was formed for the purpose of

promoting intercourse and cementing the bonds of friendship between members of the Dramatic, Lyric, Musical and Literary Professions.[dcclx]

Lodges of Imps were established throughout New Zealand – in Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin and Aukland, in 1881-2, and shortly after in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart, Broken Hill and Adelaide. Some boasted their own neatly furnished rooms where members could meet to chat, reminisce, read the papers, or use the writing materials and other conveniences, as in many another ‘City Club.’ Paying members numbered between 350 and 400, making them financially sound. Melbourne Lodge, No 3 on the Grand Lodge Roll, opened in September, 1882, and still claimed 350 members in 1927.

The Installation and Investiture of the ‘Arch Fiend’ [Lodge Master] was ‘a most imposing spectacle, never to be erased from one’s memory.’ Officers, members of the Council ‘with all their war paint on’, were installed to specially-composed music rendered by the conductors and players from professional theatres with vocals contributed by ‘artists associated with the Opera Companies in town.’ Some of the earliest concert programmes were reviewed in detail in The Bulletin, but as for ritual:

(Unless) you have nerves of steel and a head harder than a billy-goat don’t you seek for admission, for the initiation ceremony isn’t a bit funny, and the candidate is bound to imagine that he is in hades or the next door to it before he’s halfway through the ordeal.[dcclxi]

The General Rules of the Imps show other executive positions as ‘Past Arch Fiend, Steward, Tyler, Hon Treasurer and Secretary.’ They also show four classes of membership and that ‘the emblems, regalia, paraphernalia, etc,’ were to be returned ‘into safe keeping at the rising of the lodge.’[dcclxii]

It is not accidental nor a sign of a personal quirk that labour leader and preacher at the time of the great Maritime Strike, WG Spence, saw trade unionism as ‘a new religion’, that he saw organisation as ‘the first step essential to Society’s salvation’, or that he sent out ‘missionaries’ to ‘convert’ non-believers. Neither was it accidental that he used coercion and violence to back up his disciplined, hierarchical attitudes.[dcclxiii]

Spence and many other labour notables were initiated into the ‘Knights of Labor’ at the height of the 1890’s confrontation with capital. Imported from the USA in 1889 this fraternal society caught the imagination of dreamers, pragmatists and revolutionaries alike. Hand-written records show that during the most disturbed and turbulent months of 1892-3, the Knight’s ‘Inner Guardian’ had led William Lane, Henry Lawson, George Black, Ernie Lane, Spence, and many others, past the Tyler, through Outer and Inner Veils to the ‘Master Workman’ seated inside ‘Adelphon Kryptos’ or the ‘Assembly of the Secret Brotherhood.’ There they were given passwords, one each for the Inner Veil and the Outer Veil, Travelling Cards, with another password, and were lectured on relations the Divine Creator and certain geometrical shapes had with justice, wisdom, truth, industry and economy. The Knight’s motto, ‘That is the most perfect government in which an injury to one is an injury to all’ was increasingly popular on trade union banners. A brief guide for initiates, ‘Secret Work and Instructions’, describes the use of passwords, hand signs and response signals and insists that:

If there is any sign or portion of a sign, words or symbols, in use in your local different from what you find laid down here, discard the same at once.[dcclxiv]

A published ‘Preamble’ declared:

TO THE PUBLIC: The alarming development and aggressiveness of great capitalists and corporations, unless checked, will inevitably lead to pauperisation and hopeless degradation of the toiling masses.

It is imperative, if we desire to enjoy the full blessings of life, that a check be placed upon unjust accumulation, and the power for evil of aggregated wealth..Therefore we have formed the Order of the Knights of Labor..[dcclxv]

Mary Gilmour was not a member but her coolness under pressure may have been among the reasons Lawson was attracted to her. She, apparently, kept watch on one occasion while Arthur Rae and other ‘Knights’ worked feverishly to remove a bomb allegedly planted by their enemies at Circular Quay in Sydney.[dcclxvi]

The US ‘Grand Master Workman’ of this brotherhood, Terence Powderley was a Freemason and an initiate of other societies. Larry Petrie, arrested in July, 1893 for attempting to bomb the SS Aramac in Brisbane Harbour, is shown in the Sydney Assembly’s records as Member No 59. A hand-written memo dated 25 October, 1893, to ‘the Master Workman of Freedom Assembly’ and signed by Frank Cotton, Thomas Bavister and Arthur Rae, among others, received the following as response to its request for a meeting:

This requisition was only handed to me practically on Oct 30th the day named therein so of course the meeting could not be called for that day..[Peter] McNaught is away and the others either resigned or left the country some for ‘New Australia’..(For) a special meeting for the purpose named no doubt you will kindly do the needful.[dcclxvii]

‘Billy’ Lane had spoken glowingly, without naming him, of McNaught in April, 1892, in the Brisbane Worker, the paper he, Lane edited before leading the New Australia movement to Paraguay:

The ex-editor of a North Queensland paper, the Master Workman of a southern Knights of Labour Assembly, one of the most popular of Australian lecturers and other prominent persons in and out of the Australian Labour movement are known to their friends as enthusiastic Anarchists.[dcclxviii]

Anarchism, theoretical and practical, is another of the many aspects of real-time labour history which have been left severely alone by Labor’s spokespeople. Globally blighted by the controversy around an 1886 explosion in Chicago and its aftermath known as ‘the Haymarket Affair’, anarchism in all its variations nevertheless achieved substantial credibility. The Knights in the USA received a substantial influx of self-described anarchists in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s. Lane, himself, equated anarchism with ‘mateship’ and put it at the centre of the vigorous debates then occurring over labour members of parliament and revolutionary action in his 1892 novel, Working Man’s Paradise:

The Anarchist ideal is the highest and noblest of all human ideals. I cannot conceive of a good man who does not recognise that, when he once understands it..Anarchical Communism, that is, men working as mates and sharing with one another of their own free will is the highest conceivable form of Socialism in industry.

In another place, also under his pseudonym ‘John Miller’ he wrote:

..Just how this co-operation of the workers is to come about is a matter on which Socialists argue considerably..For myself, I think that voluntary co-operation will show the people at large how to do it, that legislation will then bring about some form or other of state control which will remove the pressure that now makes us hustle one another for a job, and that as we become accustomed to being mates, and our children are born and bred into the same atmosphere, all need for legislation or for state-force of any kind will pass away, and we shall evolve a truly socialistic method of co-operation which we shall uphold without law because we shall all love being mates and all hate the very notion of competing with each other as we do now. Just what this final system will be I do not know.[dcclxix]

Naïve and overly optimistic about human frailties as this shows Lane to have been, the fact remains that at the very time ‘mateship’ was being idealised by Lawson in verse, it was being closely associated by some influential labour activists with a social and political utopia, and being displayed in concrete physical terms of ancient heritage, as at Broken Hill to which I return below.

In much more splendid surroundings than tradesman cottages energies at this time were also being mobilised for a federated nation-state. A wall plaque in the Canberra Federation Exhibition quotes Alfred Deakin, regarded today as ‘the architect of Federation’:

(Federation) must always appear to have been secured by a series of miracles.

What did Deakin mean? In 1891 the International President of the Theosophical Society, Colonel HS Olcott, visited Australia. Although cut short by his having to return to Europe suddenly following the death of the Order’s founder, Mme Blavatsky in London, Olcott’s sojourn was remarkable for the depth of his contacts with this country’s political elite. A highly respected diplomat, he later wrote:

I was fortunate enough to meet some of the leading statesmen of different colonies whose names have figured largely in the recent Federation movement, such as Sir Samuel Griffith, Hon Mr Barton, Sir George R Dibbs, Alfred Deakin, Hon John Woods, and others. Two or three of them occupied the chair at my lectures, and my conversations with them, both upon occult and political matters, were highly interesting: they have enabled me to follow recent events with intelligent understanding of the undercurrent of colonial feeling.[dcclxx]

Edmund Barton, the soon-to-be first Prime Minister, chaired Olcott’s Sydney lecture. Deakin did likewise in Melbourne, when the visitor spoke on ‘Buddhism.’ A founder of the Ibis Lodge of Theosophy in the 1890’s, Deakin, post-1901, maintained contact with Olcott and with Annie Besant, former labour and women’s rights activist, who succeeded Blavatsky as ‘commander’ of Theosophy world-wide and helped establish Co-Masonry.[dcclxxi] From a young age Deakin had been interested in mysticism and spirituality, authoring in 1887 a book entitled Temple and Tomb in India. Describing him as ‘a visionary whose ‘practical’ mysticism has left an enduring legacy in the institutions and the political processes of his beloved nation’, Gabay’s study of Deakin’s inner life and politics concluded with the following:

Like Cardinal Newman, Arthur Balfour, Josiah Royce and other Idealist intellectuals of his time, Deakin was reacting against the current ‘materialism’…in the manner and with the presuppositions at hand, being especially keen to defend immortality as the basis of true morality…What marks Deakin out…were his own remarkable private experiences, and the great authority they were to assume towards the end of his life…His faith was sustained by prophecy and ‘signs’…[dcclxxii]

As theosophist Kynaston has pointed out, just as the work of Freemasons in creating the political structure of the USA was followed by a Masonic design of that nation’s capital city, so the ‘fathering’ of the Australian nation state by a man heavily influenced by theosophy was followed by the designing of this nation’s capital by a husband and wife team who, if not formally members, had very strong theosophical connections.[dcclxxiii] There are other indicators. The founder in 1869 of the Victorian Association of Progressive Spiritualists for which Deakin was a conductor, ie, was involved in the ritual, before entering politics was WH Terry. The ‘WH Terry Lodge’ was one of two which formed the ‘Practical Brotherhood of Spiritualistic Sociologists’ when it was established by JR Davies in Melbourne around 1900. This organisation’s Preamble is very closely modelled on that of the ‘Australasian Knights of Labor’ for which Davies was previously ‘PMW’ or ‘Past Master Workman’, serving on the executive with Federal MP Dr Maloney. JA Andrews and two anarchist comrades established a Theosophical Lodge in Sydney in 1894, the same year that Deakin met Annie Besant there and became a theosophist, suggesting quite a range of admirers at her lectures.

It was in that same year that a Corps of St John’s Ambulance Brigade was ‘initiated’ in Lithgow. Revealing the fraternal heritage of what became in the 20th century a ubiquitous presence at working class sporting and community events, ‘the Zambuks’, the reporter wrote:

the St John’s Ambulance Association was established in England in 1877 by the chapter of the order of St John of Jerusalem, an order which was incorporated by His RH the Prince of Wales as Grand Prior.[dcclxxiv]

If they had not been secret, Sydney’s Cardinal Moran may have recognised the biblical allusions in the rites of the Knights of Labour and the Theosophists in his efforts to emulate the mediating role played by (the Catholic) Bishop Manning in London’s Dock Strike and later labour disputes. Appointed Archbishop of Sydney in 1884, Moran had shown his rigid hand while still a bishop in Ireland. In 1876, the Irish National Foresters indicated they were prepared to change their rules to ‘meet objections against certain affectations of mystery’ to obtain his approval but even this was insufficient ‘flexibility’. In 1877 he refused to endorse the Leinster United Trades Association on the grounds that ‘the rules offer scope for intrigue and subterfuge’, and that the name ‘United Trades’ was

borne by many associations that have proved themselves hotbeds of secret organisations and every social disorder, and have brought ruin to thousands in England.[dcclxxv]

According to Ford, Moran gave his approval when the Association changed its name to the Kilkenny Artisans Association, appointed an honorary chaplain, and arranged for quarterly reception of ‘the sacraments’ by members. Charles Dilke, English MP who made a fact-finding tour in the 1880’s wrote later that Moran’s prohibition on Australian Catholics receiving any of the sacraments while they were enrolled in any ‘secret society’ was a more rigorous ban than any that applied elsewhere.[dcclxxvi]

Ford’s study of the ‘encounter between Moran and Socialism’ in NSW between 1890 and 1907 is strongly partisan. He conflates communism and anarchism with state socialism, and NSW with Australia, and argues that Moran’s was the key role in the ‘deflection’ of the State Labor Party into moderate ‘trade union’ policies, thereby supposedly making possible the 20th century mass entry of Catholics into the ALP. Ford argues that as a result of Moran’s influence over Catholic voters in NSW, Australian democracy was defended and bigotry defeated:

This influence and (his insistence on a plurality of political parties) were, both, a contribution to his ideal of a free society – and the more significant for coming at a time when Australia’s new democracy was emerging.[dcclxxvii]

Ford added:

Of no less value, however, was his repeated assertion of the necessity of promoting ancillary social institutions (‘the intermediate institutions’ of Pope John XXIII) such as benefit societies and housing co-operatives, as basic to a free society.

The Cardinal’s dogma that Catholics could not be socialists, which effectively narrowed the possible ‘plurality’, was matched by his further assertion that only Catholic societies were acceptable. He often used meetings of the HACBS, the INF’s and the AHCG to speak his mind on social issues. Ford does allow that Moran’s pronouncements and his candidature for the Federation Convention in 1897, resulted in his clashing violently ‘with extreme Protestants’:

The bitterness which resulted was severe and may explain a tendency to sectarian hyper-sensitiveness in Australia that does not seem to exist in England.[dcclxxviii]

Local anxieties were again intensifying about the degree to which a growing personal independence fitted, on the one hand, with the asserted alignment of ‘the Crown’ and the Church of England, and with Catholic claims to be ‘the one true faith’, on the other. Anti-Catholics asserted ‘papists’ were voting for Protection candidates en masse because they were ordered to by the Church, a consideration much debated by historians since. The Catholic response included assertions that the Lord Mayor of Sydney in 1889 was expelled from the Orange Order because he attended a Ball held for St Vincent’s Hospital. Two MPs were expelled at the same time, one of whom put this minor furore in the context of land reform, the Sudan Contingent and the likelihood of defeating the Stuart Government:

Mr Stuart was denounced and made to feel the constant opposition of prominent members of the Orange Institution because he had the talented and liberal-minded Dalley as his Attorney-General; but they do not denounce Sir H Parkes for having Mr D O‘Connor as a colleague. Oh, no, this is fiscal, not popery.[dcclxxix]

With Federation looming, the ‘Brunswick Riots’ of 1896 and ‘97 were a severe test of will. The first was a direct result of forces unwilling to allow Orange celebrations:

The intention was originally that the members of the LOI and Protestant Alliance should hold a parade, and then march to the Wesleyan church, where a service was to be held..As the procession was abandoned, the brethren to the number of over 200, including many representatives from other suburbs, assembled in regalia in the enclosure surrounding the church, and marched into the church preceded by an officer bearing a cushion, on which lay a copy of an open Bible.[dcclxxx]

The packed congregation, assembled around the Orange brethren sitting on a raised platform, continued to be assailed and ‘boo-hooed’ by crowds outside during the ‘impressive’ service and afterwards. Despite having the necessary permits, the LOI leaders were informed by the police that under the ‘Unlawful Assemblies Act’ they would be responsible for any disturbance of the peace brought on by the ‘mob’ of ‘not fewer than 15,000’ thronging the streets:

The contagion of riot soon spread, and scrimmages developed in all directions. Boys perched on hoardings took a devilish delight in pointing out where specks of orange appeared in the crowd, and gloating over the scenes that followed.[dcclxxxi]

Discussions in parliament and elsewhere between that and the next July produced conflicting legal opinions about police powers when common wisdom said trouble was bound to re-occur. They also produced the Melbourne Post Office Inquiry and a book compiled by a Catholic priest, which quickly ran to eleven editions.[dcclxxxii] During the Inquiry of 1896, where charges against a Catholic postal employee were heard and dismissed, the chaplain of the Queen’s Own Lodge in Melbourne, composed entirely of Public Servants, claimed it to be the ‘largest Orange lodge in the world.’[dcclxxxiii] Crowds in Brunswick streets in July, 1897 have been estimated at twice the previous year’s total:

..A few wild spirits, led by a woman, broke into incipient riot; but they were arrested, incontinently bundled into cabs and taken to the lock-up…(But) for the heavy restraining hand of the police the demonstration must have ended in disaster..A dozen arrests and a head slightly injured by a policeman’s baton represent the whole known results of the lawlessness of the day.[dcclxxxiv]

Coolgardie, in the west was rocked by similar conflict in 1897[dcclxxxv], as was Southern Cross (WA) in 1901. These outbursts were exceptions to the rule of administrative conformity, centralisation and selective tolerance spreading across the continent, but were not the only exceptions. As anxiety battled optimism and the century drew to a close, Amy Castles, a shy Catholic girl from Bendigo thrust too quickly towards national and international stardom as ‘the new Melba’, became a tragic casualty of the faith-based wars. Nellie Melba, of course, was Protestant, and living the high life of a diva in the northern hemisphere. The showman-priest, Robinson, the girl’s mentor and the person partly responsible for what became ‘the Castles’ boom’, no doubt applauded when The Catholic Press wrote:

It is remarkable that all Australian singers of note are Catholic.[dcclxxxvi]

There have been far too many Catholic sodalities, fraternities and like organisations to track in detail examples of their discrimination against non-Catholics, and it is probably unnecessary to point out the proscriptions the RC Church has effected against mixed-marriages and other forms of consorting with the alleged enemy.[dcclxxxvii] The Catholic Press in 1899 did manage to recount how a Catholic chemist in Sydney had been boycotted by members of the St Davids Lodge No 35 of the PAFS because, after five years of service, he had ‘suddenly discovered’ his religion.[dcclxxxviii] In Queensland, also at the end of the century, attacks on Catholic agendas and an ‘unnatural Protestant ascendancy’ led some of the faithful to argue that a growing Masonic movement had taken over the Orange agenda:

Freemasonry stood for a concerted aggression against every claim of the Church as a supernatural polity – this, Pius IX’s excommunication of all (Masons) made clear on both sides.[dcclxxxix]

There appears to be plenty of fire among the smoke which, in the new century, was to feed into the conscription and later the ‘Catholic Action’ debates, but it also has to be said, that, on both sides, to obtain a reaction it was only sufficient that members of one group believed that ‘they’ were out to get ‘us’. Fear remained a potent weapon, whatever the realities, well into the 20th century. Fear of Jesuits, in particular, was a strong emotional trigger for the Australian Protestant Defence Association begun in Sydney in 1902 by the Reverend Dill-Mackey and designed “to draw the Orange Lodges and the wider membership of the Churches into ‘union in political action.’”[dccxc] The APDA quickly spread numbered ‘lodges’ throughout NSW.


Chinese Fraternalism

Chinese ‘Freemasonry’, as it has come to be known, stems from very old benefit societies probably introduced here when immigrants from China came to the gold rush settlements of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland in the 1850’s. In ritual details and in format completely unlike Freemasonry of either the British or the mainland European varieties, these brethren, nevertheless, swore an oath of secrecy and allegiance to ‘the brotherhood’ and lived by rules which exhorted them to observe a similar philosophy of mutual aid and ‘mateship’. Lepper has provided a valuable, concise summary of the 36 rules of the Heaven and Earth Brotherhood, for example:

If a brother be poor, you must help him; otherwise may you die on the road;

A brother must nourish another brother; if you have food you must share it with him; if you do not may a tiger devour you;

He who commits adultery with a brother’s wife, let him be run through with a sword;

He who mentions the thirty-six oaths of the brotherhood must have two hundred and sixteen strokes of the red wood.[dccxci]

In one version, the movement’s adherents fled from mainland China as political refugees known as Hung Mun to offshore havens including to Australia from where reports of ‘a new gold mountain’ were circulating. More recent scholarship disputes this claim, asserting that the bulk of migrants were deliberately brought by agents established in Australia and that this was a major function of the ‘lodges’.

It has been estimated that about 20 million Chinese migrated overseas during and since the 19th century. Most worked as labourers in mining, on road construction and as farm hands. In contrast to extensive material published on these societies in South East Asia and North America, very little has been made available with regard to their history in this country, partly because of few known primary resources.

In 1992, the Bendigo Chinese Association found a ‘Hongmen cabalistic tract’. This has now been translated. With work on gravestones, other records and surviving temple artifacts comparisons, have been able to begin. Any Hongmen member possessing such a manuscript could propogate the association, so whether a tract was a transcribed copy or had been purchased or inherited, whoever possessed it ‘could disseminate the society and become a headman.’[dccxcii]

Not that Bendigo was a naturally receptive environment. Holdsworth, curator and researcher at the Goldfields Research Centre, Bendigo in 2006, believed that Bendigo was unusual amongst Victorian towns with Chinese ‘lodges.’ Being an extremely ‘unionised’ town, for example, the original source of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association, Bendigo was the last amongst Victorian towns to accept Chinese involvement in cultural life. It was also the home base of the architect of legislation disenfranchising Chinese residents, the man who later became Sir John Quick.

John Fitzgerald, now at La Trobe University, disputes much of this, also pointing to recent research.[dccxciii] He argues that this shows that in Bendigo the white community leadership worked closely with the Chinese community to ensure continuous participation in local affairs, though not always without tension. Holdsworth argues that members of friendly societies withdrew their support in the late 1880’s when local authorities gave money to the Chinese ‘lodge’ to participate in community events but none to them.[dccxciv]

Fitzgerald believes there is no evidence that Chinese ‘lodges’ subsequently started calling themselves ‘Masonic’ to ward off racist attacks. The newly-opened archives of NSW’s United Grand Lodge are providing insights into connections between Freemasonry and the Yee Hing networks in late 19th and early 20th century Sydney.[dccxcv] However, the label ‘Masonic’ remains problematic. Fitzgerald suggests it was more likely a case of ‘uneducated country folk’ attempting to attain a cloak of greater respectability by adopting the name, with no attempt made to formalize a connection with official Freemasonry.

This is possibly the case with Quong Tart who died a respected Sydney businessman widely regarded as the first Australian Chinese member of a regular Masonic lodge. He had earlier been a member of ‘the Foresters’ and the IOOFMU, his wife later claiming him to have been the first Chinese man elected to an Odd Fellows lodge in NSW. Naturalised in 1871, he joined MU’s Unity Lodge No 46 at Araluen, a small mining camp near Braidwood, NSW. When that closed he must have transferred to Miners’ Refuge, No 73, at Major’s Creek, his ‘brothers’ presenting him with an Illuminated Address in March, 1881. At his death in 1903, the Professional Musicians Association Brass Band played, the Presbyterian Archdeacon spoke and the Very Worthy Brother FR Bretnall, Past Grand Registrar and Secretary of the Lodge of Tranquility read the Masonic burial service attended by forty other brethren.[dccxcvi]

The Hongmen Tiandihui was more accurately a fraternal mutual benefit society utilizing the distinguishing features of oaths, secret ritual and regalia, all directed at obligating members to help one another especially at times of hardship and calamity. I am tempted to refer to it as a Friendly Society of the ANA kind, because it had explicitly political objectives. As Cai Shaoqing has it:

The numerous Chinese labourers were away from home, helpless and isolated. They joined the Hongmen as sworn brothers for mutual support to protect their livelihood and mutual interests, and to counter racist discrimination and mistreatment by the colonial government and the white colonialists.[dccxcvii]

This author describes three stages in the society’s development. The first, from 1851 to 1875, was, roughly, the period of arrival, establishment and expansion. Cai Shaoqing deduces around half the Chinese population in the country were members. From 1875 to 1900, all Chinese were harshly treated by non-Chinese and the Society was inactive or very circumspect. Many Chinese moved to the cities and took up other occupations. The third stage, 1901 to 1921 was marked by rising Chinese nationalism and transformation of the Society into a social and political force. Its organisation actively opposed the ‘White Australia’ policy, set up a newspaper and agitated for the establishment of a Chinese Consulate in Sydney. It was in this period that Clubs were established and the title ‘Masonic’ adopted.

Price quotes Oddie’s MA thesis to the effect that an Anti-Chinese League, revived by the United Furniture Trade Society in Victoria in 1887-89

received considerable support from the (ANA), a combined benevolent and political association for professional men, business men and small farmers (with) branches in many suburbs and country towns, most of whom wished to keep the Australian continent free for a predominantly Anglo-Saxon race and society, and for other Europeans willing and able to conform to British-Australian ways.[dccxcviii]

The Anti-Chinese League, in Price’s paraphrase of Oddie, sought to convince

every voter and member that Chinese were socially undesirable and economically dangerous, that all future immigration should be prohibited, that Chinese residents should pay an annual residence tax of 20 (Pound), that no further Chinese should be naturalized, and that any naturalized Chinese leaving the colony, even for a short trip, should at once lose his citizenship.

The League apparently won ‘support from many other Unions’, organized numerous meetings in suburbs and country towns, and sent deputations to Parliament in July and August, 1887. Similar activities occurred in NSW and Queensland, where, as in Victoria, emotions had been roused by an economic recession which lasted well into the 1890’s.

Another disputed assertion is that unlike their countrymen in other countries, the Chinese in Australia were culturally homogeneous and that inter-racial battles between ‘lodges’ were rare. One widely acknowledged exception was a fierce armed conflict in Melbourne in 1904 between Hongmen and the Bao Liang Society over opium and gambling interests, after which the Bao Liang lost credibility and dissolved around 1912.[dccxcix] There was also a period of ‘faction fights’ in Sydney’s George Street in 1892. Quong Tart, with others, convened a conciliating committee and though abused by some Chinese for opportunism succeeded in apparently easing tensions between a Loon-Ye-Tong group and a Dwoon Goon group.[dccc]

In his recent book, Chinese Lodges in Australia, the Bendigo tract’s translator, Kok Hu Jin has concluded:

firstly, that the overseas pursuit of gold had to be a group enterprise, involving mutual dependency and support; second, that lodges generally reflected pre-migration bonds and associations, and thirdly, that each lodge maintained its own temple for the local membership, and was directly involved in sponsorship of more immigrants. The temple was therefore, ‘office, headquarters, meeting place and ceremonial centre.’

His research approach exposes clear similarities to fraternals drawn from Europe, and thus suggests paths not yet pursued by scholars of ‘our’ lodges. For example:

Many artefacts…identify the lodges with which the temple followers who donated them were affiliated. In turn, one may then trace links, whether of common geographic origin, ancestry, clan or language, between groups of immigrants scattered far and wide around the Australian continent.[dccci]

Dr Kok Hu Jin sets out the various names under which the Hung League family of brotherhood associations have been known – ‘the Heaven and Earth Society’, ‘the Heaven-Earth-League’, ‘the Three United Society (Heaven, Earth, Man)’ and the ‘Triad Society of Heaven and Earth Society.’ After the British Government ordered the breaking up of the Society on the Malay Peninsular in the late 19th century, some surviving factions went underground and degenerated into gangsterism, the now dreaded ‘triads’.

He believes that it was Sun Yat Sen, 20th century nationalist and republican, who undertook from mainland China the reorganization of the Hungmen which resulted in the adoption of the label ‘Masonic’ in Australia, and presumably elsewhere. Fitzgerald finds this connection unlikely, especially for Australia. Interestingly, Dr Sun’s emblem, adopted by the Nationalists in China, was a 12-rayed rising sun. In the North American case, researchers have claimed that:

At the turn of the century Sun Yat-Sen obtained considerable financial support from chapters of the Chih-kung T’ang in North America. In San Francisco over 2,000,000 dollars in revolutionary currency was printed. In British Columbia the chapters mortgaged their buildings to raise money for the republican cause. [dcccii]

All of which suggests there is much more to be learnt about these organisations here.


The Example of Broken Hill

In this remote region, far away from the charms and fascinations of civilisation, plodding into the bowels of the earth, extracting its silvery ore, Ireland’s exiled sons are to be found building up a mighty association, not alone for their mutual protection, but, quickened by the spirit of freedom they so appreciably enjoy, to record the sufferings, the trials, the exploits and triumphs of their ancestors; and, above all, to celebrate with due honour and solemnity the national festival of Ireland, St Patrick’s Day. Surely we have reason to feel proud of our brethren at Broken Hill..

HACBS Annual Report, 1890, p.9.


Thought to have seen more parades than any other town in Australia up to the 1st World War, Broken Hill exemplifies, perhaps in extremis, conditions under which mining communities fought to survive against both internal and external forces insistent that autonomy and local independence would not. From the beginning of mining there in the 1880’s:

The destruction of the vegetation around the town increased the severity of naturally-occurring dust storms, and the town itself was treeless and dusty. Domestic life was spartan. The luckier families lived in small iron cottages that became furnaces during the summers, and single men stayed in poorly-ventilated, over-crowded lodging houses…

The generally-trying conditions and the shortage of fresh food decreased resistance to sickness, while

drought increased the prevalence of contaminated drinking water; flies breeding around open, cesspit toilets spread disease…A typhoid epidemic took 123 lives during 1888…(The) death rate was twice the State’s average…Local welfare issues dominated the election of the first council..

Alcohol consumption was enormous and spin off effects widespread. Nevertheless, and despite the wealth which flowed to the State, shareholders and directors:

Government neglect of Broken Hill’s welfare was matched by the companies’ apathy and in particular by the negligence of the BHP..A few mine managers took an interest in the men’s lives, but most were transients who contributed little to the town. Others displayed an almost contemptuous disinterest. WH Patton, BHP’s manager from 1888-1890 rarely donated any of his opulent salary to local causes and in 1889 he refused to open the new hospital.[dccciii]

‘The Hill’s’ collective experience documents the blood, the sweat and the tears of the live human beings who created ‘the lodges’ and the lodge movement to satisfy, not whims, but basic needs. It also highlights how different people, for different reasons have sanitised the story to foster various mythologies.

A branch of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association [AMA] was formed in 1886, membership reaching 1,000 in 1888. Its first Secretary, Griffin, was forced out in that year for being too aggressive, lacking tact and capacity to negotiate. The new President, O’Neil, introduced ‘stewards’, a very old fraternal position, one for every 25 members. This close, personal attention induced many to join. In July, the following year, an assertive, charismatic leader, Richard Sleath, was elected President, and it was he who determined upon a push for compulsory unionism of the AMA.

The AMA had been established at Bendigo in 1874 using as guidelines rules of the National Miners Association of Britain. When the Hill’s branch was set up, WG Spence, the AMA’s secretary, wrote suggesting that the mine managements be advised that the AMA ‘did not believe in strikes’ and that all conciliatory approaches would have to be exhausted before ‘such extreme action’ would be taken.[dccciv]

During the 1880’s boom times ‘the Hill’ was administered and organised more by the rich and influential than by the working people or their organisations. There were, for example, sufficient professionals for an annual football match to be staged between the lawyers and bankers on one side and ‘the brokers’ on the other.[dcccv] This meant, among other things, that numerous entertainments were advertised as being ‘for the elite’ and that an SF lodge was initiated at Silverton (then still called Umberumberka and the precursor of Broken Hill proper, about 25kms distant) before even a makeshift ‘hospital’ was functioning there, and long before there was any rail-line into or out of the Barrier Ranges area.[dcccvi] Subsequent notices indicate the continuing strength of this lodge, and, while it was open to all comers, show its executive dominated by the first doctors in the area.

However, before the Masonic fraternity had found a home, and before the AMA arrived, a ‘Barrier Ranges Miners Association’ was set up at Silverton as a ‘friendly society’:

At a meeting held on Saturday evening last to receive the report of the committee appointed on September 27th to prepare a programme for the formation of a miners’ association on this field, it was resolved that the proposed association should take the form of a friendly society, to afford succour to members who may sustain personal injury through any mining accident.[dcccvii]

This is no soft, a-political group, in need of replacement by more ‘modern’ organisation:

A motion was carried to the effect that the standard rate of wages to be recognised by the society shall be 10s per day of eight hours.

Similarly, at a nearby mining camp, Purnamoota, a separate ‘Miners’ Protective Society’ was mooted, ‘to guard against the reduction of wages, to regulate the hours of labour, and to assist miners in case of strikes.’

In early 1884, the first attempt at ‘an institution for the sick’ was a large tent, a ‘doubtful improvement’ on the oven-like humpy from which the patient had been removed. This, ‘Silverton Hospital’ was in financial trouble within 3 months. The greater number of its 28 cases resulted from ‘intemperance’. So great was the influx of miners at this time and so great their thirst and that of their families, that Reschs’ Brewery had re-located from Wilcannia, and extended its operations into cordial manufacture.

The Miners’ Association made a priority of helping the Hospital, donating 5 guineas at the 20 December, 1884 meeting which confirmed the Association’s President and Secretary and which received a letter from the Hospital Committee ‘intimating that five admission tickets’ would be placed at the Association’s disposal.[dcccviii]

The Hospital’s ‘chief surgeon’ in 1885, Dr Thompson, was forced to respond to newspaper claims of poor management, patients able to go and come as they pleased, even to the pub, and able to harass other patients or staff, the chief wardsman being often absent because of his own drunkenness. Little wonder, the editor opined, that the hospital had little public support.[dcccix]

The ‘Bonanza Lodge’ of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows opened soon after with Dr Thompson as its lodge ‘attendant’. Organisers of the ‘Odd Fellows Ball’ in 1885 sought to ensure the event was ‘select’, no doubt a euphemism for sober, by securing prior ticket sales and monitoring admissions.

With an enlarging population already moving from Silverton to the new settlement at Broken Hill where a site for a ‘temporary’ hospital was being sought, arrangements were put in place whereby each miner was to contribute 6d per week to the Silverton ‘hospital’. The Barrier Miners Association initially opposed the Hospital Committee’s claim early in 1886 for a further 6d/week from each subscriber. Just established, the Committee asserted itself by declaring that unless the BMA’s opposition was withdrawn forthwith the miners would cease payments altogether and call for new tenders for medical attendance and drugs provision.

The inevitability of the full fraternal context is clear from the language being used, eg, the AMA’s Barrier Branch brethren were informed by their ‘Grand Lodge’ in Victoria, which no doubt included Spence, that their dispensation, or ‘lodge charter’, would be forwarded as soon as it was signed.[dcccx] In the same vein, boundary-rider and finder of the original mine lode, Charles Rasp, donated a site for the Umberumberka SF Lodge building, and Silverton businesses observed a half-holiday for St Patrick celebrations in March.

In April, 1886 the Odd Fellows held their first Annual Sports and the AMA met to consider applications for the position of its ‘lodge medical officer.’ Dr Thompson’s tender was the lowest and therefore accepted. He undertook to attend a member, his wife and family for 6 1/2d a week and to visit the region’s mines at least once a week, and in all cases of sickness or accident. Many of the populace, especially Irish Catholics and Cornish Wesleyans, remained keen to avoid being treated ‘in hospital’.

In 1887, a wooden building housing six beds was erected. It was managed by a Committee who, in 1888, appointed a Matron and the first nurse and ‘medico’. The state of that second ‘hospital’ can be imagined by the fact that it also was replaced in 1889 with a building accommodating 76 beds. Though a vast improvement, in July, 1889 the new Hospital still required a complete floor, while drainage and the removal of nightsoil remained problems. In this month, a letter writer to the Silver Age put a new spin on old complaints about ‘friendly societies’:

Sir – I notice there is a movement on foot among the Broken Hill benefit societies to boycott the local medical faculty, rather than adopt their recommendations to raise the weekly subscription to a sum proportioned to the serious character of the work in a new place like Broken Hill…

Leaving out of consideration the Holy Hibernian Society, which has a method quite its own in meeting the difficulty, the subscriptions paid by the ordinary Oddfellows, Druids, Foresters and similar societies amount on an average to what would hardly provide 6d for each visit and not 6d for medicine, and it is this pittance it is now proposed to reduce…

Three or four of our medical men have already left us through sheer inadequacy of payments received. A little less money spent on banners and flummery and a penny or twopence a week more on the first necessity for life in a place like this would do much to raise the character and usefulness of these societies…

…Assuredly all who sympathise with the many trials of the working classes…most devoutly hope that the legislation promised since the publication of the report of the royal commission on the state of the friendly societies of the colony will not be much longer delayed.[dcccxi] (My emphasis)

Other anecdotal evidence indicates some doctors believed that, since the typhoid epidemic the previous year, Broken Hill had become ‘too healthy’ to support the number of medicos in the region.[dcccxii]

The then editor of the Silver Age provided column space for Catholic events and for Presbyterian Temperance festivities but the societies named by the letter writer, Oddfellows, Druids, Foresters, rarely if ever ‘speak out’ here or in the rival Barrier Miner. The few mentions are not complimentary:

Only a very meagre attendance rewarded the efforts of the promoters of the Oddfellows Sports yesterday. Those who did not witness them lost very little amusement as the arrangements were in a very incomplete state. [dcccxiii]

Even when provoked, the ‘friendlies’ managed nary a peep, either in their own defence, or for the collective good. No statements appear from them on the various hospital crises or medical situations which directly affected them. This lack of assertion outside ‘lodge’ may have stemmed from a perceived prohibition on getting involved in public ‘issues’ or from their having a captive audience. In any event it was, in 1889 and has often been since, a major contributor to their lack of profile when a public presence would have been useful, even necessary. Perhaps this was why the Silver Age editor trumpeted a need for expressions of popular passion:

Today being the Fourth of July and the anniversary of the greatest event of modern history – the declaration of American Independence – will not be observed as a holiday in Broken Hill, though many lesser events are so marked.(Even) Americans on the field seem not to care since last year.[dcccxiv]

More generally he asserted:

On various occasions we have pointed…to the fact that the dwellers in Broken Hill and district are not a united family. Every man appears to be so absorbed in his own particular form of worship of the Golden Calf that he has neither ears nor eyes for anything that does not directly and immediately affect his pocket…[dcccxv]

By the time of this editorial, sufficient mass had been achieved to make it worthwhile for individuals to wrestle for control of municipal affairs and for fraternities to compete with one another. The Rechabites, Sons and Daughters of Temperance, the IOOF and the ‘Manchester Unity’ were now in place and competing with the Grand United Odd Fellows. In March, 1889, just before the ‘Mutual Imps’ and ‘the Buffaloes’ set up lodges, the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen established theirs. The ANA’s first Broken Hill lodge, set up in July, 1889 and determined to affiliate with South Australia, was initially perceived as being more concerned with dances and social events than with the grind of a push for Federation. A Women’s Christian Temperance lecturess visited the area in July sparking a local branch, and the LOI’s Silver Star Lodge celebrated its first 12th of July.

There are very few public signs of faith-based conflict in Broken Hill, not because all energies were going into ‘industrial’ matters, but perhaps because this remote and almost self-contained community was not kept agitated by overseas events as those in the capital cities were. Catholics were the second-largest denomination by number, after Methodists, and had a designated church from 1887, a convent school from 1889, and later an orphanage and a cathedral.[dcccxvi] Perhaps the overall domination by Protestantism rendered Catholicism mute in its own interest.

A Medical and Accident Fund set up originally by mine owners and managers but run by the AMA from March, 1889 and healthy enough to pay its Secretary, WJ Ferguson, £96 pa, appears not to have had the defining fraternal features.[dcccxvii] The executive of the AMA certainly did, including distinctive regalia down to local branch level. The Builders Labourers Society and Accident Fund conducted initiations at this time and operated a full panoply of lodge roles including that of a tyler.[dcccxviii]

The AMA led the procession to the opening of the Hospital in June, 1889. It then ordered an expensive banner and white gloves for the use of their Chief Marshall in the first parade on their own behalf later that year. Moves such as this towards an enhanced public presence by an ambitious leadership in competition for numbers and prestige strengthened a broad sense of fraternal solidarity across the rank-and-file of all societies, while aiding the push for strict enforcement of union-only mine working.

Sleath, as incoming President from July, had himself ‘conducted’ to his chair by the presiding officer. He saw immediately that opportunities existed for his organisation to be more than just a branch of a miners’ society. He set about establishing sub-branches at outlying mining camps for which ‘his’ branch was to play the role of a ‘Grand Lodge’. Miners were the largest occupational group, but there were competitors for their allegiance, and there were messy, residual issues from its earliest formations, including opposition to a mining inspector and certain membership qualifications. Previously, exemptions had been made amongst AMA-memberships for fathers introducing their sons to ‘face-mining’ at lower rates of pay and blind eyes had been turned to late payment of subscriptions and the like. But since the local ‘union’ had become part of the broader AMA a huge influx of members had occurred, and old miners such as George Hobbs, Committee-man with the Medical and Accident Fund but a seceder from the AMA because of what he said had been time-wasting and ‘certain obnoxious resolutions’, now re-joined. [dcccxix]

In August, 1889, the Hospital’s books showed that it was broke, some Masonic brethren, including the editor of the Silver Age, gushed at the visit of the South Australian Governor Earl Kintore and his wife the Countess to ‘their’ Ball, and the area’s first Arbor Day attracted a large crowd. A German Club was set up in September and a first Court of the Ancient Order of Foresters was formalised in October, 1889. In September, the Silver Age (SA) gave extensive coverage to the visit of AMA Secretary Spence and President Burton to what was now the largest Branch of that society. It publicised the Catholic Church’s injunction that:

Any Catholic who joins any benefit society except the Hibernian Society will be deprived of Christian burial.[dcccxx] (My emphasis)

The AMA Sports in October were accorded a general holiday, the Silver Age saying they ‘marked the beginning of a new era.’ Organisers hoped for 2,000 miners but achieved only half that while the 100 or so members of the FEDFA who marched were outnumbered by 200 Odd Fellows and 200 Druids, stirred into significant action by their rivals. When they chose to march with other societies as many did, AMA members were asked to wear their AMA badge, a rosette of blue, red and white ribbon.[dcccxxi]

Their numbers and their allegiance were affected by a protest-movement against Sleath’s heavy-handed tactics and suspicions that the books were being ‘cooked’. Still in October, a fire threatened the building where the Barrier Branch held its meetings, prompting some members to organise a round-the-clock guard of the records.[dcccxxii] An inquest into the fire produced an open finding, and, equally unconvincingly, the books were cleared by an internal Committee.[dcccxxiii]

The AMA Branch executive entered into negotiations about the Medical and Accident Fund over Rules drawn up by ‘the entire medical profession of the city’. In November, they claimed successful conclusion of talks and ‘a new departure for the entire colony in the matter of medical services to the wage-earning classes.’ Benefits of Fund-membership were listed as ‘relief in case of sickness, accident, strike pay, loss of tools, death, and superannuation.’’ The AMA had no ‘appointed doctor’ because it recognised none of those available and had, only reluctantly, become involved in discussion of types of ‘ambulance vans’ which needed to be on stand-by at all the major mines. Developments revealed it had backed the wrong horse. By January, 1890, ‘their’ Fund was declared non-viable, its balances to be distributed back to subscribers.[dcccxxiv]

The AMA ‘stewards’ in and around the mines were dealing with the practical implications of a union-only policy:

It is no secret that men of other trades and callings have been allowed to join what otherwise should have been a close companionship of men having one calling and whose interests were in common in every respect.[dcccxxv]

The Silver Age was here referring to tradesmen such as barbers and bootmakers. The carpenters, mechanics and surface operatives more directly affected by the strike declared by the underground miners on 7 November, 1889, immediately began to form their own societies rather than join the AMA.

Competition between the Silver Age and the newly-established Barrier Miner began, centred on the allegiance of the miners, the largest group of consumers. Yet the SA, insisting its office was fully-unionised opposed the actions of the AMA in pulling out 2,000 men because ‘a handful of men would not join the ranks’, and further claimed the BM was only a reluctant supporter of the Typographical Society but a groveller at the feet of the AMA. Although issues of the Barrier Miner are missing for the period July-December, 1889, later editorials showed its loud, repeated support for the AMA, despite Sleath’s personality clearly forcing it into less-than-positive reflections on AMA-leadership.[dcccxxvi]

Having supported the London dock workers in their strike, the AMA received £1000 in return, and its demonstration of strength only required a week to convince the employers of a need to settle. The Terms of Agreement, however, directly affected the local political situation by being the first step in an attempt to quarantine ‘the Hill’ from strike situations elsewhere:


  1. The AMA will as early as possible take means to have the Barrier District made a colonial district so that the executive [of the AMA] may control their own affairs and draw up such rules as will be approved of by a committee of managers.
  2. Shift bosses and foremen are not to be compelled to join the union, but may form a union for themselves.
  3. The surface men and furnace hands can form a union of their own, and may be affiliated with the AMA.
  4. Tradesmen and mechanics already members of recognised societies are not to be compelled to join the AMA.
  5. The companies undertake to collect the dues for each of the unions on pay day, and hand the same over to the duly appointed officer of the unions, who will be present on pay day.
  6. Work to be resumed on the mines forthwith – that is, as far as possible.
  7. It is understood that no local union will be recognised by the employers unless exceeding in numbers 100. If below that number permission must be obtained from the AMA Executive and Managers Association before it can be formed.
  8. All past differences to be forgotten.[dcccxxvii]

Sleath attempted intimidation of the local, ‘embryonic’ unions to induce them to enter the AMA-fold. He argued to a meeting of surface hands, for example, that the terms of agreement (above) denied them permission to establish a society until after the AMA was re-instituted as a Colonial District, and that until that time they must join the AMA. The surface hands initially accepted the argument but upon reflection determined to proceed independently and quickly achieved the required membership numbers. [dcccxxviii]

Truckers, teamsters and other trade groups forming their own societies had also to consider whether to affiliate with the AMA as a de-facto ‘Trades and Labour Council’, or with a breakaway group attempting to establish itself as the T&LC and eager to have the Parkes-Government give it rights to land proposed for a ‘Trades Hall’. These divided into pro- and anti-AMA groups.

Although Sleath was a delegate to the AMA Conference in Dunolly, Victoria in February, he was defeated at the municipal elections the same month, along with his co-delegate Neil. The Barrier Miner enraged Sleath by commenting, ‘hear, hear’.

A Combined Conference of trade societies met in March without an official AMA-delegate to consider the question of a ‘Trades Hall’. Two crucial ballots determined to resist the AMA push to be the ‘T&LC’ and to insist that strike-monies paid to the AMA in November, 1889 be distributed to all societies involved. The AMA in ‘the Barrier’ became Colonial District No 3, and Sleath became ‘Colonial District Secretary.’ An argument immediately broke out between the various ‘branches’ in the area as to whether the Barrier Branch as the largest should be able to outvote all the others combined.

In April, 1890, the NSW Premer, Parkes laid the foundation stone for an AMA Hall and promised a further site for a Trades Hall to accompany the Town Hall and a Masonic Hall, then under construction. In May, the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen [FEDFA] indicated it had already affiliated to the ‘Broken Hill Trades and Labour Council’ when Sleath & Co invited it to join the AMA.

Midway through 1890, as an uneasy, industrial calm settled on the region, the Barrier Miner’s new editor, Nelson P Whitelocke, redoubled efforts to make that paper the preferred voice of the AMA. Responsible for the ‘4th of July’ editorial (above) when at the Silver Age, this brash individual could have passed as a Yankee adventurer. The very racist editorial, ‘Those Coons’ of 2 May, 1889, ‘Knights of Labor’ editorials and column inches given to the Independent Order of Good Templars and the Roman Catholics in both papers would then be more easily explicable. Actually a descendant of William Lawson,[dcccxxix] conqueror of the Blue Mountain barrier, his entry into labour movement politics coincided with very public instances of USA cultural influence. Baseball was the featured group game at the Hibernian Sports in March, 1889, ‘a lady baseballist’ being prominent.[dcccxxx]

Whitelocke may have a broader significance than his support for the US of A and fraternal societies would give him. He articulated so clearly and so completely the self-deluding, bombastic mythology on which the embryonic labour movement was driven from over-reaching optimism to defeat in the space of six months in 1890, that one wonders how broadly he was read. As already noted, his editorial to celebrate ‘The Glorious Fourth’ in July, 1890 spoke of the Knights of Labor unfurling ‘their great trade banners’ whereupon

the freeman’s golden sun will rise up and…kiss…the majestic figure of Freedom, which holds aloft the flaming torch to light a world to Liberty.[dcccxxxi]

He puffed his own ability as a sketch-artist, a la Hop of The Bulletin and then delivered a likeness of the sitting Mayor of Broken Hill, Thomas Coombe. A fortnight later he published his sketch for the AMA (Broken Hill Branch) banner, wherein the stylised figures of ‘Capital’ and ‘Labour’ shook hands, man-to-man.[dcccxxxii] Between these two activities he delivered a definitive editorial, ‘Labor, Capital, Unionism and Strikes’. It is replete with bloody images of ‘the insatiable employer’ and ‘the suffering of the poor toilers’ of past times being replaced with ‘the emancipation of Labor’ by way of a newly-devised ‘unionism’, which if provoked by repression will prove unstoppable. He insists an equality of interest exists between the starkly-drawn protagonists, but issued a warning:

So long as the poor rise, as at Hyde Park [London] they recently rose, and the military can be found to silence them with bayonet and bullet, so long will revolution be kept in check; but once let the troops reverse and side with the starving masses of their fellow countrymen…(then) the bloodiest struggle that ever filled a revolutionised country will be fought out to the certain victory of the masses in that wonderful city, Babylon the Great.

Then will Labor take not only what it had the right to demand (but that to which it has no right, the Blood of Capitalists) by means which will shake the British Throne to the ground, and raise up the Presidential chair of a second English Republic.

Capital has its rights, but so has Labor, and both these are identical. And if the former continue to oppress the latter when just concession is demanded chaos must come, and with it a destruction of life and property the most gloomy of us do not yet realise.[dcccxxxiii]

He railed against the unemployed, then marching in Melbourne, as ‘loafers and gaol birds’ led by professional agitators, probably in the pay of conservative plutocrats determined to undermine Protectionism and Protectionist Victoria in favour of Free Trade NSW.[dcccxxxiv] During the ‘Maritime Dispute’ which began in July, he provided an equivalence of space to the employees’ and employers’ statements the first of which, closely read, clearly illustrates a hardening of attitude in step with the rising enthusiasm for union-only work amongst employees. Despite or because of Whitelocke’s approach, which included a claim the employers’ side ‘has the imprint of truth’, sales of the Barrier Miner passed 5,000 copies per day and its competitor, the Silver Age, was complained about at mass rallies of miners.

As opinions polarised and suspicions deepened, the Hospital Committee threatened to close that institution’s doors:

If one may take as serious a remark of a certain member of the local Hospital Committee last night, that the miners are a contemptible lot, and that it would be teaching them a wholesome lesson to shut the doors of the institution in their faces, the funds difficulty is commencing to assume alarming proportions.[dcccxxxv]

Whitelocke called upon the Committee to resign. The AMA seized the same opportunity, passed a motion of no confidence in the Committee and called a meeting of ‘the various Trades and Labor Societies’ to discuss the issue. The combined meeting called for the Committee’s resignation, and a replacement of incumbent ‘doctors and lawyers’ with workers’ representatives, one delegate adding to the rising chorus:

The labor organisations were and had been the mainstays of the Barrier, the pioneers of civilisation.[dcccxxxvi]

Amidst the din generated in the rush to war, the ‘friendlies’ still had nothing to say, on either the national or the local crisis. The Barrier Ranges United Trades & Labour Council was more publically active, but, in the face of Whitelocke’s and the AMA’s noisier efforts, could be said to be quietly gathering strength. At the end of August, Whitelocke highlighted a ‘huge red bandana’ visible in a major Sydney mass demonstration, describing it as:

an emphatic democratic emblem presented by the New York Democratic Club to Captain Keser of the American ship ‘Exporter’, which was the first to employ union labour in discharging cargo.[dcccxxxvii]

His paper provided the Manifesto of the NSW Labor Defence Committee:

Fellow Workers – The time has come when a supreme battle must be fought in defence of the principles of trades unionism. The question at issue in this conflict…(is) of the right of labor to federate in a common cause..[dcccxxxviii]

The Chairman of the Sydney meeting was equally astray of the truth in announcing:

Australia had been charged with being the home of trade-unionism and today, he thought, proved the assertion to be true…They were fighting for the individual liberty of every Australian, which meant the liberty of the subject.[dcccxxxix]

Coastal labour pressmen accused clerics of pandering to the powerful and despising the ‘Christ of Labour.’ Seeking a safe middle ground, religious authorities argued that Jesus was the location of humanity’s only hope for real or lasting brotherhood.[dcccxl]

The BHP shut its mines on ‘the Barrier’ on the 5 September, the day of an even bigger demonstration in Sydney where 200,000 people watched 51 societies parade with 42 banners and 20 bands.

The success of the first great demonstration of strikers and their sympathisers on Saturday week, emboldened the Labor Defence Committee to make a still greater display of labour bodies, and Saturday last witnessed the culmination of their efforts in one of the most imposing displays of the kind yet seen south of the line.

…It seemed as though all Sydney were out to participate in or gaze upon the spectacle of labour defying capital. But everything was in order and there was no disturbance.[dcccxli]

The Newcastle Morning Herald reported the Chairman of this gathering saying that he hoped

all recognised that the present struggle was the greatest epoch in the history of Australia.[dcccxlii]

A similar demonstration in Newcastle at the end of the month was described as ‘the largest and grandest that has ever been seen in any part of New South Wales outside Sydney.’ Although this last was organised by temperance lecturer Fegan, later an MHR, no fraternal associations other than the trade-oriented marched in these three parades restricted as they were to organisations on strike.

Despite the self-defeating bombast, these industrial events are the coming of age of Australian Trade Unionism. They do amount to the drawing of a line around work practices, from the detail of which Speculative Freemasonry and the Affiliated Friendly Societies are now to be fully excluded. The functions of fraternal societies and their memberships continue, however, to overlap and fraternal history continues to be shared. The functional division thunderingly asserted by trade-oriented societies remains a division more easily attainable in capital cities than elsewhere.

The day following the second Sydney demonstration, the Broken Hill miners struck, the other trades following immediately, whereupon conflict spread to municipal matters. A Water Bill being debated in Sydney was objected to by the Hill’s residents who repudiated councillors advocating the legislation. Associated charges of bribery in Sydney of MPs to get the Bill passed were brushed aside by Sydney’s parliamentary power brokers. A long piece in the Barrier Miner accurately appraised the situation:

Ever since New South Wales was a self-governing authority…centralisation has been the leading feature of those in authority. Money has been unsparingly spent upon the beautification of the metropolis…while on the other hand, the country districts have been neglected…(the only exception being buildings which manifest central government in non-metropolitan sites, ie town halls, railway stations, courthouses and post offices)…[dcccxliii]

Later in September, a mass Broken Hill procession ‘to discuss the strike’ was headed by the new AMA banner and tailed by the Hibernians ‘with their exquisite banner.’ Again, the local trouble was settled more quickly than elsewhere, Sleath being the chief negotiator with BHP in Adelaide. Claimed as a victory, the details show that it pledged the Barrier District AMA not to support any trade body in any later ‘troubles.’

This then became the sticking point, further threatening the standing and credibility of the AMA. A major split in the organisation developed, meetings were disrupted and fights broke out in the street between erstwhile comrades. A Whitelocke lecture on ‘Protection’ was postponed because ‘serious disturbances outside’ made it ‘impossible to get a decent-sized audience’ inside.

Nevertheless, celebration of the end of the strike and the fifth year of the founding of the original AMA on 2 October were sufficient to produce ‘a magnificent spectacle’. The day before, Whitelocke pointed out that ‘almost the whole male population of the town belongs either to a union or a friendly society’ and so:

The day has been proclaimed a public holiday, and all places of business, banks, etc, will be closed. The other trade societies regard the day much as ‘Eight Hours Day’ is regarded in the capitals, and will join with regalia, banners, etc in the procession.[dcccxliv]

On the day itself, the AMA’s leading officers marched ‘wearing their glittering collars and badges of office’, district officers being ‘in full regalia’. Thence

five and six deep came the members of the AMA local branch, all bearing their various regalia.

The FEDFA contingent was attired similarly:

Each member of the association wore across his breast a beautiful blue satin sash edged with gold lace and heavily draped with gold fringe, finished off by a gold tassel and inscribed in gilt letters.[cxl]

Broken Hill Executive of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen Association, 1913.
Broken Hill Executive of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen Association, 1913.

Even with the banners furled, Whitelocke continued to spin:

Today [15 November] is the anniversary of the settlement of the great strike of last year by which the miners of the Barrier won their Magna Charta, and established unionism for all time, as we hope, on this field. There has, apparently, been no celebration or remembrance of the events by the AMA; but as the journal which fought on the miners’ side in that great contest, and which may justly claim some share of credit for the victory obtained, we cannot allow the anniversary to pass in complete silence.[dcccxlvi]

Principally concerned to boost himself and his paper, he could not deny that disputation amongst the unionists continued. The Smelter and Surface Hands Union had again demanded of the AMA that money sent by the Sydney Labor Defence Committee to Broken Hill be distributed as intended.

Dissatisfaction with Sleath and his clique now affected the selection of ‘labour candidates’ for the 1891 Parliamentary elections. The broader 1890’s struggle had resulted in a major defeat, but Whitelocke was sure that neither the workers nor their leaders had been at fault. ‘The cause’ had been lost because of ‘a lack of sufficient funds’ and because of ‘blacklegism.’

The Hospital Committee did not rush to admit its internal weaknesses either. Two years later, in 1893, it was again down to its last £20. In that year, the Barrier Miners’ Sick and Accident Fund was told by the Registrar it was unviable and must be wound up. Eight Hours Day demonstrations, in both Sydney and in Broken Hill, were considerably down in numbers and in enthusiasm. Another depression was peaking, this one about to be followed in the west by a long, extensive drought. Nevertheless, a ‘Combined Friendly Societies Demonstration’, also in October, was initiated as a recruiting and advertising device and a fund raiser for the Hospital. A fortnight later in Sydney a Friendly Society deputation was told by Sir George Dibbs, Premier, that if they wanted a Friendly Societies Bill they would have to pay £50 towards its drafting costs. They must have ‘stumped up’ as just two weeks later a copy of it was available to reporters.[dcccxlvii]

No doubt the AMA brethren wore their ‘lodge’ collars at Chiltern, the Society’s birthplace when presented in November that year with a banner and pedestal by (later Sir) Isaac Isaacs, as they did at the laying of the foundation stone of the Trades Hall in 1898:


Parades for this opening, for Hospital Sunday and for Eight Hours Day in 1898 all featured banners ‘of benefit societies and trade unions.’ The Barrier Truth shows in 1899 eleven friendly society branches in Broken Hill alongside six trades union branches, only three of which were meeting at Trades Hall. The Carpenters and Joiners were meeting at Tait’s Masonic Hotel along with brethren from five of the other fraternal societies. In that year, the miners’ AMA, in regalia, unfurled its new banner for the first time to the public at a Hospital Sunday parade. [dcccxlviii]

The rhetoric in which this country now bruited itself far and wide – as a new nation stepping out boldly into a bright new MODERN future, supposedly unencumbered by the superstitious trappings of the old world – was like many such assertions, a wish-projection.