CHAPTER 6: Creating Social Capital

Fraternalism’s public showings are not the forgotten background to Australia’s emerging social infrastructure – railways, health facilities, schools – up to the 1st World War and beyond. They are essential elements of it and investigation of them is essential to an understanding of the whole. Despite being in at the beginning, Freemasonry did not prosper in Australia in its first 100 years, and it is not to that Order that we must particularly look in this period, however, but to ‘the friendlies.’

As in other frontier situations, ‘our’ hopeful communities wished to celebrate each advance, each step in their ‘progress’. After their initial hiccups, the affiliated benefit society lodges were the pre-eminent, often the only groups which could muster the numbers and the necessary ‘colour’ and movement. In Sydney, at rail’s very beginning:

There were thousands present…There was no grumbling at the rain. Everyone seemed joyous. Neighbours shook hands with neighbour, and all congratulated each other that this was a great occasion…The countless flags flying, the bands of the different orders of Odd Fellows and Foresters playing – the members of each in full costume with their regalia – the galaxy of Beauty, and the cheers of the populace formed a toute ensemble any nation might have been proud of.[cdxxxvii]

When the line reached polyglot Geelong, west of Melbourne, in 1853 the celebratory parade featured fraternal societies including ‘The Order of Independent Bachelors’, about whom I know nothing, and, perhaps for the first time, a Chinese contingent.[cdxxxviii] In many cases, so ubiquitous were these parades over the next 80 to 100 years, a newspaper report often gave only basic details:

* In 1853 an Odd Fellows’ procession ‘in regalia’ to a visiting circus resulted in the performance proceeds being donated to the Newcastle Hospital.[cdxxxix]

* In 1861, at Mudgee, ‘about sixty gentlemen’ sat down to a banquet chaired by the Mayor to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the Loyal Sovereign Lodge of IOOFMU. The toasts, numbering over 20, began with the Queen and various other Royals, included the Freemasons and the Mudgee Union Benefit Society and ended with ‘the Press’ and ‘the Stewards’.[cdxl]

Of the fraternal societies registered in 1848 (above) only about half survived their first 12 months. However, the editor of Hobart’s Mercury wrote in 1854:

Odd Fellowship is making rapid strides throughout the colony, and we look forward with hopes that a time will arrive when we may be enabled to hail Tasmania as one vast community of Odd Fellows.[cdxli]

From their research Green and Cromwell concluded:

By the 1860’s the [friendly] societies were a major presence in every Australian town.[cdxlii]

Indeed, the Illustrated Australian News of 1866 complained:

Odd Fellows, Foresters, Druids, and Rechabites are over-running the land.[cdxliii]

Incomplete statistics for NSW show that in the period 1788 to 1869, major spurts in creation of friendly society lodges occur in the 1840’s and in the 1860’s:

Established Before 1839

Sydney 14

Parramatta 3

Pt Phillip 1

Hobart 4

In ‘Strands’:

Speculative Freemasons 7

Friendly Societies 7

Trade Oriented ?

Other 7

‘Lodges’ Established in Years 1840 – 1849

Speculative Freemasons 6

Friendly Societies 83

Trade Oriented 17

Other 2

Lodges Established 1850 – 1859

Speculative Freemasons 9

Friendly Societies 24

Trade Oriented ?

Other 1

Lodges Established 1860 – 1869

Speculative Freemasons 16

Friendly Societies 101

Trade Oriented 3

Other ?

Current, incomplete reckoning for Victoria to 1899 shows an even more startling disparity between numbers of friendly society lodges and the other strands:


Friendly Societies 1840-1849 (incl) 12

Masonic 5

Trade-oriented 10 approx


Friendly Societies 1850-1859 (incl) 59

Masonic 35

Trade-oriented ?


Friendly Societies 1860-1869 (incl) 479

Masonic 44

Other, incl trade-oriented 39


Friendly Societies 1870-1879 (incl) 573

Masonic 21

Other, incl 136 IOGT lodges 138


Friendly Societies 1880-1889 (incl) 332

Masonic 75

Other, incl 26 WCTU branches 28


Friendly Societies 1890-1899 (incl) 177 (incomplete)

Masonic 1

Other, incl 46 WCTU 47


Even these figures for friendly societies are under-estimates. They do not include a number believed to have existed but not entered on the State’s register. The ‘IOOF’ in Victoria claimed 6 lodges in 1859, 11 in 1861 and 38 in 1867. Against this, the Registrar has 4 in 1859, 6 in 1861 and 19 by end 1867. To a Royal Commission into Friendly Societies in 1875, the then-Registrar admitted that nearly 50%, 400 out of 1,000, of the States’ friendly societies were not registered.[cdxliv]

The authors of the only published attempt (1984) in 200 years to canvas a range of Friendly Societies in Australia believed:[cdxlv]

It was thought [in the 1890’s] that throughout Australia eighty to ninety percent of manual workers were members of friendly societies.

English writer, Inglis, when in Newcastle (NSW) in the 1870’s thought 80% to 90% of manual workers were so protected:

One characteristic feature of the social economy of our Australian cousins is the system of mutual assurance, which so largely prevails in all the towns, and, which, under the guise of friendly benefit societies, supplies all the real benefits of the poor-law system at home, without its cumbrous and expensive machinery.[cdxlvi]

Other estimates for similar locations are over 90%. For example, Broken Hill in the early 1900’s had 100% membership.

In 1892, in NSW alone there were 72,218 registered members of friendly societies, in 1913, 168,438, in 1930, 252,086, and despite the depredations of the Depression, 212,136 in 1938.[cdxlvii] Nationally, their numbers had increased as Australia’s population increased ‘except for a stable period during and immediately after World War I, and during the period 1931-34’:

This generally favourable long-term trend received a severe check soon after World War II when secessions amounting to 20% and more…were not uncommon.[cdxlviii]

While total ‘Full Benefit’ numbers peaked in 1947-48 at 636,283, some societies, for example, the ANA in Victoria, were able to increase memberships again after a decline from 1949 to 1955.[cdxlix] This is further discussed below.

So successful did the fraternal Orders become at representing communities on public, festive occasions a perambulating ‘town’ band inviting the populace to ‘come and see’ or heading up the annual gala was likely as not a lodge band, eg, the Wallaroo (SA) Town Band in 1890 was actually the Rechabite Band, in Dalby (Qld) in the 1900’s the town bandsmen were Hibernians. In Bathurst, on the colony’s ‘Anniversary Day’, 26 January, 1871:

..the appearance of our Volunteer Band, who marched around the town, in front of the Odd Fellows, playing various lively airs was a sign that the day’s amusements had commenced.[cdl]

Each year after GUOOF’s ‘Loyal Miners’ Home’ lodge at Currawang, near Goulburn was established in August, 1872 ‘a large social function was held to which hundreds attended from all over the district’:

(In) those days the Oddfellow Picnics were something to remember. It was a public holiday, and with miners dressed in their white moleskin trousers, crimean shirts and cabbage tree hats, with a band in front and banners flying, marching in pairs. To my boyish mind they appeared Gods…

In Tumut (NSW), combined ‘galas’ involving the Sons and Daughters of Temperance and the IOOFMU began in 1871. ‘Athletic sports’, an evening tea and concert brought crowds from Gundagai, Tumut, Adelong and Upper Adelong. The 1884 Anniversary of the Cobar Grand United Lodge was also the centre of community celebration:

About 11 o’clock the procession formed, the members of the Order appearing in full regalia, headed by the Cobar brass band, and after marching down the principal streets, wended their way to the ground chosen for the holding of the sports…between 400 and 500 people (present).

Public events were a way for Chinese residents to achieve acknowledgement if not always acceptance. Whereas in 1862 one of their number, perceived as too close to an Odd Fellows’ lodge room, was grabbed, and manhandled quite cruelly, for the 1872 Beechworth (Vic) ‘Fete and Carnival’ their teams of artists and assemblers went to extraordinary lengths to impress their fellow residents:

Nearly the whole of one of the principal buildings in the (Chinese) Camp near Nam Sing’s Store is taken up with the various costly, and magnificently embroidered ornaments which will be displayed in the procession…[cdli]

Among notable articles on this occasion were long, silken banners, swords, pikes, and spears, ‘of peculiar form and very truculent appearance’, what looked like ‘massive tea pots’, sedan chairs, highly decorated screens and umbrellas, and others ‘quivering with gorgeous butterflies.’

In the context, it is remarkable that even one aboriginal, ‘Thomas Bungeleen’, was, on the occasion of his death in 1865, reported to have been, very recently, ‘admitted to the Society of Odd Fellows’. Son of the ‘chief of the Gipps Land tribes’, but ‘in his language, manners and appearance – except of course, his colour’ indistinguishable ‘from an English youth of the same age’, he was said to have defied attempts to turn him into ‘a good citizen’ through an unwillingness to conform to white standards of ‘obedience and industry.’[cdlii] Whether this ‘failure’ contributed to his death was not reported.

For ‘Celtic’ Orders, ‘Royal Days’ meant extra recruitment and self-promotion possibilities. On a Prince of Wales’ birthday in Newcastle:

In the morning the Druids, as they marched through the town with their banner aloft, the band at their head, and each ancient Briton with his staff of office, attracted much attention. Each member of the file was clad in as much calico as would make a calico ball, and each had on a venerable beard, white as snow, reaching down to his waist, and of prodigious dimensions…What seemed to be the rank of the Druids – the very high priests – wore blue dresses indicative of the woad with which the Ancient Britons, on great occasions, stained themselves.[cdliii]

By their very ubiquity, fraternal ‘Orders’ were in the forefront of most community developments. Friendly Societies even headed Spiritualist funerals[cdliv], female members laid foundation stones with ritual, and there is evidence of volunteer regiments of militia maintaining their own ‘lodges’.

The role and status of what were still secret societies had been formalised in the colony when a Wentworth-sponsored Bill in 1848 to amend 7th Vic 10, the Friendly Society Act, had only one clause, to allow any surplus funds held to be invested in savings banks, government or corporate securities, or in real estate. In January 1849, the Colonial Secretary made known that he required Friendly Societies to transmit by 31 March ‘a return of the rate of sickness and mortality’ amongst their membership.[cdlv]

In the UK, the mid-1849 Report of a Select Committee lobbied for by IOOFMU, recommended that ‘a new class (of Society) should be formed, to whom the Registrar shall be authorised to give a certificate of registration’:

so long as they satisfy Parliament that they banish from their meetings whatever may offend against religion, morality, good order, and the laws and constitution of the country.[cdlvi]

The chief sticking point for the Committee had been the secrecy of ‘secret societies’:

A large body of Friendly Societies employ secret signs at their meetings, for the avowed purpose of guarding against imposition, and are..illegal.

..(In) regard to the secret signs, however objectionable they may be, if they really attain the object they desire, provided the society that uses them is founded for charitable and benevolent purposes only, your committee see no reason why the exemption from the operations of the Corresponding Societies Act should not be extended..

The limbo land between being illegal yet exempted, as were the Freemasons, remained for the ‘benefit societies’ until legislation in the 1860’s and 70’s extracted yet more conformity as the price for further legal safeguards. That their very success could result in their continuing to be slowly strangled may have already been apparent, but only to a few.


Lodge Doctors and the Health System

In Australia, the ‘lodge doctor’ system began with naval surgeons who came ashore from convict and emigrant ships to compete for work at the military hospital, in the charitable ‘infirmaries’ first established for the aged and/or destitute, and at the bedsides of wealthy patrons. As ‘benefit societies’ spread, and ‘lodges’ were set up, calls went out for ‘medical attendants’ to attend the memberships, and when there were doctors, other health services accumulated. No doctor meant no hospital or nurses and less reliable alternatives. The population brought the lodge system which brought the health care.

Walter Scott, Edinburgh-trained ‘Surgeon Superintendent’ on the convict transport, The Regalia, during its 8-month voyage in 1825-26, became the first to act ‘in the capacity of a surgeon’ in Queensland when appointed Commissariat General at the military outpost of Moreton Bay.[cdlvii] In the November 1829 Gazette, ‘respectable persons’ of the ‘Benevolent Society of New South Wales’, established in 1813 and therefore the colony’s oldest charity, restated their lack of concern for ‘common beggars’ or ‘mendicants’, for which read ‘tramps’, though its stated ‘Objects’ claimed to be:

to relieve the poor, the distressed, and the aged, and thereby to discountenance as much as possible mendicity and vagrancy, and to encourage industrious habits among the indigent, as well as to afford them religious instruction and consolation in their distress..[cdlviii]

In that same Gazette is a notice calling for tenders for the supply of medicine, ‘agreeably to the prescriptions of the Surgeons’ to the Benevolent Asylum. ‘Asylum’ or ‘Dispensary’ was the title given to the first hospitals other than the Government-run military and ‘distressed poor’ infirmaries. The first ‘Sydney Dispensary’ was set up in 1826 by Dr Bland and others as a charitable institution. In 1845 it was merged with the ‘General Hospital’ to form the ‘Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary’, later known as ‘Sydney Hospital’. What are now called ‘public hospitals’ were initially sustained by fraternal societies, church groups and private individuals. In the gaining or losing of a medical ‘billet’, networks of fraternal patronage counted at least as much as medical qualifications or social position. In the convict-free environs of Adelaide, A Guide to the Preservation of Health in South Australia was published within four years of settlement by a ‘Dr AU Fitzpatrick’ who made no mention of any training but claimed in his CV to have been:

Late Physician-in-Chief to the Polish Army

Physician-in-Chief to the Foreign Legion of Belgium

Surgeon of the French 6th Hussars

Member of the Academy of Science of Paris, and

Knight of the Order of Military Virtue.

The status of doctors was not yet very high. The experienced Superintendent of Sydney’s Police, WA Miles, asserted to the 1842 Enquiry into Immigration that

..improper persons have come out in authority on board of Emigrant ships; in one case, a notorious housebreaker and bank robber came here as a Surgeon..[cdlix]

Colonial hospitals, whoever they were for, were not cheery sites, for one might find:

Cart-loads of broken bottles, old yellow and grey worn-out jackets and trousers, ..other symptoms of filth, and neglect.’[cdlx]

The Launceston Hospital, in 1848,

in spite of all Dr Benson’s exertions, is still the same tumble-down refuge for those who are compelled to take shelter within its old, (dilapidated) walls. Free, and bond, soldiers and sailors, all under the same roof, with not a yard of garden ground or green thing to cheer the heart or mind of the convalescent.[cdlxi]

In 1848, the initial attempt at a Brisbane Hospital was closed by order of the British Government. According to Stevenson, quoting the Moreton Bay Courier, the luckless patients were

turned out…to seek refuge in their distress wherever they could..some of the poor creatures could scarcely crawl, and it was really pitiable to observe their sufferings.[cdlxii]

Well into the 19th century any average citizen’s hold on good health depended mostly on good luck. Consistent and hygienic disposal of kitchen rubbish, human waste or animal carcasses was non-existent, rivers, gutters and other water courses regularly being used to carry offensive items out of sight.[cdlxiii] In such a situation, Stevenson observes, ‘the funeral industry was kept solvent’. Whether a settler or a settlement was successful or not, death remained a constant and the societies a fixture in a member’s final ceremonial.[cdlxiv] And despite widespread concern for a ‘decent burial’ and the existence of ‘a complicated set of mourning customs’, the burial act, itself, could be hazardous, even ramshackle. At the Milton cemetery, near Brisbane:

(Any) shallow hole…suffices for a grave, and coffins are piled one upon another and covered with only a few inches of earth, in a manner revolting to humanity.[cdlxv]

The support of ‘Benevolent Asylums’ by a fraternal was first noted in Sydney in 1842,[cdlxvi] widow and orphan funds coming later, as we have seen. An 1845 Odd Fellows anniversary celebration in Newcastle (NSW) showed the trend:

After the sermon a collection was taken at the door, for the purpose of establishing a Benevolent Asylum in this town…(On the following day one) half the proceeds taken at this lecture have been devoted to the same praiseworthy object with the collection at Church on the previous day – viz, the establishment of a Benevolent Asylum for the sick and indigent in Newcastle and District.[cdlxvii] [My emphasis]

Similarly at Penrith:

On Wednesday, the 15th day of July, 1846, the (members, of all AGL-IOOF lodges) will assemble at Brother Perry’s Hotel, Penrith…and proceed to dedicate and form…the Loyal West Cumberland Lodge, after which the Officers and Brethren will form a procession [to St Stephens for sermon, etc] and (make) a collection…for the purpose of forming a Dispensary for the poor of this town and district.[cdlxviii] [My emphasis]

The Polding-created Catholic Guild had from its inception in 1845 a ‘lodge surgeon’ to verify the health of an intending member. Candidates needed to complete a form which began:

Sir, Please to certify if…be in good health and free from any bodily complaint that would render him liable to become a burden on the funds of the society.

Alderman, later Lord Mayor McDermott was the stated patron of ‘The Friendly Brothers’ Benefit Society’ which while small in 1844 had its own ‘lodge doctor’:

(The) object of (this Society) is to grant out of its funds certain relief to its members in case of sickness or death. (The Society) differs from the other societies now in Sydney, in allowing to its members at the end of the year, a Dividend of ninepence out of every shilling subscribed by them weekly…Mr T Vaughan has been appointed medical attendant.[cdlxix] (Emphasis in original)

The ‘Odd Fellows’ Medical Institute’, believed the first in the colony, was set up in 1847 by Sydney Protestants after they managed to unseat the Irish Catholics briefly in control of Sydney’s IOOFMU. The Institute’s Annual Reports contain useful social information,[cdlxx] while its Laws are detailed and very prescriptive. A physician, a surgeon, and a ‘dispenser’ were to be available, to members only. Enormous power was vested in the Patron, who was at the time the Speaker of the Legislative Council Nicholson, and in the Vice-Patron, Dr Bland, MP.

The foundation stone for what was broadly reported as the ‘Maitland Hospital’ records that it, actually the ‘Maitland Benevolent Asylum’, was ceremonially established in 1846 by the District Warden with the major assistance of the local Union Benefit Society and the ‘Good Design Lodge’ of the IOOFMU.[cdlxxi] In 1865, Grand United’s ‘Odd Fellows Fete’ in Melbourne, had a specific purpose:

The almost bankrupt state of the charitable institutions of Melbourne has, for some time, been painfully evident, and the question of their future management has become a serious problem which has remained unsolved, notwithstanding the many suggestions made by the press, and emanating from the various benevolent societies.

Without presuming to pronounce authoritatively as to the best of the numerous theories advanced for maintaining and working the Melbourne Hospital, the Benevolent Asylum, and the orphanages, the idea presented itself to several members of (GUOOF) that practical aid might be afforded by getting up a fete on the occasion of the anniversary of the birthday of the Prince of Wales, and devoting the proceeds for the benefit of these institutions..The patronage of the various members of the Ministry, the Mayor of Melbourne, and the civic dignitaries of the suburban boroughs was obtained.. [cdlxxii]

The Macleay Chronicle of 1880 acknowledged the central role members of the GUOOF ‘Star of Macleay’ Lodge played in the design, lobbying for, funding and construction of the Kempsey (NSW) Hospital.[cdlxxiii] The Adelong Gold Miners’ Mutual Aid Society (NSW) was formed on October 10, 1857, with the intention of providing medical attention and funds to its members in the event of an accident. For a fee of 5/- and payments of 1/- per week, the member if injured was entitled to a weekly allowance of £1 and free medical attention. The Society appointed its own medical officers to attend to its members. Laying the foundation stone of the Adelong Hospital took place on 26 Jan, 1861:

Punctual to time the friends and officers of the Institution began to assemble on the Camp, and by the advertised hour of starting all were ready…At the head (of the procession) marched the indefatigable marshallers…followed by the Brass Band of the Adelong Hotel, whose services had been generously presented by host Murphy for the occasion; two improvised banners bearing the royal arms appeared next; then the members of the Adelong Mutual Aid Society walking two abreast, followed in the same order by the trustees, the committee and general body of subscribers; the undistinguished public closing up the rear.[cdlxxiv]

In November, 1876, this Society asked for and received a dispensation from the ‘Independent Order of Odd Fellows’. When this was granted all members were granted the privilege of becoming Odd Fellows without further fee irrespective of their age.

The commitment of the early benefit societies to the provision of health services has been disguised by virtue of the fact that a Committee member’s lodge membership was rarely spelt out. When a Committee was formed to co-ordinate the building and equipping of the Penrith ‘Dispensary’, it was not stated that its Secretary, Mr Alex Fraser was also Secretary of Loyal West Cumberland Lodge of IOOFMU.[cdlxxv] Similarly, when older Government facilities were handed to ‘the community’ to manage, it just happened to be the fraternal societies which provided the bulk of the committee, as at Windsor in March, 1846.[cdlxxvi]

Lodges used competition between aspirants for the position of ‘medical attendant’ to reduce rates. The 1848 minutes of the IOOFMU Loyal Strangers’ Lodge, Goulburn, record a Special Meeting delegating

the NG [Noble Grand] and VG [Vice Grand] of this lodge (to) visit on Dr Gerard to know whether he would except [accept] 5/6d member (each quarter) for his attendance to themselves, their wives and families.[cdlxxvii]

AOF’s Court Hunter not only employed its own Doctor in 1867 but set his hours:

Resolved that the hours for attendance on the doctor be from 9am till 11am in the morning and from 6pm to 8pm in the evening.[cdlxxviii]

The Manning River News, in March the same year recorded the Noble Grand’s speech to the Anniversary dinner of the Manning River GUOOFs:

..At this moment the principle difficulty with which the Lodge had to contend was its inability to secure the services of an acceptable medical practitioner…if a suitable arrangement could be made…he had no doubt the Lodge would enter upon a new, and he hoped a long, career of prosperity and usefulness…[cdlxxix]

The 10-pages of ‘Rules of the Mutual Benefit Society of the Australian Agricultural Company’s Colliery Establishment at Newcastle NSW’ document a society which has gone down in labour history as the first ‘trade union’ in Newcastle.[cdlxxx] Dated 1858, the agreement concludes with:

  1. That the society advertise for a doctor to attend all the men and boys, including wives and families of members – excepting midwifery cases; and that the Secretary guarantee one hundred and fifty pounds per year, to be paid quarterly, for such (needful) medical attendance and medicines as may be required.[cdlxxxi]

The process of doctors applying, being interviewed and being accepted as lodge doctors on terms set by the lodge membership continued throughout the 19th century. Binding contracts were drawn up, setting out terms and conditions under which the duties and responsibilities of the position would be met. The formal contract drawn up between ‘Aubrey JC Crawley and the Miners of Minmi’ in 1897, which contains many ‘conflict resolution’ clauses, begins:


Rule 1. That the said Colliery Doctor does agree to reside in Minmi and to employ a duly qualified assistant who is also to reside in Minmi.

There are many variations on the same theme. The 1897 ‘Rules of the Buladelah [very small NSW township] Guarantors’ Medical Fund’ include:

  1. Patients who may receive Instruments, Splints, and Leeches from the Medical Officer shall see that they are properly cleaned before returning to the Medical Officer, and any member neglecting to do so shall be charged with the cost thereof…
  2. The Medical Officer may be called out at any hour of the day or night..
  3. The objects of the Society shall be to raise a Fund, by quarterly subscriptions, for the purpose of inducing or securing a Medical Practitioner to reside in the district, and paying a sum at death of a member.

Rules about acceptable and non-acceptable behaviour reflected the realities of society membership and continued to evolve along lines begun in mediaeval times. Lodge standards applied to the physician:

An amendment was made by Bro Hagger That in consequence of the Lodge Surgeon not having discharged the duties of his office, and his not having provided a competent substitute to professionally act for him in his capacity of Surgeon to the Lodge when he, Dr Keiran, was in jail that he Dr Keiran be discharged from the office of Lodge Surgeon forthwith.[cdlxxxii]

While lodges gave many doctors their start and a chance to build careers, medicos unhappy with having to depend for a livelihood on persons regarded as their social inferiors became increasingly incensed as their social position grew. An 1862 letter to The Argus records a special meeting of the Medical Society of Victoria at Melbourne Hospital considering the resolution:

That the system of tendering for medical attendance to benefit societies is injurious alike to the medical profession and the suffering public.[cdlxxxiii]


Lodge finances were zealously guarded and claimants for ‘sick pay’ rigorously scrutinised. The rules were taken seriously, and applied strictly, in most cases. An affected member would inform the lodge secretary in writing, the lodge as a whole would consider the situation and make a determination. A ‘sick visitor’ would monitor members ‘on the lodge’ and pay benefits. Malingering was not uncommon, and members exercised ‘espionage’ on one another. Fraudsters could be expelled, as could wife deserters and adulterers. Surviving spouses received a cash payment.

Small loans were possible to members ‘in special circumstances’, which was code for changes in job availability or trade cycles. Housing needs assumed greater significance over time and were being treated separately by some societies by the end of the 19th century. Cromwell and Green have commented: ‘Loans (made) friendly societies Australia’s first credit unions.’[cdlxxxiv]

Rates of contributions and of benefits were changed only by Grand Lodge and district delegates in session. It was here that internal argument reflected broader changes. Earliest issues were with the age and health status of intending members. Initially, a new member, whatever ‘his’ age, paid the same entry fee and contributed at the same rate. Over time Orders introduced variants of graduated or sliding scales, not necessarily in line with either logic or common sense. Disputes were constant, and a shift from one Order to another sometimes the result.

Before funds were consolidated towards the end of the 19th century, contributions towards sick, funeral and other benefits were treated separately and rose or fell separately. The actuarial efficiencies of lodge officers then became contentious but greatest and longest-running controversy surrounded the question of whether rates of contributions should vary depending on a candidate’s age at entry or on how ‘brethren’ earned their living. Some occupations, being especially hazardous could render a lodge bankrupt, literally in a puff of smoke or a sudden cave-in. Personal safety was at increased risk along lawless frontiers, a situation highlighted by the gold-rushes:

From every quarter we hear of robberies – stores, tents, and the wayfaring, are alike laid under tribute by lawless hordes who set the authorities at defiance. If you chance to have too much money, you are robbed, if it is but too little it is taken, and you are shamefully beaten for being so poor..[cdlxxxv]

Surviving an accident, an assault or an illness could be more damaging than death, as doctor’s bills could mean the piling up of debt. The regular contributions made before income was interrupted might provide a weekly allowance and medicines and consultations. But fund ‘schedules’ rarely kept pace with population movements, domestic trauma such as drink-induced violence, or accounted specifically for the dangerous situations into which individuals put themselves in order to earn a living. Green and Cromwell canvassed the quality of the earliest chemists and the medicines dispensed. A Dr Moran described a dispensary run by two doctors ‘in a mining district of NSW’:

Behind the waiting room was the dispensary, and there a dispenser with two or three assistants sweated to keep up with the doctors. A patient had to provide his own bottle and cork – for these cost more than the ingredients which the dispensers poured in from great demi-johns of stock mixtures. The stock-mixtures were of different colours. One contained nothing else than burnt sugar in solution.[cdlxxxvi]

Witnesses to government enquiries of the time asserted that dispensers issued ‘stock bottles’ to all friendly society patients regardless of illness. Others expressed the opinion that:

We cannot rely so much upon the quality of medicines supplied by a druggist under the contract system as we could upon the quality of medicines supplied from a dispensary under the control of the Clubs, where the element of profit would not enter so much into the transaction.[cdlxxxvii]

Out of need, came both sharp competition and joint efforts. The first united friendly societies’ dispensary providing medical supplies seems to have been that opened in South Melbourne in 1869.[cdlxxxviii] Pressure for the societies to extend these reached a first peak in the last decades of the 19th century. When the first NSW ‘Amalgamated Dispensary’ opened in Balmain (Sydney) in 1886, President of the Board was Mr George Bretnall of Grand United. Delegates meeting at the Royal Foresters’ Hall represented the UAOD, PAFS, GUOOF, the Order of Royal Foresters, AOF, IOOF, Son’s of Temperance, the Hebrew Mutual Benefit Society, the Evening News and Town and Country Journal Benefit Society, ‘and other lodges.’[cdlxxxix] Later, Catholic societies were accepted. Similar pharmacies were opened at Redfern, Paddington, Mascot and Waverly. In 1899 the Sydney United Friendly Societies Dispensary reported that 86 societies, which must have included trade-oriented societies, were affiliated to it, servicing a membership of over 7,000.[cdxc] The other States reported similar successes, in country towns as well as city locations.

The relationship between lodge patients and ‘their’ medico is one of the most fascinating, but again most complex aspects of the fraternal story. Benefit society brethren originally had recourse to lodge doctors in their rooms, not because they were wealthy but because that was the point of being ‘in lodge’. Working people’s dread of doctors meant only reluctantly did home visits develop. Despite the potential for, and the existence of actual friction, there is anecdotal evidence of close bonds and close working relations between a lodge membership and ‘its’ doctor, some of whom were either members or were made ‘honorary’ members with especially-made regalia. In Hobart, in 1846, the ‘Southern Star’ MU lodge farewelled its ‘Medical Adviser’ Henry Jeanneret with a medal and ‘warmest wishes’ for his ‘zealous and disinterested efforts to promote the interests of our Order’.[cdxci]

In time, however, as the range of medical services offered by ‘hospitals’ was enhanced, collisions occurred between the differing needs of members, and between doctors and ‘his’ society, over what services were covered by contributions. By the 1890’s, one medico achieved notoriety by insisting his profession was being ‘sweated’ by lodge demands:

(A) large proportion of the suburbs (of Australian cities) belong to Friendly Societies, the members of which include many well-to-do people, such as shopkeepers, manufacturers, members of Parliament, officials and others who joined the lodges when they were in more straightened circumstances.[cdxcii]

Bruck gave statistics he said showed ‘one important suburb on the western slopes of Sydney’s Darling Harbour’ had 2/3ds of its population in Friendly Societies. A Dr Belgrave, ‘honorary medical officer’ at Sydney Hospital and medico to a number of inner-city lodges, asserted a need for ‘providential insurance’ to be made compulsory in order that the beneficial aspects of the ‘Friendly Societies’ be brought to bear more universally,[cdxciii] perhaps the first airing of a seemingly good idea which would ultimately break the friendlies. Belgrave was no lover of local ‘club customs’ which he believed led to exhaustion of funds. He argued that ‘no extraneous subject, nor religious, nor political topics’ should be permitted in a lodge, and amongst a parcel of recommendations, asserted that the position of ‘Lodge Treasurer’ was worse than useless. Lodge finances should be handled at ‘Head Office’ level if not entirely within the Office of the Registrar. He argued that lodge practice was incompatible with a ‘pecuniarily successful private practice’ and impacted negatively on a doctor’s efficiency as well.

A rise in the perceived social value of health and health professionals aided the BMA’s strengthening industrial ‘muscle’, and by the second decade of the 20th century had made it possible for doctors to negotiate themselves into a situation where they set the terms, and forced lodges to compete for their services. Fraternal literature continued to show advertisements from doctors seeking ‘lodge work’, however, until at least 1927.[cdxciv]

The same factors operated when it came to chemists and pharmaceuticals. ‘United Dispensaries’ proved they could organise effective production and distribution of cheaper, purer forms of medicinal drugs than were otherwise available, thereby attracting the wrath of the BMA and commercial pharmacists. The same turn-of-the-century spokesman, Bruck appealed to ‘legitimate chemists’ for support in crushing their opposition. He projected a plan to ‘weaken if not ruin the existing dispensaries carried on by lodges on the co-operative principle’, and to prevent the establishment of new branches, with the result that the expenses of commercial pharmacists ‘would be reduced and their profits increased.’

In brief, the evidence shows that the ‘friendlies’ lacked self-understanding, failed to consistently co-operate with one another and, consequently, proved to be far weaker organisationally than their opponents. The doctors had ruthlessness and collegial strength on their side and gathered political strength in a way the friendlies simply did not understand. The power imbalance then made it very difficult for even well-meaning politicians to assist.

Other Costs of the Lodge System

Opening a lodge cost money, money which came directly from the pockets of intending members or indirectly by way of a ‘Head Office’ budget. Besides a Charter and ritual books charged for by Grand Lodge, furniture and fittings, rent, food and lighting had to be provided. To cover the immediate travel costs of whomever was doing the ceremonial installation and initiations, the refreshments for all concerned, the hire of pub or hall, meant a member’s first fee came at initiation until complaints induced change late in the 19th century. Depending on how well set up a new lodge membership wanted to be, a set of regalia was normally another early purchase. Such trappings, annual dinners and parade banners were major expenses and all could attract heated discussion, internally and amongst a keenly observant public.

Even members would have had little idea of the sacrifices involved in ‘working up’ a country lodge by Grand Masters and District Officers making what were at the time heroic journeys to far-flung locales. Nor would city brethren have had much idea of what life was like for ‘bush’ members. ‘An Old Oddfellow’ recounted the early trials of Rose of Australia Lodge at Waratah, ‘in those days a small coal-mining village, about four miles from Newcastle’:

(After establishment in 1864, for) the first four years the number of names on the roll did not at any time exceed 21, and most of those were miners who had to take their turn at nightwork, so that for a long time brothers from the old Junction Lodge at Merewether and elsewhere helped to fill the offices.[cdxcv]

The writer told how set-backs ate into the sick fund but more fortunate members refused to allow the lodge to close and, for four years, determined on paying extra to keep struggling ‘brothers’ good on the books.

The Rose of Australia Lodge…is now in a very prosperous position, having something like 100 members on the roll, with a good balance to its credit.

Nil Desperandum members, IOOFMU, often remarked the circuitous route taken by their Charter when in 1863 it was handed to a stage coach driver going their way from Sydney:

The driver…did not know where Wagga was and he took the charter to Albury where he made enquiries, with the result that no-one there knew where Wagga was. They consulted the schoolmaster and after searching all over the map he pointed out a spot which he said must be Wagga. The coachdriver said he had seen that spot on his map, but thought it was only a bit of fly dirt. The charter, however, was recovered, the Wagga lodge formed and it had made such good progress that it now numbered nearly 500 members.[cdxcvi]

In 1880, getting to Lefroy, inland from Launceston, (Tas) involved a four hour boat trip, then

(tramping for three hours) across the country in its natural state, over hills and through scrub, etc, there being no road of any kind, only a blazed mark the way.[cdxcvii]

Having met the waiting members and having had supper, at 2.00am the visiting Grand Lodge officers began installing the new lodge’s officers and instructing them in record keeping. Between 3.00 and 6.00am they rested but then had to set out on the return trek. Arriving at the landing place by 10.00am they, ‘as arranged, lit a fire, as a signal for the steamer’ and waited without food or drink till 3.00pm, the boat having been delayed by a mud-bank. The account concludes:

Owing to the lodge being outside of Victoria the Sub-Committee were unable to vote any of the expenses.

That is, the Grand Master, Grand Secretary and Past Grand Master who had made the journey paid from their own pocket for the privilege of extending the Order. The reception of visitors could not be guaranteed to be benign, or even to happen at all, and neither could consistency with an Order’s principles, interpretation of which varied with the personnel. In one case,

a person of the best moral character, a staunch supporter of the cause, and having many years experience in the Friendly Societies, but unfortunately not attached to any orthodox Church, was proposed as chairman: this shocked many of the members, who combined to keep him out, others formed an opposing party.[cdxcviii]

A Masonic source recounts the creation of lodges by railway navvies prior to the creation of the settlement to be served by the rail head, which in some cases, meant lodge and lodge hall had to keep moving:

Comet Lodge No 1680 (EC) [Qld] followed the Central Railway westward, dismantling and re-assembling its Masonic Hall no fewer than six times before it came to rest..The old Hall moved 300 miles in sections..on railway wagons.[cdxcix]

Over time, the ‘Head Office’ experience came to be so different from the life-conditions of many lodge members, that an excessively text-book approach could mar executive decisions in matters which amounted to life and death to a member.[d] On the other hand, personal experience could result in an enhanced spirit of unity. In the early 20th century, the Victorian OST’s Grand Worthy Patriarch recounted his difficulties visiting ‘divisions’ on his bicycle – ’23 miles into a headwind on one occasion, Melbourne to Winchelsea’. A 1903 GUOOF delegate argued in support of a Perth-based Grand Lodge initiative, a home for orphans:

Although his lodge was nearly 1000 miles from Kalgoorlie, and almost outside the pale of civilisation, the members tried to be Odd Fellows just the same as those living under more favourable circumstances.[di]

The delegate said he could speak with some authority on this issue as both he and his wife had been ‘inmates’ of orphanages. In the more outback parts, difficult conditions were endured longer than elsewhere. During the Second World War, Masonic brethren at Broome (WA) were reported continuing to meet despite Japanese bombings and despite some members having to ride one hundred and twenty miles to be present.[dii]

In the 19th century, paid travelling organisers were financed by some ‘friendly’ Orders on a commission basis or by way of a stipend, as did the largest labour organisations, the AWU, the AMA (miners) and, later, State Labour Councils. Madame Presidents of the Womans Christian Temperance Unions [WCTU] also took on this role, traversing huge areas to urge women into their ‘unions’. It is not accidental that the insurer, AMP employed travelling agents, some of whom had honed their skills as evangelists.[diii]

Fraternal associations, especially benefit societies, suffered every time there was an economic downturn, indeed any time the flow of contributions was interfered with or suspended for any reason. Extreme breaks in the chain, such as a mining disaster, war or closure of a workplace, could bring ruin. Braidwood GUOOF claimed to have lost £1100 in 1884 when ‘The Oriental Bank’ crashed. Goulburn’s IOOFMU Grand Master Cornford recalled a similar loss:

No 21 had passed through some strange vicissitudes. The meeting used to be held in a garret, and the masters’ table was a box and his seat a gin case. The next trouble that overtook them was that they lost nearly all their funds in the Oriental Bank (crash)..[div]

Members could be levied to support striking colleagues, impoverished co-lodges or total strangers ‘on the tramp.’ A letter to the Protestant Banner, protesting a bill for an unsought advertisement, asserted that previous ads had brought the society several begging letters every month

which we tried to assist until one brother after another left the lodge until our lodge got very small and especially as most of the Brethren could not stand the strain on their pockets…This…showed us we were killing our lodge by draining the Brethren…The members…are paying £6.0.0 per year interest on their Protestant Hall and that is quite enough.[dv]


The Importance of Miners

Societies offering benefits were especially popular with ‘mining operatives’ whether ‘on gold’, tin, lead, mica or stone. Where a lode justified it, larger populations collected, the holes went deeper, corporations took over as owners and worker survival became contingent on more distant agendas. While the rules for discussions between employers and employees over wages and working conditions took time to formalise, ‘industrial’ organisation grew out of miners’ basic needs. Their first organisations were benefit societies, the Rules of which saw no reason to distinguish a special agenda called ‘industrial politics’.[dvi] It was only after these ‘clubs’ had been in operation for a few years, that employers and managers realised they had to decide ‘whether the union-clubs should be tolerated or put down.’ Out of this situation grew ‘the labour movement’ and its opponents.

A strike at the South Australian Burra Burra copper mine in 1848 is perhaps the first to illustrate the convergence of the three key elements – miners in combination, fraternalism and newspaper influence. The Mine Directors, who were enjoying 200% profit per quarter on their shares, were not honouring their agreed-upon levies which included imposts for ‘a Club’ and provision of its doctor. When informed of the situation, the South Australian Register [SAR] gave strong support to the miners. Initially the Directors insisted they would not deal with any miners ‘in an association’ and sought to reduce wages and to have all ‘rebellious’ families removed from the company cottages at the site.[dvii] Sense eventually prevailed and the miners’ club was reconstituted on sounder footings.

In the Hunter River District [HRD], the first miners’ organisation was the 1857 ‘Mutual Benefit Society of the AA Company’s Colliery Establishment’, in Lithgow the first miners’ ‘lodge’ was given the name of ‘The Lily of the Vale.’ Many country lodges were nothing but mining camps, with benefits being the only insurance against accidents or death. If the mine failed, and the camp moved on, the lodge either disappeared or moved to another site. In a precarious existence, the same lodge might close and re-appear a number of times, disguising the similarity of the nomadic miner, shearer and rouseabout situation with the tramping and lodge networks of the northern hemisphere. Travelling cards, along with ‘travelling passwords’, allowed members to gain a clearance from one lodge and join another in a different place.

At Eaglehawk (Victoria) 16 of the ‘Contributing’ members of the Masonic Lodge, No 1203, in its first six years, from 1865 to 1871 were miners, out of a total of 44. The next largest, self-described groups were ‘storekeeper’ and ‘publican’ with 4 each. The IOOFMU lodge, ‘Loyal Heart and Hand’ at what became the town of Nundle (NSW) in 1866 had 8 miners out of its 14 founders. In 1874, the lodge’s peak year, 45 from 81 members were miners.[dviii] An 1876 Report by Grand Secretary Bibb of the PAFS in NSW, which Order is treated below, included the reality check:

..During 1874, 5 lodges were opened in Queensland, and at the end of the year New South Wales had 35 lodges, with 2154 members, paying away for sick allowances ₤761 for that year, and leaving a clear balance of ₤2829. The year 1875 closed with 37 lodges..and 2091 members. This falling off was owing to the great number of members in the mining lodges of the Order, during the mining depression, becoming bad on the books.

Tambaroora Lodge 23 of the PAFS lost 26 members in that one depression year, 1875, due to their simply having to move on to find other work, No 27 at Mudgee lost 12. City lodges could, of course, be equally affected by down-turns – No 25 at Woolloomooloo (Sydney wharves) lost 90 at one time.

Losses in one place could mean enormous expansion elsewhere. In 1871, the year that the Australian Natives Association [ANA] first officially appeared, the IOOFMU in Victoria alone opened 4 new lodges, GUOOF opened 3, PAFS opened 7, the Order of St Andrew opened 8, the Hibernians opened 11, and the Rechabites opened 20. The following year, GUOOF opened another 3, the Hibernians another 4, the MU and the PAFS opened 6 each, the Rechabites another 16, while the Independent Order of Good Templars [IOGT] opened 82. In 1873, ‘the Templars’ opened another 54 out of a total of 100 new lodges in Victoria, while in 1874 the State total of new ‘lodges’ was 133. By 1889, 73 ‘friendly’ lodges had opened in the immediate Bendigo township area, that is, 73 ‘friendly lodges’, and not counting those which were Masonic or trade-oriented.[dix]

Whether ritual was always correct, or used at all in remote camps, is moot. Before he died in 1853, Bishop Broughton travelled to the gold diggings, as did Polding and Methodist lay preachers,[dx] so we can assume visitations by fraternal ‘executives’. Minutes of the IOOFMU Garibaldi Lodge, at Tarnagulla, a tiny village near Castlemaine, Victoria, for August, 1874, include:

..The NG [Noble Grand] gave notice that Thursday August 7th would be Lecture Night – when the undermentioned brothers gave notice to take degrees – Gold Degree, Bros Whittaker, Griffith and Scorer; Scarlet, Bros Hood, Joseph; No notice was given for the Blue Degree. The NG declared he would hold the lecture of the Gold Degree, at 8 o’clock, Scarlet, 8.30.[dxi]

In the numerous fluid situations being created, fraternal principles inevitably outran lodge administration, a situation exploited by fraudsters. ‘A cartload of the greatest scamps that ever got into a vehicle’ was observed by one wagon driver. They were accepting engagements for work ‘up country’, receiving food, lodging and money for the journey, and then reneging on the arrangement, and repeating the trick elsewhere:

I do not know any country where travellers are better treated than in South Australia. It is quite common with publicans along our main roads to give gratis, to every person in search of employment a good supper, bed and breakfast, with in most cases a glass of grog.[dxii]

An 1865 letter to the Australian Masonic News from the St John’s Tradesmens Lodge (Masonic, IC) at Forest Creek, Victoria, warned that a fraudulent traveller with wife and child was abroad, levying contributions from his ‘brothers’ using well-worn ‘begging testimonials’.[dxiii] There are many such references.

In embryonic settlemts, the ‘pub’ was among the first structures put up, the first to get substantial extension or replacement, and among the last to be re-located if a seam ran out. Publicans fighting to get their rooms adopted as ‘lodge’, found it easier to achieve if they were already a member or prepared to purpose-build a lodge room. ‘The Oddfellows Arms’ and the ‘Fountain of Friendship’, both substantial stone and brick pubs at Braidwood (NSW) by 1859, were exceptions architecturally, and loud assertions of fraternalism’s strength.[dxiv]

The formal language in contemporary newspapers can disconnect readers from the reality of settlement life, which was that most ‘buildings’ were of canvas, or wattle-and-daub. Licensee, ‘Charles (Charlie) Welch’ of the fine-sounding ‘Oddfellows Arms Hotel’ in 1870 at Traralgon (Vic) was actually in ‘one of the earliest erected shacks’ in the district, a shack that was ‘a store of a sort, a bakery and a beer shop’.[dxv] The Charlie Napier Hotel in Ballarat’s Main Road from 1854 was ‘a low bark hut’ advertised as being ‘fitted up with every regard to comfort and economy’. As Ballarat’s prosperity grew, the owners added ‘a Bagatelle Room’, a ‘Superior Bowling Saloon’ and a ‘simple wood and canvas Concert Room’, all before 1856 when ‘a spacious, theatre’ became the only ‘gas-lit entertainment venue’ in the village.[dxvi]

The fraternal Orders merged with other sources of community energy to also produce schools, halls, chapels and churches. Large ‘Temples’ could spring up anywhere, that at Bendigo for the Freemasons being just one of the more spectacular examples. Araluen’s Temperance Hall was built with subscriptions from ‘Diggers and other residents’, while the ‘Odd Fellows Hall’ at Paterson (HRD) had a stage and proscenium built into it in 1879 to cater for the local Dramatic Club.[dxvii] Goulburn’s Oddfellows Hall, designed by Blackett in 1880, was locally known as ‘THE Goulburn public hall’ and, at times, as the ‘Academy of Music.’ From 1914 it became the Empire Picture Theatre.[dxviii] In ‘fussy’ Mudgee (NSW), fraternal subscriptions produced a Philharmonic Society to boost community spirit.

A major focus of mining ‘towns’ was drinking. Inevitably, temperance societies experienced waves of popularity, but the spectacular rise and fall on three continents of the IOGT was not the norm. Begun in New York in 1851-52, its first lodges had existed for a decade or so before the Order suddenly experienced prodigious growth. At the end of 1868 it claimed more than 500,000 members in the United States and Canada. In the three years to 1872 the English membership went from 100 to over 100,000, with Glasgow claiming over 100 lodges on its own.

It arrived in Australia from California in late-1871 and had Grand Lodges in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania within two years. The Order’s principles began with total abstinence and encouraged political intervention to further that cause. While claiming not to be either a life insurance or a benefit society, committees met regularly to assist brethren. And while claiming not to be a ‘secret society in the ordinary acceptation’ yet:

The ceremonies of the Order are kept secret, to make them more impressive to the convert…The Order has also its regalia which are worn in the various degrees…In our secrecy, no oaths are used, and the passwords and signs are little more than substitutions for tickets of admission and certificates of membership…[dxix]

An Australian Grand Lodge was set up in 1874, in which a combined Friendly Societies Easter Fete crowd in Melbourne voted, at IOGT urgings, for an alcohol-free day. A ‘Good Templar’ delegate from South Australia was seated at the twenty-second annual session of the Right Worthy Grand Lodge in Kentucky in 1876, the year a Grand Lodge was set up in West Australia.[dxx] The effects of a split between the English and the USA memberships over a prohibition on negro candidates in the southern American states[dxxi] reached into the southern hemisphere where, adding to the hubbub, both Orders sought to reach even the smallest settlements.

Temperance societies did not shy from directly opposing brewing industry representatives in elections,[dxxii] or parliamentary candidacies not considered sympathetic, whether discussion of political topics was abjured in lodge or not:

From reports to hand it would seem that the harmony of the (Good Templars’) order has lately been somewhat ruffled by diverse views held concerning the coming elections and the rival candidates.[dxxiii]

In this case, the junior member for Hartley, near Lithgow (NSW), was so worried that the Good Templars were thinking of deserting him in favour of another temperance candidate that he talked in his lodge only of his advantages to the Order as one of its political representatives.

Representatives of 13 Sydney IOGT lodges in 1878 travelled by steamer to Newcastle where they joined locals to publically celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Wales with a parade, sports and dinner:

..The well-known Lambton brass band was in..the centre of the procession which with the banner, flags, regalia, medals and scarfs worn by the members of the various lodges, formed quite an attractive and interesting appearance. Upwards of a hundred lady members of the societies also walked in procession, which was without doubt one of the largest in connection with the temperance cause that has ever traversed the streets of Newcastle..[dxxiv]

Women were strongly represented in temperance fraternal societies, especially those originating in the US of A, and some, such as the Daughters of Temperance, had constitutions reflective of an almost totally female membership.[dxxv] However, key executive positions were retained by and for men, in this case, the Rules stipulating that the ‘Worthy Patriarch’ (WP), or lodge master, be a man. Interestingly, this internal compromise produced unexpected benefits for women:

Article XVI – A travelling card shall not be granted for more than one year…Before a sister is entitled to a travelling card, she shall pay one half of her dues in advance for the time she requires the card, and she shall pay one shilling for the card.

Article XX – Giving Password to Travelling Sisters – Any WP shall be authorised to give the travelling password and explanation to a travelling sister, when requested to do so…

Historians of female social activism in Australia highlighting temperance and ‘moral purity’ as the two issues which most galvanised women into further causes such as suffrage[dxxvi], will need to make room for female fraternalism.

The experience of Thomas George Cottome, gold miner at Grenfell, NSW, was a common one though the relevant memoirs are too conflict-free to be the full story. The Grenfell IOOFMU Lodge was formed on 15 September, 1867, with 10 members. By the end of 1869, it had 69, adding another 30 in 1870:

Henry Cambridge, the second Headmaster of Grenfell’s public school which had also begun in 1867, was at that time a leading official of the lodge and was one of the witnesses of Cottome’s birth declaration.[dxxvii]

The editor of Cottome’s letters ‘home’ later observed:

And there is no doubt that in the four years since Cottome had joined, the lodge had not only become a significant association of Grenfell citizens, but Cottome had advanced as a distinguished member of it..

..Cottome took a leading part in the events which led to the establishment of Grenfell’s Progress Committee, an embryo town council which discussed the major problems of the district and made representations to the colonial authorities for their solution.

At least some of the conflict experienced by the good folk of Charters Towers in northern Queensland has been recorded since one newspaper editor was in the thick of it. While not the only community space, the Odd Fellows Hall, built by the IOOFMU, was a major focal point for this community if the year 1877 is any guide. From March to September, it was the venue for visiting theatricals, complimentary ‘Benefit Shows’, ‘Ilustrated Lectures on the American Civil War’, Church of England ‘Musical Soirees’, and ‘Dr Carr’s Seances and Phreno-Mesmeric Entertainments.’[dxxviii] The editor of the Northern Miner newspaper, when not reporting news from the gold diggings, municipal and other related matters, gave ‘the Oddfellows’ extensive column space for their anniversary banquet and congratulated their celebration of the Queen’s Birthday with a community-wide Sports Day.[dxxix] He also gave great coverage to the Anniversary Celebrations of the local Good Templars branch, the ‘Ark of Hope’,[dxxx] and talked up the potential of the ‘Friendly Societies Act’ which had come into operation at the beginning of the year.

In comparison with costs of operation of the ‘Companies Act’ and drawbacks associated with the ‘No-Liability Act’, this new Act had a cheap registration charge as the only cost. Moreover:

(It) embraces every form of industrial combination, (except banking) mining, quarrying, building, farming, stores, cattle, insurance on life and fire, reading rooms, every form of business in fact having for its object the lawful acquisition of money, the social, moral or intellectual progress of the community..We see in this Act a means to..a concentration of the scattered energies and capital of (this) field into a concrete power of wide application. (My emphasis)[dxxxi]

The editor, however, ran into problems with certain interest groups which, in the period 1877 to 1880 totally destroyed his enterprise and forced him out of town. It seems he first argued against the strongly prohibitionist stance of the bevy of reverends in the Good Templars:

(We) hold the Good Templars have not made out their case for Government interference to prevent the sale of intoxicating drink.[dxxxii]

He then vented very strongly against anyone dwelling on the significance of Protestantism on 12 July:

..Neither Orangeism nor Fenianism deserves public recognition..We are casting out the devils of our old civilisation, and this age has already cast out the devil of Orangeism. Great roarer as Parson Carson is, he cannot roar back that corpse to life. Let its bones rot.[dxxxiii]

He then accused local Orangemen of attempting to take over a second Good Templars branch and of manipulating a rival newspaper, the Towers Herald. He initially exempted the Freemasons from his anger:

Masonry is a universal brotherhood, embracing all sects and all men without distinction of race or color..Will Masonry admit an Orangeman within its ranks? No..There are establishments in this town which contain Orange employees who have already driven Catholic customers from their counters..A great push is being made to turn that innocent journal [the Towers Herald] into an ‘engine’ for the dissemination of Orange principles..[dxxxiv]

He then took aim at the ‘hoodlums’ running the local Jockey Club for perceived corruption and incompetence.

Unfortunately, not only had he antagonised too many potential advertisers by the end of 1877, the different local interests were run by the same people, or at least, they were inter-connected. The ‘Worthy Chief Templar’ of the ‘Ark of Hope Lodge’ of the IOGT, H Wyndham Palmer, was also Secretary of the Masonic Hall Company and the Masonic Club, he was a Protestant but ‘not an Orangeman’, and connected socially with horse owners on whom he relied for support at municipal elections. When the Jockey Club directed its advertisements elsewhere, the editor’s response included:

What right has (the) Vice-President of a club whose funds are subscribed by the public to show his little animus against the Northern Miner by patronising the ‘noodlum’ journal exclusively. We know he is very thick with that crowd..We have subscribed to the Club as well as he has, and we protest against his narrow-minded exclusiveness. We observe the Masonic Hall Company and the Masonic Club, or at least their secretary, HW Palmer, is going to try the same game. See the folly of touching up public men..If that confounded Northern Miner only kept itself quiet and never said a word about anybody, how it would get on..Come down on him at once. Masons and Templars march and walk over the Northern Miner.[dxxxv] (My emphasis)

Loyal Orange Institution Member’s Certificate, 1958.
Loyal Orange Institution Member’s Certificate, 1958.