[pp27-33 W Kneale "Oddfellows Companion and Guide to Douglas, Isle of Man" 1897; issued in conjuction with the Annual Moveable Conference held in Douglas in 1897 - this guide book also contained many useful biographies of leading figures in Manx Oddfellowship of the time]

THE ISLE OF MAN A.M.C.

 

IN presenting this Guide of our Island home to the Deputies attending the Annual Moveable Conference, we desire to convey to each member a cordial brotherly welcome to fair Mona’s Isle. It was in the year 1841, that the last A. M.C. was held in Douglas.

We are glad to be able to count, among our members, a good many who remember that meeting, and who have been active workers ever since in the cause of Oddfellowship, spreading throughout our Island the principles of Friendship, Love, and Truth. Being, in a certain sense, in an isolated position, through our being cut off from the mainland by the little stretch of blue water, we have not had the opportunities of taking the part in the affairs of our Unity that we would wish to have enjoyed, still, in Manx Oddfellowship, we have scores of members who do all in their power to carry on the grand work of the Unity with credit to themselves, to their Lodge, District, and to the Unity, with the result that we have in the Island eleven Lodges, with a membership of over 3,000, and a capital of over £45,000.

We have had many visits from distinguished brethren, we remember with pleasure the visit of the then Grand Master, Bro. Bennett, and also of Bro. Reuben Watson, GrandMaster Diprose’s visit will be looked back upon with pleasure by the members who had the pleasure of being in his company. His visit has done more than anything else to strengthen our position, and to arouse the enthusiasm that was lying dormant in the breasts of our fellow members. Then, later on, we have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of the present Grand Master ; and also of Past Grand Master Campkin. We rejoice, with our brethren throughout the Unity, that we have in our Society such men who take an active interest in the well-being of our members, and who sacrifice their time and energy in promoting and fostering the fraternal relations existing between District and District, Lodge and Lodge, member and member. We desire to thank the Grand Master and P.G.M. Campkin for the assistance which they gave us on their recent visit, in making our arrangements for holding the A.M.C. of 1897. In no part of our vast Unity has Oddfellowship made better progress than in the Isle of Man. We had a small beginning when our first meeting was held in the year 1830. Then, as now, the most distinguished members of the community were members of our Order.

In the year 1830 Oddfellowship was first introduced in the Isle of Man. it is to a Yorkshireman that we are indebted for its introduction, viz., Bro. J. Forster, who came here as a wool spinner. Shortly after his arrival he heard that there was a man here who had come from Leeds, named Jeremiah Lee, and who professed to be an Oddfellow. Bro. Forster spoke to him about forming a branch of the Society here. Bro. Lee explained to him that he belonged to the Yorkshire Unity, and went fully into the rules and benefits, explaining that this Unity was very strong; and, seeing that there was no such Society in the Isle of Man, he thought it would be for the benefit of the community if they were to try and establish a branch here, and if Bro. Forster would agree to get twenty men to join and sign the declaration that they would become members, he would see to getting the dispensation. Bro. Forster set to work, and was not long in getting the number agreed upon. Then his friend wrote to a Lodge in Leeds, explaining the situation, with the result that another Yorkshireman here assisted, viz., Bro. J. Johnson. A dispensation was granted, and, in a fortnight’s time, two Past Grands arrived on the Island, and opened a Lodge in the Saddle Inn, Queen-street, Douglas. The progress which this new Lodge made was most disheartening to its promoters. Most of the members made were strangers to the Island, Manxmen being then very slow to join in anything that was new, preferring to let the new departure go on for a while, to see if it really was all that was claimed for it. Those who had joined soon grew weary, and as fast as new members were made the old ones left, all excepting the faithful few. However, the crisis came at the end of five years, when the Lodge numbered nine members, with a capital of £9 But there was luck in the odd number nine, who met together and resolved that they would no longer continue to work under the Yorkshire Unity, but would try to get admittance into the ranks of the Manchester Unity. In this they were successful. A few of the members were acquainted with Oddfellows in Liverpool, from whom they received all the necessary information, and eventually the Loyal Mona Lodge was transferred to the Manchester Unity, and from that time up to the present has been successful. Bro. Forster had to remain in the position of Noble Grand for seven long weary years, but he was determined that the Society should succeed. Our good brother lived to see the Society flourishing, and died only a few years since.

To the Isle of Man District belongs the honour of having published the first magazine of the Order. It was named the Oddfellows’ Chronicle, and was published in the year 1844. Orders were given for 9,000 of the first number. The editor was Bro. William Sherrifs, a member of the Loyal Mona Lodge, and it was printed in Douglas. In May, 1845, it was spoken of at the Glasgow A. M. C. in the most flattering terms, and received the unanimous sanction of the A.M.C. The Unity then numbered 250,000 members, as against 751,000-at the beginning of this year. The circulation of the Chronicle soon reached 14,000.

From the earliest date of the Order the members of this District have endeavoured to keep in touch with the spirit of our Society, viz.: " Unity." We find that, so far back as 1845, a most distinguished member, Bro. Dr. Bowring, M.P., paid a visit on the invitation of the members, and was present at a banquet over which Bro. Sir William Hillary, Bart., presided. In a very able address, the Doctor said :— I look upon Oddfellowship as one of those accidents "which show man why he was born—uniting man to man, brother to brother, country to country-—proving that man has an interest in his fellow man, and that all ought to love and serve each other. Oddfellowship is a recognition of that great principle which declares that we are all children of one. common Father, the tendrils of each heart springing, growing up around, and entwining together. Indeed, this. is the object of our being. We live here to do so, founding. our principles, our interest, and our politics on a foundations "of friendship and amity. Perceiving this to be the foundation.of Oddfellowship I joined it most readily, with delight I have ever found it one of those cements, binding men associated with it, and making man nearer and dearer to every other man."

Although it is over 50 years since these words were uttered, every word is true to-day; and we are now reaping in our Island the benefit which has been handed down to us from .those who have long since passed away. We have not been without our difficulties in the Isle of Man. Once in the history of the Society, the first Lodge (Mona) which was established was suspended by the Grand Master and Board of Directors. Some of the members who had not agreed with the majority, which passed a resolution setting at defiance the Directors of the Order, decided to open a new Lodge, to be named the Loyal Albert. This Lodge was opened by the Deputy Grand Master of the Order, Bro. Smith, of Birmingham, in 1845. It was soon seen that Douglas could not support three lodges, and, as the difference between the Board and the Mona was soon amicably settled, the old Lodge grew in favour, and the Albert in course of time expired, the members being taken over by the District.

In 1840, a desire was expressed that a Hall should be built wherein to hold the Lodge Meetings. There being no funds in hand for such a purpose, the members decided to build on the co-operative principle, taking shares as far they could afford. A start was made with the Hall, and it was so far completed that the last meeting of the A.M.C.—1841 was held in it. Unfortunately for the Order, the members who had taken shares became dissatisfied with the large amount of money the building had cost, and as a result it passed into other hands, and to-day it is one of the principal buildings in our Island, owned by the Government, and in which all the Law Courts are held. We can only regret that is not now what it was called then—The Oddfellows’ Hall. The Loyal Mona Lodge, which is the parent of Oddfellowhip in the Island, is carried on by most energetic members, who are ever on the look out for some new departure which will be a credit to the District. From this Lodge emanated the idea, proposed by Bro. J. G. Corlett, P.P.G.M., that the A.M.C. be invited to Douglas.

In addition to the Loyal Mona Lodge, we have in Douglas the Loyal Victoria Lodge, which has been, and still is, one of the brightest gems in our District. They have had the advantage of having as their Per. Secretary, Bro. C. Bridson, who was also Prov. C.S. for over 35 years, and whose death took place last November. In his death we lost one of the best Oddfellows that the Isle of Man has ever known He worked hard in the interests of his own Lodge with the result that at the last valuation they came out at the top with over £2,000 of a surplus. Bro. C. G. Bridson, son of the late Prov. C.S., is Secretary of the Mona and Victoria Lodges, also C.S. of the District.

To Bro. J. Fielding, P.P.G.M., one of the oldest members, and who was present at the last A.M.C., 1841, and who has been elected to represent the District at this A. M.C., belongs a fair share of the credit for the grand position of this Lodge. Mr. Fielding is one of the District Trustees.

In no part of the Island is there more interest taken in Oddfellowship than in the ancient capital, viz., Castletown. Here we have a most flourishing Lodge [Hope & Anchor] , which numbers amongst its members Mr Spencer Walpole, the late Lieut.Governor of the Island, now Secretary to the Post Office; Sir J. Gell, H.M.’s Attorney-General for the Island; Mr. J. S.Gell, High-Bailiff and Chief Magistrate, who is a Past Prov. Grand Master of the District; Rev. E. Ferrier, P.P.G.M., Bro. E. Martin, P.P.G.M., and many other prominent Manxmen. Bro. J. Clague, Prov. D.G.M., is a member of this Lodge.

The Lodge is fortunate in having as its Per. Secretary, Bro. S. Stowell, one of the best Oddfellows in the Island.

In the charming and picturesque district of Port St. Mary, which has been truly described as the home of the artist and pleasure seeker, we have our largest lodge, viz., the Harbour Peace. Many years ago a great disaster occurred in this district, when a vessel named the Lily, loaded with gunpowder, is blown up at a place called Kitterland. Many members this Lodge were killed, and the handsome way in which the District assisted the widows and orphans reaped its reward, as the sturdy fishermen who form the population of this place, were not slow to see the advantages likely to accrue to their families should they meet with misfortune. consequence of this they joined the Brotherhood, and to is day we have the largest Lodge located here. It numbers amongst its members many of our best workers, notably Bro. J. Moore, P.P.G.M., who is a District Trustee, and who represented the District at Swansea and Bristol AMC., and who has again been elected to this A.M.C. so, Bro. T. Qualtrough, P.P.G.M., who is District treasurer, and who takes a very active interest in the welfare the Lodge and District. Bro. J. Qualtrough is a capable Per. Secretary.

In the village of Foxdale we have the Loyal Tynwald Lodge. This Lodge is situated in a mining district, and has many difficulties which the other Lodges do not have to contend with. The other Lodges do not have to contend with flow of emigration, which has had a serious effect on the young life of this Lodge. Still its officers work in a most praiseworthy manner. Bro. T. Killey ably represents the Lodge at most of the District meetings.

At St. John’s, where the famous Tynwald Hill is situated, from which our laws are promulgated every 5th day of July, we have the Loyal St. John’s Lodge, which holds its own in the competition with other Lodges in the Island. Bro. Rev. J.Corlett, P.P.G.M., takes a great interest in the welfare of the members, and has his reward by being held in very high esteem by each member of the Lodge and District. Bro, Kennaugh is Per. Secretary.

Within two miles and a half of St. John’s, we have the ancient City of Peel, where is situated the Loyal Peveril Lodge, and from which some of the best workers in the District have come, notably Bro. T. Kelly, P.P.G.M., who has done good work for the Lodge and District. This Lodge is in a good position, and is worked by an energetic band, with Bro. T. Quilliam as Per. Secretary.

At Kirk Michael, a pretty village on the way to Ramsey, we have a small Lodge, the Loyal St. Michael’s. The population of this district is small, and great difficulty found in getting members to join. The Per. Secretary, Bro. W.Corlett, P.G., sticks to his post like a true Oddfellow and represents his lodge at each District Meeting.

In Ramsey, we have the Loyal Good Anchorage Lodge. In this Lodge, the social element is carried on to a far greater extent than in any other part of the District. Everything goes in the Good Anchorage with a swing; the young members as well as the elder take an active interest in the Lodge, and as a consequence they continue to make rapid headway. Our Prov. Grand Master, Rev. G. Paton, is.a member of this Lodge. Bro. Mills makes a capital Per Secretary.

In the pretty village of Laxey, we have the Loyal North Star Lodge, the working of which is carried on in an admirable manner by Bro. Capt. Killip, P.P.G.M., Per. sec., who is also one of the District Trustees. This Lodge as had great difficulties from the same cause as the Tynwald, at it is getting over the difficult part now, and is in a sound financial condition.

In the village of Onchan, we have a small Lodge, the Loyal Howard. This is the last formed in the Island. Its progress slow, but sure. Bro. W. Morrison, the Per. Sec., repesents the Lodge at the District Meeting.

We have included in this Guide "The Little Man Island," which was written by Mr. Hall Caine, and also a Pedestrian Guide to Douglas, by permission of the proprietors, Brown & Sons, Limited, publishers of The Isle of Man Times, which has been appointed the official newspaper for this A.M.C.

We hope that our brethren will have an enjoyable week, and that the result of their deliberations will tend to the advancement of our grand Unity; and in conclusion we hope and trust that each deputy will return to his home benefitted in health by his week’s sojourn in lovely Mona.

 


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