The following sequence of letters which throw an interesting light on Oddfellowship in Dougas in the mid 1840's. They are transcribed as they appeared - all italics etc are as in the originals.
Manx Liberal 2 November 1844
Sir: Whether this letter will meet your approbation I know not but certain I am that, if you were but acquainted with the following facts, they would not escape your notice. I deeply regret that the editor of the Manx Sun1, a most accomplished young gentleman, is about to be initiated a member of the Loyal Mona Lodge of Oddfellows; whether for the sake of pounds shillings and pence, I know not; but if he do not to contrive to keep in favor of those that have the sway of the Lodge, unless he can pass unnoticed the way in which they squander and throw away the poor members' money. It will be all up with him - he will lose pounds, shillings and pence. But, Sir, bearing that he is a Methodist parson2, we may expect better of him than the sanction of any such thing, at least I hope so. It will be remembered that the two or three that has the rule of this Lodge got up a diner a few weeks ago, entirely at their own risk, and invited Dr. Bowring, incurred an expense of £4 18s for wine, &c and a band. Now, this was all done without the sanction of the Lodge. But how was it was it to be paid was all they were concerned about. Well, Sir, last Lodge night, after those that would be opposed to such a thing coming before the Lodge were gone out, these two or three moved and seconded that this £4 18s come out of the funds. Now, Mr Editor, what think you of that? I think it worse than even the Joint Stock swindle was. But this is only trifling to some of the acts of these leading men, for they do not care anything about the funds, so as they get a spree out of it whenever they like. I may mention that there is £20 per year paid for the use of the Hall to meet in once a fortnight. Now, there are other societies in the town, consisting of more members, and get a deal more money, and only pay from £5 to £8 a year. There has been a great deal of unpleasantness about this, and when a poor member gets up to speak about it, these big fellows say knock it off, don't listen to it, so that the matter is dropped, and so disgusted has the poor members been with this, that scarcely one of them ever attends, so that these jewellers, hon. secretaries, and gas fitters, have all their own way, I could mention scores of things besides, Mr Editor, but it would only be troubling you, such as £4 10s for battle axes. And the Chronicle dodge - fine fat livings here for some of them, when they will forfeit situations of £1 5s per week to look after this monthly publication. So I think there is reform wanted here, Mr. Editor. If any of them answer this letter, they will hear from me again. I hope you will excuse this Mr. Editor, and I remain
A Working Man
And a Member of the Loyal Mona Lodge of Odd Fellows
Douglas Nov 1. 1844.
Manx Liberal 9 November 1844
Mr. Editor. - You admitted, I hope inadvertently, into the last Liberal, gross attack upon the members of the Mona Lodge of the united Order of Odd Fellows, on this Island, and I do hope, from the impartiality which you have evinced on almost every occasion, that you will allow me, a brother of the Order from its commencement, to submit a few words, by way of antidote to the poison which has been disseminated, and for the truth of my statement, I pledge my honour, character and reputation, and enclose you my real name and residence.
The accusations alledged against the members of the Lodge, by a "Working Man", I unhesitatingly declare FALSE from beginning to end; and that it is an utter impossibility, that his allegations COULD have taken place; and I hesitate not to state that if he be a brother, his conduct is of so treacherous a nature, that if it can be brought home to him, he will be expelled from the Order with the utmost ignominy.
I have stated, Sir, that it is IMPOSSIBLE that what he has asserted could have taken place, inasmuch as no transaction relative to the Lodge takes place without its being brought publicly forward, thoroughly investigated, and passed by the majority of brothers present. Not even a pound of candles could be paid for, without investigation and consent.
For the last six years the affairs of the Lodge have been well managed and the utmost economy has been observed, and the funds are prospering. Previous to the time I have mentioned, I deeply regret to say that by the misconduct of some in whom confidence had been placed, some losses had been sustained, and in all probability this "working Man" is desirous of taking the management of the affairs out of the hands of the worthy and honourable brothers who are now conducting it, in order to get it into his own, and that of other working men's hands ; and in a pretty state the funds of the Lodge would then be.
The Mona Lodge was the first established upon this Island, and it has flourished and diffused blessings to many of its members for ten years, and never was the slightest slur or stigma cast upon it, until the attack which appeared in your last week's journal ; and allow me to remark, that even had those charges been as true as they are false ! basely, infamously false ! the individual who communicated them to you, had he been a brother, would have been a perjured man, inasmuch as, on being admitted, he made a solemn declaration never to divulge publicly any transaction appertaining to the Lodge.
A provisional committee has been appointed to search the business
to the bottom, and the hand-writing of the suspected person has been
obtained from one or more printing offices, which are almost
confirmation strong as proof of holy writ. I would recommend the
suspected person to withdraw himself, before he is ignominiously
I am, yours respectfully
A Member of the Mona Lodge
Douglas, Nov 7, 1844
Manx Liberal 16 November 1844
Sir, - Having read three letters in your journals connected with Odd Fellowship - the first charging the officers and those in authority with extravagance and mismanagement of the funds and disregarding the poorer members of the Lodge ; the others, on the contrary, alleging this to be quite false, and a base production of some "illiterate scoundrel."
Whether it is so or not I cannot tell ; but, Sir, it is well known throughout this town that I have the misfortune of being one of the many parties selected on suspicion of being the author of the one signed "A Working Man, and a Member of the Loyal Mona Lodge of Odd Fellows". This being the case, I feel I am in duty bound to say something in reply however little, and why I should be chosen is more than I can divine ; what I have done to merit this slur upon my character, is to me a regular puzzle.
I have only been connected with Odd Fellowship about six months, and it cannot be expected I know much about them, for on seeing the above letter it was, I assure you, news to me. I, of course, as a natural consequence, began to make inquiries about these facts, and I find it is far better for me to leave it to others more acquainted with the circumstances, and to let them prove, if they can, the "Working Man's" assertions false. But you will be ready to ask, why I am suspected out of a Lodge containing upwards of 200 members ? You will, I think, be ready to say, they must have some good authority, some positive evidence, something that will prove to be as clear as "holy writ".
We will just see for one moment what this is ; it is simply this, - I, as it happens unfortunately for me, was passing along the street the other day, and meeting a well known individual, and expressing my dissatisfaction about a certain affair to him, what scores had done before me, which just happened a week before the appearance of the letter in your paper of the "Working man". Well, what does this person do, but make it his business to go and circulate, wantonly and maliciously, in shops, printing offices, and almost to every member of the Lodge, that I was the bona fide author of that letter, because as he says, there is a word or two, at the most, which I happened to use while conversing with him! This, certainly, is poor evidence to convict any man; but poor as it is, it was his foundation stone, the very thing upon which he builds his evidence - which, in any sensible person's judgement, is poor indeed; in fact nothing more or less than the shadow of a shade.
Now it may appear that Odd Fellowship is a good thing if not abused; but I do not yet feel inclined to "sacrifice everything for Odd Fellowship". Oh! no! and I have determined not to take the advice of any member, to withdraw before I am ignominiously expelled, for I should like to see some proofs of my guilt, if they can produce any, before I either withdraw or am expelled, ignominiously - I am Sir, yours respectfully,
Duke Street, Douglas, Nov 15, 1844
1: Editor of Manx Sun from April 1844 was Peter Curphey (John Quiggin had been associated with it from 1828 to 1841; after which James Brotherson Laughton edited it).
2: J B Laughton shortly afterwards went to Australia as a minister (though not sure Methodist) so presumeably he was the person addressed as 'parson'.