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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 36

Provincial Grand Master's Address

Provincial Grand Master's Address.

In addressing the delegates at the opening of the Annual Meeting it has, I think, been usual to advert to the proceedings of the last past meeting of the Annual Moveable Committee in England. On this occasion I feel it to be my first duty to notice the A.M.C. meeting—in order to discharge a melancholy duty—by paying a tribute of respect to the memory of one who long shone "a bright particular star" in the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows. You are all aware of the death of the late Corresponding Secretary of the Order—Mr Henry Ratcliffe—which took place at Manchester, on Friday, the 25th of May last—the A.M.C. being then in session at Oldham, in Lancashire. The report of the meeting shows how much his absence was felt on that occasion, and, no doubt, it was felt the more because it had not been anticipated, either by himself, or others, and consequently, was not provided for. The deceased gentleman was taken ill only the day before the meeting was opened, but it was not thought his illness would be serious, or long continued. It was, however, ordained otherwise, and he passed away after an illness of a few days duration. It is not necessary that I should occupy your time with any description of his life and labors. Our local newspapers kindly published obituary notices of some length, and more detailed accounts will be found in the special A.M.C. edition of the Oldham Chronicle, and in the pages of the Oddfellows' Magazines, &c. As you are aware, we suggested' that our Lodges should pay a tribute of respect to the memory of our late respected brother; this suggestion was, we believe, universally accepted and acted upon. To-night we also meet, surrounded by the emblems of mourning, in memory of him page 5 who has passed away Oddfellowship is the proud and enduring monument of Henry Ratcliffe. He found it a seedling, a tiny plant, he left it—and largely through his own exertions—a goodly tree, whoso branches have spread over the whole civilised, world—from the old loved land through the medium of the Manchester Unity; from the great American people through the medium of the Independent Order of Oddfellows. May he rest in peace; and may his name be honored as it deserves, wherever Friendly Societies exist.

From the address of the Grand Master of the Unity, and the report of the Directors, we gather that, on the 1st Jan., 1877, the Unity numbered 518,370 members. The increase by admissions during the year 1876 was 33,646, of which number 23,135 were under 25 years of age. Brother J. J. Holmes, of South London District, was unanimously elected Grand Master of the Order. Brother J. A. Riley, of the Halifax District, was elected Deputy Grand Master. It was felt by the Deputies at the A. M.C. Meeting how difficult it would be to supply Mr Ratcliffe's place as Corresponding Secretary, and the matter was left in the hands of the Directors to do the best they could in the interests of the Unity the G.M. remarking, that it was possible they might have to appoint a Special Secretary to do the acturial work which had been conducted by Mr Ratcliff'e, and a Corresponding Secretary besides. As you are, no doubt, aware, a fresh valuation of the Unity in Great Britain is now being proceeded with, and it is believed it will be completed before the meeting of the A,M.C. next year. Enough has been done already to shew that substantial progress has been made financially, since the last valuations were completed; and when it is recollected that, even then, the Society, as a whole, was in a position to pay 90 per cent, of its obligations, we need not fear the future.

Gentlemen, I now beg to claim your attention for a short statement connected with our own more immediate concerns in the Otago District, taking for my text the statement compiled from the Lodge Returns by the Corresponding Secretary, Brother Sligo.

page 6

The District Officers are pleased at being able to report that the returns from our 23 Lodges were all sent to the C.S. in good time; and that, upon the whole, there are decided indications of the returns having been filled up with more than usual care. There is still room for improvement, however. We observe, for example, that several Lodges return the "Number of Members good on the Books," and the "Total Number of Subscribing Members" at the same figure. It is a very rare thing to find a Lodge with all the members fully financial. We, therefore, conclude that some of the Secretaries have mistaken what is required in filling the return, and consequently, that the total number of members is probably greater than the number returned. On the 30th June last, the gross total of members is given as 1575. We believe that 1600 will be about the correct measure of our strength. During the half-year, January to June, 75 new members were initiated, and 17 joined by clearance. The receipts of the various Lodges are classified under the following heads:—For admissions by Initiation and Clearance, £134 8s. 6d.; Honorary Members Fees, £12 17s.; Contributions to Sick and Funeral Funds—including Funeral payments from District, £1,177 5s. 8d.; Contributions to Incidental Funds, Levies, Fines, Goods, &c., £1,420 10s. 11d.; Foreign Lodges, £67 10s. 6d.; Interest and Rents, £689 15s. 7d.; Total Income for 6 months, £3,502 8s. 2d. The Expenditure from Sick and Funeral Funds, including amount paid for Funerals, was £770 5s. 6d.; Incidental Funds, in which is included the amounts paid for Medical attendance and Medicines, £1,634 17s.; Foreign Lodges, £67 3s. 5d.; Total Expenditure, £2,472 5s. 11d. The gross saving on the six months transactions is, therefore, £1,030 2s. 3d.

The amount paid for Medical Attendance and Medicines was £993 0s. 10d.; to Sick Members, £575 14s. 3d.; being an average of 7s. 3 ¾d. per subscribing member.

The balance at credit of Sick and Funeral Funds, in cash, land, and buildings, at the end of June, was £17,733 6s. 6d. The Incidental Fund Credit Balance was £2,488 0s. 3d. To guard against mistaken ideas on this point, it is proper to page 7 add that, of the last named amount, upwards of £2,000 is held by one Lodge—the Hand and Heart. The gross total value of the Lodges, including the above stated balances, is estimated at £20,896 15s. 5d.

The compilation of returns discloses one feature which deserves a word of comment. During the 6 months under review, the total amount of increase to the debt of the Incidental Funds was £40 10s. 9d. only. The increase being in 5 Lodges; and of this sum £20 is accounted for by unfortunate circumstances in one of the Lodges. Circumstances which, we trust, are not likely to occur again. Against the £40 borrowed from the Sick Funds in these 5 Lodges, we find repayments made by other 6 Lodges, amounting to £68 13s. 4d., moneys formerly borrowed from the Sick Funds. 11 Ledges have balances at credit of Incidental Funds, while 1 Lodge had effected a saving which had not been dealt with at time of making up returns. This is an unprecedented state of affairs, and must be peculiarly gratifying to the District Officers, past and present, as it induces the belief that their long continued efforts in this direction are now bearing good fruit, and gives ground for hoping that before long the evil practice of borrowing the capital of one fund to meet the current expenses of another will soon be a thing of the past. We rejoice that it is so, because there is little doubt that, under the new Act, Lodges attempting a continuance of this practice will be called to account by the Registrar

The Friendly Societies Bill has passed both Houses of Parliament, and, we presume, will come into force on the 1st January next. We believe that it will be found a useful measure, and conducive to the welfare of the Societies, especially if the Societies do what in them lies to loyally aid the authorities in carrying out its provisions. We trust the forms and regulations respecting registry and procedure under the Act will be framed in a wise and liberal spirit, avoiding, as far as may be, unnecessary technicalities which may puzzle and confuse Lodge Secretaries, who cannot always be expected to deal efficiently with returns of an abstruse or intricate description. We are pleased to be able page 8 to report that, speaking generally, all the important alterations recommended by ourselves and others during last Session of Parliament have been accepted by the Legislature, so that, while it may be thought improvements might be introduced in some matters of detail, the essential principles of the new Act are almost all that we have desired.

Worthy Brothers—The District Officers resign, to-night, the trust which you honored them by committing to them twelvemonths ago. We have to thank the District Committees, and the Lodges which we have visited, and communicated with, during our term of office, for the kindness and courtesy which has ever been extended to us; we trust that those to whom the care of the District will be committed for the next official year will have it in their power to further the best interests of the District, and will be able to meet you 12 months hence with the consciousness of men who have done their duty, and done it well.

The Balance Sheet and Auditors' Report having been printed and placed in the hands of the delegates, were taken as mad.