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Illustrated Guide to Christchurch and Neighbourhood

Ancient Order of Foresters

Ancient Order of Foresters.

The Ancient Order of Foresters is one of the great systems of Friendly Societies which, during the present century, have almost overspread the world with a beneficent network of Courts or Lodges. These bodies have systematised prudence, mutual help, and manly self-reliance among the working classes, and have succeeded in establishing a system of inter-communion amongst their members for the best and purest purposes, viz., page 91the visitation and relief of their sick members the decent interment of the dead, and the relief of the industrious poor.

The general community cannot afford to look upon the operations of these Societies with indifference, and thinking people trace with thankfulness the beneficial influences of their actions.

The artizans who form the great bulk of the members, have developed amongst them not only the legislative energy which, has given shape to these great organizations, but also the administrative ability which despatches business, involving the interests of hundreds of thousands of members, and the investment or expenditure of millions of money. Especially have these qualities been shown in connection with the A.O.F., which has, to a marked degree, been free from the discords and internal dissensions that bring about dis-union, and ultimately secession from the parent body. There can be little doubt that this fortunate position is mainly due to the very liberal constitution of the Order, and the gratitude of the community is undoubtedly due to the delegates who met at Rochdale in 1834, and founded the Order on such a grand basis that it has gradually worked its way, and is now, both, numerically and financially, the largest Friendly Society in the world. The Order was instituted in Canterbury when Christchurch was in its infancy; in the days when gas-lamps were unknown, and when electric lights, asphalte pavements, steam road rollers, and refrigerating machinery were no more thought of than aerial navigation is to-day. To one of the historical first “Four Ships” belongs the honour of bringing to our shores the founder of Forestry in New Zealand (Bro. R. Woodford), by whose exertions “Court Star of Canterbury” was opened at the Golden Fleece Hotel, in January, 1852, thirtythree years ago. No one thought then of graduated entrance fees or rates of contributions. All paid alike, young and old, and were entitled to the same benefits, the younger members being, by this arrangement, heavily handicapped; but it was a long time before the members saw the necessity of adopting a graduated scale (according to age) of payments. The contribution was 10s. per quarter, and the benefits were these:— Medical attendance for member, wife, and children under 14 years of age; 20s. per week, if unable, through accident or illness, to follow usual employment; £12 on the death of a member, and £8 on the death of a member's wife. In 1866, whilst the same scale of benefits remained in force, the rate of contribution was increased to 11s. per quarter for all new members. So matters rested until the year 1871, when, after page 92twelve months' discussion, the graduated system was fully adopted, the contributions commencing at 13s. per quarter for members joining between the ages of 18 and 21, up to 17s. 6d. for those joining from 37 to 40, the last being the age limit at which any one can become a Forester. A like principle was adopted in the scale of Initiation Fees, but the members recognising the principle that it is not the initiation fee, but the annual contribution that must be depended upon, have quite recently reduced the initiation fees to a graduated scale of from 5s. to 21s., according to age. Under the existing laws a member is entitled to 20s. per week during illness; £20 funeral donation on the death of a member, and £10 on the death of a member's wife, and the usual medical attendance. “Court Star of Canterbury” has now a membership of 435, and an accumulated capital of over £5000; being, in fact, the largest Friendly Society south of the Line, and is, undoubtedly, doing a large amount of good, having paid the large sum of £438 sick pay and £220 in funeral donations during 1884. The following are the names of the various branches of the Order in the Canterbury United District:—

Court Star of Canterbury, No. 2309, Bro. W. Buckley, Secretary, Foresters' Hall, Oxford Terrace, Christchurch.

Court Queen of the Isles, No. 2703, Bro. Smith, Secretary, Foresters Hall, Lyttelton.

Court Pride of Courtenay, No. 6031, Bro. G.F. White, Secretary, Courtenay.

Court Star of Ashburton, No. ——, Bro. Barrett, Secretary, Ashburton.

Court Thistle of the Forest, No. 6494, Bro. W.D. Marks, Secretary, Sydenham.

Court Woodford, No. 6583, Bro. ———, Secretary, Kaiapoi.

Court Pride of Richmond, No. 6584, Bro. T.G. Strange, Secretary, Linwood.

Court Pride of Papanui, No. 6585, Bro. Osborne, Secretary, Papanui.

The total membership of these is 791, and the amount of funds £9312. The Canterbury United District, the High Court of Forestry in Canterbury, was established in 1863, the present secretary being Bro. Thos. Gapes, Victoria-street, Christchurch.

In connection with the A.O.F., a Widow and Orphans' Fund was established in 1867, having for its aims and objects the relief of Widows and Orphans of deceased Foresters, by securing to them a weekly payment. This branch of the Order may be joined by any Forester residing within fifteen miles of Christchurch; the entrance fee ranges from 2s. 6d. to 12s. 6d., according to age, with a quarterly contribution of 3s: this small sum secures to the widow a bonus of £20 if the deceased page 93member has been in the Fund two years and under five years; a bonus of £26 if a member over five years and under eight; a bonus of £32 if a member over eight years, and one shilling per week for each child under 12 years of age. Bro. Henry Crooks, Salisbury-street, Christchurch, is the secretary of this Branch.

The Foresters have a higher degree for those who aspire thereto, called the Ancient Order of Shepherds, their place of meeting being the Foresters' Hall, Oxford Terrace, Christchurch, and their Secretary being Bro. E.H. Wood, St. Albans. The last, but not least, of the Institutions connected with the A.O.F. is the Juvenile Branch, and the work aimed at with the youngsters is to give them innocent recreation and instruction, and to retain them until the age of eighteen, when their previous small contribution will have accumulated sufficiently to pay their entrance fee into the parent Court.

What are the advantages of Forestry? The members are taught that their Institution was founded in order that they might assist each other in times of need. They are bound by a solemn tie to act towards each other as brethren; to cheer the unfortunate; to sympathise with those whom accident or disease has overtaken; and to dry the cheek of the mourners. These are among the declared objects of Forestry; in addition to these the social advantages are many, as the members frequently meet together to promote the social happiness of each other, and relieve their minds occasionally from the pressure of care with temperate conviviality.

The true mission of Forestry is pure humanity and brotherly love, and how little extraneous help has been extended to them in the great task they have achieved can scarcely be realised; and with regard to the results obtained, it is the glory of the Foresters that, by self-help alone, has the whole work been done. In conclusion, permit me, dear reader, to ask the question, Do you belong to a Benefit Society? and if not, to put yourself in communication with one of the secretaries, whose names are mentioned above, with the object of joining the noble order whose motto is “Unitas Benevolentia et Concordiœ.”