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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

Provincial Grand Master's Address

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Provincial Grand Master's Address.

Worthy Deputy and Brethren

For the first time in the history of this District, which has now been about twenty years in existence, we meet in annual session away from our head-quarters in Dunedin.

The circumstance that nearly all our Lodges are widely separated from each other, over a territory some 10,000 square miles in extent, added to the fact that till very lately the usual mode of conveyance into the interior of the Province was both slow and expensive, has afforded a ready and sufficient excuse in the past why the principal meetings of our Society should be held in the District Chambers. That this excuse will not be considered sufficient any longer, now that a considerable extent of country is made easily accessible by means of the railways, was made evident by the arguments used and the large number of delegates who carried the motion in favor of our meeting here, at the last District Meeting.

I am aware there is some difference of opinion amongst the Brethren of the Order with regard to these meetings being movable—mainly because of the expense they will cost—but despite this, I trust and believe that a large amount of good will flow from the fact that members of the District will be afforded an opportunity year by year of meeting in the principal centres of population, and thereby profit by personal intercourse with each other, cement the bond of unity which exists and disseminate the noble principles of our institution. For my own part I trust that this step we have, taken will be followed up by others till District Meetings shall have been held in every locality where there is a Lodge from the Waitaki to the Mataura, and from the Nuggets to the Lakes.

The very great services which the Loyal Tuapeka Lodge has rendered to the Order as the mother lodge of a now numerous family, fully explains and justifies the selection of Lawrence as the first country town to be visited for the purpose of holding a District Meeting. 1 therefore congratulate the Delegates on our meeting in this pleasant town, and in the centre of a district ever memorable in connection with the most eventful epoch in the history of this Province, viz., the discovery of gold.

Having made these preliminary remarks, let me advert briefly to the proceedings at the late Annual Movable Committee of the Order in England. For I think it is our duty to regard with interest all that transpires at the Annual Parliament of our Order, and seek to derive such lessons from the proceedings thereat as may assist us in carrying on this District to the same degree of perfection and financial stability as has been reached by many of the Districts in Great Britain.

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This year the A.M.C. was held in the City of Exeter, the capital of fair Devon, and was attended by no less than 432 deputies, being 30 more than on any previous occasion. Our worthy deputy P.P.G.M. Palmer reached Home in time for the meeting, and though far from being well, attended and took an active part in some of the debates, It is worthy of mention that the Auckland, Hobart Town and South Africa District were also represented by deputies. All this testifies to the reality of the Unity which exists between the central Society in Britain and its branches in the Colonies. This connection our Revising Barrister was very slow to realise and sanction, but I am extremely pleased to find that on Thursday last a clause was inserted in the "Friendly Societies' Amendment Act," before it was passed, recognising and legalising, not only our connection with the parent Society, but also allowing of reference in our Lodge and District Rules to the General Rules of the Order.

From the Directors' Report we find that on the 1st January, 1878, the number of members was 526,802, showing a gain of 8432 on the year. The number of members admitted during the year was 32,241, while the withdrawals, deaths, &c., amounted to 23,809. The income and expenditure of the Unity for the year 1877 was not compiled in time for presentation to the meeting, and up to the present time we have not received the quarterly report containing the necessary information.

In regard to the second quinquennial valuation of the Unity in Great Britain and Ireland, began by the late C. S. Bro. H. Ratcliffe, and only lately completed, the Directors were able to lay before the meeting an abstract of the result, from this we find that the present value of the benefits or liabilities amounts to £11,936,279 17s. 2d., whilst the present value of the contributions gives £7,956,984 18s. 9d., and this amount, added to the capital in hand, viz., £3,607,126 2s. 2d., makes up a total of £11,564,111 0s 11d. of assets, leaving a deficiency of £372,168 16s. 3d. In 1871 the deficiency amounted to £1,341,446 16s. 5d., therefore the present valuation shows a reduction in the deficiency of £971,278 0s. 2d. In explanation of this favorable circumstance, the Directors point out that it is due to the following causes. First—An increase in the contributions. In 1871 the average annual contribution to the Sick and Funeral Fund amounted to 19s. 6d. per member, in 1876 it had risen to 20s. 5d. Second—A reduction in the benefits. In 1871 the average present value of Sick and Funeral Benefits for each member amounted to £28 11s. 10d., In 1876 it had been reduced to £25 15s. 94 Third—Careful attention to the investment of the Funds, in consequence of which many Lodges were enabled to be valued at a higher rate of interest than 3 per cent., the rate at which all were valued at in 1871.

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The progress towards solvency which this valuation shows to have taken place during the preceding five years is matter for great congratulation, and gives us confidence that the great Manchester Unity will be able, at no distant date, to assert that every lodge belonging to it at Home and abroad, has been placed on a firm financial foundation, and is in the proud position of being able to meet all its engagements.

At the instance of Bro. Godfree, of Brighton, (a gentleman who has on several occasions clone the Otago District good service), a motion was passed by the meeting affirming the desirability—"That an endeavor should be made by the G. M. and Board of Directors to obtain the registration of the General Rules in the Colonies."

What the result of this will be it would be difficult to say, but the example set by the Revising Barrister and Registrar of this Colony will, I trust, be followed by the gentlemen holding similar offices in the other Colonies. At the same time, I am sure you will agree with me in thanking our friend for his interest in Colonial Districts, and join in the hope that the efforts of the Directors may soon be successful.

One of the most important events of the meeting was the election of a Corresponding Secretary in room of the late Henry Ratcliffe. For this important office there were four candidates, which number was reduced to two after the first voting. These candidates, Messrs. Collins and Watson, then went again to the poll for final vote, with this result, that Mr. Collins got 164 votes and Mr. Watson 161, giving a majority of three for Mr. Collins, in a meeting of 325. It was evident throughout the course of the previous proceedings that party spirit ran pretty high in regard to who should be Mr. Ratcliffe's successor, and the final voting shows how evenly the parties were balanced. For all this, it is to be hoped that the best man has been chosen, and that he will prove himself well qualified for the high office he is now called to; though from remarks made, it seems he does not profess to have any share of that acturial knowledge held by his opponent, and the possession of which, in such large measure, brought so much renown to Henry Ratcliffe and credit to the Manchester Unity.

A great deal of discussion seems to have taken place on a large number of questions of little or no interest to us, such as the Poor Law Act, the Northampton case, and many of the proposed alterations in the Rules.

On the other hand, there were several questions brought under consideration of the meeting worthy of our attention had time allowed, but I can only mention a few of them and no more, such as the establishment of Superannuation Funds; a question which it will be our duty to take up before long. The subject of Valuations; a question which cannot long be delayed by us. The page 7 proposal for inter-communication with the I.O.O.F. in America; a result which now seems capable of attainment. The discussion on District Sick Funds and on the question of Clearances, did not receive that amount of attention which they deserved. In regard to Clearances, I have long been of opinion that the A.M.G.'s have not done their duty, for in the case of members who emigrate to the Colonies, a very great injustice is done under the present Home system.

Let me now direct your attention to the consideration of our own more immediate affairs. All the Lodge returns have been received, but some of them so lately that several errors which we fear exists in them, have not been fully rectified.

These Returns have been tabulated by our worthy Secretary with his usual care and clearness, which enables me to place before you the following facts regarding our position on the 30th June last. On that date the membership of the District was given as 1596, of which number 1426 are returned as "good on the books." During the previous half-year 76 new members joined by initiation and 8 joined by clearance. On the other hand we have lost six members and one member's wife by death, and about the average number have withdrawn or seceded.

The total income of our 23 Lodges for the six months amounted to £3618 9s. 3d., made up as follows:—
For Admissions £136 16 0
For Contributions to Sick and Funeral Fund, including funeral repay ments from District 1193 7 2
For Interest, rents, &c., Sick and Funeral Fund 479 10 8
For Contributions to Incidental Fund, goods, &c. 1409 3 9
For Foreign Lodges 131 13 8
For Interest and rents, Incidental Fund 267 18 2
£3618 9 5
The total expenditure during the same time amounted to £2581 4s. 4d., classified under the following heads:—
For Sick Benefits £429 7 7
For Funeral Benefits 130 0 0
For District Levies, Funeral Fund 116 2 0
For Medical attendance and medicine 1023 12 0
For Rents, salaries, printing, &c. 777 14 8
For Foreign Lodges 104 8 1
£2581 4 4
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From this brief statement it will be seen that the addition to the capital of the Lodges in the District amounts to £1037 5s. 1d. for the six months. On the last day of the term the balance at credit of Sick and Funeral Fund in cash, land, and buildings was £19,021 16s. Id. Lodges hold goods said to be of the value of £475 15s., and the Incidental Fund credit balance and other assets amounted to £3686 4s. 5d., so that the gross total value of our Lodges appeal's to be £23,183 15s. 6d.

It would take up too much time for me to fully analyze these returns, but there are several features disclosed by the compilation which I deem to be of great importance to this district, and I crave your indulgence while I dwell on them for a little. The small increase in our numbers is not, in my opinion, at all in keeping with the claims of the Society or the growth of population, and as all our trades have been fairly prosperous during the term, I fear it can only be accounted for by want of energy on the part of the members. It should ever be borne in mind by all of us that the operations of our Society are twofold—on the one hand it is a business, on the other it is a beneficence "a function of finance and a mission of humanity." We recognise the fact that our condition is one of interdependence, and we combine together in order that in times of sickness, or when calamity Comes, we may have a claim to assistance, based on the monies we have contributed to the Society, without loss of self-respect or compromise of individual independence. At the same time the aims of our Society embrace the moral as well as the material welfare of its members, and, as you are all aware, we are constantly instructed to practice the practical virtues, and to strive to make those who enter amongst us "better husbands, better fathers, and better members of society." Such being the case, I do most earnestly hope that in the future our members will bestir themselves, and seek to make known the objects and advantages of our Society; if they do, I have no fear but that the result will be a large increase to our members.

The important question of the indebtedness of the Incidental Fund to the sick and Funeral Fund has again engaged the attention of the District Officers. During the term under review, I regret to say the debt has increased to the extent of £24 17s. 7d., so that it now stands at £1012 12s. I had hoped that after the many warnings which have been given anent this matter it would have been my pleasing duty to announce on the present occasion that a marked improvement had taken place. It is certainly matter for congratulation that ten of our Lodges have balances in hand to the credit of the Incidental Fund, while six others have, in the six months, reduced their debt by £73 10s. 3d. The remaining seven Lodges are the defaulters, they having increased their indebtedness to the extent of £98 16s. 10d. It must be page 9 evident to everyone who has carefully considered this question, that power should be given to the Distaict Officers to at once put a stop to a practice fraught with so great danger to the Lodges, and through them to the District. It would be matter for great praise if the members of our Lodges would strive to know their duty, and to do it of their own free will and accord without any pressure being brought to bear on them, either by the District Officers or the Registrar; but if they do not do it, then they must be taught it.

The current expenses for doctor and medicines, rents, salaries, and other management expenses, ought to be paid for on the completion of the term of service, and if the regular contributions of the members to the Incidental Fund prove inadequate, the wisest course is to make a levy at once for the amount short in the past, and for the future to watch well that there be no needless expenditure, and if the contributions are still short, then raise the subscriptions.

But the payment of the existing debt should be borne by the persons in whose behalf the services were provided, as it is manifestly unfair to ask new members who may be paying an adequate amount for the services provided for themselves, to assist in paying off a debt contracted by old members of the Lodge. All the services connected with the Incidental Fund or Management Fund of a Lodge are of the nature of time bargains, and should be paid for at the time promptly.

The amount of interest on capital received during the past term proves very conclusively that much more attention is now being paid to this most important matter than was the case a short time ago, yet for all this a few Lodges are still seemingly as careless as ever. The value of goods held by the various Lodges present some peculiar features worthy of your attention, for example—one Lodge with only 11 members returns the value of its goods at £40 17s. 6d., while another with 161 members, has goods to the value of £20 only—or again, 7 Lodges, with a membership of 359, hold goods which they value at £333 14s., while the remaining 16 Lodges with 1237 members value their goods at £142 1s. only. I have no reason to doubt the correctness of the values given by the Lodges, yet it must be apparent to you all, that the seven Lodges referred to have been very extravagant, or culpably careless.

It will not surprise you to be told that in nearly every case this wastefulness has been at the expense of the Sick and Funeral Fund capital. I would urge upon the members of these Lodges to reduce their stock of goods as speedily as possible, and invest the money to better account.

There only remains one other feature, drawn from the rarurns, for me to dwell upon, but it is a most important one. It is to page 10 draw your attention to the fact that in four of our Lodges the expenditure during the six months lias exceeded the income, while several others have done little more than hold their ground. In the case of one of the Lodges, the sickness experienced has been heavy, but with the others the sickness was not greater than was to be expected. I hope this reverse may only be accidental, but my reason contradicts my hope, and therefore I say to you plainly it is high time that we should make a searching investigation into our affairs, and facing the question manfully, apply such remedies as are found to be necessary. We have seen what the parent Society has found it necessary to do, and if we are to attain the same high eminence it must be by following the same courses. With Friendly Societies there is no royal road to solvency. The want of knowledge is one of the greatest obstacles in regard to this subject which has to be overcome, and the difficulty of educating members to the necessary point all but insurmountable. But if we are sincerely desirous of making our institution as perfect as we can, it must be attempted, and we must labor to make our members clearly apprehend the real responsibilities that such a Society as this undertakes.

During the last six months (as will be seen by the report of the Bye-laws Revision Committee), the financial condition of our Society has frequently occupied the attention of the Committee, and though their labors were not finished in time to enable us to lay the results before you at this meeting, still I may be permitted to say that it has been agreed to recommend for adoption by this District a scale of fees and contributions which we believe will, if adopted, place our Society on a sound basis. Having said this, I hope that you will all think earnestly over the matter so that when the special meeting takes place tor the consideration of the Revision Committee's recommendations, we may be able to discuss the subject fully, fairly, and temperately.

Worthy Delegates—At the close of this meeting the District Officers resign the charge which you committed to their keeping twelve months ago. I have to thank the Brethren of the Order for the support they have given me and the kindness I have received from all. The past year has, in many respects, been a busy one, but your District Officers have one and all wrought most heartily together and to the best of our ability for the interests of the Districts.

To my worthy deputy, Bro. Fish, I tender my most sincere thanks for his able assistance and support in carrying out the duties of my office.

To our Corresponding Secretary Bro. Sligo, I offer my warmest thanks for the kind and courteous manner in which he has always mot me, for his readiness at all time to attend to the requirements page 11 of the Society, and for the able manner in which he has conducted the business of the District.

I now ask your kind assistance in conducting the business of this meeting, and I trust the result of our deliberations may tend to the advancement of this Society, and the benefit of our fellow men. I have now pleasure in declaring this meeting duly opened.

Resolved—That the Grand Master's Address be received, and that it be printed with the Reports of the Meeting.

The Balance Sheet and Auditors' Report, being in the hands of Delegates, were taken as read.