Ancient Order of Foresters

Badge of AoF


AOF records indicate that the first Court "Star of Mona" (No 907) was opened in 1840 with a meeting place stated to be the Infant School in Douglas (This was probably the C of E infant school, Shaw's Brow). Founding member of this Court were William Crane, John Faragen [? Faragher] and Thomas Mogg [Hogg ?]. The second Court was reported as opening on 14th July 1841 - the Manksman's Friend (No 1215) meeting at the Foresters Arms in Great Nelson Street - the following press report would indicate that this public house was renamed in honour!

First mention would appear to be in Manx Liberal 20th March 1841:

Forestry.- From the various accounts in the English papers, it would seem that the Ancient Order of Foresters are making rapid progress in adding strength and stability to their fraternity in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Cumberland, Westmorland, and even in the Principality of Wales, numerous Courts have recently been opened under the most flattering auspices. On Thursday last, a Court was opened at the house of Mr Thomas Lowe, the Sportsman, Great Nelson street, in this town [Douglas]. The new Court is called by the appropriate name of "The Manxman's Friend". The officers and members of the "Star of Mona", No. 907, were in attendance. After initiation of the new members, the party, with several other friends, sat down to an excellent supper, provided by the worthy host, and the evening was spent to such a manner, and there was such a manifestation of brotherly feeling, as to prove that, in addition to the pleasing duties of the Foresters, in relieving the sick, the distressed, and providing decent burial of the dead, it is also calculated to encourage those friendly feelings between man and man, which render life both useful and agreeable. As religious and political subjects are never named in a Forester's Court, which is composed of men of all sects, denominations, and creeds, so they meet in charity with each other. Cynical, indeed, must that man be, who can begrudge such men their convivial opening and other meetings. The affecting picture of the poet :-
Homeless near a thousand homes he stood,
And under a thousand tables pined and wanted food."

would not be realised in a Forester's case. No - were a brother from any other quarter of the globe, and in distress, would he ask (if in Britain) for the overseer of the poor of the place in which he might chance to be seized with sickness. Would he not rather ask for the nearest Forester's Court, and in that Court he would be sheltered and nurtured by his brethren. From what we have heard it is more probable that another Court will, ere long, be opened in this town. We can only add they cannot be too numerous - their object being so truly philanthropic, and based upon the noblest attributes of our nature; viz - "To cheer and protect the unfortunate, to sympathise with, to aid those whom accident or disease may overtake, and to dry the cheek of the Mourner".

After that paean of praise very little more is heard of this Court which merged with Court 907 in 1854 - a later report 13th July 1841 give a report of the second anniversary procession of Foresters in Douglas - thus dating the first Court to 1839.

ANCIENT ORDER OF FORESTERS.-On Wednesday last, the Independent Order of Foresters held their second anniversary in Douglas. So early as nine o'clock, the members began to assemble at the Wellington Hall, and by half-past 11, the forces were marshalled, the brothers. walking two and two, the officers and dignitaries of the Order being mounted on horseback, dressed in various party-coloured habits, bearing flags, emblems, trophies, &c.. The march lay along Nelson street,. up Prospect Hill, along Athol-street, down the North Quay to the. Market place. They then entered St. Matthew's chapel, when a most impressive and appealing sermon. was preached to them by the Rev. John Cannell; the Rev. Gentleman choosing for his text, the third chapter of the 2nd Thessalonians, 8 and 9 verses. After leaving the chapel, the procession was again formed; passed up Duke street, Lord-street, Church Street, Athol street, Prospect hill, Finch road, and onwards. to Derby Castle, returning into town by way of Sand street. The cavalcade then crossed the Market-place, passed along the Quay to the Lighthouse, which was circumnavigated, It then returned to the Market-place, where it halted for upwards of an hour, the two bands of music which attended the procession, playing alternately several popular airs and tunes. Afterwards the whole repaired. to the Wellington Hall, where a plentiful dinner was provided by host Proctor. A number of loyal and patriotic toasts were, given, and some appropriate speeches called forth, and "music with his voluptuous swell" gave joy. and hilarity to the numerous company. Having enjoyed the pleasures of the "Jovial board" till about nine o'clock, and before the slightest signs of inebriety manifested themselves, the "brotherhood" departed; each to his own home, with the most perfect decorum and good order, having driven "dull care away" with Innocence and, rationality. We have been, informed that the Order of Foresters is rapidly on the increase, each succeeding meeting witnessing the enrolment of members to their ranks.

[the verses alluded to are:
Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but "wrought" with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you.
Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.]

Manx Liberal 1 March 1845 gives a notice of meeting of Manksman's Friend Court (#1215) - mentions Philip Stephen, Henry Dickinson and Samuel Flood with meeting at Thomas Law Foresters Arms Inn, Douglas (these three were indeed those registered as founding members in the official records).

Manx Liberal 13 July 1844 carried a report on the anniversary procession and dinner of the society - they were led by the Rechabite band; John Cain, bookbinder, was named as President and J. Cain, jnr, vice-president with a number of distinguished visitors - Torrance, Roger, Walsh, R. Duff and T. Garrett jnr. This John Cain must have been the dissident Methodist and one-time Rechabite.

Manx Liberal 21 June 1845 carried a report of an Anniversary Meeting of the Ancient Order of Foresters at Peel. (no court mentioned).

The first issue of the Manxman (1911) carried the following quote from T.E.Brown (presumably one of his lectures ?):

A Scrap of Old Douglas from " T.E.B."

" Have you seen that famous man,
Big Billy Cree the tailor oh?"

" A Douglas tailor (1843) had a flourishing business. A tall, well-built, jovial, good-looking man, noted as a dancer, and a skilful equestrian ; rather eccentric and vain. He became a recognised leader of the Foresters. Mounted on a spirited horse, robed in the gay habiliments of the Order, wearing a huge plumed hat with wide brim, his appearance excited the admiration and the risibility of the ‘Dh’oolish boee’s,’ who vigorously sang his praises in the doggerel rhymes above referred to, to the tune of ‘ Rob Roy Macgregor, oh!’"

Courts, Numbers & Officers:

(acknowledgement to A. Fisk for the information culled from Court returns)

Year Lodge 907 / Lodge 1215  
1845 94 / 33 #907 met 1 Drumgold St (relieving officer Henry Costain, District Sec C.T.Cannell (3 Bath Place)
1846 86 / 39 met private house on the Parade
1847 86 / 39 Dist Sec Leslie Lockhart 10 Factory Lane (from 1849 4 Gt Nelson St)
1848 81 / 31 Relieving Officier J. N. Cain (6 Fairy Ground St)
1849 85 / 21 Dist Sec J. N. Cain
1850 89 / 24 #907 now meeting at Temperance Hotel Nelson Street; #1215 Parade St
1851 108 / 29 #1215 now also met at Temperance Hotel
1852 109 / 25 Dist Sec J.N.Cain (Tynwald Terrace); Relieving Officer George Armroyd (North Quay)
1854 129 (Courts had merged)  
1855 128  
1856 124  
1857 141  
1858 161  
1860 197 now meeting Protestant Institute, Wellington Buildings, Duke St
1861 199 back at Temperance Hall
1862 211  
1863 233  
1864 242 Athol Club Room
1865-7 243 12 Athol St, Sec George Maley
1868-9 272  
1871 258 funds £2240 (av age 40)
1873 266 meeting now Stanley Hall Circular Rd (24 joined, 4 died)
1876 268 Treasurer J. Hampton Funds £2220 (12 new men were admitted, 11 died, 8 left)

Like most other Friendly Societies they would loan money at interest on security of property - two such deeds may be found in South Side Mortgages pre 1847 - there may well be many more in the post 1847 deeds under a re-organized system but as yet these have not been investigated.

The earliest deed SSM May 1845 24 dated 1 March 1845 describes an advance of £25 made by Court "Man + Man's Friend" No 1215 and names various officers as: William Creer (Chief Ranger), William Bailey(sub Chief Ranger), John Caine + John Moore (Woodwards) and John Stephen(Headsman or Treasurer) - in May 1846 when the advance was repaid officers John Jones(Chief Ranger) + John Cain(Secretary) were noted;

The other pre 1847 deed is SSM May 1846 24 dated 14 January 1846 and in the opening preamble recites that Claudius Thomas Cannell, Thomas Quirk, Henry Castain[sic Costain], John Corlett and William Corlett free members of Ancient Order of Foresters of Court "Star of Mona" No 907 were authorized to advance money on sufficient security to the free members of said order or Court, the money now lying in the Bank of Messrs Holmes at Douglas - they loaned £250 to William Christian(baker, Strand Street) which was repaid on 25 March 1852 when Claudius Thomas Cannell, John Nelson Cain, Robert Cain and Leslie Lockart (successors in office of "Star of Mona" court) acknowledged full repayment.

Some of these can be recognized in the 1851 census - Claudius Thomas Cannell, born 1795 in Kk Michael, was a schoolmaster with his own school in Bath Place - well travelled in his youth as two children were born in the East Indies and the Philippines - he at returned to Island as is in the 1841 census; William Creer (presumably same as T E Brown's Wm Cree) was noted as a tailor in Duke Street Douglas in 1841 census but looks to have fallen on hard time in 1851 as noted as a master tailor but an inmate of the House of Industry; Henry Costain is probably the widowed master blacksmith of No 2 Wellington Square.

Brown's 1881 Directory is:

Douglas: Star of Mona, #2907 with 260 members.

Porters 1889 Directory:

Court Star of Mona, Douglas, No. 907—T. Stowell, jun., Secretary, 132- Buck’s road.
Court Albert Tower, Ramsey—I. Fergusson, Secretary. (This #6630, had opened at Quayles Hall 1879)
Pride of Rushen, Port Erin—T W Barker, Secretary

By 1899 only two lodges (with dates) were given in IoM Examiner Annual

Douglas Star of Mona, 1840 460 members, J.M. Bridson, secretary
Albert Tower, 1879, 450 members, J. R. Fergusson (up from 370 members in 1897)

Laxey Wheel (#9190) opened 1908 with 70 members (+40 Juvenile) J.E. Kelly sec.

In 1863 there were two Foresters' Arms public houses in Douglas.

Online Pages:

(none that I'm aware of)

See also Finding out more.

Offline References:

W. G. Cooper The Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society 150 Years 1834-1984 Southampton AOF Friendly Society 1984 (available for £3 + p/p AoF Foresters' Heritage Trust, 72 Frimley Grove Garden, Frimley, Camberley, Surrey, GU16 5JY) 

A. Fisk & R. Logan Grandfather was in the Foresters Southampton: AOFHT 1994

A Fisk By the Members for the Members Southampton: AOFHT (nd)

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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2018