Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Pointless Life Of An Odd Fellow


One of the great joys about leading an aimless and pointless life is that the mind is free to go where it wants. You can walk the dog down a village street, pass a pub and become fixated with its name. You can abandon your plans to dig the garden, iron The Lad's trousers and/or write another page of the Great Novel Of The Twenty-first Century, and spend the day reading about the Oddfellows.

I am not sure whether they have Oddfellows in the States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Old Sodbury, or any of the other strange places my Blog is followed, but they are an old Friendly Society (or Mutual Society) which was particularly active in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. In the days before the Welfare State or trade unions, ordinary workers would pay weekly sums into such organisations and receive help at times of sickness or unemployment. If nothing else they would provide a small sum for a decent burial when your time came and this avoided that most feared of events - a paupers' funeral.

During the Middle Ages, master craftsmen in the various trades - Drapers, Masons, Dyers, Brewers etc - set up Guilds to protect their interests, but membership was restricted to the relatively wealthy and ordinary workers tended to be excluded. Such workers would set up rival Guilds, not of Masters but of Fellows, and they would meet in the large towns and cities. But in the smaller towns and villages there were not enough dyers or drapers or whatever to justify a series of separate guilds of fellows so joint guilds of "oddfellows" were established. In was these local organisations that developed into the Friendly Societies of the eighteenth and nineteenth century that took the name "Oddfellows". And the pub were they tended to meet would often take on the name of the society itself - The Oddfellows.

I have written in the past of how throughout my life I have waited - in vain - to be asked to become a member of that other Victorian Friendly Society, the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. I have now come to the conclusion that I am perhaps more suited to the Oddfellows and I am awaiting the call to be inducted. And if the call doesn't come, at least I can nip down to the Oddfellows for a pint.

17 comments:

  1. How about joining the Temperance Institute?

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  2. Did I tell you Alan that,in my 30's ,I joined a branch of the Buffs (Queens Road Halifax) I only joined because Phil (then not an Ex-Fireman)was a keen member. I'm not sure you missed much.everybody used to drink a lot & that was it!
    Anyway, Re:The Oddfellows.In some ways,as things are going ,we will need them again !

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  3. CB : Don't be silly.
    Tony : "Everybody used to drink a lot & that was it!" That is exactly why I wanted to be a member - none of the pretense of the Rotary or the Masons.

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  4. Give me their number and I'll put a bug in their ear.
    By the way, my eyesight's not great first thing in the morning and I read your title as, "The Pointless Life Of An OLD Fellow".
    I dashed over to dispute the claim.

    Kat

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  5. I agree with Tony; having the oddfellows around in their original capacity might prove useful today.

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  6. Yes, there are Oddfellows in the US, although beginning with FDR's New Deal membership began to decrease some as the government seemed to have taken over the service they provided. Still, they're around, and many of this country's older towns still have Oddfellows Halls.

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  7. I picked up an interesting stoneware dessert plate last week that had the initials FLT. I thought it was probably train china. But when I found an identical one online, they said it was an Oddfellows plate!

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  8. i was going to say we have plenty of odd fellows in the states but don't know if they are ODDFELLOWS but according to reoy & tess they could be.... is there a sister group of odd gals?

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  9. I'm jealous. Tess has an Oddfellow's plate. I want an Oddfellow's plate. We do have them here. Oddfellow's Halls, that is. I grew up with Nancy Drew and her potential book, The Mystery in the Oddfellows Hall. My older sister and her cohorts in crime broke into one, one early 1960's summer, and reported a skeleton in a closet. Literally. They make great music venues now.

    Yeah, we could use the Oddfellows now.

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  10. Where's that Pub, then? There won't be anymore Oddfellows in our village. The Oddfellows pub has just closed and it is up for sale. Sad, or what?

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  12. Ironically, my uncle mentioned the Oddfellows yesterday and I wondered what they were all about. Now I know!:)

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  13. you are an honarary odd - fellow in my book alan...

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  14. As Roy & others have pointed out, the organization exists stateside. As you are an avid reader of the Adams Co News feature on RFB, you may not be surprised to learn that in Council, ID, ground central for cantakerousness bordering on paranoia, the group renamed themselves the X Club because they didn't like answering to a central organization.

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  15. How interesting to learn about the origins of this most historic and common organization in the community.

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  16. Well whaddayaknow, we have Oddfellows in Australia too.

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  17. We saw many former Oddfellows meeting places while traveling through Maine last fall. We've also seen them in Lancaster, PA. So yes, Alan they are definitely in the U.S. Thanks for the history lesson too.

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