The Ancient and most Benevolent Order of the Friendly Brothers of Saint Patrick

On 26th February, 1959, V.W. Bro. Harold G. Meek offered "as a gift to the United Grand Lodge an antique mahogany armchair (ceremonial size) made in Ireland about 1750‑60". He stated in his letter "It is an unusual example of what is called 'Irish Chippendale' made possibly for some Ecclesiastical Dignitary. It is in perfect order and no one has been so foolish as ever to have had it French polished ‑ to do that would halve its value. Thus the original patina of the wood is complete."

Needless to say Grand Lodge accepted the offer of this very generous brother who also gave some very beautiful glasses and other artefacts of Masonic interest to the Grand Lodge Masonic Museum. His statement that it was "made possibly for some Ecclesiastical Dignity" was accepted as fact until the Curator of the Masonic Museum in 1979 discovered that the carved crest on the back of the Chair was identical with the design on the cover of a book "Laws, Statutes and Constitutions" of The Ancient and most Benevolent Order of the Friendly Brothers of Saint Patrick.

Who are The Ancient and most Benevolent Order of the Friendly Brothers of Saint Patrick? You ask. It is a fraternity, with absolutely no connection with Freemasonry, but with ideals and objectives compatible with those of Freemasonry. From enquiries I have made overseas there is evidence to believe that many of its members are also members of Masonic Lodges.

Included in the possessions of the Grand Lodge Masonic Museum is a copy of the seventh edition of "Laws, Statutes and Constitutions" of the Order which was published in 1824.. It was presented to the Museum by the relatives of the late Bro. Major James Henry Crummer. Major Crummer was a Freemason, being a member of the Lodge meeting in the 28th Foot Regiment, No. 510, under the Irish Constitution. Some of his certificates, dated 1816, and some of his regalia, were exhibited in the former Sydney lodge of Research, No. 290, UGL. of NSW. and are described in volume 5, page 89 of that lodge's Transactions. As an Officer of the Regiment he had taken part in the Battle of Waterloo. He was with the Regiment in Corfu in 1818 and in 1827. Subsequently, he came to Australia and was Police Magistrate in Newcastle in 1841. In addition to being a Freemason he was also a Friendly Brother of Saint Patrick.

Major Cruder was anxious that the Friendly Brothers of Saint Patrick should extend their operations to Australia and made representation to the Grand Knot in Dublin. The powers that controlled the destinies of that Order in Ireland declined to give approval for a Knot to be formed in the Colony. This is recorded in the following letter to Bro. Major Crummer, from a brother Police Magistrate at Port Stephens, who was also a member of the Order:

 

Tahlee, Port Stephens,

October 18th, 1841

Dear Brother Friendly,

Since I had the pleasure of meeting you, I have received a letter from our friend Belcher, he says, 'You will receive in all probability no answer to your petition for a Knot. I believe, tho' I have not been officially informed any more than I told you in my last, that the Grand Knot have refused the application.' I shewed you his last letter ‑ in this he desires to be particularly remembered to you. I regret this decision of the Grand Knot very much and think they have come to it in a wrong, indeed an ignorant knowledge, if I may use the expression, of the state of Society in the Colony. Belcher has ere this, the duplicate of our petition, and I know if there is the slightest chance of success, even by proceeding to Dublin himself, he will use every exertion to obtain it for us.

 (The second paragraph of the letter. was Personal and has no relevance to the subject under review.)

 Believe me,

 Your very sincere Brother,

 W.H.f. Kingston, PM.

 

The letter was addressed to "Major Crummer, PM., Newcastle" and marked  F.B. Kingston". It has a seal in black wax with a Maltese Cross, Crown and Heart, and the Latin words Fidelis et Constans. The first attempt to form a Knot in Australia thus proved abortive, and it would appear that no Knots of the Order have ever been formed in the Common­wealth of Australia.             Grand Lodge, in its Museum, also possesses a Summons addressed to "Capt Crummer,28th Reg't to attend a Knot of Emergency, which is dated "Corfu, 22 Sep., 1827".

The Summons reads "B.F. You are requested to attend the Principal Knot of the Ionian Islands, at the B. Major's Ors on Monday 24th inst at 11 o'clock.     F.W.f. Whingates, Sec'y."

                        

The Order of the Friendly Brothers of Saint Patrick is still in existence, but the members keep very quiet. They do a lot of good work quietly, and do not seek publicity.

Their dress at one time was knee‑breeches with green coats and brass buttons, but this form of dress has now, 1 understand, been discarded.

In reply to a letter dated 12th February, 1980, which the Curator of the Masonic Museum, M.W. Bro. V.C.N. Blight, C.B.E., P.G.M., sent to Rear Admiral Ronald E. Portlock, C.B., O.B.E., D.L., a former Secretary of a Knot in London, the Rear Admiral stated, "The Chippendale Chair is very interesting. My guess is that it was once the property of an old Knot, and that when that Knot became dormant one of its members became the owner; and then either he, or his heir, emigrated to Australia. It is quite possible, on the other hand, that it belonged at some time to a high ecclesiastical dignitary, for the Order contains quite a few Bishops among its membership since 1750."

The last sentence indicates that the Order was formed in 1750.

Whilst the purpose of this paper is to tell the story of the beautiful Irish Chippendale Chair, and because so llittle is known about it at this stage, it may not be out of place to tell something of what is known of The Friendly Brothers of Saint Patrick in the hope that some brother might become interested enough to assist in further researching the Chair.

The Ancient and most Benevolent Order of the Friendly Brothers of Saint Patrick have an.elaborate set of printed rules. The seventh edition of its "Laws, Statutes and Constitutions" was published in Dublin by authority in 1824. The 25 Rules, etc., occupy nineteen pages and are followed by the First and Second Lessons `appointed for the Instruction of this Order", and the Charter Song.

The object of the Order may be briefly stated as a belief in the Fatherhood of God and the practical application of love to Brotherhood. The two "Lessons" consist of appropriate quotations from the Old and New Testaments respectively. The membership is unlimited in number and distinguished by the word Friendly inserted between their Christian and Surnames. The Assemblies of the brethren are called Knots, signifying the indissoluble Tie of love and Friendship, wherewith t hey are mutually bound. Knots are either Principal Knots or Marching Knots, which all centre in the General Grand Knot and Select Grand Knot.

The style and title of the annually elected Principal is His Benevolence the Grand President of the Ancient and most Benevolent Order of the Friendly Brothers he must reside in Ireland constantly, and if he should, without the consent of the General Grand Knot, absent himself for more than six months, his office is vacated. The General Grand Knot comprises all Regular and Perfect Friendly Brothers. In the absence of the Grand President and Vice‑President, the Senior Perfect took the Chair, and controlled the meeting.

Marching Knots could be, by patents, held in all parts of the world by gentlemen of the army. It was under this clause of the laws that Bro. Major James H. Crummer attempted to form a Knot in New South Wales. A Select Grand Knot and two secretaries assisted the Grand President in the management of the Order

All Knots are required to meet annually on 17th March, being the festival of Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of the Order.

The "ensign of the Order" is a gold or gilt medal showing Saint Patrick's Cross fixed in a heart over which is a crown, an emblematic knot embellished with trefoil, or shamrock leaves, and the Latin words Fidelis et Constans. The reverse side shows the arms of the Order, namely a group of hearts in fesse, in gold, charged with a celestial crown of the same, in chief, in a field of green. Round the shield is an endless knot set with shamrock leaves, the mantling proper, two emblematic dolphins (the dolphin is an emblem of kindly feeling) their faces downwards, in silver; a label issuing from their mouths with the motto Quis separabit This is worn suspended from a dark green ribbon.

The mob~ crest on a helmet and wreath of their colours is a wolf dog standing proper. One of these medals is in the possession of the Grand Lodge Masonic Museum. Only professed Christians are admitted into the Order, and no religious, political, national, or party debates are permitted in any Knot. Cursing, swearing, etc., are punishable by fines for the benefit of the poor.  Every person on being Initiated a Novice was (in 1824) required to pay for the use of the General Grand Knot the sum of two and a half guineas, and on being made a Regular two guineas over and above the usual admission fee of the Knot into which he was received. (It is not known what the current charges are.) The Principal London Knot is known to have met on 17th May, 1785, at Baxter's Tavern in Dover Street, London.