St Helens Circle History-Foreword

history of st helens circle forewordLong serving St Helens Brother, Ron Parr, tells us what stimulated him to research and write the story of the formation of St Helens Circle..

What prompted me to write the Circle History?

Well, you may be surprised to learn that it was the menu printed for our Annual Ladies Night (or Turkey Dinner as it used to be called)! As you are aware, the back of the menu lists all the Presidents of our Circle from its inception to the present day but this was not always the case. Well, you may be surprised to learn that it was the menu printed for our Annual Ladies Night.

When I joined the Association in the late 70s the menu showed our Founder President (1914) then a blank against each year until 1966 then most, but not all presidents were listed. I queried this and was told that all our records had been lost or stolen and no one knew who they were. I decided to rectify this but didn’t realise that my research would take two/three years.

I scoured old directories, sought help via Catena and even visited Chesham Place in London. I also received help from an unexpected source, I was chatting to the sons of a long deceased member who had been Circle Secretary for a number of years. I told them of my research and they said that they had recently disposed of an old wardrobe from their parents’ bedroom and behind it had found a lot of Catenian memorabilia and offered it to me. It proved invaluable in my research!

Having completed the list I couldn’t let go!

I hope you enjoy reading my account as much as I enjoyed putting it together.


Click Here For The Circle History Part 1 Article



St Helens Circle History-Part One

catenian circle history part oneThe Story of  St Helens Catenian Circle Part One…

On a number of occasions, particularly anniversaries, mention is made of the date our Circle was formed, and the attendance at its inauguration, of Brothers Sandy and Shepherd together with brothers from Wigan and Liverpool Circles. However nothing is said of the part played by these brothers. Who were they? Where did they come from? How did the Circle fare when these gentlemen left?

[pullquote align=”right”]I have tried to follow the fortunes of the circle during the first three years of its life although at times, and for the sake of continuity, I have extended the search to a later period[/pullquote]

With the above in mind I have tried to follow the fortunes of the circle during the first three years of its life athough at times, and for the sake of continuity, I have extended the search to a later period. Several years ago I was told that at one time the Circle kept its records in the presbytery of Holy Cross Church and following a robbery at the church, they disappeared, how true this is I do not know. However I do have the Circle’s first Minute Book and the Treasurer’s Ledger from 1914 to 1962. The ledger came to me by chance. I was visiting an elderly brother and during our conversation I happened to mention my desire to research the Circle history. He remarked that he had an old book belonging to the Circle that had lain in a cupboard for many years and would I take it off his hands, I was highly delighted to discover that it opened in 1914!

Using the Minute Book and Ledger allowed me to cross match events and costs. Use was also made of the Association’s year books/directories, St Helens Library and Archives and Peter Lane’s History of the Catenian Association. St Helens Circle is mentioned only once by Brother Lane but the book has proved to be most useful in identifying people and events.

And so to the beginning, 7.30pm on April 6th 1914 in a room at the Royal Raven Hotel in Church St.

[pullquote align=”left”]Seven Catenians from outside St Helens and eighteen business and professional men from St Helens gathered together to take part in the formation of the 21st Circle of the Catenian Association[/pullquote]

Seven Catenians from outside St Helens and eighteen business and professional men from St Helens gathered together to take part in the formation of the 21st Circle of the Catenian Association. In the chair was Brother Henry Sandy the President of Birmingham Circle (indeed he was its Founder President, his circle having been formed in February 1912). He was an architect by profession and had a practice in Stafford and was to become Grand President in 1917.

Also present was Brother Joe Shepherd, the Association’s first Grand Secretary and a member of Manchester Circle. He was an accountant by profession and had a practice in Manchester. Records show that he was extremely active in promoting the Association, travelling far and wide in doing so. It is interesting to note that when appointed Grand Secretary in 1910 he was only 25 years old. In Peter Lane’s History of the Association it is recorded that when he resigned as Grand Secretary in 1923, he was being paid an honorarium of £300 per year, but what was not recognised until after his resignation was that during his years of office he had made use of staff, stationary, printing etc from within his own private company to further the aims of the Association. Only then did Grand Council realise how much time and effort he had put into the advancement of the Association. The other Catenians present that evening were Brothers Rankin, Lomas and Smith of Liverpool No 4 Circle and Brothers Baron and Donoghue of Wigan No 16 Circle. Research has shown that Brother John Lomas was the first secretary of Liverpool No 4 Circle and eventually transferred to Stockport Circle in 1935  (his son Frank was the Founder President of Macclesfield Circle and later became Grand President of the Association).

Richard Rankin was Founder President of Liverpool No 4 Circle and a Liverpool cotton merchant by profession. William Smith was a stockbroker in Liverpool. Stanislaus Baron was a Solicitor practising in Wigan and Ashton in Makerfield and was probably a relative of J.A. Baron, one of our founder members. Past Grand President Harry Yates tells me that Stanislaus Baron was a well-respected brother of his Circle and that to this day Wigan brothers have a bowling match for the Stanislaus Baron Cup. Furthermore his wife gave a considerable sum of money to the Association Jumbulance Appeal in memory of her husband. As yet I’ve not located Brother Donoghue, the directory for 1915/16 does not list him as a brother. One can only assume that he has resigned or died.

To summarise, the gentlemen from St Helens were:-

J.A.Baron, W.J. Chisnall, W.P.Collins, J. Davies, J. Dennett, F.P. Dromgoole, W.Ellis, J. Frodsham, W.C. Gerrard, E.M. Hollingsworth, C.A. Joliffe, T. Middlehurst, J. Pritchard, R. Seddon, G. Scott, G. Stringfellow, J. Sephton and W. Woodcock.

Who were they? What were their professions? Did they live locally?

J. A. Baron was an architect, mining engineer and surveyor with an office in Baldwin St  St Helens. His home address is given as Haresfinch Hall. In later years he moved to Crank and is listed as a quarry owner. I wonder did he have any connection with Crank Caverns or the quarries at Billinge?

W.J. Chisnall was a plumber and decorator and lived at No3 Old Market Place, St Helens (town centre).

W.P. Collins lived in Kiln Lane, Dentons Green and had a grocery business in Tontine St, St Helens (town centre).

J. Davies (father of our present brother Joe Davies) was a solicitor practising in Hardshaw St, St Helens and lived at 68 Church St (town centre). In 1920 he had moved to No 12 Wolsley Road, St Helens. He was also a town councillor.

J. Dennett was a solicitor and was listed as a Licence Officer and Mayor’s Secretary in the Town Clerk’s Office. He lived at 31 King Edward Road, Dentons Green.

F.P. Dromgoole was the proprietor of the St Helens Newspaper and lived at ‘Alderleigh’ Regents Road, St Helens

W. Ellis was an architect with offices in Hardshaw St, St Helens and a home in Eccleston Park, Prescot.

J. Frodsham was another solicitor practising in Hardshaw St, St Helens. He lived at 156 North Road and later moved to Eccleston Park, Prescot. For those interested in golf, he was a founder member of Grange Park Golf Club.

W.C. Gerrard  was a House Furnisher with a shop in Bridge St, St Helens (town centre).

E.M. Hollingsworth  was a chartered mechanical and electrical engineer employed as the Chief Electrical Engineer for St Helens Corporation. He later joined the United Alkali Company, Widnes as their Chief Engineer. He lived at No2 St Ann’s Road, St Helens.

C.A. Joliffe  This is an interesting one. He is listed as ‘non Professional’ but in the directory of 1915/16 he is residing in the Isle of Man and listed as a consultant brewer.

J. Middlehurst  was a brick manufacturer in Sutton Oak and lived in Hall St, St Helens (town centre)

J. Pritchard owned an iron foundry in St Mary’s St, St Helens (town centre) and lived at ‘Abbeyford’, Dentons Green.

R. Seddon was a glass merchant with premises on Warrington New Road, St Helens. He lived in Eccleston Park, Prescot.

G. Scott was the secretary to Sir Joseph Beecham (of pills fame) and lived in Laurel Road, St Helens.

G. Stringfellow was a grocer in Ormskirk St and lived in Eccleston Park, Prescot.

J. Sephton was an estate agent with an office at 60 Crab St, St Helens. He lived at 140 North Rd.

W. Woodcock was an iron founder and engineer in St Mary’s St, St Helens. He lived at Spring House, Queens Rd, St Helens. In later years he owned a foundry in Ravenhead and perhaps by a twist of faith I had the responsibility for its demolition to make way for a float glass factory for Pilkington plc.

Click Here for St Helens Circle History-Part two

St Helens Circle History-Part Two

catenian circle history part twoHere follows the next instalment of the history of the institution of the mens Catholic group in St Helens, otherwise know as the St Helens Catenian Circle . This article has been written by long standing Catenian brother, Ron Parr.

The History of the first St Helens Circle meeting continues…It was 7.30pm on April 6th 1914 in a room at the Royal Raven Hotel, Church St, St Helens where seven Catenians from outside St Helens and eighteen business and professional men from St Helens gathered together to take part in the formation of the 21st Circle of the Catenian Association…

Joe Shepherd, the Grand Secretary, explained to the assembled gentlemen the objects and aims of the Association and Brothers Sandy and Rankin followed with further details. Unfortunately no record exists of what exactly was said. Following the explanation, Mr F. Dromgoole proposed and seconded by Mr G. Stringfellow, “that a circle be at once opened in St Helens”. This was unanimously accepted by all present. Brother Sandy then initiated all gentlemen present.

The first action of the new circle was to appoint its officers and the following brothers were elected:-

President-Bro. G. Stringfellow

Vice President-Bro F. Dromgoole

Chamberlain-Bro J. Frodsham

President’s Marshall-Bro. W. Woodcock

Vice President’s Marsha-Bro. J. Baron

Treasurer-Bro J. Sephton

Secretary-Bro. W. Ellis

Registrar-Bro. J. Davies

Guard-Bro. G. Scott

The officers were then invested with their insignia of office and the meeting formally closed. Short and sweet?

But one can imagine that quite a celebration followed.

The second meeting of the Circle took place on May 5th 1914 at the Royal Raven Hotel in the presence of all brothers enrolled the previous month, a full attendance, I wonder how long this lasted?

The minutes recorded that Brother Lomas of Liverpool No 4 attended. He read the minutes of a Grand Circle meeting held at the King’s Head Hotel, Sheffield on Saturday April 18th 1914 and explained in detail several items.

The Circle minutes do not record what he said but research has shown that a meeting to revise the constitution of the Association was held in Sheffield on that day and at that hotel. At this meeting the delegates agreed to reduce the size of Grand Circle because it was becoming too unwieldy.

Perhaps at this point it would be useful to explain and differentiate between Grand Circle and Grand Council. The Association was called the ‘Chums Benevolent Association’ until 1910 when it was renamed the ‘Catenian Association’. Indeed if one looks at the original charter of Liverpool No 4 Circle (formed October 1910) it can clearly be seen that the words ‘Chums Association’ has been deleted and replaced by the ‘Catenian Association’. We all know that the first circle of our Association was Manchester No 1 followed by London. Soon after, Leeds Circle was formed, then Newcastle.[pullquote align=”left”]We all know that the first circle of our Association was Manchester No 1 followed by London.

Round about 1910, i.e. two years after the Association was formed, records show that it was governed by a Grand Circle comprising the president, vice president and three members of each Circle. Grand Circle met four times a year and elected twelve of its members to control the day-to-day activities of the Association i.e. the Grand Council. They also elected a Grand President and the Association was governed from Manchester.

By 1914, the year our Circle, the 21st Circle of the Association was formed, one could visualise that Grand Circle was becoming somewhat unwieldy, hence the meeting in Sheffield referred to above. At this meeting it was unanimously agreed to reduce the number of delegates from each circle to two.

At the Circle Meeting held on June 15th 1915 it was proposed that our Founder President Gervaise Stringfellow be nominated for election as a grand director but I can find no evidence to indicate that this happened. He died in April 1919 after a long illness and therefore I doubt that he was ever elected.

One of the items discussed at this second meeting of the Circle was the forward reservation of the room at the Royal Raven Hotel. The two marshals and the secretary were asked to speak to the proprietress, Mrs Grace and discuss the rental of ‘the large room and the adjoining small room’. At the following meeting they reported back that a charge of five shillings per night had been agreed. This included fires in the rooms when required, and lighting. She also provided a price list for refreshments but no record of this list exists.

The meeting also discussed the time and place for the first annual dinner and also the fixing of a ‘Door Levy’. One can only assume that this was a way of raising funds to pay for the rent of the room, postage and stationary etc. At the third meeting of the Circle this levy was fixed at sixpence or approximately 2 1/2p in today’s money.

Whilst on the subject of money, it should be noted that the Circle had no funds to start with and had to build up its resources.

Each of the founder members paid an annual fee of one guinea and the treasurer’s records show that each brother paid a voluntary levy to the Grand Circle Benevolent Fund of five shillings, but one or two brothers gave half a guinea. The majority of these founding brothers paid five shillings and sixpence for a medallion and two shillings and sixpence for a year book (directory).

As yet I have not seen a medallion and therefore don’t know whether or not it was to be worn on the lapel or on a watch chain. However Brother Basil Shacklady has shown me a gold medallion which he believes belonged to his grandfather (enrolled September 1920, died 1933). This has a small eye at the top as though it was made to take a fine gold chain. The financial records indicate that from about 1919 only a few brothers purchased medallions and his Grandfather is not recorded as having purchased one, and therefore it is not unreasonable to assume that the medallion in question actually belonged to his father (enrolled 8th December 1914, died 1923). As a point of interest, the president, at the end of his year, received a medal. In 1919 the financial records show that this cost fifteen shillings and sixpence. Close examination of the financial records of 1914 show that the Circle also had to purchase regalia, this cost £6.6s.6d.

Part three of the Circle History continues next month…

Click here to read Part Three of St Helen’s Circle History

St Helens Catenian Circle History-Part Three

St Helens Catenian Circle History by Ron Parr continues….

Click Here to read Circle History Foreword

Click Here to read Circle History Part One

Click Here to read Circle History Part Two

The first St Helens Council Meeting was held on June 23rd 1914 at the Royal Raven Hotel…

The members present were the elected officers of the Circle. Additional councillors as we have today were obviously not required. At this first council meeting the discussions concentrated on the first annual dinner. It was decided to write to the Lord Mayor of Manchester inviting him to be the principal guest at the dinner and asking him what free dates he had between October 1st and November 8th 1914. Interestingly the council decide to wait to hear from him before contacting the Archbishop of Liverpool to ask him to come along as a guest. After all, at this period in the life of the Association the relationship with the Church Hierarchy was good.

Why the Lord Mayor of Manchester? Why was he the preferred principal guest? Why not the Mayor of St Helens? The question begged further research and revealed that in 1914 the Lord Mayor of Manchester was Alderman Sir Dan McCabe, the first catholic Lord Mayor since the Reformation. Records show that he was elected in 1913 and was so popular that he was returned to office for a second term. Furthermore he was a Catenian, a member of Manchester No 1 Circle, he was no doubt, ‘proudly Catholic’. The Protestant press had a field day when, on Mayor’s Sunday, he chose to attend his own church rather than a service in the Anglican Church.

The Circle minutes record that both their Lordships responded and expressed their willingness to attend our first annual dinner. Sadly there is no record of the actual date, nor if it was successful. I have also checked back issues of our local papers (remembering that one of our brothers owned one of the local papers) but with no success.

In those early years the meetings were somewhat different than those of today. The evening was divided into three parts. Firstly, there was the business meeting. The President opened the meeting and then initiated new members. This was immediately followed by reading out the names of recently deceased brothers and the recitation of the De Profundis for the repose of their souls. Then followed a half hour or so given over to ‘social activities’ when most circles allowed one or two drinks, a smoke and a sandwich. The third and main item of the evening was the social element, when there was often a lecture, debate or discussion and very often, musical entertainment.

Peter Lane, in his book, suggests that a Catenian time traveller would be surprised to find that almost every brother was expected to make a contribution to the evening’s entertainment, be it song or verse. One example of this form of self- entertainment existed at Waterloo Circle (this circle was founded in 1920 and lost its charter a year or so ago). Up to its demise, the Circle hosted a smoking competition aptly named the ‘Waterloo Smoker’ in which all participants were issued with a new clay pipe and a fill of tobacco, the winner being the person who managed to keep his pipe burning for the longest. This was followed by some form of entertainment. Jim Finnegan, a brother of Waterloo and Ormskirk Circles told me that his sister, now in her nineties, used to sing at the ’Smoker’ when in her late teens and early twenties.

Peter Lane in his ‘History of the Association’, states that “musical evenings continued to be the normal pattern for social evenings with brothers and their guests playing the piano, singing a few arias and light classical airs”. But in May 1924 a series of reports gave a forewarning of the demise of this form of entertainment. It would seem that in Waterloo, Manchester, Glasgow and Liverpool Circles, brothers were spending some part of their meeting ‘listening in’ to the wireless!

In July 1915 the Circle resolved that an Entertainments Committee, consisting of Brothers Ashcroft, Davies, Shacklady and Seddon, be formed to “organise and arrange the social part of the programme at monthly circle meetings”.

In December 1915, Father Hungerford Pollen SJ of St Joseph’s, Oakwood Hall, Romily gave a talk on ‘Retreats For Laymen’. One must assume that he was visiting the Jesuit priests at Lowe House and didn’t travel all the way from Romily to give his talk!

On Wednesday November 21st 1917, 13 brothers from Wigan Circle visited St Helens. It is recorded (in Catena) that at the social part of the meeting Reverend Father Riley, Rector of Lowe House, expressed “his joyful surprise to see such a happy gathering of brothers”. The musical part of the evening was provided by Brothers Webster, Healy and Wood of Wigan Circle and also by Brothers Conlan and Ashcroft of St Helens. A Private Grimes and a Mr Joe Farrell, both non Catenians, provided further entertainment.

These were the early days of our association when brothers listened to proposals for the development of new circles, changes to procedure and the involvement of Catenians in social and educational matters. In the very early editions of Catena it is interesting to note how many circles were engaged in deep and serious discussions on the provision of secondary education for Catholic children.

We must also remember that when our Circle was formed World War 1 had just started and must have occupied the minds of most people and our Circle brothers would be no exception. Belgian refugees were arriving in England, many of them being housed in the North West. Indeed 2000 came to Manchester and Brother Dan McCabe, Lord Mayor of Manchester and as previously mentioned, a Catenian, organised a Belgian Refugee Committee to find homes for them. He was greatly assisted by The Grand Secretary, Joe Shepherd, who called upon Catenians to help in this humanitarian work. Brother Shepherd was later to receive the C.B.E. and a medal from the King of Belgium for his work.

St Helens Circle played some part in this task. Our records show that the Secretary sent letters to all the clergy enquiring what action they were taking and to urge them to seek a meeting with the Mayor of St Helens to “ensure that all Belgian Catholic refugees  shall be safeguarded both in their religion and otherwise”. Two brothers from Wigan Circle (Baron and Webster) attended a circle council meeting at the Royal Raven Hotel to explain how the Wigan Belgian Refugee Committee was operated and funded.

The St Helens Newspaper and Advertiser records that on October 16th 1914 a deputation of priests and Catholic gentlemen had a meeting with the Mayor, Sir David Gamble. Brothers Frodsham, Hollingsworth and Baron were members the delegation. As a result of the meeting a committee was formed, chaired by the Mayor, to give help to the refugees. The Newspaper further records that the first group to arrive in the town were housed at The Elms, Cowley Hill Lane, having been met at Dover ‘by Mr F.P. Dromgoole and two nuns from Notre Dame’. This house, which still stands, was loaned to the committee by the representatives of the late Mt T. Brewis. It had nine bedrooms and had been equipped with 22 beds to house between 45 and 50 refugees. As a matter of interest, the committee had looked at the Mansion House in Victoria Park but found it to be in a filthy state and therefore rejected it!

Soon after formation the Circle Council must have been aware of the need to increase membership because at the Council Meeting held on 23rd June 1914, it was agreed that Bro. Dromgoole should ‘see to the Ballot Box’. By  this I assume he was authorised to purchase it. One wonders whether or not the ballot box used today is the one purchased in 1914. Personally I believe it is. Those of us who have seen and used it would agree that it is certainly old and somewhat battered. It was first used at a council meeting held on October 9th 1914 when voting took place on the admission of Messrs Kean, Glover, A. Dromgoole, H. Chisnall and A. Shacklady (the father our present Brother Basil Shacklady). These gentlemen were enrolled and initiated on December 8th 1914. Today, brothers are only enrolled, initiation is no longer carried out. So what happened at an initiation? Was the ceremony similar to today? Sadly I am unable to comment despite extensive research. Our minutes do record however that at the Circle Meeting held on January 15th 1915, the five new brothers mentioned above were ‘shown the signs of recognition’’.

The Circle Roll, which only appears at Circle meetings when a new brother is to be enrolled, is the original roll signed by our founding brothers when the Circle was first inaugurated. At the top of the Roll are words to the effect that each brother signing it, promises that he will not divulge what goes on at a Circle meeting. In the early years of our Association a brother, when he attended his second meeting, was shown the signs of recognition that could be used to indicate to another that he was a Catenian.

I have researched this and as far as I can ascertain, one of the signs was to pull the knot of one’s tie slightly to the left and if the other person was a Catenian he would pull his tie slightly to the right. In today’s world we would probably be very amused at the thought of men walking down a busy street pulling ties to the left and the right! We must remember however that our founding brothers lived in a business world dominated by freemasons, many of whom were anti Catholic. There may have been other signs of recognition but as yet I have been unable to trace them and it is to be noted that there was no widespread agreement on the use of signs of recognition. Some circles considered them ‘inadequate and undignified’ whilst others wanted them retained as important emblems of our Catenian identity.

Signs were also used on business and visiting cards. One wrote one’s Roll Number, Circle Number and year of enrolment one above the other at the side of the card. The recipient, if he were a Catenian, was supposed to do whatever he could to help a brother.

If a brother happened to be late for a meeting or if he were a visitor, a sign of recognition was necessary. He would be required to knock at the room door, which was guarded, by ‘The Tyler’ (in 1908) or ‘Brother Guard’ (from 1909). He would quote his Roll Number, Circle Number and Province to the Guard so that his credentials could be checked from the Association’s year Book before being allowed to enter.

St Helens Circle History Part Four

St Helens Catenian Circle History-Part Four

ronSt Helens Catenian Circle History by long serving brother Ron Parr continues…

(Note-Most of the research took place during 1996 and the manuscript re typed in 2001)

In November 1916 the Circle ‘resolved that St Helens Circle is of the opinion that all signs of recognition, especially relating to correspondence, should be changed from time to time’. At the Circle Meeting held on March 27th 1917, the brothers agreed that the secretary should write to Grand Council suggesting that ‘the two ticks used as recognition in correspondence be discontinued and replaced by snipping off the top right hand corner of the letter’. The minutes do not record whether or not Grand Council took up this suggestion. I have spoken to Peter Lane (author of The History of the Catenian Association 1908 – 1983) about signs of recognition and he was unaware of the two ticks in correspondence.

Whilst this paper is primarily concerned with the first three years of our Circle it is worth noting that in October 1930, Grand Council issued a set of instructions headed ‘Methods of Recognition’. The instructions, outlined below, specify three occasions on which these methods had to be used.

1) When seeking admission to his own Circle a brother will give an alarm at the door. He will be challenged by the guard who will ask him to produce his current membership card. If this is not available the guard will ask “whom do you seek?” The brother challenged will reply with the number of his own Circle.

2) A brother seeking admission to a Circle other than his own will give an alarm at the door and on being challenged will produce his current membership card. If this is not available he will respond to the challenge by giving first the number of the Circle he is visiting and add ‘from Number** giving the number of his own Circle.

3) In correspondence with a brother, if you wish to intimate that you are a Catenian, or similarly, when sending in your business card to a brother, put on the face of your letter or card the number of your province, the number of your own circle and your number on the circle roll (e.g. in my own case this would be 4/21/284)

This issue gradually died out and by 1939 the only sign remaining was ‘The finger on the lapel’. Brothers who were enrolled prior to 1965 will remember this sign as that used when addressing the president at circle meetings. One placed the forefinger of the right hand outside the left lapel of one’s coat, the clenched fist being placed against the breast. This was supposed to indicate that one spoke from the heart to which one was pointing. This, the last sign, was abolished in 1965.

I have also read Catenian circulars from the 1940’s which mention that after the opening of a Circle meeting the Worthy Brother President gave a salute with his right hand and brothers responded with a salute using the left hand.  As yet I don’t know how this salute was performed.

It seems that our Circle was concerned that if a newly enrolled brother had to wait until his second or third meeting before being shown the signs of recognition and that particular brother was liable to be called up for military service he may not be able to identify himself to another Catenian soldier. In May 1916 the Circle Secretary received a letter from the Grand Secretary stating that it was quite in order for St Helens Circle to convey the signs of recognition to a new brother likely to be called up at the Circle meeting at which he was initiated.

Whilst the founding brothers of our Circle were no doubt most pleased with the enrolment of the five brothers mentioned earlier, they would have been less pleased to receive a letter of resignation from Brother Ellis, the Circle Secretary. The minutes do not indicate his reasons but the thanks of the Council are recorded. His letter of resignation as secretary was received in October 1914 and he officially resigned from the Association in February 1915. The council appointed Brother J. Dennett to succeed him but he only served until November 1915 when he also resigned the post “owing to other important engagements”. Shortly after, he left St Helens to become the deputy Town Clerk of West Hartlepool. He resurfaces again in the directory of 1925 as a member of Hull Circle and was listed as the Town Clerk of Beverley. Circle council appointed Brother Chisnall as secretary and he served for at least two years.

The first recorded death in the Circle occurred when brother G. Scott passed away on April 1st 1915 and the doubtful honour of being the first brother to lapse his membership fell to Brother C. Joliffe when in 1916 the Council voted that he should forfeit his membership for non payment of fees. Research shows that in 1916 he was living in the Isle of Man so perhaps his lapsing was understandable.

In December 1914 the circle received a letter from the Grand Secretary informing them that Grand Council had asked   Brother O’Donnell, the Founding Father of our Association to visit St Helens “to ascertain if the business of the Circle was conducted in accordance with the rules”. The visit took place on March 9th 1915 when he attended the Circle Meeting. Prior to the meeting “he interviewed the President, Treasurer and Secretary and questioned them as to the methods of procedure and recognition”.  Afterwards he addressed the Circle but sadly there is no record of what he said.

The letter from the Grand Secretary also sought the views of Council on the interchange of visitors from other circles during the social part of the meeting.  The Council indicated their welcome to such a scheme. This therefore leads one to believe that inter Circle visiting as we know it today did not take place. Indeed the first recorded visit  was to Wigan Circle. At the Circle Meeting held on March 20th 1915 the President suggested that a party should visit Wigan Circle. This was further discussed at the Council and Circle Meetings in April when it was “resolved that as many brothers from this Circle as possible should form a party to visit the Wigan Circle, the date being fixed for May 8th 1915”.  It was announced at the meeting that Wigan Circle held it’s meeting at the Royal Hotel at 7.30pm and that a convenient train left St Helens at 7.00pm.

Brother Chamberlain reported on the visit at the May 1915 Circle Meeting but whether or not the visit was successful is not recorded and as circle visiting cards were not issued in those days the number of brothers who went is not recorded either.

By December 1914 the Circle was considering a change of venue and the Catholic Grammar School at West Park was suggested. On February 5th 1915 the Circle Council held a special meeting at the De La Salle brothers’ house adjacent to the school. At this meeting it was decided to hold future circle and council meetings in the house and agreed to put the proposal to the Circle brothers. At the Circle meeting held on February 9th 1915 the brothers agreed to the proposal but something must have gone wrong because the council at its meeting on February 25th 1915 decided that the Circle would remain at the Royal Raven Hotel but the council meetings would be held at West Park. They (the council) continued to meet there for the remainder of the year but in December 1915 decided to find somewhere more central.

Brother President Stringfellow offered the use of  his office in Ormskirk St and the council gladly accepted. For those who are unaware of the location of Stringfellow’s grocery shop, it stood on the site presently occupied by Samuel’s Jewellers at the corner of Ormskirk and Bridge Streets. The council approved a donation of three guineas to the Christian Brothers for the use of the room at the Brothers’ house during the year. The premises in Ormskirk Street were used for six months and then the Council started to meet at the Circle Treasurer’s office (J. Sephton), 60 Crab St, St Helens from July 1916. At about the same time the brothers had become dissatisfied with, or wanted a change from, the Royal Raven hotel and the last Circle Meeting was held there on September 19th 1916. On Tuesday October 24th 1916 they held their first meeting at No 60 Crab Street in the presence of 16 brothers. The minutes record satisfaction with the rooms and resolved that all future meetings be held there.

Why No 60 Crab St?

Research shows that Brother Sephton was an Estate Agent and his business address was 60 Crab St. It therefore seems likely that he had unused rooms at the rear of his property or possibly above his office. Some 5 acres of land around Lowe House Church was gifted to the Jesuits of Lowe House in the Will of Mrs Winefred Eccleston. Council agreed to pay Brother Sephton  one guinea per annum for the use of his rooms and also agreed to pay Mrs Grace, the landlady of the Royal Raven, the sum of £2-10-0 for the use of her rooms from June 1915 to May 1916. For those unfamiliar with the area, Crab St runs along one side of Lowe House Church to its junction with North Road and continues to College St. Number 60 no longer exists but it stood almost at the junction of Crab St and North Rd. At present there is an empty space upon which stood numbers 60, 62 and 64. The financial records are sparse but Council formed a sub committee with power to authorise modifications and decorations to No 60 Crab St. As a result, this committee arranged for the building of an interior wall and doorway with wood panelling on one side plus a picture rail and also picture railing to be fixed on three existing walls all for the sum of £8-10-0.

A company named Forbes and Elliot carried out the work and this same company carried out further modifications throughout 1916/1917. Just before the first circle meeting in the new venue council approved the purchase of 16 glasses at a cost of seven shillings and seven pence. They must have run foul of the licensing laws because the minutes record that they had to register the premises as a club to continue having ‘refreshments’ and paid a licence fee of four shillings for the privilege.

St Helens Circle History Part Five

St Helens Catenian Circle History-Part Five

st helens circle history part 3St Helens Catenian Circle History-Part Five continues in this final instalment of the insightful and thought provoking story.

Backtracking to 1914, and in particular to procedural matters, it was customary to say the De Profundis for deceased members of the Association immediately after the formal opening of a circle meeting. As the year 1914 ended and 1915 had begun, it was noticeable that many deceased catenians were recorded as ‘killed in action’. There is mention of the Circle’s sympathy with Brother Baron when his son was killed in action.

Despite the war, the Circle continued to grow and at the first Circle AGM held on June  15th 1915 the Secretary reported that since the formation of the Circle 14 brothers had been initiated, one had lapsed and one had died, leaving a total membership of 30 brothers. The Treasure reported that the Circle funds totalled £29.18s.9d. At the AGM the officers for the year ending 31st May 1916 were elected, these were:-

President                                    Bro. G. Strinfellow

Vice President                           Bro. F.P. Dromgoole

Chamberlain                              Bro. J. Frodsham

President’s Marshall                Bro. W. Woodcock

V, President’s Marshall           Bro. J.A. Baron

Treasurer                                    Bro. J. Sephton

Secretary                                     Bro. J. Dennett

Guard                                           Bro. J. Davies

Registrar                                     Bro, W. Chisnall

The minute record that the above officers ‘were duly invested in their respective offices after which the circle was formally opened by Worthy Brother President’. At this meeting the brothers voted that no meetings would be held in August, a tradition that has only changed within the last few years.

The President also initiated two new brothers, Messrs H. McCormack and V. Wood.

A brief examination of membership at this time shows that Manchester, Liverpool and London Circles were causing concern by the sheer weight of their membership. Brothers were being persuaded to form satellite circles although there is evidence of resistance to this.

One can however, understand Grand Council’s concern when you realise that at one time Manchester Circle had over 400 brothers on it’s Roll! The earliest directory in my possession is dated 1920 and this gives the membership of Manchester as 303, London 328 and Liverpool 314. Quite a large number when one considers that by this date circles had already been formed round these cities (Liverpool Central, Wallasey and Manchester City being examples). At the council Meeting held on June 14th 1916 St Helens agreed to support a rule change proposed by Birmingham Circle that ‘a limit be put on the number of members in a circle’. The discussions must have been very prolonged because it was not until 1923 that Grand Council decreed ‘that no circle should have a membership of more than 100 and that the membership of Manchester Circle be frozen’.

Returning to events relating directly to our own Circle, my research had included the reading of the very first copies of Catena. This was first produced around 1916 and in the 1917 edition which by the way, is in the form of a hard backed book of two or three hundred pages, I discovered two items of historical interest relating to our Circle. The first being a report that brothers from Wigan Circle visited St Helens (referred to earlier) and the second being a report on the Circle Meeting held on December 19th 1917 where it was announced “that Brother Corporal Alfred Shacklady, B.Sc (father of our own Bro. Basil Shacklady)  has been mentioned in despatches for valuable services rendered in connection with the aerial defences of the United Kingdom. Bro. Shacklady joined the London Electrical engineers about two years ago and it was not long before his many excellent qualities gained recognition. For some time he has been in charge of an important section of the defences of London and has had many thrilling experiences during the various attacks upon the Metropolis by Zepps and Hun aeroplanes”. Bro Shacklady died on June 14th 1923 and perhaps this brief account will perpetuate his memory.

The Circle continued to meet at no 60 Crab St for a number of years, paying a rental to Bro. Sephton and also £5 per annum to Rev. Fr Riley, the Rector of Lowe House Church. Many houses in the vicinity were owned by the church and it is likely that No 60 Crab St was one of them. During these years the Circle paid for further alterations and renovations to the premises including re carpeting, they also paid for coal, gas and electric lighting. The Minute Book and Treasurers Ledger record payment of many bills to the St Helens Corporation Electric Light Installation Company and other suppliers. On the question of bills, the very last page of the Minute Book records a decision taken by Circle Council on June 17th 1917:-“It was resolved that members serving in H.M. Forces be not asked to pay their subscriptions and that they be omitted in the returns made to Grand Council for the purposes of levy”. I’m sure that a brother serving in France would not have pleased to receive a letter from the treasure saying that he was in arrears and facing expulsion! At this same meeting, Council agreed to issue a membership form to a Mr. H. Parr, a great uncle of mine! He was enrolled in October 1917.

As mentioned above, the last page of Minute Book No1 relates to matters occurring in June 1917 and it is at this point that the narrative ends. Sadly Minute Book No2 and others following have disappeared and therefore precise historical data is difficult to find. The Treasurer’s Ledger is useful in that it records somewhat briefly, financial transactions from 1914 to early 1960 and has enabled me to identify payments to individual brothers, to Grand Council, Benevolence Funds, suppliers, cleaners, fuel suppliers etc. This information, together with reference to Association directories, shows that the |Circle remained at Crab St until the early 1920’s. They returned to the Royal Raven in 1925 until 1928/29 and then moved to the newly built Grange Park Hotel, Prescot Road where they remained until 1957. In 1957 they returned once again to the Royal Raven Hotel.

If and when more information comes to light I may be tempted to update this narrative but perhaps now is the time to share it and pass it on to the ‘younger’ brothers of the Circle so that the infant years of our Circle are not lost forever.

Ron Parr

Note-Most of the research took place during 1996 and the manuscript re typed in 2001.

Our thanks to Brother Ron Parr for his permission in reproducing St Helens Circle History on this Website.

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