St Helens Circle History-Part Two

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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


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