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

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