27 June 1903

Remarkable Case at Ashton County Court

On Thursday afternoon his Honour Judge Reginald BROWN, K.C., had a singular claim arising out of a dispute between members and officials of a friendly society at Hooley Hill. The plaintiffs were: James PLATT, of 26 Seymour-street, Denton; William HOWORTH, 17 Garden-street, Hooley Hill; Ralph RYDER, Ryecroft Terrace, Hamilton-street, Hamilton-street, Ashton; John Henry RYDER, 4 Canal-street, Openshaw; and Henry RYDER, also of Canal-street, Openshaw, all of them suing as member of the Welcome Friend Lodge (1,211) of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows, Denton district.

The defendants were Cornelius DOUGLAS, of 118 Moorside-lane, Denton, felt hat finisher, and Frederick HOWARD, of Gibson Terrace, Ashton, an oiler and greaser. Mr Joseph HURST, solicitor, represented plaintiffs, and defendants appeared in person.

It was alleged that DOUGLAS had withheld about £13 and HOWARD £2, in addition to the books of the society, which the plaintiffs demanded. Asked by the judge what their defence would be, DOUGLAS denied having the money. He had, he said, paid it away in sick benefits. HOWARD admitted liability, and accordingly the case contested was against DOUGLAS only.

Mr HURST said his clients were member of an old Oddfellows’ lodge established 50 years ago – the Welcome Friend Lodge, which held its meetings at the Pack Horse Inn, Hooley Hill. Most of the members had been connected with the lodge many years, periods extending over 50, 47, 38 and 35 years. The lodge held a subordinate degree in Oddfellowship, and was attached to the district and lodges known as the Denton district.

At any rate, it was so attached up to payment of the last levy in October 1902. Since that period in consequence of defendants withholding the funds of the society, no levies had been paid to the district, and the funeral benefits of £8 per member – or a total sum of £80 – had been placed in jeopardy by the conduct of DOUGLAS and HOWARD in withholding the money.

His Honour: Is the only question to decide whether DOUGLAS has paid away the money on behalf of the society for sick relief? I suppose he admits having had the money which he says he has paid away? – Mr HURST: Quite so, but we have nothing to do with that. I shall call evidence to prove that DOUGLAS has admitted the sum which we say he owes, for he stated in tears he was in possession of the money.

Mr HURST went on to say that he wrote to DOUGLAS and HOWARD as treasurer and secretary respectively, pointing out the membership had been reduced to eight, and that for some time no balance-sheet had been supplied. The sum of £14 4s was supposed to be in their hands, though no subscriptions had been paid for the past nine months, and as the Lodge did not contain 13 members, the dispensation of the Grand Lodge had been forfeited. They requested that the books and cash should be handed over, otherwise proceedings would be instituted. Subsequently the parties met, and DOUGLAS admitted having received the sum above mentioned, but that he had not then possession of the money.

His Honour: Have they handed over the books? – Mr Hurst: Part of the books have been received. Nearly all the eight members except the treasurer and secretary are old working men of imperfect education, and if the evidence is gone into you will see that advantage has been taken by defendants of the ignorance of these old men. The district lodges have held meetings in order to compel them to return the books and the money, and it only after certain threats that some of the books were handed over this morning. DOUGLAS has never before made any suggestion that he had paid away the money; on the contrary, he has admitted owing it, and he promised to pay it back.

Defendant HOWARD (whom Mr HURST had also subpoenaed as a witness) was then sworn. He said it was DOUGLAS’ duty to enter in a book any money he paid away. – Mr HURST: Are you aware he has paid any money in benefits? – Witness: Yes. – His Honour: But you do not think he has paid anything except what is in the books? – Witness: I do not think so. – Mr HURST: Has the dispensation been withdrawn in consequence of what has happened? – Witness: It has.

DOUGLAS: I paid 13 weeks at 4s a week to a person named RYDER. – His Honour: Is that in the books? – DOUGLAS: No, sir, because I have no books. HOWARD is the very man who took it to him week after week. – HOWARD shook his head, and the Judge inquired if RYDER lived at Ardwick. – DOUGLAS: You know he received 13 weeks at 4s a week. – HOWARD: I have no knowledge of it. What I have paid is in the books.

His Honour: Is RYDER here? – DOUGLAS: No, sir, he is dead. Besides that I paid money to a member named DEEMING, and that is not in the books. – HOWARD: It seems strange that the sick steward (DOUGLAS) should not have reported these matters before. – His Honour: To the best of your belief you think you have entered everything he has told you he has paid away? – Witness: Yes, sir, month by month.

DOUGLAS said DEEMING was not a member now. Further he paid 8s for the framing of an emblem for Samuel HOWARD. His Honour: But it would be your duty to tell HOWARD you had paid these sums so that they could be debited. – DOUGLAS: I have done, and I have asked for members to be called and an audit, but they have always put it off. I have been here, there and everywhere for them! HOWARD has had the books, and I have had none!

Witness: You have had “tally” books. – DOUGLAS: Yes, I have had them since this case commenced. When I have asked him to prepare a full statement he said that if he made up the books they would find three members out of benefit! – Witness denied this, and produced a letter signed by Messrs WALKER and WOOD saying that the books were well kept. – DOUGLAS: Who has had the “tally” books? – Witness: You. – DOUGLAS: No, you have had them all the time!

His Honour: Who drew £7 18s 10d from the bank? – DOUGLAS: I did. His Honour: Then you have got that in any event. – DOUGLAS replied that he had paid out all the money he received. He had also paid his own expenses when he had been to Manchester on lodge business. He had not received anything for 16 years. – His Honour (sharply): You are not entitled to anything. If you take over the secretaryship you do it for the good of your fellow creatures. You are not entitled to any pay unless you make a bargain.

DOUGLAS: I have worked my utmost for the lodge and district. – His Honour: I should like to have a witness called who has heard him admit having the money. – HOWARD then said he heard DOUGLAS admit that, but that he had spent it. DOUGLAS started “skriking” when he made the admission. – His Honour: “Skriking,” what’s that? – (Laughter.) – Witness: Crying, sir. James PLATT, William HOWARD, and John Hy. RYDER next gave evidence. They spoke to having heard DOUGLAS say he had had the money, but had spent it. HOWARD said that DOUGLAS remarked that he was going to have something while he lived!” – (Laughter.)

His Honour: I never saw such a way these clubs are managed. – Mr HURST: It is very loose indeed. – DOUGLAS: It is all malice against me, and I have done my duty as well as I could under the circumstances. I have paid sick money when members have come to me, and they have never bothered at all.

His Honour pointed out to DOUGLAS that it was his duty to put in writing anything he paid away. What was he by trade? – DOUGLAS: A hatter. – What do you make a week? – Fifteen shillings. – Mr HURST: They make a few pounds a week. – DOUGLAS: Mr HURST knows that is wrong, and he lives in the district. – Are you married? – No, sir. – What offer can you make? – I cannot make any. In the end the Judge made an order upon DOUGLAS to pay £13 4s 10d, and HOWARD £2 0s 6d, together with the books. J H RYDER was appointed trustee, and payment was ordered forthwith.

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