A range of friendly societies grew up all over Britain in the late 19th Century as a means of protecting workers and their families from old age and illness in the days before the welfare state was introduced at the beginning of the 20th Century. One of the largest friendly societies was the Oddfellows, who had adopted many of the secret codes and symbols of the Freemasons. In Aberchirder the St Marnan’s Lodge 1083 provided its members with sickness and funeral benefits as well as paying doctor’s fees.
Towards the end of the 19th Century and into the 20th, the Banffshire Journal regularly published reports of the Lodge’s AGMs. The report for 1900 includes a financial statement and gives an idea of how the Lodge operated and how several influential members of the community were involved:
The Annual Meeting of St Marnan’s Lodge of Oddfellows was held on Thursday. The Secretary submitted the financial statement, showing the income to be £119.18s9d and the expenditure –
Sick & funeral benefits £13.3s4d, Levies £10.12s6d, Medical Officer and other officials £19.7s4d, clearance £2.5s6d, Ordinary repairs to property £1.12s, Miscellaneous including taxes, insurance and stationery £6.7s6d, Total £75.18s2d. The amount of funds, including heritable property is now £297.7s1d, being an increase of £44 for the year. The statement, which was considered highly satisfactory, was adopted.
The election of office-bearers for the year took place, and resulted as follows:
N.G. – George Matthews
V.G. – James Drummond
Secretary – W Grant [solicitor]
Treasurer – W Milne
Chaplain – Rev L Edmunds [not a local minister]
Medical Officer – Dr Whitton [doctor]
Trustees and auditors – Provost Auchinachie, Bailie Leask, Rev L Edmunds
Warden – Charles Sandison [butcher]
Conductor – James Morrison
Inside Guard – A Auld
Outside do. – W McMillan [horse-bus owner]
RHS to NG – R Watson
LHS to NG – R L Minty
RHS to VG – A Clark
LHS to VG – W Michie
F.G. – J Duncan
Sick visitors – Messrs Donald, McMillan, Watt and Auld.
Annual picnics were popular among church and charitable groups and another Banffshire Journal item reported on the Oddfellows’ one held in 1894:
On Wednesday last, the St Marnan’s Lodge held their annual pic-nic on a field kindly lent by Mr John Lyon, Newton of Auchintoul. About 250 sat down to an excellent tea purveyed by Mr Stewart, baker. A long programme of athletic sports followed. The principal prize winners in the games were: D Munro, J Geddes, G Legge, J Roy and A Barron. A five mile handicap race followed. John Lindsay was first, David Milton second, and John Reid third. The afternoon being very showery, the committee were greatly obliged to Mr Brodie [Fife Arms] for granting one of his tents.