Friendly Societies Home | Mutual Aid in Haddington | Acknowledgements

Friendly society collections

Most Local History and Archive collections in the Lothians and Fife have some records about friendly societies in their area. Almost all local authority museums have some artefacts relating to individuals or lodges. Almost all these bodies have contributed material to the SHELF project.

In addition to the resources on this website, much more was surveyed and can be found on Resources for Learning in Scotland, of which SHELF was just a part. Only a proportion of existing friendly society records were selected for inclusion because SHELF looked at the whole idea of self-help. The material that was included can lead back to the original collections held in museums, libraries and archives across the Lothians and Fife.

Other significant collections are held in national institutions. Many records have been deposited in the National Library of Scotland. The National Archives of Scotland have the holdings acquired by the Registrar of Friendly Societies and other deposits. However, apart from the Registrar collections, there has never been any systematic attempt to collect or collate friendly society records. Thus there are many gaps in existing collections and many records have been irretrievably lost. Even today, much is still tucked away in cupboards in homesor lying forgotten in halls and club-rooms awaiting discovery.

The Literature of Friendly Societies

A good starting point to discover what is in your area is the survey by Ian MacDougall published as A Catalogue of some Labour Records in Scotland and some Scots Records outside Scotland (Scottish Labour History Society, Edinburgh, 1978). On the Web, the Friendly Societies Research Group is part of the Open University. It maintains a library and bibliography of relevant publications.

Raise the Banners High by Helen Clark (The City of Edinburgh Council 21001) surveys Edinburgh's banner collection. The national collection was surveyed by the National Museum of Labour History: National Banner Survey 1999.

Some friendly societies included short histories in their booklets of rules and regulations or have been the subject of a local study. Many of these are indicated with the resources compiled for SHELF. For example, both Dunfermline and Haddington free gardeners are the subjects of short accounts: History of the Society of Gardeners in Dunfermline by anon (A Angus, Dunfermline, 1816) and the Ancient Fraternity of Free Gardeners of East Lothian by Charles Martine and WH Brown (ed.) (East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists' Society, Haddington, 1975). Other scarce publications are valuable in investigating the effects of changing legislation. An example is the Consolidation of the Order by George A Marriott, published by the British Order of Free Gardeners, Manchester, around 1912. The Foresters Heritage Trust has published a number of short introductory booklets including Female Foresters - a century of Landmarks and Grandfather was in the AOF, both by Audrey Fisk (Foresters Heritage Trust 1992 and 1994). Many surviving friendly societies maintain a historical section on their websites. Relevant links are indicated with the appropriate SHELF resources on RLS.

Most library and archive collections have some friendly society rulebooks. However, they have survived only by chance and many societies may have left no record. Many documents and artefacts relating to friendly societies are catalogued along with material relating to Freemasonry.

Your local press is often a good source to build a picture of friendly society business and social activities. Many local papers have been microfilmed and are available in local history centres. Directories and annual registers often list lodges, addresses and office holders. Local History Centres in the Lothians

Friendly Societies Home | Mutual Aid in Haddington | Acknowledgements

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