RAOB (Royal Antediluvian order of Buffaloes)

RAOB (Royal Antediluvian order of Buffaloes)

In the 18th century a fraternal order known as the City of Lushington consisted almost exclusively of actors or variety artists, and held its meetings in the Inns and Taverns close to the well populated theatres of the day. To be a member of the Lushington's, one was required to be either an actor or artist who actually earned their living 'treading the boards'. Selected guests of members were invited to attend these gatherings, and many stage hands obviously availed themselves of this privilege for a number of years. At some unknown time, the Lushington's became a 'closed shop,' presumably because meeting rooms in the Inn or Tavern were not big enough to accommodate everyone (member and visitor alike).

The meeting room was organised in the form of a City with four or more wards and so the Master or chief officer was referred to as Mayor, and the senior officers were Aldermen. Lesser officers carried the prefix 'City' in their title, for example City Taster, City Barber, City Physician. The City Taster had a most important roll in the evening's proceedings. It was his duty before the Lodge opened to ceremoniously taste the ale on sale at the Inn. If it was found to be 'wanting' the host or landlord was 'fined' two gallons of ale, which was consumed by all in attendance at the meeting without payment.

Being prevented from attending meetings of the Lushingtons after a number of years enjoyment of that privilege, the stage hands and theatre staff began to hold their own exclusive meetings. As the theatre staff moved around the country in pursuance of their profession, Lodges would have been founded in the various cities, towns and villages.

Pearce Egan, a well known London Theatre critic of the period attributes the founders as being Joseph Lisle, a well known eccentric and William Sinnett. In his book 'The History of Tom and Jerry' he cites one of the aims as being the promotion of an hitherto neglected ballad 'We'll chase the Buffalo'.

The following is taken from the History of Buffaloism on the RAOB Grand Lodge of England website: "As in Freemasonry, the Seditious and Riotous Assembly Acts of the late 19th century had a profound effect on Buffalo meetings, as it had on many clubs, societies, and other bodies of the day. To show to the authorities the Buffaloes were not subversive to the interest of the state, the Order decided to describe itself as the Loyal Order of Buffaloes. It only needs a slip of the tongue for 'loyal' to become 'royal' and in a very short time the 'Public' accepted that the Order was indeed Royal". The introduction of the Royal Warrant Act, in the early 20th century, required anyone using the 'Royal' prefix to register with the Lord Chancellors Office and to stop using the title if permission to continue doing so was not granted. Since the Buffaloes had been using the title from the 1840s the Lord Chancellor agreed that no objection would be raised on continued use of the title on the grounds of long usage, provided no act by the Order arose that would disgrace its use.

In the early days, the first lodge to be opened in an area became known as the Mother Lodge, from which subsequent Lodges would be opened. Advice was frequently sought from the 'Mother' Lodge in the interpretation of rule or other matters, although it would continue to be a private or Minor Lodge in its own right. From these Mother Lodges the concept was developed for a body responsible for administration and organisation, alone. Thus we acquired Governing Authorities that became District Grand Lodges and latter Provincial Grand Lodges.

1n April 1866 the then known Lodges formed a Grand Lodge to control the movement, to set laws, to establish procedures and administration. This body later became known as the Grand Lodge of England. However, the new "Order" was soon best with arguments and a power struggle led to bitterness and break-ups. The Grand Lodge of England fractured into smaller "Banners" between which there was often bitter rivalry. One "Banner" became the 'Grand Lodge of England Ltd', wrongly believing that by forming as a company they could gain exclusive usage of the name. The 'Grand Surrey Banner' proclaimed itself "Mother Lodge of the World". Dozens of "Banners" were created around London and many more in the "Provinces." Throughout the UK the Order has risen in membership, with 2010 showing there were 2 million Buffs registered as members.

The first world war brought temporary or even permanent closure to many Lodges whilst the men were fighting. The Buffs played their part in the war effort. Every Buff was asked to contribute by supplying Ambulances to bring the wounded back from the front lines. Initially 6 Motorised Ambulances were purchased and sent to "The Front" with each one manned by "Volunteer Buffs". There are even records of Lodges being formed and meeting in the Ambulances. More followed and, on their return after the war, the ambulances formed the first "Motorised" ambulance service in England.

In 1926, Lord Alston succeeded in persuading the Order to purchase Grove House, Harrogate, for use as an orphanage to which every active member contributed a "Ha'penny" (half of one old penny). When the Orphanage was no longer a requirement after the state took over responsibility for Orphans, the Order began a new Charity Fund which is still in place today and "core" to the Order. During the War Years, on each occasion RAOB turned over Grove House to the War Effort, for use as a military hospital.

In 1949, an international convention in Glasgow was reported to have over 1000 attendees representing around 4000 lodges, and was to celebrate 130 years of the Order. Sir Andrew Murray, the Lord Provost, addressed the conference.

Today, the RAOB continues its work in the local community helping all those its members promise to help and assist in times of difficulty or need. Minor Lodges throughout the United Kingdom and the rest of the world raise money for charities and charitable causes. In 2008 the Scarborough based lodge raised £2770 for a local hospice.

As with many organisations dating from the Pre-Victorian Period, there was a noticeable decline in membership since a boom in the 1970s. By 2012 Scotland's oldest lodge, the Royal Edinburgh Lodge No. 854, was down to 25 members.