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THE MONEY-LENDING INQUIRY.…

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FORESTRY IN CHESTER. ol

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FORESTRY IN CHESTER. ol COURT EARL OF CHESTER.' SPEECH BY THE PERMANENT SECRETARY. The jubilee of the Earl of Chester Court (2,197), Ancient Order of Foresters, was com- memorated on Thursday evening, when the members met for dinner at the Bear and Billet, Bridge-street. Mr. A. W. Vernon occupied the chair, and, after the preliminary part of the proceedings, gave the toasts of The Queen and Royal Family and The Navy, Army, and Reserve Forces.' Quartermaster Sergeant Hewitt (Cheshire Regiment) and Colour- Sergeant Davies (2nd V.B.C.R) responded. Bro. J. POTTS, P.D.C.R., proposed I The Ancient Order of Foresters and its Executive Council,' coupled with the names of Bros. B. Hulse, H.C.R., and J. Lister Stead, P.S., to whose abilities he paid a high tribute. Bro. HULSE, in responding, alluded to the Executive Council of 28 years ago, and to the conspicuous services to Forestry in particular of Bros. Vernon (then H.C.R.) and Beck. Speaking of Forestry, he said that there had been mistakes made by their fathers. The science of vital statistics was not understood in those days, and hence the mistakes arose. One mistake was made in charging equal contributions to all members, irrespective of age, and thus, although the Order had succeeded and made great strides, they had built upon a sandy foundation. They knew how they realised their mistake. They had to face great reforms, and he was pleased to say they made those reforms. Thus they had benefited by the mis- takes, and he was pleased to say that every court in the district was on the high road of progress, and he hoped every court would soon be in a perfectly solvent condition. He held that financial stability was better than numerical strength, and he hoped the time would come when the Order would be in a position to give every new member who joined the benefits they had promised. (Hear, hear.) Bro. J. LISTBR STEAD, Permanent Secretary, was pleased to have the opportunity of being able to live in Chester, a unique city, for twelve months. The responsibility which devolved upon the Executive Council increased year by year. The Chester Council was the ninth he had been associated with, and he could speak to the great increase of work whieh had fallen upon the Executive Council during that period. Some of the questions they would have to deal with were of the greatest importance, and he was pleased to find that their High Chief Ranger had struck the right chord in regard to the question of financial solvency. The great aim they ought to achieve was not so much numerical strength as financial soundness, and they should stop the practice of receiving con- tributions equivalent to 17s. or 18s. in the £ and paying out benefits equal to 20s. in the L. That was a suicidal policy, and it had taken the order some years to find it out, but he was pleased to say that two High Courts had stood firm against going back to the old policy. (Hear, hear.) He did not care very much if the A.O.F. did not make much numerical progress so long as they knew every member was paying a full contribution. Their tables of contribution were founded upon experience tabulated for five years ending 1875. It was a fact which could not be too fully realised that since that experience was tabulated their sickness, year by year, instead of going down, had gone up. The longer a man lived, the greater the risk to which the society was ex- posed, and their experience was bringing out the fact that the contributions they now charged and insisted upon new members paying, were not one penny too much. The friendly society which was to progress in the future was the one shewing the cleanest sheet from a financial point of view. In the consideration of these matters he was anxious that they should not lose sight of the other side of their work. They should not forget the fact that the A.O.F. was a great brotherhood, whose watchword was sympathy. Still, they must recognise the fact that great as their desires might be to carry out that watchword, to practice that benevo- lence, they must put the society upon a sound financial basis. He was gratified to find that in the history of that Court the members had not been afraid to put their hand to the plough and effect the reforms necessary to bring the court into a good financial position. Five years ago the court stood at 15s. 9d. in the £ at the last valuation it was 20s. Id. in the i. (Hear, hear.) Unfortunately they had courts falling below the standard of 20s. in the E, and he was sure the Chester Executive Council would do something towards putting those courts in a better financial position. There was some excuse for the older courts. They had been acting without light and guidance, but to-day they had that light and guidance, and there was now no excuse for courts to carry on their business on insolvent lines. The Norwich Council had to deal with over 700 courts falling below 17s. 6d. in the E, and had done splendid work. He hoped the Chester Council would take up the work in the same spirit, and would bring about an improvement in those courts which now, unfortunately, in too many cases, fell below a high rate of solvency. The growth of the A.O.F. was a splendid specimen of the genius of the English workingman for organisation, and a splendid specimen of the practice of the principle of voluntary associa- tion. He would not go into detail in regard to the pensions question, but he thought that if the workingmen of 40 or 50 years ago could provide sick and funeral benefits in the way they had done, he was not going to say they were incapable of providing for requirements for old age. The workingmen of the country were capable of dealing with the question, and they would deal with it were it not made the sport of politicians, who made it the means of obtaining votes at general elections. So long as these schemes of State help were dangled before the eyes of the people there was little headway gained, but if the friendly societies of the country were left alone to deal they would do so. Other toasts were 'Court Earl of Chester,' proposed by Bro. P. Wright, H.C.T, responded to by Bros. T. Hewitt, C.S., and R. Jones, C.T.; 'Kindred Societies,' submitted by Bro. J. Harris, H.C.S., acknowledged by Bro. T. Mills, C.S., M.U.; Honorary Members, Visitors,' 'The Press,' 'Chairman,' and 'Hostess.' An interesting item of the programme was the presentation of a handsome clock and a pair of bronze ornaments to Bro. R. Jones, C.T. Bro. J. Harris, in making the presentation, said Bro. Jones had been a member of the court for 50 years, was treasurer in 1866, head of the dis- trict in 1875, assisted in bringing the High Court to Chester nearly 30 years ago, and had altogether served the court well and faithfully. —Bro. Jones, in reply, recalled interesting and amusing reminiscences of his life as a Forester. The general proceedings were enlivened by songs from Messrs. Savage and Blackmore and Sergeant Matthews, the latter presiding at the piano.

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