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"The Lodge"

My father Walter had a persistent memory of his dad and uncles going to "the lodge." When he started researching his family history, he got caught up in trying to figure out what "the lodge" was.

It's important to know that Walter's mother Bridget came from Ireland and his father was first generation English-American. Tradition has it that the Irish were supposed to hate the English and the English were supposed to consider the Irish uncivilized brutes. But that's not the way it worked out in our family. According to my dad, his English grandmother advocated that her six sons marry "nice Irish girls." And clearly the tall handsome son-of-an-Englishman appealed to Bridget.

So, the English-Irish antipathy was little more than a historical footnote in my dad's family.

Back to "the lodge":

In the early eighties, my dad didn't have access to all the data now on the internet. He made friends with librarians instead. They pieced together fragments of his memory and dove into the reference books on secret societies.

And suddenly there it was: the Order of Sons of St. George.

But Walter couldn't believe his eyes when he read the following:

The Order of Sons of St. George were first established in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1871. It was originally founded for the purpose of resisting attacks by the Molly Maguires, a secret society of Irish immigrant laborers working in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. The Molly Maguires were founded after the predominately Irish Catholic union called the Workingmen's Benevolent Association was broken up the mine owners and officials.

How crazy was this? The boys who loved Irish women were members of an anti-Irish club. My dad was amused. He probably knew damn well that, by 1930, the lodge was more about drinking beer than political activism.

More information from the Phoenixmasonry site:

The Molly Maguires operated in secret, and used the signs, passwords and grips of the Ancient Order of Hibernians ... to conceal their criminal activities, which consisted of raiding mine officials' homes, beating them up and threatening them with death, and destroying mine owners' property during the labor disputes in the 1860s-1870s.

The Order of the Sons of St. George evolved into an ethnic fraternal benefit society for Englishmen residing in the United States of America, and their sons and grandsons. It offered sick and death benefits to members, benefits, and social activities such as dances, picnics and other lodge activities.

Membership was limited to first-, second- and third-generation Englishmen. There was a female auxiliary called the Daughters of St. George. Both organizations are long defunct.

So the Sons of St. George evolved from crusaders to toothless dragons.

Their motto was taken from the ancient Order of the Garter: Honi soit qui mal y pense.  According to Wikipedia, the phrase is French for 'shamed be the person who thinks ill of it'.*



Honi soit qui mal y pense

Supposedly, in the fourteenth century, Edward III was dancing with the Countess of Salisbury, and her garter fell off. In response to the snickers of those watching, Edward said "Honi soit qui mal y pense," and tied the garter around his own leg. The phrase then became the motto of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, which Edward founded.