Launceston Tradesmen’s Friendly Society
By Sir Alfred Robbins 1885.
In the year 1778 the Tradesmen’s Friendly Society, ” held at the Exeter Inn, in Launceston, for the mutual support of each other in sickness, casualties, and death,” began to keep a record of its proceedings. It had been founded in 1765, by George Wevill, Thomas Rogers, Thomas Geake, John Mules, and others, but the first written intimation of its existence is the entry in February, 1778, of a resolution “that Richard Smith be fined for not attending with his key, and not giving the same to his deputy.” Many instances of fines are on the minutes during the early years of the Society’s life, several of them for contravention of a rule which provided that “No Members shall presume to curse, swear, profane the Lord’s
most Holy Name, quarrel, fight, talk indecently or enter the Society Boom disguised in liquor.” ( The rule goes on to prohibit members from “
raising any dispute touching Church or State ; defaming the Society or any of its Members in any other Company; upbraiding any Member or his friends for any benefit lie may have received from the box ; or in any manner interrupting the Clerk or Stewards in the execution of their duty.” This is taken from the book of rules issued in 1833, which is believed to have been the earliest printed, and it is doubtless in the same form as it was originally drawn).
On September 3, 1780, John Bounsall was “fined one shilling for calling T. Down ‘Fool,'” and on November 6th of the same year Thomas Saunders was fined a like sum “for ridiculing, threatening, and defaming the character of Mr. Carter.” The first President who appears to have been elected was George Fardinff on November 8, 1781, and he, during his term of office, was seriously complained of for having accused a member, who happened to be a clock-maker, of the somewhat mysterious offence of “boiling the clock.” There is no record of a fine for violating the rule ” that no Member shall practise cudgelling or wrestling either on the Stage or King,” but a well-merited penalty was imposed on August 5, 1782, upon Richard Frost, who, according to a special report of the President himself, had had the hardihood, with deliberate defiance of grammar, to say that ” not five men in the Society did not know their right hand from their left.” (The minute-book from which this information is taken covers the period from 1778 to 1810).