II.—FOUNDATION OF THE SOCIETY
When exactly “The First Catholic Charitable Society” was founded it would be difficult to say. A newspaper cutting of 1854 speaks of it as being traceable back to 1715. This may be so. But the first really authentic record that we have is the old account book preserved in St. Wilfrid’s Presbytery. On the first pages of this are written the “Articles of Agreement,” or rules of the Society. On page 4 we find the passage: “We agree to begin this company att Whitsunday the Sixt of June 1731 and begin to distribut our Charity att Christmas following.”
Of course the idea of such a Society must have been broached much earlier. It was discussed frequently no doubt at meetings. Its thirty original members took no little time, probably, to draw up those four folio pages of rules. How long it took we can not tell. Doubtless quite a long time and many a meeting was spent in deliberation. But June 6th, 1731, must be considered its birthday. Then it was “agreed that the company should begin.” Until then it was but being formed.
In its early years our Society had not its present name. The members then called themselves “The Catholick Bretheran.” Indeed it is not until 1843 that we find it styled “The Charitable Society.” Why this change of name ? Was it because another Society had sprung up, which had adopted a similar name? That such another Society of later date existed we know. Indeed we have before us an old handbill of 1847, which gives the “Order of the Procession at the Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Talbot Catholic Schools and Chapel, Maudlands.” And in this Procession among the Gilds of the Town there marched “four conductors, a banner and band of music and THE UNITED CATHOLIC BRETHREN.” In 1850 it is called “The First Catholic Charitable Society.”
An Association had been formed in Blackburn and called also “The Charitable Society.” To distinguish itself from this, our Society assumed the proud title which it now bears.
Nor was its claim to this distinction unrecognised. For we have before us a pamphlet printed in 1856, entitled “The Origin, Object and Rules of the SECOND Catholic Charitable Society.” This was founded in 1822, and owed its origin to a charitable person, whose name was Ellen Smith. From this pamphlet we learn that this Association “was named the SECOND Catholic Charitable Society, in order to distinguish it from the FIRST Catholic Charitable Society, commonly called ‘Duckett’s Charity.’ This latter embraced as its members only the upper classes of the town of Preston.”
This passage is interesting, in so far as it tells us, that even a hundred years ago our Society was recognised as the first of its kind. It gives us further yet another name, by which the Society was known, “Duckett’s Charity.” It is the only mention that we have seen of such a name. Such a style and title is nowhere mentioned in the first two accounts and minute books, which deal with the affairs of the Society from its inception in 1731 down to 1853. Nor can we find anywhere else any rule that hints at a limitation of membership of “The First Charitable ” to “The upper classes of the Town of Preston.”
It would indeed be interesting to know whence came the name “Duckett’s Charity.” It must have been a second name, else why the phrase “commonly called Duckett’s Charity.” Was it taken from George Duckett, who was President of the First Charitable ? No other of the known Presidents was named Duckett. But George Duckett was President in 1847-8, and the pamphlet, to which we refer, was printed in 1846.