The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes
We are not a secret order, we are an order with secrets.
Our greatest secret is our “doing good by stealth”.
What's on at the
and Thank You's
History of the
A Brief history of the
Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes.
The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB) is a Fraternal, Benevolent and Social Organisation in the United Kingdom. It is open to any male over the age of 18, provided he is a "true and loyal supporter of the British Crown and Constitution" and he "enters of his own free will and consent". The organisation aids members, their families, those left behind by deceased brethren (Widows/Orphans) and other charitable organisations. During the 19th Century, via the British Empire, the Order spread throughout the British Commonwealth and Lodges now exist in Britain, Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Middle East, India, Africa, Gibraltar and Cyprus.
In so far as surviving records can prove, the earliest known traceable date of a Lodge of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes is the "Phoenix Lodge No.1" in 1822 at the Harp Tavern, Great Russell Street near Drury Lane Theatre, London and was created by stage hands and theatre technicians who had been denied a long held privilege extended to them by the actors and artists of the day.
A late 18th century 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). Whatever the reason the Lushington's only allowed members to attend their meetings.
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 Lushington's after a number of years enjoyment of that privilege, the stage hands and theatre staff starting holding their own exclusive meetings that had 'nuffin to do wit them acter fellas'.
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'.
It is a matter of pure conjecture as to what remarks may have been made by patrons in the public rooms of the Tavern upon hearing the song being sung by members in the club or concert room. Certainly the ballad was sung with a considerable amount of enthusiasm at R.A.O.B Lodge meetings as recently as the mid 1950's by many of our more long serving members.
Why Antediluvian? The Order was founded in 1822, which certainly was not before Noah's Flood, and no satisfactory answer can be found in the records that have survived the ravages of time. We must remember that the bulk of our members at that time were involved in one of the theatre professions, and skilled orators would have written their own ceremonies, often designed to impress the unenlightened with the great antiquity of the Order. Similarities were deduced to the rights of bull worship at the time of the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt. The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, Knight's Templar and other nations of Christendom were seen a romantic remnance of a by-gone era. Peter the Hermit and the Saracenic wars were also quoted.
The desires of mankind to relieve the poverty of ones fellow have been around since the earliest ages, and if that is not antediluvian, what is? Certainly the word has a better ring to it than 'ancient'. So! Antediluvian we became!
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 Joe 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 formulated 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.
The first Woman Chairman ever elected in the RAOB was Sister Mary Bann. She was elected in 1970.
The Order, today, is a 3 tiered system of Minor Lodges, Provincial Grand Lodges (Local Governing Body)and Grand Lodge. Each Province may also have a Knights Chapter and Roll of Honour (ROH) Assembly, the minimum entry requirement being that the member has attained the appropriate degree to be admitted.
In the early days of the R.A.O.B. it is clear that there must have been members who were also members of the various Masonic Orders since there is much in R.A.O.B. ritual and regalia that can be identified as being Masonic in origin as well as from other societies.
Today there are many who enjoy membership both as a Mason and as a Buffalo. Some holding quite senior and important positions of Office in both Orders.
The R.A.O.B. is a Philanthropic and Charitable body, Lodges and Provinces are at liberty to undertake whatever activity they consider appropriate for the needs of the community in which they work and live.
Charitable funds exist at Lodge, Province and Grand Lodge levels to assist members of the Order and/or their dependants who are in necessitous circumstances.
Grand Lodge owns and operates two convalescent homes to provide rest and recuperation facilities for members, their wives or widows recovering from illness or medical treatment
Our basic desire - Is to defend the weak, to help the unfortunate and render assistance to those in difficulty or need'. These honorable principles have existed in man since the earliest ages and in this respect our Order may be regarded as "ancient - or Antediluvian."
Office & Degree
There are four degrees of within the RAOB:
1.Brother (1st degree) (Kangaroo)
2.Certified Primo (2nd degree)
3.Knight Order of Merit (Knight or Sir) (3rd degree)
4.Roll Of Honour (Right Honourable) (4th degree)
In a Minor Lodge, there are 11 Officers:
11.Alderman of Benevolence
Today, the R.A.O.B 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 are working hard to raise money for charities and charitable causes.
As with many organisations dating from the Pre-Victorian Period, there is a noticeable decline in membership since a boom in the 1970s, although there seems to be an influx of younger brethren who wish to "re-live the good ol' days".