Ancient Order of Henpecked Husbands
The 5,924th Annual Conference will be held on Easter Monday April 10th 1944 AD. In our attempted invasion of new lands, our commandos report having established an excellent bridgehead. So all members of the "Home Guard" are requested to proceed with their usual stealth and ingenuity to St James Methodist School Luddenden, ZERO HR. 11.40 am.
Best possible (wartime) lunch will be served at 12 noon prompt. Owing to catering difficulties, please don't come unless you reply definitely by March 30th, and oblige.
This letter from the Hon Sec is the wartime call for all members to convene at Luddenden for their annual meeting at Easter. The Ancient order, it was claimed, was founded in 3980 BC.
The Ancient order of Henpecked husbands was formed in the 1890's as a rambling society by 6 Methodist preachers who met in an empty cottage in Cragg Vale, it gradually faded but was revived and relocated to Boulderclough Methodist Chapel. The meetings were held in "secret" but everyone knew that the group met every Easter Monday for the purpose of "having a real jovial time, free from the care of the apron strings" The club was disbanded in the mid 1970's.
The first post war meeting, when members met for their annual business meeting it was noted that the majority of those present were well past their three score years mark, Age, of course, had nothing to do with the essential qualifications for membership but with nobody coming forward for enrolment, concern was expressed respecting the future of the club.
How long will it survive? Asked one veteran, and another enquired, "has the war brought about such changes in the domestic life of the community that there is no further need for a henpecked club?"
The unanimous verdict of the assembly was that the war has added immensely to the many duties undertaken by the truly obedient husband.
The secretary reported that several Halifax and Sowerby Bridge husbands had tentatively inquired how they could enter the fold and secure the approved certificate of membership. Whether they deemed the conditions to be too severe or whether they had actually started for the rendezvous and been "fetched" back is not known but if they renew their application they will probably be rejected.
The right to be free on Easter Monday is a main plank of the clubs foundation, with that golden rule in mind, the "henpecked 'uns" fearlessly made their way to Boulderclough. From whatever point they started, early or late, they all completed the course by "shanks pony". As they trudged along the country roads and field paths obviously enjoying their freedom, there were many witty retorts to the natives who sarcastically commented about the destination of the hikers. To one man mending a broom whilst his wife looked on, a bright spark from Elland said, "Today we are as free as the skylarks, now't to do and plenty to eat. Tomorrow we will be in the same boat with the exception that we shall have had at least one day off duty".
The father of the club, as president gave a cheerful greeting to his colleagues. There followed an hours chat over the hardships of the year, and another hour was spent journeying to the edge of the moor in order to get a glimpse of the far flung Pennine hills, clothed in there richest garb of spring.
At the business session, the new Secretary submitted a report, which earned for him the comment that his effort was worthy of his noted predecessor. When a suggestion was made that the balance be invested, it was pointed out that such a proposal was impossible for no henpecked husband has ever been known to have a banking account.
The "Mayor" elect of the ancient order shook his head disdainfully when it was reported that the henpecked husbands of Dinnington near Rotherham intended to treat their wives to special Christmas parties. These people of Dinnington are treating the matter too lightheartedly, we are the original and only real henpecked club and our only branch is in Austria where one of our members has formed a club branch.
Membership is open only to those who can pass stringent examinations both oral and medical they then receive certificates signed by the Mayor, President and Secretary.
The rules clearly lay down that we are slaves for 364 days (365 in a leap year) and that one day, Easter Monday, is our own. It is certainly not our intention to take our wives to our annual meeting.
At the 5939th annual day of freedom it was said that housecraft was a dying art even amongst the henpecked and that men, like women, were no longer adept at pegging out clothes now that there were spin driers; they did not know how to sprinkle water on dry clothes or blow up a charcoal iron now that there were steam irons; black leading was no longer necessary; electric warming of rooms had cut out such jobs as chopping firewood, getting in coals and emptying the ashes; electric blankets had superseded the filling of hot water bottles, and with modern mattresses there was no longer an art in making beds.
A suggestion was put forward that two of the veteran members of the club should be asked to take part in a film demonstrating various old time household jobs so that it could be shown to members in years to come.
It was agreed that modern appliances supplemented by the adoption of time and motion study methods had helped to ease the lot of men folk in the home.
It was asserted however, that feminine intuition was as subtle as ever. The women folk were all in favour of labour saving devices, but when they got them in the home they were frightened of using them and more and more work fell on the men. It was contended that more men were doing the weekly wash in these days of the electric washer and spin drier than ever before.
That more and more men are becoming henpecked was evident from the number of recruits for membership, the largest for a long time! All proved before a medical board their physical fitness to do twelve months strenuous housework and their sponsors testified to there being thoroughly domesticated.
The new members included a Halifax man who was only married twelve days ago and this must be a record for the shortest qualification for club membership, it was said that it is the aim of the club to get a member who has been married on the day of the meeting. This year a veteran member was sent on such a mission into Lancashire but he failed to turn up at the meeting with the bridegroom. One of the new aspirants even qualified for membership through being told by his wife that he had to attend the meeting. The majority of the new members came from Halifax but one travelled from Stockton on Tees.
An ex policeman was promoted from President to Mayor and a Halifax office worker became the new President, an Illingworth man, a carpet worker and a bandsman took over the officers of the Guardians of the Peace, and a Bramley man, a post office worker became the new Vice-President.
From the clubs only international member, Prof Julius Hoffman-Bretel, of Graz, Austria, came a message of greetings. He expressed regret that he was unable to attend the gathering as he was "imprisoned in the home", but he gave an assurance of his faithfulness in adversity.
At the close of the 5937th annual meeting, the Medical Officer distributed among the members, boxes of liquorice allsorts to take home to "sweeten up their wives". He explained that he had bought them with "conscience money" - expenses that the Mayor and himself received when they went to London to appear on TV as club representatives. "I am not going to be suspended Sine die for accepting legal payments" he remarked "you are all in now".
It was reported that during the visit to the television studios, Kenneth Horne, the comedian, was enrolled as a member of the club.
The members were again "humbugged" by their only honorary woman member - a Sowerby housewife. She sent them a tin of sweets which was handed around during the meeting.
Every form of subterfuge was resorted to by members before the meeting to get some of the husbands in the village to join the club but without success. One local man joined the group before lunch, but managed to slip away before the meeting.
Henpecked husbands can be relied upon to put their stomachs before their principles. They claimed that at the café where the meals were served was Easter Monday "black legging" by two husbands. One was preparing the food and the other was washing up. A sit down strike was threatened but the women waiters refused to both make and serve the meals. In the café at luncheon time there was also a Leeds husband and his wife and he only evaded being enrolled by making a contribution to club funds, behind his wife's back however he was able to pass on his name and address to the Secretary.
A footnote by John Kerridge
I have been wondering how, in their title, the club claims that the club originated in 3980 BC and the last report was allegedly their 5937th meeting. I have tried Googling to see if there is any reasoning behind this date. The only reasonable explanation to this is that according to the venerable Bede the world was created on 18th of March 4000 BC.
This fits in roughly with the founding date and one can only suppose that there have been henpecked husbands since wives had husbands! It also goes along with the four Methodist ministers who founded the order in Cragg Vale in the 1890's. Also the 4000 BC is considered by some Christians who adhere to Young Earth Creationism to be the beginning of primeval human civilization.