DUNMOW FRIENDLY SOCIETY.
[To THE EDITOR OF TUB "SPROTATOR.1 SIR,—Replying to your note to Mr. Hart-Davis's letter in your issue of June 20th as to the progress of this Society since 1884, and as to the ability of the working classes to make provision for their old age, our records show that while the actuarial surplus was 2132 in 1884, at the next valuation, 1889, the surplus was 22,700; in 1894, 22,098; in 1899, £3,472; and in 1904, £4,444. (The setback at 1894 was due to the fact that the sickness, the calculations of which are based on the Society's own experience, was much greater than
usual owing to the long prevalence of influenza.) We now have an accumulated capital of 238,992, with a membership of 974, this in an agricultural district where the average weekly earnings are lower than are paid in other industries.
I may say that this improvement in our position is mainly due to the working of the amended tables of contributions settled in 1876 by the late well-known actuary, Mr. Neisson.
At that date our capital was 228,530, as compared, as I have shown, with 238,992 at the present time. The whole of that sum is invested on the security of rates, and as every five years our accounts are actuarially investigated, whilst each year a professional auditor examines the accounts of the Society at Dunmow, we claim that our funds are financially sound, whilst the levy system is unknown to us.
I must, however, point out that the success of the Society, though marked, is not unique. Another pension-paying society in the neighbourhood has reprinted a photograph of a group of our pensioners and appended this note :—
"The Aldham Club, Tendring Hundred Provident Society, and the Stoke and Melford Club are similar Societies to that of Dunmow, and combined they have a total surplus of .220,000. Their funds amount to .8181,000, and out of a membership of 4,689 there are 580 annuitants, receiving .86,247 per annum in pensions."
It will be noticed that these particular societies are all to be found in two purely agricultural counties,—Essex and
Suffolk. I do not attempt to deal here with the figures of similar societies in more distant parts, where local conditions and rates of wages may not correspond, but only wish to show what is being done, and for many years has been done, on agricultural wages. I may mention that our own club was founded in 1832, and I believe one at least of the other clubs is of still longer standing. Have these facts been sufficiently made known to and considered by our legislative authorities ?
As Mr. Hart-Davis suggests that it is "not possible" for a man to provide for his old age on the wages be mentions—. 14s. 6d. to 18s. 1d.—" that it would be selfish and cruel of him to
attempt to do so," he will be interested to know that we have instances in which three generations in a family are members of our club. I think it must be admitted that these members must be competent judges as to whether it is "possible" or "cruel" to provide for their old age in this way. In con-
clusion, I submit that the instance of the Dunmow Friendly Society is very much "to the point," and goes far in support of your statement that "the statistics of the Friendly
Societies in town and country show that it is and has been well within the power of the majority of the working classes in Britain to make provision for their old age."—I am, Sir, &c., ONE OF THE JOINT HON. SECS., DIINMOW FRIENDLY SOCIETY.
P.S.—I forward with this a copy of the photograph referred to, and a very lucid account of the history of our Society as set out in a reprint of a letter by our late hon. secretary, the Rev. Robert Hart.
[The photograph showing the long line, not of State- or local-made paupers, but of self-respecting agricultural labourers who have played the man and made provision for their old age, is most impressive. Here is a noble spirit, and one which the present Government are going to break. We may note that the average wage in the Dunmow district was stated before the Royal Commission on Old-Age Pensions to be not over 14s. a week, including harvest-money.—ED. Spectator.]