Thanks for the memories: Eugowra Lodge of Manchester Unity closes after 140 years

The Eugowra Lodge of Manchester Unity NSW and Loyal Evening Star celebrated an incredible 140 years before closing the doors for the final time on February 19.

The lodge formed on March 3, 1881, and members gathered on February 5 to celebrate the anniversary, delayed due to COVID-19.

Members held their final meeting and lunch at Parkes Services Club, and enjoyed a trip down memory lane.

Past Grand Master Enid Niven said sadly not too many members were able to join the group for varied reasons, mostly age and health related.

The group paused to remember Sister Sandra Morthorpe, who died recently, along with earlier members who have passed.

Sister Hazel Quartly put a collection of historical photographs and regalia on display, with members reliving and enjoying happy moments.

Brother James Dietrich presented a slideshow of happy gatherings and also had a copy of a very special book for each person present.

He has invested many hours collating the early history of Loyal Evening Star as well as many items of history of the Lodge and general history of the Eugowra area.

For those not familiar with it, Mrs Niven explained that the Lodge was a friendly society with health and welfare roles - formed before Medicare, welfare, and even pubs and clubs.

Manchester Unity was a long-standing and large medical benefits fund and the Lodge's welfare arm ensured widows and orphans were cared for.

"It was a big and powerful movement," Mrs Niven said.

They were also social, running balls, picnic days, competitions and trips. You would see them with a tent at the Show and in every street parade.

The Eugowra branch has now officially ceased, and Mrs Niven - a board member - then attended the final annual general meeting of the organisation in Mudgee.

"My husband's family was in it from go to woe, and there are still Niven descendants there at the close," she said.

In her time, efforts have concentrated on functions like street stalls to raise funds for local causes.

"After the big floods in the 1950s in Eugowra there were members whose houses had been inundated," Mrs Niven said.

"They got new carpet, new mattresses.

"We had a widows and orphans fund where we put children through school."

Present at the final luncheon and meeting were members of the Loyal Evening Star Lodge Number 100, established March 3, 1881: Past Grand Master Sister Miriam Koudela, Past Grand Master Brother James Dietrich, Grand Master Shirley Sammut, Past Grand Master Sister Enid Niven, Past District Grand Master Brother Robert Hicks, Sister Beryl Hicks, Past Grand Master Sister Catherine Pont, General Secretary Brother Ray Joshua Area Secretary 955, Brother Ross Graham, Area Secretary 956 Hazel Quartly and Brother Jeremy Harden.

Members cut a celebratory cake, donated by Sister Beryl Hicks, beautifully presented with the symbol of Manchester Unity in the icing.