Ancient Order of Froth Blowers
The Ancient Order of Froth-Blowers was a humorous British charitable organisation "to foster the noble Art and gentle and healthy Pastime of froth blowing amongst Gentlemen of-leisure and ex-Soldiers". Running from 1924-1931, it was founded by Bert Temple, an ex-soldier and silk-merchant, initially to raise £100 (equal to £4,829 today) for the children's charities of the surgeon Sir Alfred Fripp. One of the Order's first meeting places was the Swan, Fittleworth, W. Sussex - the 'No. 0 Vat'.
Temple founded the organization in gratitude for life-saving stomach surgery by Fripp. Membership of this spoof order cost 5 shillings (equal to £12 today), each member receiving a pair of silver, enamelled cuff-links and a membership booklet and card entitling them to blow froth off any member's beer "and occasionally off non-members' beer provided they are not looking or are of a peaceful disposition". The motto was "Lubrication in Moderation".
The idea was to meet regularly in pubs or clubs ("Vats") to enjoy "beer, beef and baccy", and there to be fined for heinous sins, such as not wearing the cuff-links (dinners opened with the highest-ranking member, the "Senior Blower", giving the command "Gentlemen, shoot your linen" at which point all members showed their cuffs). All fines and residual membership fees to be sent to Sir Alfred and Lady Fripp for their "Wee Waifs" of the East End of London.
In late 1925, the editor of The Sporting Times started to publish articles on the Order's gatherings, and the idea took hold of the public imagination. The now-retired Fripp travelled around the country as guest speaker at over 200 of these Vats, and thousands clamoured to join: men ("Blowers"), women ("Fairy Belles"), their children and their dogs ("Faithful Bow-Wows") were all enrolled. Those who enrolled others received titles such as Blaster (25 members recruited), Tornado (100), up to Grand Typhoon (1000).
For five years the Froth Blowers extolled Britishness and "Lubrication in Moderation". Their song The More We Are Together, an adaptation of Oh du lieber Augustin specially written by the pseudonymous Irving King, was heard everywhere.
The more we are together, together, together
The more we are together
The merrier we'll be.
For your friends are my friends
And my friends are your friends,
And the more we are together
The merrier we'll be.
By late 1928, 700,000 had joined, raising over £100,000 (equal to £5,101,504 today) for hospital cots, outings to the country, invalid children, etc. It endowed 40 hospital cots, funded holidays for thousands of needy children, and in 1929 established a roof garden for mothers and children on the Marylebone Housing Association's first block of slum clearance flats.
Their popularity was particularly upsetting to the Temperance activists who believed that it was alcohol which caused the "wee waifs'" suffering; not something a doctor and surgeon-to-the-King should be sponsoring. In 1927, Walter Greville of the Good Templars described it as "the latest recruited ally of the liquor trade", saying that "for ridiculous vulgarity and foolish methods it took the first prize". Sir George Hunter, speaking for the Fellowship of Freedom and Reform in 1929, called the Froth Blowers "a disgrace to the country".
Nevertheless, the Lord Chancellor, Viscount Hailsham, described it as "a great charitable organisation", and when Fripp died in 1930 his Times obituary said of the Froth Blowers, "These, by their innocent mirth, assisted by a catchy tune, have contributed largely to charities, and have entertained and brightened the lives of innumerable children".
The movement came to a natural end shortly after Fripp's death, when The Sporting Times folded and finally Bert Temple died in 1931. In that year the Ancient Order of Froth Blowers Limited went into voluntary liquidation. Residual money was used by Lady Fripp and her family to fund "Heartsease", a Girl Guide retreat in the grounds of the West Wickham Home of Recovery for Children with Heart Disease, a hospital which had been partially funded by Froth Blower gifts in 1927. The Ancient Order of Froth Blowers Girl Guide and Boy Scout Charity Limited still administers this site.
Quote from the AOFB handbook
"A sociable and law abiding fraternity of absorptive Britons who sedately consume and quietly enjoy with commendable regularity and frequention the truly British malted beverage as did their forbears and as Britons ever will, and be damned to all pussyfoot hornswogglers from overseas and including low brows, teetotalers and MPs and not excluding nosey parkers, mock religious busy bodies and suburban fool hens all of which are structurally solid bone from the chin up".
John Betjeman's poem The Varsity Students' Rag contains the line "I started a rag in Putney at our Froth-Blowers' branch down there".
In Dorothy Sayers's story The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba, Lord Peter Wimsey describes his safe as "the ordinary strong-room, where I keep my cash and Froth Blower's cuff-links and all that."
In "The Female of the Species" by Sapper, the anthem is used as a means of identification by Bulldog Drummond and his chums.
- The pubs that made history, Ian Herbert and Danielle Dwyer, The Independent, London, February 10, 2006
- Olden Times column "What was the Ancient Order of Froth Blowers", The Oldie, January 2010
- "The Ancient Order Of Froth Blowers Anthem"., Friends of the Froth Blowers[dead link]
- Back Bite: April 21, 1927, The Herald, Sunday Herald, Glasgow, April 21, 2000
- Order Of Good Templars, The Times, April 2, 1929
- Sir Alfred Fripp, A Man Of Many Friends, The Times, February 27, 1930
- Lost Hospitals of London
- ANCIENT ORDER OF FROTH BLOWERS GIRL GUIDE AND BOY SCOUT CHARITY LTD creditgate.com
- Cooked goose, Time August 09, 1982
- An ABC of Nostalgia: From Aspidistras to Zoot Suits, ES Turner, Michael Joseph, London, 1984
- Of Fripp and Froth Blowers, David L Woodhead, private publication, 2005 (see 'Friends of the Froth Blowers' - below)