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 to 1931, it was founded by Herbert Longdale Temple, an ex-soldier and curtain-merchant, initially to raise £100 (equal to £6,068 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 organisation in gratitude for life-saving stomach surgery by Fripp. Membership of this spoof order cost 5 shillings (equal to £15 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", possibly a memory of the Skeleton Army of the 1880s, 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.[permanent dead link]
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 £6,409,962 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.
A plaque designed by artist and illustrator Henry Charles Innes Fripp, cousin of Arthur Fripp, was created to accompany donations of £500 (about £20,000 in today's money) to fund the costs of 50 children's hospital beds.
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 her novel Unnatural Death, Lord Peter assures a nurse that "I haven't come to sell you soap or gramophones, or to borrow money or enrol you in the Ancient Froth-blowers or anything charitable". In her novel The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Lord Peter makes a facetious reference to “the Froth Blowers’ Anthem.”
In The Female of the Species by Sapper, the anthem is used as a means of identification by Bulldog Drummond and his chums.
Restoration and modernisation
In mid 2018 a reformation group began to put in place a modernised version of the AOFB. The group with foundation member groups in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the United States have began building the structure for the organisation based on its original charter with provisions for a more inclusive membership. Not wanting to take anything away from the original organisation, the new group has gone under the name of the Grand Ancient Order of Froth Blowers. The group maintain that its primary aim is "to raise money for charity and have fun doing so whilst blowing the head off one or five". The organisation is now registered as a Charity Service in regard to its membership in Australia and is in process of completing registration as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) in the United Kingdom and 501(c)(3) Organisation in the United States Of America. It currently has over 100 Vats (members groups) in the UK, Europe, Sweden, USA, Philippines, Australia, Uruguay, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. As of January 2022 the AOFB as a restored entity has been sold as a business, membership having received nothing for paid dues. Several cyber-fraud actions are proposed.
A documentary feature is in production charting the history and re-emergence of the Froth Blowers. The feature is to be made and released in mid 2022 by Dark Corporation and the Masonic historian archaeologist Dr. David Harrison. The documentary also includes conversations with long time supporters of West Ham United, an English Premier League team who have deep links with the former society.
- 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". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007.
- "(Henry Charles) Innes Fripp - Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951".
- 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 Archived July 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine 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)
- The Zestful Gollopers, David L Woodhead & Ian Brown, printed by Blurb, 2012