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Order Of The Hospital Of St. John Of Jerusalem

( Originally Published 1924 )



Its ancient origin and its modern works of beneficence. His Order is probably the most ancient now - existing in Europe, having been founded by Peter the Hermit in 1030 A.D. at Jerusalem. It had its origin in the necessity for medical aid during the Crusades. The hospital was also a hospice for the reception of pilgrims.

With the formation of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099, the Order received a constitution, and Gerrard was appointed the first master. He was succeeded by Raymond du Puy in 1/18, at which time Baldwin II was king. Under its new constitution the Order was divided into three classes; the Knights of Justice were the first rank, and admission to this grade was given only to those who could produce satisfactory proof of the nobility of their descent (which regulation holds good to this day). The second class were the conventual chaplains; and third, the serving brothers. At a later date another class, that of Knights of Grace, was instituted and still later Ladies of Justice and Grace.

The habit was a black. robe with a cowl, having a cross of eight points in white linen upon the left breast.

The Order became a military force in 1128, but did not cease to perform charitable work.

Two hundred years later the King of Hungary thus describes his impressions after visiting sonic of their houses: "Lodging in their house I have seen them feed an innumerable multitude of poor; the sick lay in good beds and were treated with great care, the dying assisted with an exemplary piety and the dead buried with proper decency."

The Knights were driven from Jerusalem to Acre by the hordes of Saracens, and from thence to Cyprus. In order to obtain a more suitable place for headquarters it was resolved to capture the Island of Rhodes, which, after several unsuccessful attempts, they finally accomplished, the climate and situation being exactly what they desired.

Here they built a great castle which exists, in part, to this day, the walls being decorated with the arms of the Grand Masters. They were repeatedly attacked by the Turks, who, at last, in May, 1480, succeeded in making a landing with a force of 80,000 men, while 160 ships bombarded the fortifications. In spite of all their efforts the Knights defeated them. In 1512 Solyman, the Magnificent, attacked them with a great fleet and army and after a long seige, L'Adam, the Grand Master, was obliged to sign a capitulation and the Knights left the island on January 1st, 1523.

For seven years they were homeless, but in 1530 they took possession of Malta. Even there the Turks pursued them, for the galleys of the Knights preyed upon the Turkish commerce and fought the corsairs, releasing the unfortunate Christian slaves. Hence, in 1565, the Sultan Solyman determined on a grand attack. The Turkish fleet consisted of 180 vessels while the army comprised 39,000 men with many guns of large calibre. Ten of these guns discharged shot of eighty pounds and one 160 pounds. To meet this force the Grand Master had rather less than 9,000 men, of whom 474 were Knights. During the seige they succeeded in recruiting 8,000 more in Italy and Spain, The fighting was furious, but in the end the Knights succeeded in driving off the enemy, who had lost 30,000 men. The seige had lasted from the 24th of May until the 7th of September.

During the succeeding centuries the Order built a fine city at Valetta, which included a great hospital and a magnificent cathedral and gradually became very wealthy, so much so that their warlike and chivalrous demeanor almost disappeared, as they became more and more frivolous and luxurious.

On the death of Grand Master de Rohan in 1796 Ferdinand von Hompesch, a German, was elected Grand Master. He was a man who neither possessed the ability nor the influence necessary to govern the Order. In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte, on his expedition to Egypt, landed part of his army, and after three days' negotiation Valetta was surrendered. Preparations for defence had been entirely neglected. The Grand Master was promised a principality in Germany, or a pension of 300,000 francs. "Thus," says Bartlett, "ignominiously came to a close on June 12, 1798, the once illustrious Order of St. John of Jerusalem, having existed for more than 700 years."

The indignation of the Maltese was excessive on thus finding themselves betrayed (by a German). They rose in rebellion and put to death several of the Knights whom they suspected of complicity in the surrender.

In the meantime Nelson had gained the glorious victory of Aboukir, which encouraged the populace to continue their resistance; the whole island arming against the French, they shut themselves up within the walls of Valetta. The Malaltese were now aided by a British fleet, which blockaded the island, and a British army, which beseiged the town. The seige lasted two years, when the French, reduced to the last extremity by famine, capitulated. Thus Malta became a British possession.

At the Congress of Vienna in 1814, the conflicting claims were settled in favor of the British Government and the possession of the island confirmed to them.

About the beginning of the fourteenth century the Order had been divided into langues or divisions according to the nationality of its members. There were seven tonguesor nations, namely: Provence, Auvergne, France, Italy, Aragon, England and Germany.

It is with the English la.ngue we are concerned. Almost contemporaneously with the establishment of the Order in Palestine a branch was formed in England, where jordain Briset founded a house for the purposes of hospital in Clerkenwell, early in the twelfth century. Before the end of the century a church had been built and a priory established. The ladies of the Order were housed at Buckland, in Somersetshire. These ladies were the daughters of great and noble houses and by the year 1338 amounted to fifty ladies, presided over by a prioress. They eventually "discharged" themselves and became Sisters of the Order of St. Augustine.

The Order had twenty-six establishments in England and Wales. In Scotland they had one at Torphichin, and in Ireland twenty-one commandaries, the principal one being at Kilmainharn. The headquarters of the Order was at St. John's, Clerkenwell, but even here it could not be left in peace to do its charitable and humane work. Twice the funds were confiscated and in 1548 Protector Somerset blew up the great tower of the church, because, forsooth, he wanted the materials to build himself a new house in the Strand.

When Henry VIHI suppressed the monasteries, the Priory of St. John was too important to he left out. Accordingly, on May 7th, 1540, the Priory was dissolved and its property sequestrated. Three of the Knights of the Order were beheaded for resisting the King's will. When Mary succeeded to the throne she issued letters patent reincorporating the Order. Elizabeth, who followed her, seized their property, but did not dissolve the corporation. The Order continued to exist in a small way.

Before he ceased to be Grand Master, von Hompesch invited the accession to the Order of certain English gentlemen of rank and distinction, several of whom survived to join the restored Order in England. The Emperor Paul of Russia was elected Grand Master in October, 1798, but the legality of the election is questioned, as Grand Master von Hompesch was still living and had not resigned. The last Grand Master was Giovanni di Tommasi, who was recommended for the office by the Emperor Alexander; and since his death, in 1805, there has been no Grand Master.

The Order in England lay dormant from 1798 until 1824, when it was revived. On January 24th, 1831, Rev. Sir Robert Peat, D.D. (chaplain in ordinary to George IV), was invested with the functions and authority of the English Iangue. From this time the langue continued to advance both in numbers and prosperity. But it was not until 1888 that a royal charter was granted by Queen Victoria, and H.R.H. The Prince of Wales (King Edward VII) was installed as Grand Prior. The present Grand Prior is H.R.H. The Duke of Connaught, MM. The King being the Supreme Head and Patron of the Order. The headquarters are still in St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell, E. C. London.

I had the honor of being appointed an Honorary Associate in 1892, my services in the North-west Rebellion having been brought to the notice of the Chapter General. In 1895, as will be seen elsewhere, I organized the St. John Ambulance Association in Canada, and was advanced to the grade of Esquire in 1897 at the time of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. On the conclusion of the South African War I was promoted to be a Knight of Grace of the Order and am at this time the senior member of the Order in Canada.

The Order of St. John having been reconstituted, the members began to look around for means and methods to put in practice the motto of the Order " pro utilitate hominum." Hospital and relief work being the fundamental principle in the founding of the Order naturally it suggested itself that similar work, adapted to modern conditions, was the way in which this laudable desire could best be attained. Accordingly, in February, 1878, a public meeting was held in London under the presidency of Sir Edmund Lechmere, at which a guarantee fund was subscribed to enable the Order to carry out its ideas. This was the beginning of the St. John Ambulance Association as we know it, but its primary motive at that time was to give aid in the war then raging in the Near East.

The Association is controlled by the Order, but its management and finance are kept quite independent. Centres of instruction in first aid were formed throughout England, the first being at the Royal Woolwich Arsenal. Its work spread to the collieries, to the police, to the factories, the merchant marine, and to the public in general.

In 1879 "Sheppard's First Aid Handbook" was published and 26,000 copies were sold almost at once, indicating the interest the public took in the movement.

The transportation of the sick and injured in London was very crude, a four-wheel cab being the usual means of carrying an injured person to the hospital. The Association purchased a two-wheeled litter and an illustrated Esmarck bandage in Germany and a stretcher in France, and from these purchases arose a new industry in England.

In course of time it was found that it would be of great public benefit if there was some organization which would be available in case of disaster to transport injured persons in larger numbers, hence the St.. John Ambulance Brigade came into existence, in 1884, under the name of The Transport Corps. This idea was further developed so that this corps became virtually a reserve for Army Medical Corps, and as such served in the South African War and, as everybody knows, in the Great War.

The Brigade service, like the Association, has extended to most of the Dominions, colonies and dependencies of the Crown overseas.

The reader will remember that the Order of St. John had its origin at. Jerusalem, therefore it. appealed strongly to the Chapter General to renew in some way its connection with that ancient and holy city.

For some years after the re-establishment of the Order negotiations had proceeded with regard to obtaining a piece of land in or near Jerusalem on which to build a hospital. At last, in 1882, a firman was obtained on the request of the Prince of Wales (afterwards King Edward II), from the Sultan, donating six acres of land, about eight minutes' walk from the Jaffa Gate. Through the generosity of Lady Lechmere it became possible to appoint a medical officer, and having secured temporary premises, Dr. Waddell left for Jerusalem in November of that year and began the beneficent work of the Order in its mother city.

The reason an eye hospital was established is that diseases of the eye are very prevalent and blindness due to dirt, neglect and contagious diseases are very common in Palestine. Until the establishment of this hospital these cases were untreated and blindness was increasing to an alarming extent.

A beautiful hospital has been built, with adequate accommodation for out-patients and a number of beds for operative cases. Many thousands of cases are treated annually. The hospital is managed by a local committee, but the funds are provided by the Order in England.

This hospital has been a great blessing to the natives, and as Sir Edmund Lechmere says: "And may not we of the Order of St. John, venture to hope that as the work of the original founders commenced with a hospital at Jerusalem, and became in time one of the greatest institutions in Christendom: so the Langue of England, which has once more resumed its connection with the earliest home of the Order, may receive an additional blessing from its philanthropic labors?"

It became apparent to those medical officers who took part in the North-west Rebellion of 1885, that something must be done to ensure a supply of trained men for the ranks of the medical service. There was at that time no organized Army Medical Corps and stretcher bearers were earried on the rolls as supernumerary to the strength of the battalions, but there was hope that through the representations of the Association of Medical Officers something would be done to develop the service. We needed not. only men to fill the ranks of such a service, but others who would act as a reserve and who could be called on in case of emergency. Hence, in 1894, I began a correspondence with the authorities at. the headquarters of the St. John Ambulance Association at St. John's Gate, in London. H asked for authorization to establish a branch of the Association in Canada. This permission was given on March 8th, 1895, hence I proceeded to organize a centre in Toronto. I received much encouragement and support from the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir George Kirkpatrick, and his wife. We arranged for a general committee for Ontario and classes were started in several towns and cities.

Detached classes had previously been held in Halifax, N.S., and in Victoria, B.C., under the auspices of the medical officers of the Royal Navy and the Army, but they had ceased to exist and there had been no provincial or other organization of centres.

The centre for the Province of Ontario was organized at a meeting held in the Canadian Military Institute, Toronto, on November 25th, 1895. I was asked to state the aims and objects of the Association and moved a resolution advocating the formation of the Provincial Centre, which being concurred in, the following officers were elected:

President, His Honor, Sir George Kirkpatrick; Vice-Presidents and Members of the Council: Sir James Grant, Ottawa; Senator Sir James Gowan, Barrie; Rev. Canon Richardson, London; Lt.-Col. H. A. Macdonald, Guelph; H. Corby, Esq., Belleville; Judge Hughes, St. Thomas; Dr. R. T. Walkem, K.C., Kingston; William Mulock, Esq., M.P., Toronto; Surgeon-General D. Bergin, Ottawa; Henry Cawthra, Esq., Toronto; W. R. Brock, Esq., Toronto; and myself as General Secretary and Medical Director; Dr. D. Campbell Meyers, Assistant Secretary and Treasurer. Drs. Strange, Grassett, E. E. King, Nattrass, J. F. Elliot, Meyers, W. H. B. Aikens, and Charles O'Reilly were appointed Lecturers and Examiners. Local centres were afterwards formed in Toronto, Guelph, Hamilton, Belleville, Orillia, Peterboro, and detached classes elsewhere.

In course of time and in response to enquiries from cities in other Provinces, it was resolved to enlarge the operations of the Association and extend its work to the Dominion, which was done, and centres were formed at Halifax, N.S.; Fredericton, N.B.; Vancouver, B.C.; Montreal, Que.; West-mount, Que., and Winnipeg, Man.

The work of the Association continued to grow to such an extent that I found it impossible to give it the time necessary, I being an unpaid officer; hence, when it was proposed to reorganize and to remove the head office to Ottawa I consented to retire after fifteen years of voluntary service.

On my retirement I received the following beautifully illuminated and bound address:

St. John Ambulance Association being the Ambulance Department of the Order of St Jerusalem in England.

Extract from the minutes of a meeting of the Central Committee held on March 22nd, Toronto.

On motion of Dr. Charles R. Dickson, seconded by Dr. Charles A. Copp, the following resolution was unanimously adopted:

WHEREAS, by the removal of the Head Office of the Association from the City of Toronto to the City of Ottawa, the Association loses the services of Colonel George Sterling Ryerson as General Secretary,

AND WHEREAS the Ontario Centre of the Association was organized by Colonel G. S. Ryerson in the year 1895 and was afterwards enlarged to become the Canadian Central Committee, directing and supervising the work of the Association throughout Canada,

AND WHEREAS Colonel C. S. Ryerson for fifteen years acted as General Secretary without remuneration and gave his time, his energy and of his means in furthering the work of the Association in all parts of Canada:

RESOLVED that this committee desires to place on record its appreciation of the unselfish and gratuitous labors and valuable services rendered by Colonel G. S. Ryerson to the people of Canada in the cause of humanity and to express the hope that he may long be spared to render further service to his country.

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