The R.A.O.B, or Buffaloes are a members only organisation in the UK, with masonic overtones; although membership of one does not preclude membership from the other.
The Royal Ante-what?
It's rather a strange name, with an interesting history. The order began around 1822, as a type of union for stage-hands and theatre staff, who found themselves suddenly excluded from the City of Lushington, an actors' order.
The Buffalo part of the name may have come from the group's promotion and enthusiastic singing of the ballad We'll Chase the Buffalo.
As the members found theatre work around the country, more and more lodges were founded, and a sense of longevity was desired. Being of a theatrical disposition, ancient was not a strong enough word; and so antediluvian (meaning before the flood) was picked.
What about Royal?
Again, an interesting story. In the late 1800s, a series of parliamentary acts were passed, the Seditious and Riotous Assembly Acts which threw suspicion on the Masons and Buffaloes alike. In order to show their good intent, the word Loyal was appended to the name. This easily became corrupted to Royal.
Although the Buffaloes have no Royal charter, in the early 1900s the Lord Chancellor decreed that as long as they do not disgrace the name, the Buffaloes will not be challenged regarding it.
What do they do?
According to the R.A.O.B website:
"The R.A.O.B. is a Philanthropic and Charitable body, Lodges and Provinces are at liberty to undertake whatever activity they consider appropriate for the needs of the community in which they work and live."
Funds are raised through membership fees, voluntary donations and investment. According to an acquaintance whose grandfather was the head of his local Buffs lodge in South Wales, their chief aim there was to support the wife and children of any man who had had a 'large chunk of Glamorgan' fall on his head.
How does it work?
There are four stages of membership:
- Kangaroo - A basic membership.
- Certified Primo - For this stage, a certain level of attendance and participation are required, as well as an examination on order etiquette.
- Knight Order of Merit
- Roll of Honour
The third and fourth levels are attained by a combination of a proven attendance record, and an increasing length of service
In the USA and Canada, there exists a slightly younger, very similar organisation known as The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.