17 December 2008


Christmas is closing in on us all. As is our tradition, we will each be taking a holiday starting next week. We will be off on holiday for varying amounts of time, and may not get much updating done on our blog. We will, however, save up all the good bits and report when we return. See you all soon...

16 December 2008


In talking with our fellow confrères, we've determined that there is a lack of knowledge regarding a very important principal officer of the VOSJ. The Secretary-General, an office currently held by Admiral Andrew Gough, is the chief executive officer of the Order and in charge of the Order's headquarters at St John's Gate, Clerkenwell. He also serves as the secretary to the Grand Council and provides twice-yearly reports on the Order Secretariat's activities to all of the priories. According to the Order's regulations, the Secretary-General is accountable directly to the Lord Prior. Admiral Gough does a great deal of traveling on behalf of the Order and has done a great job as Secretary-General since his appointment.

12 December 2008

Bravery in the Pyrenees

Yesterday, the VOSJ's award for bravery was presented to a very deserving young man. Will Close-Ash was given the Orders Life Saving Medal for an incident that occured in June. Mr Close-Ash was leading an expedition in the French mountains when it was discovered that a group of tourists had run into some trouble. Under Close-Ash's leadership, the tourists travelers were successfully rescued, and he is now being awarded the silver Life Saving Medal.

According to the Order's regulations, "the Life Saving Medal may be bestowed on a person who has performed a conspicuous act of bravery; in performing that act has endangered his own life; and has performed that act in saving or attempting to save the life of one or more other persons." The medal was instituted in 1874 and the silver has been awarded less than 200 times since then. With the humility that is often present in true heroes, Mr Close-Ash said, “I’m delighted to receive the medal, but even more pleased that all of the men survived. I’m proud of the work my cadets and staff did on the mountain that day, and without their efforts those men would have died.” Congratulations!

11 December 2008

Australian Minister Promoted

We saw in the London Gazette recently that Dr Richard Westwood Worth was recently promoted to the grade of knight in the VOSJ. Dr Worth is the Minister of Internal Affairs in Australia and has been continually and quietly serving with the St John Ambulance in that Priory. This is a well-deserved honour--coming fast on the heals of his appointment as Minister. It is always a pleasure to see high-ranking government officials involved in the VOSJ, because it helps to give some visibility to the Order's mission.

10 December 2008

Something Funny

As we are often known to do, we were spending some time in the local library this week. We stumbled on a ridiculous book. It appears to be the work of a conspiracy theory group in the western United States, but it specifically mentions the VOSJ, so we thought we would take a look.

The "book" in question is called Taking Off the Blindfold, by G.C. Hatonn. Essentially, it espouses the theory that the entire world is controlled by a Jewish/Satanist group of which HM Queen Elizabeth II is a part. The following paragraph comes from the section of chapter 1 entitled "Knights of the Order of the Garter:"
The Knights of the Order of the Garter are the leaders of the Committee of 300, Queen Elizabeth II’s most trusted “privy council”. When I did my research on the Order of St. John of Jerusalem some years ago, I went to Oxford to talk with one of the Masters who is a specialist on ancient and modern British traditions. He told me that the Knights of the Garter are the inner sanctum, the elite of the elite of Her Majesty’s Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Let me say this is not the original order founded by the true Christian warrior, Peter Gerard, but is typical of many fine institutions that are taken over and destroyed from the inside, while yet appearing to the uninitiated to be the original.

The next section is entitled "Order of Jerusalem (and a Little Satanism!)" and goes more specifically into the VOSJ. Here, the author states:

I learned from the papers in the museum named after Victoria that she changed the name of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in 1885 in order to break away from the Catholic connection of the Order’s founder, Peter Gerard, and renamed it the “Protestant Most Venerable Order of Jerusalem.” Membership was open to every oligarchical family that had made its fortune in the China opium trade and every thoroughly decadent family received a place in the ‘new order.’

The next section brings the discussion to Canada discusses "the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who control Canadian commerce in all of its facets." Now we had a long discussion about this book amongst ourselves. Some of us wanted to make mention of this odd publication and some of us wanted to leave well enough alone. In the end, we decided that the negative consequence of free press for these conspiracy theorists was less than the positive consequence of sharing what a few nuts in Las Vegas think. If we know what misinformation is out there, we can more easily defend ourselves against it...and it was good for a laugh.

07 December 2008

Lord Prior Interview

With the installation of a new Lord Prior, the VOSJ has posted a short interview on its webpage. Gemma Mullick, the communications and training coordinator at the Order Secretariat has interviewed Professor Mellows. You can find the interview here. We look forward to seeing what great things Mellows has in store for the VOSJ.

05 December 2008

Changing Focus

We were looking at the website of the Priory in the United States of American yesterday and saw that the Priory has finally completed its relocation to a new location. The Priory's historical center has been in New York City since the formation of the American Society of the VOSJ in 1958. The first American investiture service took place at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York on 6 January 1960. This year, the Priory offices have moved to a truly national headquarters--Washington, D.C. This fit very well with the most recent American investiture service held in the same city and also is convenient for the new Prior, who resides in Virginia instead of New York.

03 December 2008


One of our readers e-mailed us recently to ask us a question regarding the rank of Esquire (Grade VI) in the VOSJ. There was some talk in the last couple of years about getting rid of the grade. In fact, at the May 2006 meeting of the Grand Council, it was decided that Grade VI would in future be abolished as a Grade of the Order. Statutory changes would have been required for this action. Since the statutes have not yet been changed, personal esquires can still be appointed by knights of the Order pursuant to the current Statutes.

Recently, we've heard talk that the grade of Esquire will not be abolished, but only personal esquires. The main problem originally seems to have been that personal esquires could be appointed to the Order by their knights without much involvement from HM The Queen--the Sovereign Head of the VOSJ. To keep this from happening, some wanted to do away with the grade. Priory Esquires are another matter. They are defined in Grand Council Instruction #10 and are appointed by the various Priories and not individual confrères.

The e-mail that sparked this post came from one that hopes to join the Order soon. He wondered if he ought to start as an Esquire or a Member. His main concern was that he was past a certain age. We have seen Esquires that are well into and past middle age. It is true that most of the Esquires in the VOSJ are in their 20s and sometimes their 30s, there is no age limit to the appointment. Esquires do not have most of the same privileges and are entitled to wear the Order's button in their lapel as their only insignia.
So if advising someone who has a choice, we would undoubtedly say that one should be admitted to the Order as a Member and not as an Esquire.

01 December 2008

Another Vice-Prior

We're about two months late on this, but our recent look at Newfoundland and Labrador reminded us of an image of the current Lieutenant-Governor and Vice-Prior in this Canadian province. Here you can see John Crosbie being admitted to the Order as a Knight of Justice on 30 September. The investiture ceremony took place at the Anglican Cathedral Church in St. John's. Just though you might like to see it.

29 November 2008

Question Answered

Our question last week regarding a mystery confrère has been answered. There was speculation in the comments of the post, but now we have some solid evidence. Another confrère that attended this investiture service has given us the answer and sent us a larger picture so that we can understand the context. The larger photograph shows the Vice-Prior of Newfoundland and Labrador, Edward Roberts, bestowing the Provincial Chair's Commendation on Terry Hart for "raising public awareness and the profile of St. John Ambulance within" Newfoundland. The Lieutenant-Governor and Vice-Prior of Ontario at the time, James Bartleman was standing in the background. Other photographs from the same event show Mr Bartleman helping give out awards that came from the Priory itself.

A big thank you to all those that e-mailed us with correct and incorrect guesses.

27 November 2008

American Press Coverage

The other day we discussed a member of the VOSJ as reported in the local news. Today, we have another example of local press for a confrère. This time our newspaper research brings us to the Priory in the United States. The article discusses Thomas Van Arsdale from Wilmington, North Carolina. He is considerably higher on the age scale than Sonya Gale of our post last Thursday, but is equally as dedicated to the service of mankind. If you'd like, you can read the complete article. It is nice to see American members getting some attention over there.

25 November 2008

The Wonders of Wikipedia

Wikipedia often gets looked down upon in academia. It is seen as a place where know-it-alls and those with nothing better to do make up stories. We were looking at the article on the VOSJ yesterday and noticed some very nice material. Most especially, we were impressed by the images available on Wikipedia. If you follow this link, you will see many nice images. Most of them look to be either in the public domain, or available by some free licence or another. We were very fond of the image below, which shows the VOSJ's prelate and zooms in on his unique insignia. It turns out that Wikipedia is good for something after all.

24 November 2008

We Need Your Help

Today, we have a request for any of our readers that come from the priory of Canada. While trying to categorise out photograph library of VOSJ images, we came across this one. It is from a Canadian event that took place in Newfoundland a couple years ago. Based on the insignia that this gentlement is wearing, though, it looks as if he is from Ontario. If anyone can provide some information on this man, we would be very grateful. It's possible that he is a Lieutenant-Governor, and therefore a Vice Prior, in one of the provinces, but we're not sure. All guesses and suggestions are welcome.

22 November 2008

Follow-Up on SJA Logo

One of our readers (or possibly, our one reader) posted a comment a couple of days ago regarding the newly designed logo of the St John Ambulance. You can see the rationale behind the change here. One thing that is not mentioned on that page is the disappearance of the lions and unicorns from the principle angles of the Order's cross. We have been asking around, but have not yet heard any official word on the subject, but we'd speculate that it is part of a national (and possibly worldwide) trend of getting rid of all things historical and replacing them with the work of graphic designers. We'll be sure to let you know as we find out more.

21 November 2008

Lord Prior Installed

As we noted a couple of weeks ago, the VOSJ has a new Lord Prior. He was officially installed yesterday as the new leader of the Order. It was a wonderful ceremony at Clerkenwell filled with many knights and dames all wearing their black mantles. Lord Prior Mellows asked members of the VOSJ worldwide to remember the roots of the Order. The originally knights hospitaller were founded in 1099 with a simple directive, to "serve, our lords, the sick." This is a very nice sentiment as he begins his tenure as Lord Prior.

20 November 2008

Youth in the Membership

We were perusing the news in New Zealand recently and found a nice story about a dedicated young member of the VOSJ. Sonya Gale has been involved with the SJA since the age of six. Now that she is 27 years old, she has been made a member of the Order. It is great to see someone being so involved with charity and helping others at this stage in her life. According to the article in the Otago Daily Times, it is unusual for someone to be admitted to the Order at such a young age. It would be interesting to compare this with other Priories. We know that we've seen young people at investitures, but they may not have been members of the VOSJ. At any rate, you can see a picture of Ms Gale below with the Governor-General of New Zealand, Anand Satyanand. Mr Satyanand is also a Knight of Justice and the Prior of the New Zealand Priory.

18 November 2008

American Prior

As we mentioned a week ago, the Priory in the United States of America recently has its annual investiture ceremony in Washington, DC. One of the most important events at that ceremony was the installation of a new Prior. Nick Drexel had been the Prior since the foundation of the Priory in 1997. The new Prior is Alfred Marshall Acuff, Jr. of Midlothian, Virginia. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and the University of Michigan Graduate School of Business Administration. He has proven to be a very successful business man. He began his career at Smith Barney, and started AMA Investment Counsel, LLC in 2001. Mr Acuff was Gazetted as a serving brother in the Order on 19 July 2000. Only three years later he was promoted to the rank of officer brother and just last year he was made a commander brother. This is a pretty quick rise through the ranks of the VOSJ. Naturally, on his appointment as Prior, he was made a knight of the Order--though the London Gazette was not clear on whether he is a knight of grace or of justice. Regardless, it is amazing that it only took 8 years from his first appointment to the VOSJ to become a knight and Prior. Professor Mellows (the new Lord Prior) was on hand to invest Mr Acuff as the new American Prior. This had to happen before any of the other appointments or promotions could be made in the ceremony. We haven't been able to get our hands on a picture of the new Prior, and the only picture in our files of the old Prior is quite small...but you get the idea.

16 November 2008

Order of Supreme Loyalty

In our last blog post, we discussed the Service Medal of the Venerable Order of St John. It is interesting to note that individual priories, commanderies, and other foundations of the Order have their own decorations and awards. One such example is the St John Ambulance in Malaysia. This foundation has a completely unique scheme of awards that are available to members of the SJA in that nation.

After the award of membership in the VOSJ, the highest honour one can achieve in the SJAM is the Darjah Setia Utama or Order of Supreme Loyalty. According to the SJAM statutes, only one of these awards will be given in any year and only 10 living recipients are allowed.
The next award is the Darjah Bakti Perkasa of Order of Supreme Merit. This comes with similar stipulations: only three awards are conferred in any year and it is limited to 30 living recipients at a time.
Next is the Pingat Jasa Gemilang or Splendid Service Medal (the best name of them all, in our opinion), of which only five are distributed in any year.
After the Splendid Service Medal comes the Pingat Jasa Cemerlang or Distinguished Service Medal (five per year again).
Finally, individuals are eligible for the Pingat Jasa Terpuji or Meritorious Service Medal.

In the order of precedence for the SJAM, after the Pingat Jasa Terpuji comes the Life-Saving Medal of the VOSJ, and then a unique Medal for Bravery of the SJAM. This Pingat Gagah Berani is awarded in three classes (gold, silver, and bronze).

Finally, after all of these other medals and awards, is the Service Medal that we discussed on Friday. This is quite a developed system of awards that is more or less separate from the rest of the VOSJ and its foundations.

14 November 2008

Service Medal

We heard news of some local organizations of the St John Ambulance in Miramichi, New Brunwick having recognition ceremonies last week. Several volunteers were awarded the Service Medal of the VOSJ. In this case, the recipients were all SJA people, but one needs only be involved with the Order to be awarded this medal. We thought we'd share a little of what we learned regarding the medal.

The service medal was first mentioned in 1895, but the first recipients were not chosen until 1898. It wasn't until 1899 that the award was actually made. This is, as the name implies, the service medal of the VOSJ. Throughout its history it has been awarded for conspicuous service of different kinds to the Order and not merely for length of service. Its usual use, however, is to reward extended service in St. John Ambulance or in the Order of St John.

The following description of the medal itself comes from the VOSJ's information sheet on the matter. The image below comes from our own personal collection.
With one small exception, the design of the Service Medal has remained constant throughout its history. The obverse features the head of Queen Victoria, modelled from a bust carved by H.R.H. The Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, together with the legend VICTORIA + D + G + BRITT + REG + F + D + IND + IMP. Originally this legend and that on the reverse were in ornamental gothic script but, since 1960, the current die uses upright seriffed capitals as printed. The reverse of the medal, between sprigs of St. John’s wort, contains five circles showing the Imperial Crown, the Royal Arms, the arms of the Prince of Wales as first Grand Prior under the Charter of 1888, the crest of the Prince of Wales and the pre 1926 Arms of the Order. Around the edge appears the legend MAGNUS · PRIORATUS · ORDINIS · HOSPITALIS · SANCTI · JOHANNIS · JERUSALEM · IN · ANGLIA. From its inception until 1942, when issue ceased for the duration of the war, the medal was manufactured in silver. Upon resumption in 1947 until 1960 alternatives involving base metal and silvering were employed. Between 1960 and 1966 the medals were silvered cupro-nickel and since 1966 they have been cupro-nickel, rhodium plated.

Interestingly, this is the only current-issue medal that still bears the bust of Queen Victoria.

13 November 2008

Malta Visit

One of the nice things about writing a blog that focuses on matters of the Venerable Order of St John is that most Governor-Generals of Commonwealth realms are high-ranking members of the Order. So whenever these people do something related to St John, it gives us something to write about. Australia is no exception, as Quentin Bryce is a Dame of Grace in the Australian Priory. The Prior in Australia is still the former Governor-General, Michael Jeffery, but there is no reason to believe that Ms. Bryce won't soon become the next (and first female) Prior.

Ms. Bryce is the focus of today's blog post because she will soon be visiting an ancient home of the Order. At the invitation of the president of Malta, Bryce will be paying a state visit to the island between 14 and 15 November. This is significant because Malta was once the home of Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (SMOM) --the Order from which the VOSJ descends. Though they are two separate Orders today, they still cooperate through, among other things, the Alliance of the Orders of St John of Jerusalem. We could not locate a good picture of either the current Prior of Australia, or Ms Bryce. Below, you can see an image of a modern Knight of Honour and Devotion of the SMOM.

12 November 2008

Tragic Loss

Two weeks ago, the Canadian Priory of the VOSJ lost a dedicated member. Larry Bosiak was an Alberta native that volunteered with the St John Ambulance for more than 35 years. Bosiak was made a commander of the Venerable Order. In a very sad turn of events, Mr Bosiak was murdered in an apparent botched robbery attempt outside of his home. Mr Bosiak was clearly a confrère that attempted to live out the Order's two mottoes. Pro Fide (for the faith) and Pro Utilitate Hominum (in the service of humanity). He will be missed in Canada and in the Order at large.

11 November 2008

Remembrance Day

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Lest We Forget

10 November 2008

American Investiture Service

This past weekend, the Order's Priory in the United States of America has its annual investiture weekend. The culminated with the actual service of investiture on 8 November. The event was held at the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (also known as Washington National Cathedral) in Washington, D.C. We were not able to attend the ceremony because we were busy here in London, but it sounds like it was a splendid affair.

One of the highlights of the ceremony was the installation of a new Prior for the Americans. Nick Drexel had served as Prior since the foundation of the Priory. This weekend, A. Marshall Acuff, Jr. was formally installed. In addition to this installation, the service was an opportunity for rededication and recongition of new appointments to and promotions within the Order.

If we are able to locate some pictures from the weekend, we will be sure to post them here. Those of you that are planning ahead, can attend the Priory's next investiture 6-8 November in the historic center of VOSJ activity in America--New York City.

08 November 2008

Canadian Vice Priors

As mentioned in our last post, Hilary Weston was made a Dame of Justice in 1997 upon her appointment as Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. We were trolling through our files and found a picture from 2005 of Norman Kwong, the newly appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta, receiving his insignia as a Knight of Justice of the Order. As we noted earlier, the Lieutenant-Governor of each province is made the Vice-Prior for the Order in that province. This picture comes from 23 May 2005 and was taken in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta.

06 November 2008

Confrère Honoured

Though the honour has not yet officially been given out, Dame of Justice Hilary Weston will be given an honourary doctorate from Concordia University in Montreal at their convocation services on 17 November. Ms Weston was made a Dame of Justice on the occasion of her appointment as 26th Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario in 1997. In the Priory of Canada, Lieutenant-Governors are made Vice-Priors of the Order in their respective provinces. Though she is no longer Lieutenant-Governor, Ms Weston is still a Dame of Justice and we congratulate her on this well-deserved honour.

02 November 2008

New Lord Prior

It may have passed some by, but the VOSJ now has a new Lord Prior. On 5 June of this year, Eric Barry (the outgoing LP) and Anthony Mellows (the incoming LP) paid a visit to Kensington palace to be received by The Duke of Gloucester, our Grand Prior. The Englishman Mellows was assuming the appointment and the Canadian Barry was relinquishing it.

Just last week (28 October) HM the Queen, Sovereign Head of the VOSJ, received Professor Anthony Mellows upon his appointment as Lord Prior. Mellows has serviced as Vice Lord Prior for several years and seems to be sliding into his new role quite comfortable. We were able to find a photograph of the new Lord Prior in our extensive library. It was taken at the St John Eye Hospital's service of celebration and thanksgiving for the Order in May 2007. This was part of the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the hospital. The official installation will take place later this month, and we'll certainly keep you posted.

01 November 2008


To all and sundry whom these presents may come, we hereby introduce the VOSJ Source. As you may have guessed, this is intended to be a clearing house for all news related to the Venerable Order of St John. In addition to news stories of a general interest, there will also be included gossip and interesting tidbits from any number of sources. We hope that we can give attention to all the priories and commanderies of the Order, and we may touch on matters related to the St John Ambulance and the St John Eye Hospital. Most of all, we hope that you enjoy reading a bit more!