Antient and Noble Order of Corks
The official name of this order is Ancient & Honourable Societas Korcorum Magnae Britanniae
Traditionally, until recently, a Candidate for membership of the Order had to be a member of Royal Arch or Mark, or be a Warden or Past Warden of a Craft lodge recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England; however some lodges simply require the Candidate to be a Master Mason.
The 'Cork' in the Order's name is taken from the cork of a wine bottle, which is the organisation's principal symbol, though there are variations around the world in the way this is incorporated into jewels or badges. The beginnings of the Order are unknown, the ritual is tongue-in-cheek and based around Noah and the Great Flood. The sole aim of the Cork Degree is to have fun and raise money for children's charities.
The Order is thought to have originated in Scotland, and exported to US in 1933 by the Marquis of Ailsa, the First Grand Principal of Scotland's Grand Royal Arch Chapter, where the American Allied Masonic Degrees took control of the Order. The main difference in America is that a Candidate must be a member of Royal Arch.
Although the earliest surviving records of the English Cork Order are retained by the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England, there is absolutely no proof of any connection with the Mark Degree. It has more in common with the Royal Ark Mariners Degree and has the common theme of Noah and the Ark, from which time the order claims, rather fancifully, that it originated. It is a kindly and affectionate spoof of Royal Ark Mariners. There are records to show that before the Second World War, there were a few English Mark lodges that worked the Degree at their Festive Boards, after concluding their formal Mark meeting. For a number of years the controlling body known as 'Great Board of Corks', presided over by the 'Great Admiral', consisted almost exclusively of senior Grand Officers of the Mark Grand Lodge. As the Order went into decline, the Board ceased working. Slowly Ye Antient Order of Noble Corks regained some of its popularity and by 2002 was completely recovered. In England, the situation as to who controls the Order is complicated. Officially recognised lodges are warranted by the Great Board, hut there are a number of 'autonomous' lodges in England, that work independently of the Great Board. In 2012 a number of independent Cork lodges, established themselves into the 'Grand Fleet of Cork Lodges'. The fleet includes UK and mainland European Cork lodges.
The Order is stronger and more popular in Scotland where it originated, than in England, where there are four lodges; the Order can also be found in the US, Australia, Belgium and Italy.
Dress code is less formal than regular Craft or other Degrees, and hats are worn during the meetings, the more bizarre and outlandish the better!
Jewels of the Officers are exhibited on strings of corks.
The jewel of the Degree is a piece of cork within a silver ring, the hole 5/6 of an inch in diameter and 1/8 of an inch in thickness, and it may bear letters or figures to indicate where the owner obtained the Degree. In some traditions it is a piece of cork in a metal ring, in others it is a small cork set in a silver clasp (which may be worn as, for example, a watch fob), in still others it is a flat piece of cork which may be easily carried in a wallet.
Ritual & Officers
Candidates can be, and aften are, proposed and initiated at the same meeting. The ceremonies are light hearted and animated but carried out in a happy atmosphere.
It is not necessary for the Order to meet in a Masonic Temple, some hold their meetings in the dining room and others have been known to meet in pubs. The titles of the Officers of the Order are mostly taken from nautical ones. The Degree can only be conferred by someone who has been in the Chair of First Principal in a Royal Arch Chapter, or has served as Master of some other Masonic Body, which restricts its member ship to Companions of the Holy Royal Arch; it must take place in the presence of three or more Cork Masons.
The only Degree worked is that of entry into the Order. Since the ritual is usually read rather than memorised, brethren are aften invited to fill offices on the night.
Officers of the Order are: Rather Worshipful Admiral
Uncommonly Worshipful Mate
Highly Worshipful Purser
Hardly Worshipful Lookout
Nearly Rather Worshipful Vice Admiral
Undoubtedly Ship's Worshipful Writer
Little Less Worshipful Doctor*
Barely Worshipful Cook*
Mainly Worshipful Bosun*
Particularly Worthy Screw*
Almost Worthy Carpenter*
Particularly Worthy Midshipmite*
* Optional Officers
The Order meets in lodges.
Members of the Order are expected at all times to carry a cork on them. If they are unable to show it when requested, they must pay a fine, which they are expected to give to a children's charity.
The Festive Boards are more akin to those of a Scottish Craft, meeting than an English one.
In some Cork lodges, brethren are fined for 'misdemeanours', the fines going to charity. Other lodges invite members to perform ' 'turns' (singing, telling jokes, etc) and the other Brethren show their appreciation by showering the performer with small coins. Some lodges also have an auction to raise funds for charity.
In England there are no subscriptions; there is a Life Membership Fee which goes to a children's charity.
Initiation Ritual, 1936
Initiation Ritual, 1997