Thomas Fairman Ordish (1855-1924): A Lasting Legacy

Paul Smith, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland


As recorded in the minutes of the Council Meeting of the Folk-Lore Society, 12th January 1887,[38] Ordish was first elected a member of the Society in 1886. He possibly joined at the encouragement of his friends the Gommes, George Laurence Gomme being President of the Society at that time. Over the years Ordish played an active part in the organisation of the Society. At the 1887 Annual Meeting, when the size of the Council was increased from twelve to twenty, Ordish was elected to this new body,[39] a position he held almost constantly until January 1909, when he left the Council.[40] The following year we find Ordish assisting with the "Ballads and Songs" section of the proposed Handbook of Folklore which was being prepared by George Laurence Gomme[41] and also assisting with the tabulations of folktales in the Folklore Society’s publications for the Tabulation and Analysis of Folktales Project.[42] Having said that, if he ever produced any Tabulations, they do not appear to have been published in Folk-Lore. In 1889 he became a member of the Society’s newly formed Surrey Local Committee for the Collection of Folklore.[43] Over the years Ordish was also a member of the Finance and General Purposes Committee (1895-1898), the Bibliographic Committee (1901-1902), the Publications Committee (1902-1905), and the Lecture Committee (1903-1904). He also acted as Chairman of the Entertainment Committee for the International Folk-Lore Congress which was hosted by the Society in 1891,[44] was a member of the Organising Committee and the Executive Committee of the same Congress,[45] and prepared a catalogue for the associated exhibition staged by the Society of Antiquaries of London.[46]

His membership of the Council of the Folklore Society and these various committees brought him into close contact with such scholars as Charlotte S. Burne, E. K. Chambers, and Edward Clodd, with whom he sided over the matter of Clodd’s controversial 1896 Presidential Address.[47] Other members of the committee at various times included James George Frazer, Alfred C. Haddon, Sidney Hartland, Joseph Jacobs, Andrew Lang, Alfred Nutt, Augustus Pitt-Rivers, Edward Tylor, and Arthur R. Wright who also, coincidentally, was a colleague at the Patent Office.[48]

In retrospect, however, it appears that Ordish was never given, or chose not to hold, an "executive position" in the Folklore Society, other than that of the Chairman of the Entertainment Committee for the International Folklore Congress. In fact, he did not even get to chair one of the sessions of the Congress for which he had so diligently worked in the background. Furthermore, in spite of his thirty seven year involvement in the Society, for some reason Ordish never wrote any book reviews for Folk-Lore. This is curious, as several items reviewed during the period in which he was a member of the Society, for example E. K. Chambers’s The Mediaeval Stage (1903), Percy Maylam’s The Hooden Horse (1909), and George Laurence Gomme’s The Making of London (1912),[49] appear to be exactly the sort of books he would have been interested in reviewing. Instead, these volumes were respectively reviewed by Oliver Elton (1906), Charlotte S. Burne (1910), and Bertram Windle (1912).[50]

© 1997, Paul Smith. Contact: Last updated: 21/03/2008