The Hibernian Catholic Benefit Society was established in New Zealand 1869 as an offshoot of an organisation formed in Australia.

Friendly societies such as the Hibernians were of vital importance to immigrants and their descendants in the decades prior to the creation of the welfare state.

The Hibernians played an important role in the lives of many Catholic families, helping to cushion them from the effects of economic downturns and to provide social support and fraternalism.

In 1999, Dr Rory Sweetman, a professional historian, was commissioned to produce a history of the Hibernians.

The resultant publication, ‘Faith and Fraternalism’, is a history of over 130 years of achievement by several generations of Hibernians in New Zealand.

What emerged is a tale of dedication by the Hibernians’ pioneers, and of fortitude in the face of regular reverses, culminating in the 1930s with the arrival of state social security at a time of internal division.

The first five chapters examine the various strands that made up the Hibernians and gave it a remarkable strength and longevity: its roots in Ireland (‘Hibernia’ being the ancient Roman name for Ireland), its regional and religious loyalties, its vital economic and social dimension.

The final chapter tells how the Hibernians coped with the challenge of the last 30 years, and how it looks forward with confidence to the new millennium.

That the Hibernians survived, where so many Catholic lay organisations and other friendly societies did not, speaks of its sense of purpose and strength of belief.

While the Hibernians’ history will be of interest principally to its members, when it was published there had not been a detailed history written on the friendly society movement in New Zealand, and it is considered that the book will also be of interest to the wider community.

Comprising approximately 90,000 words and including 59 photographs, ‘Faith and Fraternalism’ can be purchased from the Hibernians national office for $39.95 each.