Alfred Ernest Scanlan was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Horus Temple in Bradford Yorkshire, between March 1893 and the end of that year.He chose the simple and relevant Latin motto ĎMedicusí.Although he had many other calls on his time, and despite not actually living in Bradford, he was able to do the study necessary to progress further in the Order; and was initiated into its inner, 2nd Order in April 1896.As the records of the Horus Temple have been lost, itís not possible to say how long Alfred remained an active member of it.


Alfred was one of a small group of GD members who lived in Middlesbrough.He was the link between two of the others, William Charles Hopgood and Arthur Wilson, who were initiated at the Horus Temple during 1894.



This is one of my short biographies.They mostly cover GD members who lived in Bradford, Liverpool and Edinburgh.Iíve done what I can with those people, using the web and sources in London.Iím sure thereís far more information on them out there, but it will be in record offices, the local papers...Iíd need to be on the spot to look at them, and Iíve had to admit that lifeís too short!

Sally Davis

February 2016



This is what I have found on ALFRED ERNEST SCANLAN.



Thereís nothing by or about him in the GD collections at the Freemasonsí Library and the Warburg Institute; and as Iíve said above, no records remain of the GD in Bradford.However, there is one letter to him, and his reply, in the Collected Letters of W B Yeats; and a copy of his natal chart is in the Yeats archive in the National Library of Ireland.


The letter is a copy of one by Yeats to Scanlan, undated but thought to be from around January 1901.It was, perhaps, a difficult letter for Yeats to write, which is why a copy exists: it might have taken several attempts to get the wording right.Yeats wanted to ask Alfred if someone confessing to a Roman Catholic or high Anglican priest was obliged to mention that they were a GD member; or that people they knew were.Quite why Yeats should be asking Alfred this question is something the editors of Yeatsí letters donít have an answer to; and I certainly donít have one.But the editors do suggest why Yeats was asking it now: the woman he loved, Maud Gonne - who had been in the GD for a brief period - was preparing to convert to Roman Catholicism in order to marry a Catholic.A long confession of past sins was a part of the process and Yeats was obviously worried about how much information she would have to give away.Alfred replied that he thought not, on both counts; which Yeats was probably very glad to hear.


The exchange suggests that Alfred was familiar with the ins and outs of confession: that he was a Catholic or a very high Anglican himself.Quite a few GD members had a background at the Ďhighí end of the Church of England spectrum; though very few were Catholics when they were initiated.I havenít found any confirmation of Alfredís particular beliefs myself; but itís a difficult thing to research.

As to Yeatsí having Alfredís natal chart, it is with a group that have the date 1908 attached to them: quite a while after the GD had fallen apart into its two daughter orders.


There are no other letters from Alfred amongst Yeatsí papers, but perhaps Alfred and W B Yeats knew each other better, and for longer, than you would think.



Collected Letters of W B Yeats Volume III 1901-94 p18.

At, the National Library of Ireland.Its Collection List 60: Occult Papers of W B Yeats, Mss 34,270 and 36,273-36,285.Ms 36, 274/11.†† Other charts in the group are those of the spiritualist William Stainton Moses; and GD member Edmund Hunter and both his sons - Edmund had married Yeatsí friend, GD member Dorothea Butler.




Yes indeed.Like so many GD members, particularly at the Horus Temple, he had come to the Order through membership of the Theosophical Society.


Alfred had applied to join the TS in November 1891.At that time, all applicants had to have two sponsors who were already members.Alfredís sponsors were impeccable, making his acceptability a foregone conclusion.They were Walter Richard Old (later known as Walter Gorn Old) and G R S Mead, two members of the very select inner circle that Helena Petrovna Blavatsky formed around herself when she took up residence in London in 1887.Old became general secretary to the TSís British Section when it was founded in October 1889, so he probably processed Alfredís application himself.G R S Mead was co-editor (with Annie Besant) of the theosophical magazine Lucifer for much of the 1890s, and published a series of books on aspects of the occult.


The TS underwent a big and rapid expansion in the early 1890s, with lodges being set up to act as local meeting places in most English cities.As both Old and Mead lived in London and went to TS meetings there, though, Iím not sure how Alfred - who never lived in London to my knowledge - got to know them.Perhaps he was able to go to enough meetings in London to make their acquaintance; but he was never a member of any of Londonís theosophical lodges.I think itís just as likely that he knew Walter Old through medicine.W R Old was a qualified doctor, though he doesnít seem ever to have practised.Iíve tried to find out where Old trained. I havenít had any luck so far; but itís possible that he and Alfred were at Edinburgh University together.They were about the same age.Astrology links Alfred with W B Yeats and also with W R Old: Old was an acknowledged expert on the subject, working and publishing as Sepharial.


Alfred didnít act as sponsor to new TS members himself very often, but in September 1893 he did do so for Thomas J Charlton of Middlesbrough, a friend of his I would suppose.Where he was active as a TS member was in helping to found Middlesbrough TS Lodge, in June 1893.GD member Arthur Wilson was also a member of this; though GD member William Charles Hopgood was not in the TS at all - Alfred knew him as a fellow GP in the city.A typical meeting of a TS lodge would have a speaker, either one of the members or a visitor from another lodge.In November 1893, Oliver Firth came from Bradford TS lodge to give a talk to Middlesbrough TS on Karma, Free Will and Fate.As well as being in the TS in Bradford, Firth was a member of the GD there; itís most likely through him that the three men from Middlesbrough found out about the GDís existence.Members of the TS in Middlesbrough also worked with Firth and others from Bradford Lodge to set up the magazine The Northern Theosophist, which ran for two years and showed just how active theosophists in the north of England were - until a major dispute within the TS worldwide brought the phase of expansion to a halt, in 1894-95.The dispute was, essentially, over who should lead the TS and in what direction, now that Blavatsky was dead.It became very vitriolic, and eventually very public.Many members resigned in disgust or despair at how the dispute was handled, or just stopped paying their yearly sub, and it seems Alfred Scanlan was one of those.By December 1897, his membership was judged to have lapsed.Any theosophy that he read or discussed or believed after that was purely a private affair and he had his membership of the GD as a western-esotericism based alternative; another esoteric group rent from time to time by noisy dispute, but at least it was all kept relatively secret!


Theosophical Society Membership Register September 1891-January 1893 p21 entry for Alfred Ernest Scanlan, with details of addresses during his period of membership; which lodges he was a member of; and when he ceased to be a member (usually this was by not paying the yearly subscription for three successive years). ďLapsed 12 97".

Walter Old and G R S Mead both have pages on wikipedia.

Website Oldís appointment as general secretary of the TS in Britain.

Alfred as sponsor: Theosophical Society Membership Register June 1893 to March 1895 p35.

Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine Volume XII covers March-August 1893.Edited by Annie Besant, published by the Theosophical Publishing Society of 7 Duke Street Adelphi.Volume XII number 70 issued 15 June 1893 p341 in the news section: formation of Middlesbrough TS Lodge.

Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine Volume XIII covers September 1893 to February 1894.Editor Annie Besant, published by the Theosophical Publishing Society of 7 Duke Street Adelphi.Volume XIII number 75 issued 15 November 1893 news item p254: Oliver Firthís talk at Middlesbrough TS Lodge.And Volume XIII number 76 issued 15 December 1893 p265 involvement of members of Middlesbrough Lodge in setting up the magazine The Northern Theosophist.






This is a tricky one, because I havenít been able to discover the name of Alfredís father.I couldnít find Alfred and his father in the same household in any census; and all I know about his father was that he was a watch-maker - the census official in 1871 asked Alfredís mother what her absent husband did for a living..I did find a reference to a James Scanlan, a watch-maker in Rhyl in Wales around 1848; but thatís not much to go on.


Alfred was born in 1857, probably in the city of Chester.I couldnít find him or his family on the 1861 census.On the day of the 1871 census, his father was away, but the rest of the family were at home at 11 Llanfair Street Ruthin: Alfredís mother Margaret; an older brother who may have been from a previous marriage Margaret had made; Alfredís sister Selina aged 16, who was working in her fatherís business; and Alfred, aged 13 and still at school.This was a modest household which employed no live-in servants.


Alfred began to train for a career in medicine in 1875 and never lived with both his parents again.I think his father was dead by 1891.In 1880, Selina married Rev William Davies.They were living near Oswestry on the day of the 1881 census.




Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World volume 1 p689.

Census information: 1871, 1881.



Not known in any detail apart from his medical training.



He was licensed to practice LRCP and LRCS in Edinburgh in March 1881.After a short time working at Snaith in Yorkshire (he was living there on the day of the 1881 census) he moved to the Linthorpe district of Middlesbrough.He spent the rest of his life as a GP and surgeon there.William Charles Hopgood also lived and practised in Linthorpe and the two men must have known each as fellow professionals at least.



Via to the Minutes of the General Council of Medical Education (the GMC) volume XIV issued 1877: Alfred Ernest Scanlan and a couple of other doctors had asked that the start of their medical training be backdated to October 1875; the GMC granted their request.

The Studentsí Journal and Hospital Gazette 1880 p200 Alfred Ernest Scanlan of Chester is in a list, presumably of those who have just passed their final exams.


GMC registers (which first appear in 1887).If you were only in private practice you didnít have to register and Alfred didnít register until 1899; from then until 1927, however, heís in all the issues.In 1899 his address was Brynhenlog, Princes Road Middlesbrough but by 1903 heíd moved to Westbrook, elsewhere in Linthorpe, and thatís where the practice remained until the death of Alfredís son, who took it over when Alfred retired.



I havenít found any.


ANY PUBLIC LIFE/EVIDENCE FOR LEISURE TIME?Bearing in mind, of course, that most leisure activities leave no trace behind them.

Apart from theosophy and the GD, no - but life as a GP doesnít leave much time for them.



1891††† 80 St Paulís Terrace Middlesbrough: his home, not the address of the GP surgery

1893††† The Surgery, Feltham Place Middlesbrough; not his home


In 1885, Alfred married Jemima Sayce, at Stockon-on-Tees.Jemima was the youngest daughter of Evan Sayce, who in 1871 was working as the foreman in an iron foundry in Middlesbrough.†† They hadnít been living in Middlesbrough for long though: all the family, including Jemima (then aged 15) had been born in Wales.In 1881, Evan Sayce was unemployed and Jemima had gone to live with William Walters and his wife Ann, in Marsh Road Linthorpe.The census entry for that address is a bit confusing: I canít tell from it whether Jemima is working or not; and sheís described as the step-daughter of William Walters but I canít see how that can be right.


On the day of the 1891 census, Alfred and Jemima were living at 80 Newport Road Middlesbrough with their children Lena Nesta (born 1887) and James Ernest (born 1890).Alfredís mother Margaret, now a widow, was living with them, and so was James Cormac, described as a ďsurgical assistantĒ who was (I guess) working for Alfred.In addition, to Mr Cormac, the Scanlans also employed a nurse/housemaid, and one general servant.Margaret Scanlan died the following year, aged 74.


I canít find Alfred, Jemima and their children on the census in 1901: census day 1901 was very near Easter so perhaps they were on holiday.On census day 1911 Alfred, Jemima and Nesta were at home at Westbrook, Cambridge Road Middlesbrough; though James was not in the UK as far as I could see.Perhaps James was abroad with school friends - in 1905 he had started as a pupil at Epsom College, founded as a school for the sons of physicians. Though their household was smaller now, the Scanlans were still employing two servants - they were now very comfortably off.Nesta had left school but wasnít working.


As Alfredís last entry in the GMC Registers was in the list of 1927.Perhaps he retired shortly after that.He and James had been working in partnership for several years by this time.



Census 1891, 1901, 1911.

At the Epsom College Register 1855-1905 p267.



Alfred Ernest Scanlan died on 9 January 1930.Jemima died in December 1941.As far as I can see, their daughter Lena Nesta Scanlan didnít marry.



Probate registry entries 1930; 1942.



I couldnít see a probate registry entry for Nesta; which means either that her estate fell below the level at which a registry entry was necessary; or that she died after 1966 when Ancestryís list of entries comes to an end.



Alfred and Jemimaís son James joined the navy as soon as he was medically qualified, being made a temporary surgeon lieutenant in November 1916.He survived the war, and returned to Middlesbrough to become the junior partner in his fatherís GP practice, taking it over entirely when Alfred retired.In 1924 he married Lucy Emmett Pearson.They had two daughters, Patricia and Moira.James survived his mother by only a few months, dying in July 1942.



Navy List of January 1919 p476 with a list of temporary surgeon-lieutenants appointed 1916.

London Gazette 9 November 1926 p7288 James acting as executor; current address

Brynhenlog, Princes Road Middlesbrough.

Probate Registry entry 1942.



BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.


Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert.Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986.Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914.The list is based on the Golden Dawnís administrative records and its Membersí Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation.All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but itís now in the Freemasonsí Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden.Please note, though, that the records of the Amen-Ra Temple in Edinburgh were destroyed in 1900/01.I have recently (July 2014) discovered that some records of the Horus Temple at Bradford have survived, though most have not; however those that have survived are not yet accessible to the public.


For the history of the GD during the 1890s I usually use Ellic Howeís The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order 1887-1923.Published Routledge and Kegan Paul 1972.Foreword by Gerald Yorke.Howe is a historian of printing rather than of magic; he also makes no claims to be a magician himself, or even an occultist.He has no axe to grind.


Family history: freebmd; (census and probate);; familysearch; Burkeís Peerage and Baronetage; Burkeís Landed Gentry; Armorial Families;; and a wide variety of family trees on the web.


Famous-people sources: mostly about men, of course, but very useful even for the female members of GD.Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.Who Was Who. Times Digital Archive.


Useful source for business and legal information: London Gazette and its Scottish counterpart Edinburgh Gazette.Now easy to find (with the right search information) on the web.


Catalogues: British Library; Freemasonsí Library.


Wikipedia; Google; Google Books - my three best resources.I also used other web pages, but with some caution, as - from the historianís point of view - they vary in quality a great deal.






Find the web pages of Roger Wright and Sally Davis, including my list of people initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn between 1888 and 1901, at: