The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), also known as the ‘Three Link Fraternity’, is an altruistic and benevolent fraternal organization derived from the similar British Oddfellows service organizations which came into being during the 1700s, at a time when altruistic and charitable acts were far less common.
Several theories aim to explain the meaning of the name “Oddfellows”. One says that they were called ‘Odd’ because in the beginning of Odd Fellowship in the 18th century, at the time of industrialization, it was rather odd to find people who followed noble values such as benevolence, charity and fraternalism.
A variation on that theory states: The Odd Fellows, at least according to one story, got its curious name from the fact that it was a lodge that opened its doors to the working class, who at that time did not ordinarily belong to fraternal orders – and were thus ‘Odd’.
Member’s duties were to visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan. The aims of the fellowship were to foster the society and elevate the character of man by bringing forth the principles of friendship, brotherly love and truth.
It was only by joining mutual friendly societies like the Odd Fellows that ordinary people could insure themselves and their families against illness, injury or death.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) was established in NSW in 1863 and Melbourne in 1846. The Loyal Colac Lodge (IOOF), instituted on 6th August 1863, had architect Andrew Hamilton design the Odd Fellows Hall and in 1870 it was built at a cost of £700 with the hope that it would help to foster the society.
Documents relevant to the order were placed and remain under the foundation stone and that evening a grand soiree and ball was held in the large storeroom of the Polwarth Flour Mill.
The hall was renovated in 1891 and continued to be used as a community hall hosting movie showings, plays, dances, concerts, badminton competitions, wedding breakfasts, auctions and boxing tournaments until the early 1970s when it was converted by Lionel Lovekin and Bob Gladman to Ray Duff Panel works which had been operating in Colac since 1941.
In the first half of the last century the hall was home to an overflow of patients from the Colac Hospital during outbreaks of Influenza and Diphtheria.
Some say the Odd Fellowship was named back in the 1700s for the “strangeness” of helping strangers… Others say it was odd for a fraternal order of that era to open its doors to the working class…
All we know is that 150 years later the Oddfellows Restaurant Colac is still putting community first while offering the best function room hire Colac has to offer.