The Hellfire Club is an ancient club for the rich and hedonistic, it has branches all over the world, concealing the ‘Inner Circle’, a powerful and influential criminal organization.
The first official Hellfire Club was founded in London by Philip, Duke of Wharton and a handful of other high society friends. The most notorious club associated with the name was established in England by Sir Francis Dashwood.
A number of Hellfire Clubs in Ireland are centred around Universities and meet secretly, for example a hellfire club for Trinity College that meets in central Dublin and one that regularly meets in Cork. These clubs carry out similar blasphemous ceremonies as the original Hellfire Club.
In Scotland – The Beggar’s Benison
The Most Ancient and Most Puissant Order of the Beggar’s Benison and Merryland, Anstruther, better known simply as The Beggar’s Benison, is the Scottish headquarters of the Hellfire club located in the town of Anstruther on the Firth of Forth.
The word ‘benison’ means ‘blessing’ and, according to the founders, the club’s name came from a story about James II of Scotland.
“the king in the disguise of a bagpiper, was journeying to the Fife. Failing to cross a fast flowing river, a buxom lass came to the rescue, tucked up her petticoats, and carried her Sovereign s to the opposite bank. Enamoured with her, his Majesty in return gave the damsel her fairin’ for which “the gude-man” got her “benison”
The woman blessed him with the words “May your purse ne’er be empty and your horn always in bloom”. The club’s motto thus became, “May prick nor purse ne’er fail you”.
The club’s founding members included some of the most influential people in the area surrounding Anstruther, including[
- Lord Newark
- Sir Charles Erskine of Cambo, 3rd Baronet, and Thomas and John Erskine his younger brothers
- Robert Hamilton of Kilbrackmont, a local landowner
- James Grahame, baillie of Anstruther Easter
- William Ayton or Aytoun of Kinaldy, landowner
- John McNachtane, customs officer, nominal chief of the dispersed Highland clan, and cousin to the 2nd earl of Breadalbane, the club’s sovereign for nearly 30 years.
The club has opened a chapter in Edinburgh, a recent newspaper advert from has also been identified, advertising in Manchester, England. A chapter is also planned for St Petersburg, Russia.