'Even more of our Yesterdays'
8 December 2010
A speech by VW Bro Graham Redman, Assistant Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill
GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, in February 1810, the Premier or Moderns Grand Lodge, which in 1809 had been exercised with the affairs of the Royal Naval Lodge, then numbered 57 and now No. 59, was opened in due form and the Laws relating to the behaviour of Masons in Grand Lodge were read.
The three Brethren who had been appointed to attend Royal Naval Lodge to ensure the reinstatement of certain Brethren reported that they had attended at the House where the said Lodge is held in Burr Street, Wapping on Wednesday 3rd January last being the usual evening of meeting of the Lodge and notice of which meeting had been advertised in the newspapers and on enquiring whether the Lodge was opened they were informed by a person who said he attended there to answer any one who might come, that there would not be a Lodge held that evening. That they again attended this evening being likewise one of the usual days of meeting of the said Lodge when they were also informed that the Lodge would not meet.
Brother F[rancis] C[olumbine] Daniel then addressed the Grand Lodge and said it was the determination of the Brethren of the Royal Naval Lodge not to admit again into their Lodge Brothers [John] Blacklock and [John William] Smith and he read some Resolutions to that effect but that rather than do so they would surrender the warrant of the Lodge and give to the Grand Lodge the Books of the Royal Naval Lodge to enable the Grand Lodge to pay itself what was due from the Royal Naval Lodge by collecting in the arrears due from its Members and Brother Daniel accordingly delivered to the Grand Master in the chair the Warrant of Constitution of the Royal Naval Lodge, No. 57, whereupon it was
Resolved that the consideration of what further proceedings it may be proper to adopt respecting the Royal Naval Lodge be deferred to the next Committee of Charity.
JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, the problem with Royal Naval Lodge, or rather Francis Columbine Daniel continued to rumble! At the April meeting of the premier Grand Lodge it was reported that the books of the Lodge had been turned over to the Grand Secretary but not the jewels and furniture – they having been seized by the landlord in Wapping as surety for £200 owed to him and others in the area. The Brethren who had been refused re-admission to the Lodge had petitioned for the return of the warrant as they had not been party to its being given up or to the activities of Daniel. The Grand Lodge agreed that the warrant and books be returned to them and that the Lodge be re-instated in all its Masonic privileges. An attempt by Daniel and his friends to take over the Lodge of Felicity (now) No. 58 and rename it the Royal Naval Lodge of Felicity was refused by the Grand Master. That should have been the end of it but Grand Lodge was troubled again in November, resulting in Daniel being “suspended from all Masonic functions and privileges” until he cleared the debt he had incurred with the Grand Lodge (£300) by not sending in returns. It took Daniel until 1817 to repay the money when he was restored to all his privileges.
GFR: Earlier at that same Communication it had been:
Resolved, that in consequence of recent occurrences the Resolution of the Grand Lodge of the 9th February 1803 for the expulsion of Brother Thomas Harper be rescinded.
JMH: Thomas Harper had been expelled from the premier Grand Lodge in 1803 because he was a senior member of the Antients Grand Lodge, although it took the premier Grand Lodge more than a decade to recognise this despite the fact that Harper had been a Grand Steward (as a member of Globe Lodge) in 1796 when he was Deputy Grand Secretary of the Antients. In 1801 he became the Deputy Grand Master of the Antients, but a blind eye was taken. Enter F. C. Daniel again! He it was who brought charges against Harper in the premier Grand Lodge. It was a case of spite. Daniel had also been a member of the Antients and had been expelled from their Grand Lodge in 1801, just after Harper became Deputy Grand Master. He believed that Harper was behind his expulsion and so began to work against him, leading to his expulsion from the premier Grand Lodge. That put paid to the fledgling move towards Union between the two Grand Lodges. Harper’s re-admission to the premier Grand Lodge made the revival of the idea possible.
GFR: At the April Communication, at which the affair of Royal Naval Lodge was finally resolved, the minutes go on to record that The Grand Master in the chair the Right Honourable the Earl of Moira was pleased to inform the Grand Lodge that in a conference which he had had with His Grace the Duke of Atholl they were both fully of opinion that it would be an event truly desirable and highly creditable to the name of Masons to consolidate under one head the two Societies of Masons that existed in this country. In consequence of the points then discussed and reciprocally admitted the matter came under deliberation in the Grand Lodge under his Grace the Duke of Athol and the result was a Resolution which the Earl of Moira laid before this Grand Lodge. It was as follows “That a Masonic Union of the Grand Lodges under the present Grand Masters H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and his Grace the Duke of Atholl on principles equal and honourable to both Grand Lodges and preserving inviolate the Land marks of the Ancient Craft would in the opinion of this Grand Lodge be expedient and advantageous to both.”
Needless to say the resolution was passed unanimously and a Committee appointed “for negotiating this most desirable arrangement”.
JMH: That resolution having been passed the Union ceased to trouble the premier Grand Lodge. They were quite happy for their negotiators to have full powers to discuss and move forward, without their having to come back to the Grand Lodge on every point. As we shall see over the next two years, if this double act is to continue, the Antients were not so trusting of their negotiators who had to listen and discuss but had no powers of decision. They had to report back every point for discussion in and agreement by a quarterly meeting of their Grand Lodge. It is not surprising that the negotiations dragged on for three years!
GFR: By way of contrast, indeed, the Antients or Atholl Grand Lodge, at its meeting in March 1810, when it came to the reading of the minutes of the Grand Lodge Committee, to which it had been delegated “To consider of the propriety and practicability of accomplishing a Masonic Union with the Society of Masons under His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and to report thereon to the Grand Lodge” was faced with an objection from Bro. Charles Humphreys, Past Grand Warden that the proceedings should not be received, being “informal and premature”. His objection was defeated on a vote and the Minutes continue:
“The proceedings of the Committee were then read and thereupon the Grand Secretary recommended to the Grand Lodge to pause and consider well before they proceeded any further upon a matter of so great a magnitude; previous to any answer being received from the Most Noble R.W. Grand Master to whom the resolution of the Committee has been transmitted and before any communication had been made thereon to any of the Country, Military or Foreign Lodges immediately under or in correspondence with this R.W. Grand Lodge, the best interests and immunities of this Grand Lodge ought not to pass nor be tendered or offered in barter without information to and consent of all parties interested first had and obtained.”
JMH: There were powerful forces within the Antients Grand Lodge who did not wish to see a Union. Not least amongst them was their Grand Secretary, Robert Leslie, who delayed everything he possibly could. Even when the game was up and the Union achieved he refused to accept it, or hand over the books and papers of the Grand Lodge, until paid off with a pension of £100 a year!
GFR: Things now moved a little faster. At a Grand Lodge of Emergency held on 1st May, there were
“Read the Minutes and proceedings of the Grand Lodge Committee of the 19th April, with the Letter and Communication received from the Earl of Moira with the resolution therein inclosed from the Grand Lodge in Queen Street under H.R. Highness the Prince of Wales.”
A threefold resolution was then passed:
1st: That as the Grand Lodges of the United Kingdom viz. The Grand Lodge of England under the Most Noble Duke of Atholl the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of Ireland are all bound by the same obligations and all work by Uniform Rules it is necessary in the first instance to be informed whether the Grand Lodge under H.R. Highness the Prince of Wales in order to a perfect Union will consent to take the same obligations under which the three Grand Lodges [are bound] and that they will consent to work in the same forms.
2nd: That it is essential to the true preservation of the true and ancient Land Marks that the Grand Lodge shall be a perfect representation of all the Lodges and that to this end it shall be composed of the present and past Grand Officers, Masters and Wardens of each Lodge with the Past Masters of all Lodges. That the Grand Lodge under H.R.H. the Prince of Wales shall agree that upon the Union the Grand Lodge of England in all times to come be composed of the present and past Grand Officers, Masters, Wardens and Past Masters of the regular Lodges under the two Constitutions the Lodges to sit under their respective banners according to Seniority of Number every Brother to speak and vote and that the Grand Lodge shall be convened and held quarterly on a given day in each quarter for communication with the Craft besides the Anniversary Meeting of St John the Evangelist and St John the Baptist.
3rd: That the Masonic benevolence shall be distributed monthly by a Lodge specially constituted and summoned for that purpose consisting as it now is of a deputation from the resident Lodges in and adjacent to London and Westminster.
JMH: The premier Grand Lodge had already gone a fair way to meeting the resolutions put forward by the Antients . As we reported last year they had set up a special Lodge of Promulgation to bring it ceremonies into line with those of Ireland and Scotland (and thereby the Antients). They had introduced Deacons into their Lodges and recognised the installation of the Master. Indeed they had spent a great deal of time holding special meetings to install those who had been Masters of Lodges without receiving the secrets of the chair, including the Duke of Sussex and the Earl of Moira. The problematical point would be the composition of the new United Grand Lodge. The premier Grand Lodge had reserved its membership to the Grand Officers, Masters of Lodges and the Master and others from the Grand Stewards Lodge. The Antients Grand Lodge had been much more democratic and was composed of the Grand Officers, Master and Wardens of Lodges and the subscribing Past Masters. This difference was to lead to long, and at times childish, arguments. The premier Grand Lodge was set against an increase in the membership, arguing at one point that their Hall was not large enough to take so many people. Happily for us the Antients won through.
GFR: To round off this subject, the Minutes for September record that:
A Motion was made by Bro. Jeremiah Cranfield, P.M. 255 ‘That all Motions made in this Grand Lodge and Grand Lodge Committees respecting a Masonic Union with all communications from the Committee under his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales as well as the opinions of the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland on this important subject be printed and circulated throughout the ancient Craft….Ordered.
JMH: Although he was troublesome, we should bless Jeremiah Cranfield. As a result of his resolution the Antients did regularly circulate to their members. Had they not we should have little information as to what did happen. The letter book and other records of the premier Grand Lodge for this period appear not to have survived and very little was reported to their Grand Lodge.
GFR: By contrast 1910 was a relatively uneventful year. Loyal addresses on the death of H.M. King Edward VII were approved at an Especial Grand Lodge in May, and in June an honorarium of 1,000 Guineas was voted to the retiring Grand Registrar, to coincide with his golden wedding; but the only genuinely contentious item of business was a Motion in June that:
“In the opinion of Grand Lodge it is desirable that in the next, and all subsequent issues of the Masonic Year Book, there should be printed a list of the names of all Brethren who have been honoured by appointment to London Rank, together with the name and number of the Lodge that recommended them for, and the date of, such appointment.”
JMH: Those who were present here last year may remember that there was a “robust” debate in Grand Lodge in 1909 over the proposal that the Grand Registrar be paid a retainer. Despite it being proposed by the Pro Grand Master and seconded by the Deputy, it was thrown out. They were determined, however, to reward John Strachan, who had been a very busy Grand Registrar since his appointment in 1898, as the Proceedings of Grand Lodge testify. His retirement and Golden Wedding provided the opportunity and Grand Lodge readily agreed.
The death of the King marked the passing of one who had, as Prince of Wales and Grand Master for 26 years, presided over a great period of expansion in the English Craft both at home and overseas. On becoming King he had taken the title of Protector of Masonry. At the timer of his death Grand Lodge was quietly acquiring property to the east of the then Freemasons’ Hall with idea of extending the building. A memorial fund was set up in his memory to fund the building work. The First World War intervened and the Edward VII Memorial Fund was subsumed into the Masonic Million Memorial Fund, which resulted in this building.
The resolution regarding the inclusion of list of those honoured with London Rank, as London Grand Rank was then styled, produced another of those robust debates in Grand Lodge. The year book had only as recently as 1908 been brought back under Grand Lodge control, it for many years having been published by Kenning (before they were sandwiched between Toye and Spencer). The Provinces rightly argued that if London Rank was to be included then so should Provincial honours. That seems to have clinched it and, happily for my co-presenter and his staff who edit the year book, the proposal was negatived – but the year book grew in many other ways! And those of you who have read your business paper, and in particular the Board’s Report, will note that next year’s edition, which will be replete with useful information, will be on sale at a snip of £12!