Freemasonry on the other side of the World
Peter Beck, a member of St Oswald’s Lodge No 5170 and a volunteer at the Warrington Museum of Freemasonry has recently returned from an extended holiday in New Zealand and Australia, with his wife Janet. During his time away, Peter was able to extend his Masonic research, sometimes by accident, as his journey progressed. Peter has kindly provided a summary of his discoveries and reflections, as detailed below.
They arrived in New Zealand at the beginning of February with intentions after staying with relatives in Wellsford on the North Island, to do some travelling and take in a short visit to Australia.
Having driven north to Paihia, they took the ferry crossing to the old capital of New Zealand, Russell. This part of New Zealand is called the Bay of Islands and is quite spectacular with its gorgeous sandy beaches, breathtaking views and of course is where the infamous Treaty of Waitangi between the British Government and the Maori tribes was signed.
They visited Russell Museum, with its many displays of seafaring objects, from some of the early settlers, the British Navy and Maori history.
It was by accident that they came across the Freemasons Lodge whilst heading for the church, so a compelling place to stop. Unfortunately the building was closed so Peter didn’t have the opportunity to give his regards to any of the brethren from Kororareka Lodge No 304.
They made their way through the village to Christ Church, dated 1836, which is the oldest church in New Zealand. The year 1836 falls within a significant era for the country. It was a time when Europeans had started to settle and became a time of major conflict between themselves and the Maori tribes. This led to the Treaty of Waitangi, a document signifying a relationship between the British Crown and the Maori nation. Unfortunately the Treaty caused much confusion, which in turn led to uncertainty as the country developed.
Christ Church is a very attractive, typical 19th century New Zealand designed building, is constructed wholly of timber.
Whilst looking around the church there were many items of interest, but one in particular was a stained glass window on which were a number of symbols which could be construed as either Masonic, religious or both. There was nothing else in the Church in any way related to Freemasonry; however Peter decided to have a look in the churchyard.
Within minutes he came across the gravestone of Thomas Rogers Clow, who had died 18 June 1930 aged 60 years. Marked at the head of the stone was a square and compasses. It is therefore possible that the fellow brother born in 1870 could have been a settler himself, or indeed the son of a very early settler. When Peter returned to his room he carried out a little research with the museum at Auckland and subsequently discovered that Thomas was a settler to the Island and in March 1918 he leased a farm in Papatoetoe, just outside Auckland.
It can only be assumed that Thomas made a success of his new life in New Zealand as in September 1921 he purchased a plot of land in Russell. It seems a pity that only nine years later he passed away.
On returning to Wellsford, Peter went to a pre-arranged meeting with Dave Starr, the secretary of Rodney Lodge No 1711 in Warkworth. He passed on best wishes from the Warrington Museum of Freemasonry and the Warrington Group of Lodges and presented him with four surplus festive jewels from the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution. Dave was delighted with the gift and reciprocated his best wishes. He then proceeded to inform Peter about their lodge.
The current building is modern and occupies the first floor above a row of shops. It was purpose made, consisting of one temple and a larger room for festive boards along with a kitchen and the usual facilities. The large room is let out to local clubs for judo and other social functions, so very much a part of the local community.
The temple whilst slightly smaller than the small temple at Warrington, it was well presented. An outstanding feature was the floor, which is finished in mainly blue carpet with just a small checked ceramic tile area in the centre of it. Dave pointed out that it was ‘provided by the council. The hall suffers from the ingress of water and the Lodge is seeking a resolution to the problem.
Ironically immediately opposite the Masonic hall is the previous timber Masonic hall. Built in 1883 in the Greek revival style this is a classic piece of listed architecture. The building is used to this day for craft fairs and public meetings. Needless to say having also looked around the old hall it appears to suffer none of the problems of the new hall and is indeed in magnificent condition.
Rodney Lodge No 1711 is an old established lodge, consecrated in 1877. Peter said that they hoped one day it finds its way back to its original home but that was probably unlikely. He was made very welcome at the lodge which has an English constitution and next year, should the opportunity occur he hopes to attend a meeting.
They then made a short visit to Melbourne and had arranged a visit to the Freemasons Victoria museum and library. The Museum and Library are contained within a complex of modern buildings called the Tope buildings which specialises in residential and medical care for elderly brethren and Peter understood that that the hospital next door was previously a Masonic hospital.
The museum and library were based on an upper floor in the building and the rooms were very bright and airy.
Peter presented to their guide Patrice, a stewards collar and jewel on behalf of his lodge and four surplus festive jewels from the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution on behalf of the Warrington Museum of Freemasonry. Patrice thanked him and Peter has since received an email from Samantha Fabry the curator, thanking us for the wonderful donation.
Peter had with him a photo album from the Warrington Museum of Freemasonry and found it interesting that people are always impressed with the museum and its content. The contrast between the displays and those in Warrington though is significant, with the Melbourne display cabinets and library bookshelves being white. It appears to be a continual reflection of the type of modern building in which they are situated, and its suits them well.
It was noticeable that a number of displays related to fallen servicemen who were Freemasons, and the respect that was shown in the way some of their belongings were displayed was admirable.
As part of another display Peter noticed a painting of the Lady Freemason, the Hon Mrs Aldworth, who was apparently made a Freemason as a consequence of her witnessing a ceremony in her father’s home. She was made an entered apprentice in the third lodge of Ireland shortly after 1710 and the painting is dated 1718. One can only wonder if she continued with her Masonic career, unfortunately there is no record until her death in 1773.
There was one display case that caught his imagination, so much so, that Peter was so enthused that he forgot to photograph it. The item was a small box probably smaller than a shoe box and it contained Masonic paraphernalia such as two small ashlars, a pair of compasses, square, gavel, and other items. It was a lodge seafarers kit and was used both at sea and when on land in Australia and maybe New Zealand. To think that this portable Masonic kit could possibly have sailed across the seas and introduced Freemasonry to the Antipodes who knows.
Until next time…
Article by Peter Beck St Oswald Lodge 5170 and The Warrington Museum of Freemasonry