Thanks to some forward planning by Glen Innes Masonic Lodge’s Jim Donald, the local chapter has secured the exact date the worldwide movement turns 300 for a major celebration, and you’re invited.
It’s all happening at the Glen Innes and District Services Club on June 24, with tickets sales restricted to 300 (a happy coincidence with the milestone being celebrated.) The two-course meal won’t echo that of 300 years ago, but the ritualised pageantry provided by the presence of the Freemasons’ Grand Master of NSW and his ceremonial team including sword bearer and banner bearer will certainly set the mood for a momentous occasion. The Glen Innes Pipe Band and possibly some Irish dancing will also be involved.
There will be an ‘arch of steel’ through which the special guests will enter, and even the Knights Templar may be participating. Mayor Steve Toms will be there and MPs Adam Marshall and Barnaby Joyce have also been invited.
Where it all started
While Freemasons lodges doing similar things existed beforehand, it wasn’t until 1717 that four lodge grand masters came together on June 24 at the Goose and Gridiron Pub in England to formalise the organisation. Three of these original four are still operating, and the thousands of lodges worldwide – including Glen Innes – descend from that first meeting.
The local lodge was established in 1875 and the original charter from the United Grand Lodge of England, number 1569, is proudly displayed on the wall of the current building. Glen Innes predates the United Grand Lodge of NSW, established in 1888.
Mr Donald – Glen Innes lodge’s Worshipful Master – said lodge membership tends to be generational. Traditionally you had to wait to be asked, otherwise it was considered ‘improper solicitation’. These days it’s more relaxed and not considered improper to ask.
Current director of ceremonies Ross Haron joined before his father Brian, and was followed by son Simon. Mr Donald said while his own grandfather was a member his father wasn’t, and that’s not uncommon. He said there was a dip in popularity following the surge of interest following the end of WWI, when returning soldiers were looking for something to replace the service.
Lodge members do undertake community work and the lodge has a social function, but much more.
“As well as the ritualistic function there’s education and history; it’s the total package,” Mr Donald said.
Russell Long – lodge secretary – said the Freemasons are not a religion; in fact the topics of religion and politics are forbidden. While some lodges have strong religious identities this tends to be due more to geography.
“I’ve been at lodges with Christians, Muslims and Jews, and there’s no problem at all,” Mr Long said.
The First Fleet included Freemasons with a travelling licence, and there is documentation of Freemasons being active in Australia’s early history of white settlement. Mr Long said there is also evidence of Freemasons leaving their mark around Glen Innes.
“Town leaders tend to take their lessons of leadership and responsibility into their normal lives,” he said.
In the past two years the Glen Innes lodge has donated more than $10,000 to local groups like the Volunteer Rescue Association and the Rural Fire Service, thanks to community fundraising matched dollar-for-dollar with Freemasons’ interaction grants. The local chapter has also provided a number of $1000 scholarships to promising students.
The organisation also has a charity arm, Masonic Care. Other associated community service divisions include the Royal Freemasons' Benevolent Institution (which oversees the Masonic Village aged care home in Glen Innes, formerly known as Glenwood Gardens), as well as A Start in Life supporting youth in overcoming education barriers.
Tickets now available
Tickets to the big June 24 event are now available at the Services Club for $40, and it starts at 6pm for 6.30pm. Tables of 12 (or part thereof) can also be booked for groups that would like to be seated together.
Dress code is ‘formal’, with the ceremonial team resplendent in white tie and other lodge members in black tie.
“It will be a great night,” Mr Donald said, “and most of us won’t be around for the next big one.”