Historical Masonic Meeting
GLITTERING STAR LODGE
No. 322, IRISH CONSTITUTION
(Date of Warrant 1759)
Attached to H.M. 1st BN, The Worecesterhire Regiment
FORMALLY THE 29TH REGIMENT OF FOOT
Historical Masonic Meeting
Held in H.M. Tower of London, 3rd June 1938
Recorded by V.W.BRO. E. J. T. SERCOMBE
P.G.D.C. Grand Lodge of Ireland, P. Prov. G. Regr, Hants and Isle of Wight
When early in 1938 the 1st Bn. The Worcestershire Regiment (the old 29th of Foot), then stationed in Ramillies Barracks, Aldershot, were warned to hold themselves in readiness to move to The Tower of London for a short tour of duty there,
In relief of a battalion of the Guards, no one could have forseen the remarkable Masonic event that was to arise from that move. For many yearsa fine old Lodge of Freemasons had been attached to the Battalion, and had been worked with credit in many parts of the world. The warrant, dated 3rd May, 1759, had been issued by the Grand Lodge of Ireland to 29th Regiment, and among the many interesting experiences of the Lodge was the part it played in the formation of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts at Boston in December, 1769, two officers of the Regiment, members of the Lodge, Captain J. French and Captain P. Molesworth, being the first Grand Senior and Junior Wardens respectively.
When in 1881, under the reorganisation scheme of the Army, the 29th Foot and the 30th Foot were linked as the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment, the Lodge was attached to the 1st Battalion, and it continued to work with credit in India and other parts of the Empire.
At the February (1938) meeting of the Lodge held at Farnborough (North Aldershot), the announcement was made that the Lodge would not meet again for a few months as the Battalion was leaving for the Tower of London. I then suggested to the Worship Master and Secretary that the opportunity should be taken while the Battalion was at the Tower to get permission to hold a meeting of the Lodge there. My idea was just to hold an informal meeting, to open the Lodge, read the minutes and close, for the purpose of getting recorded on the minutes that the Lodge had actually been worked in the Tower of London, for I believed that a Lodge had never been held in the Tower. The idea was cordially received, and it was left to me to make the necessary inquiries and obtain permission.
A special visit was paid to Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street, London and a number of inquiries made to ascertain if there existed any record of a Lodge of Freemasons ever having been held in the Tower. Every body was most helpful, and after considerable search it was considered that such a Masonic meeting had never been held. There was certainly no record of such a meeting. Bro. Lionel Vilbert, the well-known historian, and Secretary of Quartor Coronati Lodge of Research was also interviewed on the subject. He was of the opinion that no Lodge had ever met iside the walls of the Tower, althought Lodges had been held in the precincts of the Tower.
Having thus confirmed my opinion, I wrote to R. Wor. Bro. Field-Marshall Sir Claud W. Jacob, G.C.B., G.C.S.I., K.C.M.G., Past Grand Senior Warden of England, who had been appointed Constable of the Tower. Sir Claud, as Colonel of the Worcestershire Regiment had sometime before been kind enough to accept honorary membership of the Lodge, but had not had an opportunity of visiting it. The letter suggested that it would be a happy event if he would give permission for the Lodge to hold a meeting in the Tower during their short tour of duty. In order to be prepared should he give consent, the Grand Secretary in Dublin was asked for te necessary permission to hold a Lodge under such circumstances.
In due course Sir Claud replied, not only giving permission if a suitable place could be found in the Tower for a meeting, but expressing his interest in the project. The reply from R. Wor. Bro. H.C. Shelland, the Grand Secretary, was equally gratifying, for in granting the permission he added much valuable advice.
An even happier communication reached me. This was from our Most Worshipful Grand Master, the Earl of Donoughmore, K.P., who wrote that when at Grand Lodge he had seen my letter and was most interested in the proposed meeting. He added that, should he be in London on the proposed date when the meeting was held he would try to be present. His gracious interest in the project changed the whole character of the proposed meeting, which in the meantime had been fixed for Friday, 3rd June. The principal officers of the Lodge were kept in touch with the progress of events, and it was realised that in all probablity Masonic history of a particularly interesting character was in the making and something had to be arranged to do justice to such a unique occasion. An Officer in the Battalion had been proposed as a Candidate for intiation in the Lodge and had regularly passed the ballot, but before he could be initiated he had been selected for service and posted to Edinburgh. It was decided to invite him to come to London to be initiated into Freemasonry in the Tower of London, and he agreed to do so, provided his duties permitted. In order to ensure having a Candidate should he be unable to come C.Q.M.S. Joseph White, another Candidate who had been regularly proposed, approved and balloted for, was also put on the agenda as an alternative.
The intimation received from our Most Worshipful Grand Master induced me to send an invitation to M. Wor. Bro. General Sir Francis Davies, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., Deputy Grand Master of England, who had commenced his military career in the Worcestershire Regiment, had become Vice Lieutenant of the county and also Provincial Grand Master of Worcestershire. He had sometime before kindly consented to accept Honorary membership of the Lodge.
His reply was as prompt as it was gratifying. He would be happy to attend the meeting. The fact that the Tower is within the City of London led me to write to the Lord Major, the Right Hon. Sir Harry Twyford, Senior Grand Deacon, England, inviting him to attend this unique meeting, and he and his private secretary, W. Bro. C. Gamon very cordially accepted the invitation. A similar invitation was sent to M. Wor. Bro. Lord Saltoun, Past Grand Master Mason of Scotland, who is the representative of the Grand Lodge of Ireland at the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and he also accepted.
The members of the Lodge were naturally delighted with the alltogether unexpected importance that the meeting was assuming, and all the officers worked diligently for the purposes of putting up a good show. Under W. Bro. T.E. Johnston, the Director of Ceremonies, they practiced the ritual to ensure a smooth rendering, and they succeeded.
Applications for invitiations came pouring in, but had to be witheld owing to lack of accommodation. The Lodge had been given permission to hold the meeting in the Warders Social Room, built into the ramparts of the Tower facing the Thames. After taking measurement it was agreed that it might accommodate 100, by squeezing, and the members intending to be present were asked to notify the Secretary (W. Bro. T. Stephens). There were no preparation, robing or cloak rooms handy, so these and other amenities had to be extemporized, but so kind and helpful everyone in the Tower proved that all difficulties and inconveniences were overcome or met. A marquee pitched nearby served as a cloak room for members and visitors, while the Grand Lodge Officers made the best use they could of the archway and guardroom of the Lower Drawbridge, which was screened off from public view for robing, and all seemed to find a great deal of amusement in their stranfely grim surroundings.
The afternoon of Friday, 3rd June proved very warm, and it was not surprising to find the Social Room uncomfortably warm when some 120 Brethern were packed into it. The small kitchen attached was used as the preparation room for the Candidate and as the Tyler had to be with him it was arranged that Yeoman Warder S. Reeves a member of the Aldershot Camp Lodge (my Mother Lodge) should act as Outer Guard to keep everyone away from the vicinity of the Social Room while the meeting was in progress – a duty he did well.
Our Most Worshipful Grand Master had intermated to me in the meantime that he was not only intending to be present, but desired to open the Lodge himself in simple form, knowledge of which inspired all the Officers of the Lodge to do well. The Lodge furniture had been brought up from Farnborough and made a brave show. It attracted considerable attention. The Most Worshipful Grand Master entered the Lodge attended by the Master of the Lodge W. Bro. A.F. Adams a former Sergeant in the Batallion; R. W. Bro. Pimm Thompson, Prov. Grand Master Antrim; R.W. Bro. J. Langley, Prov Grand Master South Eastern Counties; R. W. Bro. J. Holliday, Grand Superintendant of Works; and myself; and accompanied by M. W. Bro. General Sir Francis Davies, Dep. Grand Master England, and M. W. Bro. Lord Saltoun, Past Grand Master Mason Scotland.
Other Grand Officers had already been escorted into the Lodge and accommodated with seats in the East. They included R. Wor Bro. Field Marshall Sir Claud Jacob P.S.G.W.; R. Wor. Bro. Sir Harry Twyford S.G.D, Lord Mayor of London; R. Wor. Bro. Sydney A. White, Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of England; R. Wor. Bro. Major Sir Thomas G.L. Lumley Smith D.S.O., P.W.G., Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons; R. Wor. Bro. Captain P.E. Walton P.G.D.; and R. Wor. Bro. L. Mackay P.G. Std.B.
There were many other distinguished visitors.
In opening the Lodge the Most Worshipful Grand Master appointed R. W. Bro. Pimm Thompson and Holliday to Senior and Junior Wardens Chairs, Bros. R.S.M. W.D. Richards and Colour-Sergeant C.G.W. Taylor being the Senior and Junior Deacons, and Bro. ex-Sergeant F.J.A. Horan being the Inner Guard: W. Bro. ex Sergeant-Major T. Wade acting as assistant to W. Bro. T.E. Johnston D of C, W. Bro. Lieutentant I. J. Flux as Assistant Conductor, W. Bro. the Rev R.R. Verity O.C.F., Past Prov. Grand Chaplain Worcestershire Chaplain; W. Bro. Major G.H. Ransom Prov. G.D. of C East Aberdeen as Assistant Chaplain, Bro. B.M. Kail as Organist, Bro. C.Q.M.S. J.W. Gallon Treasurer, and W. Bro. C.Q.M.S. T. Stephens Secretary.
After declaring the Lodge Open the Most Worshipful the Grand Master called for and led greetings to the Deputy Grand Master of England, to Lord Saltoun, to Field Marshall Sir Claud Jacob and then to the rest of the Grand Lodge Officers present which were fraternally acknowledged. He ten vacated the chair in favour of the Worshipful Master, W. Bro Adams. C.Q.M.S. J.W. Gallon and C.S.M. T.J.W. Seabrook relieving R. Wor. Bros. Pimm-Thompson and J. Holliday in the Senior and Junior Wardens chairs respectively.
Bro. Seabrook, who had been unable to attend the annual installation meeting, was then formally invested and installed as Junior Warden, a unique honour as being probably the first Installation to take place in the Tower.
The candidate for initiation was Joseph White, the other candidate being unable to attend. The ceremony of initiation was then proceeded with, which was to so many of the visitors a new experience, being followed with great interest. The Most Worshipful Grand Master was pleased to take part in the ceremony by reading the Ancient Charge to the Initiate at the conclusion. Few of the Brethren present of other than the Irish Constitution had wittnessed an initiation according to the Irish ritual, which is never printed, and is accessible only to members of an Irish Lodge.
After the Charity Box had been circulated, I proposed that the Lodge ask the Most Worshipful Grand Master to accept a Lodge Centenary Jewel as a small mark of appreciation of the great honour he had conferred on the Lodge by his presence that day and taking part in the ceremonies, also as small momento of that historical occasion, the only meeting on record of a Freemasons’ Lodge ever meeting in that ancient fortress. I also proposed that General Sir Francis Davies be asked to accept a similar Jewel, as a mark of their gratitude to him for his presence, knowing how close to his heart everything pertaining to Worcestershire and its County Regiment has always been: and that Sir Claud Jacob be asked to accept a similar Jewel, for as they all know that it was chiefly by his kindness and interest that the meeting had been made possible. The proposition was carried unanimously, and the Worshipful Master, having received the consent of the distinguished Brethren, proceeded to pin the Jewels on their breasts. The gifts were suitably acknowledged, The Most Worshipful Grand Master graciously remarking that he would have the greatest pleasure in wearing the Jewel whenever he visited a Lodge in Ireland and in describing the happy circumstances in which he’d received it.
The Most Worshipful Grand Master was pleased to present Grand Lodge Certificates to Bro. Sargeant F. Heaps and Bro. Sargeant W. Browett.
Deputations from the other Irish Travelling Lodges working in Regiments of the British Army were present and hearty greetings were proffered on their behalf by W. Bro. S Hazeldine for Lodge St. Patrick, No. 295, attached to 4th / 7th Royal Dragoon Guards, Edinburgh; W. Bro. Flight Staff Sargeant F.A. Chambers for Lodge Charity No. 570, attached to the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, Colchester; W.Bro. D McCorquodale, P.M., for Lodge Waterloo No. 571, attached to 1st King’s Dragoon Guards, Aldershot, among this deputation being W. Bro. W.A. Dollimore P.M., Aldershot Camp Lodge., P. Prov. G Standard Bearer, Hants and Isle of Wight, who was my Director of Ceremonies when I constituted Lodge Waterloo in Cologne in 1923; and by W. Bro. W.G. Robinson for Leswarree Lodge, No. 646, attached to the 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars, Cairo.
In all my Masonic experience I have not attended a meeting of Masons where such intense interest was taken in the proceedings. Every word was listened to by the Brethren, and Brethren of long standing at that, with the deepest interest and attention, as if the ceremony was unusual. Visitors, and especially visitors from other Constitutions, saw gathered together not only a Grand Master in the chair of a private lodge, but also almost the highest representatives of two other ancient Grand Lodges, together with a galaxy of Masonic talent forgathered not at a Masonic Congress but at an emergency meeting of a military lodge. The distinguished company gave to the proceedings a dignity which marble halls and gilded appointments could hardly have increased. The Lodge was at labour in the simplest surroundings, and during that time one forgot the dance hall, the hard seats, the distempered walls, and the Spartan military furniture with which this improvised Lodge was equipped. The simplicity of the appointments merely served to enhance the spirit of fraternal brotherhood exhibited by these many distinguished Masons who had so kindly and graciously attended an invitation in a regimental lodge – an honour which will ever be remembered and treasured in the annals of Glittering Star Lodge.
The Lodge was closed in due and ancient form, and the Brethren then forgathered in the Tower Resturant for light refreshments and where many expressions of appreciation and satisfaction for the opportunity of being present at such a unique assembly were tendered to those responsible for its accomplishment.
The Grand Master’s Appreciation
The Most Worship Grand Master, in a letter of congratulations to the Worshipful Master of the Lodge, said : “I must thank you for all your kindness at the meeting of Glittering Star Lodge in the Tower last Friday, and to congratulate you on its unequalled success. Several of our distinguished English and Scottish visitors expressed to me their appreciation of and interest in the ceremony, which was admirably carried out from beginning to end. It obviously impressed the candidate as well as those who were witnessing an Irish initiation for the first time. Wishing you a happy year in office – Believe me, Yours fraternally, DONOUGHMORE”
Writing to V. W. Bro Sercombe, the Most Worshipful Grand Master said : “It was a great day for the Irish Constitution, and I believe our visitors enjoyed it well. It is splendid to find such work, and so keen a carrying on in the best Masonic traditions – DONOUGHMORE”
Photo credits http://www.worcestershireregiment.com/