Masonry Down Under

We often talk of masonry being ‘universal’ and recently I had the opportunity to witness this fact at first hand. At the beginning of February 2010 I returned home from a three month or so long trip to Australia. Given that I was staying for such a long period of time I took the opportunity of visiting a number of Lodges whilst down under. I armed myself with my regalia, a dark suit, clearance letter from our Lodge Secretary and my Grand Lodge and Chapter certificate. When I arrived in Figtree about one and a half hours south of Sydney I quickly located an address for the Masonic Hall. Sadly when I went to visit the hall I found a building site and no sign of a hall, I learned later that the hall was being rebuilt at a cost of $6 million.! I then visited the internet and found the contact details for Balgownie Lodge that meet in December. A phone call to the secretary Roy Haggis quickly led to an invite for myself and my wife to their Christmas meeting. Balgownie Lodge being in ‘the country’ was much more free and easy than I had been led to expect but the welcome they gave me was brilliant and an interesting if some what different evening was enjoyed by Janet and I.

Later in December I was back in Sydney and chanced upon the Kensington Masonic Hall. Once again a phone call to the secretary of John Smith Lodge led once more to an invite to their Christmas meeting. However before I could attend I needed to visit the hall and take my certificates and clearance letter so that the Secretary Maurie Mountain could vouch for me. I enjoyed a superb evening in the company of masons some of whom were from Scotland (£10 Poms) but the majority from Australia. I was made very welcome and questioned greatly about the craft in England, it seems they to are having recruitment problems but are tackling them in some quite novel ways. In Australia you can become a mason at the age of eighteen and such young men are referred to as a ‘Lewis’. In Sydney all prospective masons are placed into a pool and appointed a mentor. The mentor visits them over a number of months and informs them just what masonry is about. The candidates are then given the choice of a number of lodges near to where they live to join. Once they decide upon a lodge then that lodge’s mentor takes over. The candidate is even encouraged to attend a festive board prior to his initiation so that he can meet socially lodge members and they can meet him.

It is a system that seems to be working and numbers are slowly rising once more. During my stay I met and made many new Masonic friends who were delighted to invite me to their lodge and their home. I would say to any mason who is going abroad for any length of time to consider visiting a lodge in the country they are staying in. The friendship and hospitality is just the same there as it is here and it really is true that this great organisation of ours truly is ‘universal.’ Ok the ritual may well be somewhat different but you can follow the ceremonies just as well as you can here, the wording may be different but the basic ritual is the same where ever you are in the world. I return to Sydney in October 2010 this time for a six month stay and already have half a dozen invites to visit lodges around the Sydney area some thing I am really looking forward to. Yes masonry and the friendship involved in it truly is Universal do try it.

Tom Mather
March 2010