In a biography dealing with the leadership of
Freemasonry, it is useful to look not only at the nature and purpose of that
institution, but also at its history. Clearly, historical reflection is
necessary in order to anchor and enhance the understanding of what a Grand
Master is, what he does and where he comes from. A discourse on Masonic history,
in the context of this book, must be brief, even though the subject itself is
vast, as testified by the huge number of books and publications which have been
dedicated to its study. That which follows here, therefore, can only be a
Spartan and unelaborated attempt on the subject.
Freemasonry originated from the guilds of operative
stonemasons (known as lodges) which flourished in Europe, and Britain in
particular, during the Middle Ages. Stonemasonry was then a most important
craft, the manifestation of which can still be seen today in the many
cathedrals, churches, castles and manors which survive from those times.
However, operative lodges were somewhat different from
the guilds associated with other medieval trades. Stonemasons were itinerant
workers who were forced to travel to renew their employment as each building
project was completed. The fluid nature of the operative craft, therefore, posed
many problems in the determination and recognition of qualifications and skills.
In the largely illiterate society that then prevailed, lodges acted as trade
regulatory bodies, not only in the area of professional skills and the
recognition of practical qualifications, but also in the moral and religious
standards of their members. In response to these needs the operative
craft,through its lodges, evolved a system of instruction that combined
practical knowledge and morality. The medieval lodge system also, of necessity,
involved a degree of privacy and secrecy, so that the supposed skills of a
newly- arriving stranger could be readily checked. 1
The march of technology in building saw the decline of
stone construction in the late Middle Ages, and with it the steady demise of the
stonemason's craft and the operative lodges. As a reaction to this decline, the
passage of time saw increasing numbers of men who were not stonemasons being
received into lodges. By the eighteenth century lodges had largely ceased to be
composed of stonemasons. These non-operative members became known as
'speculative' or 'symbolic' Masons.'
The decline of operative Masonry and the rise of the
'speculative' kind also heralded the end of the itinerant nature of some lodges.
All lodges could now find permanent homes in urban locations. The premier Grand
Lodge of England was formed on 24 June 1717 by four London lodges. No records
remain of the event. Our knowledge of this foundation meeting comes largely from
Anderson's 1738 edition of the 'Constitutions' of the Grand Lodge. According to
Anderson, representatives of the four lodges met in 1716 and determined upon a
meeting in the following year to revive the Annual Assembly and Feast, at which
they would 'chuse a Grand Master from among themselves till they should have the
Honour of a Noble Brother at their Head'.2
The first meeting was duly held and one Anthony Sayer,
Gentleman, was elected as the initial Grand Master. He thereupon 'commanded the
Master and Wardens of Lodges to meet the Grand Officers every Quarter in
Communication'. Nonetheless, for the first four years of its existence the Grand
Lodge only met annually, with its only business being the election of its Grand
Master and Grand Wardens.3
would seem little doubt, therefore, that the formation of the Grand Lodge was not prompted by a perceived need of central
organisation, but simply to enable the London lodges to meet together socially
-- bearing in mind that members were now largely of the 'speculative' kind. The
only other discernible reason was a desire to elect a 'noble brother' as their
leader with, one suspects, the view of raising the social status of their
organisation. Success first occurred in 1721, with the election of John, 2nd
Duke of Montagu, as Grand Master. Since then the Grand Lodge of England has
continuously had either a Peer of the Realm or Prince of Royal Blood as Grand
It was not until the 1720s that the Grand Lodge
commenced its emergence as a regulatory body. In 1723 the first secretary to
Grand Lodge was appointed, and regular minutes kept. Grand Lodge started to meet
more frequently, and its Constitutions were published. The membership of nobles
attracted press publicity, and the number of lodges rapidly expanded - not only
in England, but overseas as well. An independent Grand Lodge was formed in
Ireland in 1725, followed by a new counterpart in Scotland in 1736.
The early years of organised English Masonry, however,
proved far from harmonious, and the eighteenth century saw six rival Grand
Lodges emerging at various times to claim jurisdiction over England or part of
it. Only two of these persisted with any substantial following. These were the
Premier Grand Lodge of England (often referred to as the 'Moderns Grand Lodge',
or 'Moderns'), and the Grand Lodge of England According to the Old Constitutions
(known as the 'Atholl Grand Lodge', or 'Antients'). The Moderns according to
their opponents, introduced unacceptable changes into the rituals and practices
The Antients Grand Lodge, apparently spawned by their
opposition to these 'innovations', had emerged by 1751. It was originally
established by Irish Masons then living in England who were 'unhappy' with the
Premier Grand Lodge. Both these Grand Lodges developed and expanded their lodges
and membership over succeeding years. This occurred quite independently of
each other. Both Grand Lodges were rivals, often bitter rivals, and each
considered the other to be irregular. Generally, the Moderns tended to attract
more 'upper class' members, while the Antients had a broader membership base.
The two Grand Lodges developed quite a number of divergent practices.However,
except at official level, ordinary Masons were not particularly interested in
this rivalry, and most members on both sides either ignored these divergences or
paid little heed to them.
As Freemasonry spread rapidly around the world, the
passage of time saw the old discords largely disappear. Newer members on both
sides had no understanding of the issues involved, and even less interest in
them. The pressure for union increased, and the chance of such an occurrence was
greatly enhanced on the election of HRH the Duke of Sussex as Grand Master of
the Moderns, and his brother HRH the Duke of Kent as Grand Master of the
Antients. Joint committees of the two Grand Lodges met and overcame remaining
problems, and the union was happily effected on 13 May 1813. The title United
Grand Lodge of England was adopted, and the Duke of Sussex became its first
Grand Master 5
The United Grand Lodge of England subsequently
developed into the largest Masonic body in the world, having lodges chartered on
every continent. English Freemasonry has directly or indirectly been the source
of all Grand Lodges elsewhere on the globe. The Grand Lodges of Ireland and
Scotland, respectively the second and third Grand Lodges formed, have also
chartered lodges all over the world. As Masonry grew in strength in various
localities, other Grand Lodges were formed.
Most Western European countries possess a Grand Lodge,
as do virtually all the provinces of Canada, and the States of America.
Similarly, most South and Central American countries have at least one Grand
Lodge each. Diverse countries such as Israel, South Africa, India, Japan and the
Philippines are likewise blessed. In Australia, each of the six states has long
possessed a Grand Lodge, with the first being formed in South Australia in 1884.
It needs to be appreciated that Freemasonry is not one
worldwide confederation. There are more than a hundred independent Masonic Grand
Lodges in the world, most of which maintain 'fraternal relations' with each
other - diplomatic relations,to put it in non-Masonic terms. Originally,
relations between Grand Lodges were handled by what are known as'Grand
Representatives'. These were senior Grand Lodge officers who acted as something
akin to ambassadors. This system has long fallen into practical disuse, with
business between Grand lodges being handled by their respective Grand
Secretaries. Nonetheless, most Grand Lodges still appoint Grand Representatives,
who act on an honorary basis.6
There are also quite a number of differences in the
constitutional, operational and ritualistic practices between Grand Lodges. They
are only limited by a set of basic notions known as 'The Ancient Landmarks of
the Order'. Even so, there is far from universal agreement as to what these are,
or their number. Noted Masonic author Harry Carr defines a landmark as a
principle or tenet that has 'always existed' in Masonic practice, and as an
element in the form of the Society of such importance that, if removed,
Freemasonry would no longer be Freemasonry. These are:
1 That a Mason possesses a belief in God, the Supreme
Being, the Great Architect of the Universe.
2 That the Volume of the Sacred Law is an essential and
indispensible part of the lodge, tobe open in full view when the brethren are at
3 That a Mason must be male, free-born and of mature
4 That a Mason, by his tenure, owes allegiance to the
Sovereign and to the Craft.
5 That a Mason believes in the immortality of the soul.
These items, he states, largely date back to the Old
Charges, which were the written laws of the Operative Masons. The oldest of
these documents dates from about 1390.7
There are other authors, such as the American authority
Dr Albert Mackey, who prescribed a larger range of Landmarks. What is, or is
not, a 'Landmark of the Order' is to some extent academic. Clearly, there are
quite a number of customs which are observable norms across the gamut of world
Freemasonry. These include the division of symbolic craft Masonry into three
degrees, the modes of recognition observed amongst members, the legend
associated with the Third Degree Ceremony, the necessity of Masons to congregate
in lodges, the government of a craft lodge by its Master and Wardens, the
government of the fraternity by a Grand Master, and a number of others.8
Freemasonry arrived on Australian shores soon after the
original settlement of Sydney as a penal colony. There is evidence of a Masonic
meeting in Sydney in May 1803, but it was not viewed kindly by the Governor who
ordered the temporary arrest of its participants. The first lodge to meet in
Australia was the Lodge of Social and Military Virtues No. 227 IC. This military
lodge was stationed in Sydney in 1813, and was responsible for sponsoring the
first stationary lodge in Australia -The Australian Social Lodge No. 260 IC, in
1820. This lodge is now Antiquity Lodge No. 1 NSWC. Masonry grew rapidly in the
colony of New South Wales, enabling an English Provincial (later District) Grand
Lodge to be formed in 1839. Provincial Grand Lodges followed to govern the Irish
and Scottish lodges. When New South Wales received self-government in 1855, a
groundswell of Masonic sentiment arose for a local sovereign Grand Lodge. There
were early differences of opinion in this regard, and these led to the separate
erection of a Grand Lodge of New South Wales in 1877. It was initially composed
of thirteen lodges, most of which were previously chartered from Ireland.
However, it failed to achieve recognition from the three 'home' Grand Lodges in
Britain. It was not until 1888 that complete harmony was gained. In that year
virtually all lodges in New South Wales amicably joined to form the United Grand
Lodge of New South Wales with the then Governor, Lord Carrington, as its First
While New South Wales can boast the first lodge
chartered in Australia, its early Masonic disharmony robbed it of the premier
Australian Grand Lodge. That title went to South Australia, where Freemasonry
had a unique beginning. Its first lodge was, in fact, formed in London in 1834
-- two years before the colony was actually founded! This was the South
Australian Lodge of Friendship No. 613 EC, which is today Lodge of Friendship
No. 1 SAC. It met in Adelaide for the first time in 1838.
A number of other lodges quickly sprang up, variously
holding English, Irish, or Scottish charters. In April 1884 the South Australian
Lodges, with only one exception, managed to agree on unity and erected the Grand
Lodge of South Australia. The exception was the Duke of Leinster Lodge No. 363
IC, which still works happily in Adelaide.9
The history of Masonry in Victoria holds a number of
parallels with that of New South Wales. The first lodge chartered in Victoria
was the Lodge of Australia Felix No. 697 EC, in 1834. This lodge remains the
premier lodge in Victoria, as No. 1 VC. Scottish and Irish lodges followed, in
the same pattern as the other Australian colonies. Victoria was greatly
populated by the gold rushes of the 1850s, and a large number of lodges resulted
from this period. As with New South Wales, early Masonic harmony proved elusive.
After two early unsuccessful attempts by a number of Masons, a Grand Lodge of
Victoria was separately formed in 1883. This new body had some success,
commencing with six lodges and finishing with nineteen. It was nonetheless a
minority organisation. A further five years of disharmony ensued before unity
was found on the erection of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria in 1889. One
English craft lodge, Combermere No. 752 EC (dating from 1858), still works in
Melbourne, the last reminder of the turbulent Masonic days in Victoria of just
on a century ago.10
The island colony of Tasmania was the next area to
attain a Grand Lodge. Tasmania was blessed with tranquil Masonic development,
its premier lodge being Tasmanian Operative Lodge No. 345 IC, erected in Hobart
in 1834, and now No. 1 TC. It was preceded by several lodges, the earliest of
which was operating in 1825, and was Lodge No. 286 IC, attached to the 40th
Regiment. A civilian lodge, the Tasmanian Lodge No. 313 IC, was erected in 1827
before the 40th Regiment left the colony, and a second - the Lodge of the
Brotherly Union No. 313 IC - was founded in 1832. No. 313 granted a dispensation
to form No. 345 IC, and No. 346 IC (now No. 2 TC) which was founded in the
north. After twelve years operating under the Grand Lodge of Ireland this latter
lodge, in an attempt to overcome the long delays in communication it was
suffering with Dublin, gained a dispensation from the English Provincial Grand
Master in Sydney to change its allegiance. It thereafter became Tasmanian Union
Lodge No. 781 EC (how No. 3 TC) in 1844. Lodge No. 313 IC, and Lodge No. 326 IC
both ceased working about this time.
Other English and Scottish lodges followed, with
attendant Provincial Grand Lodges. On 26 June 1890 all twenty-two lodges then
working in Tasmania met and unanimously created the Grand Lodge of Tasmania.
Indeed, Tasmania was the only Australian Grand Lodge to be founded with every
then available lodge exchanging its charter.11
Freemasonry in Western Australia formally commenced on
the chartering of the Lodge of St John No. 485 EC (now No. 1 WAC), in 1843.
However, it was to be ten years before a second lodge - Freemantle No. 1033 EC -
was formed in 1853. A Scottish lodge was chartered in 1896, and within four
years thirty lodges were operating in Western Australia under Scottish
allegiance. This phenomenal expansion gave Scottish Masonry the ascendancy in
Western Australia. Only two Irish lodges were formed in the colony. Attempts
were made in 1894 and 1899 to form a Grand Lodge, but consensus proved elusive.
In the eastern Australian colonies where disharmony took hold, it was often the
English lodges which provided the main difficulties, but in Western Australia it
was the ascendant Scottish lodges. Its Grand Lodge was formed in 1900, but
nearly half of the Scottish lodges then working, together with a few English
lodges, stood aloof. Two Scottish District Grand Lodges, controlling fifteen
lodges between them, still work in Western Australia today -- but long since in
complete harmony with lodges of the Western Australian Constitution.12
Queensland was the last Australian state to obtain an
enduring Grand Lodge, largely because disharmony lasted longer in Queensland
than elsewhere. Its first lodge was North Australian No.796 EC (now No. 1 QC),
chartered at Brisbane in 1859. Further English, Irish and Scottish lodges
followed. Early efforts to form a sovereign Grand Lodge were made in 1887 and
1897, but without success. However, in 1904 a convention of delegates brought
together twenty-five Irish lodges and fourteen Scottish lodges to establish the
Grand Lodge of Queensland (GLQ). Only one-third of Scottish lodges then
operating in Queensland joined the new body, while only one Irish lodge declined
to join. However, no English lodge could be persuaded to exchange its charter.
As a result of this event, Queensland Masonry remained
divided for several years, and it was not until 1918 that positive steps were
finally made to unite all lodges in the state. In 1920, as a prelude to unity,
sixty-three of the English lodges then working in Queensland, together with the
remaining Scottish lodges, formed the Queensland Grand Lodge (QGL). In 1921 the
two Grand Lodges merged into the United Grand Lodge of Queensland - finally
bringing about Masonic unity. A few English lodges did stand out of the union
nonetheless, of which two still work in Queensland today.
Of particular interest in Queensland is its
decentralised Masonic Government. Alone among the Australian states, Queensland
has a widely dispersed population. As a result the state is divided into three
parts for Masonic purposes. All lodges between the cities of Townsville and
Cairns come under the District Grand Lodge of North Queensland. Lodges from
Cairns to the far north come under the District Grand Lodge of Carpentaria,
while lodges south of Townsville are under the direct control of the Grand
The Queensland system of District Grand Lodges is based
on the decentralised Masonic Government long since employed by the English,
Irish and Scottish Grand Lodges. Under England and Scotland, lodges inside their
geographical jurisdictions are placed in 'provinces', while lodges overseas are
placed in 'districts'. For Ireland, the term 'province' is used whether the
administrative unit is inside or outside Ireland. A Provincial, or District,
Grand Lodge has reasonably wide administrative powers within its own area,
together with some judicial powers. However, questions of policy invariably
remain within the ambit of the Grand Lodge itself.14
1 Pick, F.L. & Knight, G.N., The Freemasons'
Pocket Reference Book, 3rd Edition (Frederick Muller, London, 1983), p.37;
pp.224 et seq.
2 Hamill, John, The Craft (Aquarian Press,
England, 1985), p.41.
Op. cit., p.42.
4 Henderson, K.W., Masonic World Guide (A.
Lewis, London, 1985), p.129.
6 Op. cit., p.26
7 Carr, Harry, The Freemasons at Work (A. Lewis,
London, 1976), p.263.
8 Coil, H.W., Coil's Masonic Encyclopaedia (Macoy,
USA, 1961), p.335 et seq.
9 Henderson, K.W., op. cit., p.319.
10 Op. cit., p.342.
Op. cit., p.338.