Review of Freemasonry

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by Wor. Bro. Keith Stockley
PM – Lodge Star of the Rand No. 15 Grand Lodge of South Africa
District 15 Masonic Education Officer – NSW – Australia.
Secretary of Lodge Wahroonga No. 674
Grand Lodge of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

“ I violate no secret when I say that one of the greatest values in Masonry is that it affords an opportunity for men of all walks of life to meet on common ground where all men are equal and have one common interest”  


Masonic Bro. Theodore Roosevelt

USA President



“What we have done for ourselves alone, dies with us;

What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal”.  

Bro. General Albert Pike



At the beginning of the year 2000, an Israeli Masonic brother and myself set out to examine the feasibility of a tour of the battlefields in the Holy Land. In the end we wrote a book. ( Being published later this year).  

This paper has been prepared as a result of the enormous significance of one of the events that occurred on our journey into the past.  

The events referred to are those which involved Freemasons fighting in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) whilst in The Holy Land during the first world war.  

…. And this paper is about only one of the events in which they were involved, an event which made Masonic history.


A mystery man of Freemasonry


On the 28th July 1865, at Kamo in New Zealand, was born a man destined to make Masonic history. What he achieved was never done before and will never be done again. Yet very few Freemasons have even heard of him.


This remarkable individual was not only a hero, one of the most highly decorated soldiers in New Zealand, but he was also famous nationally for his sporting prowess, representing his province at both cricket and rugby, as well as being the New Zealand chess champion.


Hugely community minded, he was the Mayor of Greymouth for 3 years, a prominent attorney, Magistrate of Greymouth for 11 years, Chairman of the Hunterville Town Board for 4 years, he even offered his services to the army at the age of 74 and was accepted! He died at the age of 99.


Yet, as far as Freemasonry is concerned, he was the Worshipful Master of a lodge that no longer exists and for one year was the Grand Sword Bearer.  This is the sum total of the Masonic knowledge which two years of extensive and thorough research has been able to provide


Truly a  mystery man of Freemasonry.


Thank goodness we have been able to unearth his considerable Masonic achievements whilst in Palestine during The Great War and even so, the written records of the NZEF (In Palestine & Egypt) Masonic Association do indeed provide more questions than answers.


He was Wor. Bro. Brigadier General William Meldrum CB  DSO CMG KMG 1914-15 Star, Order of the White Eagle with Swords (4th Class) Serbia, VD,  British war medal, Victory Medal, NZ War Service medal, NZ Territorial Service Medal and others.



Birth in the Desert


Camp had been made at Tel El Fara on the 28 April 1917 and a welcome break in hostilities had developed. On 6 May, Brigadier General Meldrum ( A Past Master of Lodge Rangatira No. 71 and a former Grand Lodge Sword Bearer of the GL of New Zealand) chaired an informal meeting of 8 Freemasons ( including himself) held at Brigade Head Quarters .


According to the Minutes of that Meeting, the following were present:


Bro. Brig. General W Meldrum

Bro. Lt Col. J N McCarroll—  Auckland Mounted Rifles

W.Bro. Major D Munro: ——- Auckland Mounted Rifles

Bro. Major Rev. A H Wilkie -  Wellington Mounted Rifles

Bro. Sgnt. S B Gibbons ——- Wellington Mounted Rifles

W.Bro. C B Esther ( A former Grand Sword Bearer) from Brigade Head Quarters

W.Bro. H S Ingram ———   Canterbury Mounted Rifles

Bro. Farrier Sgnt . L A Pipper—Canterbury Mounted Rifles.


Those present resolved to form themselves into a provisional committee for the purpose of formulating proposals for the establishment of a Masonic association ( Not a Military Lodge) from the Freemasons in the NZEF fighting in the Holy Land.



27 May 1917


The infernal dust-like sand was everywhere and the warm desert breeze flapped at jackets and trousers. The meeting of 36 Freemasons, representing 34 lodges., was held in the open air on a hill slope near to Gaza. They had gathered in response to a word-of-mouth notice that had been circulating among the men.


It was 2 p.m. so it was necessary to appoint guards to prevent enemy interruptions.  Here the use of a Tyler was put into serious practice ,with the place of symbolism being taken by reality and the traditional sword being replaced with the rifle.


Those present unanimously agreed to form an association known as the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (In Palestine & Egypt) Masonic Association and adopted without dissention the proposed Constitution.


For the record, the Executive Committee elected was as follows:


W.Bro. W Meldrum ( President)

Bro. J N McCarroll

W.Bro. D Munro

W.Bro. H S Ingram

Bro. L S Pipper

Bro. A H Wilkie

Bro. W Turner

Bro. B Anderson

Bro. Hemphill


(N.B.) Bro Pipper and Bro Hemphill disappear from sight after this meeting and feature in no other meeting or activity thereafter. Determined research has failed to disclose any further information on these two brethren. They were not killed in action nor can we find any reference to a transfer. They simply disappear!


The Master Mind behind this initiative was undoubtedly Brig. General Meldrum ably assisted by Lt Col J N McCarroll. Right from the very start, when these two brothers planned the association, it is clear that they had a personal motivation.


This motivation was simultaneously Masonic as well as personal and throughout the written records, both formal and informal, unfolds the clear determination that they intended to achieve something unique, something never before done in the entire history of Freemasonry whether such history was 700 or 7000 years old and that the Association was the vehicle created to achieve this goal.


They wanted to make Masonic history and this they did!



The journey begins


The journey to Moriah had begun and was completed 12 months later at King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.


The road that was traveled before the journey was complete is strewn with unsolved puzzles somehow very reminiscent of Freemasonry itself.


The goal was to assemble in King Solomon’s Temple and this was a goal promised to every member of the Association. There are many statements in the records that reveal this promise to the brethren.


The thought of achieving the unachievable and becoming a part of Masonic history must have been an enormous motivation to these men and a brief look at the heroism these Freemasons showed in the months to come and the lists of military decorations awarded for bravery and valour is an indication, I believe, of the extent of this motivation.


To hold a Masonic meeting under serious war conditions was difficult to say the least especially as the terrein was totally unfamiliar, there were basically no facilities and the conditions in the desert were both unfriendly and savage.


To convene a meeting in due form required the group to acquire aprons and  gavels. The most likely source for such items was Jerusalem which was in enemy hands.  Apart from the fact that the intention was to hold the meeting in King Solomon’s Temple itself posed additional problems in that according to history the temple had been destroyed in AD70, the Muslim Mosque –the Dome of the Rock—which had been built on the site was not only in Turkish hands but strictly forbidden firstly by the military and secondly by the Muslims who had forbidden entry to Christians and non-Muslims.


Transport itself was at a very high premium and assuming that all the other insurmountable problems disappeared like magic, how would it be possible to get to Jerusalem?


Despite the above difficulties, all of which seemed to need a miracle to be removed, the glittering goal conceived by Brother Meldrum and Bro McCarroll dominated the thoughts and minds of all the Freemasons who had joined the Association.


The GAOTU certainly works in mysterious ways. Despite the rigours and dangers of war in the desert, the association lost only two members killed in action and as the hostilities continued, General Allembie eventually reached Jerusalem, walking in to the Holy City on the 11 December 1917, signaling the end of four centuries of Turkish rule. (It is perhaps an interesting coincidence to note that the  9 December when the Turkish troops were leaving the city, was the Jewish Festival of Hanukah, commemorating the deliverance of the city by Judas Maccabeus).


Thus one of the major difficulties facing the NZEF (In Palestine and Egypt) Masonic Association was removed.  Jerusalem was no longer in enemy hands.


The members of the association were of course scattered all over Palestine, but towards the end of this journey to Moriah, on the 4th April 1918, one mile from Jericho at 3 p.m. a quick meeting was held at which a plan was devised to achieve the objective they had set for themselves 12 months before.


No doubt using the influence of Brig. General Meldrum and his close friendship with General Shea, the High Command lent the group seven motors cars.  This influence must have been extraordinary as motor cars were absolutely impossible to get hold of, transport being of crucial importance to the war effort at this point in time.


Who was approached and what was said is not known, but the outcome was the making available to a group of Freemasons, of the seven available cars. This was indeed a miracle.


They used white handkerchiefs for aprons. There are indications that a few had actually taken their aprons with them to war and those who had done so certainly used them.



The Gavels


The gavels to be used at the meeting have proven to be something of an enigma.  The Minutes of the meetings, supported by subsequent reports written many years later, show that “a set of three gavels was ordered”.  In keeping with the symbolism in which Freemasonry is steeped, the gavels ordered were to be made from three different woods, each having a symbolic significance , namely acacia, olive and cedar wood from the forests of Lebanon.


The research undertaken has revealed that various members of the group sent these gavels back to their Mother Lodges as important symbols of the only meeting ever held in King Solomon’s Temple by Freemasons.  The gavels presented in this way were sent to New Zealand lodges and to a Lodge in Scotland ( Lodge Cadder Argyle No. 147) and I was able to secure photographs of them as these gavels still exist today and are kept in Lodge museums/archives.


The gavels have been carved into a traditional legal shape which creates the first puzzle. If the gavels were ordered on the Thursday and had to be specially carved into a specific shape out of special woods, is it likely that they would have been available 1 ½ days later on the Saturday? Try and get this done in your home town and see what length of time you are looking at, but here in a war-torn city, freed from Turkish rule just a few months before and the business sector still in turmoil and chaos, surely another miracle was needed?


However, the research further reveals that the souvenir gavels presented to lodges outnumber the number actually used.  I have located four sets of gavels still in existence, yet according to the available Minutes and other written records, only one set was ordered.


One is somehow reminded of Christ’s miracle of feeding the multitude from a handful of fishes and loaves. One set of unusual gavels that couldn’t be made in time, suddenly becomes four sets?


This is just another one of the many mysteries we stumbled across on our journey into the past.


A further puzzle was the set of gavels sent to Lodge Cadder Argyle in Glasgow which lodge still has two of these gavels in its possession. The puzzle arises from the fact that a set of three gavels was sent to the lodge by a brother who played no important part in the Association in Palestine. He did not serve either on the Executive Committee or as an officer at the meeting held on 6 April 1918. How was it possible for him to acquire such a rare and important artifact?


The competition for possession must have been quite fierce to start with and then the brethren who actually paid for the gavels would presumably have first choice? No doubt the officers for that meeting would also be given some form of preference.


The Minutes  of Lodge Cadder Argyle’s  meeting on Saturday 18 May 1918 in Glasgow read:


“ The Secretary in a few words, on behalf of Bro.Cpl. Archibald McDougall who is serving with the New Zealand Forces in Palestine. The Secretary hands over to the RWM Three beautiful mallets sent by Bro. Corpl. McDougall from Jerusalem (Holy City).  The Secretary was instructed to write and thank Bro. McDougall for his handsome gift.”


To add further mystery to the situation, Bro. McDougall, according to the Lodge Sederunt Book, last attended a lodge meeting on 10 march 1906 — 12 years before! Yet here he was, after an apparent 12 year gap in Masonic interest, making such a magnanimous gesture! In addition there is no record of him ever attending another meeting of  his Mother lodge  even after his “handsome gift”. In fact further knowledge of this brother’s activities at the conclusion of hostilities is not recorded anywhere.



King Solomon’s Temple


As the Temple is closely associated with our story my Israeli Brother and I invested significant time and effort in analyzing its construction and collecting various artists’ impressions so this section of our book may prove to be very interesting to the brethren as it is the result of an intensive study of the various temples that have occupied this site over the centuries.  


King Solomon’s Temple stood at the northern part of Mount Moriah facing east. It towered over its surroundings—a monument to the constructive genius of man and a witness to the omnipotence and omnipresence of God.


However, the reality of the situation was that it had been destroyed in AD 70.


Zerrubbabel thereafter built his temple on the site which was also basically destroyed and subsequently rebuilt by Herod which in turn met the same fate.


Over the Byzantine period, it may seem horrendous but it is a fact of history that the site became a dumping ground for waste. This waste was cleared by the Caliph Omar who then built upon it a small mosque. Even today the site is more commonly known as the Mosque of Omar, when in fact the official title is The Dome of The Rock. (The Mosque of Omar is an erroneous title)


The Dome of the Rock, which is the oldest Muslim building which has survived basically intact in its original form and which after Mecca is the most important Muslim site in the world, was built by the Caliph Abd al-Malik and completed in 691 AD



The Meeting


Despite the decision having been made at Thursday’s meeting to make the trip to Jerusalem, permission to do so was only given on the following evening.


Although the number of brethren who made this historic journey varies , depending on which report one reads, I have in my possession a photograph taken outside the Dome of the Rock ( With this building in the background) of 31 soldiers  , so I believe it is safe to conclude that 31 brethren mustered in Jericho on that Saturday morning to make the 20 mile trip to Jerusalem.


Apart from the Brigade Ford, six ( in some reports seven) other cars were put at their disposal by General Chaytor and General Shea.


The group arrived at mid-day and had lunch at the new Grand Hotel before making their way on foot through the narrow streets of the old city to the “Mosque of Omar”.


Nowhere in any of the reports, papers or correspondence related to this event is it mentioned who was sent to acquire the handkerchiefs or gavels. These could not be procured before the Saturday morning as permission to actually make the trip had been received only late on the previous evening.  One wonders what influence was used enabling purchase orders for these items to be given to the supplier and again the enigma of how it was at all possible comes to mind once again.


It cannot surely be conceived that in this ancient city, still suffering severely from the Turkish rule and the exigencies of war with business in total disarray, one could simply walk into the nearest hardware shop and buy the specialized gavels off the shelf?


There certainly appears more to this mystery than is evident from the records and although these records do not even mention the subject it is of course possible that the gavels were ordered from a local artisan some weeks before in anticipation of a miracle.


However, sometime between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday 6 April 1918, the 31 Freemasons, all members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (In Palestine and Egypt) Masonic Association, assembled outside the Mosque.


The building encloses a huge rock located at its centre from which, according to tradition, the Prophet Muhammed ascended to heaven at the end of his Night Journey.


In the Jewish tradition, this is the Foundation Stone, the symbolic foundation upon which the world was created and the place of the Binding of Isaac.


Abd al-Malik marked the end of the construction with a dedicated inscription which is still visible, which reads “ This dome was built by the servant of God Abd al-Malik Ibn Marwan, emir of the faithful, in the year seventy-two” - (Hejira 72 in the Muslim calendar is 691/692 AD).


The Dome of the Rock is not built on the exact spot where King Solomon’s Temple stood but it does dominate the overall site. We must bear in  mind that when Solomon built his temple to God on the same site he also built many other buildings, palaces, accommodation for guests and servants and so forth. The Mount Moriah site had to be leveled and built up in order to house all the buildings and the whole site was shored up with enormous supporting walls ( The well-known King Solomon’s quarries which were the legendary source of the stone used in the construction of the Temple and which even today are used periodically as the venue for Masonic meetings—usually of the Mark Degree—are to be located in the supporting walls about 400 metres from the Temple site). This huge site is still covered with buildings, the most prominent being of course the Dome of the Rock.


This awesome site was the destination of the group of Freemasons on that history-making day nearly 90 years ago.


What was left of King Solomon’s Temple that would enable a meeting to be housed therein?... And assuming such a mythical place did in fact exist, how would it be possible to gain access to it in view of the fact that the military had issued express orders that the site was out of bounds and the Muslim authorities strictly imposed the rule that non-Muslims were forbidden from coming on to the site?


For such a meeting to happen required the intervention of TGAOTU and amazingly enough, such a miracle was about to happen.


As they stood in front of that great citadel, how did Brig. General Meldrum hope to gain entry?  It is assumed that as one of the most senior officers in the forces he had obtained permission to make the attempt contrary to the general Order forbidding visits to the site by members of the military, but having reached his objective, what miracle was he expecting? What miracle would happen to enable them to gain entry into this holy place?


Yet, a miracle did in fact happen!


There are many important aspects of the situation which are not mentioned anywhere in the written records, but the one fact that emerges is that somehow they were given an audience with the Imam in charge of the Dome itself.


According to one of the reports this sheik’s “business card” read “ Grand Sheik of the Mosque of Omar”, which is a somewhat perplexing statement as this holy place was known to the Muslims as The Dome of the Rock and not as the Mosque of Omar. In addition any business card or similar document would probably have been printed in Arabic, so the report in our files probably refers to what the writer interpreted the wording to mean.


In any event, discussions were held with this sheik during which “he proved himself to be on the square”. There is no doubt that the sheik in charge of the Dome was in fact a Freemason himself!


The photograph in my possession taken of the brethren who participated in the historic meeting, includes the sheik also– he was the 32nd brother present at the meeting.


In fact, the sheik also acted as one of the two outer guards/Tylers for the meeting. This of course makes sense as such a large meeting of non-Muslims held on forbidden ground must have attracted a great deal of undesirable attention.


General Meldrum mentions that “baksheesh” changed hands. Although perhaps unMasonic to accept bribes, perhaps this “baksheesh” was not so much for the sheik himself, but necessary to  keep the “curious” onlookers at bay hence the obvious appointment  of  the sheik as the Tyler.

What, I wonder, were the odds of finding a Freemason, and a Muslim at that, in charge of the most holy of Muslim  buildings in Palestine and the very individual who could permit entrance to the holy site?


Even so, he could I believe have only done so at some risk to himself.


Where to meet?


The huge rock previously referred to was , according to all traditional accounts, also part of King Solomon’s Temple, being in the courtyard before the porch. Underneath this great stone is a cavern which most accounts indicate formed part of the cellars beneath the temple and if any spot on the entire site could be considered as part of the temple, this was definitely the place.


With the help of the sheik, the brethren entered this cavern. The darkness was lit by candles, also purchased that morning, and a Lodge meeting was held.


It is important to realise that the Association was not a lodge and consequently the meeting that was held, although conducted exactly as a Regular lodge meeting, exactly according to proper ceremony and ritual, was a meeting of what could perhaps be described as a St John’s Lodge ( A lodge without a charter).


The officers taking part in the meeting were as follows:


Wor. Master— Wor. Bro. W Meldrum ( P.M. Lodge Rangatira No. 71)

S.W — Bro. J N McCarroll (Lodge Star of the North No. 1647     E.C.)

J.W.—Wor. Bro. G R Lovelock (P.M. Lodge Otangaki No. 70)

S.D.—Bro. B Anderson ( Lodge Havelock No. 104)

J.D.—Bro. J Thomson ( Lodge Karioi No. 165)

I.G.—Bro. G R Mansford ( Lodge Wairau No. 42)

Tyler—Bro. C Tate ( Lodge Sir Donald Mclean No. 1646 E.C.)

         - The Sheik of the Mosque of Omar

Chaplain– Bro. Rev. J D Wilson  (Lodge Oamaru Kilwinning No. 82)


It is emphasized that this meeting took place in the cavern below the sacrificial rock which formed part of  King Solomon’s Temple.


There have been meetings before and meetings to be held in the future in the chambers known as King Solomon’s quarries but these are situated in the supporting wall of the site and did not form part of the temple complex itself.


Thus these brethren can rightfully claim to have been the only Freemasons ever to have actually attended a Masonic meeting held in King  Solomon’s Temple.


The “lodge” was opened in the first degree at 3-15 p.m.. 27 craft lodges were represented.


Brig. Meldrum in his capacity as Worshipful Master remarked upon the uniqueness of the occasion and “ to the new page added to Masonic history”, stating that the members of the Association were honoured to be able to meet in harmony and peace on that spot “adorned and hallowed by the three Ancient Grand Masters”.


The meeting lasted 15 minutes only as apparently the Sheik had indicated that longer might create problems.


Thereafter the photograph was taken outside the Mosque to commemorate this historic event.


The Minutes of the Meeting as recorded by the Secretary together with a copy of the photograph appear in the appendix to this paper.


In view of the significance of this event, I and my Masonic brother in Israel, have spent many arduous months trying to identify those who participated and although of the 31 brethren we have identified 21, the identity of the Sheik remains a mystery.


We have unearthed newspaper and magazine reports on the meeting, both in England and New Zealand; we have enquired into the archives of the National Geographic Society which carried a report on the meeting in the October 1918 issue of National Geographic; scrutiny of local newspapers circulating in Jerusalem at that time reveal mention of the Sheik on several occasions, but nowhere, absolutely nowhere does his name appear.  Correspondence has been addressed to the current Grand Imam of the Dome of the Rock and to several historians specializing in this area of study, but despite all our efforts the Sheik’s identity remains a mystery.





The National Geographic Magazine—Issue of October 1918

The Temples in Jerusalem—Rev Eversull

Centennial Book of Lodge Ikaroa  - 1998

The 50 Year anniversary Book of Lodge Ikaroa 1948

The Keystone Magazine (NSW) September 1918

A Masonic Peregrination– Rev. J D Maclennan Wilson

Chronicle of the NZEF (In Palestine & Egypt) Masonic Association ( A transcript of the Minute Book and Roll of Members).

The NZEF ( In Palestine & Egypt) MA—Talk presented by VWor. Bro. G H Robertson ( PG Lecturer) - 30 may 1957—talk given to the United Masters Lodge.

A Peculiar Masonic Event—paper presented by R.Wor. Bro. W N Ingram, Wor. Master of United Masters Lodge No. 167.

Supplement to the London Gazette—3 September 1946

Lodge Minutes and records from many lodges located in New Zealand and Scotland.


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