Irish Freemasonry in South East Asia

This paper was adapted from a longer work written by Bro.: Robert C. Blackburn in 1991 and found on the Provincial Grand Lodge of South East Asia (Ireland) web site.  None of the photos referred to in this document were available.

 

A Brief History

Someone once said that wandering was second nature to Irishmen; the spirit of adventure or economic necessity or both. For centuries have driven them all over the Globe, and so it is only to be expected that Irish Freemasons would bring over with them their zeal for the Craft and their distinctive practices wherever they may be dispersed.

In East Asia, the Erin Lodge No. 463 I.C. was warranted at Shanghai on 4th October 1919 and worked until it closed down during World War II. Postwar troubles hindered its full revival and it relocated to Hong Kong in 1952, where Shamrock Lodge No. 712 I.C., had previously been warranted in 1946. Together they formed the Inspectorate Area of Hong Kong &China.

Until the early1950’s, when the idea of founding an Irish Constitution Lodge in Singapore began to take form, the centre of Irish Freemasonry in the Far East was therefore the Inspectorate Area of Hong Kong and China, with the Grand Inspector located in Shanghai and his “representative” in Hong Kong. Freemasonry in Malaya and Singapore was an English and Scottish affair, represented by the District Grand Lodges of the Eastern Archipelago and Middle East respectively.

 

Singapore – Lodge St Patrick No.765 I.C.

It was not until 1952 that positive action was taken to establish an Irish Masonic presence, when R W Bro H E Swabey, Grand Inspector of the Inspectorate Area of Ireland for Hong Kong & China, wrote to W Bro W E Hutchinson suggesting that a Lodge under the Irish Constitution should be founded in Singapore.

Below is a photo taken in 1952 with the Founding Members

The views were sought of the Sister Constitutions, both of whom replied that a Lodge under the Irish Constitution would be welcomed. At the same time the Masonic Hall Board agreed to place the present facilities in the Temple at Coleman Street at the disposal of such a Lodge, if it were formed.

Accordingly, a meeting of Brethren associated with the Irish Constitution was held on the 2ndof April 1953. At this meeting, which was also attended by some Brethren from the Sister Constitutions, it was decided that action should be taken to establish a Lodge. The decision was taken at a subsequent meeting, that same year, to open a Petition for a Warrant and settle the issues of Dues and so on. A decision was finally taken late in 1953to proceed with the project.

The Petitioners met in January 1954(some forty Brethren had signed the Petition) and the name Lodge 51. Patrick was adopted as that of the proposed Lodge.

The founding officers designate were elected, viz :

W Bro W E Hutchinson         Worshipful Master

Bro R J Grove                        White Senior Warden

Bro A Rhind                           Junior Warden

Those Brethren elected to the three Principal offices were all initiates of Irish Constitution Lodges. The Petition, finally signed by over 50 Brethren, was forwarded to R W Bro Swabey in Hong Kong and the news was received in March 1954 that the Warrant had been granted at a meeting of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, held in Cork, in March 1954. It is interesting to note that the Petition included the names of such well known Singapore Freemasons as W Bro B C J “Buck” Buckeridge and W Bro Derek Coupland.

Lodge Singapore No. 7178 E.C. and Lodge St. Andrew No.1437 S.C. supported the Petition and, to this day, play a role in the installation ceremony of the Master-elect of Lodge St. Patrick. The Constitution and Dedication Ceremony of Lodge St. Patrick No.765 Irish Constitution was held in this Temple on 5th June, 1954, presided over by R W Bro Swabey, and assisted by Brethren of the English and Scottish Constitutions.

The foundation of Lodge St. Patrick resulted in the boundaries of the Inspectorate Area of Hong Kong and China being extended to encompass Malaya. Following the death, in 1956, of R W Bro Swabey; W Bro G F Rhodes was appointed Grand Inspector, with Bro A W S Smith as Assistant in Hong Kong and Bro Dr Charles B Wilson as Assistant for Singapore.

Bro C B Wilson was the very first initiate of Lodge St. Patrick and subsequently enjoyed an active Masonic career, achieving the honor of being appointed Grand Inspector for the Inspectorate Area of South East Asia. He was also the brother in-law of the founding Senior Warden of Lodge St. Patrick, Bro R J Grove-White – I suspect his connection with Lodge St. Patrick is therefore far more than mere coincidence.

Lodge St Patrick has over the years grown from strength to strength. Lodge St Patrick is recognized as a happy, active and vibrant Lodge with high standard workings. The Lodge also takes pride in its full charity and social calendar.

 

Malaysia- Lodge Emerald in the East No. 830 I.C.

In 1966 Lodge Emerald in the East No. 830 was erected in Kuala Lumpur, thereby extending the Inspectorate Area. It is said that history is surely made when the right men are in the right place at the right time. The place was Kuala Lumpur in the mid nineteen-sixties and the men were local Brethren like Bros Kingsley Oorloff, J W Hendersen, A W Martin, P S Lai and R K Panikkar. Men all well versed in the ways of the English and Scottish Constitutions, though not quite conversant with the usages of the very Irish Lodge they were seeking to engender.

W Bro C C Bowman and Bro Arthur Livingstone who played pivotal roles in the establishment of Lodge Emerald held consultations with V W Bro C B Wilson, Assl. Grand Inspector and V W Bro A J Bruford, Lodge St. Patrick’s Director of ceremonies. A Petition under the sponsorship of Lodge St. Patrick was sent to the Grand Lodge or Ireland for a Warrant of Constitution which, the strong objections of the English and Scottish Districts notwithstanding, was granted in 1966.

With the Warrant in hand and with support especially from Klang Lodge, a pioneering group of Brethren formed an organizing Committee to discuss the realities and mechanics of actually getting the lodge started. The first meeting of the Committee was finally held on 9th October, 1966, at Read Masonic Temple in Jalan Damansara, KualaLumpur. Although not present at that meeting, V W Bro C Wilson was unanimously elected Founder Master with :

W Bro Kingsley Oorlott                     – Senior Warden

Bro Arthur Livingstone                      – Junior Warden

W Bro C C Bowman                         – Secretary

V W Bro D A J Brutord                     – Director of Ceremonies

With the formation of Lodge Emerald in the East, the Inspectorate Area of Hong Kong, China and Malaya was now split into two, the Hong Kong Lodges forming the Inspectorate Area of the Far East and Lodge St. Patrick combining with Lodge Emerald in the East to form the Inspectorate Area of Singapore and Malaysia (later renamed South East Asia). R W Bro C B Wilson was appointed Grand Inspector and V W Bro D A J Bruford his assistant.

Overseas District Grand Rank

In 1970 a new honor, Overseas District Grand Rank, was created to give recognition to those Past Masters of overseas Lodges not under the jurisdiction of a Provincial Grand Lodge. The first recipient was the late W Bro Yeo Tiam Siew of Lodge St. Patrick and a Founder Member of Lodge Emerald in the East who had the honor of being invested ODGR by the M W Grand Master when he visited Lodge St Patrick in 1970.

Thailand – Morakot Lodge No. 945 I.C.

More recently, Irish Freemasonry has again been spreading in South East Asia, this time in Thailand. Until 1993, when Lodge Pattaya West Winds No. 1803 S.C. was consecrated, followed by a French Lodge in 1994, there was only one Lodge working in Thailand; Lodge S1. John No.1 072 S.C., which meets in Bangkok. In fact, all though some eighty years elapsed between the erection of Lodge St. John and the foundation of Lodge Pattaya West Winds, within another two years, Thailand had gained three new Lodges representing three Constitutions.

In early 1994, when a group of dedicated Masons in Thailand conceived the idea of erecting an Irish Lodge in Bangkok; Lodge St. Patrick and Lodge Emerald in the East agreed to sponsor it with enthusiastic moral and financial support of many Brethren in Singapore and Malaysia, a petition for a Warrant of Constitution was made, and subsequently granted by the Grand Lodge of Ireland. And so, and once again on April Fools Day, but this time on 1st April 1995 and in Pattaya, Thailand, Morakot (meaning Emerald in Thai) Lodge No. 945 I.C. was dedicated.

 

Alive & Well

Irish Freemasonry therefore, although comparatively young in South East Asia when measured alongside our venerable Brethren from the English and Scottish Districts, is alive, well and prospering. Brethren, I will leave you with one last amusing recollection from RW Bro Charles Wilson who, when visiting the dedication ceremony of a new Lodge in Rajah Brooke’s country, recalls a feeling of unease as he spied the sign on the gate to the Masonic Temple, which read: “Last Brother To Enter, Please Close The Gate To Keep The Tigers Out”.