The following is an excellent paper written by one of Thailand’s most prolific Masonic authors. We hope you enjoy it..
The History of Lodge St. John
W. Bro.: James Soutar
The first known record of Freemasons in Thailand dates back to April 1878, when it is reported that there were seventeen “regularly constituted Freemasons in Bangkok”, who proposed to start a Lodge. By June 1878, however, it was announced that “owing to the difficulty of finding seven willing Brethren to be Foundation members, and who would be prepared to undertake the erection of a Lodge when the Charter arrived several months hence, the proposed Lodge could not be proceeded with”. This setback was to be an ominous augury for what was to be repeated over and over again in the succeeding decades.
In early 1880 a second attempt was made to establish a Lodge, but by July that year Bro. Badman, who had been the driving force behind the attempt, had to admit defeat, commenting that “the members of the Craft who belong to the Mercantile Marine were very anxious to have a Lodge established but without the cooperation of those resident permanently in Bangkok, it was felt the project should not be proceeded with”.
It took a further eighteen years and a new generation of Freemasons before there is any record of Brethren meeting with the specific purpose of erecting a Lodge. Many of the original old Masons in Siam were already dead, and their graves can still be seen to this day, the tombstones duly marked with Masonic symbols, in the old Protestant cemetery in downtown Bangkok, near the Chao Phraya River.
In 1898 the impetus came from Masons afloat on merchant vessels and keen Brethren in Singapore, who wished to support the opening of a Lodge in Bangkok, but all was to be of no avail. The obstacle this time was that there was a lack of potential Officers of sufficient rank and experience in the Craft. One valiant Brother, the Master of the merchant ship “HECATE”, sailing weekly between Singapore and Bangkok, took up the challenge. After correspondence backwards and forwards with Grand Secretary in England on the matter of whether or not the UGLE would issue a Charter, he reluctantly had to inform his correspondent that “there is not in Bangkok one Master Mason who has held the Office of Warden to put forward for the Master’s Chair, but there are English, Scotch, Irish, Danish and German Constitution Brethren in Bangkok sufficient to form a Lodge”. Grand Secretary’s reply was not surprising. He stated that “numbers did not count and since there was no-one qualified and experienced enough to be installed as Master, the Most Worshipful Grand Master could not be recommended to grant a Warrant”.
In 1900 things Masonic started out much more promisingly. Perhaps believing that Bangkok-UGLE relations were jinxed after the failure of all past attempts, or perhaps because the first Master-designate was himself an Irishman, the Brethren in Bangkok and the Brethren afloat between there and Singapore applied for a Warrant to the Grand Lodge of Ireland. This was approved and the Warrant was issued to establish Lodge No. 300 on 4 October 1900. But the jinx had spread to Dublin, because the Master designate, Bro. George F. Travers Drape, a distinguished graduate of the University of Dublin and a barrister working for the Siamese government, died suddenly.