History of Lodge St John (page 3)

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But the anti-Masonic demon that had been lurking in the back streets and sois of Bangkok since the 1860s had not yet played all his cards! As soon as the former Master Elect and Secretary Elect were expelled the war really began. The sniping and backbiting among the Freemasons of Bangkok, not limited in any way just to those who were members of the Lodge, carried on until the mid-Thirties. Twenty-five years after the Consecration, during the preparations for and implementation of the plans for the Lodge’s Silver Jubilee festivities, the Lodge was almost torn asunder once again by the resurgence of old personal animosities dating back to those few weeks prior to Consecration Day in January 1911.

The old Committee and Meeting Minutes of those early years are still in existence and make for very harrowing reading. One of the first decisions made at an early meeting was that one of the Brethren, who worked for the Royal Family, should approach the Office of the Privy Purse and seek land on which to build a Temple. Indeed, at about the same time the British Club in Bangkok was granted free land in a strategic position in the city, where it exists happily to this day. But this Brother did not actively pursue the matter of free land allocation, probably fearful that he would bring his appointment with the Royal Family into serious jeopardy, as the disputes within and without the Lodge were becoming increasingly and, very regrettably, publicly known.

To this day it is still very sad to remark how many months it was before Brother Secretary would write the traditional conclusion to his Minutes, that the meeting had “ended in Peace and Harmony”. Indeed, so stressful did matters become during the second year that he completed a set of Minutes by writing that the Meeting had concluded, “in a semblance of what a Meeting ought to, at least amongst those still present”.

Despite all this Masonic warfare, membership grew quickly. In March 1911 the first Mark Degree was performed. In November 1912 Bangkok Royal Arch Chapter No. 357 was Consecrated. In 1916 Bangkok Lodge and Council was Consecrated, but experienced several long periods of darkness in the years before the Second World War. Up until that War we find no further attempt to procure land for the building of a Temple. Certainly the lack of cohesion among the Brethren in the first 25 years of the Lodge would have made any such attempt difficult to achieve. Then, in 1932, the political reality of Siam changed dramatically, with a coup d’etat and the end of the absolute monarchy and the introduction of so-called democracy.

By 1938 25% of the Brethren were Thai, almost exclusively what were termed in later years “old school Thais”, that is, those of good family who had been sent to Europe and North America for education following the encouragement of King Chulalongkorn and his successors. A large part of the remainder was made up of Scandinavians, mainly Danes, working for the big shipping and trading companies, such as Maersk and East Asiatic. And, of course there were the British, whose names in the old books reflect the cream of the British Empire’s commercial bastions in Southeast Asia. By 1938 the internal feuding had died down within Lodge St. John, and a period of peaceful growth was envisioned. But, as we all know, the drums of war were already beating in Europe, Africa and the Far East. Lodge St. John was now to face trials that, for the first time, were not of the Brethren’s own making.

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