Lodge Cosmopolitan No. 428 [2]

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Brother Charles Melville Donaldson

Brother Andrew McBride of Glasgow aptly describes Brother Charles Melville Donaldson as an outstanding figure in Scottish Freemasonry in its Augustan age, and an associate of the famous Scottish and English Masonic Historians Bro. D. Murray Lyon and Bro. Robert Freke Gould. To this we must add that Bro. C. M. Donaldson was also the Father of Scottish Freemasonry in the Far East, not only in the Craft but also in respect of the Royal Order of Scotland, the Supreme Grand R.A. Chapter of Scotland and the Ancient and Accepted Rite.

He was initiated in St. Marks Lodge No. 102 at Glasgow, on 3rd October, 1854, and according to the Attendance Book, he apparently attended the Lodge regularly until 16th December 1861.

St. Marks Lodge was at this period one of the most celebrated Lodges in Glasgow. At Buchanan Street it possessed the most commodious Lodge Room in the West of Scotland, and it was in these rooms that Provincial Grand bodge met. Bro. Sir Archibald Alison, LL.D. was Provincial Grand Master at that time, and held the office in all for twenty years, from 1847 to 1867.

No records have been found of Bro. Donaldson holding office in St. Marks Lodge, but he was appointed Provincial Grand Marshal. At this period the Provincial Grand Master appointed all his working officers, and most were selected from St. Marks Lodge. This practice actually led to a Petition being presented to Grand Lodge from members of the Province.

By the greatest good fortune it has been possible through the kindness of Bro. Commander C. E. McA. Donaldson, V.R.D., R.C.N.(R.), M.P., Grandson of Bro. C. M. Donaldson, to examine various family papers, amongst them being the original Minute Book of Lodge Cosmopolitan No. 428. It was noted that in the Petition to Grand Lodge dated 19th September 1863 Bro. Donaldson had added the words P.M. Glasgow Lodge of Instruction, G.L.S., after his signature. As nothing was known about this Lodge in Hong Kong, Brother Andrew McBride kindly made investigations in Glasgow.

This enquiry led to the discovery that at the Annual Festival of St. Marks Lodge held on 24th April 1861 with Bro. Sir Archibald Alison in the Chair, Bro. Deucher in giving the Toast of the Lodge as the Representative of the Grand Master Mason presented a Charter to the Glasgow Lodge of Instruction. This will be found recorded in the Grand Lodge Reporter 2nd Series, 1861 on page 137. The Glasgow Lodge of Instruction had apparently originated in St. Marks Lodge and Bro. Sir Archibald Alison was Elected and Installed as R.W.M. in 1861.

This extract explains the title of P.M. used in the Petition, but still leaves some doubt as to when he became an Installed Master, for he apparently did not attend St. Marks Lodge after 1861 yet by 1863 he was active in Shanghai. It seems that he may have acquired the rank prior to the Charter being issued by Grand Lodge.

The importance of this discovery is that proof now exists that Grand Lodge did in fact issue Charters to Lodges of Instruction. Murray Lyon had only recorded under “Masonic Clubs” —

“The idea was revived about 25 years ago” (i.e. about 1843) “and a number of Masonic Clubs were formed in different parts of the Country. They could boast of a numerous membership but their unfavourable criticism of Grand Lodge led to their being suppressed.

“Grand Lodge in order to promote the objects which they professed to have in view resolved to issue temporary warrants for holding Lodges of Instruction in any district or Province which should petition for it.”

Lodge Cosmopolitan was eventually Consecrated on 28th December, 1864 at the Masonic Hall in Canton Road, Shanghai. Northern Lodge of China No. 570 E.C. was first opened, Lodge Cosmopolitan was then Consecrated by Bro. Rev. J. M. W. Farnham, D.D., in the presence of Bro. S. Rawson, P.P.M. China (E.C.) and Northern Lodge was then closed and Cosmopolitan opened. Bro. H. F. Gould acted as Presiding and Installing Officer and gave the Charges. Bros. R. F. Gould and S. Rawson were afterwards elected the first Honorary Members of the Lodge.

Bro. C. M. Donaldson ruled the Lodge firmly despite many serious difficulties experienced in the early days of the Lodge. His attitude could perhaps be best summed up in his own words, written in his own hand in the Minute Book on 2nd February, 1865 “Neither ... could he sanction any reference to an English or American Lodge to know what should be done in a Scottish”. Throughout all the early Minutes of the Lodge one obtains a definite impression of a Scotsman first and last, determined to rule fairly and firmly.

He was re-elected Master in 1865, 1867, 1871 and 1876.

In 1865 he Founded and was the first Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge for China of the Royal Order for Scotland. The first meeting was held in Shanghai on 17th October, 1865. Bro. Donaldson held the Office of Provincial Grand Master until his death in 1892. Bro. G. E. Marden in the recently published Report and Historical Survey of The Royal Order for Scotland points out that although this Provincial Grand Lodge was referred to generally as the “Provincial Grand Lodge for China” the full name as shown by the records of Grand Lodge was the “Provincial Grand Lodge of the Open Ports of China and the Colony of Hongkong.” It was not until 1953 that the name was officially changed to “Hongkong and China”.

Bro. Donaldson next turned his attention to the Royal Arch and was the principal Founder and first M.E.Z. of the Rising Sun Royal Arch Chapter No. 129 on the Roll of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Freemasons of Scotland which received its Charter on 3rd March, 1869. He was re-elected M.E.Z. in 1876.

On 14th May, 1870 he was Consecrating Officer of Lodge Hiogo and Osaka No. 498 at Kobe, the first Scottish Lodge to be Consecrated in Japan. The Petition of this Lodge had been endorsed by the Master of Lodge Cosmopolitan, and one can assume that in addition to his position as the senior Scottish P.M. in the Far East he had a personal interest in attending and installing Bro. Amasa Standish Fobes, who had been initiated in “Ancient Landmark” Lodge Massachusetts Constitution in Shanghai on 6th June, 1865. At the time of Bro. Fobes’ initiation Bro. Charles Eugene Hill was W.M. of “Ancient Landmark” Lodge, and a frequent visitor to Lodge Cosmopolitan.

The year 1871 was an interesting year for Scottish Freemasonry in the Far East for on the 21st December, 1871 Bro. Donaldson having completed his fourth period in the East Installed Bro. Charles Penfold as Master, and thereby bringing into the Chair of a Scottish Lodge the first of the Penfold family who came to be the main-stay of Scottish Freemasonry in Shanghai in later years.

Bro. Donaldson visited Scotland in 1872 and remained there for over a year. On the 1st May, 1872 he was appointed Proxy Master of Lodge 428 by Grand Lodge and on 4th November, 1872 at the request of Lodge Cosmopolitan Grand Lodge was pleased to accede to the presentation of a gold watch and service plate in recognition of his service to that Lodge. The presentation was made by the R.W. Substitute Grand Master.

At the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge held in July, 1873 we find Bro. Donaldson in fighting form, and one can almost picture the scene as he objected to Lord Burnley being nominated as Junior Grand Warden, not being a member of any Scottish Lodge and therefore not qualified for Office in Grand Lodge. His objection was sustained by Grand Lodge and Bro. F. A. Barrow, P.M. of Lodge 252 was elected to the Office.

In the 1873 edition of D. Murray Lyon’s “Freemasonry in Scotland” a photograph of Bro. C. M. Donaldson is published and the following paragraph appears:

“CHARLES MELVILLE DONALDSON, merchant, Shanghai, whose portrait appears at the head of this chapter, was the founder of the first Scottish Lodges in China and Japan, viz., the Cosmopolitan, Shanghai, and the Hiogo and Osaka at Kobe. He erected the first Scottish Royal Arch Chapter in China, and is its First Principal. He is Provincial Grand Master of the Royal Order of Scotland for China, is a Knight Commander of the Religious and Military Order of the Temple for Scotland and is a member of the Scotch Consistory of K.H., or 30th Degree. He was initiated in St. Mark’s has held the office of Grand Marshal of the province of Glasgow, is a member of Mother Kilwinning, and a Past Master of the Lodge Cosmopolitan, Shanghai. The Craft in China, in recognition of his Masonic services, presented him with a valuable gift of plate, etc. The presentation took place during his vist to Scotland in November, 1872, and was made by the Grand Master in Grand Lodge assembled, in name of the donors. This was done by request of Grand Lodge, in order to mark its estimation of his character and appreciation of his services.”

This is interesting as it states he was a member of Mother Kilwinning, a Knight Commander of the Temple and a member of the 30°. It must be assumed that these latter two orders were obtained whilst he was in Scotland. Of the former nothing more is known, but he certainly took immediate steps to organise The Ancient and Accepted Rite under the Supreme Council for Scotland on his return to Shanghai.

The Supreme Council for Scotland granted Charters to the Rose Croix Chapter “Lily of the Valley” No. 4 and the “Shiloh” Consistory No. 3 on the 12th October, 1874. Bro. Donaldson was M.W.S. of “Lily of the Valley” and Grand Commander of “Shiloh” from 1874 until his death in 1892. It is a significant fact that neither of these bodies remained in existence for very long after his death and their Charters were returned to Supreme Council in September, 1901.

The last historic act of Bro. Donaldson was to preside at the Consecration of the Kobe R.A. Chapter No. 229 S.C. in Japan in 1892. The Charter of this Chapter was dated 16th September, 1891 and it eventually became dormant in 1910.

Through the kindness of Mr. H. S. Williams in Kobe Bro. W. Lackie of Ledge Hiogo and Osaka No. 498 was recently able to see the first annual accounts of this Chapter, which showed Charles M. Donaldson P.Z. as the second of eleven Chartered Members with the following items appearing in the accounts:

To Expenses of Companion Donaldson from and to Shanghai $188.45
Hotel Expenses Companion Donaldson and Lalcaca $ 53.60

These entries mark the final closing stages in the life of this outstanding mason, for either in Kobe, or on his way back to Shanghai he contracted cholera and died on 2nd April, 1892.

A Funeral Service was held in the Masonic Hall, Shanghai, at 2.30 p.m., on 6th April, 1892, attended by almost every mason in Shanghai. Bro. C. Thorne, P.D.G.M. of Northern China read the Service. The members of the Craft in full regalia then drove to the New Cemetery where the Burial Service was read by the Rev. H. C. Hodges. The coffin was borne by sixteen of the brethren. Bro. Thorne afterwards read the Masonic Funeral Service at the graveside. He spoke feelingly of his qualities as a man and a mason, of his great kindliness of heart and readiness to help not only a brother mason in distress but any human being standing in need of aid, and gave in closing perhaps the Epitaph by which we should remember him “He was that noblest work of God, an honest man.”