The Mark Degree in the Far East

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The Grand Lodge of Scotland is the only Grand Lodge in the World which regards the Mark Degree as an integral part of Craft Freemasonry. The earliest record of the Mark being worked as a masonic degree in Scotland is 1778, although records of Marks exist from 1670.

In view of the close association of the Mark degree with Scottish Freemasonry it is interesting to note that the earliest record of a Mark degree having been worked in the Far East was in 1854, some ten years before the formation of the first Scottish Lodge. Bro. W. H. Vacher, a P.M. of Northern Lodge No. 570 E.C., conferred the degree upon nine brethren in Shanghai.

The Grand Lodge of Mark Masons was formed on 23rd June 1856 and at a meeting of Grand Mark Lodge on 11th December, 1859, the Grand Senior Warden—presiding in the absence of Lord Leigh—announced that the Grand Master “was very desirous in all cases where three Lodges should be established in connection with this Grand Lodge in any Country to organise such Lodges into a province and appoint over them a Grand Master who should be known to him to be welcome to the Brethren he would have to superintend.”

Amongst others, Samuel Rawson, Master of Royal Sussex Lodge No. 501 E.C. in 1846 and Provincial Grand Master in the English Craft for China (appointed 1847) was appointed Provincial Grand Master (Mark) of China. At this time there were no Mark Lodges in China, but during his term of office two Mark Lodges were formed in Hong Kong, Eothen No. 264 on 18th May 1880, United No. 419 on 3rd September 1890, and one Lodge was formed in Japan—Orient No. 304 on 17th July 1882, Bro. Rawson died in 1893, and no successor was appointed.

Concordia Mark Lodge No. 712 was formed on 5th August 1920 and the District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and South China was constituted in 1925 with Bro. P. H. Holyoak as the first District Grand Master. Shameen Mark Lodge No. 832 was formed on 10th May 1926 and this Lodge worked in Canton until 1938 when it was transferred to Hong Kong.

The Orient Lodge of Mark Master Masons No. 482 was formed in Shanghai on 18th March 1895 and Tientsin Lodge No. 704 in Tientsin on 3rd October 1919. The Torii Lodge No. 837 was also formed in Kobe, Japan, on 6th October 1920.

The Grand Lodge of Scotland formally recognised the Grand Lodge of Mark Masons of England on 22nd May 1958, but this only officially recognised an actual amity which had existed for many years. In fact the M.W. Grand Master Mason Bro. Lord Macdonald accompanied by his Depute, Substitute and the Grand Secretary attended the Centenary Meeting of the Grand Mark Lodge on 5th June 1956.

In the Far East the R.W. District Grand Master of the District Grand Mark Lodge of Hong Kong and South China (Bro. W. L. E. Miller) visited District Grand Lodge in an official capacity for the first time on 23rd February 1961 on the occasion of the visit of the M.M. Grand Master Mason.

Unfortunately very little information is available concerning the working of the Mark Degree in Scottish Lodges in the Far East. The usual custom is to hold one Meeting a year, but as Scottish Chapters exist in Hong Kong and formerly in North China many brethren have taken the Degree through these Chapters. The loss of so many original records makes the task of tracing early workings of the Degree an almost impossible one.