GMM’s Overseas Visit 1961

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An Extract from the Proceedings of Grand Lodge Dated 4th May, 1961.


The Grand Master Mason submitted the following Report of his visit, with Grand Secretary to Pakistan, India, Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, New Zealand, Western Australia, Ceylon, Aden and Malta—17th February 1961 to 18th April 1961:

Brethren, I am particularly happy to present this Report to you as it may be considered the culmination of a series of such Reports. Grand Lodge has now achieved the object, which was a somewhat remote vision ten years ago, namely to visit officially every District Grand Lodge within its jurisdiction. It is perhaps worth while recalling that we have twenty-four District Grand Lodges literally scattered over the four quarters of the globe, and it has been my good fortune, accompanied by Grand Secretary, to visit twenty-three of these. There are still a few Lodges overseas in more remote places, either administered directly by Grand Lodge or by a District Superintendent, which have not been visited by a representative of Grand Lodge, and I hope that one day we shall be able to say that we have supported them in their own Lodges. I am absolutely and thoroughly convinced, Brethren, that these visits do a tremendous amount of good, and I shall endeavour to amplify this at the conclusion of this Report.

Before giving you a detailed account of our activities, I must explain to you that for the first time on such tours, I was accompanied by Lady Eglinton. This had several advantages. Grand Secretary is convinced that it accounted for my exemplary behaviour on all occasions. It certainly relieved me of the responsibility of ensuring that my nylon shirts, and other articles of clothing, were in spotless condition from day to day. Above all, it presented a wonderful opportunity, wherever we went, for the ladies to have a night out while Grand Secretary and I toiled with the Brethren in the quarries, usually in the heat and burden of the Temple, before being called from labour to refreshment. I should like, however, at this stage to express to the many ladies whom we met the warm and sincere thanks of Lady Eglinton for all the kindness and hospitality which she received from them 23rd February, 1961. Four hours in another Comet and we were in Kai Tak Airport on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. As we approached the airport, dusk had fallen and a drizzle of rain gave the approach to the airport the appearance of the North West of Scotland. The runway consists of a long strip of reclaimed land projecting about a mile into the sea. We received a most cordial welcome from the District Grand Master, Brother David S. Hill and Mrs. Hill, Brother John Marden (Substitute) and Mrs. Marden and by Brother Tommy Fripp (District Grand Secretary) and Mrs. Fripp. For the first time on this tour, Grand Secretary and I were parted. Brother Marden had kindly given Lady Eglinton and me the use of his town flat while Grand Secretary’s host was Brother David Hill, whose home is perched up high on the Peak, some 1,300 feet above the harbour. We changed hurriedly and attended a Meeting of District Grand Lodge in Zetland Hall. I should like to say now that this is one of the most beautiful Lodge Rooms which I have ever seen. As you know Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese during the war, and literally everything was lost. With great fortitude our Brethren of the English, Irish and Scottish Constitutions reestablished themselves and built Zetland Hall. This is quite a lovely Temple, draped in blue with a wonderful fluorescent lighting effect and a very fine organ. In addition to our own Brethren who were present in large numbers, we had Brother Colonel Owen Hughes, District Grand Master of the English Constitution, Brother George F. Rhodes of the Irish Constitution, Brother Miller of the Mark Grand Lodge, all supported by deputations. I was particularly encouraged to see representatives from all our Lodges including Brother G. W. Colton from Japan (Brother Hill’s Depute) and also Brother Watts, Right Worshipful Master of Lodge Han Yang, No. 1048, Korea, with two of his Brethren. It was a memorable meeting, and a very good harmony followed.

The following morning we had a most useful meeting in Brother Marden’s flat where we discussed matters relating to District Grand Lodge and also Freemasonry in Korea, Shanghai, Japan and China (Taiwan or Formosa). At this meeting we learned at first hand the problems which confront our Brethren in the Far East. Following this we had lunch with the District Grand Lodge Office-bearers and their ladies at the Shek-O Club, a most delightful spot some seven or eight miles round the bay. The afternoon, being a free one, Grand Secretary betook himself to Brother Harilila’s and ordered a light weight tropical suit (measured one day, fitted the next, and the suit, tailor made, produced within forty-eight hours). Grand Secretary, I fear, must he colour blind. When he tried to describe its colour to me he said it was pale blue—which later proved to be quite wrong. I think I must have hurt his feelings when I said he would look like a Teddy Boy. He went out forthwith and ordered a second suit of a very dignified fawn shade—so Grand Secretary is now well equipped to journey in the tropics or the jungle. At the same time I suspect he bought the second suit because the cost was approximately half of what he would pay at home. That evening I performed a duty which will always be to me a very happy memory. I installed into the Chair of King Solomon in Lodge Naval and Military, No. 848, a Chinese, Brother Ong Teong Seng. You will recall that I installed a Dane in Bangkok, and now a Chinese in a Scottish Lodge in Hong Kong. Wherever I have gone, Brethren, I have spoken about the Universal Nature of our Science, and how convinced I am about the part that Freemasonry is playing in bringing about a better understanding between all nations, no matter of what colour, creed or religion. Later in the evening Grand Secretary discovered that Ong is Chinese for a king or a leader. Teong means the centre and Seng means successful, so we had indeed installed on the centre, a successful King of the Craft. The District Grand Master installed the other Officebearers with great dignity.

On Saturday, 25th February, Brother Arthur Gillard who can best be described as the grand old man of Freemasonry in Hong Kong took us a drive round Hong Kong, and also up the Peak. He is responsible for the administration of Zetland Hall and he kindly entertained us to lunch there. In the late afternoon we attended a Reception at which the Brethren of all Constitutions, and their ladies, were present. This gave me the opportunity of getting to know quite a number of our Brethren. To finish the day we experienced a Sukiyaki or Japanese Dinner in the Imperial Hotel, Kowloon. This entailed removing our shoes and sitting cross legged at a table which was about one foot from the ground. To sit in this position for two or three hours is no mean feat, and indeed for several days afterwards I thought I was suffering from lumbago. We saw the food being cooked on the table in front of us, the heat being supplied by a spirit lamp. The food, whatever it was, was quite delicious, but as the working tools were chopsticks, we soon realised that it is quite a distance from the plate to the mouth. To a palate which is conditioned to the usual Scottish beverage, we found it difficult to appreciate warm Sake, a somewhat sweet distillate of rice, which is really quite potent. Another experience awaited us the following evening.

We had a very pleasant day in the New Territories. We crossed by ferry from Hong Kong to Kowloon, and in order to have a good view of the city and the harbour, the District Grand Master drove us up one of the hills known as the Kow Loong (nine dragons.) Looking to the west we could see the border of the New Territories and Communist China. Our Brethren from Japan and Korea were also on this excursion and it was a pleasure to meet them again at lunch. In the evening we attended Evensong in St. John’s Cathedral. Our Chinese Brethren—and I am pleased to say that there is a considerable number of them—entertained us to a Chinese dinner in the Ying King Restaurant. This time we sat at honest to goodness tables, but to cope with the twelve courses, there were but one pair of chopsticks. The soup we were permitted to sup. Recalling the cardinal virtues, Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Fortitude, I think I can truthfully say that we violated the first and endeavoured to exemplify the fourth to our hosts when we steadily persevered through the Ceremony of being initiated to a Chinese dinner consisting of (1) barbecue pork and duck meat, (2) quail eggs with bean sprout, (3) braised shark’s fin in gravy, (4) sliced abalone with kale, (5) roasted suckling pig, (6) mushroom soup, (7) baked salted chicken, (8) special vegetable in cream sauce, (9) fried rice, (10) stewed noodles, (11) cream of almonds and (12) pastries. No doubt you will suspect that the second virtue was also violated when I tell you that Grand Secretary attempted to express himself in a few well chosen Chinese words, and that the wife of one of our distinguished Chinese Brethren endeavoured to tell us about the brightness of the moon in the Scottish idiom. We are most grateful to our Chinese Brethren for their kindness to us. It was really a wonderful evening.

After lunch the following day with His Excellency The Governor and Lady Black in Government House we had a quiet afternoon. In the evening Lodge St. Andrew-in-the-FarEast, No, 493, with Brother down that at the Installation Meeting, a collection will be taken on behalf of the Benevolent Funds of Grand Lodge. Consider what happens all too frequently in many of our Lodges. At the completion of the Ceremony, Grand Almoner’s letter is read out, a collection is taken, and a Brother moves that the collection be made up to a certain sum. I would ask you Brethren to study carefully the result of this appeal as set out in the Proceedings which you have before you on pages 50 to 62, and consider whether these Lodge donations are really worthy of the great Craft to which each of us has the honour of belonging. In Singapore the Master made the Appeal at the Festive Board after the Installation and I can tell you Brethren that rarely have we heard a more stirring appeal. He made it perfectly clear what is meant by the second of the three Great Principles upon which our Order is founded; he spoke of the gap of £15,000 between our voluntary donations last year and of £27,000, and our Benevolent commitments of £42,000. The collection taken—and there were under 200 Brethren present—was over £300. Brethren, I am not in any way suggesting that this is what is expected of all our Lodges. I do say most emphatically that we could all give much more thought to our Masonic Benevolence.

A problem which faces many of our overseas Lodges particularly in the Far and Middle East and Malta, is the perpetual movement of their personnel, and I have reported to you that this problem is particularly acute in Lodge St. Andrew, Malta, No. 966. I should like the Brethren in these distant Lodges to know that we in Grand Lodge are aware of their difficulties, and we do thank most sincerely these Past Masters and other Brethren who manage to keep the flag of Scottish Freemasonry flying.

From all our Districts and Lodges where we have visited, I bring to you warm and fraternal greetings. Our greatest joy has been to witness their loyalty to The Grand Lodge of Scotland. I have assured them all that their interests are our interests, and that we value very highly their membership with us. During the next few months I have a fairly heavy programme of visits to Lodges in Scotland where I hope I shall have the pleasure of telling the Brethren a little more about our overseas’ visit.

Finally, Brethren, I would like to thank Grand Secretary for his unflagging energy and zeal. Brethren, you have no idea what a wonderful ambassador he is for Grand Lodge, and we should all be most grateful to him for the excellent work he does on our behalf.