Ashlar Chippings

The Stiff Upper Lip

Keep Calm and Carry On – Masonic Style 

Some records of events that took place in England during war-time aid raids [i].

There are many examples of ceremonies being conducted at the height of an air-raid.

At a meeting of the Cutlers’ Lodge No. 2730 at Cutlers’ Hall, London, the Grand Treasurer, having been welcomed in due form, rose to acknowledge the salutation.

As he stood up, the building was shaken by a large explosion nearby.

VW Bro FY Bright paused for a second and then said I’m glad you didn’t salute me with five of those’!

During a Raising at the Eastminster Lodge No. 5370 and at the moment when the heavy maul was descending, a flying bomb burst nearby with a tremendous crash right at the point of impact. The candidate never forgot it.

On another occasion at the Portland Lodge No. 1037, Dorset, in the middle of an Obligation, five bombs dropped 300 yards away.

The Master gave a sigh, closed his eyes momentarily and continued as if nothing had happened.

Here is an extract from the Minutes of the Lodge of Hope No. 2153, Portsmouth:18 January 1941.

Every building for a considerable distance around the Masonic Hall, Highbury Street, was just a heap of rubble.

An unexploded bomb was lying deep in the roadside alongside the Hall.

The lodge was close tyled at 5.30 p.m. It was a bitterly cold day and raining hard. Every window in the building was smashed and all heating and electrical installations had been destroyed.

The only lighting in the Temple was the three candles on the pedestals.

Rain was pouring through the roof where an incendiary bomb had gained admission.

The air raid alarm had sounded at 5.20 p.m. The gunfire was very intense and at times it was almost impossible to hear the officers doing their work.

The ceremonies were nevertheless carried out with the usual decorum and the circumstances never once detracted from the solemnity of the work.

The all clear sounded soon after the Lodge was closed.

At Llangattock Lodge No. 2547, Cardiff, on 2 January 1941, a Grand and Royal salute coincided perfectly with a tumultuous crash of gunfire, much to the alarm of the Brethren and to the delight of the recipient.

Later, at the end of the ceremony and as the result of a report, the Inner Guard announced with some relish, ‘Worshipful Master, Queen Street is on fire’.

The Master replied: ‘Thank you Brother Inner Guard, your report will be attended to’, and stolidly completed the risings and closed the Lodge.

Ladies’ Freemasonry 

Below is a 1754 engraving by T. Wilkins of an event that supposedly took place at a lodge in Canterbury.

This depicts the story of a lady being discovered secretly listening or observing a lodge meeting.

However, it also tells us a lot about Masonic meetings of the period, around a table with three candlesticks, complete with punchbowl, glasses and clay pipes, long aprons, jewels of office carried on neck ribbons, Tyler’s (?) apron bib attached to waistcoat button.

The rhyme (or Droll) is transcribed below.

The Chamber Maid, Moll, a Girl very fat,
Lay hid in the Garret, as sly as a cat,
To find out the Secret of Masons below,
Which no one can tell, & themselves do not know.
Moll happened to slip, & the Ceiling broke thro,
And hung in the posture you have in your view,
Which frightened the Masons, tho doing no Evil
Who stoutly cried out, the Devil, the Devil.
With Phiz white as Apron, the Masons ran down,
And call’d up the Parson, his Clerk, & the Town,
To lay the poor Devil thus pendant above:
Who instead of Old Nick spy’d the Temple of Love.
Come, all prying Lasses, take warning by Moll,
The subject of this, the Print and the Droll,
To get at a Secret which ne’er can be known,
By an unlucky slip she discover’d her own.
And the Masons may learn, without touching hoops,
That some of the Brothers are not Nicumpoops,
That Parson and Clerk, with their sanctified Faces
Had a peep at Moll’s Rouser, & just so the Case is.

Notes:

[i]  Extracts from the Prestonian Lecture for 1991: Flynn, Keith, ‘Freemasons at War’

– AQC, vol. 105 (1992).

Article by: Hugh O'Neill

Hugh O'Neill

Past Master of Craft lodges under the constitution of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076, the world’s premier Masonic research lodge.

Masonic historian and orator on Masonic topics.

 

 

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