Friday, 07 December 2018 00:00

When masons met in a mosque

Brothers beyond borders

A chance discovery of a 100-year-old piece of paper has revealed a masonic meeting in Jerusalem and a fraternal bond that brought together men of all ranks and religions

Found in an old leather regalia case, a typed document has surfaced reporting on how New Zealand Freemasons held a masonic meeting in a mosque on the site where King Solomon’s Temple had once stood. It tells the story of how ‘a great sheikh’ not only allowed the masons to hold a meeting in the mosque, but also that the sheikh was a Freemason. 

The scrap of paper belonged to Thomas Jackson, who had been raised in Star in the East Lodge, No. 650, and the Freemasons mentioned in his story were members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Masonic Association. Formed in France by Colonel George Barclay in 1917, the association’s objective was to hold meetings to promote fraternity among its members, with branches formed in various camps, depots and hospitals. 

MEETING IN TROUBLED TIMES

One branch was formed in Egypt and Palestine in May 1917 by Brigadier-General William Meldrum (1865-1964), with the meeting referred to in Jackson’s account likely taking place in April 1918 in the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem. Standing on Mount Moriah, this is where Abraham is said to have prepared to sacrifice Issac, and where Muhammad ascended to heaven, making it a holy place to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Believed to have been built around 1,000BC on the same site, King Solomon’s Temple has influenced masonic symbolism for centuries. 

More than 100 years after the meeting, the piece of paper was passed to Peter Brooks, Lincolnshire Assistant Provincial Grand Master and husband of Jackson’s granddaughter, Jackie. ‘The Star in the East Lodge is still active, and we sent the paper back to them in Harwich, along with a centenary booklet from 1955 and a summons dated 1934 – all of which they were delighted to receive,’ says Peter.

On conducting further research into his lodge’s archives, Colin Ruffle from the Star in the East found that Jackson was initiated into the lodge on 9 April, 1915, passed on 11 May and was raised on 23 July. The raising was one of dozens of emergency meetings during the First World War, completed outside the usual May to September period to get candidates in before they were posted abroad. ‘We read out the minutes of meetings from 100 years ago at our corresponding meetings and found they did first, second and third degrees at a single meeting, sometimes with multiple candidates,’ says Ruffle. ‘It must have gone on all night!’

For Jackson, the meeting he witnessed in the mosque showed the ‘universality of the order’, bringing together soldiers of all ranks from around the world, and with a great sheikh acting as one of the guards.

Thomas Jackson's report on the masons in a mosque

‘Ancient rites observed on the site of Solomon’s temple

Freemasons in Palistine [sic] have held a masonic meeting on the historic site of King Solomon’s Temple where Freemasonry is supposed to have originated about 1,000BC. This meeting was organised by members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in Palistine. The Mosque of Omar being on the site of the Temple, the Newzealanders [sic] approached the Great Sheikh in charge of the Mosque for permission to hold a meeting. Then occurred an incident showing the universality of the order. The Sheikh listened to what the strangers had to say, and then to their amazement asked if there were any Freemasons among them. The rest was easy. He declared himself a mason and at the meeting acted as one of the guards of the lodge. The place within the mosque where the meeting was held is known as the cave of the Rock of the Dome and is believed to have been the Holy of Holies of the old Temple as it is today of the Mosque of Omar. Soldiers of all ranks were present, and after a lodge had been duly const tuter [sic] and opened, resolutions were passed conveying fraternal greetings and good wishes to the various Grand Lodges in New Zealand and the brethren in France.’

The star in the east

The Star in the East Lodge, No. 650, meets in Harwich, Essex and was consecrated in 1855. The centenary meeting took place two years after a flood had left the masonic hall under six feet of water. The most famous member was Captain Fryatt, who was arrested by the Germans in 1916 after trying to ram a German sub with his ship. He was executed and his body was one of only three to be repatriated after the war, in the same railway carriage that brought Edith Cavell and the Unknown Soldier back to the UK.

Essex Freemasons have approved a grant of £40,000 to YMCA Thames Gateway to help fund an 'Early Years' project designed to help hundreds of children with learning difficulties across the Boroughs of Barking & Dagenham and Havering

The money, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), will be used to cover the salary of a Family Inclusion Officer, a key member of staff who will help deliver the programme working alongside the Early Years Team.

The YMCA, based in Romford, provides accommodation and health and wellbeing projects as well as training and education to young people and the wider community. Through its Early Years Services, the charity currently works with over 500 children through different pre and after school clubs across the Boroughs and in Kent.

‘We support a significant proportion of children with high levels of additional needs in our after-school clubs in Havering and Barking and Dagenham', said Emma Middleton, Fundraising Manager. 'A large percentage of children accessing our Romford YMCA after-school club have a range of special needs including speech and language impairments, complex behavioural difficulties or universal delayed development.

‘This £40,000 grant from Essex Freemasons will make a huge difference to our work allowing us to pay for staff experienced in this kind of work who will ensure that we can maintain support for disadvantaged children and their families.’

Through the Early Years programme the YMCA aim to improve children’s educational achievement and development and support them to achieve greater outcomes. The scheme is tailored to the individual needs of each child, focusing on four key areas: better physical health, language development, understanding and expressing emotions and mathematics.

The programmes are offered free of charge to families and incorporate a range of accessible, fun activities, workshops and resources for children with specific needs identified by the Early Years staff team.

Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons, commented: ‘I am delighted that we have been able to make this grant to the YMCA to allow it to continue and expand its Early Years programme.

‘Such donations are a key part of our desire to work more closely with the community across Essex to provide charitable funding where it is most needed. Our members donate more than £1 million every year to good causes particularly in those area where we can really make a difference. This is one such example.’

As well as covering staffing costs the funding will also enable the YMCA to engage parents in workshops and produce newsletters and learning materials tailored to their children’s needs. This will provide parents with the essential tools to support their children’s educational development, more effectively engage with them in their home environment, and support their children’s developmental needs.

Simon Constable of Lodge Neuhaus No. 946, from the Grand Lodge of British Freemasons in Germany, David Purvis of Hervey and Kentish Companions Lodge No. 1692, in the Province of West Kent, and Mark Bryant of Dagenham Lodge No. 4699, in the Province of Essex, took part in the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice Parade in the Belgium town of Ypres on 11th November 2018

Simon and David, both Royal Air Force (RAF) veterans, now serving with RAF Air Cadets youth organisation, marched in the parade with the Cadet Contingent from London and the South East whilst Mark, also a forces veteran, marched in the Veterans Contingent.

The parade started in the Square outside St Martins Church and ended half a mile later at Menin Gate, the famous war memorial in Ypres where the names of the fallen British and Commonwealth soldiers who have no known grave are recorded.

To honour Freemasons who fell during the Great War, three Masonic wreaths were laid at Menin Gate. David and Mark laid wreaths on behalf of the Provincial Lodges of West Kent and of Essex respectively, whilst Simon laid a wreath on behalf of the United Grand Lodge of England, on which the message read ‘In Lasting Memory of those Freemasons who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Great War 1914 – 1918’.

David said: ‘It was an honour to lay these wreaths on behalf of all Freemasons and to pay respect to the Brethren who fell during the Great War, and in all wars since.'

Essex Freemasons have approved a grant of £15,000 to the County’s Cricket Foundation to help fund a programme to develop wheelchair cricket, enabling people with a disability to take an active part in the sport

The money, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), will enable the Essex Cricket Foundation to help develop the skills of disabled cricketers, particularly children and adapt the cricketing environment for all levels of ability.

The grant will particularly cover the cost of a specialist Wheelchair Cricket Coach who will be employed to run the sessions for the project. Currently, there are between four to 10 players attending regular sessions and the aim is to get a core of 10 to 12 taking part each week and to gets sessions going at further locations in Essex.

Rodney Bass, OBE, Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons, commented: ‘We have seen through the Invictus Games that wheelchair users are capable of anything which is why I am particularly delighted to have been able to make this donation on behalf of our members.

‘It will help those with disabilities to overcome obstacles that have previously prevented them taking part in the sport and I hope that wheelchair users who enjoy cricket will take advantage of this opportunity to learn the more practical skills via the Essex Cricket Foundation.’

Wheelchair cricket is a new format of the game played indoors. The game is designed to be played all year round by participants who require sport wheelchairs. Essex Cricket Foundation is now looking at venues across the County that already have these chairs to encourage as many as possible to take part.

Patrick Ward, Community Engagement Manager for Essex Cricket, added: ‘The basic equipment for wheelchair cricket includes plastic stumps, a compound rubber ball, fielding aids, cones and an adapted bat.

‘The bat is a shorter version of a standard cricket bat and the handles will be such that it will suit both one handed and two handed batsmen. The bat can also be lightweight and will reduce the degree of difficulty for the batsmen to score runs. Now that we have this Grant from Essex Freemasons it will help us expand the sport to wheelchair users and make a huge difference across the County.’

Wheelchair cricket sessions will be held at established sports centres which are fully accessible. The Foundation will seek to work in partnership with centres, when setting up sessions, to keep the costs of hiring the venues down.

The Foundation does not currently charge for sessions to avoid excluding children who might otherwise not be able to afford to take part and while that may change in the future (to cover hall hire costs) this grant will enable the Cricket Foundation to continue to offer free sessions for the foreseeable future to encourage people to try the sport.

Essex Freemasons from Saffron Walden have presented St John’s Church with a donation of £1,000 to help with its new maintenance and repair program

St John’s Church in Little Walden is a self-sufficient daughter Church to St Mary’s, but over recent years it has undergone a major three-year program of repairs and maintenance that placed an strain on its finances and meant that extra funding was urgently sought. The main repair work was needed to fix the outside porch of the Church, which was showing signs of movement that meant if it was not replaced could cause it to collapse, as well as replace two sole plates which were showing signs of rotting.

Richard Peet, Charity Steward of Walden Lodge No. 1280 and Deputy Warden at St John’s Church, said: ‘Through my association within the Freemasons, I knew that lodges support small and large organisations many of which are non-masonic causes. With my initial approach to my own lodge I was not surprised that to hear that the members had readily agreed to donate out of its benevolence fund, and further approaches were made to other lodges and chapters who meet in Saffron Walden.  

‘£900 was pledged which was enough to commence work on the Church porch. This amount was later rised to £1,000 and a cheque was presented on behalf of all Freemasons in Saffron Walden to the Treasurer of St John’s Church.’

Invictus Games Competitor and British Army veteran Ashley Hall fought back after a terrorist bomb took off both his legs and part of his left hand while on duty in Afghanistan, but even he was unprepared by the callous thieves who stole his specially adapted bike – and his route back to mobility and a more normal life

Now thanks to Essex Freemasons, Ashley, aged 28, is back in the saddle four months after thieves broke into the shed at his Colchester home, taking the bike and most importantly, the special components that enabled him to ride it.

After his story was featured in the Colchester Gazette newspaper, Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex, immediately offered to replace the bike; a task that took four months and the skill of experts from across Europe to fulfil.

'Raising the £8,000 to replace the bike and purchase the modifications was the easy bit,' said Rodney, who officially presented Ashley with his new machine at the St Giles Masonic Centre in Colchester on 19th October.

'We had to approach a specialist company in Austria, the only one that could build the bespoke specification needed and even they had to order and adapt a wide range of additional components to complete the job. It was a long wait but worth it to be able to get Ashley back in the saddle.

'I was particularly appalled by the fact that thieves who have probably contributed little to the community, had deprived a brave Army veteran, seriously disabled serving his country, and my members agreed. I am delighted we could help.'

For Ashley, who was serving in the Royal Engineers in 2007 as part of a bomb disposal team at the time of his injury, it is a dream come true. 'I wanted to do all the things that I had enjoyed before the incident,” he said.

'One of these was riding a bike again on just two wheels, a thing that most people take for granted. The thieves stopped that on the day they broke into my shed.'

Not that Ashley is man who is easily deterred. In 2017, he competed in the wheelchair rugby event in Prince Harry’s Invictus Games and today practices martial arts – he is a blue belt in Brazilian Jujitsu. At the time of the robbery he was in Anglesey in North Wales competing for Team Brit, a racing car event.

A new £250,000 high and low rope activity centre complete with aerial runway – the result of more than two years of fund raising, planning and construction to deliver what will be a major community project for young people across the county – was officially opened by Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons, and Stuart Gibson, County Commissioner for Essex Scouts, on Saturday September 15th 2018

The Ropes Course, the first facility of its kind anywhere in the country, is open to both able bodied and wheel chair users and in places, is the height of a four storey building. It's a joint project built for the Essex County Scouts at Skreens Park, Chelmsford, to celebrate 300 years of modern Freemasonry.

The High Ropes and Linear Courses, including the zip wire equipment were funded by a £145,000 donation from Essex Freemasons. Essex Scouts added to this by funding a further £120,000 to build Low Rope and Wheelchair Courses to ensure that access is provided to those of any age, including anyone with mobility issues. This has ensured that the facility will be open to all and also serves to raise awareness in the able bodied community of the issues faced by wheelchair users in everyday life.

For Essex Freemasons, who donated the money to build the runway, it will be a lasting legacy in support of young people who live in the area. It also once again confirms the organisation's ongoing commitment to the community.

'Our 10,000 members across Essex were in full support of funding a project that would be a fitting legacy in celebration of our Tercentenary year,' said Rodney Bass. “In less than 12 months they raised more than £161,000 which we decided to donate to the Scout Movement.

'Essex Scouts told us that they needed funding for a new rope activity centre that could be used by all organisations that use Skreens Park and we agreed. We immediately donated £145,000 to cover the cost of the work and decided that the balance will be used to support local Scouts across county.

'This activity centre is a wonderful facility of which my members can feel proud and one which I hope delivers many hours of challenge and enjoyment for the young people of Essex.'

Essex Scouts is one of the three largest Scout Counties in the Country, with nearly 22,000 members. Each year its adult members contribute over one million voluntary person hours in providing skills for life for young people across the county, which translated into financial terms equates to an injection into the Essex economy of nearly £8 million per annum.

Stuart Gibson, County Commissioner for Essex Scouts, commented: 'Essex Scouts are delighted and grateful to have received this generous donation from Essex Freemasons, which has enabled us to design and build an integrated Ropes Course comprising High Ropes, including a zip wire, Linear, Low Ropes and Wheelchair courses, to ensure that we have a facility that is accessible to as many people as possible. This will truly be a lasting legacy for the young people of the county.

'Skreens Park is a very busy site used by Scouts and Guides from across the country and the rest of the world. In addition, the facility is used by many local schools and other youth organisations. The Ropes courses will be an excellent facility to develop team building and group working whilst also challenging individuals in a safe environment.'

Installation of the High Ropes Courses at Skreens Park is one of dozens of projects across the county involving Essex Freemasons who regularly donate more than £1 million every year to local charities and good causes. More than 300 lodges meet in Essex from 27 different Centres and continue to play an active role in the community – Skreens Park being the latest.

Essex mason David Todd, 53, went airborne for charity, allowing himself to be strapped to the top of a Boeing-Stearman biplane, travelling at speeds of more than 130mph as the plane circled the Essex countryside

‘I had to lose two stone before they would let me fly. I was nervous to start with, and it was the most uncomfortable seat I’ve ever sat on,’ said David, who raised almost £1,700 for the Essex 2022 Festival appeal.

Members of Essex Cornerstone Club, including President Reiss Duthie, visited Le Touquet Loge No. 89 in the French Province of Flanders, where they attended its 160th meeting

The meeting was held at the Luxurious Westminster Hotel over the weekend of 21st and 22nd July 2018 and attended by 35 members including the Provincial Grand Master of Flanders Gilbert Geeraert, Deputy Provincial Grand Master Maurice Borgmann and Assistant Provincial Grand Master Jacques Mullem, together with other Provincial Grand Officers and a number of Essex and London Freemasons who are members of the lodge.

The acting Master Steve Richards introduced a talk delivered by Essex Freemason Ken Cownden, who is also a member of Le Touquet Loge, which had been borrowed from fellow Essex mason Jim McCreadie, entitled ‘They Exchanged the Sceptre for the Trowel’. The talk counted the number of English Royal Freemasons throughout history and was well-received, as well as being translated into French for assistance for the numerous French guests.

Following the meeting, the French executive joined around 50 people who dined including non-masons, wives and guests.

Dorothy Barley Infant School in Dagenham is to receive dedicated, specialist support to help improve outcomes for vulnerable children and give them a better start in life, thanks to national charity Achievement for All and Essex Freemasons

A grant of £5,000 from Essex Freemasons, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), will allow Achievement for All to work with staff at Dorothy Barley to assist pupils to achieve greater potential in life by helping to lay down firm and positive aspirations to learn and succeed. The programme, which also involves parents and staff, has been proven to give youngsters the support they need, particularly in the early years

The £5,000 grant is part of a much larger grant of £240,000 given by Freemasons to 53 schools in England and Wales through Achievement for All’s award-winning Achieving Schools programme.

Achievement for All is a leading not-for-profit organisation that works in partnership with early years settings, schools and colleges, improving outcomes for all children and young people regardless of their background, challenge or need.

The grant will provide subsidised access to the Achieving Schools programme, which dramatically enhances the goals and outcomes of pupils and addresses the issues faced by children and staff though four key areas: leadership, teaching and learning, wider outcomes and opportunities, and parent and carer engagement. Schools who have benefited from this programme to date have seen a positive impact on the development of teaching, increased pupil attendance as well as improved confidence amongst pupils in their own abilities to achieve.

Christine James, Headteacher at Dorothy Barling, said: 'The grant will make a huge difference to this school. It will enable us to work closely with Achievement for All to identify children and parents in need of support and most importantly provide the time needed to concentrate on those youngsters that need it most.

'This school is very much part of the local community with parents who give us considerable support but we have some who need help and this money will enable us to make a difference.'

Colin Felton, Provincial Communications Officer for Essex Freemasons, said: 'We are very pleased to be able to help Achievement for All with their excellent programme at Dorothy Barling.

'Freemasons are very much part of the community and our 10,000 members are actively raising money for the MCF to ensure that grants to schools and other local charities can be made on a regular basis. We are delighted to be able to help this incredible initiative work in Dagenham.

'Developing children’s core strength and resilience can improve confidence and engage children in learning. By supporting these pupils now we can play an important part in helping them make the most of their education.'

Find out more about the £5,000 donation – watch this short video.

Page 1 of 4

ugle logo          SGC logo