Freemasonry is flourishing in Mauritius with a new Grand Lodge as Michael Allan discovered
On 12 March 2005, the 37th anniversary of National Independence Day, the first Grand Lodge of Mauritius was consecrated and RW Brother Lindsay Descombes was installed as Grand Master. MW Brother Jean-Charles Foellner, Grand Master of the Grande Loge Nationale Française, carried out the Installation. This was the pinnacle of the island’s distinguished history of Freemasonry stretching back more than 200 years.
The week of celebration that followed in the presence of Grand Masters and delegations from four continents, laid the foundation of what is set to be an outward-looking fraternity whilst observing the true traditions of the Craft.
At present, the seven Lodges previously under the banner of the Grande Loge Nationale Française have been transferred to the new Grand Lodge of Mauritius and consequently re-numbered 01 to 07.
The Grand Lodge has defined its Vision, its Mission Statement and its Objectives. The Action Plan’s first priority has been to seek recognition from, and exchange Lodge Representatives with, Grand Lodges in friendly countries. To date some 50 countries have been contacted and recognition received from a dozen.
As a Freemason born in Mauritius, but who has resided in England for the past 45 years, I was delighted and astounded to be made an Honorary Founder Member and a Very Worshipful Brother as Past Grand Deacon. This was in recognition of my recently published historical book, Freemasonry in Mauritius – A Chronological Compilation of Lodges 1778 – 2004, the only complete account of the Craft on the island.
Although when I started my research I had no idea that the formation of a Grand Lodge was under discussion, the book’s publication fortuitously coincided with the consecration. However, it was six months later, in September 2005, that I was at last able to attend my first Lodge meeting in Mauritius.
I was invited to Lodge Louis Auguste Ormières No. 1 and to Friendship Royal Arch Chapter No. 160. This is the only Chapter on the island and is on the Roll of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland.
At Lodge No. 1 they performed a third degree, and I found that it is often customary in Mauritian Lodges for visitors to be announced and admitted well after the minutes of the previous meeting have been read and approved.
The Rite Emulation was the order of the day and it was a pleasure to hear the ceremony in French. Furthermore, I was astonished to find out that it was exactly the way we do it in England, virtually a literal translation. Being bilingual I felt I could easily have stood in for one of the officers.
For the Chapter Installation, the whole procedure was new to me. It was the first time I had witnessed a Scottish Ritual. The Friendship Royal Arch Chapter No. 160 was Chartered on 16 June 1875 and inaugurated in 1879. It became dormant between 1896 and 1918. Amongst the Founder Members and those on the Roll of First Principals were many well-known local Brethren, including early British administrators on the island.
I will forever remember and be most grateful for the warmth and friendship I received on both occasions, and the Festive Board was exceptional. At the end of the meeting a table full of gajacks (Mauritian for tit bits e.g., chilli cakes, samoussas, etc) and drinks greet you, then follows a three-course meal including wine, all for £6!