The objectives of the Association are the promotion, development and dissemination of topics of interest to Freemasonry, the Hamilton Districts in Particular of the Grand Jurisdiction in general and to foster and maintain contact between Association members.
Extract from the current Association By-Laws
A Living History
With a sincere thanks to those brethren who maintained a diligent record of our past.
MASONIC PAST MASTERS’ ASSOCIATION OF THE HAMILTON DISTRICTS
1902 – 1992
“The objects of the Association shall be to promote, develop and improve the study of Freemasonry and all matters pertaining thereto by means of discussions, debates, essays, addresses, lectures or papers on Masonic Education and other subjects, and generally to promote and maintain social intercourse and cordial relations between its members and with other recognized Masonic Bodies.” This is quoted from our By-Laws and has come to us from the very beginning of our association.
The first meeting of the association for which we have recorded minutes was held on July 11, 1903, however there must have been at least one meeting prior to that date as it is mentioned in those minutes that the Secretary had left the city and an election would have to be held for his successor.
That meeting was chaired by the president Rt. Wor. Bro. John Hoodless and was called for the explicit purpose, and I quote “of discussing what action if any should be taken to secure the election of the Hamilton brethren who would be nominated at the approaching meeting of Grand Lodge.” In particular there was a determined effort, and I again quote “to have the Hamilton brethren attend Grand Lodge to use every lawful means to elect Most Worshipful Brother Hugh Murray to the office of Grand Secretary, thereby retaining that important office in this city.”
From the sound of the minutes of that meeting you are lead to believe that the association was interested in a large degree with the politics of Masonry. This is not unexpected as all associations of men who band together for whatever purpose, require that they attend to those matters which are in their best interests. Therefore it should not surprise us that these brethren were concerned with the election of local masons of skill and reputation to positions of importance.
Having said this we are quick to point out that they were also interested in other matters of importance as set out in those objects. It was not uncommon for a mason of some knowledge to address the association on Masonic education. For example, the meeting of October 19, 1904 was addressed by Rt. Wor. Bro. A.T. Freed who spoke on the topic “Words Used in Masonry” and the minutes record that this paper was printed in the “Masonic Sun” with a copy sent to every member. And again on March 24, 1905, Wor. Bro. Rev. F.E. Howitt spoke on the topic “A Visit to the Mother Lodge at Jerusalem” while on April 19, 1905, Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Uriss addressed the topic “Some Fables and Fictions About the Jew.” These papers were always enthusiastically received and it appears that they were given some prominence in the press of the day.
It would be of great benefit to this association in particular and to Masonry in general if copies of these addresses could be found. I leave that quest in the hands of each of our members so that they can make “a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge” and at the same time contribute to the knowledge we all possess.
Mention is made several times in the minutes of early meetings that notice was given to the members of upcoming meetings through the press, which would indicate that the Craft was held in high regard in those days.
Turning now to another of the objects, it is recorded in the minutes for the meeting of January 29, 1909, that Moore Sovereign Consistory called from labour to refreshment to hear the address of Most Worshipful Brother A.T. Freed who spoke on “The Temple Legends”. There are many notations of visits between this association and other Masonic bodies especially with the Past Masters’ Association of Toronto.
The association was also active in charitable works with comment recorded on the donation of two Red Cross ambulances during the First World War, and the establishment of “The Murray Bureau of Labour” in 1908.
We were also interested in history and mention is made of the unveiling of a monument in Burlington, on June 27, 1909, over the remains of Wor. Bro. Capt. Wm J. Kerr, “The Victor of Beaver Dams”.
Brethren, I have only provided you here with a very brief tale of the exploits of the members of this association over our formative years and there is so much more to discover. I invite each and every one of you to come and bring a friend to our next meeting when I hope to add more flesh to the bare bones here presented.
At our last meeting on October 29, we talked about the beginnings of our association and in particular how they were fulfilling some of their objects. There were a number of anecdotes given and now I wish to proceed by giving further examples as well as some important historic events.
Before the beginning of the First World War, the association appears to have had a busy round of events. Visits with the Past Masters’ Association of Toronto continued as well as fraternal visits with some of our American neighbours. Annual picnics were popular and mention is made of one at Nash’s Grove on August 2, 1911. The Grand Master’s reception was always a well attended event as well. One hundred attended the 1911 reception when the price was 75 cents and total revenue was $75.75 with total expenses $94.40. Even then they had trouble covering costs. The next reception held in 1913 had a ticket price of $2.00 for city members and $1.00 for outside members. Total receipts were $122.00, total expenses were $267.50 for a deficit of $145.50. A motion was passed to pay the bills “as funds will permit”. They had attempted to cover costs by raising the ticket price but the result was that fewer attended causing the shortfall to be even greater.
The meeting on March 22, 1915 was the first meeting since the Declaration of War and was addressed by the Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of New York, Rt. Wor. Bro. Rev. Frederick Williams.
He brought to us the sympathy of his country in our conflict with the Prussian War Lord and that the people are overwhelmingly pro British. He asked us not to ask them to take up arms with us for it is better to have their moral support and sympathy than their physical support, as nothing can be gained and much may be imperilled.
The same problem of low attendance was evident then as now. the meeting in November 1915 was addressed by M.Wor Bro. Dr. D.J. Goggin, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba who spoke on the topic “Masonry a Progressive Science”. Masonry he said aimed to teach men their duty and then to do it. He lamented that only one in five members attended its regular meetings.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it.
At the meeting in April 1917 Rt. Wor. Bro. Rev. D.J. Broughton, Doctor of Divinity of Buffalo, N.Y. addressed the meeting on “Masonry and Patriotism” and said that from the teachings and advantages Masons had they should be leaders of men and feel that they were called to serve others like Lincoln had done.
Three years into the war and a year before its conclusion, Rt. Wor Bro. F.W. Harcourt gave an interesting and vivid description of his trip and visit to the Troops Overseas. The meeting was held on November 8, 1917 and was adjourned to join with The Barton Lodge # 6 on their 121st anniversary. Members of the association occupied the chairs with Most Wor. Bro. A.T. Freed in the chair of King Solomon and in keeping with the times, the candidate receiving the first degree was Major George Cragie Wright.
The years immediately after the war were ones of considerable activity. In September 1919, forty members of the Past Masters’ Association of Toronto motored to Hamilton for a fraternal dinner and meeting. Politics, religion and masonry were uppermost in many people’s minds as is evident in the topics chosen by Rt. Wor. Bro. Rev. W.M. Kannawin, Past Grand Chaplain, who spoke on “The Relations between Masonry and Christianity at the meeting in January 1921 and by Bro. R.E. Knowles, Canadian author and lecturer who addressed the meeting in June 1922. He spoke on “Fountain Springs of Masonry”. To complete the circuit, Bro. H.E. Amos, Doctor of Paedgogy and lecturer on Science at The Normal School, spoke on “Psychology of Modern Political Movements” at the January 1923 meeting. The world had changed to a very large extent with the defeat of the Germans in 1918 but also with the Russian Revolution in 1917 which brought the Communists to power. We are only now seeing the results of that adventure.
1923 brought another auspicious occasion for the masons of Hamilton, for that was the year that the Scottish Rite Cathedral was completed. Rt. Wor Bro. George Moore, Commander-in-Chief of Moore Sovereign Consistory invited the association to hold its annual meeting in that Cathedral. We still hold our bi-annual Grand Master’s Receptions in that fine edifice.
Also in 1923, the association voted in favour of dividing the Hamilton District into two Districts to be named Hamilton Masonic Districts A and B. Obviously the Craft had been growing in numbers and in numbers of Lodges.
Over the years the association has been active in assisting lodges and that was evident on June 25, 1925, when a motion was passed to donate $50.00 to the Masonic Lodge in Hagersville which had been destroyed by fire. Also at that meeting a motion was made but defeated as it was thought to be political in nature that Grand Lodge be asked to forward a resolution to the Dominion Parliament with the words “Hands off the Flag”. There had been some concern that the British flag would be altered for use by the Dominion of Canada – presumably the Red Ensign.
For those of you who are interested in history, I can assure you that the minutes of this association are full of historically meaningful comment and I would urge each one of you to make it your project to examine the minutes of your lodge and make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge.
More is promised for our next meeting so be sure to attend and bring a friend.
In our last paper, we covered the activities of the Association during the Great Depression of the Dirty Thirties through the Second World War of 1939 -1945. During this time frame, change was the watchword as our world was turned upside down by events which filled to overflowing the world stage. Our daily activities were transformed and changed forever. The days of innocence were gone.
The easy living of the twenties became the hardship of the thirties and the war torn desolation of the forties, and when it came to an end, many believed that the world would sink once more into depression. Such was not to be the case as the returning troops provided the impetus for change. They had seen such terrible sights and experienced firsthand the inhumanity of man to man that they were determined that what they had fought for would not be lost. In this context then, let us review what happened in our Association during the latter half of the forties and beyond.
With the return of the troops a number of wounded brethren were placed in Military Hospitals in the area. In June 1946 mention is made of 26 names in the Masonic Register at Gage Avenue Military Hospital and that each brother had been visited twice a week.
Some of the brethren were moved to the Mountain Sanatorium from that hospital and assistance was requested for more visitors to visit them. One brother, it was mentioned, was discharged from the hospital and The Lodge of Strict Observance with the financial aid of Hugh Murray Lodge purchased a hospital bed for him.
Perhaps the most enduring event was the establishment of a Masonic Blood Bank. It was the custom at the time, for those who needed a blood transfusion, to wait for family and friends to donate the necessary blood. It was decided that this was not acceptable as valuable time was lost, perhaps resulting in the loss of life. As a result a Masonic Blood Bank was established with a register at General Hospital so that when a Mason or a member of a Mason’s family required a transfusion, the blood could be taken from the bank immediately. As demand increased, the call was continually made for more volunteers and the service became firmly rooted. In 1947 it was reported that the Masonic Blood Bank would likely be taken over by the Red Cross, however, this did not happen until 1949, some eight years after it had been conceived. During that time over 3,000 donations were made.
At the meeting of November 29, 1949, mention was made of the 12 lives saved at the time of the Moose Hall fire through the efforts of the Masonic Blood Donor Service which was instrumental in providing the necessary blood quickly and efficiently. This event proved the value of the service and no doubt led to the spread of the voluntary blood donor clinics.
While the war ended in 1945, suffering, shortages and misery were still evident in Europe and this Association was active in collecting and distributing relief to Britain. In October 1947 it was reported that $24,940. was donated by various lodges to the “Boxes for Britain Fund” and about 700 parcels each month were being sent to England, Ireland and Scotland. By January 30, 1948,
that figure had risen to $94,768 with 1200 parcels per month representing 12 tons of food. The original goal of $55,000 had been surpassed and there were still 7 months to go in the campaign.
All of these projects show the true nature of our gentle craft and the caring men who make up our order. These traits are still evident today in the many activities we sponsor and we can be justly proud of this heritage.
While dealing with the present needs, the brethren did not forget the past or neglect the future. The past was remembered with a Memorial Tablet to the honour of those of our brethren who made the supreme sacrifice in the Second World War similar to the one then held in memory of those in the Great War. The tablet was draped in the Union Jack and was unveiled on March 30, 1949. Last Post and Reveille were played in solemn tribute to these gallant men. I can well imagine the many tears that must have been shed that day for fallen comrades-in-arms and brethren in Masonry. A fitting tribute to our friends. For no man hath greater love than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.
In that same year, consideration was being given to securing a suitable site for a new Masonic Temple as the present building was antiquated and inadequate. The search continued for many years and finally culminated in the erection of the present Central Masonic Temple in 1975. The events between these two dates are numerous, however, I shall only touch on a few. I am not able to comment on the period between February 1950 and January 1962 as the minute book for that period is missing. If anyone knows its whereabouts, we would be forever grateful. It contains the record of our endeavours and is invaluable for the preservation of our heritage.
A diligent search must be made for this valuable document at the earliest possible time if we are to have any hope of recovering it.
The first mention of a new temple appears in March 1968 when then V.W. Bro. R.J. Connor reported that the York St. property would likely be available by July 1st and that the city would take over the present site by the end of the year and lease it back to us until ready to demolish it. Unfortunately, that did not transpire, as the fire on September 20, 1968 intervened and our plans had to be changed. In June 1971, now R.W.Bro. Connor reported that discussions were underway to construct the new temple on the Scottish Rite property and in November 1972, R.W.Bro. Robert Strachan, reported on the winding up of the affairs of the Hamilton Masonic Hall and the progress of the Central Masonic Temple to replace it. In October 1973 the secretary reported on the proposed purchase of All Saints Anglican Church. No further mention is made until April 1975 when it was reported that the new temple was being built on Main St. E. The first mention of a meeting of the Association in this building was in December 1975 when the executive met.
Briefly, some of the topics for our speakers during this time were: “The Responsibilities of Canadian Citizenship”, “The Idea of Justice and the Practice of Probation”, “Bridging the Gaps in our Society”, “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his Eternal Music”, “Your Income Tax and You”, “P.O.W. in Vietnam”, “The New Tax Assessment Policy for Municipal Taxes”, and “Apartheid in South Africa”. As you will have noticed some of these topics are as timely today as they were ten to fifty years ago. The more things change the more they stay the same.
Brethren they say that if you don’t learn from history, you are doomed to relive it. It is therefore important to our future that we learn the lessons so hardly learned and put into practice those precepts which have been so ably demonstrated by our forefathers.
May we build for our descendants as well as they have built for us.
As one final comment on this project, let me express the hope that a committee be formed by this Association to further the research which I have begun. May they be charged with collecting
from whatever sources are available, the material necessary to flesh out the bare bones which I have presented here this past year. The discovery of the lost minute book is paramount and I would ask all brethren to discuss this in their lodges in an effort to learn its whereabouts. It would also be helpful if material from news clippings, photographs, letters, lodge minutes, etc. could be provided to this new committee. Let us recreate our living history.
—–More to follow…….