Posted by: rivettingkatetaylor | May 31, 2010

Trivial truths about Freemasonry

Okay, I’ve already stolen a headline this morning so in a moment I’m going to steal the rest of the story.

I have had many discussions over the years (not all positive) about an organisation my Dad was involved with for most of his adult life. Freemasonry. Lodge.

I remember Dad bringing out his black dress shoes for us to nugget and polish (I can’t remember how frequently) as he got dressed up in his dinner suit, shaved and old spiced ready for Lodge.

Occasionally, we would hear him reciting words out of the little blue book that sat in his bedside drawer.  I’ve seen photos of him with the regalia on but I can’t remember how high he got (Master of West Otago Lodge, Mum?)   And fond memories are also recalled of Lodge picnics at Parkhill Domain or the Heriot Golf Club with softball, lolly scrambles, sausage sizzles and Santa.

Lodge was never negative for me and I had a few stand up rows with one or two devout Catholics in my sixth or seventh form year mainly about the fact the Lodge members accepted the faith of other members, which meant a Hindu or Muslim could stand next to a Christian – the overriding factor was that a member of the Lodge had to believe in “a superior being”.  

Around that time, The Lodge also organised debutante balls in Tapanui every couple of years.  Good school friend Gavin was my partner for mine. I still have a framed photo of me with Mum and Dad in my white dress(which I also still have – in the box along with Mum’s own deb dress!) They taught us all how to dance – the good one Gay Gordons and others – and we were the centre of attention for the evening. Great promotion for the Lodge as well, even if the meaning of being a deb had changed since my mother’s day! (It used to be a coming out into society thing, whereas we’d long been out!)

In my more recent history, I won a young achiever’s award through Young Farmers and the Royal Agricultural Society (and sponsored by Freemasons) in 2000. As well as the prize money, the winner at the time also received a shepherd’s crook with a merino horn (engraved with name, award and year) from Mr Laurie Inder of Central Otago, the-then Grand Master of the NZ Freemasons (apologies if I have that title wrong).

Since moving to Hawke’ s Bay 17 years ago, I have dealt with many members of the Lodge in various forms and have never had reason to doubt the sincerity and worthwhile nature of this organisation. And glimpses of the compass and square “logo” on their buildings flashes me back with a quick memory of my Dad.

And imagine my surprise when one of  my favourite book characters, Jamie from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, becomes a Freemason in an English prison during the Jacobite Rising, which united the imprisoned men who came from dozens of different clans. Cool.

Quite frankly, I don’t think my Dad (and others with him) would have been part of an organisation that was bad in any way, shape or form.

Anyhoooo, here’s a link to the article that caught my attention on the website this morning from Rhonda Markby from the Timaru Herald.  Actually I just fund two links so you can go to both if you wish. (as reads below)

It could be a Trivial Pursuit question: Which organisation has donated $3 million to hospices this year, has members of many faiths and is the biggest private provider of scholarships to New Zealand universities?

The 50 people who turned out to the Everything you wish to know about Freemasonry but were afraid to ask session in Timaru yesterday now know the answer.

The afternoon was organised by the South Canterbury Historical Society and Friends of the Museum to coincide with the museum’s Freemasons exhibition.

On hand to answers the questions were The Grand Lodge of New Zealand’s grand master Stan Barker, grand secretary Laurence Milton and chairman of directors Neville Patrick.

The questions ranged from why there are no women in the lodges, to whether Catholics could join, and what was behind the “goat” jokes.

So why no women in the lodge? It would take a change at international level to allow that. It’s an organisation that aims to make men “better men”. There were still roles for women. Mr Milton’s wife was heavily involved in his lodge’s social committee and charity work.

Is the lodge dying off? The “flower power, hippy generation” were not interested in the lodge, meaning there is a missing generation. New Zealand membership reached a high of 47,000 in 1964. More younger members are joining than ever before, but older members are dying.

What’s the regalia about? The symbolism teaches members the lessons of life, just as the regalia a church minister wears has special significance.

Are masons anti-Christian? Certainly not. Every freemason must believe in a superior being. Many are Christians and choose the Bible as their “sacred law” on which they swear their “obligation”. Yet Mr Barker has been at ceremonies where five “sacred laws” have been used because of the different beliefs of members.

“You can have a Muslim sitting next to us, and a Hindu on the other side. It teaches tolerance and you expect the same back.”

What they must all have is high moral standards.

Do freemasons help each other? One criminal who gave the masonic sign to a British judge was sentenced to hang – proof there was no favouritism.

The organisation probably helps non members more. It has already donated $3 million to hospices this year, funds university research into gerontology, brain disease and paediatrics, and is the largest private provider of university scholarships.

Can you leave the lodge? Yes. Some choose to. Others are expelled when they breach the high moral standards demanded, or are convicted of an imprisonable offence.

// And what about the goats? Lodge buildings used to be on large sections and while the grass might be mowed in residential areas, in the rural areas a farmer Freemason might tie up a goat to eat the grass. With the buildings having no windows, rumours were rife as to why the goat was there.

A “goat” is also a traditional mason’s tool – a two legged lifting device. Some say the lodge’s symbol, the square and compass, looks like a goat head with horns when turned upside down. Anything else you might have heard about Freemasons and goats is purely myth.

It was not the first time Mr Milton had been asked the “goat” question.

No comment from me on the goats.



  1. Yes Kate – your Dad was Master of Lodge Herculies in West Otago but also belonged to the Red Lodge and later, to Lodge St John in Mosgiel

  2. Great Article Kate, have just finished reading Dan Browns the lost symbol which is based on masonary beliefs and symbols, very good book.
    Was also thinking about the young acheivers award the other day!

    • You probably should have won it that day Fi. I think they took pity on me because I was nine months pregnant at the time! Is it your book? I have heard about it but not read it. Can I borrow? Sounds like a good excuse for a trip to Ocean Beach! (I know, I don’t need an excuse!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: