THE HISTORY OF THE LODGE
A Talk by John Edmondson, December 2011
A Talk By Worshipful Brother John Edmondson PJGD on The Founders and Formation of The Trinity Mariners " Lodge No 8406. Brethren the next item on the agenda is to receive a talk from me entitled the origins of the Trinity Mariners' Lodge. Today is the 40th anniversary of the first regular meeting of the Lodge following its consecration in November 1971 and, according to much which has appeared in the press recently, everybody is going to live longer so some of you younger brethren could quite easily live for the next 60 years into your 90s even early hundreds and be around when the Lodge celebrates its centenary, so you may be able to look back on this occasion and say one of the old cocks of the Lodge who was a founder told us what it was all about on the anniversary of the 40th of the 40th meeting. I divided this talk into three parts, why the Lodge was formed, how it was formed and who the founders were.
Why it was formed was to some extent beyond the control of Freemasons in as much as in the summer of 1938, at which time there were in Dover three craft lodges; peace and Harmony, Corinthian and Military Jubilee, three chapters, one Mark Lodge one K T Preceptory and one Rose Croix chapter. In the summer of 1938 the government introduced compulsory registration for all men of 20 1/2 years to be conscripted into the armed services. During the next 15 months the political situation in Europe deteriorated and in September 1939 we were at war. By which time the age for registering for military service had been reduced and it was constantly reduced until it was finally down to 18 and at the same time it started to go up and by the middle 1940s even men in their 30s were being required to register. The registration of the younger men and their call-up into the armed services immediately had the effect of reducing the supply of young men to become Masons. This also, of course, affected men in their 20s and 30s and not only that it actually started to pull out of the lodges men who had already become Freemasons.
The consequence was that, eventually, by 1945 when the war finished the lodges in the town were largely dominated by elderly brethren or certainly middle-aged brethren and although the war was over, people who were called weren't released more or less overnight. Armies of occupation had to be maintained in Europe and the Far East and because of their association many of the people who did come back had met brethren in the services and mines and in the reserved occupations into which they had been drafted and expressed an interest in becoming Freemasons. The consequence was that there was a large influx of brethren into Freemasonry and the three craft lodges in Dover. Some of the brethren felt that doing 10 or more years as a Brother on the floor before they actually became stewards of the Lodge, which often took another 10 years to get to the top of the stewards bench, was too long and they were anxious to form new lodges to speed their promotion in Freemasonry. The old guard of the three lodges in Dover was strongly opposed to this, but in 1949 the Snar Gate lodge was formed and in the next 12 years there were three more lodges; Pharos, Dover Castle and, with a great deal of difficulty, in 1961 Septem. After that there were no more craft lodges formed in Dover for 28 years. So great was the intake that brethren became restless, which accounted for the formation of Dover Castle and Septem lodges.
Trinity House pilots were in a somewhat similar position in that when they were called to the pilot service they were already of the age of about 32 or 33 and they then had to work for a period of six months without any pay, accompanying licence pilots whilst they learned the job. These Trinity House pilots came from all parts of the country and they were required to live within 10 miles of the pilot office in Dover so they had to move house. Most of them were married, with small children, so there was no money coming in and an awful lot of money going out because of the expenses they had to bear while they were doing this qualifying time. Travel and sustenance were entirely down to them and when they finally got a licence they were on a reduced income for three years. So it wasn't until they were about 40 that they were earning income and those who, and there were quite a lot of them, who were Freemasons when they came to the pilot service suddenly were appalled at the idea of having to do 10 years before they became stewards and another 10 years has stewards, they could see that they would have gone to the Grand Lodge above before they even got to the Masters chair. So there was a move among some of the pilots to form a Lodge of their own. One of the drawbacks of the existing lodges was that you had to attend every meeting and, if you did not attend every meeting, this could have a very serious effects on your prospect of promotion within the Lodge. Trinity House pilots aware of this and the peculiar circumstances of this felt that, if they had a Lodge of their own, they could accommodate each other, because one would often be called for duty thinking oh yes I would be home tomorrow night and in fact not get home for two or three days. So a little group of us decided that we would like to form a Lodge, that was how it came about.
We had a meeting with those who had expressed an interest. There were approximately 20 Freemasons in the pilot service at Dover and about a dozen in the pilot service at Sheerness. Some of them expressed an interest but later withdrew, but those who were keen decided to press ahead. At that time I lived about 200 yards from the then Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies who was the first Master of Septem Lodge of which I was a member and I approached him to ask him how do we go about this. He quizzed me quite deeply about our ideas and he said he would speak to an Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Frederic Friday, he said he was interested he thought it was a good idea and so with Worshipful Brother Wollaston and Brother Knowles and I we went to see Worshipful Brother Friday. He told us all the problems and one of the things he said was he thought back to restrict membership of the Lodge to Trinity House pilots would be a wrong move. He thought it ought to be more open, so we then agreed that we would take people from the ferries connected with the Port of Dover and the shipping agencies, customs, special Branch and immigration, anybody who had, in fact, a connection with the Port of Dover. So we got to the point of finding somewhere to meet. We first of all approached the management committee at Dover and were told that we would not be welcome, they felt that they had enough lodges here then without needing more. We then went to Canterbury and got a similar reception and so then we went to Folkestone and they said yes we are delighted to see you, and so, having selected dates and got some firm details on the idea, we signed the petition and this went off to the Province. This was about two years or 18 months before Kent was split into two, the Provincial Office was at Maidstone and, I am sorry to say, the Provincial Secretary was most un-accommodating and unhelpful. 17 brethren had signed a petition to form the Lodge, he said that's not enough. Worshipful Brother Friday, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, said it is enough. So the Provincial Secretary said that there are only four past Masters, that's not enough, Fred Friday said yes it is enough. So the Provincial Secretary then said there aren't any Provincial officers among the founders. So Worshipful Brother Friday said that doesn't matter either.
So the time was drawing near to when we felt we wanted a consecration date, we were advised that this should be at Dover town Hall and by now we were coming towards the end of 1971, and because of social functions, the available dates at the town Hall were limited. When these dates were submitted to the Provincial Secretary he said oh well the Provincial Grand Master is consecrating a Lodge at Whitstable in November and he won't be available until the spring of 1972. So Worshipful Brother Friday had a word with the Provincial Grand Master and advised the Provincial Secretary oh yes you will! He's got a date in November! So in November 1971, after a series of rehearsals, the final rehearsal on the morning of the day of the consecration we had lunch in the Stone Hall at the Town Hall and, in the afternoon, the Lodge was consecrated by the Provincial Grand Master. The Deputy Provincial Grand Master then installed Worshipful Brother Walter Blewer as the first Master.
So who were these chaps who formed the Lodge? The first Master was Worshipful Brother Brewer who had been initiated in Bombay towards the end of the war or shortly after the war finished and had come from deep sea service in the Merchant Navy to the pilot service at Sheerness and had been Master of the Lodge at Sheerness. The Immediate Past Master was Worshipful Brother Bob McCauley who had been a founding Senior Warden and second Master of Septem Lodge here at Dover. I was the first Senior Warden, the first Junior Warden was Brother Cliff Eastwood who was a member of Dover Castle Lodge, that was his Mother Lodge. The Chaplain was Brother Colin Rhodes, a member of the Isle if Sheppey Lodge at Sheerness. The Treasurer was Brother Gordon Greenham who said that he was quite happy to be the Treasurer but that he had no desire to progress to the Master's chair. He had been a lieutenant commander in the Royal Naval Reserve during the war and had been the navigator of an aircraft carrier, a fleet aircraft carrier and he came to Freemasonry as soon as he was released from the service in his native Hampshire. The Secretary was another Septem man, Worshipful Brother Norman Stanley who always claimed he had been conned into joining the Lodge. He was invited, he said, to come and take a few notes at the would-be founders meetings, but eventually finished up being invested as Secretary of the Lodge. The Director of Ceremonies was a rather formidable Past Master of Commemoration Lodge at Folkestone, Worshipful Brother Paul James, who was an inspector of immigration which is more or less just about as high as you can go without becoming an office bound waller in Whitehall. He was responsible for immigration in those days in the whole of South East England, with the exception of the Port of Dover, up to the borders of the boundaries with Gatwick and obviously he had not got to his position through pussyfooting and he didn't pussyfoot with us either! We towed the line and, if we didn't, we got the rough end of his tongue. The two Deacons were Brother John Walker another Medway pilot and a member of a couple of Lodges at Sheerness and the Junior Deacon was Brother Peter Lawrence, our current Chaplain who is unfortunately not well. The Inner Guard was a chief engineer from British Rail, John Terry, who sadly died not all that long after the Lodge had been consecrated. The Almoner was Brother Knowles and the Organist was a Brother Bainbridge. Brother Knowles was pilot here at Dover, Brother Bainbridge at Sheerness and Brother Bainbridge's claim to fame was that, in the early days of the Lodge when we met at Folkestone for the installation meetings we used to go to the Burlington Hotel for the subsequent dinner. Strangely enough the hotel had no piano and it was the duty of the Master Elect to arrange for a piano to accompany the Brother who was going to sing the Masters song and one occasion the Master Elect forgot to order the piano. This came out in time for Brother Bainbridge, who played the concertina, to bring the concertina to accompany the singer and on that occasion. As with many other occasions Worshipful Brother Friday was present at the installation meeting, he declared it was the best rendering of the Masters song due to the concertina accompaniment that he had ever heard. He sat there and the tears rolled down his face. The three stewards of the Lodge were Brother Harry Griffiths who was subsequently a Master of Septem Lodge, he was a holder of the distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal and his claim to fame outside masonry was that he had engaged in the longest non-stop towage act that was ever recorded, and it was a record that was held until a few days before he died when, at fortunately a time, when he was already unconscious. He never knew that his record had been smashed. The other two Stewards were Brother Mutter and who subsequently served as a long-time Secretary of the Lodge and Brother John Atwood a Medway pilot. So those brethren are the founders of the Lodge, since then we have had our ups and downs, we have managed to get to 40 years and it is down to you younger brethren to ensure that you go through now the next 60 years to the Centenary. Sadly of the 17 founders only four of us are left alive, two of those are no longer members of the Lodge, Brother Knowles who lives in Bath and Brother Bainbridge still lives in Sheppey but he is not at all well. So Peter Lawrence and I are the only two brethren who are still members of the Lodge and Peter assured me that, although he's not too well, he still has his claws firmly around the perch and hopes to be around for a while longer as do I.
Brethren there you are, if there any questions I will try and answer them. On the occasion of our 25th anniversary we had a little booklet printed, it's really a statistical record of who the founders were. It details the Provincial representatives were Installation meetings, it records what we did at each meeting, Initiations, Passings, Raisings or whether we had a talk and, if anybody is interested, I have a few spare copies here which anybody can have, either members of the Lodge who have never had one or members of the Lodge who may have lost one that they originally had or the visitors.
Brethren I think that's all I have to say.
The brethren applauded Worshipful Brother Edmondson for his most interesting talk on the origins of the Lodge. Worshipful Brother Saville rose and thanked Worshipful Brother John, and reminisced that Worshipful Brother Paul James's last meeting was his initiation and that Worshipful Brother Paul James was the acting Junior Warden on the night and, despite all the talk has been about him being an absolute tyrant, he could still remember his kindly smile from the Junior Warden's chair. Worshipful Brother Saville went on to inform the brethren that he had set up a small website which also contained the history of the Lodge but that he had struggled to keep it up-to-date due to duties at the Provincial Office. Since last June he now had more time available and it was his intention to bring the history up-to-date, he would include this talk on the website and ask the Secretary to inform the brethren when this work had been completed.
Worshipful Brother Edmondson then invited the Tyler to retire adding that he probably wished he had stayed outside!