Past Substitute Provincial Grand Master, Provincial GL of Fife and Kinross, Grand Lodge of Scotland
PM, Lodge Earl Haig No. 1260, Grand Lodge of Scotland
IPM, Lodge Hope of Kurrachee No. 337, Grand Lodge of Scotland
During the COVID-19 pandemic I found myself remaining in the Chair of the Lodge Hope of Kurrachee no 337 and steering the Lodge through unchartered territory. As a young Freemason it had always been one of my masonic goals to join our local research Lodge, as I had admired the dedication of Bro John Kirkaldy PM of Elgin’s Lodge at Leven No. 91 and the driving force behind the reponement of our Lodge in the late 1980s. At the 150th anniversary, as a young and newly installed Master of my Mother Lodge, I was asked to propose a toast to the history of the Lodge at the celebratory dinner. This task gave me a keen interest in the history of the Lodge and over the years I had always felt that I would one day like to attain the Chair and further my own researches into its history.
As an aid in my task I was fortunate to have access to the minute books of the Lodge since its reponement and to a paper which I have reproduced in full, prepared from various other papers that have been collected by two of the original Past Masters from the Lodge’s time in Pakistan, Bro. Revd. Robin Trotter and Bro. Bill Black, and the aforementioned John Kirkaldy and his good friend and the other member of the driving force for reponement, Bro. John Martin. The Historical Sketch leads the reader through the early years of the Lodge in India, the onset of Dormancy due to the political situation in Pakistan in the early 70s and the reponing of the Lodge.
To add to this fantastic insight into the Lodge’s early years I have added a fourth part of the history at the end of this paper, which highlights the journey the Lodge has been on since its reponement and highlights some of the more recent research undertaken into members of the Lodge.
Historical sketch of the Lodge
PART ONE: THE FOUNDING OF THE LODGE IN INDIA
We shall endeavor to pass on the information that has been collated regarding the incidents leading up to its formative years and following.
Firstly, to address the Lodge’s name – the Lodge Hope of Kurrachee (Scottish Constitution). During the throes of reponing the Lodge, on the application form the name was inserted as “Lodge Hope Grand Lodge”. Based on the records in the archives in Edinburgh, they pointed out that the name was fully The Lodge Hope of Kurrachee.
On this basis, many Lodges have embossed on the cover of their early minute books, which were supplied by the Grand Lodge, the title “The Lodge” – name – “of” – town. Similar to Lodge Hope, Lodges have never used the prefix “the” or the suffix of the town. Of this we are sure the respective Lodge Treasurers are very grateful – imagine having to pay for the embroidery of these extra letters on the Lodge Sashes!
The word “Kurrachee” has several ways of spelling, causing more confusion.
To add further confusion, in its early days the Lodge had several numbers, such as 132, 350, 421 and finally ending up with 337, which had belonged to Lodge Australasia Kilwinning, Melbourne which was removed from the Roll of Grand Lodge in 1835.
Throughout this confusion of names and numbers the one part that remained very important to the brethren in India was that of the Scottish Constitution. This was due to the fact that three Grand Lodges functioned at that time, these being Scotland, England and Ireland. The Brethren’s desire to be proudly identified with Scotland indicated that they were just as staunch Nationalists as they are today.
The Lodge has descended from military/colonial origins. The first step of its masonic formation was the issue of a Military Charter in 1769 as a Travelling Lodge in the name of Moriah, Colonel Wedderburn’s Lodge in the 22nd Regiment of Foot, the Cheshire Regiment. This was an English County Regiment consisting of soldiers – mainly Irish – and Officers – mostly Scots –, resulting in an awesome combination in the many battles and wars in which they were involved with maintaining the Empire.
The Regiment was originally issued a Travelling Warrant from the Grand Lodge of Ireland, but this got lost during their posting to the Mississippi, round about 1759. Until they received the Military Charter from Scotland, they probably met in “Irish fashion”, informally, to maintain the interest of the brethren – being 6000 miles away and 3 months sailing time from home – whom they were able to bring under control before they were posted to some other parts.
With regards to numbers, the first one allocated to the Regiment by the Grand Lodge of Scotland was No 132, named Moriah, issued in 1769 and cut off in 1809. However, on 1st November 1813, it would appear that the Lodge was reponed / reopened and was given a new number – 251 – and name of United Brothers, The Temple Mount Moriah, Port of Spain, Trinidad. A rather tenuous connection, but safe enough through its name content to be very relevant.
Regarding the conception and regularization of Freemasonry under the Scottish Constitution in India, which at that time was very strong under the Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Scotland has the following minute at the Annual Communications held in Edinburgh on 30th November 1836. During the course of this address, the Grand Master Mason, Lord Ramsay, stated:
“Brother James Burnes KH, LLD etc., of the Honorable East India Companies Service was about to return to India, and he thought that the superior information and knowledge on masonry possessed by Brother Burnes would be of the utmost importance in promoting the usefulness of the Craft in that quarter of the globe. He begged to propose Brother Burnes be appointed Provisional Grand Master over the Provinces of Western India and Dependencies, with authority to establish lodges in these Provinces. This nomination and appointment was unanimously approved under the express condition that all lodges to be established by Brother Burnes shall take their Charter of Constitution from and hold under, the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and shall undertake to make annual returns of their intrants, and remit at the same time the Grand lodge dues, for recording their names in the Books of Grand Lodge.”
Such were the lines of communication and transport that Brother Burnes arrived in Bombay towards the end of December 1837 and on 1st January 1838 opened and established the Provincial Grand Lodge of Western India and its Dependencies under Scotland, this occurring one year after his Grand Lodge appointment. Of the Provincial Office Bearers appointed – totalling 24 – there were 2 SWs and 4 JWs. They consisted of 15 Officers – Majors, Lieutenant Colonels, Lieutenants, Captains –, the remainder being Government Officials and Administrators, this starting the Military/Colonial Service influence on Freemasonry.
The great interest that Brother Burnes had for Scottish Freemasonry can be traced back to his becoming a Member of Lodge Perseverance No 546 (English Constitution) and becoming Master thereof in 1839/1840. He was already a Past Master of St Peters Lodge, Montrose, in 1836. Fortunately for Lodge Hope, Perseverance sought the Grand Lodge of England to form a District Grand Lodge of England in India, with Brother Burnes as the first District Grand Master. This communication received no reply from England. Brother Burnes had, during this time, refused to comply with several requests to form a Lodge under the Scottish Banner. This was due to the fact that the formation of a Scottish Lodge would affect the interest of Lodge Perseverance of which he was, as stated, Master.
Incidentally, Brother Burnes’ great-grandfather was the eldest brother of William Burnes, the father of Scotland’s “Immortal Bard” Rabbie Burns, which I think makes Rabbie Burns the third cousin of Brother James Burnes, PGM.
It was about this time in 1840 that the subject of the admission of the natives of India began to be seriously discussed. As Freemasonry was a white European domain, the matter was freely ventilated in the press of the day, and Brother Burnes was one of its strongest advocates. This discrimination was resolved in 1843, when Lodge Rising Star of Western India No 342 was granted a Charter for the exclusive admission of natives into the Craft, Brother Burnes being its first Master. With it being the first Lodge of its kind in India and probably the world, it reaped a bountiful harvest of very interested Masons from the natives.
Brother Burnes was posted from his base in Bombay to Calcutta for six months, from whence he returned early in 1841. This further delayed the development of the Scottish Craft. During this year Brother Burnes suffered a very sad loss, in the respect of two of his brothers being murdered in Kabul. Due to this catastrophe, he remained in retirement for some time. Meanwhile, coming back to the Regiment, after distinguished service in the Peninsular War, where it had attracted the attention of Brother General Sir Charles Napier, it was posted to India and in due course came to be stationed at Kurrachee.
Kurrachee at that time was not much more than a fishing village, situated about 700 miles NW of Bombay, on one side the Arabian Sea and the delta of the river Indus close by, somewhat similar to the town of Leven, except that Leven is not bounded by deserts with 120°F temperatures.
The Masons who were in the Regiment, having very little to do during the hot seasons, when campaigning was restricted (this was war by weather!) could only occupy their time by fishing and bathing, and masonically by conversation only between themselves and new members joining the Regiment. To attend the nearest Lodge meeting was impossible, as the nearest Lodge was 700 miles away in Bombay.
Eventually a Petition was presented to RW Brother James Burnes, Provincial Grand Master, by the brethren of the 22nd Regiment of Foot, stationed at Kurrachee, in the territory of Scinde, who were desirous of furthering the interests of Freemasonry within a regularly constituted Scottish Lodge.
On 25th of April 1842 the Provincial Grand Master Brother Burnes established Scottish Freemasonry in India under his authority from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, by issuing a Provisional Charter to Brethren at Kurrachee to form themselves into a Lodge to be styled “Hope”. The Provisional Charter, I believe, is permission to hold meetings until a Charter is issued by the Grand Lodge of Scotland and will take its place and precedence from the Provisional Issue on that date. The new Lodge was numbered 421 by the Grand Lodge.
The inaugural meeting was held on 17th May 1842, when Brother Captain R.H. MacIntosh was installed as Worshipful Master – and what an excellent Scottish name to start Scottish Freemasonry in India!
The first recorded minute reads:
“A warrant of Dispensation having been received from the Most Worshipful James Burnes, Provincial Grand Master of the North Western Provinces of British India, dated Bombay, the 25th of April in the year of our Lord 1842 and of Freemasonry 5842, constituting and appointing Brother J.L. Pennefether as Past Master, R.H. MacIntosh as first Worshipful Master and A.H.O. Matthews and M. McMurdo as the first Senior and Junior Warders respectively, authorizing them to assemble a Lodge for the purpose of Freemasonry, and to be designated «Lodge Hope». In pursuance thereof the following Brethren assembled at Kurrachee on 17th May 1842 at 2 noon” – there follows a list of 8 names of the Office Bearers.
The office bearers were duly installed, thereafter the following business was conducted: the twenty articles of the Bye-Laws were approved. The Lodge was passed to the 2nd and Brothers Fenning and Hayman, who as entered apprentices signed the petition, were made Fellows of Craft. Four candidates were proposed and duly initiated, a further five candidates were proposed, this indicating the Masonic enthusiasm within the Regiment.
The meetings were thereafter held on Thursdays and what was termed 2 o’clock noon. The one regular meeting and four emergency meetings which were held till the Installation disposed of 23 Initiations, 10 passings and 2 raisings.
Listed as attending the Installation on St Johns Day 24th June at 9 o’clock noon was RWM, 3PM [how?], JW, Sec, Tres, SD, JD, IG, Tyler, 5 FC and 15 EA, the majority of the Brethren having at the end of their names their Rank and Regiment. The Office Bearers were installed, but worthy of note was the appointment in duplicate of Secretary, SD, JD, IG and Tyler, this being possibly due to the Regiment being on field duty and office bearers being called away on service.
The Lodge was closed with the following statements:
“The Lodge was warned to be assembled as a Lodge of Emergency on Thursday the 30th June at 2 noon.”
The Lodge closed in Fidelity at 20 minutes to 11 o’clock pm. I hope, Brethren, that the Installation meeting was only 2 hours long and not 14 hours, as there is no mention of an adjournment. The next entry in the minute book is an inventory of all the Lodge Property received by the Master and signed by him on that date at Kurrachee.
In November of that year, the Lodge sought permission from PGL to grant authority that the true principle of Freemasonry at Kurrachee be extended to the Upper Scinde, as the Regiment was to be ordered there. On 17th February 1843 the 22nd Regiment was the spearhead of Brother General Sir Charles Napier’s force which won the Battle of Mesanee. The Regiment conducted itself with distinction and bravery and received the highest commendations from their Commander who was, incidentally, made the first Honorary Member of Lodge Hope.
Brother Napier, who later became Governor of Scinde, granted the Lodge a plot of ground in Kurrachee, so that they may build a Masonic Temple. This goal was achieved in 1845, the foundation stone which was laid by Lieutenant General Sir Charles Napier (he had been promoted). In the Hall there was a tablet bearing the following inscription:
“This Masonic Temple was erected by subscription of the following Brethren [Here follows 30 names]. The foundation stone was laid by Sir Charles Napier, Governor and Conqueror of Scinde on 4th September 1845.”
In 1848, Grand Lodge of Scotland renumbered the Lodges and Lodge Hope was changed from 421 to become No 350.
From 1865 to 1871 the Lodge could receive no response to correspondence, receipts or diplomas from PGL. They solved this problem by communicating directly with the Grand Lodge in Edinburgh.
Earlier I made a reference to Lodge Perseverance No 546 (English Constitution). This lodge, receiving no support from England, transferred its allegiance to Scotland with its Banner Working Tools, Bye-Laws etc. and was granted a Provisional Charter on 10th December 1842 and was numbered 422. From my searches I found that Perseverance 422 was changed by Grand Lodge to 338 in 1897. Assuming Lodge Hope is the first Scottish Lodge in India and Perseverance the second, they would have the numbers changed at the same time.
We trust you are not lost by the complexities of dates, names, incidents, facts etc. which formed the early years of this Lodge.
There was one tradition which that well-loved, respected and honorable Brother Bill Black PM was very proud of in Kurrachee: on the Anniversary of Lodge Hope Founding on 17th May, the Brethren remembered the founders, as follows:
The Brethren in the Lodge were called to order in the 3,
A Bugle sounded last post from the West,
The Roll of Founders was called by the Master, The Founders being Brothers I.L. Pennefether, A. McPherson, R.H. MacIntosh, A. Hayman, A.H.O. Matthews and others, H. McMurdo, H. F. Dilley, I.A. Ore, H. Fenning, C. Benbow
This being followed by Reveille being sounded from the East.
These have been the foundations of Masonry in India and the history of the formation of Lodge Hope. The Grand Lodge has in its possession the first seven minute books, the original Articles of Bye‑Laws and the only piece of original furniture in our possession is that of the Charter of this 150-year-old Lodge.
PART TWO: THE ONSET OF DORMANCY
In 1973 Freemasonry in Pakistan was declared an unlawful association and the property and funds of all masonic organizations were sequestrated by the State. As time went by it became evident that there was little hope of the banning order being listed in the foreseeable future, and Grand Lodge, in accordance with the Constitution and Laws, declared Lodge Hope and all other Lodges of the Scottish Constitution in Pakistan dormant.
To understand how Lodge Hope lost its right to exist in Pakistan, a little knowledge of the history of the Scinde province must be understood.
When the Lodge was formed, one if its first members was Richard Burton, who later wrote the stories called “The Thousand and One Nights”. He also wrote a description of the area in a book called “Scinde, the Unhappy Valley”, where he tells of the nature and history of the peoples in the Province of Scinde, a country with different peoples, different languages, owned and ruled by landowners, kings and princes, all of them seeking power.
Islam was the dominant religion. When the territory was British, the struggle for power was controlled by the Military and Colonial administrations. When independence was attained and so-called modern politics took over, there were wars and insurrections. The leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a landowner, became Premier in 1971, and a year later he led Pakistan out of the British Commonwealth. He became the State and purged his rivals from power by the use of the Security Service. However, the Army could not tolerate this state of affairs and they took over the ruling of the country.
In his struggle to retain power Bhutto sought to gain the support of the opposition parties, seeking to gain the support of the Islamic voters by outlawing Freemasonry as anti-Islamic, since its roots were Jewish. Lodge Hope was a Christian Lodge as it was formed by Christians. The local members of the other Masonic bodies were mainly European (Christian) and Indians (Hindus), so the Craft was banished and all its properties were seized. The Lodge was sealed along with all its contents, consisting of Lodge furniture and records. The Brethren kept cabin trunks in the building for storing their regalia rituals and memorabilia – this was all lost.
Most of the records of the nine organizations which shared the building were seized and, despite requests, are still in Pakistan, if they have not been totally destroyed.
The very beautiful building which was home to Lodge Hope has become an office of the State for The Department of Fine Arts. Lodge Hope still has many years left on the lease of this Lodge building and bank assets and the Brothers still have their Masonic personal effects there, all of which cannot be retrieved.
But we live in hope!
PART THREE: THE REPONING OF THE LODGE
A fresh concept for furthering Masonic knowledge and interest was raised in 1987. The initial idea was based on the English Constitutional practice of having a Past Masters’ Lodge. The principle was to preserve and present the Masonic knowledge, rituals and lectures which have been collected over many years by them to then be introduced to the younger (in Masonic years) Brethren, thus adding to the education provided by their own respective Lodges.
This original idea was discussed with six local Past Masters, outlining the concept and highlighting the major consideration that the Lodge would only operate in the summer months, thus avoiding taking away visitors and members from normal Lodge meetings, not to compete with them. It was agreed that the proposal was worthy of further consultation and, in order to have a larger pool of Past Masters, their number was increased to 18. Further investigation would be carried out with Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge prior to the second meeting to provide more positive proposals.
An informal meeting was held at the Grand Lodge, where the proposal was fully made. At that time, it was categorically stated that it was not permitted under the Scottish Constitution and Laws to create a Lodge whose membership was determined by rank – it had to be run as a regular Lodge.
A solution was found at that meeting in Edinburgh, where the concept that a Lodge of Research be created was favourably received, as there was already an established precedence for this in Scotland. Rather than look for a new Lodge, they would consider reponing (reopening) a dormant Lodge.
This information was added to the original concept and presented to the meeting of 18 Past Masters. During this interim period, the Provincial Grand Secretary had been kept fully appraised of the progress being made. The reponing of a Lodge gained appeal, in the idea that an older Lodge, one with history, could be more attractive, and that some of its history in the form of minute books and Lodge furnishings in the Edinburgh archives might still be available, which would save money in the setting up of the Lodge.
The new concept was agreed to at this meeting and it was decided that every Lodge in the Province should be advised of the concept of a new Lodge and invited to send the Master or his representative to a meeting to be held in the Masonic Hall in Leven on 22nd January 1988.
As a result of this, a subsequent meeting was held with the Provincial Grand Secretary to keep him further appraised of the progress. He advised that the Provincial Grand Chaplain, Brother Robin Trotter PM, was a member of a dormant Lodge, and one of the other Past Masters, Brother Bill Black, stayed in Edinburgh. The Lodge’s name was Hope, its number was 337, and it used to meet in Kurrachee, Pakistan.
The requirements for reponing a dormant Lodge are that two or more original Brethren must support the application. Brother Trotter was approached and convinced of the sentiments for reponing, but advised that Brother Black was a trustee of the Lodge and was in constant contact with many of the original members, as such he must be convinced. A meeting was arranged at Brother Black’s home in Edinburgh, where the presentation was made and was favourably received. Brother Black would advise the other members of the meeting on January 22nd, seeking their support.
The application form for reponement was prepared and the Lodge of Research concept was fully aired at the meeting of all Fife and Kinross Lodges. It was favourably received and supported. Subsequently, at this meeting the Office Bearers were elected. Brother, the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, had previously intimated that, regretfully, he would be unable to take the position of Master due to his many other commitments. As such, Brother Hugh C. Munro, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, was unanimously proposed and elected.
The application form was then signed by 103 Brethren from 31 Lodges, including 16 original members, on the 22nd, and thereafter presented to the provincial Grand Lodge of Fife and Kinross. This was accompanied by the Bye-Laws which had been proposed and approved by the Lodge, the fees being set at an extremely high level so as to discourage membership application – however, affiliation fees were the same that the Grand Lodge required. This course of action highlighted that Lodge Hope was not going to attract application for membership that would adversely affect our sister Lodges.
The Application for Reponement for The Lodge Hope of Kurrachee, number 337 was approved by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Fife and Kinross on 30th January 1988.
The speed at which the original idea of obtaining a Lodge to repone and its acceptance and approval by the Provincial Grand Lodge was greater than the supporters expected. Originally, the time scale being talked about had been eighteen months to two years, which really caught everyone ill prepared.
A dinner was held on 20th May for the Reponing Members, where they were advised of the application’s progress and the donations and necessary furnishing. An excellent presentation lecture was then held by Brother Bill Black PM, who gave a great insight into the founding of the Lodge, the Lodge building and its meetings in Kurrachee. The lecture was very well received by the assembled brethren and presented in Bill’s own inimitable manner.
The Application for Reponement was presented and approved by the Grand Lodge of Scotland on 4th August 1988.
Subsequent meetings between the Steering Committee, Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge arranged for the most Worshipful Grand Master Mason, Brother James Malcolm Marcus Humphrey of Dinnet, and the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master, The Right Honorable Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, to carry out the Ceremony of Reponing the Lodge and the Installation of the Right Worshipful Master and Office Bearers on 11th November 1988.
The Lodge was now reponed and ready for Masonic business. This was achieved through hard work by the Steering Committee and very willing support from the members. Many of the Lodge furnishings were donated by Brethren and Lodges in Fife and Kinross. The regalia for the Office Bearers and other essential equipment was paid for by each Reponing Member through a donation of £40. The Past Masters of the Lodge presented the Bible which is displayed in the Lodge, and Elgin’s Lodge at Leven, where we were to hold our meetings, permitted the use of any furnishings which we were short of.
The Lodge Hope of Kurrachee number 337 had its rebirth first meeting on December 28th 1988.
Part Four: From Reponement to Pandemic
(Added by Gordon Michie – June 2022)
After the reponement the Lodge met within the Masonic Temple in Leven and spent many happy years there developing relationships with many well renowned Masonic scholars who were prepared to come and share their research with their Brethren in Fife and Kinross. A wide variety of subjects were presented in order to help with the Brethren’s daily advancement. It would be fair to say that in those early years of the Lodge there was not universal support for this type of Lodge, and when the excitement of reponement passed we did see many of those early members and their support of the Lodge drift away. This led the Brethren to reconsider the location of the Lodge, and in the late 1990s the Lodge moved to the Masonic Halls in Kirkcaldy.
It was during the Lodge’s time within these halls that the Brethren were at the vanguard of Masonic education and in May 2000 the Lodge held its first weekend Masonic symposium. This event that ran for nearly a decade was arguably the genesis of the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry and the other international Masonic conferences that we see today. Many of the current members of the Lodge first met at the ICHF and built relationships that led them to join our merry band of brothers at the Lodge Hope of Kurrachee. During these weekend symposiums young Freemasons were also championed by asking them to work their degrees in “columns”.
During this period and up to the pandemic we witnessed over 150 lectures at our meetings and symposiums, hosted question and answers sessions with senior Freemasons and presented three degrees. We welcomed a Romanian Lodge to present their working and to top this off we welcomed into the Lodge Bro Bom Mehta, Past District Grand Master of the DGL of India, the antecedent of our Province, and in order to cement our ties back to the land of our birth, as Master I was delighted to confer honorary membership of the Lodge onto him. That was in September 2019 – little did we know at that time that six months later we would once again be at the vanguard of global masonic learning.
In March 2020, when the UK and many other parts of the world went into lockdown, the Brethren of the Lodge Hope of Kurrachee held their first Lockdown Lecture meeting and over the following 20 months we hosted 101 lectures via Zoom and connected to tens of thousands of brethren through our YouTube channel. It was to prove a godsend to many Brethren, as we were able to continue in our mission to educate our brethren, but more importantly through the weekly gathering that averaged 80 brethren we were able to break the social isolation that many were feeling due to the pandemic. These meetings also broke the geographic boundaries that we all had previously felt, as we regularly met with brethren from Chile to New Zealand and everywhere in between.
As the lockdown restrictions relaxed in Scotland, we were able to get back to our normal routine and after three years as Master of the Lodge I was able to hand over the reins to my successor to lead us in the next chapter of our Lodge’s life in a post-pandemic world. I have the greatest of faith that the small band of brothers at the Lodge Hope of Kurrachee will continue to maintain the vision of our reponing members, a vision of education and preserving the history of our beautiful Craft. I was delighted to extend my research into the military Brethren that were our founders back in the day in Scinde and many of our Victorian and Edwardian military Masons. In due course, a number of papers about them may be published in this magazine.