Lodge Hillcrest No. 363 Meeting 15th March I984

Address by W. Bro. Owen Irving, Foundation Member.

Brethren, this evening I am asked to give you a brief account of the formation of Lodge Hillcrest which took place during 1950 and led to the dedication of the Lodge in July 7th 1951.In those days some 34 years ago, Hamilton was experiencing a post war expansion which will in later years be described as a post war boom, with no signs of a bust. Government Departments expanded their offices in Hamilton to supervise the city and surrounding districts. Private enterprise was being re-established and expanded with a boom in buildings and babies. Freemasonry was very popular with many ex-servicemen w had discarded uniforms 4 or 5 years earlier who found that Freemasonry-would give them that companionship and discipline they had come to enjoy in the Armed Forces.

The existing Lodges in Hamilton, Lodge Beta Waikato Lodge Tawhlri, Lodge Hamilton and Lodge Alexandra E.C. had large memberships after going through a difficult war years period. The candidates for Freemasonry were so numerous that many people had to wait two to three years before taking their first step. Men again Joining Lodges after the war and others coming into Hamilton from other districts to serve the boom filled the Lodges with joining members. It was obvious to many masons aspiring to preferment in the craft that they would have to wait many years to reach the chair of King Solomon. In this climate, it was obvious to many Grand Lodge Officers and others, that a new Lodge in Hamilton was logical and practical. Initial meetings of interested Masons took place in Lodge Hamilton’s refectory during the latter part of 1950. These people included a Past Grand Master of New Zealand Most Wor. Bro. CL MacDiarmid, a past-District-Grand Master Right Wor. Bro. F. Bollock, Past Grand Director of Ceremonies, Very Wor. Bro. A .Joe Prescott, Past Grand Director of Ceremonies Very Wor. Bro. Tom Eddy. With the wisdom of these fine masons and with the support of lesser lights, there was sufficient interest to approach Lodge Beta and Lodge Hamilton, and ask them to propose new Lodge in Hamilton. The Charter from the Grand Lodge of .New Zealand was issued to thirty five members and Lodge Hillcrest No. 363 was dedicated and consecrated on the 7th July 1951, by the Grand Master of New Zealand Most Wor. Bro. B.J. Guiness who installed Wor. Bro. Lionel Skipworth as the first Master. The first business of-the Lodge was to take up an offertory for Widows. Orphans and Aged Masons. An amount of £19.123d was sent to the proper quarter. The foundation members would have liked to have named the Lodge after Hamilton’s most loved Mason of the day Past Grand Master of New Zealand Most Wor. Bro. MacDiamid, but was not allowed by Grand Lodge because the great man was still alive. Being human, it was still possible he could blot his copybook and so disgrace not only himself’ but the name of Freemasonry. He died several years later and I assure you brethren, he died an upright-member of the Craft. While I do not wish to mention too many names brethren, for reasons I will add later, I do feel I must mention, the names of some of the original members and so give you a short background of the original membership. Lionel Skipworth, our first Master, was an engineer with the Ministry of Works. He was a tall  gentleman with a somewhat severe outward appearance but he was a very friendly man who had been a senior officer of’ a Lodge in Auckland. Lionel was again honoured by Grand Lodge and became Grand Lecturer. The First Senior Warden was Jack Palmer who had just arrived in Hamilton from the South Island to take up the very important position of City engineer. He was a fine man and very easy to know. He died a few years ago and will be remembered by many.

The First Junior Warden was a senior officer in the Power board in Hamilton after a fine record as a Lieutenant Colonel in the New Zealand Artillery. He was & personal friend of Tiny Fryberg, who regularly corresponded with him. Unfortunately, Snow Walters did not go on to be Master of Lodge Hillcrest for health and business reasons. Our First Secretary was another officer in the Ministry of Works Wor. Bro. Gordon F. McDonald. He was an efficient Secretary and had a big part to play in the formation of the Lodge as you could imagine. Wor Bro. Potter, who died recently, was a quiet but fine Mason who led by example. He was our First- Chaplain and did become Master and later was honored to become Grand Steward in Grand Lodge. Bro. Frank Frew, a well-known Accountant in Hamilton, became our first Senior Steward. Frank was a good administrator and over the years gave great service to the Lodge in all offices, including Secretary, and was also honored by Grand Lodge when he became Grand Treasurer. While speaking of people who have been honored by Grand Lodge, I would like to mention our Brother Jack Hooker, who although not a Foundation Member, he is the only other member of our Lodge to be honored by Grand Lodge when he became Grand Bible Bearer.

The Foundation Members Jewel was designed by Bro. Mildenhall, who was another Ministry of Works officer. It shows a road winding its way up a hill to the blaze and glory of the setting sun under the Crest of the Square end Compasses, and is meant to remind us of that path we must tread, ever onward in our search for the Truth, which will be revealed us if we are found worthy to receive it. In those early meetings, before the Lodge was- formed, much consideration had to be given with regard to the ceremonies of the Lodge and the workings to be adopted for the future. As the members were from many different Lodges and every constitution, you can imagine the various ideas that were put forward, everyone considering the way that they were used to, was the best. One example, was the working of the third degree that was finally decided by a free vote, as members were evenly divided between the old Third as it was called and the alternate third degree. The standard working was adopted and this, in no small way, did show the influence that-Lodge Beta members had in forming-the new-Lodge. However, there was always compromise and this has made our Third degree different to all other Lodges and I must say, very dignified. One obvious difference is our-inclusion of the beautiful verses of Ecclesiastes starting “Remember now thy Creator in the Days of thy Youth”, and goes on to remind all Brethren of the failing of man and his eventual mortality ending by telling us that the “Dust returns to the Dust and the Spirit returns to the Spirit who gave it” and so many considerations were given to-programming the work-which we now enjoy. We were most fortunate that, at that time, we-had Wor. Bro. Tom Eddy to help us in those deliberations. Tom, who was a Past Grand Standard Bearer, became the Lodges first Director of Ceremonies. He was a wonderful Teacher of the Craft and traveled from Matamata three times a month for many years to lay the foundation for the working of the Lodge ritual degrees. He set a very high standard and the effects can stil1 be felt in the Lodge today. He was a Master of encouragement and could instill dignity and decorum in all members with a smile on his face and a friendly gesture. We all respected him and gave of-our best because of his example. He reminded us that we were-working in a Temple] dedicated to the Glory of God and the Brotherhood-of Men. Lodges of Instruction were asked to be of .a high standard with no excuses for not knowing the ritual. All master masons were invited to attend and were set work for instruction and regular meetings. Worshipful Bro. Eddy was the prompt as he himself knew every word of the ritual including all tracing boards and traditional history etc. For many years, all succeeding Directors of Ceremonies were asked to do the same. However, I believe our present method of -prompting, that by the Organist or from the secretary’s desk-to be a very satisfactory alternative; but, I must add there is no substitute for a well-known ritual.

Attendance was good and there was quite some competition between members for offices in the Lodge. It was usual for Brethren to work for four years in the kitchen as assistant Stewards before reaching the dizzy height of Junior Steward and so it was some times seven or eight years before an inspiring officer became Inner Guard. It was established that preferment in the Lodge was to be by merit and ability, with consideration given to time and service. This was to ensure a high standard was-achieved and to give encouragement to those who met it. Ballots were often taken when two or three Brethren stood for the same off ice Refectory proceedings were considered to be very important as playing a big part in fostering Fellowship among members and visitors. Mentioning Visitors, may I add that a1l visitors who were visiting the Lodge for the first time, were admitted as such and actually were brought in to the Lodge as group-and introduced to the Master as Visitors visiting the Ledge-for-the-first time”. In refectory the Junior Warden also welcomed them again and so they were made to feel very welcome.

The refectory itself was not the fine space we have today but was what we now use as our entrance foyer and cloak room which had a big open fireplace at the far end. In 1965 Lodge Hillcrest built the new refectory and so became joint owners of the building with Lodge Hamilton. It is interesting to know that our- Wor  Bro Jack Hooker won the contract for building the refectory for a sum of £3,507. It may also be of interest to brethren to know that the original building here was owned by Lodge Beta Waikato and sold to Lodge Hamilton when Beta considered they had outgrown it-and built their new premises in 1927. The price paid by Lodge Hamilton was the princely sum of £700.0.0.

Harmony was the word used to create good Lodge refectory. This word was used in the full sense of the work and also because of the amount of singing that was enjoyed, and which was to become a distinctive part of the Lodge refectory proceedings of Lodge Hillcrest our welcoming song to our Visitors was introduced-on-the second regular meeting by a Brother from Wellington who had been transferred temporally to Hamilton. He was a policeman named Baker I think who played a fine banjo and often led us in singing, He thought up the words and we have been singing the Welcome Song to our Visitors every night since. We did have some Brother sing, or give an instrumental item at every meeting. It was either one of our own members or someone brought in from another Lodge. This was common practice in most Lodges. Lodge Tawhiri in whose days actually had a six-piece orchestra – fiddles and all. Our biggest effort was a Barbershop quartet, arranged by our organist Bro. Allen Douglas, who may be remembered as a chemist in Heaphy Terrace for many years. We often listened to the good voice of Eric Tasker and also enjoyed Seotty White sing of his loved home in Scotland.

Most toasts to Brethren, especially to Grand Lodge and particularly to Initiated and Raised Candidates, were accompanied by Full Fires and singing. Either “Worthy Freemasons All” or “Peace Love and Harmony” was rendered with enthusiasm. This singing and music capped off by “Auld Lang Syne” helped to make the evening a memorable one. I feel we have the talent to keep Lodge Hillcrest known as a Lodge of Harmony in more ways than one. I have not mentioned many names in this short. summary Brethren for several reasons. The main one being that I believe the Lodge is far greater than any member in it, and although it takes members to make a Lodge, the Principles of the Craft are its greatest virtue. While it is good to remember the brethren who formed the Lodge, most of them now members of the Grand Lodge above, they would not want me to dwell on the past.

Freemasonry is a progressive science and we must adapt Freemasonry to the rapid changes of today I can remember a fine lecture from Scotty White’s father when he visited us many years ago. He was a fine old man who gave us a glimpse of the wealth of his wise Masonic knowledge. He titled the lecture “What Do Freemasons do?” This question comes up every day and will continue to come up in the future. Wor Bro. White’s short answer to the short question “What do freemasons do?” was “ Masons work!” From time immemorial Lodges of Masons taught their apprentices how to work and took pride in seeing that it was done well. The most important members of Lodge Hillcrest are those who now have the Lodge in their care. They are those who have the dedication to improve, not only themselves as upright Freemasons, but to become sufficiently capable to teach others how to work and make this world a better place – to practice their craft by prospering “Brotherly Love Relief and Truth”. I believe the Lodge is in good hands, Brethren, and I trust that it will continue to work to make the men who pass through these walls better men, and as our ritual state, “as Superstructures – a credit to themselves and honourable to the builder”.

O.D. Irving

Past Master.