WBro James W. Hogg WM. Internet Lodge 9659 2013 - 14
Dear Brethren all:
I must first thank you all for allowing me the privilege of being in the Master’s Chair this past year in Internet Lodge. It was a particularly different and unique experience for me since I hail from one of those jurisdictions from over there on the other side of the Atlantic. Needless to say, the fraternity is vastly different in the State of Florida from what you practice here in the United Kingdom. I also thank you all for the fantastic help and support you have given to me during the past year.
The year started with our Installation of officers meeting in Bridge Street last March, followed by our festive board accompanied by the usual toasts. It was a most enjoyable meeting, and I was pleased to be able to involve some of our Romanian Brothers in the activities of the installation of officers. I was also pleased that Charles Lewis, Past Grand Master of Masons in North Carolina, presented me for installation.
The evening before the meeting provided us with the usual informal and convivial evening at the Campanile Hotel for our Brethren and Ladies. On the Saturday evening those staying over in Manchester went to the Royal Exchange Theatre to see “To Kill a Mockingbird”, a play set in rural Alabama during the 1930s, which was most enjoyable.
In May, we engaged in a lodge visit to Romania. For me, it was a very interesting experience, having never before visiting this country. There were a few things I found remarkable. The first was that it took me a total of 45 seconds to clear immigration at the airport in Bucharest. The next thing was that I found Bucharest every bit as much a cosmopolitan city as a place like Washington, DC, or Atlanta, Ga. I don’t know what I expected to see but I had visions of what it probably looked like during the days of its oppressive past under communism.
We spent a total of eight days (counting the arrival and departure days) in Romania, arriving on May 3 and departing on May 10. We started off at the Novotel Hotel in center city Bucharest, where we were welcomed by the Deputy Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Romania. Later on that evening, we attended a special welcome dinner at the Jaristea restaurant, where we were introduced to some interesting Romanian cuisine. These two events were quite a contrast – the Novotel being a cosmopolitan modern hotel and the Jaristea being something conjured up from Romania’s past.
Our first day in Bucharest turned out to be a holiday, which graced us with deserted streets. Usually, the city is bustling with heavy traffic that is rivaled only by what one would find during rush hour in New York City. We were able to wander at leisure through the empty streets. After lunch, we then visited the two palaces of Mogosoaia and Stirbei, and also take a stroll around Herastrau Park.
On our second day, we headed north toward the mountains of Transylvania, where we had lunch and visited Peles Castle in the hills of Sanaia. We then stayed a couple of nights at the Piatra Mare Hotel, which was a large and opulent structure that appeared to be designed to accommodate over a thousand patrons in the banquet hall. A brief tour of the hotel yielded a magnificent indoor pool and a huge restaurant dining room, as well as a well-appointed lobby area. However, it appeared that this grand hotel was a throwback to the days of communist central planning, where everything was dealt with at the central government level. Although it appeared to be a four star hotel, it really wasn’t, to be sure.
On our third day, we were treated with a visit to the Rasnov Fortress, a most imposing structure built at the top of a large hill, which presented all of us with an imposing climb. The location was selected to afford the locals of protection from the invaders from the north. The view from the top was indeed a magnificent one and well worth the effort of climbing to the summit. We also visited Bran Castle, the fabled home of Count Dracula. It was interesting to learn that this was the home of Vlad the Impaler and that he was not the owner of the castle, but rather a tenant. Once one cut through all the tourist hype, one realized how Vlad the Impaler was re-cast in Bram Stoker’s novel as Count Dracula.
On our fourth day, we returned south of Transylvania to visit the Prejmer Fortress, which was a church surrounded by a great thick stone ring to guard the occupants from invasion. This visit was followed by a return to Brasov, where we were treated with a visit and tour of the Black Church. After a delightful lunch, we returned to the hotel to prepare for our Masonic Lodge visit. We visited the lodge where two Masonic Lodges meet: Coroana Din Carpati Nr. 116 and Trei Coloane Nr. 362. The layout of the lodge room floor and the form of ritual practiced was quintessentially of Scottish Rite Craft Lodge origin and quite fascinating. It is quite a contrast to the Preston/Webb tradition ritual practiced in most of the United States and the English emulation ritual tradition. There were speeches and presentations, for a very memorable and successful meeting. The meeting was followed by a special dinner with the ladies at a local restaurant. The food was easily the best that we had on the whole trip – to say nothing of the plum brandy that was being passed around to all of us! Our Romanian Brothers from these two lodges presented us with outstanding hospitality.
The fifth day had us returning to Bucharest by way of Curtea de Arges and a stop to visit the Basarab Church, built in the 14th century. Following that visit, we had lunch at a local restaurant, where the meal service took so long that we had to forego an art exhibit opening that we all were invited to attend. Upon return to the Novotel, we all split up and went to different places for dinner on our own. I was fortunate enough to find a delightful little sidewalk café, called Legere café bar bistro at Piatta Rosetti, where I ate dinner “al fresco” with Carl Freeland.
The sixth day of our trip treated us with a visit to Parliament House, a huge and imposing structure constructed at the direction of Nicolae Ceaucescu, when Romania was under communist rule. This huge building is only second in size to the Pentagon, located in Alexandria, Virginia. Since it is the home of the country’s legislature, we had to go through security and surrender our passports until we were ready to leave the building. We were treated to opulent rooms with fancy marble work and chandeliers throughout. It appeared that no expense was spared in erecting this enormous cavernous building. The additional treat it provided us with was a panoramic view of the city from the rooftop. The evening provided us with a masonic meeting at Mesterul Manole Nr.24, where we witnessed the exemplification of the Hiramic Legend portion of the MM Degree. This ritual was performed using a version of the ritual in the Scottish Rite Craft Lodge tradition and was quite fascinating. I was lucky enough to be sitting in the east, accompanied by Brother Alexandru Lupu, the Inspector Expert of Zone 0 (Bucharest Capital City) – a Grand Officer from the Grand Lodge, who explained to me what was being said in Romanian. What I saw was consistent with a number of Scottish Rite Craft Degree rituals I have studied in the past. For me, this was truly a magnificent experience. This was followed by a gala dinner at a local restaurant, to which our ladies were invited to attend.
Our Romanian hosts made sure that we had a most enlightening and pleasant experience during the whole trip. We even had a guide, named Sorin, on the bus, who I swear had a better command of the English language than many Americans I know!! He was most knowledgeable about many things and provided us with an interesting background on Romania and its people. It is a beautiful country and I am very glad we had the opportunity to visit.
In August, we again met up for our meeting – this time in Bangor, North Wales. We weren’t sure how successful this meeting was going to be, simply because we did not have any one hotel that could house everyone who wished to attend. And, Bangor was not exactly the easiest place in the U. K. for everyone to reach. Nevertheless, we were very fortunate in that both hotels that were chosen proved to be most adequate and accommodative. And, surprisingly, we had a record attendance of 98 Brethren and ladies for both the informal Friday evening dinner and the Saturday ladies Festival dinner. We were treated to holding our meeting in the brand new Masonic Hall, located outside Bangor, where St. David’s Lodge No. 384 meets. It is a completely modern facility, well maintained, with plenty of parking – which seems to be a rare commodity in the U. K. Before lodge, we were treated to an excellent lunch buffet, which was prepared by the lodge staff and was an absolute bargain in cost. After the lodge meeting was completed, we all retired to the lodge dining room where we were treated to an illustrated talk on Staffordshire Pottery figurines and their connection with Freemasonry by Dave Siviter, who not only collects these figurines for pleasure, but was also the principal organizer of the excursion to Bangor.
The Ladies' Festival dinner function and meal was excellent. The food was good and the service was excellent. The meal was followed by a recital on two harps, played by a most attractive and talented young lady. She gave renditions of a mixture of classical and popular music and performed flawlessly.
Sunday morning at 8:30 AM, many of us gathered at Llanberis for the trip to the summit of Mt. Snowdon. After a brief film and a briefing, we left base camp at 9.00 a.m. by train and were at the mountain’s summit around 9.45 a.m. Unfortunately, the summit was engulfed in cloud cover, making it impossible to enjoy any view we could have seen. It did, however, give John Dutchman-Smith the opportunity to snap a picture of your Master at the mountain’s summit in the clouds, all wet looking like a drowned water rat!!
The October meeting this year was held at Manningtree, with our hotel accommodations at the George Hotel in Colchester. We were planning on using the St Giles Masonic Centre in Colchester, however, we were “bumped” from those accommodations owing to a conflicting Grand Lodge function which took precedence. After a diligent search by our organizer, Mike Neller, we were able to make arrangements to use the Mistley Masonic Hall at Manningtree. Our Friday informal dinner was held at The George and we all had a fine get together and meal. The interesting thing about the hotel is that it is one of the oldest structures in Colchester. That explains the narrow hallways, the up and down stairways throughout the building (which were unfriendly to any with disabilities or anyone not good with stairs), and screwy floor plans. Because it is one of the oldest inns there, it had a rustic charm to it and was an interesting change from the modern sterile hotels that one encounters when travelling. The meeting went very well, with a presentation by W. Bro. Richard Gan of a paper entitled “Union of 1813 Between the Ancients and the Moderns,” after which W. Bro. Gan entertained questions from the Brethren. Following the meeting, we all retired to the main floor to be served our festive board meal, accompanied by the requisite toasts. After the meal, we all returned to The George in Colchester, where there was socializing, and those desiring dinner went off on their own.
Behind the scenes, we continued with all the programs that were in effect last year, namely: The Technical group, the Disability group, The Harris inheritance group, and the Memorial pages. There is still work that must be done to continue on with these programs. As to the Technical group – we are still in need of more participants to attend to various aspects of the website and associated internet technology. Our ever dependable WBro. John Dutchman-Smith has been a driving force in our attempt to keep things on track. We really could use more help here as John is already spread too thin and would love to relinquish some of this work to others. The Harris inheritance group has held the first drawing and we are hopeful that the Brother Terry Ryan will be in attendance at the March, 2014, meeting as he has accepted the invitation. As for the Memorial pages, the last entry is for Roger Marjoribanks, who passed on to the Grand Lodge on high in February, 2013. And lastly – as of this writing, the Disability group is still a work in progress. The aim of this group was to investigate how we can better help such Brothers to actually visit the Lodge or benefit from it in some other way.
My Brethren – we should all thank all the Brethren involved in the operation of the lodge, from the committee men to the officers, for all their hard work and the time they have put in for our benefit. To you all, I express my very sincere thanks and hope that you all will continue to be of service to our very unique international lodge.
Sincerely and fraternally,
WM of Internet Lodge 9659 for the year 2013/2014.