March 2004

Derek Oliver WM, Internet Lodge 9659EC, 2003 - 2004

Brethren, it is a great honour being Master of this very special, international Lodge but such honours do not come without attendant responsibilities. Not the least of these is trying to remember the highlights of the year for ‘posterity’! Here is my recollection of my year in the East of IL9659.

My installation by W.Bro. Ab Goedhals was as different as it could be; I was actually thrown out while Ab opened the Board of Installed Masters then subjected to the full, traditional installation ceremony which has not seen the light of day for a long time, thanks to Ab’s researches. A singular and fascinating experience with a whole load of ‘new’ signs which I recognized as those included in the installation of the Master of a Lodge of Mark Master Masons! Thanks for that, Ab.

My presentation tried to reflect both my sense that the Lodge needed to return to a bit of “stability” and, of course, my somewhat irreverent sense of humour. The concept of an “Internet Lodge” and our immediate, global impact had caused, I perceived, a degree of unease at the United Grand Lodge of England with suspicion that there was a danger of ‘innovations’ being made into Masonry. The primary objective of my year was to show that a Lodge of Masons from all over the world would work very well indeed within the UGLE constitution and that we had no intention at all of ‘rocking the boat’. My goal, which I believe I achieved, was to establish a solid foundation upon which future Masters could build; without doubt, the creation of the Web Site Team led by John Dutchman-Smith was a major objective which has proven invaluable to IL9659 and, I believe, to the whole of the Craft.

Simply, we had enjoyed two years of Mastership by distinguished Brethren from other countries, both of which had continued to exemplify Masonry Universal in accordance with the aims of the Lodge’s Founders but the concept was different from the “norm” as established by centuries of the Craft. Hence my opening gambit “We are Family; I’ve got all my Brothers and me” . . . and that is something, dear Reader, which I firmly believe and will ever strive to uphold. The true, visible benefit of Freemasonry is its very universality.

My first meeting in the Chair tried, at once, to show (a) that we were an independent Lodge and (b) that we still recognized UGLE as our foundation. The former was achieved by holding the meeting in Wales; a part of the UGLE constitution but not, definitely not in England (recalling that we had not been permitted to meet in Edinburgh)! Hence it was the first meeting held outside England, where we enjoyed (thanks entirely to W.Bro. Naunton Liles) not only Welsh legendary hospitality and a great, Welsh Festive Board, but also sang the Welsh National Anthem in Lodge.

Our UGLE membership was there emphasized when we, for the first time, opened and closed the Lodge in all three degrees and recognition of UGLE’s role in Masonic History by an excellent presentation from W.Bro. Rich VanDoren on the subject of US Masonic history. Thanks for that, Rich; it was very well received and most appropriate.

For the Ladies Festival weekend, I had hoped to meet in Warwick; one of my favourite cities, which hosts a very old, historic Temple and is very close to the geographical centre of England. Regrettably, the APGM of Warwickshire informed me that the Temple would not accommodate the numbers we expected. With his help, and of course the absolutely invaluable and very hard work of W.Bro. Alex Viner, we managed a most enjoyable meeting and festival in the Grand Temple at Edgbaston, Birmingham. The advantage of Birmingham was that it not only boasts an international airport but is the heart of the English motorway (freeway) system.

Of course, I found that useful when I woke up in Edgbaston Saturday morning to realize my regalia case was still in Benfleet on the Thames Estuary! A very fast (but not exceeding the speed limit, honestly, Officer . . . ) drive of some 300 miles later I got back in time for a cheese roll before opening the meeting.

Continuing the theme of UGLE history, we enjoyed a demonstration of the 1st degree as performed in St. Helier in 1765, complete with a nervous candidate (played by myself) and a Junior Deacon who tasted the fruit of the grape a trifle too heartily and rather lost the plot, as was, in fact, recorded in the original minutes of the meeting! Great fun, but with a real meaning to Freemasons who saw how things have changed in 200+ years.

The Ladies Festival was also enjoyed by all, having the traditional style as enjoyed by Lodges throughout the UGLE with the requisite speeches and toasts. Thanks again to Alex Viner and his Wife for such a lot of hard work, not only in arranging the meeting and dinner dance but also for negotiating, most expertly, some very special rates at the venue and at the adjacent hotel.

Finally, Brethren, to Manchester and installing W.Bro. John Dutchman-Smith. Cognisant of needing to leave time for his presentation, I stuck to the traditional “You’ve done it before so sit down and get on with it” Installation. From thereon, the words will, no doubt, be his but I cannot pass the opportunity of recalling how honoured we were to receive the full Provincial Team; the Provincial Grand Master accompanied by not only his Senior Officers but also his Sword & Standard Bearers, Stewards etc; a guest of mine still talks about the afternoon, likening it to a cross between a Private Lodge and a Provincial Meeting.

Nor can I pass the opportunity of recalling how the PGM took the Chair and invested our own Alex Viner as PPDepGSuptWks; a singular honour not only to Alex but to the Internet Lodge.

Brethren, I thank every one of you for the honour you afforded me by accepting me as Worshipful Master: I hope you enjoyed my year as much as I did and appreciated the hard work put in by so many “behind the scenes”. I cannot leave this missive without a laugh, however.

Most of you were not present as we rehearsed the Installation of John Dutchman-Smith on Saturday morning so will not know that the Provincial Director of Ceremonies asked that we rehearse welcoming the PGM and his Team. He entered the Lodge and told me that he would announce that the PGM was “outside the Lodge and demanded admittance”; I commented (in my usual way) that “I could always say no”. His immediate, and very straight-faced response was “That, Worshipful Master, could well be your last statement in Freemasonry”. Enough said!

Derek Oliver
Immediate Past Master
March 2004