Lodge of Concord No. 6859
I was given the task, (at very short notice), compiling a history of this Lodge which, as you know, now covers fifty years. Apparently, a history of the Lodge was written by W. Bro Bill McClement to celebrate twenty-one years but, unfortunately, no copy of that account has been preserved. This has meant that I have spent many hours reading through the Lodge and Permanent Committee Meeting minutes.
I feel sure that you would not want me to go through all of my notes with you on this occasion. It would take a very, very long time indeed!
I have therefore decided to give a picture of the development and history of the Lodge through the personalities of members and general working in the Lodge rather than list of facts and figures alone.
Brethren, in my experience, in the aftermath of the war years, men coming home from the forces found that they had a need to join associations of like minded people – associations such as Regimental, RAF and Naval Fellowship of the Services and Freemasonry. Consequently, new Lodges were formed – there was no shortage of candidates – in fact, there were long waiting lists to gain entry into Masonry. So the Lodge of Concord No 6859 came into being at this time. The minutes of the Consecration and of the first regular meeting of the Lodge have already been read to you.
This is the daughter Lodge of the Lodge of Harmony No. 4224, some of whose members became the first officials of this Lodge. The W.M., S.W., J.W., Treasurer, Secretary and D of C. established the atmosphere, tone and outgoing musical character of the Lodge by reason of their own talents and, as a result, the Lodge attracted like minded musical brethren.
W. Bro H. H. Alder was a very talented musician – an excellent pianist. A real extrovert, he demanded – no – commanded undivided attention and if this was not forthcoming he would stop playing and say “if you are not prepared to listen – I am not prepared to play!” – so everyone listened! When accompanying a singer who was not receiving very good attention, Harold would stop, turn to the brethren and say, “This brother is giving of his talent to entertain you. Have the courtesy to listen properly - he is doing what you probably cannot do!”
When Harold entertained by himself, he first removed his dinner jacket, then the front of the piano. Sat down and said, “Now what would you like me to play for you?” He had the great gift of being able to play extremely well without a note of music in from of him. So he would play selections from popular shows, songs, light music and any requests from the brethren. He had a particular saying “we are here to please each other”.
W.Bro G.H. McClement was a very popular baritone, renowned for his singing of “The Godfather Clock”, accompanied by all the brethren tapping their glasses at the appropriate time and singing the chorus. As a finale they would throw small coins either at him or on the floor – in this way he raised a considerable amount of money for the Festivals!
W. Bro John Johnson Reavley, (whose cherubic rendition of “The Foggy Foggy Dew” was always a popular request on Ladies' night s), had a fund of monologues for entertainment.
Other talented founder members, Eric Sparkes, (Organist), A.E.B.Galliford, (Tenor) and Bob Hills , (Tenor), could all entertain.
In the following years, W.Bros Alan Smith, Joe Wells, Ernie Freeman-Davies and Jim Peacock joined the list of entertainers. This meant that the J.W never had to go outside of the Lodge for Harmony until recently.
From the beginning of the Lodge, it was established that the S.W. would give the toast to the unofficial visitors. It could be a very difficult task as he was interrupted, barracked, plagued and generally insulted! (Good training for speech making later on and great, great fun for the brethren).
During the first three years, the work load for the officers of the Lodge was extremely hard as they initiated twenty new members and passed and raised some of them in that period. This was done by performing two ceremonies per meeting, with the exception of the installation – a very heavy workload indeed for a small number of people.
The first Secretary was Founder Member W.Bro Bill McClement. He served in that office from 1949 to 1975 – twenty six years.
He was an enthusiastic performer of the ritual, a most prolific worker for Masonry in general and for this Lodge in particular. Over the years he served on all of the ruling bodies of Queen Street Temple under their various changes of titles. He also rose to high rank in the Ancient and Accepted Rite, (Rose Croix).
The next Secretary, W.Bro. R. Clarke P.P.S.G.D., served form 1975 to 1986 – eleven years. He had served the Lodge well for thirty-seven years when he had to resign in 1998. He was elected an Honorary Member in April 1999.
W.Bro. Jim Peacock P.P.J.G.D., served as Secretary for two years, (1986 – 88), followed by Bro R. Myers from 1988 to 1993. Our present Secretary, W. Bro. Eddie Stewart P.P.S.G.D, took over in 1993 and, hopefully, he will hold the office for many years to come.
This Lodge has had only four Treasurers during its lifetime.
The first Treasurer was Founder Member W.Bro Walter H. Turnbull P.P.J.G.W. who served form 1949 to 1957. (He died at Scarborough Court on 31st July this year aged well over ninety years). If he had lived until this month, September 1999, he would have celebrated seventy years in Masonry. He was made an Honorary Member of the Lodge in 1970.
The next Treasurer, W.Bro. T.F. Reay P.P.G.D., served from 1957 to 1970. (He proposed his son-in-law, a certain Mr. Norman Reekie, in 1962).
W.Bro R. Tweddell P.P.G.D., took over the office 1970 and held it until 1985 when he handed it over to W.Bro. Tom Smith P.P.G.Reg. Tom relinquished this post in 2012 to W Bro Asgeir Nilsen PProvGStwd.
In 1949, the Annual Fee was two Guineas , (£2.10), and the Initiation Fee was fifteen guineas (£15.75). When compared with the then average weekly wage, this was considerably more than the charges today.
There was a 50% increase in annual subscriptions in 1957 to three guineas and a 33% increase in the Initiation Fee to £21.
Over the years these subscriptions have increased steadily. Today, as you know the annual subscription is £85, the Initiation Fee is £50 and joining members pay a fee of £25. These Increases have obviously had an adverse effect on membership – every time an increase is announced, members leave. Many members give donations by rounding their subscriptions up to £90 or £100.
Directors Of Ceremonies
In the first fourteen years in the life of this Lodge, the office of Director of Ceremonies was held by:-
W.Bros. W.S. Martin., Catheral, Bolton , Riley, and Byers.
In 1964, W.Bro A.R. Riley was re-appointed D of C., a position he filled with great distinction until 1990. From then until 1997 the office was taken over by W.Bro Stan Blakie P.P.G.Swd.B., who worked very conscientiously at a time when membership was declining. it has been held by W Bro Geoff Rumford,Past Provincial Grand Secretary, PAGDC, W Bro Dave Dorward PPJGW, Gil Crosley Jnr PPGSwdB and currently W Bro DJM Lawson PPJGD is the holder of the office.
In a letter dated September 1955 – I quote:-
“ Decisions of Past Masters.
It is agreed that the office of Chaplain is to be a progressive one and that the Master Elect be advised accordingly by his predecessor.
It is agreed that the offices of D of C. and Assistant D of C are intended to be progressive and be brought under review in twelve months and, thereafter, every two years.” And, in addendum:-
“It is agreed that the office of Chaplain is intended to be progressive unless there is a Clerk in Holy Orders, a member of the Lodge.”
However, the office of Chaplain was first printed in the Lodge circular when W.Bro G.H. McClement was appointed in October 1957. He continued to serve in that office until 1972 when he handed over to W.Bro J.W. Wells, the present incumbent. In my defense, after I had served for three years, I asked that someone else should be appointed but I was overruled and have held the office ever since.
This Lodge has been very, very fortunate in its choice of Almoners over the years.
This is borne out by the receipt of numerous letters of appreciation from brethren who have been visited and widows who have received visits, Christmas cards and Christmas gifts. These ladies especially appreciate being invited to the Lodge's Founders' Night and Ladies' Night functions.
Grand Lodge Officers
The Lodge was first favoured by Grand Lodge with the promotion of W.Bro W.E. McClement to the rank of Past Grand Standard Bearer in April 1970.
W.Bro. A.R. Riley, (a Founder Member), was granted Grand Lodge Honours in 1974 with the rank of P.A.G.D.C. He attained high office in several other degrees and was subsequently elevated to the 33rd Degree.
W.Bro. Alan Smith was honoured by Grand Lodge in 1984 with the rank of P.A.G.D.C.
Our Present D of C, W.Bro. Norman Reekie, after his Initiation in April 1963 and subsequent Passing and Raising in this Lodge, spent the following31 years working abroad. During his short annual leaves in the
UK , whenever possible, he attended the meetings of his Mother Lodge. He always maintained contact by post, (particularly when subscriptions became due). During his foreign postings he was able to attend and sometimes join, Lodges in other countries where he gained promotion. He first became Master in 1973 in the chair of Accra Lodge 3063 in Ghana . He was made District Grand Treasurer in Nigeria in 1979, a post which he held until 1991 when he was preparing to leave the country. Various District of Nigeria promotions saw him end with the rank of P.District S.G.W and, in 1988, he received the Grand Rank of P.A.G.Swd.B. and has further been Promoted to PJGD
W Bro Geoffrey Rumford not only was Provincial JGW, Promoted to SGW AGSec and the Prov G Sec, he was futher Honoured in 2009 receiving Grand Rank as PAGDC.
Over the years many of our Past Masters and Brethren have received many Provincial Grand Lodge Honours.
Visiting played a great part in the life of the Lodge with regular annual visits to and from the Rose of Raby Lodge at Staindrop, the St. George's Lodge at Washington and Pele Tower Lodge, Hebburn.
These Visits involved large numbers of brethren which led to those particular nights becoming the “red letter” night of the year.
The German Visits
The affiliation between the Lodge of Concord and Johanis Loge No. 276, Hamburg , was augmented by W.Bro. Dirk Maenz who was sent by his firm in Germany to Sunderland , where he supervised ship repairs. W.Bro. Dirk is a dedicated Mason and, during the years he worked in Sunderland , he visited numerous Lodges in the Province and formed a strong liaison with many of them, particularly with our Lodge. He was instrumental in arranging exchange visits between our Lodge and his Mother Lodge in Hamburg which began in the 1980s. In October 1989, fifteen brethren from Johanis Loge attended our installation Meeting – all resplendent in their silk top-hats and white bow ties, (which is their normal Lodge dress). At the Festive Board, W.Bro. Richard Schultze-Wolfhagen IX Presented a bell, (Inscribed from Johanis Loge No. 276), to the newly installed W.Master, W.Bro. E. Stewart. In his reply, W.Bro. Stewart promised that the bell would be rung at every regular Lodge meeting at the beginning of the 'Absent Brethren Toast' in memory of brethren past and present and especially of our brothers from Germany, This was carried out until our Installation Meeting in October 1995 when brethren from Johanis Loge again visited our Lodge and, on this occasion, were accompanied by brethren from three other German Lodges. It just had to happen that, when the bell was being rung for the Absent Brethren Toast, It fell off the wall! The bell was fitted more securely last year and is once again, being rung at our Festive Board. In February 1992, some of our brethren visited the Johanis Loge to attend their 175th Founders' Night.
For many years the Instruction Lodge was a very popular meeting. It was so well attended that, after the regular officers had completed their rehearsal, some of them would then go on to attend a Permanent committee Meeting, while the remaining brethren held another rehearsal under the direction of a P.M. After this, all brethren gathered and enjoyed an informal fish and chip supper. All brothers together!
This helped Lodge members to get to know and understand each other. Unfortunately, this practice has fallen out or favour.
Matters Of Interest
Special Masonic Visit.
In preparation for the 100th meeting of the Lodge I read a quotation form a letter sent to all Lodge brethren dated August 1960:-
“Dear Sir and Brother,
On the occasion of the 100th meeting of the Lodge of Concord No. 6859, the Provincial Grand Master, Col. F. Walton and his Officers will visit the Lodge on 2nd September 1960 . In order to cover the cost of entertaining our guests, it was agreed by the Lodge that each member attending and dining should contribute 10/ - towards the cost of his meal and that of one Provincial guest may be invited in addition to this and the charge will be 5/- for each guest. This was the actual cost of the meal served at the Temple , Burdon Road where the meal was held to accomodate the numbers attending.
At the August meeting in 1950 it was agreed that, in the future, the November Instruction Lodge meeting would take the form of a social evening, (Founders; Night), confined to Lodge members and their Ladies. The first Dinner Dance was held in March 1951 in Meng's Restaurant, Fawcett Street , Sunderland. The cost was 7/6d, (27 ½ new pence), per head. These social events have taken place ever since with only one exception.
Annual golf tournaments were held until 1965 but ended due to lack of support. A bowls tournament with our Mother Lodge, the Lodge of Harmony, was instituted in its place in 1966. It consisted of teams of Bowlers and Rabbits, was very successful and ran for many years.
In 1975 a Ladies' Social Committee was formed from all the Queen Street Lodges and Social evenings were held several times a year. They were very successful for a number of years and raised quite a considerable sum of money in total which all went to help defray some of the running costs of the Temple . Unfortunately, lack of continued support forced them to abandon this venture.
In May 1997, after the Lodge had opened, and the official Fraternal Visitors admitted, there then followed a break in tradition. The Lodge was called off and Mrs Caroline Edden, Home Manager of Scarborough Court, Cramlington entered the Lodge accompanied by her Deputy, Mrs Judith Moffat and the wives of many of the brethren present. Mrs Edden gave a short but informative talk on the work and care carried out at Scarborough Court . She was thanked by the W.M. The Ladies then left the Lodge room, and, after calling on, the ceremony was completed in the usual way. The Ladies did appreciate the invitation and found the talk most interesting. A similar event took place in 1998 when Ladies were admitted to listen to a lecture on “Sunderland Lodges of the 19th Century”.
The Royal Masonic Hospital
The Royal Masonic Hospital was a major Masonic Charity for over 50 years. During this time it became famous being once described by Lord Porritt as “the best hospital of its kind in the world”.
In October 1966 a letter was received from the R.M.H. thanking the Lodge for its contributions over the years and acknowledging the fact that the Lodge was now a PATRON of the Hospital. A certificate to that effect was enclosed.
In March 1978 a further honour of GRAND PATRON was conferred on the Lodge. Now this Lodge had a close association with the hospital in the person of the late W.Bro. J.R.Wells. A former member of this Lodge, he served, over several years, as a Board Member, Trustee, (one of only three), and as Chief Executive in an Honorary capacity until he had to resign due to ill health.
The Masonic Hospital has, of course, now been sold.
Queen Street Temple
This Grade 1 Listed Building is the oldest purpose built temple still in use in this country.
Like all ancient monuments, stately homes and other listed buildings, it is in constant need of repair, maintenance and refurbishment. They also have to meet modern day health and safety standards when in use.
It is a constant financial burden for all Lodges who use this building For example – in the 1960's Lodges meeting at Queen Street were experiencing difficulties in remaining viable. An amalgamation with the Lodges at Bridge Street was sought in 1967 with the prospect of acquiring a suitable site for a new Temple to accommodate all the Lodges meeting in the two existing Temples .
Discussions continued until 1969 when the proposition was dropped by the Bridge Street Lodges in favour of extending and increasing facilities at Bridge Street . Some time later, two of the Lodges meeting in this Temple moved away. This did not help the situation. The burden of the upkeep of this Grade 1 Listed Building over the life of this Lodge has always been, and is still, onerous. Falling numbers make this problem particularly difficult to deal with. However, here is a quotation from the Official Gazette of the Province of Durham dated August 1999 – “I understand that building work is soon to be started on Queen Street Masonic Hall as a first step to setting up Queen Street Masonic Heritage Centre”. Let us hope that this will be the answer to our problems.
The reading of facts and figures alone contained in the Lodge minutes does not convey the atmosphere engendered by the excellence of certain ritualists in the Lodge Room. There were brethren who, in their own different ways, had the ability to make rituals come alive – no matter how often it had been heard. This Lodge has been very fortunate in having many brethren who could do that. The names of W.Bros. Bill McClement, Fred Garmonsway, Alan Smith, Pat Riley, and Bob Marshall immediately spring to mind. The entertainment provided at the Festive Board contributed greatly to the friendliness, fun and, indeed. The popularity of this Lodge. The wit of Eric Townsend, the humour of Ernie Freeman-Davies, the singing of the many talented Lodge members – this all combined to create the once unique atmosphere of the Lodge of Concord – a Lodge well named – a company of brethren in friendship, agreement, harmony and unity.
W Bro J.W. Wells P.P.J.G.W.