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Lodge history

Lodge history

What was happening in 1864?1864 was an auspicious year:President Abraham Lincoln was re-elected in the North of the USA.The American Civil War continued - Ulysses S. Grant became head of the Union Army.In Europe, Prussia (Germany) invaded Denmark.The Geneva Convention came into being and led to the Red Cross being set up.Jules Verne wrote Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Toulouse-Lautrec was born.In Sheffield, England, a dam collapsed killing 300 people.The Clifton suspension bridge was built near Bristol making travel between England and South Wales quicker and safer.The Chimney Sweeps Act banned use of children to climb inside chimneys to clean them.The First County Cricket Championship began. The Old Trafford Cricket Ground was under construction.Robert Burns Lodge No. 999 was constituted, that is, held its first meeting, on the 22nd January 1864.The Early DaysIt would be unheard of today to hold a Lodge meeting other than on the official dates sanctioned by the Provincial Grand Lodge. Nowadays, we get a dispensation from our Provincial Grand Secretary before we change a date or do anything that may affect the regularity of our meetings.In 1864, the Lodge met in January with eight founders from Caledonian Lodge No. 204, which incidentally had its bicentenary a couple of years ago.The Lodge met again in February and initiated three candidates and also received four joining members, including one from Robert Burns No. 25 in London, one from Cannongate and Leith No.5, Edinburgh, and one from a Lodge in St. Louis, USA. It met again in March and again initiated three candidates. It met every month for the first twenty years of its existence.It was eventually consecrated at the fourth meeting, in April 1864. Apparently, it was not unique in getting away with such activity, uncontrolled by Provincial Grand Lodge.The Lodge was a daughter lodge of Caledonian No. 204 (in those days, it was No. 246). Caledonian Lodge was about 60 years old when Robbie Burns Lodge came into being.There was some friction in Caledonian - in 1854, two candidates were initiated, despite the fact that they had not been declared on the summons. It was a rushed job, so that they could attend a charity banquet for masons only, as they were wealthy and offering large donations, but one member was extremely unhappy and vociferous about the irregularity of the actions.Incidentally, after the two initiations, Charles Affleck was installed as Worshipful Master after a delay when one upset Past Master stormed out. Many brethren left, but Caledonian had large enough numbers to survive the creation of two daughter lodges: Robert Burns No. 999 and Shakespeare No. 1009.Robert Burns Lodge was consecrated on St. George's Day, April 23rd at the fourth meeting in the presence of the Provincial Grand Master and his Provincial wardens, who were rewarded with a banquet at the Clarence Hotel in Spring Gardens, Manchester.The first Worshipful Master was Charles Robert Affleck, 10 years after his installation as master in Caledonian. He was, by 1864, a Past Provincial Junior Grand Deacon and as well as being prominent in Robert Burns Lodge, he was a respected member of Caledonian until his death in the late 1800s. He was also active in the Royal Arch, as is mentioned in Neville Barker-Cryer's book as one of the Companions who consecrated the Chapter at Buxton in the 1870s.Surviving into the 20th CenturyWe have many distinguished Brethren in the Lodge and this has always been the case. In 1888, Right Worshipful Brother Nicholas Le Gendre Starkie, Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Lancashire - Eastern Division as it was then, after whom one of the Manchester Districts is now named, became a joining member, proposed by a Past Master, Worshipful Brother James Lowndes who was Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works at the time. He also presented a Bible to the Lodge in 1885.However, the end of the 19th Century was not the best of times for the Lodge. At the end of its first year, it had 44 members. By 1870, there were 95 and in 1875 we had 118.But there was then a serious downturn in numbers, and by 1880 there were 39 - and in 1891 there were 14. Because purchasing the Past Masters jewel would have needed a ten shilling donation (half a weeks wages) from each member in order for the Lodge to buy it, the new IPM had to buy his own.The expense of hiring the hall was blamed for the reduction in meetings from 12 a year to eight in 1881 and then the present pattern of six a year since 1884.Membership improved in the first decade of the 20th Century and by 1909 stood at 43, so the Lodge was on an even keel, despite losing a substantial amount of money three years earlier in 1906 when our bank went bankrupt.The Bridge Street YearsThe next decade was dominated by the Great War, and the 1920s by the building of Freemasons Hall at Bridge Street; the Lodge moved to the new Hall in 1929. Before that, the Lodge had met since its second year at the Clarence Hotel; the hotel presented a silver jug to the Lodge to commemorate the link and the jug is still used at our Installation meeting in April to make sure every attendee has a dram of Whisky for the loyal toast.The ‘30s and ‘40s again saw war and two brethren saw active service, Brothers Lees and West. Brother West enlisted immediately after being placed in the Chair of the Lodge. Both thankfully returned unharmed. The minutes show that in December 1940, the meeting had to be postponed because the City was being bombed.Most of this information came from a document written by W Bro the Reverend R.D. St. John Smith and he was rather reticent about the Brethren of his time up to the early 1960s, despite the fact that the Lodge boasted a Mayor of Salford, a Mayor of Altrincham, an MBE and Decorations for himself for service in the Territorial Army; he was a Past Provincial Grand Chaplain, and part of a group of enthusiastic Masons who revived the Lodge about 50 years ago when it was again at a low ebb.The Lodge was again in trouble in 1984 when the membership fell to such a low level that the Brethren considered handing in the Lodge Warrant until miraculously, a small group of Scottish Masons including John Fraser, Les McNeil-Cunliffe, and Peter Paterson arrived at Freemasons Hall and asked if any Lodge was looking for some Scottish members.These Brethren breathed new life into the Lodge, and continued to drive the Lodge forward for the next twenty years.The futureIn 1964, the Lodge Celebrated its centenary at the Installation meeting of Bro G Williams on the 27th April 1964, attended by 36 members and 47 visitors, including the VW Deputy Provincial Grand Master Frederick Towns, two Assistant Provincial Grand Masters: Rev Canon F Paton Williams, and William A Dodd, the Provincial Grand Secretary, Rev John Flitcroft, his Assistant WBro HGS Sutton and Brethren representing 43 Lodges.A major celebration took place for the 125th anniversary of the Lodge in 1989, when 23 Lodge members welcomed180 visiting Brethren for the Installation of WBro Morten U Korch. The visitors included six Provincial Grand Masters, and visitors came from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, France, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Australia and Iceland.This year, the Lodge celebrates its 150th anniversary. We cannot quite revive the Installation Banquet vintage 1887 which involved a ten-course meal with five different wines, but we intend to make this a very enjoyable occasion.