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Updated: June 12, 2013 14:15 IST

Looking back in time

PRINCE FREDERICK
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Peek at the Past: The minutes book
Peek at the Past: The minutes book

Freemasons of Mount Lodge No. 14, which celebrates its 150th year, recount anecdotes from its rich history. Amidst the chronicle of changes, stories of permanence emerged.

While going down memory lane, members of any organisation celebrating its sesquicentennial year would have much ground to cover. It was therefore natural for members of Mount Lodge No. 14 to talk at length about the exciting developments over the last 150 years (1862 to 2012), when this Freemason group has been in existence.

Almost everyone had something interesting to say about the period, 1919-1967, when the Lodge functioned at its own building in St. Thomas Mount. Up to 1933, meetings were conducted there using lanterns for want of electricity. In those days, holding a meeting was irksome because it mostly fell short of the required quorum. For a meeting to be valid, seven members have to be in attendance. It was not uncommon for one or two of the assembled members to ride on horseback to Madras and knock on the doors of other members to make up the number.

Mount Lodge is believed to have moved to St. Thomas Mount in 1919 for the convenience of those members that served in the Army. It was no sacrificial move on the part of the civilian members, because Defence personnel were in the majority. With the Ministry of Defence having plans for the building at St. Thomas Mount, Mount Lodge began to meet at the Freemasons’ Hall in Egmore from 1967.

Amidst the chronicle of changes, stories of permanence emerged. One of them was the minutes book that has survived to this day. Experts at Roja Muthiah Research Library, who specialise in bringing old documents back to life, have imparted intransience to these dog-eared pages of the past. A digitised version makes doubly sure that the 150 years of Mount Lodge are preserved for ever.

Retnaraj Sushilraj, R.W. Regional Grandmaster, The Grand Lodge of Southern India, which officiates over 130 lodges, including the Mount Lodge, in the south, said the minutes book revealed more than it was intended to.

Besides the messages written there, the handwriting provided a world of information about the men who presided over the meetings. Some strokes hinted at impatience, others suggested meticulousness. Leafing through the fat book, one came upon a variety of other qualities.

Out there in the open stands another story of permanence. Since 1967, when members of Mount Lodge began to share the Hall at Egmore with other constituents of Freemasonry, they are accustomed to the sight of mammoth trees on the premises. Botanist Udayakumar says there are 118 trees, classified into 20 species, there. Twenty-five of these fall into three species — Wrightia tintoria (Pala Indigo Tree or Vetpalai), Streblusasper (Siamee Rough Bush or Prai Maram) and Mimusops (Elengi) — believed to be remnants of a tropical dry evergreen forest.

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