I think that my original editorial guidance was to write in my diary about what I had done, my thoughts – just write! I started some 78 editions of Devotion News with making Athol Brose. The predominant thought in my heart is the recently completed journey to Echuca for a reunion.
I normally like reunions as much as I do commemorative days and as I write we have ANZAC Day 2013. Call me an iconoclast or even a heretic if that is how you view these occasions. It is not that I deny or lack respect for the sacrifices but they bring to my mind the things that I, as a veteran, would rather forget. They also seem to look backwards rather that my desire to look forward. Commemorative days seem to be taking on a life of their own. Like grieving, commemorative days are no doubt especially important to those who did not give sufficient support when it was needed for what I saw and many others saw as unpatriotic ideological reasons. I have bitter memories of lack of support in Australian while I was in Vietnam and on my return. Latter-day patronage does not heal this wound. I just look at their posturing now, their political ilk optimising photo opportunities on commemorative days but no defence pension indexing to match even closely that of old age and their parliamentary pensions.
My Echuca reunion journey was for a happier experience. It was for a 20-year reunion of the 1993-4 GL Team. It was a great privilege and experience to be a member of this team. It gave me a great insight to Freemasonry in Victoria, a unique learning experience and many lasting friendships. Freemasons should not overlook this opportunity should it arise.
The visit was an opportunity to see the great work done on the Echuca Masonic Centre built in 1907 and is prominent on the main road of Echuca emblematical of the place that Freemasonry had and should still have in society in Echuca. It has had a sympathetic restoration and is of great credit to those involved. The centrepiece is the lodge room, with beautiful century old furniture and a pavement recovered from another lodge room that had been flooded. The pressed metal ceiling in blue and white was not repainted but rather touched up and it looks magnificent, now supporting Edwardian electric lamp shades replacing the original gas lights. The choir stall has been tastefully panelled off to provide a storage room for Chapter and Mark furniture. All of the rest of the building has also been restored. As a whole it demonstrates that new is very unlikely to be better, the building having an ambience that is consistent with the traditional standing that we like to attribute to Freemasonry. Of course, there will always be those that like to sit on modern benches made of welded steel tubes and covered with vinyl but Freemasonry has never claimed to conduce style and good taste.
Freemasonry is alive and well in Echuca as it is in many provincial country centres in Victoria. I find it very refreshing to spend an evening with some of the farmers and growers who work hard and productively on the land. They are invariably “the salt of the earth” realists. We should do everything we can to make it easy for them to attend meetings without travelling any further than the long distances that some of them do now. We should help them to retain and maintain the masonic buildings that their forefathers provided rather than try and impose some city-centric model.