WBro J R Irving on Lodge Devotion, Freemasonry & Bro Rudyard Kipling
(Bro J R Irving was Master at Devotion in 1996-97 and again in 2000-01. In late 2016, living in Asia for many years, he recently contacted the Lodge and we are now in regular communication with him. In Nov 2017, he rejoined Lodge Devotion 723)
"I have to admit I was a bit of a sceptic about the worth of Masonry, but I did enjoy the brotherhood. My biggest bit of scepticism in the first couple of years was coping with totally unknown brothers walking up, vigorously shaking my hand, and telling me how glad they were to meet me. I had worked in PR for many years and couldn't help but take it with a grain or two of salt. Bugger me, I caught myself one night doing exactly the same thing. As I began to reprimand myself, I found that I actually meant it. And I have done ever since."
I was born into a household with a reasonable supply of books, and from an early age, encouraged to read. Not surprisingly I started with Treasure Island and books of that ilk.
But somewhere around the age of nine or ten, I started to delve into the long line of Rudyard Kipling. I think it was father that first pointed me towards The Jungle Books, then Kim, the story of a street urchin who befriends a Lama. During the course of their adventures a group of Army clerics find his birth certificate and his father’s lodge certificate in an amulet around his neck.
Then I got further into Kipling’s stories. I was slow on the uptake, but I finally realised how many of the stories involved Masons and Masonic Lodges.
The meetings of the wolf pack in the Jungle Books are Lodge meetings. A story that most people would not have read was titled "007". Each night in the Engine Roundhouse in the Chicago rail yards a Lodge meeting was held by the engines.
The most pointed group of stories was titled "The Man Who Would Be King". Three Indian Army Sergeants head to the roof of India in search of fabled gold. They run into a previously undiscovered civilisation. While they are being manhandled towards the cliffs a square and compasses is uncovered at the throat of one of them. The locals drop on their faces, calling out "Alexander, Alexander" believing Alexander the Great had returned. I won't spoil the rest of it for you.
The sad thing is that the only son of the Empire’s greatest publicist obviously had to go into the Army at the start of WW1, this was Rudyard’s son John; he lasted a week in the French trenches. Kipling headed up the War Graves Commission for many years after the war.
This is a long winded way of saying that when Andy McKay and John Reardon bailed me up in Richmond some years ago I agreed to go to an introductory night at Gipps St.
The rest of the story is sort of a logical progression through the Chairs, with mentors like Norm Pritchard.
The boys wanted to fast track me as we were a bit short on new bodies to put through the Chairs. I resisted that, and started at Inner Guard. I am glad I did. My first charge was the Working Tools of the Entered Apprentice. How I sweated over those 300 odd works. "It's impossible", I said. But I finally got it down, Of course while passing through the Chairs I got down many charges, each one easier than the last. Masonry builds skills and character into its members.
I have to admit I was a bit of a sceptic about the worth of Masonry, but I did enjoy the brotherhood. My biggest bit of scepticism in the first couple of years was coping with totally unknown brothers walking up, vigorously shaking my hand, and telling me how glad they were to meet me. I had worked in PR for many years and couldn't help but take it with a grain or two of salt. Bugger me, I caught myself one night doing exactly the same thing. As I began to reprimand myself, I found that I actually meant it. And I have done ever since.
Thanks to Ezekiel Bates Lodge of Massachusetts for the above image from The Man Who Would Be King film with an insert photo of the story’s author, Bro Kipling.
Attleboro, Massachusetts has been the home of Ezekiel Bates Lodge since 1870. Massachusetts Freemasonry, however, has been woven into the fabric of Attleboro since the late 1700’s.