DUTCH MASONRY IN AUSTRALIA
A BRIEF HISTORY
Before 1992 the masonic fraternity in Melbourne, Victoria knew very little about Freemasonry in the Netherlands. During his holiday in September 1992, Bro Hank van Tongeren was in Leiden (Netherlands) where he visited and joined Lodge La Vertu. There he witnessed the impressive and meaningful ritual for Opening the Work Year, a ritual which he conducted six month later, in May 1993, in open lodge at the first meeting of his year as the W.M of the Halcyon-Pythagoras Lodge, then meeting in the Davies Street Masonic Centre, Preston (Melbourne). Over 100 brethren were present, among which were R.W.Bro G Ince, PSGW, and a number of brethren of Dutch descent. That night was a great success and the presentation of this impressive ritual was well received by all the brethren present .
A well written article in The Victorian Mason brought this event to the attention of freemasons in Victoria in general. It also was reported in the Dutch Grand East’s Algemeen Maconiek Tijdschrift (General Masonic Journal) Being inspired and encouraged by the success of this venture a number of meetings were held by interested brethren and, on 16 August 1993 Kring Nieuw Holland (Circle New Holland) was officially constituted as an independent body with the approval of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria.
The intention then was to conduct the meetings in the form of a traditional Dutch Comparitie (a formal meeting without regalia held in the Forecourt (Ante-Chamber), having a brief opening and closing ceremony) where the brethren would study the typical Dutch masonic work methods and customs; learned to understand the Dutch rituals and demonstrated these rituals among the Kring’s brethren. They would work as a closed community fostering strong bonds of friendship - just as occurs in a real Dutch masonic Circle. Soon the Dutch rituals, customs and usages were studied and practiced, all previously unknown in Victoria where the UGLV works a form of the Emulation ritual, and where the customs and usages of that Constitution are practiced and encouraged.
From these early beginnings Kring Nieuw Holland has grown, slowly but steadily. From the very beginning the brethren decided to work only in the English language. Not only because a few of the Dutch brethren were long time residents of Australia and had become unfamiliar with the Dutch language, but also to avoid that the Kring could be seen as being exclusive, to enable English speaking brethren to become members, and to provide an opportunity for the brethren in Australia in general and the brethren in Victoria in particular to learn something about the specific orientation of the Dutch masonic work method and customs.
Thus Kring Nieuw Holland created a new and challenging opportunity for all brethren to make that recommended ‘daily advancement in masonic knowledge’, to learn that there are different rituals which teach the traditional masonic principles; that there are different ways to express and experience the great lessons of freemasonry.
During the first years, when the brethren were meeting in the traditional manner of a Dutch Comparitie, all the Dutch rituals were translated - the regular three Craft degrees as well as all occasional rituals - and so a new phase began. The translated rituals were studied and demonstrations carried out. This brought about the necessity to make the required furniture, jewels, etc, not used in Victorian lodges. All these were made and through this labour of love it became possible for the Kring to properly perform the Dutch rituals. A natural consequence was that the number of Comparities became less as they were slowly replaced by demonstrations of the rituals.
Members of the Kring are proud that all the rituals have now been translated, that they can set up a real Dutch workplace, and have everything to correctly perform all the Dutch rituals.
In April 1996 the Kring prepared two bundles of the translated rituals, one of which was presented to the Library of the Grand East in The Hague (via the Grand Librarian/Curator, Bro drs E P Kwaadgras), and one to Loge La Vertu which has been so helpful in providing copies of all Dutch rituals, several important reference books and documents, as well as valuable advice. The Grand Master of the Order and Bro Kwaadgras now regularly receive our monthly Work Table and Newsletter.
In November 1996 the Kring moved to a new home and now works in a masonic centre where besides the Forecourt they also can use the Lodge Room. Now the performances of the demonstrated three Craft degrees as well as all the occasional rituals are greatly improved and have become much more meaningful. Victorian lodges have shown much interest in the Kring’s activities and have extended invitations to demonstrate one of the occasional rituals in their lodge. Usually this has been the Ritual of Opening the Work Year - now regularly performed by the Kring at the first meeting of its work year in February - and the ceremony of a Winter St John’s Lodge. The Sylvester ritual is also performed each year which is often celebrate together with one of the local lodges.
Another important milestone happened on 24 December 1996 when Kring Nieuw Holland appeared on the internet with a number of web pages. The Kring naturally also made contact with the Grand East of the Netherlands and Dutch lodges on the internet through their web sites. Because of the personal contacts in the Netherlands and through the internet, members of the Kring feel a very warm and close relationship with their Dutch brethren.
The 1997 Work Table had a particularly demanding but very interesting program which created much interest in the Kring within freemasonry in Victoria. This was especially due to the annual International Night, this year with the theme "A Dutch Masonic Perspective". It was organised and performed by the Kring, an event which brought Dutch freemasonry very much to the fore. It was the fourth International Night in Melbourne: the first was carried out in 1994 by the Garibaldi Lodge (a lodge with an Italian background), the second by the Gregorius Lodge (Greek) in 1995, and the third by the Mozart Lodge (German/Austrian) in 1996.
The 1997 International Night was a great success and the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria, M W Bro Rev Walter Rolley, was the Guest of Honour. The evening began with an impressive ‘Parade of Flags’, 20 brethren carrying the flag of their country of birth into the lodge room. Kring Nieuw Holland then opened a demonstrated Dutch lodge which included the drawing of a Dutch Tracing Board in sand (as is still done in several Dutch lodges). This was followed by a ‘piece of architecture’, a brief lecture by Bro Orator on ‘Freemasonry in a multicultural society’ , after which the lodge was closed according to Dutch tradition and the Parade of Flags exited the lodge room. The Grand Master was very interested in all that happened which for him too was a most unusual demonstration of masonic ritual and usages - as it was for most brethren present.
Next everyone went to the Festive Board, a.k.a. 'the South' (the West according to Dutch tradition), where the usual proceedings were replaced by a traditional Dutch Table Lodge. This included the reading of the old Table Laws, and the toasts and fires (the so-called ‘conditions’) were carried out according to typical Dutch masonic usages. Over 200 brethren were present and participated wholeheartedly in all that happened. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed this very unusual but appealing aspect of fellowship.
Victoria has a reasonably harmonious multicultural society, a situation also reflected in the lodges. The Garibaldi Lodge, Gregorius Lodge and the Mozart Lodge are the only three with a national background though they also count brethren with other national backgrounds among their members. Brethren with a non-Australian background can also be found in other Victorian lodges. It is the hope that in future years groups of brethren from another national background, of which there are well over 20, may take up the challenge to organise and present an International Night with insights into freemasonry as it is practiced in their country of birth.. The real honour is that Kring Nieuw Holland was the first of those groups.
Naturally the Kring has attracted many brethren of Dutch background (from the Netherlands as well as from the former Dutch East Indies). Its membership however also is multicultural. Besides Australian brethren the Kring also has brethren of Italian, English, Scottish and German birth among its members.
There is much contact between the Kring and several Dutch lodges and Dutch freemasons, but in particular with Loge La Vertu in Leiden and with Loge Hiram Abiff in The Hague. Presently the Kring counts among its members one brother who has become joining member of Loge La Vertu, four brethren who have joined Loge Hiram Abiff, and one who is a former member (now a country member) of Loge Mutua Fides in Zwolle.
This brings us to our future plans. Without exception, it is the strong desire of all the brethren to become a lodge working under the United Grand Lodge of Victoria. A special lodge though, which works the Dutch craft degrees in the English language. This of course is not an unique request as precedence does exist. There already are a number of lodges harmoniously working the ritual of one Constitution in another, such as Dutch ritual worked in London (Lodge Gastvrijheid (Hospitality) as well as in Israel and Spain - and English (Emulation) ritual in Rotterdam. The brethren realise that the granting of such a Warrant may not occur easily.
Kring used to meet the Collingwood Masonic Centre but now meets at the Masonic Centre in Bacchus Marsh; refer to your masonic guide for details and contacts.