Masonic Buildings - Commonwealth Lodge 186 UGLV & Mirboo North Masonic Centre
One of the many great things about Lodge weekends away which incorporate a lodge meeting, is you get to see some great buildings. In my time at Devotion, we have been to Rutherglen, Creswick, Walhalla and most recently Mirboo North.
Mirboo North nestles in the high ground between South Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley and is noted for its rich farming land and is in close proximity to national parks and some of Australians tallest and most impressive mountain ash forests.
Commonwealth Lodge was conceived by local leaders “accustomed to proving for themselves". In early years the Lodge was small, yet the members acted quickly to build a lodge room, showing the whole district that Freemasonry was active in the local area.
The complete record of minute and appearance books are available as is the Warrant or Charter. A great treasure and resource. The Lodge History has been recorded in a booklet called “Nights Nearest the Full Moon”. The Lodge was founded just after Federation on 12 November 1900.
Paul Strzelecki, the Polish explorer with John Mcarthur and their party were the first to explore the area in Southern Gippsland around Mirboo. Owing to heavy timbered county, it was largely ignored by early settlers. Strzelecki named the area Gippsland after Sir George Gipps, Governor of New South Wales..
Gold was discovered in Stockyard Creek (later called Foster) in 1871 and immediately the miners from Ballarat and Bendigo began to converge on the new field. A rail link between Moe and Morwell was completed in January 1879. Soon after a steady stream of land seekers made their way from Moe to Morwell and the first arrived in Mirboo North, or Baromi as it was then called, in 1878 and over the next decade all land available for selection was taken up.
The Commercial and Club Hotels were built and it is believed that the first meeting of Commonwealth lodge took place in the Commercial in 1900. Within the lodge history there is a picture of the same, a humble single story Victorian construction. The lodge room therein was recorded as 14 feet by 23 feet.
Today Mirboo North is a rural town situated in the Strzelecki Ranges about 100 miles east of Melbourne with a population in the year 2000 of about 1,200.
The South Gippsland railway from Dandenong was opened to Korumburra in 1891, and among the new setters coming into the area were several Freemasons, who began to look for a place to meet. With Drouin No 173 as the sponsoring Lodge, Korumburra Masonic Lodge No 175 was opened in Korumburra on May 19th 1894, with WBro Elms as the Worshipful Master.
Because the roads were in such a poor condition between Korumburrra and Leongatha, it soon become apparent another Lodge should be based in Leongatha. With Korumburra as the sponsoring Lodge, this finally occurred on November 18th 1986 when Lord Brassey Lodge No 180 held its first official meeting with Bro John Jeffrey being installed in the Chair of King Solomon.
The joining fee was one guinea and a request was made to Lord Brassey, the Governor of Victoria, and the then current Grand Master of Victorian Freemasons to use his name for the title of the new lodge.
As some members of the Lord Brassey Lodge were closer to Mardan and Mirboo North, and the roads between the two towns almost non-existence, moves were then made to establish a further lodge in Mirboo North. And after a lot of consultation and planning by a group of dedicated members and with the sponsorship of Lord Brassey Lodge. Freemasonry finally came to life at Mirboo North on 12th November 1900.
So the lineage of the Lodge is Lodge of Australasia No 429 SC, later 3 VC, Argyle 724 SC, Hopetown 163 VC (now Meredith 163 VC), Drouin 173 VC founded 1892, Korumburra 175 VC founded 1884, Lord Brassey 180 VC founded 1896, Commonwealth 186 VC founded 1900.
The Commonwealth of Australian Constitution Act, became law in 1900 when it was approved by the British Parliament, and the Commonwealth of Australia came into being on 1st January 1901. On May 9 of that same year the first Federal Parliament was opened in the Exhibition Building at Melbourne by the Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V). Consequently, Grand Lodge gave approval for the new Lodge to be called "The Commonwealth No 186" in remembrance of this significant point in Australian history.
In 1906 land was purchased to build a lodge room, but nothing came of this. The land was sold in 1918 and another smaller site purchased in its place costing 25 pounds.
In 1908 lodge members assisted with the construction of a Sunday school hall for the Church of England and permission was obtained to use it for lodge purposes. Lodge funds were increasing, there is a minute around this time offering to lend Lord Brassey Lodge 50 pounds at interest. It is also worth noting that the lodge also met in Abbots and Skye’s shop in the main street of Mirboo North.
After the usual stops and starts in 1921 a dedicated lodge building was finally completed.
At Commonwealths’ regular meeting of 7 June 1921 the WM WJ Tuck gave the following report:
That the lodge finance and new brick building, as per the accepted plans
That the lodge supply all materials and the work done by day labour if possible.
That the construction of the new temple begin immediately
That the lodge supervise all work in preference to employing an architect
The motions was seconded at the July meeting and carried. It was in this building Devotion recently met. It cost 800 pounds to build with members of the lodge supervising day labours, no doubt to cut the cost of employing an architect.
On 9th June 1922 the lodge was opened in the newly completed building. Its final cost has been 1,250 pounds with a debt of 400 pounds – even our past brethren couldn’t stick to a budget or grossly underestimated the construction cost. Ambitions rarely match Masonic purses..
In 1930 it was decided to hold regular meetings on the 1st Monday of the month rather than “on” or “near” the full moon which had moved the meeting day around for years, but allowed those early travelers to lodge to return on horse or buggy under the light of a bright moon. This was very usual for Masons throughout the world in those times.. Since then, Commonwealth has continued on and preserved it’s building – long may it do so and we thank the locals for allowing Lodge Devotion to use their building in June 2014.
Photographs of the Mirboo North Masonic Centre
Foundation Stone of the Mirboo North Masonic Temple laid by The Right Rev C H Cranswick, Second Bishop of Gippsland
Commonwealth Lodge 186 Past Masters' Board
Mirboo North Masonic Centre's Junior Warden's Chair
Mirboo North Masonic Temple Lodge Room
Mirboo North Masonic Centre's Senior Warden's Chair
“Night Nearest the Full Moon” is the history of Commonwealth lodge and is a great resource containing details of the lodge, its building, activities and members
Special thanks to the Blue Lounge Social Club for the two images above they have allowed us to use.