ISSUE 16, January 2006
Editorial
Historic: Sherlock Holmes incarnate
Travel: In the Footsteps of the Incas
Sport: Batting for England
Grand Lodge: Pro Grand Master's speech and Quarterly Communication
Supreme Grand Chapter: First Grand Principal's speech and Committee of General Purposes
Royal Masonic Girls' School: Stories in windows
Specialist Lodges: Brotherhood of the Angle
    Napoleonic Wars: A Mason's Word
International: Macedonia: New Grand Lodge consecrated and Enthusiasm unbound
Grand Lodge: Development of Freemasons' Hall
Masonic Rebels: Rise and fall
Bristol Museum: A Phoenix from the Ashes
Freemasonry and Religion: United in diversity
Library and Museum: Most glorious of them all
First Aid: Masons learn to shock
Education: The Third Degree and Forthcoming events
Masonic Charities, Letters, Book Reviews, Gardening

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    On 15 June 1920 he was initiated into Rahere Lodge No. 2546, named after the founder of St. Bartholomew’s priory and hospital in 1123. In October he was passed and later made a Master Mason on 10 May 1921. He was elected and served as Master of the Lodge in 1932. By then he had become a Royal Arch Mason, exalted into Rahere Chapter on 8 March 1922 with equal enthusiasm and served as First Principal in 1937. This was only part of his extensive Masonic involvement. On 3 May 1923 he was advanced in the Mark Degree at Abernethy Mark Lodge, then No. 722, consecrated in 1920 as a medical Mark Lodge associated with Barts. He was installed as Master on 24 November 1933.
    In 1936 the Lodge amalgamated with Sir Joseph Dimsdale Lodge No. 569 and, rather unusually, took on the earlier number, retaining its own name. He also joined both Sancta Maria Lodge No. 2682 and St. Mary Magdalen Lodge No. 1523. He progressed to become Master of both Lodges. The former Lodge was founded on 15 November 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and consisted entirely of medical staff and students.
    Spilsbury became Master in May 1941, the year of the tragic death of his son Peter, who had been initiated in Apollo University Lodge No. 357, Oxford, and who was also a member of St Mary Magdalen Lodge. This Lodge was founded in 1874 and consisted of members of Magdalen College, Oxford who had moved to London. On 21 December 1923 Spilsbury was informed that a knighthood would be conferred on him in the New Year’s Honours list. It was a well-deserved recognition.
    Meanwhile, his Masonic career progressed with equal success. In 1935 he was appointed to Grand Rank as a Past Junior Grand Deacon. Supreme Grand Chapter made him a Grand Officer in 1939 when he was appointed Past Assistant Grand Sojourner. It is not clear why he joined both the Chapter and Lodge of Friendship No. 6, in that order, in 1939 and 1940 respectively. He resigned from both in March 1946.
    Among the thousands of cases in which Spilsbury participated, two are of particular Masonic interest. In the trial of Herbert Rouse Armstrong for murder, an extraordinary number of the key participants were Freemasons. Let it be emphasised that Freemasonry played no part whatsoever in any of the proceedings and is mentioned merely as a coincidental factor.
    Altogether ten of the individuals concerned in the case happened to be members of the Craft. Herbert Armstrong, an English solicitor – the only known solicitor to be hanged for murder – was at the time a Past Master of Loyal Hay Lodge No. 2382 in Herefordshire. He was brought to trial in 1922 for the murder of his wife Katharine and the attempted murder of Oswald Martin.
    Curiously, Armstrong would have got away with his first crime but for the attempted poisoning of his rival solicitor Martin, a fellow member of the same Loyal Hay Lodge. When suspicion of attempted poisoning fell on Armstrong, his wife’s body was exhumed and traces of arsenic were found by Spilsbury, who had only become a Master Mason in May of that same year. Dr Wilcox and Dr Webster, who were the additional pathologists who gave evidence, were both Freemasons as was Hincks, the doctor who had treated Mrs. Armstrong during her last illness.
    Armstrong had claimed to have purchased arsenic in order to make his own weed killer. The ever-increasing quantities of arsenic were purchased from the local pharmacist, Bro J F Davies, Martin’s father-in-law, who alerted the police as to his suspicions. Davies had resigned from the Loyal Hay Lodge in 1899.

Below
Sir Bernard Spilsbury in his laboratory at St Bartholomew's Hospital



© Topical Press Agency / Getty Images


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