Unfair to French|
The article on French POWs (MQ, Issue
No. 16) is extremely tendentious. Things
are presented as if the 462 ‘ugly’ French
officers were Freemasons having broken
their oath, while none of the ‘good’ British
officers had done likewise in France!
Nobody knows whether there were
Masons amongst the 462. But we know very
well and are well documented about the
awful Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth
hulks and how French prisoners were
treated. On this subject, see Grant Uden
and Richard Coopers Dictionary of British
Ships and Seamen.
However, during 1810-1812 some 462
officers broke their parole and escaped to
France, and of these, 310 escaped in one
year (1812), but abroad not one British
Freemason officer had broken his parole.
However, the French prisoners were held
in ‘open prisons’ whereas the British were
held mainly in fortresses and secure castles,
and therefore not readily having of an
opportunity to decamp.
The French authorities did not
contribute to the keeping of their prisoners,
whilst the British gave each French officer
half a guinea per week for sustenance, also
being on parole they were free to find
employment locally if they could.”
J.-M. van Hille, MPS
Help for French POWs
Regarding the article on French Napoleonic
POWs (MQ, Issue No. 16), Shakespeare
Lodge (now No. 284, but originally No.
501) was formed in Norwich in 1792.
But, by 1796 things had clearly gone
amiss and the apparatus of the Lodge,
together with its warrant, was bought
by members of the Warwickshire Militia.
For the next six years it was a travelling
military Lodge, one of whose functions
was clearly to help put down troublesome
incidents such as naval mutinies in Gravesend
(where it met at the George Inn in August
1797), and in Dublin in 1799, where it was
involved in dealing with some of the unrest
that followed the Irish rebellion in 1798.
Returning to England, the Lodge found
itself at Norman Cross, meeting at the
Norman Cross Inn in January 1800.The
article in MQ implies that ‘the lot of (French
prisoners of war) held in prisons such
as…Norman Cross… (was not) convivial’.
Whilst members of Shakespeare Lodge
were guarding these prisoners, some of them
revealed themselves to be Masons. One
was ‘relieved’ of 11s 4d, and a collection
for another distressed French prisoner raised
5s 6d – an excellent example of ‘relieving
necessities and soothing afflictions’!
Bill Halson, London W1
Enthralled by Spilsbury
It was with great interest that I read the article
on Sir Bernard Spilsbury (MQ, Issue No. 16).
I was at Police Training School at Newby
Whiske when I picked up his book on
forensic medicine and was totally enthralled.
However, I am convinced that the
photograph of Crippen and Ethel le Neve
was not taken of them in the dock at the
Old Bailey but when they were in the dock
at Bow Street Magistrates Court, probably
during committal proceedings.
I have stood many times by that dock as
a member of the court staff whilst serving in
the “Met”. Also, if Bro. Harry Tucker reads
this, as a member of Manor of St. James’s
Lodge No. 9179, I am sure he will confirm it.
During her maiden Panama and the Mexican Riviera voyage to the Caribbean, a Masonic ladies cocktail party was held on Boxing Day 2005.
Some 29 Masons and their ladies attended, along with eight Masonic widows, Captain Steve Burgoine and other senior officers.
A £200 donation was presented to the captain for his chosen charity, the RNLI, and a further £173 to the New Masonic Samaritan Fund in the name of MV Arcadia.
Such events are regularly held aboard P&O cruise ships, and contributions are invariably made to a Masonic charity. These contributions are then published in the ship's daily news-sheet.
Although the ship's social programme does not automatically include a Masonic event, they will always co-operate if requested. Any Mason joining a cruise can request a contact name and number. It is always a pleasant surprise to see who turns up.
Masonry at its best
The following story shows Masonry at its best.
Last summer I was telephoned by an Australian brother who was on holiday in England but was in hospital and virtually alone.
He had been given my details as secretary of Old Rectory Lodge No. 6651 by charity steward Mike Harper when Mike visited Australia for his daughter's wedding.
The brother had been taken ill with suspected DVT following his long flight, and he wanted me to contact Mike Harper on how to get assistance as he had no travel insurance.
As a result, Mike and his wife not only attended him in hospital, but transported the brother and his wife from Hammersmith Hospital in London to Southampton where the Australian had an elderly sister.
Last month I received a certificate from the Australian brother's Lodge Great Ocean Road No. 886, Victoria, to be presented to Mike Harper.
A photograph of the presentation in Lodge has been sent back to Victoria.
A very happy ending to a truly Masonic story.
B D Fairweather
Royal Arch problems
I must take issue with your editorial (MQ, Issue No. 16) concerning recruitment to the Royal Arch.
Originally the Royal Arch was a Past Master's Degree, therefore those entering it were already experienced Masons. Now, as soon as a new entrant to Masonry receives his Grand Lodge certificate, pressure is put on him to join the Royal Arch. Small wonder there is a considerable drop-out in numbers.
When one sees the number of Masons with Provincial rank - even occasionally with Grand Rank - who are not Royal Arch members, let alone have been through the chairs, it puts into perspective the importance attached to the completion of the Degree by Craft members.
The apparent enthusiasm with which the revised ritual is being taken up is a measure of the pressure being put on Chapters to conform. This even extends - at least in my Province - to the non-wearing of gloves. Senior members of my Chapter are not of your opinion.
Finally, remember that the more difficult it is to join a club, the greater the queue to do so.
J A Parsons
Newport, Isle of Wight
French POW Masons
I was interested in the article on the formation of Lodges in the UK by French POWs at the end of the 18th century (MQ, Issue No. 16).
In the mid-1950s I was working in Madras (now Chenna) and joined Lodge of Perfect Unanimity No. 150 EC, founded in 1786.
Fraternal friendships were forged at the end of the 18th century between Perfect Unanimity and a French Lodge, which met at Pondicherry, a French colony some 80 miles south of Madras. It remained a French colony until the late 1950s.
A history of Perfect Unanimity Lodge, published in 1916, included the following extract:
"In 1789, a letter was received from Bro. Mehiel of Pondicherry on behalf of the French Lodge Triple Hope expressing the hope that the bonds of brotherly affection between the two Lodges might be strengthened.
"That these were not empty words is proved by the fact that fraternal correspondence was maintained between the English and French Masons even when the two nationals were at war, and that Brigadier-General Horne [PGM in Madras in 1784] and other British prisoner Masons were hospitably treated by their French brethren, the poorer brethren receiving 'every handsome relief and assistance'".
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