Doyle was certainly well recommended into Freemasonry. His proposer was W.D. King, later Sir William David King, deputy lieutenant for Hampshire, and mayor of Portsmouth on four separate occasions.
His seconder was Sir John Brickwood, an equally respected and successful brewer in the city. Doyle rose rapidly through the degrees. On 23 February 1887 he was passed to the second degree and a month later, on 23 March, became a Master Mason. He took no further active part in Lodge affairs, from which, in 1889 he resigned.
This, however, was not the end of his Masonic career. He attended Lodges as an unattached Mason and rejoined his Lodge in 1902. He also received various honours before his final withdrawal from Freemasonry in 1911.
He had already been writing adventure stories and was on the verge of dedicating himself to authorship. His story, A Study in Scarlet, in which Sherlock Holmes is introduced for the first time, was published in 1887 in Beeton's Christmas Annual. In February 1900, Conan Doyle volunteered to serve in the Boer War and sailed to South Africa. He must have been dismayed to be refused enlistment because of his age - he was 40 years old.
Persistent, he gained a position as secretary and medical registrar of the Langman Field Hospital. Through observation and the reports of his patients, he was able to write one of the most readable of the books on the war, The Great Boer War, published in London in 1900.
His presence in South Africa has been the cause of considerable debate as to his Masonic activities whilst abroad. In October 1901 Masonic Illustrated magazine reported:
Whilst at the seat of war he (Bro Conan Doyle) attended the never-to-be-forgotten scratch lodge at Bloemfontein in company with Bro Rudyard Kipling.
This was a reference to Rising Star Lodge No. 1022, English Constitution. A scratch lodge is one set up on an ad hoc basis, under emergency circumstances, as a temporary measure for a one-off meeting.
On 7th November that year, the Lodge members expressed concern at being referred to as a 'scratch lodge' and accordingly wrote to the magazine about it.
Nearly 30 years later, the day after the death of Arthur Conan Doyle on 8th July 1930, in a tribute to him by a member of Authors Lodge No. 3456, the original statement was repeated. It was later published in their transactions, stating that Doyle:
...was one of the brethren who formed the never-to-beforgotten Emergency Lodge held at Bloemfontein in company with Bro Rudyard Kipling and other notable Masons.
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