Ontario Trip 2007

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On 11th October 2007, after months of hard work behind the scenes on both sides of the Atlantic, Lodge Barns o' Clyde No. 1018 made the 3200 mile round trip from Clydebank to Ontario to exemplify the EA, FC and MM degrees. Joining "the Barns" were members of Lodge St. John Dalmuir No. 543, Lodge Cochno, Duntocher No. 1304 and Lodge St. Patrick Old Kilpatrick No. 1309. Some of the members' wives and families accompanied the Deputation.

The reason for the visit was an invitation to show the style of Scottish degree work as carried out by the Barns, after a couple of the Brethren from Remembrance Lodge No. 586 in Ontario, had been to 1018 to trace their Masonic roots and had obviously returned to their native land with a good impression. Remembrance Lodge also arranged for two other lodges to receive us. Three meetings in a week was the task facing us. No one can say 1018 doesn't like a challenge.

Back on 27th April 2006, during a visitation from Lodge Carron No. 139, father and son Brothers Jim and Craig Michie, members of Remembrance Lodge No. 586 visited Lodge Barns o' Clyde to see the Mother Lodge of Jim's father, James Michie and Grandfather Andrew. Among the Lodge books examined was an alphabetical Roll Book created many years ago by the then Secretary, Brother Jim Gardiner PM. After some research it was established that James had joined in 1946, roll No 2899 and that Andrew, roll No 56, had been a founder member, back in 1907. With them on the trip was Brother Mark Cunningham, a good friend of Craig, and a fellow member of Remembrance Lodge. After speaking at the meeting, the Canadian visitors enjoyed the hospitality of the Barns. Little did we think we would meet again, but when contact was re-established, our Master and Secretary worked hard to organise the trip.

Our party left the Lodge Rooms had a punctual and smooth flight and arrived at Hamilton Airport, Ontario then made a brief trip on a luxury coach to the excellent accommodation of the Days Inn - luxurious and located one minute from Yonge Street in Central Toronto. We allowed ourselves time to freshen up and, in the foyer, met some of our hosts, who had arrived to welcome us. Over an evening meal and small refreshment the next day's rendezvous time was arranged.

Friday saw us break into small groups. Some walked the busy malls; some made their way to the lakeside while others made the journey to the fabulous CN Tower. Having had a free day, we made our way back to the hotel to prepare ourselves for the Meeting. To say we made an impression on the locals would be an understatement. Let me quote the words of Brother Grant McGeachie Immediate Past Master, who would be conferring the exemplification later. "At 3:30, as arranged, I met up with the Master and Brethren in the foyer of our hotel. The heads of the staff and the other guests turned as we greeted each other, all resplendent in Highland dress. As we waited for the transport kindly arranged by our hosts, the ladies of our party did a great impression of the paparazzi with the flashes of the cameras blinding us."

Our hosts came to the hotel and provided transportation from the city centre to Remembrance Lodge No 586 in the Don Valley District of Ontario. We entered the Lodge at the request of the Director of Ceremonies. Led by a piper and a drummer, we squared the carpet, as is our practice. We later learned that this was the first thing that intrigued the Canadian brethren. The Deputation was delighted to hear Brother Kevin Robinson, Worshipful Master invite the Brothers Michie to explain to the assembled brethren the reason for the visitation. Individually, we were asked to identify ourselves and were then invited to the low East to meet the Master.

A Deputation from the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario was received headed by the District Deputy Grand Master, Brother Michael J. McKenna. The Lodge gave them Grand Honours seven times. Brother John J. Morrow, RWM, Lodge Barns o'Clyde then presented an inscribed plate to Brother Robinson as a memento of our visit, and handed out 1018 centenary commemorative ties to Grand Lodge and Remembrance Lodge officials and to their obvious delight, to Brothers Jim and Craig Michie.

After the welcoming speeches and replies, our Master Brother Morrow was presented with the gavel and invited our Office Bearers to take their places. A packed hall, we were later told that there were just under two hundred brethren present, then witnessed an excellent example of Barns o' Clyde work in the exemplification of the EA Degree by Grant McGeachie on Bro Ian Linton, a Scot. Brother McGeachie was sincere and precise in his efforts and the team worked with the precision and dignity that has earned us our reputation. Again, I will quote Bro. McGeachie: "The feelings and thoughts of the Brethren present were shown with terrific applause. It then came to the vote of thanks. The words, the kindness, and the thoughts that were expressed were sincere and full of praise. I was, and am, really, really grateful for those expressions of appreciation. The District Deputy Grand Master, Brother McKenna was then asked to speak. He left us in no doubt how impressed he was. He was amazed by the standard of the work! Brother McKenna turned to me with words of congratulation and told us he would be meeting the Grand Master, Brother Allan J. Petrisor, the next day to give him his report. At that point there was more terrific applause, I was so proud, it was then I knew the degree team and I had done an excellent job and got the Barns Canadian tour off to a flying start. The meeting closed with all Brethren meeting on the level and singing both countries' national anthems 'God Save The Queen' and 'O Canada' ". I should add that Brother McGeachie was too modest to reveal that he and his team received a standing ovation, which fully lasted several minutes. In my 35 years in Freemasonry, and having witnessed degree work in Scotland, England and Holland, I have never before heard of anyone receiving this accolade.

Perhaps the one thing most talked about since our return to home shores is the beautifully poignant tribute we witnessed at Remembrance Lodge. The Lodge, originally founded by and for returning soldiers and indeed originally called War Veterans Lodge closes with a tribute to the Brethren who so valiantly sacrificed their lives for our freedom. The hall lights extinguished, one light beamed down on the VSL, lying on a Union Jack cushion. From the distance, the Last Post was heard. Then from the darkness, a rich, sombre voice recited John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Field". These few lines, indeed no words, could aptly describe the moment. There is no shame in telling you that several of our brethren wiped a tear from their eyes. The voice, we learned was that of Bro. Craig Michie, Senior Warden.

We retired to Banquet Hall for hospitality. There was a lovely touch as the Canadians piped in the Haggis, which was addressed by our own PM Bro. David Cosh. The food, the refreshments and the speeches that followed were superb. PM Brother Ian Farquharson, Lodge Cochno, Duntocher No. 1304 recited Scots poetry for the assembled Brethren. The official harmony broke up and we then got the chance to cement our new made friendships. Last word should go to Brother McGeachie. "I was so proud to confer the degree for the Barns and I will always have Remembrance Lodge 586 in my heart for as long as God spares me".

With our first evening's work over, our group split into several factions on the Saturday. While some opted for walking round the city, some chose to relax around the hotel. Sunday morning saw us rise and assemble early. Our generous hosts took the Clydebank brethren and their ladies on a coach trip to Niagara. As we were entertained by a humorous and informative commentary, sandwiches and refreshments were passed round. Our first stop was a brief visit to the Magnotta Winery, where we enjoyed samples of the local produce. Arriving at picturesque Niagara on the Lake, we strolled round this lovely town. Finding the local Lodge, Niagara No. 2, we were thrilled to discover it was holding an "Open Day". This was a concept we were unaccustomed to, but we found it refreshing. Led by the Master Brother Ray Borland, the lodge officials and their ladies gave a tour and a talk on the history of this, the oldest lodge in Canada. A brief hop on the coach and we were in Niagara. Every one of us turned into David Bailey as cameras of every shape and size were produced. When the photo shoot ended, we walked to the Fallsview Casino Resort. This is one of several comparatively new hotels in Niagara and there we were treated to an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet lunch. Imagine the delight at our table as one of the waiters, hearing us mention Niagara Lodge, approached and made himself known to us. Imagine our surprise when he introduced himself as the son of the Secretary of the Lodge we had just visited! We were left to our own devices for the afternoon and while some watched the crowded tables, some took the short walk to Clifton Hill, the tourist part of town.

Our party were left to their own devices on Monday, and all took the opportunity of finding more places of interest and delight in this wonderful city. Some of the brethren, that is to say the ones whose wives were there, spent the day in the Eaton Centre, a multilevel, glass roofed galleria comprising more than 320 shops and restaurants, as well as 17 cinemas and a Marriott Hotel. After returning to the hotel and changing, we met again to travel to our second host lodge, King Hiram Lodge, No. 566, Toronto West District. While a favoured few went by taxi, the easiest method of getting to the lodge was by subway. Picture, if you will, members of the Clydebank lodges, headed by Lodge Barns o'Clyde, in full Highland dress, marching up and down stairs, along platforms and on and off packed subway trains. We are pretty sure the other commuters still talk about us. PM Bro. David Cosh conferred the FC Exemplification and he takes up the story. "We received a very warm welcome from Master Brother Bill Wingrove and District Deputy Grand Master, Brother Andres Pinalfore. Also in the Grand Lodge Deputation were Brother John Ross and Brother Paul Attwood, both Grand Stewards." After the introductions and exchange of gifts, Brother Cosh led the degree team on the floor. An earnest, sincere degree followed and Brother Cosh and his team are to be congratulated on overcoming the challenge that faced them, the Lodge room has a beautiful, ornate, rounded ceiling. From this shape, every word spoken bounced back at them, producing a strange echo like effect. As Brother Cosh said, "After this surprising start, we got into our stride and the degree went well with our hosts. We hoped to have made an impression on our candidate, Brother Scott Jackson. The Lodge was packed but there was complete silence during the work and when it was over our Canadian brethren showed their appreciation."

The attendance was again in the region of 200 and we were pleased to see some faces from the Friday evening. We learned that several of the Canadian brethren had been so impressed that they had made the decision to see us in all three lodges. We seized the opportunity to make new friends over a well-earned glass of beer. District Deputy Grand Master, Brother Andres Pinalfore was fulsome in his praise. We learned that we went into more detail in parts of our ritual due to Scottish lodges have their own interpretation of ritual, which we feel makes visiting so interesting; all lodges in Ontario work the same ritual. Altogether, we enjoyed a very enlightening evening. Breakfast on Tuesday was lively, as we prepared for the evening's MM Degree exemplification. A few went shopping for presents for loved ones while some enjoyed a more relaxing swim or sauna back at the hotel.

Our destination on the Tuesday evening was Hope Lodge No. 114 in the Peterborough district. Barns o'Clyde had visited Hope Lodge almost thirty years previously to exemplify the MM Degree and were returning to repeat the effort. Brother Morrow, Master, had been a young office bearer on that trip and now was proud to lead the Deputation. This trip was different in that the ladies came with us and after meeting our hosts, we all sat to enjoy a fine banquet, ironically prepared by the volunteer candidate for the evening, Brother Darren Johns, a professional chef. Port Hope Mayor, Linda Thompson, joined us for the welcome and the meal. Mayor Thompson sat with the ladies for the entire evening and we thank her for taking time from her schedule to be with us. The Lodge was opened and we were taken in accompanied by three pipers, two in the dress uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We were presented to the Worshipful Master, Brother Ronald De Merchant, who made us welcome and again, gifts were exchanged. We were presented to Deputy District Grand Master Brother Robert McBride and Grand Junior Warden Brother David Armstrong, who welcomed us into this, the third different district within the Province. We were praised for travelling so far in the week.

Brother Morrow, Master then introduced Brother Kenneth Currie PM who was conferring the MM Exemplification. In a packed hall, this time there were over 200 members in the Temple, Brother Currie PM led his team in his usual manner and performed with the sincerity and dignity for which he is known. His loud, clear voice filled the hall and at the conclusion the applause was thunderous and sustained. For the third night in a row we received a standing ovation. Brother Currie recalls, "As is customary, I rose to thank the Brethren for their warm applause. A firm hand on my shoulder pushed me down and I heard a voice say, 'They're not done thanking you, yet.' I don't know how long they clapped (it was over five minutes), but I tried to stand twice more and twice more I was guided back down." The speeches at the conclusion of the evening were plentiful and left us quietly satisfied that all had appreciated our efforts. We re-joined the ladies and spent time in the company of our new friends.

None of the party did anything of note on the Wednesday; we were pretty much drained by then. It had been a hard week, harder, I think, than we appreciated before going over. We came home filled with so many emotions. Primarily, a pride in what we had achieved, in spreading the name of Scottish Freemasonry and particularly, that of Lodge Barns o' Clyde No. 1018. We delight in the friendships we made. E-mails cross the ocean on a regular basis and return visits are planned. We have treasured memories of that trip and when we meet, it is still the number one topic of conversation.

Author: Lodge Historian


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