100'ish years ofSt Martin's Lodge No 4011
A birthday is always something special and when someone manages to reach 100 years of age, it is right and proper to mark it accordingly, perhaps with a cake, a party and hopefully a message from Her Majesty The Queen.
We do exactly the same when a lodge reaches its centenary, an achievement to be celebrated especially in these times when falling numbers can lead to warrants being handed back.
A group of Warwickshire brethren came together in 1919 with a view to forming a new lodge and, following a great deal of preparatory work by the Founders, St Martin’s Lodge No 4011 was ‘born’ on Monday 26th January 1920. As we all know, this period after the Great War saw a prodigious increase in the numbers of lodges as many men, returning from battle and looking to continue the camaraderie experienced during the conflict, joined our institution.
Turning the clock forward and in January 2020, the 100th anniversary of the lodge’s consecration, RW Bro Richard Wallis was installed as the Master for the lodge’s special year. The members of St Martin’s were preparing for their special evening, planned for April 2020, only to be thwarted by the global pandemic.
However, their patience was rewarded as Monday 26th September 2021 saw around 60 brethren gather to mark this special milestone. RWBro Richard was undoubtedly the obvious choice as Master being the Senior Past Master but regardless it was also certainly inspired. As a Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master, PGSupt, Past MIll Grand Sovereign of the Red Cross of Constantine, and Past Pro Grand Master in the Mark Degree, RW Bro Richard could certainly be described as being an experienced mason! His family connection with the lodge goes back to 1927 when his grandfather and his great uncle were initiated and his own involvement began with a ladies’ informal evening in 1961. As well as undoubtedly bringing all the planning together, perhaps RWBro Richard’s greatest contribution has been the wonderful 80-page history of the lodge that he has put together.
We all try to make our daily advancement and I certainly did that night. I didn’t know the significance of St Martin’s – yes, I knew of the church in the Bullring (my secondary school music teacher, David ‘Boris’ Griffiths, was the organist there) but not that St Martin was chosen by the City Fathers as Birmingham’s Patron Saint. The history makes fascinating reading as RW Bro Richard guides us through the early years, pointing out that the Founders forbade that lodge numbers should exceed 35 (thankfully long since changed); to the extraordinary times during the Second World War when brethren would travel in almost complete darkness into a city centre that was not a particularly safe place; and onwards to the new millennium and beyond detailing every Master, not failing to include something interesting about all of them.
Back to the present day and the centenary celebrations – the lodge was honoured by the presence of the RW Provincial Grand Master, accompanied by a plethora of Acting Officers, with all the pomp and ceremony requisite on such an occasion. The lodge was opened and the minutes signed before the Provincial Grand Master was received. Having taken the chair, the Provincial Grand Master proceeded to present the centenary warrant to the lodge. The Provincial Grand Chaplain, W Bro John Cowan, delivered another of his superb orations followed by the Patriarchal Benediction. The Provincial Grand Master then presented the brethren of St Martin’s with their centenary jewels – a lovely moment with the members lined up in the north and the Master introducing each in turn to the Provincial Grand Master just like the captain of the national team introducing their players to Royalty! The Master, having regained his rightful place, thanked the Provincial Grand Master and his team before giving what may be described as the Reader’s Digest condensed version of the history. The Provincial Grand Master then retired to leave St Martin’s to conclude lodge business and close the meeting.
We then moved to the after proceedings, which started with some fizz and canapés and a great deal of conversation – for many, of course, it was the first time that they had seen each other for 18+ months. A wonderful cake had been made, an amazing facsimile of the lodge banner, which we later discovered tasted as good as it looked. The Worshipful Master and Provincial Grand Master posed for photographs armed with the Provincial sword pretending to cut the cake – for all who were present, don’t worry, I can assure you that a far more suitable (and clean) instrument was found to carve up the cake.
The Festive Board followed the usual course and it was a delight to see the splendid dining room at Severn Street so full. We were treated to the usual sumptuous Severn Street fayre which left very little room for a piece of that magnificent cake described above – but we all managed to squeeze some in! With so many senior brethren present, it was little wonder that the toasts and responses were all sincere and well-received, leaving the penultimate word to WBro John Crowther, a visiting Assistant Provincial Grand Master out on missionary work from over the border in Worcestershire. The final word went to the Master who thanked everyone for coming to support St Martin’s on their special night.
In fine, all present thoroughly enjoyed a feast of the masonic ceremony followed by an excellent Festive Board.
For all those lodges out there preparing for their own centenaries, the evening put on by the brethren of St Martin’s was surely a fine example of just how to do it.
W Bro Simon Grove