VICE REGAL GRAND MASTERS - WHO AND WHY?

Every Australian Grand Lodge has the following, or a similar, clause in its Constitutions: "The Grand Master, if the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia or the Governor of Victoria, may appoint a Pro Grand Master who shall be a member of the Grand Lodge previous to his appointment".

The supposition is, of course, that serving Governors-General and Governors will be appointed as Grand Master if a Mason, and if willing to serve. Historically, that has been the case in a substantial number of instances. Two serving Governors-General of Australia have been Grand Master, and seven in New Zealand. Of the States of Australia, New South Wales has had seven Vice Regal Grand Masters, Victoria six, South Australia four, and Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania three each.

The initial question is why the interest of Antipodean Freemasonry in Vice Regal Grand Masters? Undoubtedly, a Vice Regal Grand Mastership was seen by the Craft as adding considerable lustre to the organisation by effectively having a "patron of great renown". Conversely, one might assume, anti-Masonists who have more difficulty in any attack on the Craft given the leading citizen of the State or the Country was at its head. With the Grand Master resident in Government House, his persona as Masonic leader was certainly viewed as useful in attracting new members. The advantages to the Craft, clearly, were seen as most beneficial. Should a Vice Regal Grand Master emerge in the present time, the same benefits would be seen as applying.

In each case, the Vice Regal Grand Master appoints a Pro Grand Master who effectively administers the relevant Grand Lodge, with the Grand Master himself as effective figurehead. Or at least that is the theory. In most cases, theory did meet practice, but historically there were some who took a more interventionalist role.

The tradition of Vice Regal Grand Mastership has its roots at the beginning of organised Freemasonry in England. According to Anderson's Constitutions (1738), the Grand Lodge of England was formed in 1717 at the formation of which several brethren met and "constituted themselves a Grand Lodge pro Tempore in Due Form, and forthwith revived the Quarterly Communications of the Officers of Lodges (call'd the Grand Lodge) resolv'd to hold the Annual assembly and Feast, and then to chuse a Grand Master from among themselves, till they should have the Honour of a Noble Brother at their Head".

They did not have to wait long, as in 1721 the Duke of Montagu became first Noble Grand Master. Since then a Peer of the Realm or a Prince of Royal Blood has without exception, held the English Grand Mastership. While not specifically stated in the English Constitutions, it is effectively not possible for a brother to become Grand Master or Pro Grand Master unless he is at least a Peer of the Realm. The vast majority of Grand Masters of Ireland and Scotland have also been Peers or knights.

Placing this tradition into an Australian context, it is clear from where the desire for Vice Regal Grand Masters emanated. At least until the Second World War, Australia and Australian society saw itself firmly as part of the indivisible British Empire. There is little doubt that this ethos also applied to Australian Masonry in that period.

It is not possible in this paper to outline the careers of all Australian Vice Regal Grand Masters, aside from the fact that that book has already been written. Rather, detailed below is a resume of some of the more interesting amongst them.

Lord Carrington

The first Australian Vice Regal Grand Master was Lord Carrington (3rd Baron Carrington, afterwards 1st Marquess of Lincolnshire), the initial Grand Master of New South Wales.

Born in 1843, Carrington upon adulthood took on a political career, first entering the House of Commons in 1865, then the House of Lords in 1868 upon assuming his father's title. He was closely associated with the Royal family, and was appointed as Governor of New South Wales in 1885.

On his appointment a London newspaper commented: "He is a man of the world, of acute intelligence, well read and understanding and watching the signs of the times he has come to the conclusion that if the rule of democracy is inevitable, the policy of the aristocracy is to make the best of the situation".

His vice-regal term spanned much change and trouble. He proved a tactful and able Governor in mediating between conflicting social and political forces. His diplomatic skills enabled a number of political crises to be nipped in the bud, and his background activities were seen as crucial in paving the way for the Federation Conference of 1890.

At the conclusion of his governorship, he returned to London and became an active politician. His first speech after his return caused a sensation when he espoused Australian nationalism rather than imperial federation. He served in several ministerial positions until his retirement in 1910. He died in 1928.

The Masonic career of Lord Carrington was both fascinating and somewhat controversial. He was initiated on 28 October 1861 in the Sir Isaac Newton Lodge # 859 EC, meeting at Cambridge, when he was just eighteen. However, he did not take his Second Degree until nearly eight years later, in Cairo. He was finally raised to the Third Degree in the Royal York Lodge of Perseverance # 7 EC, London, on 6 October 1875. He joined the Royal Alpha Lodge # 16 EC, London, on 3 January 1882, and remained a member throughout his life. He was appointed Senior Grand Warden, EC, in 1882, even though he was not a Past Master and therefore technically ineligible.

When he arrived in New South Wales as Governor, he found lodges working under the English and Scottish Constitutions and under the Grand Lodge of New South Wales - a body formed in 1877 from lodges previously owing allegiance to Ireland and Scotland. Several past attempts to bring these various lodges together in one body had failed, and in an effort to force a union, he accepted the office of District Grand Master, EC, and subsequently that of Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales. He played a crucial and pivotal role in cementing that union, and can justly be called the "Father of United Masonry" in New South Wales.

However, just before his Installation as the premier leader of the new United Grand Lodge, it was realised that he was not an installed Master, and consequently he was not eligible to become Grand Master. Perhaps Lord Carrington himself did not consider the matter a problem, given his previous appointment as the English Senior Grand Warden under the same circumstances. In any case, in order to overcome the perceived conundrum, an 'Occasional Lodge' was held at Government House under the Charter of Lodge Ionic # 15 GLNSW (now # 65 NSWC). He was thereupon, in effect, made a "Worshipful Master at sight". Nine Senior Masons were known to be present, including the Grand Master of the merging Grand Lodge of New South Wales, MWBro Dr. Tarrant, and MWBro. Chief Justice Sir Samuel Way, Grand Master of South Australia. The exact date of the meeting is not recorded, although it must have occurred only a few days before Lord Carrington's Installation as Grand Master. This development, though clearly convenient, raises several points of Masonic jurisprudence. Brother W.G. Kett, in his History of the First Fifty Years of Lodge Ionic # 65, states: "…such an Installation, however, cannot be presumptive evidence of membership of the lodge in the ordinary acceptance of the term, despite the fact that His Excellency's name appears as a member…." (in the 1905 By-laws of Lodge Ionic).

Nonetheless, Carrington could be claimed, although dubiously, as a member of a NSW lodge - the other technically necessary prerequisite for ascension to the Grand Mastership. Why he never became an actual member of New South Wales lodge is unclear, as no doubt that matter at least could have been quickly affected and all doubt removed. What is certain, despite the irregular manner in which Lord Carrington arrived at the Grand Mastership, is that his role was crucial in bringing about Masonic unity in New South Wales.

On leaving Sydney his interest in Masonry did not diminish. He was appointed Provincial Grand Master of Buckinghamshire in 1890, serving for five years. He accepted appointment as the Grand Representative in England of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales, and he played a leading role in smoothing early Masonic misunderstandings between London and Sydney. As one writer put it: "It is doubtful whether NSW Freemasonry had a truer friend or a more potent support in emergency than the Marquess of Lincolnshire, more popularly known as Lord Carrington."

Lord Jersey

The second Grand Master of New South Wales was an interesting character. The 7th Earl of Jersey was born in 1845, and after a brief political career, he was appointed Governor of New South Wales in July 1890. His ignorance of the colonial situation was such that, on arriving in Sydney on 15 January 1891, he reputedly had with him "a large supply of drinking water" and "a number of bathtubs". Nonetheless, his term as Governor was widely viewed as successful.

Jersey was initiated into Apollo University Lodge # 357 EC, Oxford, on 25 October 1865, at the age of twenty. He joined Churchill Lodge # 478 EC, also meeting at Oxford, as a Fellow Craft in December 1865 - although he was still raised in his mother lodge in the following February. He became the Master of Churchill Lodge on 10 May 1868. In 1870 he served a year as Senior Grand Warden in the United Grand Lodge of England and in 1885 he was appointed as Provincial Grand Master of Oxfordshire, serving until he resigned in the year before his death in 1915. As will be noted, he remained Provincial Grand Master of Oxfordshire while serving as Governor and Grand Master in New South Wales.

As the new Governor and as a senior English Freemason, it was quite natural that he should follow his predecessor Lord Carrington and assume the Grand Mastership in New South Wales. He was installed in the Sydney Town Hall on 11 June 1891, having affiliated with Lodge Ionic # 65 NSWC two months earlier. His term as Grand Master was a happy one and he gained immense popularity - particularly because he found himself able to devote considerable time to Masonic activities. In his first year as Governor he travelled widely in country areas, and often attended selected lodge meetings or met local Freemasons. He remained as Grand Master until he left New South Wales two years after his arrival.

Admiral Sir Harry Rawson

Amongst the most ardent vice-regal Grand Masters was Admiral Sir Harry Rawson, Governor of New South Wales (1902- 1909) and Grand Master (1905-1909). Born in 1843, he entered the Royal Navy in 1857 at the age of fourteen. He was steadily promoted in rank, finishing up as an admiral in 1903, following a distinguished career. He was appointed Governor of New South Wales in February 1902, and assumed office three months later. He was a most popular and successful governor; indeed it was widely considered that he was one of the best that New South Wales had ever had to that time, and for this reason his term was extended to 1909. He is commemorated in Sydney by the Rawson Institute for Seamen, which he worked hard to establish, and whose foundation stone he laid (with Masonic ceremony) in March 1909.

Sir Harry was a zealous Freemason, although his profession left him with little time for regular participation. He was initiated in Royal Sussex Lodge # 501 EC in November 1863. At the time he was stationed in China, the Royal Sussex Lodge then meeting at Shanghai (now long since working in Hong Kong). When stationed in Malta he joined the St John and St Paul Lodge # 349 EC in late 1889, and was invested as Senior Warden just over a year later. However, his posting again changed before he could assume the Master's chair. He then joined Royal Navy Lodge # 1593 EC at Greenwich but again his duties prevented Masonic advancement. It was not until he became a foundation member of Navy Lodge # 2612 EC in 1896 that he was finally able to progress. Back in England, he was invested Senior Warden in 1898 and finally installed as Master in 1901.

On his appointment as Governor he was conferred with the rank of Past Junior Grand Warden, EC. As an aside, it is interesting to note that most English masons assuming vice-regal appointment were conferred Past Junior (or Senior) Grand Warden EC. Reportedly, this was so that they had some "Masonic authority" once "in the colonies".

After settling in as Governor, Rawson was invited to assume the Grand Mastership and he was installed in 1906, serving to the completion of his vice-regal term in 1909. Even before his installation he was a regular attender at Grand Lodge meetings. Sadly, Sir Harry did not live long to enjoy his retirement. He died in London on 3 November 1910, barely a year after his return to London from Sydney.

Lord Chelmsford

Probably the most controversial vice-regal Grand Master was Lord Chelmsford, who terms as Governor of New South Wales, Governor of Queensland, and Viceroy of India.

Born in 1868, he qualified in law, but he appeared to take little interest in the profession. In 1905 he succeeded to the family barony at the age of thirty-seven, and he accepted what to some was a surprise appointment as Governor of Queensland. His four-year term in Brisbane was eventful, being marked by considerable political division in which he was embroiled by virtue of his office. Despite being sharply criticised for dissolving parliament in late 1907 in an effort to end disputation, he maintained the confidence of the Colonial Office in London. His intellectual abilities and attention to social duties were widely respected and admired.

In May 1909 Chelmsford was moved to Sydney to become Governor of New South Wales. His new governorship proved more tranquil than his Queensland experience, and he maintained excellent relations with the state's first Labour Government. The Premier, Mr. J. S. T. McGowen, later commented that "without attempting to usurp the functions of his advisors, the Governor was their guide, philosopher, and friend". He acted briefly as Governor-General of Australia between 21 December 1909 and 27 January 1910. He resigned as Governor and returned to England in March 1913.

On the outbreak of war in 1914 Chelmsford, a captain in the 4th Dorset Territorials, joined his regiment and travelled with it to India. He was unexpectedly appointed Viceroy in January 1916. During his five-year term in India, he helped introduce the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms that set India on the path to self-government. He also had to face Mahatma Gandhi's first non-cooperation campaign. Lord Chelmsford resigned in 1921 and again returned to England. He was created a viscount in the same year. In June 1926 he accepted appointment as Agent-General for New South Wales in London, but again his term was short (until October 1927) although he remained "temporary acting" Agent-General until 1928. Heart disease claimed his life in 1933.

Chelmsford was initiated on 1 June 1898 in the Lodge of Amity # 137 EC, meeting at Poole, Dorset. He was then described as "a barrister, aged twenty-nine, of Lytchett Maltravers". It would appear that he never held office in his mother lodge. He joined St. Mary Magdalen Lodge # 1523 EC (London) in 1900. This was an 'old boys' lodge of his Oxford college. He was invested as its Junior Warden in 1905 but his appointment as Governor of Queensland precluded any further advancement.

In Brisbane he found local Masonry bitterly divided between the Grand Lodge of Queensland and the District Grand Lodge of Queensland, EC. The former (largely an amalgam of lodges originally warranted from Ireland and Scotland) was viewed as irregular by the United Grand Lodge of England. The rest of Australian Masonry was also split on the issue, with only the Grand Lodges of Western Australia and New South Wales recognising the indigenous Queensland body.

Chelmsford took the courageous step of supporting the Grand Lodge of Queensland and accepting its Grand Mastership, thus adding the prestige of the Governor to its cause. In his own words he did so 'on the advice and counsel of a brother who has held high office in England, and with the hope that it might conduce to reunion and a settlement of our unhappy divisions'. The identity of 'the brother who has held high office' is unknown. Certainly the advice was misguided.

The United Grand Lodge of England took a most negative view of events. Nor did it later forgive and forget. Lord Chelmsford, virtually alone among English Masons who became a Governor in Australia, was never conferred with high English Masonic Rank (usually PSGW or PJGW). Clearly, he had a strong belief in the inevitability of a sovereign Grand Lodge in Queensland, and his actions in resigning from both his English lodges would seem to support that contention. Unfortunately, the controversy that surrounded his acceptance of the GLQ Grand Mastership had the reverse effect of that intended and it was not until 1921 that Queensland Masonic unity was finally achieved - although that can hardly be blamed on Lord Chelmsford.

In addition, other aspects of his Masonic career provide puzzlement. No record appears to exist of his ever being installed as the Master of a lodge (a usual prerequisite for Grand Lodge office). He was certainly a Past Warden when he arrived in Brisbane, if only just. It is likely, although again no proof exists, that he was privately 'installed as a Master' before his installation as Grand Master GLQ on 29 November 1906. Indeed, it would have been virtually impossible for him to fulfil his duties as Grand Master without this occurrence.

On his transfer to New South Wales he was elected as Grand Master and installed on 23 August 1910. Oddly, there is no record of his ever affiliating with a lodge in New South Wales, and he is not claimed as a member by any NSW lodge. While a lodge might perhaps fail to properly record details of an ordinary member, it is most unlikely to do so in the case of a Grand Master. While this lack of membership was technically a Masonic illegality, other precedents exist. As well, it is interesting that he resigned all his