LODGE SYDNEY HIGH SCHOOL
NO. 631 UGL OF NSW
A SHORT HISTORY – 1928 TO 2004
In June 1928, the visit if a half dozen or so Old Boys of Sydney High School to a Masonic Lodge in Haberfield, triggered off the chain of events which lead to the formation of Lodge Sydney High School, the first School Masonic Lodge in New South Wales. This set an example that was subsequently been followed by no less than 14 other School Lodges.
The visit was arranged by the late Charles N. Hirst, who at the time was later President of the Old Boys Union. It was in honour of an ex-master of the School, John Leaver, who had become Master of the Haberfield Lodge. It proved to be such a pleasant re-union of Old Boys that the possibility of having similar regular meetings by the formation of a School Lodge was mooted.
By the beginning of 1929, as the result mainly of the work of two Old Boys, enquiries had shown that there were many enthusiastic Freemasons among the Old Boys of the School and quite early in that year, in fairly rapid succession, three meetings were held. These led to the preparation of a petition to the Grand Lodge for a Charter for a Lodge to be composed of “boys, old boys, masters and ex-masters of Sydney Boys High School.” The petition was signed by 63 Brethren and was sponsored by Lodge University of Sydney. In due course the Grand Master granted the Charter and the Lodge was consecrated at Castlereagh Street Masonic Temple on 2nd August 1929 by the then Pro-Grand Master MW Bro. John Goulston. The first Master of Lodge Sydney High School was John Leaver.
Among the foundation members were R. McT. Moore, who was pupil No. 69 on the School Register and commenced at Sydney High School in January 1884 and R.T. McKay, No. 117 on the School Register who commenced at the School in April 1884 and in whose honour the School Oval at Centennial Park is named. Charles Fairland, who attended in 1891, was devoted to the School and identified with Old Boy activities throughout his whole post-school life. He was Foundation Chaplin of the Lodge and with the exception of one year, filled this office until his death in 1955. The Pavilion at the McKay Oval was named after this distinguished Old Boy.
It is worth quoting from one of the letters dated 26th February 1929, sent out during the course of the formation of this first School Lodge:
“It is especially important that this Lodge should be strong in its foundation as it will probably be the first School Lodge in New South Wales. Old Boys of any Great Public School worthy of the name have ever a special affection for their school and all its associations and it would be difficult to find a more favourable group of men amongst whom to build a Lodge. It is up to us of Sydney High to prove to the other schools that the activity we contemplate is one of the finest and surest ways of consolidating the character building commenced at school.”
The succeeding years saw these early high hopes amply fulfilled and justly claimed. Lodge Sydney High School went from strength to strength. The friendship and fellowship exhibited at the regular monthly meetings was unrivalled. A glance down the roll of members at any time during its existence would disclose the names of many distinguished men – soldiers, sailors, airmen, teachers, scholars, scientists, doctors, lawyers, engineers, business men, sportsmen and citizens.
Many of the men who served with the Forces during the First World War, including several original ANZACS, have been members of the Lodge. Many members of the Lodge served with distinction in the armed services during the Second World War and the Lodge will always revere the memories of
Bro. Lt. Col. A. J. Cunningham, AIF
Bro. Flying Officer K. M. Simpson, DFC, RAAF
Bro. Pilot Officer R. A. White, RAAF,
Bro. Sgt. Fred J. Chowne, AIF,
and the 136 other boys from Sydney High School who made the supreme sacrifice.
At the start of hostilities of World War II, every officer from Senior Warden to Inner Guard enlisted for active service. On their return to civilian life in 1946 after the War, all these brethren were re-elected to the offices that they had relinquished to do their duty for their Country.
During the war the Lodge adopted the custom of recording, “For the information of all those who were not there and further enlightenment of those who are not all there”, the incidents of note, of joy and good humour occurring in the Lodge, so that the Brethren on service could keep in touch. These “631 Topics” as they were known continued regularly through the life of the Lodge.
From the time of the consecration of the Lodge in 1929, the Lodge met on the 2nd Friday at the Masonic Temple Castlereagh Street and was allotted to No. 6 District. In 1973, due to the demolition of the Castlereagh Street Temple Building the Lodge moved to the Masonic Temple at Petersham and met on the 1st Tuesday. It remained in No. 6 District with a view to returning to the City when the new Masonic Centre is completed in 1979.
During the Castlereagh Street days the Lodge met on the same night as its sister Lodge, Lodge Fortian (Fort Street High School) and in 1940 a combined meeting of the two Lodges was held. This proved to be such an outstanding success that it became a regular annual event for the October meeting with the Lodges alternating as Host.
In 1950, a fraternal visit was paid to Lodge Artificer in Newcastle and this event together with a reciprocal visit from Lodge Artificer became regular features in the Lodges’ annual programs. On each occasion a chain of friendship was exchanged to which was attached the names of the Worshipful Masters.
The Lodge was a founding member of the Combined Schools Association of NSW which comprises 12 school Lodges and 2 University Lodges. The Combined Schools Lodges met annually in June. In 1977, Lodge Sydney High School was the host of this combined meeting in the newly completed Egyptian Room of the Petersham Temple at which 184 brethren were present.
In 1974 the Installation Ceremony was held for the first time in the Great Hall of the School at Moore Park on the last Saturday in July and continued at that venue for the Installation Ceremony for many years.
The membership of Lodge Sydney High School reached its highest peak in 1960 when 169 members were on the roll. Since then the membership steadily fell despite opening the charter of the Lodge to brethren other than “boys, old boys, masters and ex masters of Sydney Boys High School”. In 2004 the Lodge handed in its Charter after 75 years as a Lodge registered under the United Grand Lodge of NSW and ACT. A number of the members of Lodge Sydney High School affiliated with The Old Sydneians Lodge that now forms part of The Schools Lodge.
Last Updated (Monday, 22 August 2011 11:08)