Derajat Lodge – A history

The original idea for forming this Lodge was made by British Officers whilst operating with the army in Rhodesia (circa 1904/5). It is believed that Rudyard Kipling was among those considering being a founder he being a long time friend of Lionel Dunsterville .

They were considering forming under the Scottish constitution, primarily as many of the then ‘would be’ founders were Scottish Masons and the thought of trying to get a travelling warrant from the English Grand Lodge was considered formidable as Rhodesia operated primarily under the Scottish constitution

However before they could put their ideas into operation, many of the Brethren were moved to the Indian continent to assist the British army there.

The thoughts of bringing a Lodge into being were not forgotten and by 1906 a warrant had been requested from the English Grand Lodge and this was granted on December 8th of that year.

The first meeting was held at the Club House Dera Ismail Khan (DIK for short) on 21st February 1907.

The Lodge was not actually Consecrated in the normal manner observed today but Inaugurated, most likely due to the lack of sufficient Senior District Grand Officers being available to fit in with the time the soldiers could meet. They usually met between 21.00 and 24 .00, after the days work, in the cooler hours of the evening.

The Inaugurating Officer was the then Acting District Grand Master of Pakistan Wor Bro W. A. Bailey (President of the District Board of General Purposes Punjab), he was assisted by the Acting District Grand Wardens, Wor Bros L.C. Dunsterville and T. McKee. It should be noted that only Wor Bro Bailey was a formal District Grand Officer, the rest of the officers were the petitioners for the Lodge acting for the District.

District Grand Lodge was opened at 20.30 hours in Due and Antient form and the Lodge Warrant was presented and read. Lodge Derajat was declared constituted and after closing District Grand Lodge was opened by the Acting District Grand Master who officiated as Wor Master to install Wor Bro J Shearer as the First Worshipful Master of the Lodge Derajat 3206 (English Constitution).

The Founders were: –

  • Lt. Col. Johnstone Shearer (Worshipful Master)
  • Maj. Lionel Charles Dunsterville (Senior Warden)
  • Lieut. John Liesching Grinlinton (Junior Warden)
  • Lt. Col. Herbert Vaughan Cox
  • Capt. Arthur Ditmus Cox
  • Cir. Sergt. Thomas McKee
  • Sq. Cdr. Arthur Edmond Tyler
  • Capt. William Francis Ellis.

The Petition for the Lodge was recommended by Lodge ‘Hope and Perseverance’ no 782 and sponsored by Lodge Khyber no 528. The first Lodge Bye-laws were confirmed in open Lodge on the 10th December 1907, approved by the District Grand Master Pakistan on the 13th May 1908 and approved by the MW the Grand Master on 30th May 1908.

The Lodge was to meet 9 times a year where-ever it could, they started with the club house at Dera Ismail Khan, but as this club house was used by many people including non-masons they had to take there chances with it. Thus the Lodge met where ever it could, if the club house was not available.

By reason of being a Lodge on the North West Frontier, it followed that, generally speaking, the Lodge membership was recruited initially from amongst the British Officers, Warrant Officers and Senior NCO’s of the Army.

However, as can be seen from the minutes, the membership moved onto include Officers and Soldiers from the various Indian Army units with which the Lodge members came into contact.

It may also be seen that Masonry was considered universal by the founders as the Nawabzada Ahmad Nawaz Khan, then a Fellowcraft of the Mooltan Lodge 1307 EC was proposed as a joining member at the inaugural meeting. He continued as a strong and active member until the Lodge was removed back to the UK.

The Exigencies of Military life made it difficult for ‘normal’ regular meetings and thus the Lodge would meet at the ‘stated’ time and if enough members were not present or the master was absent they would pick another time and hold an ’emergent’ meeting, they often held 2 or 3 emergent meetings a month.

The Records of the Lodge show that one Captain F.O. Chatwin attended one regular and three emergent meetings to receive his second degree but had to await the next regular meeting to be passed as the Lodge Master could not get to the meeting due to the operational needs of the army.

The Nawab of Dera, occasionally allowed the Lodge to meet at his residence, usually at the house reserved for his Harem. This was located at the top of a small hill and the Lodge members were requested to take their palliasses (mattresses) with them to the meeting. On the first occasion there must have been much speculation/conjecture as to why they were needed, however the room to be used at the Harem was open on three sides to the elements and the mattresses were used to block up the spaces between the pillars to casual overlooking by the Nawab’s staff and family.

The Lodge was also recorded as having ‘met in the open’. This usually took place in a small valley with the meeting Tyled by sending out members on horseback to the surrounding hills to watch the roads leading to the site. The Tyler(s) communicated with the Junior Warden by hand signals and mirrors, thus assuring the Master that the meeting was not overlooked.

It is also recorded as meeting in the Vedic Bhratri College DIK, Khattar Electrical Works DIK, Officers Club DIK, Church Hall DIK and the upper storey of a galvanised building in the bazaar DIK.

The Lodge continued to meet at the club house Dera Ismail Khan or Rasmak (Northern Waziristan, usually summer months) until the new Freemasons Hall was opened in Dera Ismail Khan (on the 13th April 1926), described as a ‘building east of Lockhart Lines’, but was actually the old guard room of the fort originally used by the Indian Cavalry. Much of the funds to bring this hall into operation were contributed by Derajat Lodge and they also supplied the cutlery and crockery for the building, all with the Derajat motto on.

The last actual meeting held in DIK was on the 1st November 1947 a meeting was called for 6 December was abandoned as only 3 members were present. By January 1948 DIK was being evacuated as a military base and only the Nawab of Dera would remain a member at DIK. The Lodge warrant was rescued by War Bro. C.V. Wright PDGStdBr (Punjab) and brought back to England.

The partition of the Indian continent made it very difficult for the members to meet and consider the future of the Lodge, they being returned to many different locations. Thus the Lodge did not meet again for some time, but by sterling work of War Bro J.C.S. Wright managed to get Lodge eight members together at Freemasons Hall London on the 1st October 1949 when it was decided to apply for a transfer of the Lodge to the UK.

Accordingly having gained a dispensation from the MW the Grand Master (UGLE) and the RW District Grand Master of the Punjab, Lodge Derajat met as a Lodge of the Punjab on the 14th January 1950 at the Talbot Restaurant, London Wall, 20 members were present, when it was formally resolved to remove the Lodge to England. This was granted by Grand Lodge on the 7th June 1950. However the Lodge refused to let go its connection with the Punjab and the formal toast list included the RW District Grand Master of the Punjab.

This may be seen from the minutes of the first meeting following removal to London when it was resolved that:-
Proposed by War. Bro. V.W. Westwater and seconded by War. Bro. J. Lee and carried unanimously that:- although the Lodge has now been transferred to London, The Lodge should not forget that since its inauguration it has been guided by the District Grand Lodge of the Punjab and that we should continue to show our esteem and respect by including the R. W. District Grand Master of the Punjab in the toats at the festive board.

This continued until 29th June 1967 when the then District Grand Master and his assistant attended the Lodge and they accepted Honorary membership.

The Lodge continued to meet at the Talbot restaurant until April 1970 when it transferred to the Angus Steakhouse, Regent Street. In October 1979 it moved to the London Masonic Centre Clerkenwell and thence to Mark Masons Hall in October 2003, where it currently meets .

Reading of the various minute books show that membership was very fluid during the days of the army, quite often no formal requests for resignation are shown, members just informing the mess Sargeant to close their payment of dues to the Lodge and this acted as the means of resignation. The secretary of those days must have had some problems at times to know exactly how many members there actually were . From the ‘summary of meetings’ it may be seen that Lodge numbers are unsure in the early days. Some of the numbers in the later years could be suspect, the records have some strange ways of calculating the membership .

Some Members of renown
Maj. L.C. Dunsterville
, the Lodge Founding Senior Warden whom became Maj. Gen. Dunsterville and founder of the Dunsterforce . He became Worshipful Master in 1909 and continued on to be District Grand Master of the Punjab. He was also the school friend of one of Derajat’s regular visitors namely Rudyard Kipling. He went on to form and become founding President of The Kipling Society (one of the few societies form during the name recipient’s lifetime) and whom Kipling immortalised as ‘Stalky’ in his work ‘Stalky and Co’.

The very first initiate to Derajat, proposed at the inaugural meeting was Maj George Fletcher McMunn, who went onto be Maj. Gen. Sir G. F. McMunn KCB KCSI DSO and whom became District. Grand Master of the Punjab from 1920 to 1924.

In February 1923, the Lodge initiated Capt Ross Cairns McCay of the 7th Light Cavalry, whom as Lt. Gen. Sir R.C. McCay KBE CB DSO was District Grand Master of Punjab from 1949 to 1953.

Brother with VC

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