A magical moment for Bro. Rego . . .
June 02. 2006
ISLAND NOTEBOOK by Ira Philip MBE
A MOST impressive ceremony, well planned and executed almost with royal perfection, marked the coming into being of the District Grand Lodge of Bermuda. It embraces all five local lodges of the English Constitution.
It was most historic having regard to the fact that English freemasonry in Bermuda dates back to 1744.
Officiating at the consecration of the District was no less a personage than the Most Wor. Pro Grand Master, the Most Hon. the Marquess of Northampton. He was assisted by Masonic dignitaries who especially came to Bermuda from England, the West Indies and the United States.
Hamilton businessman Robert William (Bobby) Rego was installed at the ceremony as the first Right Wor. Grand Master of the District.
The participants, joined by some 200 other brethren of varying lesser ranks, presented a rare spectacle in their distinctive chains of office, collars, aprons and other regalia as they took their places in the Masonic Temple in Reid Street, Hamilton on Saturday.
The event included a reception and a grand banquet, highlighted by speeches and presentation of tokens.
The loyal toasts to the Queen, the Craft and to Lord Northampton the Pro Grand Master were followed by RW. Bro. Charles W. Kempe toasting the new District Grand Master, Bro. Rego. He described him as a grand fellow, perfectly suited for his new role, whom he wished well. His call for the gathering to drink to his good health and a successful tenure was greeted by sustained applause and a standing ovation.
Bro. Kempe presented the Dist. G.M. with a gavel fashioned out of lignum vitae wood that Bro. Kempe said he personally dived up from remains of a French ship that was wrecked on the Bermuda reefs in 1855.
The gavel was made by V.W. Richmond Anderson. A skilled craftsman who is in his 90th year, and an officer of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Ireland in Bermuda, Bro. Anderson said lignum vitae is a black hard wood, so hard it is sometimes called iron wood.
Responding, Bro. Rego said personally the occasion was a magical moment for himself and an historic one in the annals of English freemasonry in Bermuda. He was grateful to all involved in the process of making the District a reality, especially to the new Deputy Dist. G.M. Wor. Bro. Harry D. Powell and Grand Secretary Wor. Bro. Dennis Brookes.
He said the District was indebted to both the Pro Grand Master, to the former Grand Inspector of English Lodges in Bermuda, Bro. Kempe, and to the great visitation of overseas guests.
Salutations were brought by the heads of the other two Masonic Constitutions in Bermuda, Rt. Wor. St. Clair (Brinky) Tucker, Prov. Grand Master of the Grand Lodges of Ireland in Bermuda, and the Wor. Grand Superintendent of Scottish Lodges, Bro. Larry Davis. Bro. Tucker presented to the Dist. GM. a set of ceremonial tools crafted by Bro. Anderson.
The toast to the visitors was by Wor. Bro John C. Ryall. The largest single overseas delegation were the Prince Hall Brethren from the Most Wor. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts led by their Grand Master Hon. Leslie Lewis.
In a few well-chosen words, he summed up what he termed this historical event that was a great honour for them to attend. He said he was the 66 Grand Master of the G.L. of Massachusetts, following in the tradition of Prince Hall a West Indian who was born a slave and later gained his freedom. [He migrated to the US when slavery was at its height. He is credited along with 14 other black men of starting African Lodge the first Black Freemasons Lodge more than 200 years ago, when the American Revolution was gaining ground and before the Declaration of Independence].
"If it wasn't for English Freemasonry we would not be here tonight," said Bro. Lewis said. [History shows that it was the Grand Lodge of England that issued a charter to Prince Hall when racial bigotry blocked their efforts to gain one from established white American Masonic jurisdictions in Boston. From then on, Prince Hall or African Lodges grew and prospered all over the US. But for some reason or other a rift developed between the Prince Hall and mainstream English, Irish and Scottish freemasonry and they ceased to be in friendly communication for close to a century and a half. That stalemate existed when Prince Hall, under the MW Grand Master of Massachusetts Bro. Nicholas Locker and Grand Lodge Officers of England, decided to bury the hatchet in 1994-95 during a meeting in a Boston Hotel.]
Significantly when recognition was effected the first English Freemasons to visit a Prince Hall lodge in some 200 years was when Bro. Charles W. Kempe led a delegation of Bermudians from Atlantic Phoenix Lodge in Hamilton to Boston in 1996. Reciprocal visitations have ensued.
[I gleaned the foregoing historical perspectives in an interview with Past Grand Master Locker during his first visit to Bermuda ten years ago.]