Ever since I made a “Promise” that I would attempt to unravel the scanty information existing at the present time regarding the early days of The Lodge Southern Cross, I have encountered one difficulty after another, until I almost gave it up in despair.
The first important fact I discovered on going through the old records was that The Lodge Southern Cross was inaugurated on the 28th July, 1860.
The Brethren of the different Masonic Lodges assembled yesterday at high noon toinaugurate a new Lodge in Cape Town, to be called The Lodge Southern Cross, No. 398 on the Roll of The Grand Lodge of Scotland.”
The ceremony was performed by the Deputy Grand Master of the Netherlandic Constitution, Brother C. J. Brand, who after-wards became Sir Christoffel Brand; assisted by Past Master Brother J. S. Rowe as Senior Warden, and Past Master Brother C. Wheelwright as Junior Warden, in the Temple of Lodge de Goede Hoop.
The following Anthems were sung by the choir: “When I Earth’s foundation first was laid,” and “To Heaven’s High Architect all Praise.”
The 95th and l00th Psalms were also admirably chanted during the Ceremony.
The Lodge being formed and duly consecrated, the Deputy Grand Master appointed and invested Brother John Saunders as the First Right Worshipful Master of the New Lodge “Southern Cross”.
Brother John Saunders then took the Chair and obligated all his Office-bearers. I have a complete Record of all his Office- bearers, viz., the Depute and Substitute Masters, the Wardens, Deacons, Director of Ceremonies, the Secretary and Treasurer, and the Inner and Outer Guard or Tyler.
The whole of the Fraternity present then formed in Procession and marched round the Temple, accompanied by the excellent Band of the Cape Royal Rifles. It is recorded that this military band was always in great demand; the Bandmaster was Brother Ireson; afterwards they partook of a substantial “Tiffin”, provided by the Brethren of the Lodge Southern Cross, at which the following Toasts were drunk:-
“The Queen and the Craft”; “Prince Alfred and the Royal Family”; “Sir George Grey (the Governor-General)”; “The Army and Navy”; “The Deputy Grand Master of the Netherlands in South Africa”; “The Master and Office- bearers of the Lodge Southern Cross”; and many others, not forgetting “The Ladies” and “The Bandmaster”.
The year 1860, which witnessed the inception of the Lodge Southern Cross, was one of a period of considerable importance in the life of South Africa.
For some years prior the Cape Colony had enjoyed the fruitful rule 0f one of its greatest Governors-Sir George Grey-himself a Freemason of high standing, who, besides inaugurating Representative Government in the Colony, was the principal factor in starting many of the Institutions of modern life, which hitherto had been lacking in the Cape.
During this period the Table Bay Breakwater was commenced; the first Railway in the Colony – that between Cape Town and Wellington – was in course of construction; the Simonstown Slip was completed; lighthouses were erected at Cape Point, Port Elizabeth and on the Roman Rock at Simonstown; and the contract with the Union Steamship Company for regular mail service was entered into in 1857.
The South African Library and the South African Museum, founded a few years before, entered in 1860 into possession of their new premises in the building in the Avenue – now entirely used by the Library.
The building of the New Somerset Hospital was commenced in 1859 and in the following year, 1860, the Free Dispensary was established.
The Board of Examiners in Literature and Science, the precursor of the University of the Cape of Good Hope, was appointed by a commission of Sir George Grey in 1858.
During the same period the Cape, through the courage and foresight of its Governor, aided by the self-denial of the Colonists, afforded that signal service to the Empire which enabled the Government of India to make its first headway against the Forces of the Great Mutiny.
To be born into times so stirring and invigorating was doubtless a privilege and an opportunity, and the new Lodge in the first years of its existence appears to have gathered strength from the stimulus.
In 1860 there were in existence in Cape Town five Freemason Lodges. Two – the Lodges de Goede Hoop and de Goede Trouw – holding their Charters from the Grand East of the Netherlands; and three – the British Lodge, the Hope Lodge and the Joppa Lodge – under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of England.
The cause for the foundation of the sixth Lodge in connection with the Grand Lodge of Scotland cannot now be determined. but to a large extent the new Lodge must be regarded a~ an offshoot of the Lodge de Goede Hoop.
It is my intention this evening merely to provide a brief sketch of the early days of the Lodge Southern Cross – no easy task, as some of the Minutes are not only scanty but missing. Fortunately there have been discovered a number of rough books used by Secretaries to record memoranda; these cover the greater portion of the years 1860 to 1869, but they cannot, apart from being indecipherable in many places, be regarded as authonties of great reliability.
Any hiatus in these Records is: invariably attributed to the disastrous fire of 1892, which destroyed a p