Among the founders were The Chancellor (the 17th Earl of Derby) and Vice-Chancellor (J.G. Adami) of the University, The 1st Viscount Leverhulme (benefactor and a Chairman of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine), several members of the Professoriate and other members of the academic staff, graduates and students of the University.
This abridged version of the Lodge’s history draws extensively on Bro. F.S. Fowweather’s account written for the 50th anniversary in 1971. It was produced from a study of all the minute books combined with personal recollections.
The period immediately following the First World War was particularly favourable to the growth of masonry. In the Universities there were many mature men who had been on war service and who were mostly excellent material to be made Masons. A few of these more mature students were already Masons. At the University of Liverpool two such young Masons were Alex Livingston (Wilbraham Lodge No.2463) and Tom Hare (Rufford Lodge No.2553). It occurred to them that the presence of a Masonic Lodge within the University could provide the opportunity and encouragement for other like-minded men to join.
They approached R.J.M. Buchanan P.Pr.G.W. (Harmonic 216), Professor of Forensic Medicine in the University and a senior physician on the staff of the Royal Infirmary. He welcomed the idea with enthusiasm and after the matter had been brought to the notice of those known Masons within the University, including the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. J.G. Adami, (St. Paul’s, Montreal 374) a meeting of all those known to be interested took place on 12th November 1920. The Vice-Chancellor took the Chair and twenty-five others were present representing staff, graduates and students of the University. A proposal ‘That a Masonic Lodge be formed in connection with the University of Liverpool’ was carried without dissent.
It was decided that Mr. Hugh Rathbone and Mr. Sydney Jones, two prominent and highly respected members of the University Council, should be approached for their reaction and that of the Council to the formation of a Lodge within the University. They raised no objection to the foundation of a Masonic Lodge within the University but requested that it should be a temperance Lodge. This reflected a widely held pre-war belief that young people should be guarded against temptations to take alcohol. Also the Students’ Union in which it was decided that the Lodge meetings should take place had no licence. So the Lodge was at the beginning a temperance Lodge.
Other decisions made at the meeting were that the Lodge should hold eight meetings a year (October to May) and that the Harmonic Lodge 216 should sponsor the petition to Grand Lodge. The principal officers of Harmonic Lodge signed the petition on 13th January, 1921.
At a second meeting of the provisional committee on 8th February it was agreed to recommend that the three principal officers of the Lodge should be:
Worshipful Master……….W.Bro. R. J. M. Buchanan
Senior Warden…………..Bro. J. G. Adami
Junior Warden……………W.Bro. W. H. Gilmour
and at a third meeting of the Founders later in the month a list of the first Officers of the Lodge was drawn up; it included the three just mentioned, but not an Immediate Past Master.
The petition was approved by Provincial Grand Lodge and signed by the Provincial Grand Master on 12th March 1921 and the Warrant of the Lodge bears the date 30th May, 1921. The Lodge was consecrated on 28th October, 1921 by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, J.H. Burrell. Thus less than twelve months elapsed between the first meeting called to consider the formation of the Lodge and its actual consecration.
The Early Years (1921-1924)
During the first three years candidates came forward in great numbers and the Lodge got through a tremendous amount of work. Dispensations to allow the Lodge to deal with more than the usual number of candidates were constantly required and readily granted by Provincial Grand Lodge.
For the first regular meeting on 14th November, 1921 the circular contained the words ‘evening dress’ and these words appeared on subsequent circulars up to the outbreak of war in 1939. At first many wore tailcoats but these were soon replaced by the increasingly popular dinner jacket. At installations it has been the custom from the beginning for academic dress to be worn and this still continues to this day.
At the first regular meeting the Earl of Derby was present and was invested as Immediate Past Master. Four candidates were initiated, including C.F. Wright, Steward of the Union and E.C. Tanner, Assistant Steward and A. McKie Reid, President of the Guild of Undergraduates. At this meeting, the practice of calling off for refreshment at the completion of business and calling on to close after the meal, toasts etc. was started. It continued to be normal practice (but modified during the Second World War) until 1966, except in certain cases when more than one ceremony was worked, when the Lodge was sometimes called off for refreshment after completing only a part of its ceremonial programme, and called on to complete the programme.
The Lodge succumbed to the moderate use of alcohol quite early in its career. It is commonly believed that the first breach occurred at the Installation of the Vice-Chancellor (November 1922) when wine was provided, probably because it was felt that the mineral water and cider offered at ordinary meetings was not adequate fare to put before our distinguished guests. This provision was repeated at subsequent Installations, and within the next year or so beer was added to the list of liquid refreshments available at all ordinary meetings, and the character of the Lodge, so far as drinking is concerned, became much as it is today!
Between the Wars (1924-1939)
Many of the, Founders of the Lodge were Masters or Past Masters, and some of them gave most valuable service during the three exceptionally busy opening years and subsequently. They agreed amongst themselves not to take the Mastership of the Lodge, since by so doing they would considerably delay the progress towards the Chair of more junior Brethren and the Lodge’s own initiates. So from 1924 we have members becoming Masters for the first time.
At a Lodge meeting in March 1926 approval was given to the formation of a University Chapter which is still flourishing today and whose members are largely drawn from the University Lodge. In November 1928, the first of the Lodge’s initiates to reach the Chair, Balfour Williams, was installed. He had been initiated in February 1922.
The Union building, opened in 1911, had long since become uncomfortably crowded and enlargements were begun in 1933. During this time the Lodge had to find accommodation elsewhere and from October 1933 until April 1935 its meetings were held in the Masonic suite of Reece’s restaurant, Parker Street before returning to the newly enlarged Students’ Union in May 1935.
The War Years (1939-1945)
The circular for the October 1939 meeting contained the following:
Please bring your Gas Masks.
Air raid shelters have been provided.
The Students’ Union must be vacated by 9.45 p.m.
These notices were repeated on all the Lodge circulars up to the end of 1940. A notable change was that ‘Dark Morning Dress’ replaced the words ‘Evening Dress’ on the front of the circular. The menace of air raids on the City became very real in the later part of 1940 and it was considered advisable to avoid evening meetings whenever possible. So, beginning in October 1940, the ordinary meetings were held on Saturday afternoons starting with lunch at 1.00 p.m. followed by the usual Lodge procedures. At the Installation meeting in November the Lodge was opened at 12.15 p.m.; certain items of business were dealt with and the guests then admitted, after which lunch was taken. At 2.30 p.m. the Installation ceremony took place.
By the end of 1944 conditions in general allowed the resumption of evening meetings, but the Union’s Kitchen Committee were not yet in a position to arrange a late evening meal. Monday evening meetings were therefore resumed in February 1945, beginning with a meal at 5.30 p.m. followed by the Lodge meeting at about 7.00 p.m. So, as the war came to its end, conditions for the Lodge had taken a welcome step towards what it regarded as its normal procedure.
After the War (1945-2000)
After an inevitable lull during the war years candidates were now again coming forward in greater numbers; two candidates were dealt with at each of two ceremonies at the December 1945 meeting, and similarly on 15th April 1946. An emergency meeting was held to pass two candidates on 1st April and at each of the other ordinary meetings there was one ceremony with two candidates.
On 28th October 1946 an emergency meeting was held to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the consecration of the Lodge. It was intended that the acting officers should all be Founders. Two Founders were unavoidably absent and the meeting opened at 5.15 p.m. and two candidates were raised to the Third degree followed by a meal at 7.00 p.m. At this meeting C. F. Wright retired after completing twenty-five years in office as Tyler and a presentation was made to him by the brethren. He was succeeded by E.C. Tanner.
In April 1947 it was announced that two members of the Lodge were to receive Grand Lodge rank; A. McKie Reid to be J.G.D., and T. Keeley, P.A.G.D.C. In February 1948 the 17th Earl of Derby, Founder and first I.P.M. died
During each of the years 1946-1948 candidates continued to come forward freely, so that at almost all ceremonies two candidates were dealt with, and at some meetings two ceremonies were worked. The busiest post-war year was 1949 when at five of the seven ordinary meetings two ceremonies were worked. This of course does not compare with the work done in the period following the First World War, when the Lodge was founded. Apart from the three emergency meetings referred to no dispensations were called for, and there was a decline after 1949. Thus in 1950, though two candidates were dealt with at each ceremony no more than one ceremony was worked at each ordinary meeting.
The meeting on 8th December was an outstanding one for University Lodge. It was attended by the Provincial Grand Master, W.S.S. Hannay and many other Grand and Provincial Grand officers. The meeting began with the initiation of two candidates by the Master and his officers, after which the Provincial Grand Master and his Wardens took charge and the meeting became one of Provincial Grand Lodge, for the purpose of obligating and investing A. McKie Reid as an Assistant Provincial Grand Master.
In October 1953 G.F. Johnson and the 18th Earl of Derby were elected honorary members of the Lodge. During the years 1950-1956 work had continued at a fairly uniform level, but expenses continued to increase. So, in May 1956, it was decided to reduce the number of meetings annually to six by deleting the February and April meetings, as an alternative to a substantial rise in subscriptions.
At the Installation in November 1958 the wearing of dinner jackets was resumed, and this has continued to be the practice at all subsequent Installations. Owing to the large increase in the number of students in the years following the war, the Union building had again become grossly inadequate, and once more an enlargement was undertaken, and the Lodge had again to find temporary quarters elsewhere. This time it found accommodation at the Constitutional Club in Tithebarn Street (since demolished) and its period there began with the meeting in October 1959 and lasted till February 1966 when meetings were once more resumed in a much enlarged Students’ Union.
The physical conditions of the enlarged building made it impracticable to continue the custom of closing the Lodge at table and the custom was therefore, reluctantly, abandoned. The opening meeting was attended by the Provincial Grand Master, L.E. Rutherford (a graduate of the University, and an honorary member of the Lodge). The ceremony was a Second Decree and the Provincial Grand Master gave the explanation of the Second Tracing Board.
The Installation meeting in 1969 was attended by the new Provincial Grand Master, Sir Knowles Edge, Bt. The outstanding event of 1970 was the appointment of Cyril McGibbon as Provincial Senior Grand Warden. One consequence of this was the presence once again of the Provincial Grand Master at the Installation, since it is his practice to attend the Installations at the Lodges to which his current wardens belong. In addition there were three Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, many Grand Officers. the two Provincial Grand Wardens and many other Provincial Officers, the whole constituting an assembly of eminent masons seldom to be found together in a private Lodge. So, at the beginning of its fiftieth year, the Lodge saw its Master installed before a very distinguished company. Cyril McGibbon subsequently became Assistant Provincial Grand Master. Other prominent members subsequently appointed Provincial Senior Warden have included Jim Alty and Stan Holker, and Stan also rose to be Assistant Provincial Grand Master and Grand Treasurer too.
The 1980’s saw a rising tide of anti-Masonic feeling, culminating in 1984 with the Lodge being told by the then President of the Student’s Union that it was no longer welcome to meet there. This animosity lasted for a few years, but the then Vice Chancellor allowed the Lodge to continue meeting within the University in Senate House before it subsequently moving to Staff House, No.3 Abercrombie Square which became its home for about 20 years. It was a difficult period for freemasonry in general with a contraction in membership and some lodges closing or merging with others. The University Lodge of Liverpool also suffered a decline, attracting only a few initiates but being sustained by a number of joining members.
In 2007 the lodge moved to improved accommodation and catering at the Liverpool Medical Institution. This move was the beginning of important changes in the direction of the lodge. The new millennium had seen increased openness in freemasonry fostering both a change in public perception and an increase in interest in Freemasonry, especially among younger thinking people.
Over the two year period 2007-2009 under the guidance of David Goddard (Worshipful Master), ably assisted by Prof Mike Jones (secretary) and other past masters, the lodge embraced a number of significant changes. A new web site was established aimed specifically at the dissemination of information about the lodge and the recruitment of new members, spearheading a successful recruitment drive among young men. The lodge adopted a mentoring scheme for new members. The bye-laws were simplified to allow membership for students, staff and graduates of Liverpool and other Universities. Relations with the University were strengthened through the Alumni association, with lodge members regularly attending Alumni events.
Some of the traditional practices of the lodge were restored, including double ceremonies to accommodate the surge in applications and dining in aprons before closing the lodge at the festive board. Visits were organised to Masonic events, including the Association of Medical University and Legal Lodges, the Association of University Lodges, and Trinity College Lodge, Dublin.
Most significantly a committee was established to prepare the Lodge for membership of the United Grand Lodge of England’s new Universities Scheme. After informal discussions with Michael Hill, Assistant Prov.GM, the lodge received a visit from the Deputy Chairman of the scheme, Edward Lord, in December 2008. Having secured support from Edward Lord and Michael Hill, with backing from the Provincial Grand Master for West Lancashire a formal proposition to join the scheme was made to the lodge members at its February 2009 meeting. This received unanimous backing from the members. Application to join the scheme was duly made through the Provincial Secretary Geoffrey Lee (an honorary member of the lodge) and the lodge was was accepted into the scheme in March 2009.
On 14th December the Assistant Grand Master, David Kenneth Williamson, President of the UGLE Universities Scheme visited the University Lodge of Liverpool accompanied by its new Chairman, Edward Lord and the Provincial Grand Master, Peter Hosker. The Worshipful Master, Prof. James Alty led a double initiation ceremony during which undergraduates were heavily involved, performing the duties of Inner Guard, presenting the Working Tools and assisting the Deacons. The WM also welcomed three joining members, one transferring from Sydney University Lodge. The evening was a great success, and a fitting climax to two years of hard work in the transformation of the lodge.