No. 7 -- The newsletter of The Freemasons Chamber -- March 2000

A History Of Scottish Freemasonry In India 1838 1999

- With a special request to Lodges and Brethren.

(Considerable material, covering the first 150 years of Scottish Freemasonry in India, will be reproduced in coming issues of The Freemason, starting with the March edition. This material was compiled by the late Bro Ratan Naoroji Contractor, Rt Wor District Grand Master 1985-1987, Hon Junior Grand Warden (Scot). Bro Bomi Shawaksha Mehta, our present Rt Wor District Grand Master, added the material, which covers the next two decades, 1978 to 1998. Bro Bomi Mehta has requested that this be treated as a "first draft", in an effort to compile a more comprehensive and upto-date history of Scottish Freemasonry in India. All lodges and Brethren are requested to send us contributions concerning the achievements of their Lodges or Brethren, which would be worth recording, culled from the histories of their Lodges or private records. Short biographies of members who have made outstanding contributions to society and the nation, would be most welcome. Material may be sent to the editor of this newsletter, who will compile and pass on to the Rt Wor District Master. Acknowledgement will be made in this newsletter and by the District Grand Lodge of India (SC) for all material received.

There was Freemasonry in India before the seed of Scottish Freemasonry was sown in 1838. It seems that a Lodge No 72 was established in Bengal in 1730. Another Lodge was constituted in East Calcutta on 16th April 1740, and one in Madras in 1752. One Lodge was established in Bombay in 1758 and one in Surat in 1798. Lodge Perseverance, which functions today in Bombay under the Scottish Constitution, was founded in 1828 at Bombay, with Bro J Lawless as its first Master. All these Lodges were under the English Constitution, and membership was confined largely to the European Community.

The first Indian to see Masonic light was Bro Umdatul-Umera, the eldest son of the Nawab of Arcot, who was initiated at Trichinopoly in 1776. In Western India, no Indian was admitted to Freemasonry till 1843.

Mr Moneckjee Cursetjee, a Parsee gentleman and a merchant, was refused admission by Lodge Perseverance. Not taking defeat easily, he wrote to the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. In his letter, Mr Cursetjee mentioned that he would be visiting England at a future time. The Grand Master replied, assuring him that arrangements would be made when he came to England. On his arrival in England, Mr Cursetjee was informed that the Grand Master was on a visit to the continent, but as Mr Cursetjee had mentioned in his letter that he would also be visiting France, The Grand Master had requested the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of France to see that the honours were done. This is how Bro Moneckjee Cursetjee came to be initiated in a French lodge.

After his return to India, his enthusiasm for the Order, coupled with the support he received from Bro Dr James Burnes, the Provincial Grand Master of Western India (S.C.) led to the establishment of Lodge Rising Star of Western India, No 342 SC in 1844, for the introduction of "native gentlemen" into the craft. Bro Moneckjee Cursetjee became the first Secretary of the Lodge and subsequently its Rt Wor Master on two occasions. He remained an ardent Scottish Mason and a great benefactor of noble causes and charities. The famous Alexandra Girls School was founded by him.

(Continued on page 2 column 1)

z z z


Q&A The editorial committee looks forward to receiving questions from readers, which it will try to answer to the best of its ability, from all the reference material available. Your queries will also help us gauge your interests, and select future material accordingly.

Q. I cannot find Newfoundland listed under any of the Canadian grand lodges?

On May 5, 1868, The Grand Lodge of Scotland approved the formation of the District Grand Lodge of Newfoundland. There were two Lodges in existence at that time. Over the years this grew to 28 UGLE lodges and 16 Scottish lodges. On November 1st, 1997 a Grand Lodge of Newfoundland was established. All the Lodges under the English constitution and three under the Scottish constitution, joined the new Grand Lodge. It was agreed between the Grand Lodges that recognition would be on the basis of non-exclusive jurisdiction. Thus both the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of Newfoundland can establish new Lodges in Newfoundland under their respective jurisdictions. Presently there are 32 Lodges

under the Grand Lodge of Newfoundland and 12 Lodges under the Grand Lodge of Scotland. As of December 1999, the District Grand Lodge of Newfoundland S.C. web site says that its twelve lodges have a total membership of 917.

z z z

(Continued from page 1 column 2)

To start at the beginning, at the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Scotland held at Edinburgh on 30th November 1836, the Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason, Bro Lord Ramsay, during his address informed the members that Bro Dr James Burnes, KH LLD, of the Honorable East India Company's service was about to return to India, and he thought that the superior information and knowledge of Masonry possessed by Bro Dr Burnes would be of the utmost importance in promoting the usefulness of the Craft in that quarter of the globe, and as such he begged to propose Bro Dr Burnes to be appointed Provincial Grand Master over the Provinces of Western India and Dependencies with authority to establish Lodges in those Provinces. This was unanimously approved and Bro Dr Burnes was accordingly issued a Commission dated 30th November 1838. Bro Dr Burnes arrived in Bombay towards the end of December 1837 and on 1st January 1838 opened and established the Provincial Grand Lodge of Western India and its Dependencies, under Scotland and appointed his Office-Bearers. It may be of interest to know that Bro Burnes' great grandfather was an uncle of Scotland's famous poet, Robert Burns.

A second Scottish Province of Eastern India was subsequently erected, with the Marquis of Tweeddale, the Governor of Madras as the Provincial Grand Master. On the retirement of the Marquis of Tweeddale, this Provincial Grand Lodge was absorbed under the jurisdiction of Bro Dr Burnes, who in 1846 became the Provincial Grand Master having jurisdiction all over India and Aden, but with the premise, that this appointment was not to act in restraint of any future sub-division of the Presidencies.

For nearly six years, no Scottish Lodges came into existence except for two dispensations issued by Bro Dr Burnes for the formation of Lodge Hope No 337 at Karachi in 1842 and of Lodge Rising Star of Western India No 342 in 1843 as aforesaid at Bombay. As stated earlier, Lodge Perseverance No 338 S.C. had previously existed under the English Constitution since 1828, and later switched over to the Scottish Constitution. Bro Dr James Burnes was its member when it was under the English Constitution.

On 3rd January 1843, the North East Corner Stone of the J. J. Hospital was laid at Bombay with great pomp by the Rt Wor The Provincial Grand Master of Western India, Bro Dr James Burnes and the speeches made thereat brought home to the public that Freemasonry was associated with charity and philanthropy. By June 1844 Scottish Masonry extended to the Deccan by the formation of Lodge St Andrew-in-the-East No 343 at Poona.

On 8th January 1849, after an interval of two years, the Provincial Grand Lodge was again convened, and Bro Phillip William LeGeyt was nominated as the Provincial Grand Master, although the minutes make no mention of the contemplated retirement of Bro Dr Burnes from that Office. Due to his ill health, Bro Dr Burnes left India in December 1849 and died in Manchester in 1862 without "an enemy, and with scarcely an acquaintance who was not, also, an admirer and a friend."

On 8th January 1850 at the meeting, a letter was read from Lodge "Victoria" at Belgaum, praying for the confirmation of certain irregularities. This is the first time that Lodge "Victoria" is mentioned in the records of the Provincial Grand Lodge. It would appear that the Lodge was opened some time previously, under a dispensation granted by Bro Dr Burnes, although the Grand Lodge of Scotland did not issue the regular warrant No 363 until the 26th February 1852.

At the meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge held on 7th October 1850, Bro PW LeGeyt was installed as the Provincial Grand Master with the usual formalities. On 30th December 1852, Lt. Gen Lord Frederick Fitz Clarence, GCB (natural son of William IV), who had filled the throne of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and who had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Bombay Army, was presented with an Address of Welcome by the Scottish Masons of Bombay.

On 8th April 1853, the Quarterly Communication was held, at which the Provincial Grand Secretary reported that the premises at No 1, Grants Building, had been acquired on lease as a permanent meeting place of the Craft and in future be designated "The Freemasons' Hall". Occupation had commenced from 1st February 1853. (To be continued)

With grace

One Sunday, a Brother of good conduct decided, that for once, instead of going to church, he would go hunting. While walking through the jungle, he came upon a tiger. The Brother started running, but it was of no use. The tiger soon caught up with him. Face to face with the beast, the devout Brother cried out, "Oh Lord, if only you had taught this animal the lessons of Freemasonry". At that instant, the tiger halted, placed his paw on his breast and said, "May TGAOTU make me grateful for what I am about to receive."

Editorial Board: Bro Tofique Fatehi, Bro Ahmed Bharucha, Bro Larry Grant.
Published for The Freemasons Chamber by Larry Grant, Post Box 1610, Mumbai 400001, India
Phone 91-22-2151001. E-mail
Master Masons are welcome to request free copies. Please send full name, name and number of lodge, and address. Copies also available by e-mail.

Previous Issue Newsletter Page Next Issue