The idea of forming a Masonic lodge at Eltham must have been first mooted prior to mid
1910, for by 20 July that year a petition to form a new lodge had been drawn up. It was signed
by seventeen interested local masons, recommended by the officers o f the Richmond River
Lodge, No. 77, countersigned and approved by Lodge Bangalow, No. 250, and forwarded to
the Most Worshipful Grand Master.
On receiving the petition, the Grand Secretary wrote to the DGIW (District Grand
Inspector of Workings), VW Bro W Monis, requesting a report on the matter. A favorable
report was promptly sent off by the District Inspector, giving as the reasons for his approval
that an experienced brother, W Bro Samuel McLean o f Lodge Richmond River. had been
recommended as the first Worshipful Master, and that a suitable building would be erected in
which meetings would-be conducted. He also mentioned that, although Eltham was only a
small township, the population of the district was increasing rapidly.
As a result of this report and after due consideration by the Board of General Purposes
on 21 December 1910, the petition was unanimously recommended to the Most Worshipful
Grand Master, who authorised the issue of the charter the following day.
By Friday, 6 January 1911, members of the newly-formed lodge had met and selected
brethren for the various officers of the lodge from their numbers, and forwarded the names to
the Grand Secretary for approval.
During the next six or seven months a great deal of work must have been achieved, for
by Monday, 14 August 1911, the Temple was completed and everything was in readiness for
the inaugural installation.
Finally, on Monday, 14 August 1911, Lodge Eltham, being No. 272 on the register of
the United Grand Lodge o f NSW, was dedicated and consecrated in conjunction with the
installation of Niv’ Bro Samuel McLean by VW Bro W Morris, DG1W of the then District No.
18. W Bro McLean then invested his officers. Bro David Ritchie. Senior Warden and Bro
Ernest Barnes, the start. the Junior Warden, were both strongly behind the formation of the lodge from
According the Presence Book (which is still i n good order), ninety-nine masons
attended that historical first installation (however, some may have forgotten to sign). Of the
twenty-one foundation members, who no doubt attended those earlier preparatory meetings,
only fourteen appear to have been present at the first installation.
Within the next twelve months membership rose to forty-five. This was to increase to
over eighty in the first five years, and by August 1921 no fewer than 135 had joined the
The Masonic Building at Eltham
No information can be found concerning the construction of the Temple, however,
after many years the building was altered by relocating the stairs in order to comply with
accepted ritual procedure. The old staircase entered the Temple where the organ now stands.
The Eltham Hall was originally erected by Joseph and James Alexander in 1898, and paid for
by public subscription. It was then known as Jubilee Hall. in commemoration of the Diamond
Jubilee o f Queen Victoria in 1897. The hall was allowed to fall into disrepair by the then
controlling body, so it was purchased for £250 by Eltham Lodge in 1922.
At that time it was situated where the public toilets now stand. but according to the
1929 minutes of the lodge, it was decided to demolish both the hall and the Temple and erect
a composite structure for a sum o f £750, but this never eventuated. In 1931 the hall was
moved to its present site by a builder, Wally Gaggin, for £142, who demolished and re-erected
In the late 1970s, when our old hall toilets had been wrecked by cyclones (and
vandals), it was decided to approach the Terania Shire for assistance in building public septic
toilets. The land was signed over to the council and some o f the cost raised by local
organisations. Council estimated the cost of the toilets to be about $4000.
Eltham Lodge has a reputation for the provision of fine installation banquets. Perhaps
the standard was set by the caterer at that first installation festive board. Mr John Smith. His
menu consisted o f no less than six meats, vegetables, salads, eight desserts, fruit, cheeses,
biscuits and coffee. Complimentary cigars and cigarettes were also provided by the lodge in
those early days. For many years local church groups and committees were paid to cater. and
later still, members’ wives and families assisted with the preparation of catering, with most of
the food being donated. In recent years as costs have increased markedly, and most members
no longer produce the necessary farm products, i t has become necessary to purchase most
items and to make a nominal charge to defray expenses. For many years Jean McPaul assisted
the lodge in providing for our regular monthly meeting. Whilst she and her husband, Tom,
acted as caretakers for both the exterior and interiors of the hall.
During the years many changes occurred, not least of all that of lighting. The first light
used was acetylene gas, later a ‘Wizard’ light was installed (run on benzine). Electricity was
connected i n 1938 using the old incandescent bulbs and finally, fluorescent tubes were
provided in the late 1970s.
Lodge Eltham Meetings
Although the first installation was conducted on the second Monday of the month—
apparently for the convenience o f the DGIW, who officiated as Installing Officer on that
occasion—future meetings were held on the Friday on or before the full moon o f every
month, as was written into the petition. This was, of course, to light the way of the horse and
buggy travelers of the time. In 1924 meeting nights were moved to the Tuesday after the full
moon, but in 1930, as cars became more common, the meeting night was changed to the
fourth Tuesday of each month and has remained that way since that time. However. during
World War IT meetings were only held every second month.
It has been traditional in Lodge Eltham, for many years, to hold an Anzac Service at the
April Meeting (as i t usually falls close to Anzac Day). On these occasions members are
encouraged to reflect on the many aspects of peace and war, and to remember those men and
women who offered their lives for us. In the Temple, on the western wall, behind the Senior
Warden’s Chair, there i s an honor roll on which the names Bros SM Cameron, EM
McNiven, RE Walker and AE Fisher appear as those Eltham Lodge members who served in
World War I . Fortunately, they a l l returned safely, each being given Honorary L i f e
Membership of the lodge.
Shortly after the First World War, a Grand Lodge Certificate was received in the mail
from Lodge Kalgoorlie o f the WA Constitution. I t had been sent by Bro Freeman who
explained that i t had been picked up on the battle field after the famous Charge o f the
Australian Light Horse Brigade at Beersheba. It was returned to Bro SM Cameron of Lodge
Lodge Eltham during the War
Between the years 1914 to 1918 Eltham Lodge saw fit to change to a temperance lodge.
No official Eltham Lodge Honor Roll can be traced for World War II. However, a
search through the Dues Books o f that period reveals the names o f nine members in the
forces. They were Bros RW Clarke, Thom. Gibson, BG Johnston, RD Mortimer, JW Nixon,
RB Trimble, SW Virtue, G Wilson and WJ Blore. In the Dues Book these members are shown
as OAR (On Active Duty), with dues being waived during their service period.
During the period immediately after the Second World War there was a great influx of
new members bringing much competition for offices and continual degree work. Many of the
new initiates were returned servicemen in their twenties and thirties.
The enthusiasm and activity of masons in Lodge Eltham rose greatly and continued
through to the mid-sixties, with record numbers in attendance at meetings and fraternal
visitation. A record had been set in 1926 at the installation of Bro WT Missingham (at that
time a state parliamentarian) o f 189 masons in attendance. This figure was equaled at the
installation of Bro Tom Watt (by W Bro Ron Lane) in 1956, and all but equaled again the
following year when W Bro Watt installed Bro Vic Hunter into the chair.
During that same period fraternal visitations were at an all time high with fraternals of
twenty-five to thirty being quite common.
Over the years costs have been seen to rise, due mainly to inflationary pressures. In
1911 monthly dues were set at 3/6 and have gradually risen so that they are now $7•00, a
twenty-fold increase over eighty-three years. During the Depression years, the lodge saw fit to
reduce monthly fees from 4/- to 3/6 and initiation fees were reduced from ten to seven
guineas. In 1911 the lodge paid E2 for the Emblems of Mortality, which has to be ordered
from England through David Jones (they took six months to arrive and were still in transit at
the time of the first installation).
The 1932 minutes book reveals the fact the lodge turned down a request by local
Catholics to conduct a church service in the hall. However. in 1956 a similar request was
granted. This surely shows a change i n attitude, which may have been caused by the
intervening period of twenty-four years and the wartime bringing a broadening of minds and a
greater tolerance of other people and their beliefs.
According to an old Presence Book, the lodge once hosted royalty (or near to it) in the
form of the Earl of Cassilis and Lord Deesborough. Although this is interesting in itself, we
are always pleased to have visitors whether they are notable or not—and we greet them the
same way and treat them to our musical honors.
Much can be gleaned by examining the list of members who have joined the lodge over
the years. Firstly, i t is worth mentioning that there have been 413 brethren joined Lodge
Eltham since its inception. Of the first seventy members, forty-four were farmers (in a period
of three years). While in the last twenty-five years there has only been one farmer in the
-lodge. Of the twenty-one foundation members, there were eleven farmers, four
schoolteachers, two storekeepers, one hotel keeper, one saddler, one carpenter and a cordial
maker. Two came from Lismore while the others lived in Eltham, Clunes or nearly
Of the twenty-one, there were two Past Masters and nineteen Master Masons, most of
whom came from Richmond River Lodge, Bangalow Temperance and Alstonville, others
were from outside this district.
Over the eighty-four years, Eltham been blessed with some very remarkable masters
and brethren, but only a small number have achieved Grand Lodge Status. They are J Havilah.
PDGDC; G Oliver, PJGW; JE Havilah, PJGW; WW Alexander, PJGW; VC Hunter, PDGDC;
EN Warburton. PDGIW; WH Crispin. PDGDC; I D Smith. PDGIW: SB Payton. PJGW; RA
Weir, DG1W and RJ Hill, PDGIW. They have each played an important part in both the
district and Eltham Lodge and many continue to do so. V. Wor. Bro. Ted Warburton was
instrumental in forming the District Masonic Association during his term in office as DGIW
for District 67.
Masonic Families in Eltham
There are many families that have had a long association with Lodge Eltham. Some
have two and three generations that have passed through the lodge since its inception. Names
that occur again and again (some up to ten times) are Walmsley, Weir. Charlton. Stewart,
Bryant, Virtue, McKinnon, Havilah, Collings, Payne, Gibson, Gordon, Clark, Pearson,
Hunter, and Vidler. Weirs, Virtues and Walmsleys have been involved in Eltham Lodge from
the first few years.
According to the minutes, sometime in 1950 a candidate was ‘black balled’ and as far as
can be assessed this was the only time this occurred. Letters from Grand Lodge and Eltham
Lodge minutes indicate that strict caution had to be taken to prevent the entry of cowans and
intruders to the Temple back in the early 1920s. Some members remember a time when a
candidate ‘bolted’ from the change room when asked to change in readiness for initiation. On
another two occasions candidates failed to appear for initiation. One night during a meeting it
became obvious the Junior Deacon was under the influence, he was very promptly ejected
from the office and it became vacant.
One of the main changes in Eltham Lodge, as well as masonry in general, is the genuine
desire to involve our ladies and families whenever and wherever possible. They have for
many years sat in the south at installations, which was once unheard of. They have always
helped in preparing with catering and in getting members off to lodge, but it is hoped that they
will be able to join members regularly in the south, as well at more frequent social outings,
and thus make masonry more a sharing activity.