Part 1 – The Foundation (1880’s)
Origins of Freemasonry
Freemasonry or Masonry consists of fraternal organisations that trace their origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons, which from the end of the fourteenth century regulated the qualifications of stonemasons and their interaction with authorities and clients.
The degrees of freemasonry retain the three grades of medieval craft guilds, those of Apprentice, Journeyman or fellow (now called Fellowcraft), and Master Mason. These are the degrees offered by Craft (or Blue Lodge) Freemasonry. Members of these organisations are known as Freemasons or Masons. There are additional degrees, which vary with locality and jurisdiction, and are usually administered by different bodies than the craft degrees. The basic, local organisational unit of Freemasonry is the Lodge.
The Story of Freemasonry has developed with the human race and their basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. When people found an advantage in having shelter and later homes, castle, churches and so on, building skills developed. Men working in stone gradually acquired skills and knowledge and became known as Masons, Craftsmen and Master Masons, depending on their abilities.
In the period when Serfdom (bondage or slavery) applied, skilled masons were granted freedom by means of Royal Charter to travel throughout the land and hence one of the reasons for the term Freemason. In the days when many were illiterate, trade skills and knowledge were passed by word of mouth. Subjects of military, political or theological bias were banned with the main purpose being the exchange of trade skills and the practice of helping the sick or injured among them.
Freemasonry In Australia
In Australia, Freemasonry can be traced to 1788 with the arrival of Botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, Freemason. Banks became an influential figure in New South Wales, founded in 1788 with the arrival of the First Fleet, choosing the Governors. Banks’ eminence as a leading botanist was honoured by having the genus Banksias, comprising about 75 species in the protea family to be found in Australia, named after him.
The United Grand Lodge of N.S.W. was formally founded in 1888 and later incorporated the A.C.T.
The Headquarters Of Freemasonry
In N.S.W. and the A.C.T. the headquarters of Freemasonry is the imposing Masonic Centre in Goulburn Street, Sydney. Constructed in 1974 (replacing the previous building), the Civic Tower was constructed on leased ‘air space’ above the centre in 2004.
Freemasonry On The Tweed
Lodge Tweed (United) No. 136 Past Masters Honour Board
Freemasonry on the Tweed had its beginnings on January 31st, 1885. Lodge Tweed had its charter granted in 1885, from the United Fraternity of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of England prior to the formation of the United Grand Lodge of N.S.W. In 1888. The petition to grant this was from a Sydney Lodge, Lodge Robert Burns No. 817 of the English Constitution, now No. 21 under the U.G.L. of N.S.W. This Lodge was formed on October 25th, 1884.
Lodge Tweed is now Lodge Tweed United No. 136.
The link with Lodge Robert Burns was due to the first Worshipful Master of Lodge Tweed being W.Bro. William Collins, a member of Lodge Robert Burns, Sydney. Arriving on the Tweed as Publican and Licensee of the Junction Inn at North Tumbulgum, across the river from the current Tumbulgum Hotel.
North Tumbulgum (1880’s)
1. Logan’s Store, 2. The Junction Inn,
3. River Ferry, 4. The Tweed River
“A large Masonic Hall is about to be erected at Tumbulgum, on the Tweed River, when on completion will not only be the largest hall in the district, but one of the most important.”
(Australian Town and Country Journal, Saturday, January 16, 1886.)
Of interest the Tweed Regional Museum has a silver platter and framed certificate presented to William Collins in September 1883 on his departure from Sydney to the Tweed.
1. The Junction Inn, 2. The Masonic Hall
“Tumbulgum will soon be able to boast of the largest public building on the Tweed; the Masonic Lodge is about to erect a hall 60×30 of weatherboards, to be all lined with spruce pine and finished properly. The hall will be nearly twice the size of the School of Arts in Murwillumbah which is only a shell.”
(Northern Star, Lismore NSW, Wednesday January 6, 1886)
Shortly after his arrival on the Tweed, William Collins hosted the opening of the Junction Inn at Tumbulgum and set about to build a hall for Masonic, and other village usage. In 1890 he moved to Murwillumbah as licensee of the Club Hotel (now the site of the Imperial Hotel). He died in 1896 and is interred in the Church of England portion of the Main Street Cemetery.
William Collins’ funeral procession (1896)
passing the Church of England (TAFE College site)
on its way to the Main Street Cemetery.
In October 1893 Lodge Tweed meetings were transferred to Murwillumbah, firstly in the Presbyterian Hall and then in the School of Arts.
In 1909 a Masonic Hall was erected in Condong Street on land donated by Bro. Skinner, adjacent to the bowling club. All furniture was donated by Bro. J.M. Holston, some of which is still in use today in the Tweed Heads Centre.
The Murwillumbah 1954 Floods
The disastrous flood of 1954 washed the building, which had recently been re-stumped and renovated, off its foundations.
The wrecked building was sold to Murwillumbah Bowls Club and the eastern green took its place. Some of the timbers were used to build a Soil and Maintenance Shed and the search started for a flood free site. A new site, well out of flood reach was purchased in Banner Street, Murwillumbah, at the top of the showground.
From February 1954 to November 1960, the lodges met at the Church of England (Anglican) Parish Hall in Nullum Street (now the Sathaya Sai School). The 1954 flood had entered this building to window sill height on the upper floor.
They also met in the Showground Pavilion which also flooded until raised in 1958.
Murwillumbah Masonic Centre
Following the 1954 disaster, a building committee was formed, headed by R. Wor. Bro. Kay Lucas. Land was purchased in Banner Street adjacent to the Showground Hill, well out of flood reach.
The foundation stone was set on June 4th, 1960 by R. Wor. Bro. Lucas and opened by the Grand Master of N.S.W., Most Worshipful Bro. Harry Richards Maas on October 8th, 1960.
The building was designed and built by George Hanna at a cost of $17,000. (George Hanna was a member and Past Master of Lodge Uki No. 497).
Three Craft Lodges:
- Tweed No. 136
- Wollumbin No. 446
- Murwillumbah Remembrance No. 862
and other orders including the O.E.S, (Order of the Eastern Star) met in the building.
By October 14, 1999 only one, Lodge Tweed United No. 136, formed by the merger of Lodge’s Tweed, Wollumbin and Uki, met in the building.
In 2012 the building was sold to a group from the Hare Krishna Movement and all Masonic activities were transferred to the Twin Towns Masonic Centre, in Tweed Heads.