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SHUNIAH LODGE A.F. & A.M. NO 287 G.R.C.
The following speech was delivered by Bro. Chris Higgins at Shuniah Lodge #287 Old Timer's Night on May 5, 2009. He had written the speech 20 years earlier and considered as applicable now, as he did then.
Respect for the Elder Mason
To the left and the right of the Worshipful Master, both in the East and in the body of the Lodge sit the elder Mason. These are the Masons who are not just senior in years but senior in years as a Mason. We are taught at an early age to respect our elders. When we were young this was anyone who was real old, say twenty and up. When we reach the mature age of 21 we, if we meet the rest of the criteria, we could become a "Mason". As we are brought through the degrees we are taught many things about Masonry and the Craft, but I think we sometimes forget respect for the elder Mason. These are the men who appear at times to be contemplating the ceiling, when in fact they are running a difficult piece of memory work through their heads. These are the men who appear to be sleeping, but are lulled by the smooth flow of the Lodge work. No doubt you have seen these sleeping vipers strike when you make a mistake in your work.
Over twenty years ago I recall reciting my obligation prior to being raised to the degree of a Fellowcraft. I was very proud of having made it through with no hesitation and no mistakes, or so I thought. At the end of the meeting an elder Mason approached me and said "You got one word wrong", he then walked away. I resented that for many years. Until I watched the elder Masons and in particular the one who had stung me. I realized what this elder Mason had done was compliment me, in his own gruff way. I had only gotten "one" word wrong! Since then I have stood up and forgotten the Lesser Lights! We have all seen Masons go through short and long works with and without difficulty. But the members I love to hear are the elder Mason who doesn't just recite from memory but makes it sound like a story from a familiar tale told many times.
So how do we show our respect for our elder Masons? A great number of our members due to mature age are unable to come to Lodge. Once a year we hold a night in their honour. As well members visit some shut in members and report back to lodge. As well we hold a yearly Memorial Service for our departed brethren and have a Masonic service when requested.
Officially how do we reward our elder Masons in Ontario? There are now and have been a number of ways and I will briefly go over some of these with you.
(1) The Long Service Medal (Fifty Years a Past Master), In 1924 this medal approved to be awarded to Past Masters with 50 years experience. The first was awarded in 1925 with 36 Past Masters receiving the silver medal. In 1963 this practice was discontinued with 482 medals having been issued.
(2) The Veteran's Jewel of 1928 (Past Masters over seventy years of age). A special banquet honoured approximately 125 Past Masters over 70 years old. They were all awarded this medal and the medal continued being issued for a short period of time until the supply was exhausted.
(3) Fifty Year Bar (Fifty Years a Past District Deputy Grand Master). This bar to go on the Long Service Medal is of course for 50 years of past service as the DDGM. Between 1944 and 1963 when the the bar was discontinued only 12 Masons had received the award.
(4) Sixty Year Pin (Sixty years a Past Master) This diamond shaped silver finished pin was started in 1950 and 25 where given out up until 1963 when the practice was discontinued.
(5) Veterans Jubilee Medal (50 years a Mason). Fifty years of uninterrupted service to the Craft was all you needed in 1934 to get this medal. The first was given out in 1935. No records were available until 1942 when 115 awards were given out. The numbers increased over the years until 1963 when 475 brethren were given this award. The practice was discontinued in 1963 and revived in 1971 (more to follow on this).
(6) Seventy-five Year Bar (Seventy five years a Mason). This award started in 1944 was only awarded to one Mason before being scrapped in 1963. This award was in 1944 to Sir William Mulock (he died the same year).
(7) Sixty Year Pin (Sixty years a Mason). A gold plated pin that was awarded to 380 brethren between 1951 and 1963 when it was discontinued.
(8) Seventy Year Bar (Seventy years a Mason). From 1960 to 1963 six awards were made. Once again the practice discontinued.
You probably see a pattern that all the medals and bars were discontinued in 1963. This was because in 1963 the Grand Master noted that the recipients of these awards were elderly and for the most part unable to come to lodge and display the medals. So all medals and bars were cancelled and lapel pins were given out as they could be worn outside the lodge. However pressure from members brought back the 50 year medal in 1971.
Now for some record breakers. The Mason with the longest service in Canada (not just Ontario) is Shuniah's own Brother John A. Walker (1865 - 1971). Initiated into Shuniah Lodge on 16 Dec 1889 and died 22 Feb 1971. He was a Mason for 81 years, 2 months and 6 days.
The world record for a Mason is Brother John J. Ray (1845 - 1952). His total 84 years and 2 months a Mason with Gravel Hill, Tennessee.
Brother Charles McCue (1756 - 1870) of Ingersoll, Ontario has an unconfirmed record of 94 years as a Mason.
We cherish the memory of our elder Masons who have passed on, but don't discount the living! They have the experience that we can draw on.