Although the District Grand Lodge of the Far East only came into being on the 7th August, 1958, its history dates back through its predecessor, the District Grand Lodge of Scottish Freemasonry in Hongkong and South China, to the 3rd November, 1904.
The area of the District has in fact not been defined by Grand Lodge, but it can be assumed to cover those Countries in the Far East in which Scottish Lodges are situated, and which are not within the territory of the District Grand Lodge of the Middle East.
There are in fact nine Lodges in the Far East, four in the British Colony of Hong Kong, two in Japan, one in the Republic of Korea, one in the Philippines and one in China. At the time of writing Lodge Perla del Oriente No. 1034 which works in Manila in The Philippines is under the direct control of Grand Lodge, and Lodge Cosmopolitan No. 428 which works in Shanghai, China, has of its own request decided to remain dormant during 1961 in the hope that it may be in a position to re-open later with a larger membership. This Lodge is also at present under the direct control of Grand Lodge.
The District covers a land area of 220,517 square miles, but if we added The Philippines and China to this figure it would increase it to over 4,500,000 square miles, which would surely make it the largest land area covered by any District Grand Lodge in the world.
The headquarters of the District are situated in Hong Kong. The distances involved in visiting Lodges in Japan and Korea are considerable. For instance Hong Kong to Tokyo is 2,062 miles by air, the equivalent of the distance from London to Nicosia (Cyprus). For the District Grand Master to visit Lodge 498 in Kobe he travels over 4,200 miles. This is the equivalent of a Provincial Grand Master in Scotland travelling to Chicago, or alternatively making a return trip to Naples.
A short history of the District appeared in the 1960 Year Book of The Grand Lodge of Scotland, and histories of Lodge Han Yang No. 1048 and Lodge St. Andrew in the Far East were published in the Year Books for 1953 and 1955 respectively.
The development of freemasonry in the Far East is an interesting study. It is recorded in the Engraved List of 1768 that the Grand Lodge of the Moderns sanctioned in 1767 the formation of the Lodge of Amity No. 407 to work in a private room in Canton. Unfortunately it is not certain whether a Warrant was ever issued or whether any meeting of the Lodge took place, and in fact the name of the Lodge was erased in 1813.
Lodge Elizabeth was also established in Canton under a Charter from the Grand Lodge of Sweden in 1788 but this Lodge ceased to exist in 1812. No details of its history are known.
Nothing further is recorded until 1844 when the Royal Sussex Lodge No. 501 (then No. 735) was granted a Warrant by the United Grand Lodge of England. Gould states in his “History of Freemasonry” that the Lodge was formed in Canton but transferred to Hong Kong in 1845. However the “History of Freemasonry in Northern China” gives a slightly different story. It says that the date of its first Meeting was 3rd April, 1845 and that it worked in Hong Kong from 1845 to 1847, and in Canton from 1848 to 1858. After a lapse of four years it secured authority to remove to Shanghai and met there for the first time in 1863. The Lodge remained in Shanghai until 1952 when it finally returned to Hong Kong. As the early Minute Books of the Lodge cannot be found it may never be known for certain if this Lodge was in fact first formed in Canton or Hong Kong.
Northern Lodge No. 570 E.C. was formed in Shanghai in 1849, and an Irish Military Lodge, Sphinx Lodge No. 263 I.C. worked in Japan during the early 1860s. The first Lodge to be consecrated in Japan was however the Yokohama Lodge No. 1092 E.C. in 1866.
The first Scottish Lodge in the Far East was not erected and consecrated until 1864. This was Lodge Cosmopolitan No. 428 in Shanghai where also Lodge St. Andrew in the Far East No. 493 was consecrated in 1869. Unfortunately owing to lack of support Lodge St. Andrew in the Far East was dormant from 1874 to 1919. Details of other Scottish Lodges which have worked in North China will be found elsewhere in this Book.
A District Grand Lodge of North China was inaugurated in 1921 With Bro. Brodie A. Clarke as the first District Grand Master. Bro. Clarke was succeeded by Bro. F. G. Penfold in 1927 and Bro. N. C. MacGregor in 1937. Political considerations compelled this District to cease work in 1952 and the Charters of Lodges 924, 936, 1300 and 1382 were returned to Grand Lodge. Lodge 428 continued to work in Shanghai under direct Grand Lodge supervision whilst Lodge 493 was transferred to Hong Kong.
Scottish Freemasonry was established in Japan in 1870 when Lodge Hiogo and Osaka No. 498 was chartered, followed by Lodge Star in the East No. 640 (Yokohama) in 1879.
Lodge Perla del Oriente No. 1034 (Manila) was consecrated in Hong Kong by the District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and South China in 1907.
In 1908 Lodge Han Yan No. 1048 was consecrated in Korea, its petition having been supported by Lodge Hiogo and Osaka No. 498 in Japan.
Such was the development of Freemasonry outside Hong Kong, but meanwhile Scottish Freemasonry was making headway within the Colony and within twenty-four years three Lodges were consecrated in the Colony.
Lodge St. John No. 618 was consecrated in 1878, followed by Lodge Naval & Military No. 848 in 1897 and Lodge Eastern Scotia in 1902. On the 5th January 1904 the three Lodges petitioned Grand Lodge for the formation of a District Grand Lodge, nominating as its first District Grand Master Bro. Dr. Gregory Paul Jordan, a prominent citizen, who had been initiated in the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) No. 1 in 1879, a member of Lodge St. John No. 618, Master of Perseverance Lodge No. 1165 (E.C.) in 1889, a past Senior Warden in the English District Grand Lodge, and nephew of Sir Paul Chater, the R.W. District Grand Master of the English Constitution.
In granting the petition on behalf of Grand Lodge Bro. David Reid, Grand Secretary, approved the appointment of Bro. Sir C. P. Chater, District Grand Master, E.C., to act as Installing Master. In his letter he said that he was pleased to note that there should be so much friendly feelings between the Sister Constitutions and that it augured well for the future of the District. These remarks were more than prophetic for in the years which have since past the Sister Constitutions have always worked in closest harmony.
The District Grand Lodge of Scottish Freemasonry in Hongkong and South China was inaugurated on 3rd November 1904, and under the wise guidance of Bro. Jordan the District grew and flourished. Bro. Jordan held the appointment of District Grand Master until his death on 4th December 1921, when he was succeeded by Bro. Dr. G. D. H. Black from 1922 until 1933. Bro. Black was killed in action in the Colony on 25th December 1941. Bro. E. J. Edwards became District Grand Master in 1932 and held the Office until 1939 when Bro. J. C. Ferguson was appointed.
On 8th December 1941 the Colony was invaded by the Japanese and it capitulated on the 25th December. Most of the brethren were interned either as Prisoners of War in Sham Shui Po Camp or as civilian internees in Stanley Internment Camp.
Despite the deplorable conditions under which the civilian internees existed many informal meetings and classes of instruction were held and masonic church services were held twice yearly up until the end of 1944 when they were discontinued owing to the great tenseness then prevailing.
The Colony was reoccupied by the British Fleet on 30th August 1945. It is interesting to quote from a letter dated 10th September 1945 written to Grand Lodge by Bro. F. C. Mow Fung the District Grand Secretary “The island of Hongkong was completely in the hands of the British Authorities by September 1st, but the transfer of Kowloon, the suburb across the harbour was not effected until the 5th instant, after the landing of 3,000 troops of the Royal Air Force; the New Territories (the area adjoining Chinese territory) have not yet been taken over, and are still being patrolled by the Japanese ........” Yet he went on to make a full report to Grand Lodge informing them amongst other things of the serious illness of Bro. J. C. Ferguson, R.W. District Grand Master, and the fact that only 17 Scottish Masons were left in the Colony. Bro. Ferguson passed away two days later. Many other brethren did not survive the effects of internment or were so broken in health that they were evacuated on hospital ships.
During the occupation Zetland Hall was completely destroyed, and with it most of the records of the District, and all its regalia and furniture. Fortunately the Charters of all Lodges were recovered intact from the vaults of the French Bank on 10th December 1945. Meanwhile rented premises at 11, Ice House Street, Hong Kong, had been secured and were opened on 13th November 1945 but the first Regular Meeting of a Scottish Lodge after the reoccupation, namely Lodge St. John No. 618, was not held until 12th February 1946. Several informal meetings had been held prior to this date, but Grand Lodge had been unwilling to sanction the resuscitation of the three Lodges until assured, to quote from a letter from Grand Lodge dated 19th February 1946 — “that things are sufficiently settled down in Hong Kong and that the Chinese authorities are fully alive to the resuscitation of our Lodges.” This cautious attitude on the part of Grand Lodge together with the fact that they appeared unaware that Hong Kong was still a British Colony was regarded with great disappointment by those who had worked so hard and under such difficult conditions to see Scottish Freemasonry reestablished in the Colony.
Approval was, however, eventually given not only to resuscitate the Daughter Lodges but also District Grand Lodge itself and furniture was made locally, mainly with the assistance of Royal Naval brethren. Lodge St. Andrew in the Far East No. 493 in Shanghai donated 28 aprons to the District as the Lodges in Shanghai had found all their regalia and records intact on returning from internment.
The Lodges in the Colony moved to new rented premises at King’s Building, Hong Kong, in 1948. The new temporary Masonic Hall being consecrated on 14th January 1948.
Bro. A. A. Dand was appointed District Grand Master in 1947 and the District made steady progress towards rehabilitation. Bro. Dand retired from the Colony in 1950.
The year 1950 was to be a very important one for Masonry in Hong Kong. On 30th January the beautiful new Zetland Hall at 1, Kennedy Road, Hong Kong, shared by the three British Constitutions, was consecrated, and on 30th March Bro. David Smith Hill was installed as District Grand Master, under whose rule the District has reached a new level of achievement.
However it was apparent at this time that masonic life in China was slowly drawing to an end and in 1952 the District of North China ceased to exist and Lodge St. Andrew in the Far East No. 493 was transferred to Hong Kong.
Meanwhile our brethren in Japan had managed to re-establish their two Lodges, and, under the leadership of Bro. G. W. Colton in Yokohama and Bro. J. Levy and later Bro. W. Lackie in Kobe, Scottish Freemasonry again resumed full activity. Both Lodges soon realized that their interests would be better served by incorporation within the District Grand Lodge of Hongkong & South China and this was approved by Grand Lodge in 1958. Consideration was immediately given by the District Grand Lodge to change its name and on the 7th August 1958 approval was given by Grand Lodge for the name of the District to be changed to the District Grand Lodge of the Far East. Lodge Han Yang No. 1048, Korea, was incorporated within the District in 1959.
In 1959 Grand Lodge recognised the Grand Lodge of Japan which had been formed two years previously. The first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Japan was Bro. Carlos Rodriguez-Jimenez, former Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Venezuela. In 1941 Bro. Rodriguez-Jimenez, who was then Secretary of Lodge Star in the East No. 640 in Yokohama, managed to include amongst his personal belongings the records of the Lodge when he was repatriated from Japan as a diplomatic representative. These records eventually reached Grand Lodge intact through the courtesy of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia.
The District was honoured by a visit from the M.W. Grand Master Mason, Bro. The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Eglinton and Winton, T.D., V.L., B.A., and the R.W. Grand Secretary, Bro. Dr. A. F. Buchan, M.B.E., B.Sc., Ph.D., F.R.S.E., from the 23rd February to 1st March 1961. Our distinguished visitors attended three masonic functions whilst they were in the Colony, namely a Special Communication of District Grand Lodge held on the 23rd February; an Installation Meeting of Lodge Naval and Military on the 24th February at which Meeting the M.W. Grand Master Mason installed the R.W.M. Elect, Bro. Ong Teong Seng into the Chair of the Lodge; and a Regular Meeting of Lodge St. Andrew in the Far East No. 493 on 26th February, a Third Degree being worked. The M.W. Grand Master Mason expressed his great satisfaction with the high standard of Scottish Freemasonry in the District.
In addition a Cocktail Party was held on the 24th February in honour of the Countess of Eglinton and Winton, the M.W. Grand Master Mason and the R.W. Grand Secretary and it was attended by the majority of Scottish brethren in Hong Kong and their Ladies.
On the 25th February a luncheon party was held at The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, Sheung Shui, which was attended by all brethren and their ladies who were visiting the Colony from Japan and Korea, and in the evening the Chinese brethren in the District entertained our visitors at a Chinese Dinner.
At the District Grand Lodge Communication held on the 23rd February, the M.W. Grand Master Mason announced that he had promoted Bro. D. S. Hill, R.W. District Grand Master, to Honorary Senior Grand Warden, and he also appointed Bro. J. L. Marden, Substitute District Grand Master, Honorary Junior Grand Deacon, and Bro. T. W. Fripp, District Grand Secretary, Honorary Grand Architect. He presented Honorary Grand Lodge Diplomas as Honorary Junior Grand Deacon to Bro. G. W. Colton, Depute District Grand Master and Bro. H. K. H. Long, Past Substitute District Grand Master.
The appointment of Bro. D. S. Hill as Honorary Senior Grand Warden gave much pleasure to all members of the District, and created masonic history being the highest Honorary Grand Rank ever awarded in the Far East. It might therefore be appropriate to mention some details of the masonic career of Bro. Hill. He was initiated in Lodge Ancient No. 49 in 1922, affiliated to Lodge Eastern Scotia No. 923 in 1924 and was Master thereof in 1929–30 and 1930–31. He became a member of District Grand Lodge in 1929, was commissioned as Substitute District Grand Master in 1947 and Depute District Grand Master in 1948. He was installed as District Grand Master on 30th March 1950, and re-installed on 30th March 1955 and 15th March 1960.
Bro. Hill was W.M. of the Paul Chater Lodge of Installed Masters No. 5391 E.C. in 1952 and is a P.G.W. of the District Grand Lodge of Hongkong and South China (E.C.) and also of the District Grand Mark Lodge of Hongkong and South China.
In the Royal Arch Bro. Hill is Hon. Grand Chancellor of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland. He is also Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Hongkong and China, Royal Order of Scotland and Provincial Prior, Provincial Priory of the Far East, of the United Religious and Military Orders of the Temple and Hospital in the Great Priory of England and Wales. He was installed in both of these Offices in 1959.
In addition he is a member of the 32° of the Supreme Council for Scotland, and of the 31° of the Supreme Council for England and Wales, Past Grand Guide in The Order of the Secret Monitor, Past J.G.G. in the Masonic and Military Order of the Red Cross of Constantine and a Past H.P. of the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests.