St. John’s Day Celebration

The following description of the St. John's Day Festival of 27 December, 1870 appeared in The Far East Gazette of 5 January 1871. Although Lodge Star in the East was not founded until 1879, this description furnishes a fascinating glimpse into Masonic activities in nineteenth-century Yokohama.

The great Masonic festival was celebrated on the 27th ult., by the fraternity in Yokohama assembling in the Yokohama Lodge, at the Masonic Hall, at 6 P.M, to hear an address on the nature and objects of Masonry. Comparatively few of the brethren knew that such an address was to be given, but imagined that the opening of the Lodge was simply for the purpose of joining formally in the gathering, preparatory to the banquet, which was announced for 8 o’clock, in the International Hotel. Many, therefore, went to the Hotel direct, and missed a very excellent and interesting lecture. However the Lodge was quite full, and the brother who delivered the address had a good and attentive audience.

An adjournment from the Masonic Hall to the International Hotel followed, and at the latter place, at “8 o’clock sharp,” nearly 80 brethren sat down to a most excellent dinner. It is no small praise to Brothers Curtis and Whymark, the proprietors of the hotel, to say that for this large number, the preparations were perfect. There was neither crowding of the guests at the tables, nor of the servants in waiting. The attendance was good, and the dishes, from first to last, were served hot, and with all the accompaniments. The President was the W. M. of the Yokohama Lodge, as the senior of the two local Lodges—Brother Rains. But with excellent taste and good feeling, at his side sat Brother Mitchell, the W. M. of the Otentosama Lodge, and they divided the proposal of toasts that fall to the W. M. between them. The usual Masonic toasts were given, and responded to with fervour; and after each, the Band of H. M. 1/10th Regt., which had performed during the dinner, played short and appropriate strains. Many of the toasts were followed additionally by vocal music; in which Brothers Vernede, Crane, Furniss, Dowson, Drummond-Hay, R. Brown and Black took part.

The Worshipful Masters, Brothers Rains and Mitchell, were exceedingly judicious in the manner in which they proposed the numerous toasts falling to them, expressing themselves tersely and to the point, and each returning thanks for his health being drank, in a few pithy but well chosen sentences. Brother Rothmund in returning thanks for the officers of the Otentosama Lodge, remarked on the gratifying aspect presented by this banquet, at which there were certainly more than a tenth part of the community, and yet there were very many brothers who had not been able to attend. Most of the speeches alluded to the pleasant manner in which the local Lodges worked together—several brethren belonging to both; and the members of each being frequent and welcome visitors to the other. And in proposing the Grand Lodges working under other constitutions than the English, Brother Mitchell asked the numerous representatives of such lodges present, to convey to their parent Grand Lodges, the assurance that the brethren of all were ever welcome at the Yokohama Lodges.

To the toast of “The Ladies,” Mr. Drummond-Hay replied most felicitously; remarking that whilst ladies felt grateful to Masons for the affection accorded to them, there were two things they could not well understand—the one, the pertinacity with which every Mason keeps the Masonic Secret; And the other, the extraordinary fashion of wearing an apron. As fashions change, there might be a hope of seeing the adoption of ladies’ attire on a more extensive scale, and probably at no distant day, the brethren of the mystic tye might come to be distinguished by their Grecian Bend and Chignon!! But the most interesting speech of the evening was that made by Brother Jaquemot, in returning thanks for “The visiting Brethren.” He related an incident that came under his notice when he was a very young Mason, 22 years ago. At that time, war was working its cruel way in Germany—Germans against Germans—but, as ever, involving others. A young Swiss had managed to become embroiled, and was taken prisoner. He was cast for death. He was a freemason, and interest was made by his Lodge to save his life. The Grand Master of the district was appealed to, and knew of no other way of aiding the object than through the Masonic tye. He could not appeal to the general, as such, or his officers—for the man had been legally adjudged to die. He therefore appealed to the Grand Master of the German Lodges—who made but an inauspicious reply. The night before the execution was to take place, the captive observed, much to his surprise, that the guard was not so close as usual, and the idea occurred to him to make an attempt to escape. He succeeded. A few months ago, in returning to Japan from Europe, via New York, Mr. Jaquemot met the condemned in that city. He told him that he had ascertained that the guard had been purposely arranged so as to allow of his escape; and he was now a free citizen as well as a freemason in the United States, indebted for his life and freedom to the fraternal impulses of—William 4th, the present King of Prussia.

When the toasts and musical arrangements of the programme were ended, “promiscuous harmony” as the W. M. Brother Rains happily termed it, commenced. Then came the two songs of the evening—one by Brother Jaquemot; and more especially one by Brother Allard who sang “L'éclair” with a sweetness and expression rarely heard among amateurs. Bro. Crowningshield being called upon, played some Minstrel Melodies very tastefully on the guitar; and Brother Ebert played on the Pianoforte an excellent selection of melodies from Spohr, and this was followed by a recitation by Brother Schmid from Byron. We have never attended a public banquet, at which were no professional musicians, where so much that was good in the way of music was presented; and where temperance and thorough enjoyment went so strictly hand in hand. From first to last the spirit never flagged, and when the brethren dispersed, there was not one but could say that as they had been happy to meet, they were sorry to part, and would look forward to next St. John’s Day when they might hope it as happily to meet again.