Author, Arthur Richards, introduced his book “The Centennial Story – The History of Freemasonry in Queensland over the first 100 years” by quoting:
“The story of Freemasonry in the State of Queensland cannot fail to arouse pride and satisfaction. A study of the first century of the Craft in this Sovereign British Territory is, in effect, a study of a great effort in pioneering. The men whose names appear in the records as foundation members of individual lodges throughout the State were in many cases the men who cleared and settled the virgin lands, and helped push the roads and railways northward, into the tropics and westward across the plains. They were among the first merchants and traders, lawyers, builders, doctors, writers, legislators and labourers. In their efforts to spread the Craft of Freemasonry, they met and overcame difficulty without parallel in any other area of the world.”
The following can only be a synopsis of a now 1859-1999 period of activity and development of Freemasonry in Queensland. This may better be digested as an historical highlight, chronological review.
The first recorded active steps to establish Freemasonry in Queensland available to us, were taken in the State’s foundation year, 1859. The inaugural meeting of the Lodge, named North Australian, No 1098 on the English Register, was held on July 13, 1859, in the Lodge Room of the Freemasons’ Hotel, Albert Street, Brisbane, at the hour of High Twelve. The original minute books for this Lodge survive and are held in the archives at Masonic Memorial Centre, 311 Ann Street, Brisbane.
A small meeting of Ipswich residents who were members of the Craft was summoned and agreed to form a Lodge under the English Constitution. After due procedural formalities, Queensland Lodge, No 1223 E.C. was consecrated.
Active steps were taken in Brisbane for the formation of a second Lodge in the metropolitan area. A meeting of a number of brethren in the then City Council Chambers initiated what became Prince of Wales Lodge No 1210 E.C. also under the English Constitution.
A group of Freemasons in Rockhampton came together, agreed to forward a Petition for formation of a Lodge under the English Constitution. Subsequently we see established, Leichhardt Lodge No 1234 E.C.
A meeting of brethren interested in the establishment of a Lodge of the Irish Constitution occurred in Brisbane. In due course a Charter was issued with the Lodge adopting the name St. Patrick Lodge, No 279 I.C.
The first Lodge in Queensland formed under the Scottish Constitution was named Lodge St Andrews No 435 S.C. Then, Lodge Caledonian No 456 S.C. was formed in Ipswich with an inaugural meeting in 1866. Throughout the 1860’s there was steady progress. January 1864 saw the first public Masonic Ceremony in Queensland. The Mayor of Brisbane had requested the Provincial Grand Master to lay the Foundation Stone of the New Town Hall with full Masonic Honours. Artefacts from the Time Capsule and two detailed stones with Mason Marks are treasured items in the U.G.L.Q. Museum, 311 Ann Street, Brisbane.
The creation of central District Authorities was compelling if only from the viewpoint of administrative efficiency. A Provincial Grand Lodge was readily agreed to by the United Grand Lodge of England. It became effective in December, 1862. The Provincial Grand Lodge in Queensland with approval of Grand Lodge of Ireland was inaugurated in September, 1866, The formation of a Provincial Grand Lodge of Queensland with the sanction of Grand Lodge of Scotland is not as clearly defined through the loss of relevant records. However it is reasonably believed inauguration occurred in April, 1866.
The development of the Fraternity had also resulted in the erection of the first central city Freemasons’ Hall at the corner of Albert and Ann Streets in 1875; subsequently the Albert Street Methodist Church.
1886 saw the erection of a Masonic Temple in Alice Street as the central city headquarters.
It was inevitable that the idea of Masonic self-government should take root. Other Australian States had already embraced Sovereign Grand Lodge bodies. The debate for consensus in Queensland was protracted. At an Installation Ceremony on October 1904 the birth of the Grand Lodge of Queensland became effective, comprising all Irish and some Scottish Constituted Lodges in Queensland. Complete consensus had not been achieved; all English and some Scottish Constituted Lodges in Queensland had remained loyal to their U.K. Grand bodies.
The desire of the brethren in Queensland to promote unity continued. 1920 saw questions of unity resolved. Lodges of English and Scottish Constitution still linked with their U.K. Grand bodies formed a Queensland Grand Lodge thus preparing the way for negotiations with the existent Grand Lodge of Queensland.
The inaugural meeting of The United Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Queensland was opened at 7.30 pm, April 21, 1921 at the Exhibition Building, Brisbane, in the presence of about 2000 Freemasons. The capacity of the Albert Street premises was now overtaxed and an early project of the newly formed U.G.L.Q. was the building of a new Masonic Centre. This realised the Ann Street Masonic Memorial Centre, to function as a memorial to Brethren lost in World War I, an administrative centre as well as a central city meeting facility for lodges. The building was opened in 1930 in spectacular ceremony.
New Guinea Lodge No. 292 was consecrated at Port Moresby under the U.G.L.Q. Constitution. Others followed during the years to 1939. U.G.L.Q. acceded to a petition from lodges in North Queensland forming the District Grand Lodge of North Queensland centred at Townsville.
A request from lodges in far North Queensland to U.G.L.Q. resulted in the formation of District Grand Lodge of Carpentaria, centred at Cairns.
The intervening years through the great world recession saw continued consolidation and growth of the Fraternity in Queensland. Benevolence was particularly notable, with assistance to Aged Masons, Widows and Orphans. Schooling and Home for boys was operational for a period. Bursary grants for school children was introduced and developed.
Whilst lodges in New Guinea closed in the face of Japanese advances, masonic clubs were formed in many areas throughout the region. A notable history is recorded and archived at Ann Street, Brisbane, of this social activity among freemasons now servicemen, both Allied and Australasian. Known as M.I.N.G. -Masons in New Guinea- they provide valid evidence of the brotherhood of men expressed in Freemasonry.
The cessation of hostilities of World War II and the assimilation of servicemen into civilian activities saw notable adjustments, giving an added purpose to life’s endeavours. One resultant effect was a very rapid increase in membership to Freemasons Lodges. This also created an impressive increase in the number of additional lodges consecrated.
Dawns with the 75th anniversary of the formation of U.G.L.Q. and 137 years of continuous development of the Craft of Antient Free and Accepted Masons in Queensland. The post World War II years 1945 -1996 are within the living memory of the majority of existing members. Development and some decline are recorded and recognised. Many notable, high profile, public spirited men have embraced Freemasonry developing a memorable heritage for the State of Queensland and its people. A great many have contributed for the good of Freemasonry in general, providing a history worthy of the ideals we embrace having participated in the three distinctive ceremonies.