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Gatooma Lodge No. 4638, Zimbabwe

Laying the Foundation Stone at the Masonic Temple of
Gatooma Lodge No. 4638,
Zimbabwe .

by

Trevor I. Harris

Gatooma Lodge No. 4638, Eastern Constitution, was founded in 1924 in what used to be called Southern Rhodesia. After independence, the country changed its name to Zimbabwe , but unlike many colonial lodges which moved to England when its home country became independent, it remained in the country of its formation.

Gatooma Lodge soon decided that it needed to build its own Masonic Temple, and by a remarkable coincidence, when the time came to lay the foundation stone for the new Masonic Temple, it coincided with the Royal Visit of the Prince of Wales to Southern Rhodesia. Just by chance, the Prince of Wales also happened to be the Provincial Grand Master of Surrey. This was just too good an opportunity to be missed.

Travel arrangements having been organised, when the great day came the lodge was opened at 8.30 in the morning, with no less than 39 lodge members and 41 visitors present. The dispensation from Grand Lodge permitting the Brethren to wear Masonic Regalia during the ceremony was read in open lodge.

After this the lodge was called off and everyone, save a few brethren left behind to make a few last minute finishing touches to make sure that everything was ready for the ceremony, made their was to the railway station to greet the Royal train.

At the front of the procession were W. Bro. Thomas M. Fitt, the W.M., and W. Bro. G. Munro the IPM. At 10.15 the Prince of Wales arrived to a formal greeting. the Prince then drove to the site, and after stepping down from his car was greeted by a Royal salute from

the cadet band from Salisbury High School.

All three then passed bareheaded down the double row of brethren, with the officers of the lodge accompanied by His Excellency the Governor of Southern Rhodesia following.

They arrived at a dais on which were seated Past Masters from the union and from all districts of Rhodesia .

Bro. Fill welcomed the Prince with the following greeting. “In the limited time at our disposal this morning, may I be allowed, on behalf of the Freemasons of Rhodesia, respectfully to offer you a warm and cordial welcome, and briefly to express our loyalty and devotion to you, not only as our prince and heir to the throne of this great Empire, but also as our well-beloved and R.W. Brother.

We are delighted to have this privilege of meeting you, and we are exceedingly grateful to you for graciously consenting to officiate at this ceremony. We also feel very highly the honour you confer on the Gatooma Lodge, and are justly proud that the home of the Order in this town will be distinguished by its association with your illustrious person for all time.

We trust you may long continue to take an active interest in our ancient and honourable Institution, and we wish you long life, happiness and prosperity, secure in the love, loyalty and devotion of all the people of the Empire. I have now great pleasure in asking your Royal Highness to see the foundation-stone of this Masonic Temple well and truly laid”.

The official medal, with the Prince of Wales’s feathers on the ribbon

After descending from the dais, the Prince, accompanied by the W. M. and his officers, proceeded to the foundation stone of the new Masonic Temple, and in the cavity in the lower stone placed a bottle containing a copy of the Salisbury Herald, the Gatooma Mail and a lodge summons of the days date, and a selection of coins comprising the following values- 1/4d, ½d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 2/-, 2/6d, 10/- and a Sovereign.

A copper plate with the inscription 10th July 1925 was then placed over the cavity by the Secretary of the lodge. The Junior Warden, Bro. W. A. Richard, then handed the silver trowel to be used in the ceremony to the W. M., who then handed it to the Prince of Wales, asking him to accept it as a memento of the ceremony.

Using the trowel, the Prince of Wales then applied cement to the lower stone, and the upper stone was then duly lowered into place, with the assistance of Brothers McBean and Dobson. The Prince of Wales then tapped the stone with the Lodge Maul, saying “W. M. and Brethren, I thank you for your welcome, and I assure you it gives me great pleasure to meet you all, and I have much pleasure in declaring this stone well and truly laid”.

The Union Flag was then unfurled by the acting Junior Deacon, Bro. Bond, to the accompaniment of a fanfare of trumpets by the cadets. The Secretary, Bro. Dobson, then read aloud the inscription on the stone, which said “Gatooma Lodge 4638, EC. This stone was laid by H.R.H. Prince of Wales, KG, P.J.W., Provincial Master of Surrey, 10th July 1925.” The ceremony was closed with a benediction by Bro. The Rev. H. Heriot-Hill, the acting Chaplain, from Chelsea Lodge No. 3098, London.

The W. M. then presented his officers to The Prince of Wales, who said he would like to meet everyone present. The brethren lined up and The Prince of Wales walked up the line shaking hands with everyone. He then asked “Is there anything else you would like me to do"? At this, the Tyler came forward with the attendance book and kindly requested the Prince of Wales to sign it, which he did. The Secretary also requested the Prince of Wales to sign a photograph of himself dressed in his regalia as Senior Grand Warden, which he did.

The Brethren then re-formed themselves into a double line stretching from the Foundation Stone site to the road, and the Prince of Wales then walked down it, to where his car was waiting, while the cadets played another salute, followed by loud cheers from the Brethren and the many members of the public also in attendance. The car drew away to the sound of three very loud cheers by his valet in full livery.

After the Royal Train had departed, the Brethren returned to the lodge room for the completion of Masonic Business. The Brethren and the many distinguished visitors then retired to Speck’s hotel for luncheon, under the presidency of Thomas Fitt, the Worshipful Master. Bro. Fitt then proposed the usual Masonic toasts, The King and the Craft, The Grand Master, The Prince of Wales, and the visitors.

After the Worshipful Master gave the toast to the visitors, one of several visitors replying, Bro. T. S. W. Shaw, The Provincial Grand Deacon for Ireland, , said that he hoped that the temple would give as much pleasure to the Brethren as it had to the visitors.

He added that he had seen many Foundation-Stones laid, including one by Lord Roberts in Pretoria where the procession was a mile long. He added that he also had the pleasure of seeing one laid by The Duke of Connaught in 1910. He then thanked the brethren of Gatooma Lodge for the splendid reception afforded to the visitors.

Bro. J. De L. Nimmo, the Past District Grand Director of Ceremonies, added that he had been present at the laying of the Foundation Stone for the Masonic Temple for the Alan Wilson Lodge at Bulawayo, and the he had also seen Gwelo Lodge consecrated 24 years earlier.

At that ceremony, the Bulawayo Brethren had travelled a distance of 118 miles by coach, at a total cost of £300. He added that although he had only travelled a distance of 20 miles today, it had been equally as tough for him owing to the state of his Tin Lizzie!

Bro. George Munro, Gatooma Lodge’s IPM, then proposed the toast to the Worshipful Master, saying that they were very proud of the honour conferred on them, and that they were also very proud of their Worshipful Master, who was an enthusiastic Mason, and that they had a lot to thank him for.

In responding, Bro. Fitt thanked the Brethren, and said that he had done his best for Gatooma Lodge. He added that it was the Lodges first year in existence, and that they would endeavour to conduct themselves on the high principles of the craft. Their one object was to admit men who would bring credit to the lodge. In conclusion he called for the Tylers toast, which was given by the Tyler, Bro. Crowther.

The ceremony had proved to be a brilliant success, and would live in the memory of everyone present for the rest of their lives. Thanks to the dignified yet natural manner of His Royal Highness the entire proceedings went smoothly, without mishap or nervousness, and thanks must be given to Bros. Bichard, Rowlands, Brading Bond, Richie and Dobson, as well as to the building contractor, Mr. J. W. Smith, who spared neither time nor trouble in ensuring that everything went smoothly.

Gatooma Lodge has since changed its name to Quartus Lodge, retaining the number 4638, and still meets at the Masonic Temple in Gatooma, which is now called Kadoma. Since independence, Southern Rhodesia changed its name to Zimbabwe . A special Masonic Medal was struck to commemorate the occasion.