An impressive 125 years of history of our town are reflected in the photos which line the walls of Dannevirke's Rawhiti Lodge No 66, the home of our local Freemasons.

Consecrated on November 20, 1890, the Rawhiti Lodge will celebrate its 125th anniversary along with New Zealand's Grand Lodge, in spectacular style next month.

"Before 1890, all New Zealand lodges came under the United Kingdom constitution, but there was a real hue and cry, so the New Zealand Grand Lodge was formed in 1890, with our Rawhiti Lodge one of the founding lodges on the constitution," Paddy Driver, the master of Rawhiti, said.

Graeme Evans (left), district grand master, Paddy Driver, the master of the Rawhiti Lodge, John Peryer, the right worshipful divisional grand master, and John Henricksen, district grand director of ceremonies, are looking forward to celebrating 125 years of Dannevirke's Rawhiti Lodge No 66. Photo / File
Graeme Evans (left), district grand master, Paddy Driver, the master of the Rawhiti Lodge, John Peryer, the right worshipful divisional grand master, and John Henricksen, district grand director of ceremonies, are looking forward to celebrating 125 years of Dannevirke's Rawhiti Lodge No 66. Photo / File

Since it began, the lodge has held its monthly meeting on the third Tuesday of each month; a time selected because of the phase of the moon.

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But the choice wasn't because of any ritualistic reason, Mr Driver said.

"So many of the members rode their horses to lodge meetings, the moon allowed them to see their way home afterwards, especially if they'd had a whisky or two. In those days, there was some secrecy about what went on at the lodge, not even the wives knew what went on. But not today, because when you keep things quiet people get suspicious and they start making things up and we like to include our wives when we can."

While plans for the 125th celebrations are well under way, Mr Driver is busy making sure Lodge 66 is looking great for the event, with the Grand Master and deputy Grand Master attending the celebrations.

The front of the building is being painted, including the pillars installed 125 years ago, along with the photo corridor. Old photos, which had been stapled to the wall, are being framed, with Mr Driver taking this on as a personal project.

"All our photos, which line the walls, are a history of Dannevirke," he said.

Today, Rawhiti Lodge has 21 members and membership is growing. In its heyday, 100 men belonged to the lodge, including at one stage Prime Minister Keith Holyoake.

"Nowadays people are busy and the lodge isn't everyone's cup of tea," Mr Driver said. "But we have a lot of fun and being a lodge member is about looking after the good of mankind.

"However, I don't think a lot of people here realise how important this lodge is to the history of our town, with one of forefathers, Mr Robertshawe, a founding member."

Part of the spruce-up of the historic lodge is being carried out by Ron Ashford, of Ronz Furniture Hospital. Mr Ashford is giving the parquet flooring in the lodge a clean which could take up to five days.

"Fortunately, when this floor was laid in the 1940s, Dannevirke's Bob Boswell recorded the history of its construction. I've never come across anything written down like this before and it's incredibly helpful," Mr Ashford told the Dannevirke News.

Mr Ashford said the parquetry work has been done by master carpenters.

"It's in brilliant nick," he said. "The only finish on it is bees wax, so I'll be able to clean it using a light abrasion and then put more wax on. In terms of the wood work, it's been very finely executed, with the joints still tight."

The floor, which replicates the one in King Solomon's Temple, has symbols recognising the stonemason's work, including a ruler and hammer.

Mr Boswell began work on the lodge floor when he returned from World War II in 1943, with walnut and oak used to construct the intricate parquetry, which is 9mm thick with tasellating on the corners.

The history of the Freemasons dates back to the 1700 and the Knights Templar (a group of Christian warrior-monks formed in 1118 AD to help protect pilgrims) when stonemasons were building cathedrals in the United Kingdom. The advent of bricks saw a large number made redundant and their organisation was born.

And although not a lot has changed, the organisation is often misunderstood.

"We're an honourable organisation, not aligned to any political party and there are no religious barriers," Mr Driver said. "Our rituals go way back, but we promote friendship and work in the community doing projects locally, as well as providing money for research at Otago University."

One of the highlights of the 125-year celebrations will be the presentation of a 60-year service jewel to lodge member Frank Beckett.

-The Freemasons will have a stand at the Hawke's Bay Home and Garden Show at McLean Park, Friday, October 30, to Sunday, November 1.