Whanganui's Freemasons celebrated in style last Wednesday morning when The Petre Lodge turned 25.
The daylight lodge not only had the District Grand Master, VW Bro Gordon Walker, and the Grand Master, MW Bro Mark Winger in attendance, as well as a large contingent of Grand Lodge officers and visiting Freemasons, but a special guest took pride of place.
Worshipful Brother Ian Smith, recently turned 100 years old, took the chair of King Solomon to conduct the ceremony, a second degree working on a candidate supplied by United Whanganui Lodge.
The former train driver joined Freemasonry in 1958, being initiated in New Plymouth Lodge 432.
"It's long gone," says Ian.
After that he joined a succession of lodges.
"All the lodges I've joined at different times ... the whole lot have failed.
"I must hold the record on that score." He had been Master of Kimbolton Lodge. Ian currently holds office as Inner Guard at The Petre Lodge.
His 40-year railways career started in Whanganui, but he moved around to Hawera, Taihape, Tauranga, back to Taranaki and retired 40 years ago after a stint at Palmerston North.
WBro Colin Making, Past District Grand Master, is sitting Master of The Petre Lodge, but he moved aside for Ian for the day. The ceremony was attended by representatives of lodges from Whanganui, Auckland, Manawatu and Rangitikei, with a member of Lodge Whangamomona in attendance. A number of Railway Craftsmen were also there to honour Ian.
After the initial lodge business, receipt of visitors, greetings, reports and comments from the chair by the District Grand Master and the Grand Master, Ian was aided to the Master's Chair and was handed the gavel to control the lodge.
From there he breezed through the ceremony, reciting the ritual in a strong, clear voice, taking the candidate through the working and leaving a strong impression on the well-attended lodge room.
Visiting Masters of other lodges, conveying their formal greetings during the closing of the lodge, expressed what an honour it was to be part of such a special meeting.
"An historic occasion," said one.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, members' wives were invited into the lodge room to hear WBro Alan Davies speak on the history of The Petre Lodge, after which Grand Master MW Bro Mark Winger, with the assistance of two Fellowcraft Freemasons, presented Ian Smith with a letter from him as Grand Master, expressing his personal best wishes and congratulations for what he had achieved and respect for what he had done for Freemasonry.
He also presented a commemorative medal to Colin Making to celebrate 25 years of The Petre Lodge.
He says his use of the new members of the Craft was to emphasise that while they are right to celebrate the lodge's 25th birthday and Ian's 60 years' of Freemasonry and 100 years' of life, there is much more for Freemasonry to accomplish.
"It's a way of looking forward and while recognising what we've achieved to date, there is so much more yet to come."
Everyone then retired to the refectory to continue the double birthday celebrations.