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Winter 2020

Sir Thomas White Lodge and Chapter No. 1820

Just when we have at least three OMTs lined up to join the Lodge and two to join the Chapter – being the first “new blood” for a few years – we are still being frustratingly restricted in our ceremonial activities. Just when we were hoping to start moving forward again, the “Rule of 6” intervened and so we will just have to be patient a little longer. We are at least operating in a limited manner and keeping everything on the boil, ready for the “off” – likely to be in the spring of 2021.

Over the summer we lost the school lodge meeting (always a very special occasion) and the summer Chapter meeting as well as the family Bar-B-Q. Ingenuity and imitativeness however came to the fore and through the efforts of the Lodge Secretary, Richard Wyndham-Smith (1969-74) he managed to arrange for the September Lodge meeting to be held as scheduled. Richard has since reported as follows:

“the September meeting did take place but under slightly strange conditions. Instead of being held as usual up at St James’ in London, a dispensation was obtained to hold the meeting at the old chapel in South Stoke which is in the grounds of the Malt House where a certain Peter Parr-Head (1945-48) resides. It is required to have at least 5 present to form a quorum but of course under the Covid rules no more than six, socially distancing, are permitted to meet. The meeting comprised 6 members and was a short convivial meeting to deal with outstanding business and was then followed by an excellent shepherd’s pie cooked by Peter’s daughter Amanda.

It was very apt that the meeting was held in South Stoke at Peter’s home as due to his age and health issues he feels it may be the last Lodge meeting he will attend although he has no intentions of resigning from the lodge. He has been a stalwart member of the Sir Thomas White Lodge since his initiation into the Lodge on 19th March 1959.  I do not know if  anyone else has had a Lodge meeting held at their home , but it seems fairly certain they probably have not had the last Lodge meeting they attend at their home, but we are in strange times at present and holding meetings in London is difficult and we wait to see what the situation might be, come December and our next meeting! In the meantime we have several OMTs waiting to come into the Lodge but due to the Covid restrictions we are unable to proceed and give them a warm welcome with a decent dinner afterwards, but hopefully times will change and we will be able to return to meeting and being able to raise money for charities”.

Neil Richards (staff 1987-2008) is now hard at work organising a similar meeting in November for the Chapter. This is expected to take place in London and will cover just the essential administrative maintenance that will take us forward into 2021. As with the Lodge, the Chapter has two OMT’s waiting to come in and it is exceedingly frustrating not to be able to conduct these ceremonies.. Provisional planning for the Chapter centenary celebrations next year are continuing but it is too early at this stage to confirm whether or not we will be able to proceed as planned or to slightly delay the celebratory dinner.

One of the traditional/treats of the Sir Thomas White Chapter is our snuff box. This sadly however has had a rather chequered past. Chapter records are rather sketchy and it is believed that the original box was donated sometime around the 1970’s by Harry W Fisher. As is also traditional this original box was “lost” and a replacement was obtained during Roger Southcombe’s year as First Principal in 1992. True to form this second box also “went missing in action” sometime in 2015. Not satisfied with this sate of affairs, Roger Southcombe (1954-59), Keith Griffiths (staff 1975-96) and Peter Cox (1958-62) decided that a third box be purchased. This third edition has been suitably engraved in the hope that should misfortune befall it then some super sleuth should be able to repatriate it to its rightful owners. It was formally presented to the Chapter in June 2018 and as befits most OMT traditions, the three benefactors, now known as the “Three Sniffers”, meet annually for the most convivial of lunches. Rules and the East India Club have been the venues thus far.

Following the launch of the new Lodge and Chapter website at the beginning of 2020 we received an email from Chris Younger (1955-60) a former member of the Lodge and who had been following our news and he wrote with the following update:

“Despite being 18,000 kms away, I have always tried to keep in touch with “happenings” at MTS and with the OMTs and familiar names pop up from time to time. Funny that you should mention Roger Southcombe who was one of my closer buddies at school along with dear Drum Blowfield (RIP) who helped me into Sir Thomas White Lodge – sadly for such a brief time before I headed overseas. Roger was a part of our group which probably did unjudgeworthy (is that a word?) things around Pinner and Northwood from time to time. Someone told me that Roger had been appointed to the Bench and I did look him up on Mr. Google. Famed for the Ryanair case!!!!

In NZ we are in the same boat with Covid, although I must say that it has been handled very well over here. We were locked down totally for about 6 weeks from the end of March and since then the borders – being an island helps – have been  closed to all but returning New Zealanders. Masonic activities resumed in July but have shut down again as a small but controlled second wave of Covid  has appeared. All being well we will be back to something like normal in a week’s time.Our Lodge (Te Awamutu Lodge 2221EC) is part of the North Island NZ District of UGLE. There are some 25 English Constitution lodges in the North Island and a lesser number in the South Island – a separate District. I have sat in the Chair

I still miss the wonderful fraternity of the OMTs but NZ is a great place to live, work and, in fact, retire. I regularly get invites from the Head Master to afternoon tea at the school and I am tempted to make a final trip to the UK to coincide with the next invite. I haven’t been back since 1981 and had settled for remembering the country as it was – not seeing it as it has become. Who knows? I got your follow up this morning – please pass on my regards to Tony Wright and Rodney Pelham – and anyone else who memory goes back 50 years! Yes, I played cricket with Tony for many years and I think we managed the Thames Tour together for quite a while – happy memories. Rodney was a rugby man, far better than I and I am sure I never made the higher levels of OMT rugby. Thanks again for writing, I will try to keep in touch and, just maybe, visit next year”.

It is really quite gratifying to receive news like this, helping to show that Freemasonry really is Universal.

It is not really practical to list our forthcoming meetings at this stage as we await further instructions from the Government and our Masonic Rulers but we are always delighted to hear from anyone wishing to know more about our work and the fun we have doing it, be it from existing Freemasons or those who would like to know more. Please visit our website at www.omtmasons.org.

(This article was originally written in October 2020 – subsequent events have not been included!).

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