A bold and unique move unfurled on November 20 in the Beenleigh Masonic Centre. A clarion call had gone out to lodges near and far to rally around to Save the Duke. The positive response was most gratifying. Duke of Leinster Lodge No 8 has a long distinguished history in Queensland having been founded only five years after the Crown colony’s separation from New South Wales.
On display in the green-lit lodge room were three warrants; the inaugural warrant from the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 1864, the Grand Lodge of Queensland equivalent from 1904 and – since 1921 – the current warrant from the UGLQ.
With the Lodge room full of smiling faces and old friends meeting each other again with shouts of joy, a passive observer would be forgiven for thinking that the Lodge has always been this merry. Sadly however, the last few years haven’t been kind to Duke of Leinster Lodge.
The majority of the Duke’s ageing membership either resigned or retired following a tough 2020. A series of curious resolutions by Grand Lodge saw Queensland’s oldest surviving Irish Lodge without a home to call its own. Many of the members left after frustrations surfaced following Ann Street’s hasty decision to sell the Stones Corner Masonic centre without any consultation with the Lodge or the Queensland masonic community as a whole.
Faced with the all-too-real prospect of losing the Duke for good, Worshipful Master Neil Herdegen was left with few options and little choice but to seek an urgent remedy to the dire situation facing the Lodge.
Fortunately for the Duke, the luck of the Irish was smiling upon the Lodge.
UGLQ Irish Lodge, Theodore Unmack (so named in honour of Duke of Leinster Lodge Past Master Theodore Unmack), in conjunction with fellow Irish Lodge Beenleigh-based Southern Queensland, intervened to lend a helping Masonic hand and aid their old sister in distress.
With Theodore Unmack Lodge graciously agreeing to help out with the Duke’s future work when and where necessary and Southern Qld Lodge kindly offering accommodation at the Beenleigh Masonic Centerfor gratis, Neil Herdegen, together with the few remaining Duke brethren, decided to relocate, knowing that the true spirit of Irish Freemasonry is alive and well in Beenleigh.
According to Neil Herdegen, the Duke’s newly-invested IPM, “in short, the highlight is that our Irish Lodge friends stepped up to help us when we most needed help”.
“The remarkable part of the Duke’s revitalisation is that our Irish Lodge friends at Theodore Unmack and Southern Queensland offered virtually unlimited levels of assistance to keep the Duke story going strong.” he said.
“Knowing that our Masonic friends will always be there to help made the decision to keep the Duke alive so much easier.
“I think the assistance of these Lodges should be acknowledged at least for history’s sake.
“Both Geoffrey Peddler from Theodore Unmack and Paul Kranen stepped up to assist when the Duke was down and out. To me, this is the great part of the saga. Irish Lodges coming together to help each other without expecting anything in return, for the good of the Craft and its members”.
“This is real Irish Freemasonry in action,” said Immediate Past Master Herdegen.
The Duke of Leinster Lodge No 8 on the register of the United Grand Lodge of Queensland has now morphed into a day lodge which, for the time being, will meet bi-monthly. It is hoped that the daylight format may encourage Masons who have difficulty driving at night and who may be busy with work and family to return to Lodge and enjoy a more relaxed and inviting format along with a few laughs a drink or two and a good meal.
The Lodge also hopes that providing a more convivial atmosphere will provide members with more time to engage with each other in more meaningful ways which represent the true Irish-inspired Lodge experience for which Duke of Leinster Lodge has traditionally been famous.
Taking a leaf out of Thespian 268s book, the new Duke of Leinster Lodge will welcome ladies/partners and widows to all festive boards.
The new Duke will Tyle at 11.00 a.m. on the fourth Saturday each second month in the Beenleigh Masonic Centre. Festive boards will conclude before 03.00 p.m. allowing members and visitors safe day-time driving on their return.
The Duke Installation for 2021/2022 term was a polished and professional affair led by RW David Gray PDGM as Installing Master and RW John Ellsworth PAGM as Installing Director of Ceremonies. Master Elect Paul Kranen, an electrician of note, has added a subtle modern touch to the vintage Lodge by adding voice-controlled LED lighting to the room which can easily be programmed to suit any meeting. Not surprisingly, the Duke installation was baking in a sea of green, later repeated at the festive board.
The small band of installed officers, Paul Kranen as WM; Don Matherson as SW; youngster Jeromy Pollitt as JW is augmented by talented and multi-tasking Neil Herdegen as not only IPM but also Secretary/Treasurer.
What Duke of Leinster lacks in numbers is more than amply compensated by enthusiasm for the task ahead and associated challenges along the way.
The Duke’s installation was testimony of Irish Freemasonry’s strong survival instinct and never-say-die attitude.
With two keen Fellowcrafts preparing for Masonic progression, a number of approved new candidates awaiting their admission to the Craft, well qualified affiliates and a good supply of prospects ready in the wings, it’s a safe bet that the oldest Irish Lodge has a bright future at Beenleigh.
Noted one visitor, “We have a duty to support struggling lodges. If it was my lodge I would hope Brethren would come to my rescue. That is why I’m here today.”
The visitor’s sentiments resonated well with the other thirty-five visitors from a myriad of UGLQ lodges. Noted another visitor, “I feel this is a very special occasion where we all band together to continue the Duke’s 164 year history…”
These positive comments continued at the catered festive board through a series of spirited speeches and a traditional Irish Lodge lecture on the 4th Degree presented to the Duke’s new IPM Neil Herdegen which included a novel explanation of the knife and fork’s role in the Duke of Leinster Lodge with some insightful parallels between eating dinner and enjoying life well lived.
With such enthusiasm and support the Duke’s brethren can be assured that their impressive warrants shall not whither, encased in cobwebs, in the dungeons of Ann Street, but shine with pride throughout a new golden era for an old Irish Lodge .– Stig R. Hokanson