Masons mark major milestone

Graham Wrigley, the Grand Master of New Zealand Freemasons, left, with Howick Masonic Lodge Master Kerry Otto. Times photo Chris Harrowell

The leader of New Zealand’s Freemasons was on hand to help the Howick Masonic Lodge and its members mark a significant milestone.

Grand Master Graham Wrigley travelled from his Christchurch home to the lodge in Highland Park Drive to attend its 75th anniversary celebrations on October 28.

The occasion drew more than 100 Freemasons from across the Auckland region.
Wrigley is only the third grand master to visit the east Auckland lodge in its history.

“You get significant milestones in Freemasonry and 75 years is a very good record to achieve,” he told the Times.

“It prepares you for the next 25 years when they will have their centenary, which is the next big affair.

“It’s very doubtful any of the founding members are still here, but newer members feel some ownership that the lodge has achieved this milestone and it is acknowledged.”

Freemasonry describes itself as a “brotherhood of good men meeting and working in harmony, teaching strong moral and ethical values in personal, family and community behaviour and a code of caring for others”.

The organisation has been in existence internationally for hundreds of years.
New Zealand’s first lodge was formed in 1842.

Wrigley says the celebration on October 28 was to include the unveiling of a plaque acknowledging the 75th anniversary, a talk on the lodge’s history, and a report on its activities and charitable projects.

Several Freemasons were also scheduled to be promoted to higher ranks and the night was to end with a shared meal.

Wrigley says people often enquire about the “secrets” of Freemasonry.

He takes it as an opportunity to discuss the organisation’s many charitable and philanthropic works.

“We fund the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland which does major research into Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.

“We fund cancer research at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research [in Wellington] and we fund child health fellowships at Otago University.

“We’re very strong in philanthropic activities in this area and have done a lot of projects supporting the community. We do that under the radar.”

Freemasons take part in rituals, which they are sworn to keep secret, behind closed doors at their lodge, Wrigley says, but it’s not involved in conspiracies, despite what Hollywood may depict.

“The integrity of the Freemason is to take an obligation to obey the laws of the country.

“They are there to uphold the laws of the land and the loyalty that goes with it.

“The secrets tell other Freemasons what level you are in Masonry.”

Wrigley says he became a Freemason as both his father, grandfather, and uncles were also.

“I took the view that if it is good enough for them then it’s got to be good enough [for me], so I came into the craft that way.”

He’s got a lot out of belonging to the organisation over the years.

“It’s the fraternal brotherhood and friendship you get when you meet like-minded people.

“Freemasons don’t engage in politics or religion so you’re on neutral ground.

“We have great respect for someone else who is a Freemason.”

Howick Masonic Lodge Master Kerry Otto says with more than 200 lodges around New Zealand, it’s a “rare thing” to have a visit from the Grand Master, especially as Wrigley lives in the South Island.

“This was his first visit to Auckland so it attracts a lot of attention amongst the Masonic community.

“Lodge Howick was in the spotlight and I think we showed what a strong lodge we are, even after 75 years.”