Bro. John Phillips, a student at the University of Leicester, who joined the Wyggeston Lodge as a Freemason during his first year of studies recounts his recent visit to a very special Lodge
“When I was asked to propose a toast to the visitors a few weeks ago, I admittedly, had yet to actually visit another Masonic Lodge. Every month I’d listen to my fellow Brethren stand up at the Festive Board and talk of the importance of visiting. I have had plenty of conversations about excellent trips to Lodges, with all their differing nuances, all the charming characters and the new friendships that had been made, but I had yet to take it upon myself to do the same.
On the first Tuesday in September 2015 however, that changed when I visited Magna Carta Lodge No.8017 in my hometown of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. My Grandfather had gone through the chair of Magna Carta Lodge in 1990, a year before I was born, and though he died in 1998, his time in Masonry was what spurred me on to want to join and carry on that legacy. Because of this, I was certain I wanted his former lodge to be the first that I visited after becoming a Master Mason. Consecrated in 1967, the lodge recently celebrated its 400th meeting, a testament to the passion and commitment that has earned Magna Carta such a strong reputation.
Going alone, I wasn’t sure what to expect. A few years ago I might have felt slightly daunted, but one of the greatest things I’ve already taken from being a Mason is a confidence to walk in to new situations without a worry. If you can stand up on the night of your Initiation and give a speech to a room full of men you’ve never met before, then what can’t you do? I soon found that visiting Magna Carta Lodge was like being welcomed by old friends, except it was, of course, the first time any of us had met. The older brethren were keen to regale me with stories of my Grandfather, and the younger ones were keen to show that his old Lodge was in good hands. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the anecdotes that involved the ‘good old days’ of the bar staying open until 3am!
Although that night it was the installation of the new Worshipful Master, and there being a staggering 32 guests from 20 different Lodges in attendance, certainly not bad for a charmingly small sugar-town in Suffolk, I was sincerely moved to find myself the recipient of a toast to my Grandfather, 17 years after he passed to the Grand Lodge above. With the work I do with First World War history and archaeology, it is often said that to speak the name of one of the millions of soldiers that perished, is to allow them to live again for that small moment. If there is any truth in that sentiment, then W.Bro. Mark Gaskin, my Grandfather, lived a short lifetime at his old Lodge on that warm Tuesday night, something that meant the world to not only me, but also to my Mother, whom accompanied her Dad to his Ladies Night in 1990, alongside his other five, proud daughters.
After being welcomed so warmly, I truly understand the importance of visiting in Masonry. It is often called the life blood of the Craft, and I now know why. I can not recommend enough that younger Masons and members of Universities’ Scheme Lodges experience the friendship and camaraderie that is awaiting them.
A special thanks goes to Lodge Secretary, W.Bro. Nick Melero for being so accommodating with his invite. I look forward to visiting Magna Carta Lodge again and to welcoming members to the Wyggeston Lodge in the near future.”