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An examination gone wrong

06 October 23

This interesting little story was taken from Revelations of a Square, written by the Reverend Bro G Oliver DD and published in 1855 by Richard Spencer.

‘We had once, a rich scene in our lodge, during Brother Dunckerley’s mastership, which carries with it a useful lesson, and ought not to be disregarded,’ proceeded my gossiping companion, who, like the barber in the Arabian Nights, would not suffer anyone to talk but himself. ‘A stranger presented himself as a visitor, was examined, and admitted.

He proved to be of a respectable standing in society, although on the present occasion he lent himself to the perpetration of a very disreputable affair; and the Right Worshipful Master, with all his tact and discrimination was very nearly outwit­ted. An ancient law of Freemasonry provided that no visitor, however skilled in the art, shall be admitted into a lodge unless he is personally known to, or well vouched and recommended by some of the brethren then present.

Many occa­sions arose in which it had been deemed expedient to remit the strict observance of the rule, and such had been the case in the present instance. The intruder, however, had not occupied his precari­ous position more than five minutes, before a venerable brother called aloud – ‘It rains!’

‘Brother Dunckerley’s presence of mind did not forsake him in this emer­gency, and he gravely demanded of the visitor, – Where were you made a mason?’ The answer was at hand, ‘In a lodge at the King’s Head, Gravesend.’

‘This reply betrayed him; the daw was stripped of his borrowed plumes. The brethren rose simultaneously from their seats in some degree of unnecessary alarm, like a flock of sheep in the pres­ence of some strange dog. The intruder was perplexed; he saw his error, but knew not the remedy: and when the Right Worshipful Master quietly observed: ‘Now sir, will you be kind enough to favour us with your version of the story,’ he replied, in the language of Canning’s Knife Grinder: ‘Story! Lord bless you! I have none to tell! I was anxious to see a lodge of brethren at work; and one of your seceding members furnished me with answers to a few questions which he said would be pro­posed in the Tyler’s room, and for a frolic I was determined to test their truth, as, at the very worst, I could only be rejected, which I did not conceive would be either a disappointment or a disgrace; for to say the truth, I scarcely expected to gain admittance into the lodge.’

‘What was to be done? The dilemma was pressing, and various opinions were  proposed and discussed, while the delinquent was securely locked up in the preparing room, and left in darkness to his own disagreeable reflections. The confusion in King Agramante’s camp, so well described by Ariosto, where one said one thing and another, the reverse, may convey some idea of the consterna­tion which issued. All spoke together, and the reins of authority seemed to have been unnaturally snapped asunder, for the R.W.M. had retired with his Wardens behind the pedestal, leaving the brethren in the body of the room to denounce or threaten at their pleasure; and their objurgations were rather amusing than otherwise. One or two young members, in the exuberance of their zeal, thoughtless and ill-judging, like sailors at the prospect of a wreck breaking open the spirit room, jumped upon the benches, like Victor Hugo’s scholars in Notre Dame, vociferating, – “Out with him! Down with the intruder! Turn him out!”

Others were more moderate. One brother observed, in a deprecatory tone of voice: ‘He ought not to have been admit­ted.’ A fat brother, with a red face peering from beneath his periwig and queue, who had not taken the trouble, amidst all this excitement, to move from his seat, quietly asked, ‘Who examined him?’ And others, acting under the impulse so universally displayed by the young men on the bench, were clamorous that the watch should be called in, and the intruder transferred to the roundhouse.

‘Meanwhile, Bro. Dunckerley had matured his plan, and having ascended into the chair, and given the signal which appeased the tumult, and brought every brother to his seat in a moment, he said: “Brethren, – I need not tell you that we are placed at this moment in a situation where a false step may involve not only this lodge but the whole Craft in unknown difficulties. It was the maxim of Socrates, – it is well to punish an enemy, but it is better to make him your friend. Now we must not content ourselves with asking who examined him? Or why he was admit­ted? For he is actually amongst us; and it is too late to prevent the intrusion. And if we were to adopt that worthy brother’s advice who recommended him to be turned out, the matter would not be greatly mended; – the principal difficulty would still remain. I con­ceive, therefore, that the wisest course we can pursue under these untoward circumstances will be, to use our best endeavours towards converting this temporary evil into a permanent benefit, as the bee extracts honey from the most poi­sonous of flowers, by transforming the unworthy cowan into a worthy mason. For this purpose, I propose that – if his station in life be not objectionable – the provision of our bye laws respecting the admission of candidates be suspended in this single instance, and that he be initi­ated on the spot.”

‘The proposition was regularly seconded by the Senior Warden, and was unanimously agreed to: and the intruder was again introduced by the senior E.A.P., for we had in our lodges at that time, neither Deacons nor Inner Guard. The R.W.M. first exam­ined him as to his residence, trade and respectability of character; and these inquiries being satisfactorily disposed of, the question was pro­posed, whether he would adopt the alternative of being made a mason, to avoid the disgrace of being posted as an impostor.

‘He said that nothing could be more acceptable to his wishes. In fact, it was the very proposal he intended to make himself, in atone­ment for his error, and as a means of wiping away his disgrace.’ He accord­ingly received the first degree; and not only proved an excellent and zealous mason, but in due course rose to the chair of his lodge.

The book The Revelations of a Square is available from your Library, for borrowing.

The expression ‘it rains’ is usually uttered in discussion of lodge matters outside the lodge when a non-mason approaches so that the conversation is terminated and non-lodge matters discussed instead.

The E.A.P. refers to the Entered Apprentice Pursuivant who controlled the entry of E.A.F.s into the lodge. The role is today normally performed by the Inner Guard. Grand Lodge has perpetuated the name Pursuivant in their name for the Grand Lodge Inner Guard.


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