The Freemasons Victoria’s Smythesdale branch, Prince of Wales Lodge No. 40, recently held a unique event to welcome the community into their fold. They provided an open invitation to the public to experience firsthand the operations of their organization and dispel any misconceptions about the Freemasons being a secret society.
The Smythesdale branch, which has a membership of 27, unveiled the nearly 130-year-old building they operate from to the public for the first time this past weekend. The Master of the Lodge, Bill Stephens, presided over the proceedings, underlining that the objective was to introduce the public to the workings and principles of the Freemasons.
Stephens emphasized, “We want to clarify that we are not a secret society. Today, we extend an invitation to everyone to come and witness firsthand what we do at the Lodge. Not many people are aware that we offer two annual scholarships to the local primary school, and our Freemason taskforce helps in disaster management during fires, floods, and more. We also provide grants to organizations in need. We serve the public, and it’s essential that more people know about this.”
The event, called the “Ceremony of the Vacant Chair”, was the first of its kind to be open to the public. This ceremony honors those who have lost their lives in wartime conflicts. The event included a briefing by Stephens on the various roles of Lodge members and the seating arrangements within the Lodge.
Following the ceremony, attendees were invited to the supper room for tea and biscuits. A speech was delivered by Ron Fleming from Ballarat Legacy during this gathering. Former Master and current Lodge member, Gavin Myers, commented that the event would help enlighten people on the Lodge’s history and its building.
Myers recalled, “We originally met at the Courthouse Hotel across the street. But in 1906, our building was erected, and we moved here. In the past, each meeting required setting up and packing down, but now, with a purpose-built facility, our history is proudly displayed on these walls.”
The Freemasons plan to host more such events in the future, with the dual purpose of introducing the public to their work and understanding how they can support local organizations better.