ABREVIATED HISTORY OF HARMONY LODGE No 325 (1946-2016)

Harmony Lodge came into being following World War II. There was a resurgence in Freemasonry when returning servicemen wished to join a men’s organisation. At that time Thistle Lodge No 113 was enjoying a massive membership to the stage that they could not cope with the numbers. There was a long waiting list for initiation and then there was the added problem of enthusiastic brethren waiting for promotion.

In July 1946, a meeting of Thistle Lodge past masters was held to consider forming a second lodge in Ashburton under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand. There was already a second lodge in Ashburton, Ashburton Lodge No 1811 EC, under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of England.

The past masters then decided to call a general meeting of Thistle Lodge brethren and all brethren present agreed with the proposition and also that a minimum of 20 brethren be available as foundation members. In August 1946 the brethren of Thistle Lodge confirmed their sponsorship of a new lodge under the New Zealand Constitution. This was supported in a practical way by payment of 100 Pounds of which 75 Pounds would go towards a general fund and 25 Pounds as the nucleus of a benevolent fund.

Suggested names for the new lodge were brought forward: “Balmoral”, “Victory”, and “Hakatere”. “Harmony” had previously been suggested but it got lost. However it resurfaced due to the harmonious approach of all concerned in the venture. The wheels were turning and in due course the lodge became Harmony Lodge No 325 on the Register of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand.

The dedication Ceremony was held in St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Havelock Street, Ashburton on Saturday 9 November 1946. The Consecrating Officer was MW Bro EC Smith GM who was assisted by RW Bro EJ Guiness Dep GM, VW Bro Rev Canon AH Norris PG Ch, VW Bro HC Hurst GDC, and W Bro HR Bennington G Org.
At the completion of the ceremony the Consecrating Officer handed over the control to the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Canterbury, RW Bro JG Duncan, for the Installation of Bro John Davidson and the Investiture of his Officers.

Grand Lodge, Provincial Grand Lodge and District Grand Lodge EC then retired and a short business session was completed. The final matter was a proposition for membership from Mr Ross Edmond Argyle, the son of W Bro George Argyle of Thistle Lodge and a foundation member of Harmony Lodge.

The first regular meeting of Harmony Lodge No 325 was held on 3 December 1946 in the two-storied wooden building which stood in what is now the ATS storage yard in Havelock Street and almost opposite the present Ashburton Masonic Centre. The business session was one of acknowledgement for all the assistance that had been given during the Constitution by the Church and the R.S.A. which was the venue for the refectory proceedings. Harmony Lodge also formally adopted the Grand Lodge of New Zealand Trustees Act 1903 and appointed five trustees. They were W Bro RD Cochrane and Bros H McC Copland, RA Burnett, WA Henderson and MD McDowell. W Bro Cochrane became DC but none of the other trustees ever took office in the Lodge.

Harmony Lodge was immediately into Degree work. Their first candidate was a member of Thistle Lodge and he was followed by a brother from Lodge Erewhon No 200. Then, following the ballot for Mr Ross Argyle, he became Harmony Lodge’s first real candidate. Membership continued to grow at a fast rate and there was also a large attendance of visitors at Lodge meetings. Following the initiation of Ross Argyle, 137 brethren sat down to supper.

The three Ashburton lodges formed a close association and visited each other on a regular basis. What made this confusing to outside visitors was to recognise who belonged to which Lodge and to make matters worse was when the visitors toast was proposed in the Refectory the brethren of all three Ashburton lodges stood. It was then decided that there should be one official visit per year of the three local lodges when they would formally be received. There was also a special toast in the refectory to the visiting lodge to which the visiting WM replied. 

Harmony Lodge very quickly formed a close association with Corinthian Lodge No 321 in Christchruch and The Mackenzie Lodge No 93 in Fairlie. In early 1947 an annual  exchange of gavels was introduced on a home-and-away basis with both of these lodges. Corinthian Lodge had a special gavel made for these exchanges but for some unknown reason a special gavel was never introduced for the Mackenzie Lodge exchanges. When Corinthian Lodge was amagamated with two other lodges in Christchurch to form The Millennium 2000 Lodge No 465 the gavel exchange was continued. Then the Millennium 2000 Lodge was closed and some of its members, mainly from the original Corinthian Lodge, joined the Avon Shirley Lodge No 185. in 2014 a new relationship was formed between Harmony Lodge and the Avon Shirley Lodge with exchange of gavels and the original gavel still in use.

Another association of lodges was formed during a meeting of all Canterbury Worshipful Masters in Christchurch and there were seven WM's who never met as their lodge meetings were all held on the First Tuesday of each month. They very quickly decided to have one meeting a year at each other's lodge. This was very successful for many years until one lodge decided to change its meeting night and two others fell by the wayside. At the time of writing there are still four lodges which meet on a regular yearly basis. They are The Lodge of Unanimity Sumner No 3 (used to be Lodge of Unanimity No 3); The Lincoln Lodge No 33; Lodge Tawera No 188; and Harmony Lodge.  

Harmony Lodge is also a member of two other groups that meet annually. They are The Selwyn Group and the Midland District No 28 Group. The Selwyn Group includes all lodges in the Selwyn District plus the Mid-Canterbury lodges. In recent years the Mid-Canterbury lodges were re-grouped as members of the Midland District No 28 centred in Timaru. Other than Lodge Erewhon No 200 which had always been a member of the Midland District, this was a major change for the Mid-Canterbury lodges that had been members of the Canterbury District since their inception.     

NOTE: The late W Bro TG (Mac) McPherson PGTyr wrote the original 50th Jubilee and his work is acknowledged here. This abbreviated version includes the following 20 years until 2016. The editor is sure that it will change in due course but it is a start.