Dwelling together in unity
For years, Elroy Ratteray waited for someone to invite him to join the Freemasons, not realising his brother Vincent was a high-ranking member.
The secret men’s society grabbed his attention at a funeral it organised for one of its members.
“I was really impressed,” said the owner of Elroy’s Laundromat in Pembroke. “I thought, that is something I could get into.
“I’m a people person and the lodges are people helping people. A lot of my friends had joined the lodge, but they don’t advertise for you to come in.”
In 1983, when he was finally invited, he learnt his brother had been a member of Abercorn Lodge in Hamilton since the 1960s.
“It turned out I was supposed to approach him about joining,” said 79-year-old Elroy who, like his brother, has achieved the rank of very worshipful brethren.
Vincent was only too happy to help him become a member of Hannibal Lodge in St George’s.
Like Abercorn Lodge and Garrison Lodge in Warwick, it falls under the umbrella of the Irish Freemason’s constitution.
Four many years, the brothers, along with 33 other members from the three Irish lodges, founded Friendship&Harmony Lodge in Warwick.
Having four lodges made it possible to then establish a provincial lodge so that certain laws and procedures could be determined locally, rather than in Ireland.
The founders will be honoured at a banquet next week.
Vincent’s nephew, George Smith, will be among those who attend.
The 53-year-old started helping out at lodge functions at age 11, but resisted joining for a long time, thinking it was for “old guys”.
“I wasn’t ready,” he said. He joined Friendship&Harmony in 1997.
Now a master in the society, he thinks there is a lot of interest from younger people, but not always for the right reasons.
“People think that if you join the lodge the whole world is your oyster,” George said. “That is not the case. There is a lot of work involved. There is a lot of work in the ritual that you have to learn, if you want to progress.”
Wendall “Shine” Hayward said the Freemasons’ volunteer work is likely their best kept secret.
Members have painted homes for seniors, mowed lawns and raised money for various charities without seeking public recognition for their efforts. “I guess the secret is out now!” he said. “Now you know.”
Vincent, a former prison officer, is also involved in one of the Freemasons’ umbrella organisations, the Bermuda Shrine Club.
It’s taken 14 burn victims from Bermuda for treatment at Shriners hospitals in New York.
Vincent has personally escorted eight children there.
“It is very satisfying when you see them and they are well and grown up,” the 83-year-old said.
Meanwhile, Shine, a musician and teacher, said the benefits to being a Freemason include friendship, networking and mentorship.
As such, he said, many people decide to join thinking it might do something for them, when it is “better to think about what you can do for the lodge”.
Relationships extend to lodges all over the world.
Elroy recalled how once, in Guatemala, he noticed two men elbowing one another and looking at him.
It made him a little nervous, but they soon approached him and asked a question that was a special code indicating they were Freemasons.
They said they’d noticed the ring on his finger and offered to take him anywhere he wanted during his stay.
“I can’t tell you what that question was,” he said. “It’s secret.”
The Friendship&Harmony Lodge Founders’ Appreciation Banquet takes place March 7 at the Hamilton Princess&Beach Club. Tickets, $133, are available at www.bdatix.bm. All are welcome. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-9092
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