April 14, 2021

The Betterment of Men & Societies with Secrets | Martin Weekes

The Betterment of Men & Societies with Secrets | Martin Weekes

Do you know an organization, centuries old, that shapes future leaders through being purpose driven, passion sharing and character building?

Where do find leadership, with centuries of proven success, that invests in character raising, purpose drive and passion shaping, for men?

Bullet Points

●        Freemasonry is a contributor to the voluntary sector.  It is an initiatory brotherhood. 

●        Bermuda’s first grand master was appointed in 1743

●        The Knights Templar are credited with starting the International Banking System with their encrypted Letter of Credit

●        Shriners help children in need by providing access to their hospitals and support for their families

Knowledge Bomb

●        Bermuda Masonry impact on the American Revolution (1775-1783) 

Bermuda was only a bystander until the war was going to affect Bermuda’s survival and trade interests.  August 14, 1775 100 kegs of gunpowder from the British arsenal lifted and rowed offshore to American ships. General George Washington (an American Master Mason) later wrote to Colonel Tucker (a Bermuda Mason) suggesting that the additional gunpowder from Bermuda may have been instrumental in the success of his war against the British. 

About the Guest
Martin P. Weekes, Secretary to Lodge St. George, first chartered 1797, and Marshall of the annual Peppercorn Ceremony. Martin is a proud “Shriner” and participates in the May 24th Bermuda day Parade each year. He is currently President of the Bermuda Shrine Club of Mecca Shriners in New York City and can be reached at bermudamason@gmail.com

Useful links:

Lodge St George 

Broad Arrow Lodge

Grand Lodge of Scotland 

United Grand Lodge of England

Peppercorn Ceremony: WebsiteFacebook

About the Show

Podcast Host: Life & Leadership: A Conscious Journey with Michelle St Jane

A podcast for Global and Re-Emerging Leadership creating community/tribe, a circle of influence, transcendency of compassionate leadership in the world and wider universe. A unique destination for learning about Leadership + Conscious Stewardship + Legacy.

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Intro: [00:00:00] you're listening to life and leadership, a conscious journey. The podcast that shares wisdom and strength. Join your host, Dr. Michelle St Jane's weekly conversation on how to have a positive impact for people planet and the wider world. If you want to live a life of intention to be proactive with your time and bring your vision for the future to life one today at a time you were in the right place at the right let's get started.

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:00:38] Martin Weekes joins me today. Freemasonry is a thread that is woven throughout the colorful and intricate fabric of the globe. 

Martin, how did you get into the voluntary association sector? 

Martin Weekes: [00:00:52] Freemasonry is a contributor to the voluntary sector.  It is an initiatory brotherhood. Like a fraternity.

You have to be initiated into it. You're a member for life once you're in.  

How do  you get into it? You have to ask a member of Freemasons. I think that surprised me, because I'd always thought that it was one of these things where someone gave you the whisper and said, “Hey, you know, you can join.”

[00:01:17] For years, I didn't join because I had no idea that I was supposed to go up to someone that I knew who was a Freemason and say, “I'd like to be a Freemason” and it turns out that's what you do. So that's what I did. All of a sudden I’m in Freemason.

Everything is quite old fashioned and takes a long time.  We do things pretty much the way they've been doing them since the 17 hundreds.

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:01:43] Thank you Martin. Yes, Freemasonry goes way, way back. It really does for Bermuda. I believe the first appearance was with the Governor Alured Popple and 1738, who around 1743 became the Grand Provincial Master for the Island. There’s been an amazing immersion to a remarkable level including many aspects of government civic, society and philanthropic engagement.  In fact, many of the powerful influential men in Bermuda were Freemasons, for example.

Martin Weekes: [00:02:17] All of those people were Freemasons all around the world, as long as they were men, because in those days there was no female Freemasonry.  We're in a very different. Place nowadays, of course there is female Freemasonry and there's also, what's known as co Freemasonry where men and women can join.

[00:02:33] But in Bermuda currently, we only have the male version, the old, old version, as you say.  Back in the 1700s was the first time that it really became known here. That was from Freemasons who had come from other places to live in Bermuda. There were no home-grown Freemasons at the time. The majority of Freemasons were over here in the civil service or in the army.

[00:02:59] At the time we had a lot of, a lot of Freemasons operating in small groups and it wasn't until the mid 1700s that someone said, “we should have a lodge here for all the Freemasons that come and go.” 

The first lodge was founded up in the West end of the Island where the Royal Naval dockyard was.  I would guess that it mainly catered to people who were working in the Dockyard and military men elsewhere on the Island.

It wasn't until later in the 17 hundreds that people down in the Capital, in St. George's, for those who aren't familiar with Bermuda’s geography.  That the very furthest point, land wise, from the Royal Naval Dockyard. Someone said “we're fed up with rowing our boat across from one end of the Island to the other,” because that's pretty much the only way you could get around in those days. “Let's have a lodge in St. George's.” 

Do you want me to go on with it the history? 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:03:55] fabulous Martin 

Martin Weekes: [00:03:56] in the mid 1700s, we're talking around the 1780s, the people who were already Freemasons. They were Freemasons from England. Decided they wanted to have a lodge in St. George's. They wrote away to, what was known then as the Grand Lodge of England.  There was a bit of a schism in the Grand Lodge of England later on. At that time there was just the one.  In the letter they said, “we want to have a lodge here in Bermuda.” The letter they wrote was put on the ship and off it went to England.

Months later, they still hadn't heard anything. Getting a little fed up with that idea somebody made a suggestion and I actually have a copy from the archives of the minute of the meeting that they held to decide this. Someone said, “why don't we write to the Grand Lodge of Scotland and see if they'll give us a charter because England doesn't seem to care about us.”

So they wrote to the grand lodge of Scotland. A few months later, the postmaster in St. George's received, apparently going to the legend, two packages. One containing a charter from the Grand Lodge of England for St. George's Lodge and one charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland for a St. George's Lodge.

Rumor, or the legend, if you like, is that the postmaster was a Scotsman. So he produced the Scottish charter and handed it over to the brethren of Lord St. George, as they are now. They took up that charter and became a Scottish lodge. Shortly after a few weeks later, he handed over the English charter, which left him in a bit of a quandary because all of the masons who had joined the new Scottish lodge in St. George's were in fact English masons. 

They now had a charter from England, which would have been their preference. So what they decided to do was the pragmatic thing and run two lodges for a little while. 

I think in 1801, the English Lodge decided to move to another part of the Island, Flatts Village, which is somewhere in the middle. then later on, they moved to Hamilton where they still operate as the Atlantic Phoenix Lodge. 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:05:57] Thank you, Martin. I appreciate you bringing up that Freemasons were members of more than one lodge. I have an example from my historical research with John Fisher, for example, was the Master of Atlantic Phoenix and Master of St. George Lodge No. 266 (now known as St. George’s Lodge No. 200), demonstrating the crossing over of a few other positions of power. 

Yeah. We have all three here, the Irish, the Scottish, and English. Very unusual. Is this done elsewhere in the world. 

Martin Weekes: [00:06:31] You will find that there'll be one or two in most places. You don't always see all three. And in some cases like in The Bahamas you'll see all three and also Prince hall lodges from the States are represented as well. So the Caribbean tends to be a bit of a melting pot for Freemasonry and a lot of that's because it happened very early on because this was a stopping off point for the ships and the troops because they went around the world.

Freemasonry started here quite early. St. George was chartered in 1797. Eventually that's when the actual charter arrived.  It is the oldest Scottish lodge outside of Scotland that still operates. 

 Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:07:11] Interestingly enough, a fellow researcher reviewed Bermuda protests between the years 1725 and 1750 in the Bermuda Archives noted something interesting.

Around the same time, I was looking for when the word ‘freemason’ was first published. A Masonic historian noted the term ‘Freemasonry’ didn't appear until 1755. But in our archives, there was a British sloop called ‘Freemason.’ It was John Adams, the captain, who had filed a protest No. 261 on August the eighth, 1751, clearly demonstrating the use of the word back then.

[00:07:50] That is at least four years before Thomas Godet, a warden for the Bermuda Lodge No. 507 (now known as Prince Alfred Lodge), was the master of the sloop ‘Free Mason,’ which transported refugees (32 French passengers) to New York in 1793 to be exchanged for British prisoners held by the French. That sloop was a frequent visitor to Bermuda and well involved in the Island as well. There are these wonderful little overlaps that, you know, for those of us who love history. 

Talk to me about Freemasonry and Bermuda. How and why did you become involved? 

Martin Weekes: [00:08:33] I'd always been into interested in what, as far as I knew a secret society, was.  So we're going pre Google days because this was the nineties where you couldn't look something up like that, access archives and stuff like that.  It was not going to be an easy thing. I knew it was old. I knew it was historical, and they met in the old state house, which has Bermuda's oldest stone building.  Just to go in there would have been interesting. 

I started asking people, “what do you have to do? How do you, how do you join? What's it all about?” I got told that you can't find out what it's all about until you join.  I put my hand up and said, “let’s find them, let's go. Let's do it.” 

I ‘d tried the Kiwanis and the Rotary Club. And I have to say, I didn't find that to be a lot of fun. I didn't go back.  But Freemasonry, I really enjoyed right from the start and 20 something years later, I'm still enjoying it. 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:09:27] Fabulous. I know there's multiple things that you do and part of it is also philanthropy. Which was how I ended up being involved. I was quite curious to see in my research that in England, they started a Royal Masonic Institution for Girls, established for education early in 1788. According to Masonic historian Brother A. Milbourne the reasons behind it were for maintaining clothing and educating children and orphans of indigenous brethren.

[00:09:59] I see that you have the grant reserve in 1790s that paid an annual subscription of 25 pounds to a highly deserving charity. Milbourne and another Masonic historian R. Gould. The prime object was to support these children of deceased or distressed Freemasons.  A secondary objective was immigration around getting women out to the empire to civilize the men of the colonies 

Martin Weekes: [00:10:32] In the fellowship there are still patrons of those organizations as there's a boys, there's a girls school. There's a Masonic nursing school.  You'll often see pictures of nurses, particularly the ones that are attached to the Royal Family, on their big silver belt which was traditional to be worn of a nurse's uniform in the UK for many years, it's got a Masonic symbol next to the star of David. That's the Royal Masonic nursing college. 

I'm going to say there's a lot of charities there. Like I said, a lot of the English lodges in Bermuda, are still to this day, patrons of those charities and still donate to them regularly. And Scotland has his own charities. Though, they don't have quite the network of homes for the old and children that the English do, because Scottish Freemason is a lot smaller than English Freemasonry. 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:11:27] Did you choose Scotland over England and Ireland? 

Martin Weekes: [00:11:30] For a reason, nope. I didn't know. That's quite common that people, like me, had no idea. There were three different types of Freemason in Bermuda. I just thought it was all one.  I wanted to be in St George's. I lived in St. George's for about 25 years.  I joined not knowing that, as an English man, was joining a Scotty's lodge. 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:11:54] That's true and interesting enough, given we've had an English queen for a lot, a lot more years. I'm sorry. A British queen. I stand corrected a lot longer than we've had a King. I find it really interesting that she is chief patroness of the Royal Masonic institutions and charity.   

Martin Weekes: [00:12:20] We are very much tied in with Freemasonry prior to her Majesty the Queen. Now it's always been a member of the Royal, a high ranking royal member who's been the grand master. The current Grandmaster is the Queen's cousin The Duke of Kent. The previous Grandmaster was Prince of Wales. At the time he became King and handed over the duties because it was traditional that when you became King, you handed over the grand master ship to another member of the family.  But it's always been someone in the royal family. That's the same in a lot of countries in Sweden. The current King is always the grand master Mason. 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:12:56] Thank you. I just love all this history. It's so fascinating. Let's link to Bermuda philanthropy. How are the lodges involved. 

Martin Weekes: [00:13:11] Lodges are encouraged to do its own bit. I mean, for instance, during the COVID situation, Lodge St. George has put on so far to several dinners for anyone who wanted to come and get a three course meal for free. We served, I think, grand total of about 150 meals over the two nights and we're going to be doing it again.

[00:13:32] Even down in the towns are serving out of the kitchen at the lodge and all the other lodges have done similar things in their parts of the Island. Our sister lodge, Somers Isles Lodge up in White Hill, they also did the same thing. Outside of their lodge they fed as many people who willing to come and get the food as, as they could.

[00:13:52] All the lodges in Bermuda also belong to, what's known as the Freemasons Fund for Bermuda, a registered charity. That charity, every year as a board, which is all Freemasons, meet to decide who is going to get the money raised that year. The only caveat is it cannot be a Freemason that gets the money.

[00:14:13] It has to go to people outside of Freemason. We usually split it up between three charities a year.  This year, unusually, we gave all the money to the COVID fund that government had set up to try to help people who are struggling because of the COVID situation. Normally we would give some to PALS, some to Outward Bound or Raleigh, some to the Women's Resource Center or Sunshine League, those kinds of things, usually we split it up. Give a few thousand to each. This year we gave everything to the COVID fund.

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:14:50] This has been going on a long time. I actually see that Lodge St George has been giving over the centuries. I'm going back to a document dated the 1810, I think, where there was money gifted to education St. George's Grammar School, for example, when a new teacher had to be found, they provided the salary of 120 pounds. That was a [00:15:15] serious amount of money. 

Martin Weekes: [00:15:17] that's not unusual anywhere in the world where Freemasonry exists. You'll see lots of charitable giving. In the UK, is this become more of a big business. There's a whole charity wing. They supply ambulances, in the form of helicopters. Sponsored fire trucks where local authorities have been unable to buy a new fire truck. There's an awful lot of big spending going on in the UK from the equivalent of the Freemasons fund here in Bermuda.

[00:15:46] We also send money each year to the Grand Almoners Charity of choice. This year was for prostate Scotland. We sent a bunch of money to them from Lodge St. George. We also do our best to support the hospital whenever they need little things, particularly for the pediatric ward. We've given to a number of other local charities.

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:16:07] I thank you because this has been going on since the end of the 18th century. That is a huge amount of 300 years of giving. Which is amazing. 

I'm interested in talking to you about the Royals. Their visits to Bermuda. I know your guestbook has some fabulous comments, 

Martin Weekes: [00:16:27] The Masonic Bible that is. We know we purchased it in 1797 but it was printed in 1794. It's a very large volume and on the inside from pages where a number of blanks. They'd used it for, as you say, a guest book. High ranking Masonic figures have signed it when they visited. We have one page that is just the current Royal family.

The Queen signed it in 1952, along with Prince Philip. Since then, Prince Charles, who came in 1974 when the State House was rebuilt to its the original specifications. The old state house we're talking about. They rebuilt it to look like the original old state house. Prince Charles presided over the rededication and he signed the book then. Since then, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward have both signed it.

[00:17:20] We haven't got any of the younger ones to sign it yet.  But we're hopeful on future world visits we managed to get them up to the lodge and to sign our Bible. 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:17:28] The children are her ambassadors, aren't they?  

Martin Weekes: [00:17:36] Currently Prince Phillip and none of the children are currently Freemasons. The grand master, as I said, is a member of the Royal family and he's getting on. At some point, someone else younger will have to take that role and it may well be one of the, one of the princesses we don't know yet. 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:17:54] Tell us about the Peppercorn Ceremony?

Martin Weekes: [00:17:58] In 1797, we get the charter and Lodge St. George is meeting in people's front rooms and upstairs at the White Horse Tavern and various other places.  At the time was a quite common way to do it. Most lodges around the world didn't have their own buildings. They would rent somewhere or use somebody place and they would set up the lodge within that room. This started to become more the norm to have a standalone building for Masonic purposes. As the lodge got some money together they purchased a lot of property, probably 1810 we're talking now. About 15 years after we started, they purchased a lot of property in the town of St. George's. Next door to where the current supermarket is for those who know the town was St. George. They did have this beautiful engraved cornerstone, which was laid with Masonic ceremony.

[00:18:58] Then they set about starting to raise the money to raise a building on that spot. In 1815, the decision was taken by the Government of Bermuda to move the capital city from the town of St. George's, where it had always been, to the city of Hamilton. The newly created city of Hamilton and make that with Capitol.

[00:19:16] Now, at that time, the old State House had been the center of the town business. It was the town hall. It was the courts. It was a place where you had functions. It had been a barracks for soldiers and a store for gunpowder. It had been everything to everybody, but it was still being used as the seat of government for the Island. But then they decided they were moving the capital.

[00:19:37] The seat of government went with that. All of a sudden you had this building that had been everything to everyone, and it was going to be empty. The governor at the time was a Freemason. Yeah, we should put that out there. He made the decision that to offer it to Lodge St. George as a meeting place so it would still be used. The lease required one peppercorn, which in those days was quite a normal thing. And it's still legal terms. As you will know in a trained lawyer yourself, a peppercorn rent is still a thing. You know, it means you just have a $1 transaction, 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: It's valuable consideration.

Martin Weekes: [00:20:21] There's the word. In those days, peppercorns actually had quite a lot of value. Although less valuable now. I mean, you can go down to the supermarket and buy a pot full of them for a couple of dollars.  But you certainly couldn't in those days, you know, peppercorn was something that you had to have imported.

[00:20:38] So anyway, one peppercorn was set as the rent in perpetuity. As long as the Corporation of St. George was the holder of that lease for the Lodge. We have held that lease and met in that building now since 1815.  Every Tuesday, following the full of the moon is when we meet. The thought of the moon thing we think was originally done because people still had to get there by boat. You could row across the Harbor a lot easier when the full moon was out. So they start with the Tuesday following the full of the moon there'd still be enough light for people to travel easily to, and from the Lodge. 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:21:20] A lot of wisdom. Moonlight. I used to live on one of the islands in the Great Sound. Once, my mother was visiting and she wanted to go to Bingo at Spanish Point and there was no Moonlight.  I was trying to line up with the lighthouse and ended up in a Bay ringed in rocks by mistake. And I just backed out hoping not to go aground.  Fortunately, I hadn't gone off course.  But I'll tell you, after that experience I had a lot of respect for nights with no moonlight.

Martin Weekes: [00:21:50] We don't meet on the same night, obviously because people as you mentioned earlier, were master of both lodges.  John Fisher was the first Master of Lodge St. George. 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:22:07] I'm going to move on to the Knights Templar. I will probably pop a chart in my notes of how the structure looks.

Martin Weekes: [00:22:16] I might have to send you something. 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:22:19] I want to make sure it's correct. With Freemasonry lodges here evolving over the 18th century with the hierarchy moving up, they needed the Knights  Templars Preceptory. Basically following the American revolution, 1765 to 1783, there was an extraordinary growth in the fraternity including the American fraternity as well. 

Could you just update us on what's happening with the Knights Templar 

Martin Weekes: [00:22:47] Knights Templar, in the masonic sense is a what we know as a side order. You can progress through various different orders and in Freemasonry. When you join Freemason, you join as a first degree Freemason and entered apprentice Freemason.

[00:23:04] You can then do the second degree and the third degree, which is the highest degree in regular Freemasonry. The third degree, that's a Masonic term and it's fallen into regular language. But anyway, three degrees in Freemasonry, you can then opt to go into other degrees in other orders. 

The first one you're allowed to join is called the Holy Royal Arch. Which is the four, fifth and sixth, then there are the Mark degree. There is the cryptic council degrees. There are the allied Masonic degrees. There's the Scarlet core degrees there as the Royal Arch Mariner degrees. There's also the Knights Templar degrees and there's Knights of Malta and the Knights Templar itself.

[00:23:53] That's a very shortened version of the full name, which is the Masonic. I can't even remember the whole thing. It's been a while since I been to a Knights Templar meeting. But it is one of our side degrees. You have to be a professed Trinitarian, Christian to join. So it's not open to all Freemasons.

[00:24:10] A lot of those ones I just listed off are also restricted to the Trinitarian Christian faith. But there are plenty of other orders you can join without being a Trinitarian Christian. Knights Templar is one of the higher degrees. In years gone by, you would have had to have jumped other hurdles gone through other groups.

[00:24:28] If you like, in order to join you, couldn't just become a master Mason.Which is the third degree, and then suddenly join the Knights Templar. But things have changed and nowadays can join most side orders reasonably quickly in your Masonic career. But there's an expectation that you know what you're doing because we are an initiatory society.

[00:24:47] There is a lot of ritual involved, aside from what we do in philanthropy. How meetings consist of a lot of ritual and all that ritual has to be learned by rote. You can't read, it has to be remembered. You have to memorize everything. You have to be able to demonstrate that you are skilled in this area.

[00:25:05] It does do amazing things to your brain learning Masonic ritual. When I joined, I was 37 years old and I remember coming into my first meeting and listening to these guys and thinking, where are they reading this all from? And realizing that they were doing it from memory. I'm thinking I'm 37 years old. I'm never, ever going to be able to do that. 

They start you off right at the start with having to learn things in order to progress to the next degree. But as it went on, it actually trains your brain. All this stuff about you can't teach an old dog, new tricks, utter rubbish. My memory and ability to remember and recite things perfectly has increased dramatically since I've joined the Freemasons. And it's helped me in so many ways in my life, you know, go into a job interview and have a certain amount of things you want to say. You don't have to write them down in front of you cause you can use what they call a memory palace and put it in your head.

[00:25:59] Use it and it increases your ability to be able to speak publicly. To be able to speak off the cuff on topics that you know, something about without having to constantly look down at a piece of paper. 

In my day job, that's been very useful for press conferences and chairing meetings where I don't have to constantly look at notes. And it's the skill I've developed through being a member of Freemasons lodge. 

Getting back to the Knights Templar. They wear a lot of interesting clothing. You know, there's lots of pageantry involved. I think that's why a lot of people join the Knights Templa,r for there is connections with the original Knights Templar.

[00:26:35] There's a lot of current writing out there and that you can view that would suggest that all of our Masonic rituals are derived from. The ritual is practiced by the Knights Templar in the 1300s prior to their suppression, because there's an awful lot of missing information after they were suppressed in France.

[00:26:57] Then other countries, Scotland was one of the few countries in the world that said, “no, we're not doing that.” And it is thought that a lot of Knights Templar, when the Knights Templar fleet left port in France and suddenly went missing that it went to Scotland and that's where they all went. There's a lot of gravestones there that seemed to indicate that the persons there were Knights Templar.  But then they disappeared off the face of the earth.

[00:27:25] If you like only to be placed by another initiatory society, the Freemasons, and certainly there is a lot of historical writing and a lot of considered thought by researchers that would lead us to believe that our ritual didn't just get made up in the 1700s. That it came from the ritual practice by the Knights Templar, which goes back to the 1100s, early 1200s.

[00:27:50] Who knows where it came from before that, because again, there's lots of interesting reading about what they found. Underneath the stables in Jerusalem when they were digging and what they actually did as opposed to what the traditional history says they did. I, God pilgrims traveling the route to Jerusalem. As opposed to what they were actually doing. Lots of interesting reading out there. 

 I think joining Freemasonry for me, opened me up to that reading and to questioning the history that we are taught in school or the history that perhaps the Christian Church teaches us about the last few centuries.

[00:28:33] What other things could have actually influenced things. Particularly the Knights Templar is fascinating reading, fascinating stuff out there. The connections with Freemasonry are equally fascinating. I think that's what's kept me involved is that interest in the history and the inquiring mind that you get when you start to hear other possible timelines and other possible histories about how things came to be. 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:28:59] I totally agree with you. It was because I was doing my master's in philanthropy at Indiana Purdue at the then Center For Philanthropy, which has now the Lilly Family School, I decided to look at the Bermuda during periods of 1700 to 1900. My work has been an international business, so following the traces of history back the Knights Templar, who are credited with starting the banking system with encrypted letters of credit. Then if you look at Friday the 13th, where a papal bull set down to execute the Knights Templar globally.  The Temples went to the lawyers.   

Martin Weekes: [00:29:42] They were all broke and they saw all that money in the hands of the Templars. So let's call them heretics and burn them at the stake and we'll take it all.

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:29:50] Absolutely. Now you're also a member of the Shriners. Could you just tell us what that is? 

Martin Weekes: [00:29:58] 

That's my fez. They’re the guys who wear the red hats, that to be a Shriner, you have to be a master Mason. I'm a member of Mecca shiners, which is the original shrine that started in New York city in the 1800s. And it really is designed to be a fun. It's another one of those side orders. Like I talked about like the Knights Templar, but it's designed more for fun and a little less serious than the Knights Templar and some of the others, but its main, main thrust is this charity side more so than any other part of Freemasonry, it really is just designed to try to raise money for charity.

[00:30:39] The Shriners hospitals for children are dotted across the States and Canada. There's one in Mexico, I think now, and all money raised through the activities of Shriners is funneled to those hospitals or to the process of getting patients to those hospitals. So every shrine.

[00:31:00] Has a number of clubs that for various different things, including clowns, because there are trying services in the States. And for those anyone who's lived in the States will know that there are shrine pops. There are shiners stadiums, there are Shriners auditoriums all paid for and all money raising ways.

[00:31:20] For the Shriners to contribute to both their local society and to the Shriners hospitals. To those hospitals to treat particularly burns victims and kids who have got missing limbs or spinal injuries. Each hospital has a specialty, but they're all about kids and they're all free. If you qualify, the type of situation that the child has qualifies, for the free treatment, then everything from then on is free. Transportation to and from the hospital is paid for by the local clubs. 

We had someone in Bermuda. A young man a few years ago, got in a motorcycle accident. His motorcycle went up in flames with him, still laying on it.  The young man, named Déjon, quite a popular young man in social media. He runs Bermemes. A lovely guy. Anyway, Déjon was very, very badly injured by fire burns all over his body. The local shrine club, which I'm currently the president, paid for all of his transportation and for his mom's transportation up to the States to the burns hospital. The Shriner's hospital, where all his treatment was paid for by the shrines.

[00:32:40] His whole recovery was paid for. He doesn't have to pay anything for that. We paid here locally. We just dealt with the transportation side of it. If it happened in the States, each shrine club has a mini bus and they are involved in transporting people from where they live to the nearest shrine hospital for treatment.

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:33:01] My gracious. I am very grateful for the presence of the volunteer associations in the world, for yourself and your group's presence. Thank you so much for such a big contribution. 

Martin Weekes: [00:33:13] Well, we, the shrine club recently gave $5,000 to the Family center to help them with the COVID situation. As we don't currently have any Bermudians or the meter residents who've required hospital treatment in the States. We took the money that we've been saving up for that and we kept something just in case we need to help somebody.  But we took a big chunk of that and gave it to the Family Center to help with kids in Bermuda, because it's about kids very much. The whole Shriner's charitable side is about helping children. As I said, burns, cleft palates, prophetic limbs and spinal injuries.

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:33:51] From my research Martin, I could see, and this is 1700 to 1900, that at the turn of the century, there would be a big drop off a membership.  Usually around each decade, there'd be another, another drop. We're in the 21st century, a second decade. Have you seen this happening as well?

Martin Weekes: [00:34:16] No. If anything, we've seen an uptick in recent years. It's thought that things like wars tend to, to change the way people join things. People come back from the military and all of a sudden find themselves longing to something. After the first [00:34:34] world war, we saw a big boom. After the second world war, we saw an enormous boom of people joining. But in the modern age where there's so many other ways to entertain yourself, people are less into joining. And not just Freemasonry or the rotaries finding this, like the regiment here with the volunteers like Bermuda reserve, all struggling to get people out of their houses and away from their devices and away from their cable, TV and joining things.

[00:35:04] What we've discovered in Freemasonry, particularly in Lodge St. George, is that a lot of people have come to us saying, “I want a sense of belonging. My grandfather belonged to this lodge, I think. And I want to be part of that. My dad wanted nothing to do with it, but my granddad was in this. My great-grandfather was in this. I want to know what it was. And the getting dressed up to come to meetings.” This is also huge for this younger generation. Again, I don't know why that is. What they're looking to get, but because I guess nowadays when you go to work, most people dress casually and no one gets that reason to dress up.

[00:35:40] At a lot of our meetings, we expect people to dress certainly in a suit and tie and some meetings you're expected to wear a tuxedo with a bow tie and everything. Where else do you go in Bermuda right now, where you're going to be expected to wear a bow tie, but these young guys, you know, they're in their thirties, most of them really into it.

[00:35:58] I mean, I joined Lodge St. George in 1997 and I was 37 years old and I was by far and away, the youngest guy in the room. Most of the people there were in their sixties, seventies, I felt, wow. These guys have been doing this forever. Average age in Lodge St. George right now is 35, but 10 years ago, it was still in the sixties.

[00:36:19] So it's just changed dramatically. We've got all these young guys were just really interested in joining this. I'm currently mentoring a young man who got in a lot of trouble in his youth. If you looked at him, he's got all the tattoos everywhere. He did time in prison when he was a teenager. I'm mentoring him to join the lodge because he's decided now the age of 30 something that he wants something more in life that he wants to meet a group of people that do not get him into trouble that are going to do the opposite of that, that are going to make him belong to something where he's got to turn up on time to things where he's got to dress properly, where he's got to speak properly. That's what he's looking for. That's why he's asked me to join Lodge St, Georges. 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:37:03] That's a lost art, to find a man who knows how to polish his shoes, get dressed up, speak well, and have a conversation respectfully. I've worked very hard on the males in my family to make sure that you know how to treat a woman 

Martin Weekes: [00:37:17] Who's in the Freemasons lodge knows those things. Exactly. They might not do it on that date, you might not see when they go to work. For instance, I had a very embarrassing situation a few months ago where I was going into a liquor store on Front Street and there was this. Scruffy Rastafarian guy with his locks out and these paint splattered, overrules.  He held the door open for me and I said, “Oh, thank you.” He said “that's okay my brother, it's good to see you outside of the lodge.” What? I didn't recognize him because when he comes to the lodge, he's got a three piece tuxedo on bow tie, his locks, all tied up scrubbed, clean. He looked completely different.

[00:37:54]  Oh wow. I never would have known it was the same guy. But when he comes to lodge everything is creased, you know, properly. You can tell the Freemasons amongst us when it's time to get dressed up properly and to know how to speak to people and to know how to be respectful because we teach all of that stuff.

[00:38:12] The big thing, when people say, what is Freemasonry about? You might say there's a charitable part to it. The big thing that we tell people when they ask us what Freemasonry about is it's making good men better. We can't take someone who's not a good man. If you're not a good man, we don't want you.  If you're a good man, we want you and we want to make you better. 

Dr. Michelle St. Jane: [00:38:33] Perfect. Last words. Thank you so much, Martin Weekes I'm really grateful. There are many of us that appreciate the influence and impact you're having. 

Martin Weekes: [00:38:44] Making good men? I certainly trying. There is plenty of stuff on the internet, but I would suggest the best place to start is on either the Grand Lodge of England Grand Lodge of Scotland or Grand Lodge of Ireland webpages.

[00:38:55] Rather than just type Freemasonry because you'll find all kinds of conspiracy theories and things that talk about how we're running the world. And now we're tied in with the Jews to do things. Let me tell you, it doesn't matter what religion you are. We'll accept you in Freemasonry as long as you believe in a higher power.

[00:39:12] There's no religion involved. It's all about good men making those good men better. Start off with the grand lodge websites, or if you live in the States, the Grand Lodge of whichever state you live in, go to that website. First, reach out on the contact and asked someone about it and like me, they'll be very happy to talk about it.  We are not a secret society. We are a society with secrets.

Outro: [00:39:41] Dr. Michelle St Jane is a conscious steward of meaningful leadership in the world and the wider cosmos.  Tune in every Thursday for a real talk around life, to shift into your conscious journey. Be ready to create,   cultivate your dreams and wholehearted desires. Your support is valued. Please subscribe, leave a review and a rating. More importantly, share with your connections. 

Sources & Further Reading:

Bermuda Historical Quarterly, Complete List of the Governors of Bermuda (1612-1966), Bermuda Historical Quarterly, Hamilton Bermuda, Winter 1965. 

Gould, R.F., Gould’s History of Freemasonry, Editor Rev. H Poole, Vol. I, II ,III ,IV, Caxton Publishing Co. Ltd. London, England, 1954

Harland-Jacobs, J., Hands across the sea: The Masonic Network, British Imperialism, and the North Atlantic World, Geographical Review. Vol. 89, No. 2, Oceans Connect (April 1999), 246, published American Geographical Society, USA.

Hollis Hallett, A.C., Chronicle of a Colonial Church 1612-1826 Bermuda, Juniperhill Press, Bermuda 1993, page 402, footnote 90 Deeds, Bonds, &c., Composite Volume IV, (part 3).

Milbourne, A.J.B., Freemasonry in Bermuda, Translation Quatuor Coronati Lodge, Volume LXXIV, 1961. 

Martin Weekes Profile Photo

Martin Weekes

Secretary to Lodge St. George & President of the Bermuda Shrine Club of Mecca Shriners in New York City

Martin P. Weekes, Secretary to Lodge St. George, first chartered 1797, and Marshall of the annual Peppercorn Ceremony. Martin is a proud β€œShriner” and participates in the May 24th Bermuda day Parade each year. He is currently President of the Bermuda Shrine Club of Mecca Shriners in New York City and can be reached at bermudamason@gmail.com