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St Patrick Lodge 199 Bible

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  • 1. ‘THE ST PATRICK BIBLE 199’ – CAPE TOWN TO MUMBAIThrough the Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, (c. 1460 or 1469 – 24 December1524) and more recently Mahatma Gandhi, South Africa and India have beeninextricably connected. Who would have thought that 500 years later a new link wouldbe established through an old Holy Bible? The Great Architect of the Universe musthave had a hand in this story somewhere.Vasco da Gama’s adventure was one of the most successful in theAge of Discovery. He commanded four ships that sailed directlyfrom Europe to India. Although Bartolomeu Dias had rounded theCape in 1488, proving the route, the da Gama expedition madelandfall on the African coast on November 4, 1497. He could nothave missed the spectacular view of Table Mountain that is thebackdrop to the beautiful City of Cape Town today. Further up thesoutheast coast of Africa (near Durban) and with Christmaspending. Da Gama and his crew named the area Natal, whichcarried the Portuguese connotation of ‘birth of Christ’. Da Gama and his crew contracted the services of a pilot whose knowledge of the monsoon winds allowed him to bring the expedition to Calicut (Kozhikode), located on the southwest coast of India. The fleet arrived in Kappad near Calicut, Kerala, Southwest India, on 20 May 1498. The King of Calicut, the Saamoothiri (Zamorin), who was at that time staying in his second capital at Ponnani, returned to Calicut on hearing the news of theEuropean fleet’s arrival. The navigator was received with traditional hospitality, includinga grand procession of at least 3000 armed Nairs. In September 2010, after attending Lodge Saxena No 815 (IC) 50th anniversary in Calicut, I took the opportunity to visit Kappad beach near Calicut to find the spot where allegedly Vasco da Gama first touched the Indian soil. A small monument marks the spot but is now some distance from the beach! See picture left with yours truly. While this introduction to the story of a bible may at first appear circuitous from the main topic, it sets the scene for a series of coincidences that fate has delivered, what I will call ‘The St Patrick 199 Bible’ to Lodge St Patrick 319 Mumbai India.My connection goes back to 1967 when I met Sandra Lowden of Cape Town - but bornin Belfast, Northern Ireland. She was working in my home town of Kitwe, Zambia(Northern Rhodesia) where we were married. In 1970 when I joined Freemasonry I wasnot aware of the various constitutions, but by coincidence I joined an Irish Lodge (FailteNo 805) in Kitwe. Later I realised that my father-in-law William Lowden (Bill) was amason and member of St Patrick Lodge 199 in Cape Town. He became WorshipfulMaster in 1975 which coincidentally was the same year I was also placed in the Chair of
  • 2. King Solomon. I visited his lodge a few times earlier but in 1975, as reigning WorshipfulMasters we both attended the 250th Anniversary of Grand Lodge in Dublin, a familyaffair!In 2003 while on holiday in Cape Town we were staying atmy mother-in-law’s home (118, 3rd Avenue, Kenilworth).One day while tidying up the garage (just like someworkmen clearing away the rubble of a certain temple wetalk about) we discovered a decrepit bible covered withmould and virtually falling to pieces. It was identified as thatfrom Lodge St Patrick No 199 of Cape Town.The pictures show the bible in a very poor condition; thebinding has collapsed and pages are torn. Recent researchrevealed that in 1938 this damaged bible was actually replaced by one donated by the Asst Director of Ceremonies Bro T. I. J. Beckett and remains on the altar to this very day. From 1969 the lodge moved from Mill Street to Piers Road British Temple Wynberg, and then in 1975 back to Cape Town to the Graham Botha Temple. During this upheaval Bill Lowden, the then Wor. Master stored the Lodge furniture and records in the garage at his residence. When the Lodge items were moved to the new temple, Bill must have realised it was pointlessreturning the severely damaged bible as it would most likely be discarded. Sadly in1978 Bill passed to the Grand Lodge above. Perhaps his health failed before he coulddo something about restoring the bible and there it lay on his garage shelf for the next25 years. We too did not have the heart to dispose of such a holy and ancientdocument and so placed it in a box on the garage shelf and thus deferred its fate.Abandoned since 1938; yet 65 years later its fortunes were about to change for thebetter.A few weeks later we visited an old friend andbrother (30th Degree) from Zambia who weused to scuba dive with - among many othersocial events. The picture was taken by me in1980, with Werner Hock centre along with palsJohn Aird and Toney Maycock; we did afamous 60 metre dive at the mysteriousSunken Lake Kashiba in Zambia. Werner isfrom Germany, but lived in Umtentweni, southof Durban (of Gandhi fame) on the coast ofNatal (another link to Vasco da Gama) with hiswife Gitta. Looking around his home I noticedthat he had a collection of beautiful leather-bound books. He told me he did book bindingand had a friend who did leather tooling. Imentioned the old Cape Town bible and hepleaded with me to let him have it and promised that he would restore it professionally.My brother-in-law saw no reason to hang on to the old bible since, when my elderlymother-in-law died, it would surely be thrown out (she passed away in 2008 and the 2
  • 3. family home was then sold). At the time I also spoke to a member of St Patrick 199 CTWor. Bro. Tony Rauch and he likewise stated that his Lodge had since replaced thebible. Werner then paid for bible to be couriered to him and proceeded with having itrestored. We maintained contact over the years, especially through Christmasgreetings.Winding the clock back, I left Zambia in 1984 and was living in the UK when in 2004 Iwas asked to come to India to turn around an industrial electronics business; we nowlive in Mumbai. I soon joined one of several Irish lodges and coincidentally it was LodgeSt Patrick No 319 Mumbai.During the Centenary preparations it came to mind that while our existing Lodge Bible,among all the other religions’ holy books on the altar, is a relatively modern hardback itis in very poor condition. Certainly it does not have the reverence or provenance of theSt Patrick 199 Bible. I had the idea of approaching Werner Hock to see if he would partwith his precious item, especially after he had gone to considerable effort and expenseto restore the holy book. The letter below was sent to Werner:Mumbai 27th December 2010 My dear Werner, I have a delicate matter to discuss with you. You may recall I mentioned that in May 2011 Lodge St Patrick celebrates our 100th anniversary of the founding of the lodge. I was thinking about what we can do that is special to mark this momentous occasion. Then I remembered the St Patrick bible in terrible condition languishing in my late father-in-law’s garage that you offered to rebind etc. Now I know how precious you regard such a relic and the importance of its survival; so I am suggesting that you consider the following. As you know, the bible originated from Lodge St Patrick in Cape Town and now it is in excellent condition. Wouldn’t it be a fit place to be back on the altar of Lodge St Patrick (319) IC in Mumbai for their 100th anniversary? Apart from the emotional issues and love you have for such an item and the fact that you have been its sincere caretaker, the bible would have a new life and future back in a Masonic temple and fittingly of the same name, St Patrick of the Irish Constitution. I am fully aware that you have gone to considerable trouble and expense restoring the bible but if you are prepared to pass it on then I will ensure you are more than compensated. However, if you feel you would rather retain the bible, I will understand and accept your decision. So please do not be worried by not agreeing to my proposal. I hope you have a Happy New Year and that it is not too long before we meet. Warm regards PeterWerner immediately replied as follows: Umtentweni, Natal, 28th December 2010 My dear Peter, The bible is the most precious of my collection of 25 volumes in 6 languages and many different translations. It lies on the little desk at the entry of our living room. I show it proudly to visitors. The altar of Lodge St. Patrick (319) IC in Mumbai is certainly a more worthy place. So I donate it for the 100th anniversary. 3
  • 4. Two years ago I met a champ of a bookbinder in Durban. He managed to get the leather top of the original covers which we could not use at the first restoration and glued them on to the new ones. Looks great, see the photos. Hoping that this makes a good start of 2011 for you, I greet you as my brother. All my love to Sandy! Yours WernerThe photos below speak for themselves post restoration in 2003. What an amazing jobWerner has done!When Werner confirmed to me that he was willing to pass over the restored bible itcame to mind that despite its history it was not our property. So I immediately contactedLodge St Patrick 119 Cape Town. I stated that I hoped they would not feel we hadtaken a liberty since of course the bible is theoretically still their property but I am surethey would be delighted to know that it has survived. Giving it a new life and rightfulplace on the altar of a Masonic Lodge would only be proper. I also mentioned that itwould be a wonderful thing to bring our two St Patrick Lodges together as this holy bookis one of our special links.The response from Wor. Bro. Brian Johnstone giving authorisation to proceed withtransferring the St Patrick Bible 199 to Mumbai is shown below and the subsequentprinting on the Bible with No319 Mumbai. What was most exciting was to learn was thatthis Bible was used in the consecration of Lodge St Patrick 119 Cape Town SouthAfrica in 1898. Cape Town: 12th January 2011 Dear Peter I received the mail and am delighted to know this part of the Lodge’s history has been preserved. I can confirm that it was indeed the very first bible used by St Patricks No 199 IC and was in fact on the altar on the date of consecration which was held in Cape Town on Tuesday 14 April 1898. The purchase cost of the bible is unknown; suffice to say that it was borne by the founder members. We would have loved to have had the bible but are delighted that it has resurfaced in Mumbai and are happy to ‘donate’ it to the brethren of St Patricks Lodge in Mumbai. We are well pleased that reference to ourselves will be maintained in this regard and perhaps the brethren of our two lodges would agree to twin our lodges. To this end we could perhaps exchange certificates of twinning with each other. Kind Regards, Brian Johnstone 4
  • 5. The story does not end here. On 21st January Sandy and I departed on a six weekholiday to Australia and New Zealand, missing the tragic earthquake in New Zealand by5 days! Upon our return I received an email from Werner’s wife that he had passedaway on 12th March 2011 to the Grand Lodge above. What I did not know that the allround active sportsman, sailor, skydiver, scuba diver, golfer etc. was a very sick man. Isuspect that knowing he was coming to the end of his days the timely request to securethe future of the St Patrick 199 bible was a blessing and yet another coincidence.They say God works in mysterious ways but the many connections that have given thisBible a new lease of life seem amazing. While the Holy Bible is in itself one of thegreatest stories the St Patrick 199 Bible has its own story to tell over the past 113 years.Let us summarise the connections with this amazing story of a special book:Apart from Vasco da Gama and Mahatma Gandhi’s undoubted links between India and South Africa, thereare several coincidences. Peter marries an Irish Girl; he is not aware but joins an Irish Lodge. His father-in-law, an Irishman becomes WM of Lodge St Patrick 199 Cape Town at the same time Peter is WM of FailteLodge 805 in Kitwe, Zambia. They attended the 250th Anniversary of Grand Lodge in Ireland in 1975. Billrescues the Bible but dies before attending to it. It languishes in his garage for 25 years. Peter mentionsthe Bible to his friend Werner in Natal who then restores it. Peter leaves UK for Mumbai and joins Lodge StPatrick 319 in 2005. The Lodge is to celebrate its Centenary in 2011; so Peter asks Werner to donate theCape Town Bible to the Mumbai Lodge. Werner arranges to send the Bible but dies a few weeks later. TheBible will be placed on the altar of Lodge 319 Mumbai on 19th May. Certainly the story of this 113 year holyrelic does not end here but is merely the start. Peter W. Hills© PPSGWEpilogue19 May 2011 Freemasons Hall Mumbai – Centenary meetingAlthough the 1898 Bible had come into the hands of Wor.Bro. Peter W. Hills, at his Lodge Centenary Meeting it wasdeemed appropriate to officially return the Bible to itsoriginal owners. Wor. Bro. Warren Anthony Rauch (left), aPast Master of the Cape Town Lodge, visited Mumbaiespecially to attend this event, where he accepted the1898 Bible. He duly handed it back to Peter for use by theMumbai Lodge. However, these two friends of 45 yearsand representatives of the two St Patrick Lodges decided to present the Bible jointly. The ruling Master, Wor. Bro. Kersi B. Aga was pleased to accept it and instructed that it be used at ceremonies of Lodge St Patrick No 319 in accordance with ancient custom. Thus starts a new life for the Bible as it is 73 years since it last lay open on an altar. This proclamation was greeted with acclaim by the 63 Freemasons who witnessed this unique event. © Peter W. Hills 2011 5