[Blackstudies-l] Charting The History Of Freemasons In Jamaica

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Thu Dec 21 10:38:40 EST 2017

lisaparavisini posted: " A review from Jamaica's Gleaner. Jackie Ranston's
latest venture into Jamaican culture, Masonic Jamaica and the Cayman
Islands Volume One, brings to light the individuals who transformed the
island in many ways, and in the process, Ranston makes the hi"
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<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> Charting The History
Of Freemasons In Jamaica
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: Screen Shot 2017-12-20 at 9.17.48 PM.png]

A review from Jamaica's *Gleaner*.

Jackie Ranston's latest venture into Jamaican culture, Masonic Jamaica and
the Cayman Islands Volume One, brings to light the individuals who
transformed the island in many ways, and in the process, Ranston makes the
history of the Freemasons in Jamaica fascinating for all readers.

Commissioned by Walter Scott on behalf of their association to celebrate
both the 300th anniversary in England of the formation of the first Grand
Lodge and the 275th anniversary of the appointment of the first Provincial
Grand Master for Jamaica, Ranston was given a free hand to investigate the
Freemasons, defined as members of an international order established for
help and fellowship between members, which holds secret ceremonies.

The foreword says: "The District, in deciding on its major project in
celebrating these two important milestones was not unmindful of the
following words of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a national hero of Jamaica: A
people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is
like unto a tree without roots."

The Freemasons originated as stone masons who constructed medieval
cathedrals in Europe and gave the tools of their craft the symbolism of the
brotherhood, to which even royalty belonged.

Brother De Cordova, one of the founders of The Gleaner, in 1874, noted the
obligations laid on Masons: "All religion of a denominational character is
strictly forbidden, equally with political matters, so that men of all
creeds, but who shall believe in the Supreme Jehovah, and men of all shades
of politics, shall be enabled to meet on the broad platform of the Craft as
one ... ."

While the Book of Constitutions, published, 1723, stated that Masonic
candidates had to be "good and true men, freeborn and of a mature and
discreet age, no Bondmen, no women, no immoral or scandalous men, but of
good report". After emancipation, the words "free man" were substituted for
"free born" so that from 1847, former slaves could become Freemasons.

Past District Grand Master Afeef Lazarus, versed in Masonic lore, was,
fortunately, also familiar with Ranston's success as author of Behind the
Scenes at King's House, Belisario Sketches of Character, The Lindo Legacy,
They Call Me Teacher: The Life and Times of Sir Howard Cooke, and more.
Given the commission, Ranston enlisted her husband, Dennis, to design the

The Third Degree working tools of a Master Mason, photographed from a
stained-glass window in the Kingston Parish Church, creates a splendid book
cover and highlights the installation of a Masonic Corner in 1891 to honour
Brother Dr Robert Hamilton, without doubt the most learned and
distinguished Freemason in Jamaica, whose life comprises an entire chapter.


My own education in Jamaican culture is oriented to our African heritage,
but never have I gained a greater perspective on what life among the
merchant and governing peoples was like than through the individual
histories provided in this book. Those who might wish to leave their
estates or money to black or coloured family were forced to use subterfuge
when thwarted by other planters. Ranston mentions the story of a Mason's
wife shunned for allegedly sleeping with black men. The husband is granted
a divorce, only to have the Privy Council overturn it with instructions
that the Local Assembly must never again make such a ruling!

Ranston's marvellous selection of vocabulary and well-researched quotes
make the book read like a celebrity diary. She notes that "Jamaica served
as an arms depot for the revolutionary forces when two Kingston Freemasons,
Wellwood and Maxwell Hyslop, financed the campaigns of SimÛn BolÌvar, the
Liberator, to whom six Latin American Republics owe their independence".
BolÌvar himself was a Mason, enjoying contacts with Brethren in Spain,
England, France, and Venezuela until after gaining power in Venezuela, he
prohibited all secret societies in 1828 and included the Freemasons.


Dennis Lalor, chairman of the Freemason's Association Jamaica, notes: "The
secrecy thing is a phantom. We are a society that has a few secrets, but
we're not a secret society. Quite frankly, the most important secret is the
way in which we are known to each other." Then adds: "The Masons do operate
in secret. Whatever charity or good deed we do, remains with us. You will
never see an ad saying the Freemasons provided an education for 50,000
Jamaicans. What we do, we do because we want to do it rather than because
we want publicity."

The number of historic figures who were members or 'Brothers' is
astonishing! They include everyone from Brother George Washington, first
President of the USA, to Jamaica's Government Brother Thomas Bruce, 7th
Lord Elgin, known now for the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum.

Those who think of Freemasons as being secretive are unaware of when "220
Brethren assembled at Freemasons' Hall on Harbour Street and marched in
procession to the Tower Street site in full regalia" in 1845. Shops closed,
and crowds came to watch. Earlier, in 1796, the cornerstone of the Close
Harbour at Montego Bay was laid Masonically, with a procession of boats
dropping a consecrated stone in the creation of the port's breakwater. A
church service, banquet, and donations for the poor followed the event.

The story of Brother Robert Osborn and Brother Edward Jordan, both coloured
Masons who worked on behalf of emancipation, makes intriguing reading, as
does that of Brother Dr Alexander Fiddes, doctor to the poor, whose
testimony on behalf of George William Gordon was ignored. Ranston's
descriptions of the Morant Bay Rebellion, of the Revolution in St Domingue,
and of the Ten Years War are compellingly lucid.

Ranston used every source from The Schomburg Center for Research in Black
Culture; The New York Public Library; the National Maritime Museum,
Greenwich, London; The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London; The
National Portrait Gallery, London; the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; the
National Museum Kingston to Private Collections belonging to the Sharpe
family; the Marquis of Sligo; the Facey/Boswell Trust, Jamaica, and more.

Not being a Mason, I simply ignored all the titles and Lodge names that
might be of interest to members and just enjoyed a good read. As Lalor
said: "I was glued to it. I couldn't put it down from the point of view of
the history of the Caribbean."

Masonic Jamaica and the Cayman Islands Volume One can be obtained from the
Freemasons Association of Jamaica by emailing Bob Forbes at:
fmaj at cwjamaica.com.
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
December 20, 2017 at 9:18 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: https://wp.me/psnTa-z55

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