Centenary for Bothal Lodge No.4116

26th August 2020

Bothal Lodge No. 4116 celebrate their Centenary on 26th August 2020. WBro Ted Nesbit, has provided a wonderful history of the Lodge which offers a fascinating insight into their 100 history.

On 1st October 1919, a group of 7 Past Masters of Ashington Lodge No.2868, led byW Bros John G.D.H. Gray, Frederick Wiseman and Robert Joisce met in the Grand Hotel Ashington to discuss the formation of a new Craft Lodge. Further meetings were held with others as interest in the new Lodge gained momentum and on 3rd December 1919, the details of the new Lodge, including the name, Bothal Lodge, were agreed unanimously.

The initial group of 7 were joined by a further 18 brethren to become the Founders of the new Lodge; 23 were members of Ashington Lodge No.2868 and one each from Holmes Lodge No.2571 and Fawcett Lodge No 661.

Why the name Bothal was chosen for the new Lodge is not recorded, although possibilities may have included, the name of the nearby village of Bothal or from the first pit sunk by the Ashington Coal Company in 1866. The Founders also decided that the Lodge emblem should be Bothal Castle. The Founder’s Fee was set at one guinea and the Annual Subscription at 2 guineas to include supper.

Bothal Lodge No. 4116 was duly consecrated on 26th August 1920 by the Provincial Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother Col. Charles W. Napier-Clavering, at the Seaton Delaval Masonic Hall with 62 brethren in attendance.

The Provincial Grand Master installed W. Bro John Gray PProvGSuptWks as the first Worshipful Master of the Lodge.                                    

W. Bro Robert Joisce PProvAGDC and, W. Bro. Frederick Wiseman PProvGStB were appointed as Senior and Junior Warden respectively. After the new WM had appointed the remaining Officers, the first two candidates for Initiation, Mr John Eskdale and Mr George Downie were proposed.

The first regular meeting of the Lodge was held on Wednesday 8th September 1920 at the Grand Hotel, Ashington. Interestingly this meeting was attended by members only. A successful ballot was held for the first two candidates for initiation. John Eskdale and George Downie were subsequently initiated at the second meeting on 13th October 1920. By the end of the first full year, the Lodge had initiated 12 candidates and attracted a further 6 joining members.

In 1928, Bothal Lodge joined Ashington Lodge as partners to build the Masonic Hall in John Street Ashington. On completion, the new Hall was dedicated on Tuesday 30th April 1929, by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, W. Bro. Charles W. Hodgson PGD.

Founder members occupied the Master’s Chair until the first Initiate, John Eskdale became WM in December 1929. At the end of his year as Master, he presented the Lodge with an inscribed silver snuff box (seen in the article banner photograph above) in thanks for the support of the members during his year as WM.

Membership grew steadily in the years before World War II. Emergency meetings were often necessary to ensure candidates progressed through the various degrees in a timely manner. After the War, membership continued to increase and by the end of 1950 stood at over 200 and remained at high levels until they started to decline during the 1980s.

The Lodge continued to meet throughout the War years. Indeed, the Minutes record little of the difficulties facing members, their community or the country at that time. They do show that 15 members were called or volunteered for service during the War and sadly 2 made the ultimate sacrifice. All are commemorated on the War Memorial in the Masonic Hall.

In 1944, the first Master of the Lodge, W. Bro. John Gray was promoted to Grand Rank, receiving the rank of PGStB. He was the first of 4 members of the Lodge to be promoted to Grand Rank, the others being, Gordon Hall in 1992, Colin Hume in 2006 and the current Master, Ted Nesbit in 2009.

Throughout its history, the Lodge and its members have given generously to Masonic Festivals and a wide variety of Masonic and non-Masonic charitable appeals, including an interest-free loan of £200 to the Government War effort in 1942 and the Masonic Memorial Million Fund. More recently, the Lodge received a legacy from the late W.Bro. C.T.Harris, an accomplished brass band musician.  From the annual interest received the Lodge has made donations to each school in Ashington and continues to donate to various other charities supporting musical and other educational needs.

Over the course of the last century many members have generously donated items to the Lodge. Among these are the gavels, still used today by the WM and his Wardens. They were made from oak from Bothal and old Hirst Castle and were donated in 1923 by the first Tyler, Bro. Robert Goldstraw and Bro. John Weightman. The current Lodge Banner, (shown above) was presented by W.Bro. Morris Ward; the banner was handmade by his daughter Jacqueline Morrison.

One of the notable and creative members of the Lodge was W.Bro. Fred Laidler, initiated in 1951. Fred was not only a master craftsman in wood but also a celebrated artist being a member of the Ashington Group of Painters – better known as “The Pitmen Painters”.  His pictures are displayed in the permanent exhibition of the Group’s work at the Wansbeck Museum.

The Lodge celebrated its Golden Jubilee at a special meeting held on 23rd October 1970 with the Provincial Grand Master, R.W.Bro J.M.S. Coates and the Officers of Provincial Grand Lodge in attendance.

Between1970 and the early 2000s, the membership included a number of excellent singers and musicians. They were always willing to provide harmony at the Festive Board and were much in demand by Junior Wardens around the Province.

For the past 25 years the Lodge has issued a regular newsletter, “The Bothal Bugle”. The Bugle keeps members and visitors up to date with news and events in the Lodge and the wider Masonic community.

The substantial foundation laid by those early men of vision, has given us a Lodge that has been sustained and enjoyed by hundreds of members throughout the last 100 years. Although membership has declined in recent years, the current members are committed to continuing the original vision of the Founders and are determined to add further chapters to the ongoing history of Bothal Lodge No.4116.