A HISTORY OF FREEMASONRY IN SAMOA
By WBro Les Reid, PGBB
An Address, given at a meeting of the
Hawke’s Bay Research Lodge No 305, on 5 February 2007.
I have in my hand the 2006 Installation Programme of a New Zealand Constitution Lodge, which I visited last August. In the Toast List, the first toast is to “The President of the United States of America”, followed by the usual toast to “The Queen & the Craft”, then the toast to “Most Worshipful, the Grand Master”.
WBro Dave Harris, Master of Lodge Aquarius No. 466, organised a group of ten freemasons from the Wellington area and their wives, to have a ten-day holiday in Samoa and to attend the Installations of Lodge Benjamin Kneubuhl No 441 in American Samoa and Lodge Calliope No 252 in Samoa. I joined this group, which included the Grand Secretary, whom I had met on several occasions, but all the others were new friends. This gave me the opportunity to visit my mother lodge (Calliope) and to carry out further research for this paper. All the Wellington Brethren were dressed for the Installations in white shirts, black lava lavas and sandals, so I took the opportunity to purchase a lava lava in Pago Pago.
The Grand Lodge of New Zealand archives has a copy of a letter, dated 15th April 1920, by Bro’s Wm T Beck and Henry Lloyd Halliday, written to Capt Edwards and other freemasons known to be living in Apia, Samoa, which reads as follows: -
“A meeting will be held in the office of the Harbourmaster on Monday next the 19th at 8pm to further consider the matter of the establishment of a lodge in Apia. It is hoped that the deliberations at this meeting will enable application for a charter to be sent forward and for this reason as large an attendance as possible is particularly desired.”
(Photocopying at GLNZ by RWBro Bill Hibberd, PGW)
For some years after the turn of the century many of the residents of Apia, from all quarters of the earth, who were members of the Craft, frequently discussed the possibility of starting a Lodge in Apia. During the years 1920 to 1923 informal meetings were held from time to time and finally letters of inquiry were sent to the Grand Lodge of England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand re the forming of a Craft Lodge at Apia.
In reply the Grand Lodges agreed unanimously that if a Lodge were to be established at Apia it should come under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand. On receipt of this advice negotiations were continued with the Grand Lodge of New Zealand to such effect that a team of Grand Lodge Officers visited Apia for the purpose of consecrating the Lodge and Installing a Master and his officers from the local members of the Craft. This Installation duly took place on the 30th August 1923 and the following is a copy of the minutes of that ceremony.
“August 30th 1923.
Minutes of the Consecration and Dedication of Lodge Calliope No 252, New Zealand Constitution, at Masonic Hall, Maluafou, Apia, Western Samoa, and Installation of Worshipful Master and officers.
At 6.15pm, all Brethren present having signed the Attendance Book, the Acting Grand Master, Most Worshipful Brother J.J. Dougall, attended by Grand Lodge officers, Right Worshipful Brother J.J. Clarke, Acting Grand Chaplain, Very Worshipful Brother H.J. Otley, Acting Grand Secretary, Worshipful Brother C.H. Piper, Acting Grand Director of Ceremonies and Worshipful Brothers J.H. Beanland and F.E. Fairweather, took the Chair of King Solomon.
Most Worshipful Master Dougall read the Authority to him from the Grand Master to consecrate and dedicate Lodge Calliope No 252 New Zealand Constitution and install the Worshipful Master and officers.
The proceedings were then carried on in accordance with the programme filed with the Lodge Records. (Copy attached)
The Lodge was called off for ten minutes at 7.30 p.m.
The Acting Grand Master resumed proceedings at 7.40 p.m.
The Dispensation was read empowering the Acting Grand Master to install as Worshipful Master, Brother Henry Lloyd Halliday who had not served the office of Warden.
A Board of Installed Masters was then formed and Worshipful Brother Beanland installed Brother H.L. Halliday in the Chair of King Solomon.
The Brethren then re-entered, saluted the Worshipful Master and the order of proceedings was resumed and the Officers were installed.
The Acting Grand Master and Grand Lodge Officers retired at the First Time of Asking after presenting a Set of Working Tools from themselves, and reading correspondence from the Grand Master, Most Worshipful Brother Viscount Jellicoe of Scapa: Worshipful Brother Massey, I.P.M., Lodge Renown No. 218, and from Hinemoa Lodge No. 122 with the present of a Volume of the Sacred Law with Square and Compasses.
Hearty good wishes were given by visiting Brethren from their Mother Lodges.
The Lodge was closed at 10pm and the Brethren retired to the Refectory.”
At the Consecration and Dedication of Lodge Calliope No 252, New Zealand Constitution, on the 30th August 1923, there were twenty-four Charter Members.
Meetings are always held on the Thursday nearest the full moon, which means that thirteen meetings are held each year. Installation is generally held on the last Thursday in August and often the Lodge has the honour of the presence of Grand Lodge officers for the ceremony.
When the Lodge was dedicated, a building belonging to the London Missionary Society was leased, but when the lease expired in 1941 a building owned by the Western Samoa Trust Estates Corporation was leased. From 1985 to 1990 the Lodge was dormant. The Lodge Room at Moto’otua, which had been owned for about 20 years, was sold at this time. The Lodge now meets in rented premises at Beach Road, Sogi, Apia.
In 1997, following the irregular removal of a lodge trustee, the lodge resolved to petition GLNZ with the object of forming a Grand Lodge of Samoa. Their Charter was briefly withdrawn until these matters were resolved amicably, with the Lodge agreeing to continue under GLNZ. It is interesting to note that the Lodge funds were frozen at this time, although GLNZ assured the brethren of Lodge Calliope, that whatever the outcome, the funds would only be for use in Samoa.
During the Second World War many U.S. Service Personnel were stationed at Apia. Some joined as Joining Members while others were initiated. Lodge Calliope has the honour of being the most northerly Lodge in the Register of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand and also of being the most westerly Lodge in the World, due to its being so near the International Date Line. It is the last Lodge in the World to be Tyled on the Thursday nearest the full moon. Naturally, the Calliope Brethren are very proud of this fact.
Visiting is not very prevalent, except with Lodge Benjamin Kneubuhl in Pago Pago. At some meetings there are visitors from overseas, tourists, travellers reps, members of relatives visiting Samoa and the crews of various ships. These visitors keep the Brethren in touch with Masonic affairs overseas and always receive a great welcome.
Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa until 1997, lies between 13º and 14º South Latitude and 171º and 173º West Longitude. Apia, its capital, lies on the north coast of the island of Upolu and is where Lodge Calliope is situated. The German company, Godeffroy und Sohn, commenced trading there in 1856 and many of the citizens of Apia have German surnames. From May to September the climate is rather pleasant, with the SE trade winds blowing steadily each day. However, from October to April the climate is often oppressively humid. It is some 2750 kilometers NNE from New Zealand and has a land area of 2934 sq km. In 2006, the population was estimated at 177,000 with 100% literacy in those over fifteen years of age and had a life expectancy of seventy-one years. Approximately 70 km to the east are several smaller islands comprising an area of 199 sq km, which is a Territory of the United States and whose 58,000 citizens are U.S. nationals. In 1960 American Samoa implemented their first constitution, which, in part, promised to “protect persons of Samoan ancestry against alienation of their lands and language”. The average annual rainfall is 3000mm. (ref: website “The World Factbook”)
New Zealand Forces occupied the Territory of Western Samoa on 29/8/1914, being the first allied occupation of German territory and without a shot being fired. It was assigned under mandate, dated 17th December 1920, from the League of Nations to New Zealand. In December 1946, its status was changed to a Trusteeship Territory of the United Nations Organisation. Cabinet government was inaugurated in the early 1950’s and full self-government was re-established on 1st January 1962, although this event is celebrated on 1st June each year when the climate is more amenable.
The name, CALLIOPE, is linked with the history of Samoa and it is most appropriate that the Lodge should be called Lodge Calliope. In 1884, High Chief Malietoa had written to Britain asking her to annex Samoa. The German Consul in Samoa virtually forced the leaders, Malietoa and Tamasese to sign an agreement, which practically handed over the control of government to Germany. In 1885, he hoisted the German flag. Britain and the U.S.A. felt that the German action was wrong and Commissioners representing the three Powers were sent to Samoa. There was a great deal of local feeling, which by 1889 had become magnified. It is not surprising, therefore, that in March 1889 seven warships were anchored in Apia Harbour. Three were American, the Trenton, the Vandalia and the Nipsic, three were German, the Olga, the Adler and the Eber, and one was British, H.M.S. Calliope, commanded by Captain Kane.
All these seven ships had anchored in Apia Bay because at that time there was trouble in Samoa between the Malietoa, Mataafa and Tamasese families. The British and Americans were helping the Malietoa and Mataafa side, while the Germans helped the Tamasese side. On Friday, the 15th March, there were signs that there was going to be a bad storm, but none of the ships sailed out to safety. None wished to steam away and leave the others alone in the harbour. The Germans thought the Americans and the British might land and conquer Tamasese’s warriors. The Americans and British thought that the Germans would shell the town and defeat the men of Mataafa’s armies.
Each ship stoked up its fires and prepared to ride out the storm in the harbour, depending upon its engines to hold the ship against the wind and waves. All through the night, the storm increased in force, and when daylight came, the Eber had sunk below the edge of the reef, with the loss of all but five of her crew. The Adler was blown against the Olga, making a great hole in her side. The Nipsic had her funnel blown away. Throughout that day, Saturday, 16th March, the ships tried to keep their positions in the bay, but one by one they were forced away from their anchoring-places. The Nipsic was driven ashore on to the beach where all but seven of her crew was helped ashore by Samoan people. The Adler was the next to drift towards the shore, but many were drowned during the night. When the writer lived in Samoa between 1954 and 1956, the wreck of the Adler was a prominent sight on the inner reef of Apia Harbour, about 300 metres offshore.
The Vandalia, the Olga and the Calliope tossed closely together upon the giant waves. When the Vandalia seemed likely to crash into the Calliope, Captain Kane had to reverse his engines swiftly so that the ship almost touched the shore reef. He then slipped the last remaining anchor, for he had decided to fight his way out to the open sea. Using all the power of the ship’s engines that were burning high-grade Westport (NZ) coal, Captain Kane gradually brought his ship closer and closer to the harbour entrance. Sometimes the ship was buried in sea and foam; sometimes she was tossed high on the great waves. Near the opening in the reef the Trenton was so close to the reef that the Calliope almost touched the American ship as they passed. The Trenton’s crew cheered the Calliope as she fought her way out to safety, and the Calliope’s crew returned the cheer. The Calliope finally reached the open sea in safety.
Meanwhile, in the harbour, the Vandalia’s captain, unable to keep off the reef, tried to beach his ship near the Nipsic, but the ship struck the corner of the inner reef and settled in the water there. Many of her crew died in an attempt to get a line ashore, and others climbed the rigging where they stayed until they were taken on to the Trenton.
The Trenton, which had lost her rudder and her wheel, also had her engines flooded and her fires put out. She broke her moorings during the afternoon of the 16th March, and drifted in the direction of the Olga. In order to avoid a collision, the Olga’s captain slipped his mooring-chains, and, going full-steam ahead, beached his ship off Matautu in shallow water, from which she was later refloated.
The Trenton, out of control, was washed past the Nipsic towards the Vandalia, which lay partly sunk a few metres from the shore. As night came on, she stopped near the Vandalia and ropes were passed so that the men could climb on to the Trenton. She later piled up on top of the Vandalia and her top decks were washed by the waves, but all of the sailors were saved, except one, who was killed by a block from the ship’s rigging.
All the ships, except for the Calliope, were now beached or wrecked. The people on shore had tried to rescue the sailors who were on the wrecked ships, but the fury of the storm was still too great and it was not until Sunday 17th, that the force of the wind abated and the Samoans were able to take lines out to the ships so that the sailors could be brought ashore.
Under the leadership of Seumanu, the chief of Apia village, the Samoans worked well and bravely to rescue the sailors, but, the loss of the lives of one hundred and forty-four sailors, and the wreckage of the ships, saddened the hearts of the British, American and German officials, who had previously been quarrelling. An agreement, called the Treaty of Berlin 1899, was later signed, dividing Samoa between Germany and the U.S.A.
After the Calliope had finished her career as a warship she returned to England where for many years she was used as a training-ship for young sailors. She had sails as well as steam power. In 1953, she was broken up, and her steering wheel was sent to Western Samoa, where it was on display in the Court-room of Government Buildings at Apia. It is now in the Maritime Museum at Auckland.
In the Returned Services Association Club at Apia there is a bunker plate from the boiler-room. And Lodge Calliope has its own memento – a rams’ horn cleat from the Calliope. The refectory walls of the lodge, at one time contained several photographs of the ship, so that Lodge Calliope was reminded of the name it bears – a honourable one in British Naval Circles. Presently, Lodge Calliope has a membership of twenty-six.
The bi-annual installations of both lodges, Calliope and Benjamin Kneubuhl, were held in August and September 2006, in their respective countries. Each installation was followed by a splendid banquet and entertainment. I had the honour of proposing the toast to the visitors to my mother lodge, Calliope No 252.
Lodge Benjamin Kneubuhl No 441 was founded in August 1974, in American Samoa, under the Grand Lodge of New Zealand. They have a membership of fifty-nine and meet in their own rooms, within easy walking distance of the Tradewinds Hotel, which is near Tafuna Airport.
In conclusion, I shall read a lovely poem that appeared in Lodge Benjamin Kneubuhl’s Installation Programme.
This is my Lodge. It is composed of men like me.
I make it what it is.
I want it to be a Lodge that is a lamp
To the path of Freemasonry, a lamp leading
All members to goodness, truth and beauty.
It will be, if I am.
My Lodge will be friendly, if I am.
The chairs will be filled, if I help to fill them.
The Lodge can do great work, if I work.
The Lodge can make generous gifts
To many causes, if I am a generous giver.
Many members will come into its fellowship,
If I bring them.
It will be a Lodge of loyalty, with a noble spirit,
With love and faith.
Therefore, I shall dedicate myself to the task of being
All of the things that I want my Lodge to be.
Buford B. Lich