Grand Chapter Seal

The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Nova Scotia
With Jurisdiction over Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island

Grand Chapter History

Comments or Suggestions

Home Link

A Centennial History of the Grand Chapter
of Royal Arch Masons of Nova Scotia

1869 - 1969

The preparation of a record of the activities of Grand Chapter during the first century of its existence has ranked high in the minds of those charged with planning for the Centennial.

It was recognized that a work of this sort would require time, enthusiasm, and, above all, a broad grasp of what had taken place in the past. M.E. Companion R. V. Harris readily accepted the assignment but unfortunately death intervened and it was with regret that a fresh committee was hastily named and given instructions to bring forward the sixty-year history by the late M.E. Companion George Dewar Macdougall, published in 1930.

Those who are fortunate enough to possess, or have access to, that informative booklet will observe that his arrangement has been followed throughout. Where time has changed the relevance of events his text has been abbreviated and new material has, of course, been added in appropriate places. His tabulation of officers, a ready reference of names and dates, has received similar treatment.

The committee has given special attention to those sometimes forgotten work horses of the organization, the Grand Secretaries. Without in any way wishing to detract from the great and often brilliant contributions of successive Grand Councils, the maintenance, growth and welfare of Grand Chapter has rested squarely on the shoulders of the Grand Secretaries. That most of them previously served as Grand High Priests in no way lessens the importance of their later work. If this is an innovation, we commend it to other historians.

We hope that the verdict of time and the opinion of the Craft will approve our efforts.

E. L. Eaton, Grand Archivist
H. F. Sipprell, Grand Secretary
C. T. Burgess, Past Grand King

Click here to go to Home Page   Top Link

CHAPTER I – The Organization

A great deal has been written about early Masonry in the Atlantic Provinces. The diverse origins of the scattered settlements of pioneer days accounts for much of the confusion apparent in the Masonic activity of the period, but as more permanent communities developed, and individual lodges increased in strength, the need for more formal ties became evident. What was true of Masonry in general was equally true of the Royal Arch.

So we find t
hat in September 1869' a joint committee of members of Union Chapter No. 118 on the registry of England, and of St. Andrews Chapter No. 55 on the registry of Scotland, together with Companion Joseph Conway Brown, First Principal Z of The Hiram Chapter, Goldenville, No. 33 on the registry of Canada, there by request, met in Halifax and passed a resolution as follows:

"Whereas - It is the opinion of this committee, that for the better government of Royal Arch Masonry in this Province a Grand Chapter should be established.
Therefore Resolved - That a convention of Royal Arch Masons be invited to meet at Masonic Hall in the City of Halifax on Tuesday evening, October 14th, for the purpose of establishing a Grand Chapter for the Province of Nova Scotia, electing officers, and adopting a constitution for the government of the same,"

The record shows that on October 14th, 1869 in Masonic Hall, Halifax, N.S., "Pursuant to notice a convention of Royal Arch Masons of the Province of Nova Scotia, was held at which the following were present," Then follow the names of 24 members of Royal Union, No. 118, E.C.; 18 members of St. Andrews No. 55 S.C.; 2 members of The Hiram No. 33 G.R.C.; and 1 member of St. Johns No. 140 S.C., located at Pictou.

There was in existe
nce in Nova Scotia at this time, another chapter, Union No. 108 S.C., chartered September 30th, 1865, and located in Yarmouth. The evidence is clear that all Royal Arch Masons in Nova Scotia were invited. Yarmouth did not participate on the score of expense, and St. Johns only to the extent of sending a delegate who was "instructed by his Chapter to express their unwillingness to enter into the contemplated movement at present." In existence also, within our present jurisdiction, were St. Johns Chapter No. 579 E.C. at St. Johns, Newfoundland, later known as Shannon and Alexandra Chapter No. 100 S.C. at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. All came in later.

he Grand Chapter of Nova Scotia is sovereign only in the Province of Nova Scotia, and companions in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland were not asked to join in the original movement. The jurisdiction of the Grand Chapter of Nova Scotia over the chapters in these other provinces is by consent only, but for most of our history they have been active partners and they have made great contributions to our progress.

everting to our particular theme, the beginning of our Grand Chapter, we find that the Honourable Alexander Keith, Grand Superintendent of English Royal Arch Masonry in Nova Scotia, was called upon to take the chair and James Gossip was requested to act as secretary. After a statement by the chairman as to the purpose for which the convention was called, in which he "expressed himself strongly" as to his hope of "the formation of a Supreme Royal Arch Chapter for Nova Scotia", two motions of importance were passed. One was that all Royal Arch Masons in good standing were allowed to vote and the other was "that the convention proceed to form 'The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Nova Scotia.' “The latter was carried with one dissenting voice out of 45, that of our companion from Pictou who exp1ained that he was acting under instructions. This action is not strange when we consider that St. Johns Chapter had only received its charter from Scotland under date of March 6th, 1869. The situation of The Hiram was different. While the date of its charter from the Registry of Canada was August 10th, 1869, this chapter was apparently very anxious for the formation of a Grand Chapter; certainly their Principal Z was, and so stated. It may be possible that the securing of this warrant at Goldenville was mainly for the purpose of having three chapters of three different registries so that there might be absolute surety of the correct Masonic position of the new Grand Body.

Then follow
ed a most important motion. Companion Sircom of the Scottish constitution moved, seconded by Companion Nash, English constitution, and it was unanimously resolved:

"That the following be the titles of the officers of the Grand Chapter of Nova Scotia to be elected this evening, Grand High Priest, Grand King, Grand Scribe, Grand Treasurer, Grand Secretary, Grand Captain of the Host, Grand Principal Sojourner, Grand Royal Arch Captain, Grand Masters of the Third, Second and First Veils, Grand Sword Bearer, Grand Standard Bearer, Grand Stewards (2), Grand Organist and Grand Janitor."

On motion of Benjamin Curren of the English Constitution, seconded by S. R. Sircom of the Scottish Constitution, the Honourable Alexander Keith was "unanimously and with great enthusiasm" elected Grand High Priest. The other officers were S. R. Sircom, J. C. Brown, Wm. Twining, Jas. Gossip, R. T. Roome, W. S. MacDonald, W. S. Symonds, D. MacDougall, Geo. T. Smithers, Jno. Schofield, F. W. Fishwick, Robert Fraser, A. J. Belmore, S. Goodall, J. Montgomerie, J.M. Taylor.

At the conclus
ion of the election of officers a Royal Arch Chapter was duly opened when the Honourable Alexander Keith was regularly installed as Most Excellent Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Nova Scotia by R.E. Companion Joseph Conway Brown, Principal Z of The Hiram Chapter, Goldenville, and Grand Superintendent under Canada. The Grand High Priest then proceeded with the installation of the other officers.

he Constitution, which had been prepared by a committee, and presented by Companion Sircom, was adopted and one hundred copies ordered printed under the direction of the committee. Companion Sircom then moved the formation of a committee of nine to be known as "The Committee of General Purposes", since 1890 known as "The Board of General Purposes". Motions for the endorsation of warrants and for the numbering of chapters were passed and Grand Chapter closed "in due form and solemn prayer".

The formal organization of Grand Chapter and its recognition by other Grand Chapters, including that of England, speedily established it as the supreme Capitular body in the province. It has been a matter of frequent comment that Maine was the first sister Grand Chapter to extend recognition and to exchange grand representatives, no doubt hastening similar action throughout the United States. Fraternal ties were soon established with other Grand Chapters in Canada and elsewhere. Now, after a century, Africa is the only continent in which we lack such connections.

The records of the time ar
e silent as to why the titles of officers in use in England, Scotland and Canada, under which the three founding chapters were previously warranted, were dropped in favour of those used by chapters in the United States. It seems likely that the short distance to New England and the common ties of business and family had something to do with the decision. But probably of more importance, Joseph Conway Brown, in many ways perhaps the most ardent worker of the original Grand Council, had received his Craft and Capitular degrees in the United States. For him, familiarity bred, not contempt, but complete devotion, the evidence of which is displayed throughout all his very considerable Masonic writings. Those fraternal ties reaching across the international border have been steadily strengthened with the passing years.

Click here to go to Home Page   Top Link

CHAPTER II – The Constitution

The constitution, adopted as the first item of business after the installation of the Grand Chapter officers, was published in 1870. The opening paragraph says, "The Style and Title of the Grand Chapter shall be The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Nova Scotia" and a few features may well be noted. There was a Grand Janitor, not a Grand Tyler; there was no Grand Chaplain as Companion Brown thought them "unnecessary"; the title of Most Excellent was given to the Grand High Priest, to the Grand King, the Grand Scribe and the High Priests of the constituent chapters; all officers were elected; a sitting High Priest was eligible for the office of Grand High Priest; an applicant must be a Master Mason of six months standing; collars were tricolor, with purple, crimson and pale blue for Grand Officers and crimson for chapter officers; the sash was tricolor for Grand Officers, usual for other Companions; a High Priest must be a Past Master of a Craft lodge.

he next amended constitution was published in 1873. Exhibition of emblems for business purposes was prohibited; officers below Grand Secretary were appointed, not elected; Grand Chaplain, Grand Pursuivant, Grand Tyler were added and Grand Janitor dropped; duties of officers and Committee of General Purposes were defined and a statement made on the selection of the latter; per capita tax of 25c was adopted.

In 1874 a motion requiring that an applicant be a subscribing member of a Craft lodge was lost, and in 1878 a similar fate befell an effort to elect all Grand Chapter officers. In 1880 the special conditions in Newfoundland were recognized by the appointment of a Grand Superintendent, the name being changed later to Representative of the Grand High Priest, and carrying the rank of Hon. P.G.S. This continued until the inception of the Grand Superintendent system throughout the jurisdiction in 1921.

Another revision in 1880 permitted constituent chapters to return as "Missing" any member whose address was unknown for three years, and on these no per capita tax was levied by Grand Chapter; it also became necessary for Grand High Priest, Grand King and Grand Scribe to be High Priests of a constituent chapter.

On June 10th, 1890, another revision was presented by a committee which with slight alterations was passed clause by clause and printed in the proceedings. This edition was divided into Articles and Sections and properly numbered, and was formally approved a year later. Among the additions were: no chapter in the future would be named for a living person; every chapter must assemble at least four times a year; the Committee of General Purposes became the Board of General Purposes, with the same composition and authority.

In 1891 an attempt failed to remove the Installed Master qualification of a High Priest. The same proposal was rejected again in 1894, in 1900 and in 1909.

The Board of General Purposes in 1895 was directed to prepare a revision of the constitution. This was presented in 1896 and passed with a few changes. It then appeared in the Proceedings. The few changes included adopting a charge of one dollar for the Order of High Priesthood certificate; fees could not be refunded, remitted, or returned; a member suspended for nonpayment of dues could no longer be reinstated merely by paying his back dues; more time was given for appeals.

In 1898 the Board of General Purposes offered several recommendations which seem to have been approved. The trimming of aprons with gold lace was reserved to present and past Grand High Priests, Grand Kings and Grand Scribes; the jewels of present and past Grand Officers are to be suspended by a collar of purple not of tricolor; the tricolored sash is retained but without gold fringe for subordinate officers; the Scottish Rite is added to the list of recognized degrees; no chapter is to use more than one substitute without a dispensation from the Grand High Priest.

Changes approved in 1906 include elimination of Grand Marshal, Organist and Pursuivant; confirming suspension of Royal Arch Masons by Grand Lodge; confirming rank of companions hailing from another jurisdiction; clarifying matters for chapters under dispensation; the duties of Grand Treasurer and Grand Secretary are defined more fully; payment of fees is divided between degrees; and fees of clergymen may be remitted. It is interesting to note that the office of Grand Organist was not restored until 1935.

n 1914 it was provided that Grand Chapter could meet where it wished and the elected members of the Board of General Purposes became appointive.

Chain collars of gold or gilt over purple ribbon were authorized in 1915, and the jewels of Past Grand Officers ordered worn on the left breast by Past Grand Officers.

Reprinting of the constitution was carried out in 1917. It was issued as a separate booklet and included sections giving Standing Regulations, a Digest of Decisions by W. M. Black, P.G.H.P., and Regulations for the Government of the Order of High Priesthood, all indexed.

An Archives Committee was named in 1922, which soon led to the appointment of a Grand Archivist. In the same year an annotated constitution was issued largely through the interest and effort of Companion R. V. Harris, later to become a Grand High Priest.

he year 1926 was important in that a compulsory examination for candidates was introduced and the principle of dependent membership was adopted, but a greater forward step was taken in the appointment of a Board of Ritual, thus providing for a better interpretation of the standard ritual distributed two years earlier.

e expenses of the Grand High Priest, up to $200.00, were approved in 1927. Previously all who had served in that important office had done so at their own expense, thus sometimes limiting the numbers of 'those willing or free to accept election.

n 1928 regulations governing the appointment of Grand Representatives of Foreign Jurisdictions were adopted and the duties defined.

The Co
nstitution was re-printed and brought up to date in 1947. Further amendments were printed as an insert in 1953. Among other matters dealt with was provision for a presiding officer in the absence of the High Priest, King and Scribe. In 1953 the procedure was outlined for conferring degrees upon candidates from another Grand Chapter for a nominal fee.

Click here to go to Home Page   Top Link

CHAPTER III – The Ritual

Those who have moved from one jurisdiction to another and have faced the difficulty of un-learning and re-learning ritual, or have visited and observed the differences between our work and that in Great Britain or elsewhere in Canada, can only be amazed at the action of our founding Grand Council in dropping the English and Scottish rituals with which they must have been familiar, and adopting the one commonly used in New England. That this step was not taken lightly nor maintained easily is evident from the numerous letters and reviews written by our first Grand King, Joseph Conway Brown, who headed the Committee on Foreign Correspondence during his lifetime. Had we lacked the support of his ready wit and trenchant pen we should probably be labouring under a different ritual, and, in fact, it is doubtful if we should be marking our centennial in 1969. The decision on ritual, like the titles of officers, was no doubt taken with an eye to closer fraternal relations with our associates to the south.

Frequent references are found in Brown's writings to "that model of ritualists, M.E. John Sheville", and "the beautiful York rite as worked by all chapters in the United States", and the equally severe castigation of the rituals of the mother Grand Chapters of England and Scotland. A century later, those of us not charged with the need of decision and still happy with the choice, would scarcely go so far in condemnation of the sources from which we all derived our inspiration. In building his case, Brown sought to make it a strong one. It seems probable that he, like so many of us, had a natural bias in favour of the work he knew best, in his case, the "York" or American rite as practised in the lodges and chapters of the United States.

Many of Brown's comments are very illuminating. In mentioning visits between Maine and St. Stephen, New Brunswick, where a Scottish chapter met, he says, "We hope that Maine will allow them to continue their visits, for nothing can sooner tend to the abolition of the Scottish ritual and its glowing inconsistencies than for intelligent companions made under it to see the magnificent Webb work". In reviewing Minnesota he says, "Our work is as was taught us by a disciple of John Sheville. We used the word York in contradistinction to the Modern or English work; our Grand Lodge set the example of assimilating with that practised in the United States, and the Chapter followed, the moment they had the opportunity to learn it". Concerning New York he wrote, "As far as English or Canadian ritual is concerned all he need ask is John Sheville, but as regards Scotch we can tell him something about it. It was until a year ago executed in St. Andrews Chapter here, and very nearly caused the extinction of that old established body. At our organization we adopted what we had learned from Companion Sheville and raised the Chapter to an enviable standard. Shortly afterwards the writer and his immediate superior, [Sircom, formerly of the Scottish Constitution ], made a careful examination of the Scotch Ritual with an earnest attempt to find whether there was really any information to be gained. No light appeared to guide us and the document was unanimously voted to the nearest stove. Not even then could the slightest symbolism be extracted even in its death agonies."

That Brown had the full support of the first Grand Secretary, James Gossip, is clear from a letter by him on February 22nd, 1870, to Companion Josiah H. Drummond of Maine, when he says in part, "By our movement we have established on solid ground the beautiful ritual of the YORK degree, as practiced by our companions in the States: this is mainly owing to the persistence of Royal Union Chapter keeping it alive for years, but, had we not formed our Grand Chapter, it is difficult to say how the English the Scotch systems would have been propagated.

The need for some written aid to the memory was recognized as early as 1875 when Union Chapter of Yarmouth was considering its affiliation. To comprehend the serious communications gap, one has only to reflect on the great distances between many of the chapters, the difficulties of travel, and the impossibility of securing enough persons capable of imparting the continuing instruction that would have been necessary for purely oral transmission. A manuscript copy was therefore prepared and made available on loan to the High Priest of any chapter. But, as could have been expected, it was easier to send out than to get back. Its return from Shannon Chapter in 1888, in a tin box, under lock and key, was hailed by the Grand Secretary as a great Masonic discovery. Probably no one knew better than he the magnitude of the task of preparing a full long hand copy.

As time went on, Keith Chapter No. 4 of Truro, perhaps because of the happy accident of claiming several willing and able ritualists among its members, became the unofficial custodian of the work. The purity of their presentation was recognized by Grand Chapter in 1906, and it was largely their work which appeared in the first published ritual in 1924. Five copies were distributed free to each Chapter and one to each Grand High Priest and Grand Superintendent.

In 1955 a new printing was made, with a few revisions and the rubrics in red. These have been available to members at a nominal price thus bringing the work within the reach of every student of the Royal Craft, and at the same time, we hope, retaining the interest of those who may move from one chapter to another. Instructions on the secret work are not included. It does contain a glossary of proper names, a list of questions for the candidate in each degree, and a suggested form of examination for a visitor.

The ceremonies of installation, following closely on the manual of Sheville and Gould, were adopted and printed in 1907. They remained in use until a revision in 1967.

The Board of Ritual, charged with the duty of reviewing and interpreting the ritual, came into being in 1927. It is composed of five members, including the Grand Secretary. Over the years there have been few points of order or presentation which have not come before the Board at some time or other, but questions still arise in the minds of new and less well informed Companions.

The last major challenge to the permanency of the ritual came in 1927 when the Grand Chapter of New Brunswick proposed that Nova Scotia go along with them in adopting a ritual recently revised and adopted in Ontario, thus establishing uniformity all over Canada. A member of the Board of Ritual inspected the work as exemplified in Montreal in 1929 by a chapter from Toronto, but a comparison of the two rituals failed to convince the Grand Chapter of Nova Scotia of the merit of making so drastic a change. As each year passes, the probability of doing so becomes more remote.

A Service of Rededication to the principles of Royal Arch Masonry, re-introduced in 1949, expressing thankfulness to God for the return of peace, has been continued in somewhat modified form annually in local Chapters. A fresh service has been prepared for Centennial year, to be distributed as a leaflet.

Click here to go to Home Page   Top Link

CHAPTER IV - The General Story

The familiar problems of infancy immediately confronted the young Grand Chapter. Disowned by one of its parents, the Grand Chapter of Scotland, it was not until 1876 that matters were finally straightened out and fraternal relations became established. The Grand Chapter of England, on the other hand, seems to have acknowledged her offspring with some pride, and recognition was immediately granted, possibly because chapters were commonly attached to lodges in England, and the Grand Lodge. of Nova Scotia had been recently recognized.

It must have seemed a matter of no small concern when an emergent meeting of Grand Chapter was called on December 28th, 1869, with the Grand High Priest, Honourable Alexander Keith in the chair, to consider a circular from the Grand Chapter of Scotland refusing recognition. It was claimed that, "the meeting at which the Grand Chapter was organized was not unanimous; that a member of St. Andrews Chapter had written to say that this Chapter was by no means unanimous and that there was no necessity for the formation". A number of companions expressed themselves and a strong resolution was passed:

That the minutes showed complete unanimity.
That the Grand Chapter expressed its unqualified disapprobation of the conduct of the member of St. Andrews No. 2 who had presumed to make a statement so much at variance with the truth.
That the Grand Chapter of Scotland be requested to furnish this Grand Chapter with a copy of the communication referred to and the name of the writer.
That this Grand Chapter considers that portion of the circular of the Committee of the Grand Chapter of Scotland impugning the veracity of the Grand High Priest of this Grand Chapter as highly reprehensible and uncalled for.
That a copy of this resolution and a copy of the minutes of St. Andrews be sent to the Grand Chapter of Scotland.

What discussions may have taken place within the Grand Chapter of Scotland during the next seven years we do not know. Probably the matter was conveniently forgotten, as the mother country so often did with insignificant colonial affairs which lacked urgency. However on March 4th, 1876, the Supreme Grand Chapter of Scotland unanimously recognized the Grand Chapter of Nova Scotia and asked for an exchange of representatives.

At the organization of Grand Chapter a delegate from St. Johns Chapter at Pictou had been present but refrained from voting, and no delegate had come from Yarmouth because of the cost. Both of these Chapters had been warranted by the Grand Chapter of Scotland, and both continued that allegiance. Whether there was a connection between their action and the lack of recognition from Scotland we do not know. But with the formation of Keith Chapter No. 4 at Truro in 1871; Eureka Chapter No. 5 at Annapolis Royal in 1872; and Rosignol Chapter No. 6 at Liverpool in 1873, thus doubling the base of operations, Grand Chapter felt mature enough to deal firmly with St. Johns and Union. Both were declared irregular and intercourse was forbidden, and both responded by accepting warrants from the Grand Chapter of Nova Scotia in 1876. Earlier affiliation would have placed them higher on the list of constituent chapters, as each was senior to The Hiram.

In the same year, 1876, a warrant was issued to Shannon Chapter of St. Johns, Newfoundland, formerly on the English Register under the name of St. Johns, and two years later, 1878, Alexandra Chapter of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, on the Scottish register, was also warranted. It was thought at this time that New Brunswick might also join with Nova Scotia, but a separate Grand Chapter was organized in that province and received recognition from Nova Scotia in 1888. Thus was completed the jurisdiction of Grand Chapter as it exists today. The Grand Chapter of Nova Scotia had finally grown up!

The opening of the new Freemasons' Hall at Halifax in 1924 was an event of more than passing interest to all branches of masonry. Of special concern to Grand Chapter was the presentation by Companion R. V. Harris of a keystone from the original quarries of King Solomon, which was placed over the door to the Chapter Room with appropriate ceremonies. A similar stone was presented to Mount Lebanon Chapter No. 14 at New Glasgow in 1933.

Fire, an ever present threat to wooden buildings that require light and heat, has taken far too frequent a toll. Regalia, however costly, may be replaced, but the written records of persons, places and events, once destroyed, are irretrievably lost. St. Johns, Rosignol, Shannon, Eureka and The Hiram have each suffered severely. Generous gifts from other chapters, vitally helpful though they were, serve to underline the need for adequate insurance and safe storage. The obvious lesson for all is the desirability of frequent examination of storerooms and review of insurance policies in the light of replacement costs.

Click here to go to Home Page   Top Link

CHAPTER V - The Personnel

An organization is as great as the sum of the persons who are its members, and Grand Chapter has been eminently successful in attracting to its ranks dedicated, able men from every walk of life. Elsewhere in these pages will be found a list of those who have filled the major offices. To include a biography of each would expand this history to a point where it would no longer be brief, and the reader who desires more information is referred to the annual Proceedings, published without a break since 1869, and distributed to each constituent chapter. Naturally the members of our first Grand Council merit special attention.

ALEXANDER KEITH: Born at Halkirk, Scotland, October 5th, 1795, in 1812 he went to Sunderland, England, to learn the mysteries of brewing and malting. Coming to Halifax in 1817 he entered the employ of Charles Boggs, a brewer, purchasing the establishment in 1820 and continuing the business until his death on December 14th, 1873.

He was initiated in Sunderland in the Lodge of St. John No. 118, E.C., and shortly after his arrival in Halifax affiliated with Virgin Lodge, now No. 3, G.R.N.S. In 1819 he was exalted in Royal Union Chapter, now No. 1, G.R.N.S. After filling many offices with great ability he was appointed by the Supreme Grand Chapter of England as Grand Superintendent of Royal Arch Masonry for Nova Scotia. As noted before, he became the first Grand High Priest at the formation of the Grand Chapter of Nova Scotia in 1869.

Much interested in the chivalric orders, he was appointed by the Grand Conclave of England and Wales as Provincial Grand Commander of the area now known as the Atlantic Provinces.

In 1839 he became Provincial Grand Master under the English jurisdiction, for Nova Scotia, and extended in 1846 to the other Atlantic Provinces. He received a similar appointment for the Maritime Provinces from the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1843. He was elected the first Grand Master after the union of the English and Scottish lodges in the province in 1869, serving until his death.

He was elected Mayor of Halifax in 1843, 1853 and 1854, was appointed to the Legislative Council and chosen its President in the year of Confederation, 1867.

STEPHEN ROLAND SIRCOM: The first Grand King was born in Bristol, England, October 17th, 1836. Coming to Halifax at an early age, he became a dry goods merchant, retiring in 1877, moving shortly after to the United States. He died at Melrose, Massachusetts, January 24th, 1906 and is buried there.

He was a member of Scotia Lodge which later amalgamated with St. Johns No. 2, G.R.N.S., and was active in the formation of the Grand Lodge in 1866, being chosen Grand Registrar and Senior Warden. Along with the Grand Master and Grand Secretary his name appears on the document asking for the recognition of the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia as a sovereign body by all foreign Grand Lodges. In 1867 he was Deputy Grand Master and Grand Master in 1868, giving way to Keith at the union of the English and Scottish groups. Succeeding Keith as Grand High Priest, he served from 1871 to 1875 inclusive.

He was also a Past Provincial Grand Prior and a 32nd degree member of the Scottish Rite.

JOSEPH CONWAY BROWN: The first Grand Scribe was born at Bryn Glas, Monmouthshire, in 1838 and trained in classics and as a mining engineer. He went as a young man to the United States, later coming to Nova Scotia where he practiced as a mining engineer at Goldenville and Acadia Iron Mines. He received his craft and capitular degrees in the United States. He died of tuberculosis at his home in Acadia Mines, now Londonderry, July 25th, 1871. A Lodge of Sorrow was held at Truro with burial in Halifax with full Masonic honours. Later the body was removed to his old home and re-interred beside his five brothers in the parish of Malpas.

The Grand Chapter of Nova Scotia has never followed the ladder system of promotion of its senior officers, and thus on the Grand Secretary has fallen the responsibility of providing a continuity of policy from year to year. He becomes the day to day authority on protocol, and, if the truth were known, he has probably been the unofficial adviser to many a Grand High Priest on such matters as dress, procedure and fraternal relations. The century has been bridged by only eleven occupants of this executive office. Without the devoted labours of our Grand Secretaries it is difficult to see how Grand Chapter could have functioned. At least it would have been a very different sort of body.

Painstaking as they were in their official duties, our Grand Secretaries have all been too modest about themselves to make it easy for the biographer. In life and in death little is said of them in the annual Proceedings, and the card index of the craft, built up over the years by the present Grand Secretary, has been the chief source of information. Even here most of the notes are Masonic rather than personal; to have searched family records for the full stories would have been an impossible task.

JAMES GOSSIP, our first Grand Secretary, and member of the original committee, served from 1869 to 1880, and as Grand High Priest from 1881 to 1883. He was a stationer in Halifax, a member of what is now Virgin Lodge No. 3, and was exalted in Royal Union Chapter in 1864. He was also President of the Order of High Priesthood.

GEORGE THOMAS SMITHERS, another member of the original committee, followed Gossip as Grand Secretary from 1881 to 1886 and again from 1889 to 1891. He was Grand King in 1879-1880. A member first of St. Andrews Lodge No. 1, he was a founding member of The Lodge of St. Mark No. 38 and later its Master. He was exalted in Royal Union Chapter in 1866. He was a recognized authority on the ritual in the early years of Grand Chapter. Death occurred January 29, 1892, at the age of 54 years.

BENJAMIN CURREN was our Grand Secretary from 1886 to 1888. He is listed as a teacher and carried the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law. He was a member of Virgin Lodge No. 3 and was exalted in Royal Union Chapter in 1860. He was Grand High Priest in 1877. He served as Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia from 1871 to 1889. Death came in the latter year.

ALEXANDER ROSS, a gardener, held office as Grand Secretary from 1892 to 1896. He was a member of St. Andrews Chapter No. 2, over which he presided in 1890. He died May 27, 1916.

DAVID HUGH CAMPBELL served from 1897 to 1905. He is listed as a clerk and a member of Athole Lodge No. 15. Exalted in St. Andrews Chapter No. 2 in 1890 at the age of 41, he was its High Priest in 1893. He was Grand High Priest in 1896.

SAMUEL JAMES WADDELL filled the period from 1906 to 1918. He was exalted in Keith Chapter No. 4 in 1883 at the age of 36, and was Grand High Priest in 1903. Death came in 1919.

BRENTON F. PORTER is- the first Grand Secretary whose career is dealt with in detail in the Proceedings at the time of his death. Born at Hebron, N.S., in 1860, most of his life was spent in Truro. A teacher by profession, he was educated at Yarmouth Seminary, Acadia University, and the University of Kings College, holding the degrees of B.A. and M.A. In later life he carried on an accounting, appraisal and insurance business. The last five years of his life were spent with a daughter Elsie, wife of Dr. G. B. Reid of Queens University, Kingston, Ont. He died in 1941.

He was raised in Truro Lodge No. 43 in 1895; was Master in 1899 and Secretary from 1919 to 1936; Deputy Grand Master in 1932; Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma from 1925 until his death; member and Corresponding Secretary for Nova Scotia of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 of London, England; exalted in Keith Chapter No. 4 in 1897; served as High Priest in 1901; as Secretary from 1907 to 1921, and from 1923 to 1936. After a year as Assistant Grand Secretary he filled the position of Grand Secretary with distinction until 1936, in which year he was made an Honorary Past Grand High Priest; he received the degrees of the Cryptic Rite in Yarmouth Council No. 12 in 1923; the Orders of Chivalry in Malta Preceptory in 1927 where he was Presiding Preceptor in 1905; a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason; from 1912 representative of the Grand Chapter of North Carolina. He was author of a sketch of the Life of Joseph Conway Brown and other Masonic articles.

JOHN W. LOGAN was Grand Secretary for the year 1936. He is listed as a bookkeeper and as such was intimately connected with the lumber industry. In later years he was Inspector of Rural Telephones. His local affiliation was with Truro Lodge No. 43, and he was exalted in Keith Chapter No. 4 in 1897 at the age of 21 years. He was Grand High Priest in 1923, later Deputy Grand Master and Grand Lecturer in the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia and enjoyed the unique distinction of possessing a 60-year jewel from Grand Lodge, Grand Chapter and the Sovereign Great Priority. He was also President of the Order of High Priesthood. He died in 1960.

JAMES McGREGOR RUTHERFORD, a native of Prince Edward Island, served as Grand Secretary from 1937 to 1942. A career with the Royal Bank was interrupted by military service in South Africa during the Boer War. Returning to Canada, he worked for some years as a railway inspector in Western Canada. During the First World War, he was official censor at the cable station in Canso, where he later served as Collector of Customs. Promoted to Senior Excise Clerk in Halifax, he retired in 1937. He was raised in The Lodge of St. Mark No. 38, was Master of Canso Lodge No. 79, and for several years prior to his death he served his mother lodge as secretary. He was exalted in Saint Andrews Chapter No. 2 in 1907 and served as High Priest in 1932. His death occurred at Halifax August 13, 1943, at the age of seventy-two.

HENRY S. THEAKSTON was Grand Secretary from 1942 to 1946. He was born in Halifax in 1867 and was a trusted employee of the Dominion Steel and Coal Company in Sydney from 1899 to 1921. He was District Deputy Grand Master in Cape Breton District in 1917 to 1919. Removing to Halifax, he was Grand High Priest in 1933 and 1934, and Grand Secretary from 1942to1947. He died February 16, 1958.

HAROLD FRITZ SIPPRELL, the present Grand Secretary assumed office in 1947. Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, April 4, 1900, he was graduated from the Provincial Normal School at Fredericton, Acadia University (B.A., 1927), and Harvard University (A.M., 1928), and took further work in theatre arts both in the United States and England. After teaching experience in New Brunswick and at Bates College, he joined the faculty of Acadia University in 1930, retiring in 1958 as Professor of English. Raised in St. Georges Lodge No. 20 in 1931, he was Master in 1940, Senior Grand Warden, 1944, Deputy Grand Master, 1945, and has been Grand Secretary since 1958. He was exalted in The Hiram Chapter No. 3 in 1935, High Priest in 1939, Grand Scribe, 1942, Grand High Priest, 1943 and 1944. Greeted in Chebucto Council in 1938, he was Thrice Illustrious Master in 1943 and Grand Master in 1947. He was consecrated in Antiquity Preceptory No. 5 in 1938 and was Preceptor in 1943, Provincial Prior in 1956. Admitted in Eastern Canada Priory, York Cross of Honour, he was Prior in 1949, and is the present Registrar. He was installed in Royal Edward Conclave, Red Cross of Constantine in 1943, and has served as Sovereign and as Sovereign and as Grand Sovereign. He is a memberof the Scottish Rite bodies in Halifax and a Noble of Philae Temple, A.A.O.N.M.S.

Click here to go to Home Page   Top Link

CHAPTER VI – The Order of High Priesthood

Provision for the Order of High Priesthood followed rapidly on the organization of Grand Chapter. At Halifax on June 17th, 1870, Alexander Keith, Stephen R. Sircom and J. Conway Brown met and "they being all duly anointed High Priests and the only ones in the jurisdiction," formed and organized themselves as the Grand Council of High Priests. Keith became President, Sircom Vice-president, and Brown Recorder. A code of rules, presented to Grand Chapter on June 22nd of the same year, and published in the Proceedings, listed the officers and their duties, and made provision for jewels and for the general conduct of business. Only High Priests, duly installed and specially recommended, were eligible.

In 1889 Grand Chapter assumed control of the Order.

Although it became obligatory for all High Priests in 1922, gentle pressure to receive this ceremonial and useful degree promptly has not always been effective. The backlog was lightened somewhat in 1968 when thirty-three were anointed at two conventions.

In recent years two conventions have usually been held, one at the time of Grand Chapter and one in mid-winter at Halifax. These alternatives seem to be convenient for most of the candidates concerned.

The work found in "The Guide to the Chapter" by Sheville and Gould, adopted in 1870, was superseded by the Chamberlain ritual in 1895. The praise of succeeding classes of High Priests for the beauty and solemnity of the degree has undoubtedly been a healthy force in bringing forward those who are eligible. Elsewhere in these pages .will be found a list of those who have conferred the degree.

Click here to go to Home Page   Top Link

CHAPTER VII – Notes of Interest

Since a means of perpetuating itself is an important aim of most organizations, it is natural that frequent consideration has been given, over the years, to the officers, and the means of electing them. In 1962 the matter was referred to the Board of General Purposes for fresh study. Following the acceptance of their report the next year, the regulations now provide that "every nomination shall. be sent by registered mail to the Grand Secretary at least forty (40) days prior to the date of the annual convocation of the Grand Chapter at which voting shall take place." Names of those willing to accept office are on a printed ballot circulated at the opening of the convention. The three principal officers, the Grand Secretary and the Grand Treasurer are so elected. The remainder of the officers are appointed by the in coming Grand High Priest. The method seems to meet with general approval.

In the early years, when Grand Chapter was not meeting outside of the province, plans were usually made so that Companions could also attend Grand Lodge. Most communities with adequate meeting and housing facilities have thus been hosts. As Grand Chapter became larger, a longer time was needed for business, and it has been found more convenient to have a few weeks interval between the two gatherings. In 1963 the matter was clarified by providing that the time would be in the months of May or June, but the actual date and place would be left to the Board of General Purposes, unless decided by the previous annual convocation. In actual practice, Halifax has become the usual meeting place unless there is a special invitation to go elsewhere.

One of the more delightful Grand Convocations was held in St. John's, Newfoundland, in 1964, on the occasion of the Centennial of Shannon Chapter No. 9, originally St. Johns No. 579, E.C. It was a brilliant and gala affair, opening with a High Tea at the Masonic Temple, and including a formal dinner at the Old Colony Club which was attended by the Lieutenant Governor, ministers of the provincial cabinet, church leaders, and members of the Craft from every walk of life. The guest speaker was the colorful Premier, the Honourable Joseph R. Smallwood, himself a recent Fellowcraft, who delighted his listeners with his wit and whimsicality. A history of Shannon Chapter was prepared by M.E. Companion L. J. Harnum, but due to his illness was read by his son, E. Companion E. J. A. Harnum. Although the Convocation closed on a somber note on receiving word of the death of M.E. Companion Harnum, visitors carried away vivid memories of brotherly love and hospitality as exemplified in the Tenth Province.

Recognition of those with lengthy periods of membership was begun in 1929 when Long Service Awards were presented to Companion David Pottinger of St. Andrews No. 2, who had at tended the formation of Grand Chapter in 1869, and to R.E. Companion William V. Munro, who had served as Grand King in 1883. The continued presentation of what is now spoken of as the Fifty Year Jewel, with a bar for each succeeding ten years, has been of great interest, within and without the Craft.

The most coveted honour conferred by Grand Chapter is the Joseph Conway Brown Bronze Medallion, so named for our first Grand Scribe, to whose zeal and vision the inception of Grand Chapter is largely attributed. Established in 1944, in which year sixteen were awarded, fifteen within our own jurisdiction, because of wartime shortages it was not possible to secure the medals and certificates were presented. By 1947 materials were available and the backlog was overtaken. The Medallion is presented to visiting dignitaries each year, and every fifth year to Past Grand High Priests and Companions who have contributed outstanding services.

The importance of youth work within the Masonic framework has been something of an afterthought, and the first mention of DeMolay in our annual Proceedings was in 1958, when several centres for organization were suggested. Each Chapter of DeMolay must be sponsored by a Masonic body, and Keith Chapter No. 4 and Cornwallis Chapter No. 26 have each done so while Rosignol Chapter No. 6 has been a co-sponsor. In 1961 a Grand Chapter Proficiency Trophy was offered for annual competition, to be based on a score of points and Grand Chapter makes an annual contribution to the costs of organization and administration. A difficulty, already apparent, is the rapidity with which young men grow up, and the problem of securing new members may easily become acute. A vigorous, continuing recruitment policy is essential, something which obviously can not be left entirely to the young people.

As a stimulus to the regular work of the constituent Chapters, The R. V. Harris Proficiency Cup has been presented annually since 1951. A further effort in 1968 took the form of an Achievement Award Certificate, based on member participation in each Chapter, and five Chapters qualified in that year.

What has been described as a unique way to encourage visiting among Chapters, was devised in 1941, in the form of a Travelling Triangle, to be carried by a delegation of unlimited size, from one chapter to another. The Triangle was carried around the jurisdiction to all the then nineteen chapters, after which it was placed in the hands of Royal Union No. 1 for safekeeping. It journeyed briefly to Moncton in 1946, then back to five chapters in Nova Scotia, and to New Brunswick in 1949 where it made the tour of all the chapters in that province. As we enter our second century it may be opportune to send this fraternal messenger journeying once more.

Admission of a minor to membership is a rare occurrence in York Rite Masonry. In the terse words for which he was so well known, M.E. Companion R. V. Harris, on behalf of the Board of Jurisprudence in 1968, ruling favourably on such an application said,

"Egbert Thomas Walters, age 19 years, and a 'Lewis', or the son of a Mason in a Lodge under Scottish jurisdiction in Newfoundland, in full accordance with the practice and jurisprudence of Scottish Freemasonry. Shortly afterward, that is before attaining the age of 21 years, he applied for his Capitular degrees in Shannon Chapter No. 9 of St. John's, Newfoundland. The Board ruled that he was eligible to apply, and, - if elected, to receive the Capitular degrees under our jurisprudence."

This may not be the only occasion, but it is certainly rare in North America.

The operations of the Benevolent Fund in Grand Chapter have usually been recorded in fine print and discussed in muted tones. Nevertheless, as a matter of important record, they can scarcely be left out of any full review of Grand Chapter activities. Naturally the Freemasons' Home at Windsor has been remembered regularly, as has the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children. For the past twenty years assistance has been given through the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in distributing copies of Reader's Digest in Braille. These are circulated and we are told reach around one hundred persons each month. Talking books have also been supplied and in 1964 two dormitory rooms were furnished in the new hostelries for the blind in St. John's and Corner Brook, Newfoundland. Contributions are made of course to individuals in special need. Those of us who had believed that colonialism, in Masonry as in political affairs, was safely dead and honourably buried, had a rude awakening in the recent past when we discovered that its demise, as Mark Twain said of his own death, was somewhat exaggerated. It came as a distinct shock to discover that the Grand Lodge of England, with whom we had enjoyed only the friendliest relations since the very beginning, had warranted a new Chapter within the jurisdiction of our own Grand Chapter. We are thus in the anomalous situation of being in full fraternal connections with the Mother Grand Chapter, but compelled to regard the subordinate chapter as irregular. The matter is under continuing negotiation, and if a settlement is to be reached, there could be no better time than our Centennial year.

Click here to go to Home Page   Top Link
In closing, it is realized that all of the activities and events mentioned could have been discussed more fully. Other items of importance to many Companions, have, no doubt, been left out, not because they were thought trivial, but because a record such as this must be of general interest if it is to be read at all. We have tried to keep the text down to a length which an ordinary person might peruse, say, in a single Sunday afternoon. With that we have added compact lists which tell in more detail of the who and when. These, too, could have been extended almost indefinitely, possibly imposing on the patience, and certainly taxing the pocketbook, of the reader. Those who wish more details are referred to the annual Proceedings, copies of which go to each Chapter with-a complete file kept in the office of the Grand Secretary.

In retrospect, we feel very proud of those enthusiasts who founded the Grand Chapter; they built truly and well. We are very proud of those who shared the burdens and heat of the century just closed; a labour of love, no doubt, but not without its worries and sacrifices. We are particularly proud of having been asked to bring some of these records together in these pages; if even one Companion derives the pleasure from reading which we have in writing, we shall be amply repaid.

Click here to go to Home Page   Top Link

  Webmaster: ronigo Page last updated: 25/01/2015