A Military (and Irish) Masonic Lodge Seal

The Battle of Waterloo bi-centenary was marked on June 18th 2015.  It is of interest to note that a Masonic artifact of that time is presently owned by Victoria Lodge No. 56, GRC, in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

At a regular meeting of Victoria Lodge No. 56 on June 6, 1933, an interesting and historic presentation was made to Victoria Lodge by W. M. Lowery in the form of a Masonic Lodge Seal which had been in the possession of the family of the donor’s wife for over 115 years.  The Seal is now in a display case and bears the following inscription: “Masonic Seal of the 71st Regiment, Gordon Highlanders presented to Victoria Lodge No. 56 by W. M. Lowery June 6, 1933.  This Lodge disbanded after the Battle of Waterloo by order of the Government.  The Seal has been in the possession of the Treas. George McPherson’s Family since that time.  This attached ribbon is the same as used on Waterloo Medals presented by King George III in 1815.” 

Photograph of the display case, plaque, and Lodge Seal now in the possession of Victoria Lodge No. 56 GRC, Sarnia, Ontario

It is this Lodge Seal that is the subject of this blog.  I hasten to add that I could sub-title this blog “Ongoing research” for as I’ve reached out to others to confirm specific details, I’ve learnt that errors can, and have, crept into the story of this Masonic Lodge Seal.

First I shall remind you of the significance of a Lodge Seal.  Seals are ancient instruments of identification, rank, and authority. A seal is used to prove authenticity, or attest to the accuracy of a document.  In English, the term has come to mean both the instrument used to make the seal, and the seal itself. 

Sealing wax is seldom used now.  Instead, seals are commonly a device to emboss paper, leaving the desired image standing out on the page.  The seal may be applied over an official signature, or a decorative foil shape may be applied to the page and embossed with the seal.

Photograph of the face of the Lodge Seal that is the subject of this blog.

The Seal is circular, with a braided edge within the circumference. A large Triangle shape is inscribed 71st REGT LODGE No 895 MEMENTO MORI; which is Latin and is simply translated as “Remember your mortality”.  The 3 spaces between the triangle shape and the edge each bear 4 identical emblems, for a total of 12 emblems.  Within the triangle are recognizable symbols including a ladder of many staves, skull and bones, and a coffin.  A Mason (even one who has had his degrees conferred in a different Ritual in another jurisdiction) will recognize such things as a ‘cable tow’, Jacob’s Ladder from scripture, emblems of mortality, and the grave of one of the first Grand Masters of our Fraternity. The other items should provoke a sense of wonder, and respect, for the traditions and Ritual they represent.

The information given about the Lodge Seal is that it was owned by The Gordon Highlanders.  It is reasonable to ask “Who Are the Gordon Highlanders?”

There is a wealth of additional information about the military history of the Gordon Highlanders stored, appropriately, at the Gordon Highlanders Museum. The museum is located in Aberdeen, Scotland.  Some wonderful information is shared online.

The Gordon Highlanders were an active regiment at the time of the Battle of Waterloo.  Stirring legend has it that the Gordons and the Greys together charged the French column, crying “Scotland Forever!” and with the Gordons hanging on to the stirrups of the cavalry horses.   Who would not want to be connected in some way with such a history?

A thumbnail of the famous ‘Scotland Forever’ painting by Lady Butler. See Wikipedia for more information, including details of where this magnificent painting is on display — at Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds, United Kingdom

Available information shows that The Grand Lodge of Ireland issued Warrant 895, on 2nd April 1801 to the 71st Foot, Highland Light Infantry.  A duplicate warrant was issued the 3rd of May, 1808.  The warrant was returned to the Grand Lodge “in obedience to order of Commanding Officer, 3rd December, 1835.”

The Grand Lodge of Ireland was the first to issue what is called a Travelling Warrant to Masons serving in the military. 

There is available to us this information: that a warrant was issued to the 71st Regiment.  And the Warrant number was 895.   These numbers appear on the Lodge Seal with us today.

Please note as well that this reference speaks to a duplicate warrant issued in 1808, and the warrant being returned.  And the story accompanying the Lodge Seal states that the Lodge was disbanded after the Battle of Waterloo by the government.

Image of the Warrant issued in 1808 to Lodge 895. I photographed the actual Warrant on a visit to the Archives of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in June of 2017

BUT – there are inconsistencies.  While the Gordon Highlanders are quite famous for their role at the Battle of Waterloo, the present Seal does not belong to them.  The 71st Regiment was not part of the Gordon Highlanders.  The 71st Regiment is the Highland Light Infantry.

So, now some additional research is required.  We cannot accept the presented information at face value!

Fortunately the British Army has maintained a tradition of keeping detailed records.  And histories of various regiments have been prepared and made available by professional historians or zealous volunteers and supporters of some regiments.  So we can trace the history of the 71st Regiment from 1758 forward. 

The 71st Regiment served in a number of campaigns, in Europe and North America.  During the American War of Independence the Regiment was known as the Fraser Highlanders.

In 1801, when the Grand Lodge of Ireland issued Warrant No. 895, the Regiment was in India.

1802 the 71st Regiment returned to Scotland.  But in 1806 they were shipped to South Africa when Great Britain annexed the Cape Colony.  Their role was to provide security to new colonists.

But almost immediately they were off to South America and engaged in the battles for Buenos Aires and Montevideo.  These battles were disasters.  Many men were killed.  Many more were captured and held prisoner for a while.  The regimental colours were captured.  So too were the Masonic jewels of the Lodge 895.

When negotiations for the release of prisoners were successful, the British Army withdrew from South America.  The Regiment was shipped to Portugal in 1808 to join the Peninsular Wars in Portugal and Spain.

The Regimental history notes that new Colours were presented in April of 1808.  Recall as well that the Grand Lodge of Ireland issued a duplicate warrant in May of 1808.  This point of convergence of the timing of something significant for the Regiment as well as something significant for the Lodge must be noted.

It is a matter of official record that in 1815 during the Battle of Waterloo, Sir Henry Clinton led the 2nd Division, including the 71st Regiment Highland Light Infantry.  His troops helped to defeat and pursue Napoleon’s Imperial Guard at the end of the battle.

As an aside, the community of Clinton, Ontario, derives its name from a connection to Sir Henry Clinton. 

A photo of the official historical plaque in Clinton, Ontario. Photo by Alan L. Brown

For the purposes of this short presentation, it is sufficient to note that the 71st Regiment was at the Battle of Waterloo.  The 71st Regiment lost 16 officers and 171 men at Waterloo.

The 71st Regiment, the Highland Light Infantry, have evolved since the Battle of Waterloo.  The Regiment now proudly carries the name The City of Glasgow Regiment.   There is an active Association maintaining the history and traditions of the Regiment.

Many Masons were present at the Battle of Waterloo.  Three key military leaders were Masons:  the Duke of Wellington leading the British, Field Marshal Michel Ney leading the French Napoleonic army and Field Marshal Gehard von Blucher leading the Prussians.  Napoleon was not a Freemason; and he lost.

I will turn now to the ribbon on the Seal.  It is described as being that of The Waterloo Medal.

My photo of the Masonic Lodge Seal, with the ribbon wrapped and stitched around the grip.

The Waterloo Medal and ribbon are well-described in several sources.

What is of note is that this medal was the first award issued to all ranks, and set a precedent for the issue of campaign medals.  It was awarded to all those who served at the battles of Ligny, Quatre Bras and Waterloo 16th-18th June 1815. Some 36,000 medals were issued.  Masons might be impressed that on that occasion, all ranks met and left on the level.

The ribbon for the Waterloo Medal is crimson, with dark blue edging.  Thus it is certainly understandable that the ribbon on our Seal could be from one of the issued medals.

But there is another error in the information handed to us when the Seal was received by Victoria Lodge No. 56. The plaque within this display case states that Lodge 895 for the 71st Regiment was disbanded after the Battle of Waterloo by order of the Government.

Worshipful Brother Gerry McAuley, a Past Master and Lodge Historian for Lodge HLI No. 1459 in Glasgow, Scotland, prepared a history of the Lodges of the 71st Regiment.  He found the letter sent by the Lodge Secretary to the Grand Lodge of Ireland that accompanied the Warrant when it was returned.  In November 1835, the Commanding Officer of the 71st Regiment would not allow a “Secret Society” to exist in the Regiment under his command.  Thus, the warrant was surrendered not by order of the Government, but by order of the commanding officer.

We can conclude:

  • The 71st Regiment of the Highland Light Infantry held Warrant No. 895 from the Grand Lodge of Ireland at the time of the Battle of Waterloo.
  • This Regimental number and Lodge number appear on our Seal.
  • The Highland Light Infantry fought at the Battle of Waterloo
  • The Battle of Waterloo medal has a ribbon that looks like the ribbon on our Seal.
  • We can speculate that this Seal was present with the Highland Light Infantry at the Battle of Waterloo.
  • We can speculate that this artifact is over 200 years old and is the oldest item in Sarnia District — with a clear history — that represents Masonry.

We can be assured that this artifact will be respected for many years to come.

May 10th

May 10th! This year we celebrate Mother’s Day. Cards, calls, best wishes, and happiness. Even when apart, we can still care.
Back in 1805 there wasn’t the celebration of Mother’s Day.
For James Agar and Sarah Fletcher it was the celebration of their wedding. James was a successful lawyer. Sarah was the widow of a lawyer. Their marriage was noted in the newspapers of the day.
More of the biography of the esteemed Brother who gave us the Master’s Emblem is shared in the blog — see the Menu!

Sere. Say what?

Another word that is heard by Masons, but probably by very few others:

Sere.  (Sounds like ‘sear’)

Recall these words from the lecture: ‘sinking into the sere and yellow leaf of old age’.  The word ‘sere’ entered the English language from the pen of William Shakespeare; in the play “MacBeth”, Act 5 Scene 3 “I have lived long enough: my way of life / Is fall’n into the sere, the yellow leaf: And that which should accompany old age…”.

In this sense ‘sere’ means the autumn of life.   For the Mason who studies the liberal arts, hearing the word ‘sere’ in our Ritual comes as a pleasant reminder of the value of education to polish and adorn the mind. 

All Masons should make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge.

And here is a short video courtesy of Bro. Danny McLaughlin and ‘Squaring the Circle’.

Audi, Vide, Tace – An Explanation

What are you doing to give to the benevolence fund?  Your Masonic lodge, or your district, may have monies set aside to help someone in need.  Since we can’t hold Masonic meetings, we can’t raise money the usual way.  I’ve self-published a small book, and proceeds will go to benevolence funds.  The official motto of our Grand Lodge is ‘Audi, Vide, Tace’.  I’ve traced its history.  Did you know it was accepted for the Seal of United Grand Lodge of England when some fellows met at a tavern on a Tuesday night in 1814? 

More information is on this page:



There are some words in Masonic ritual that are simply not common outside our tyled lodges. Or Masons learn the meaning of the word as it was used in an older time. Such it is with the word ‘ejaculation’.

A phrase in an early lecture is ‘the many pious prayers and ejaculations offered up by King David’.  Some of the uninitiated who hear the word ejaculation’ will recall their sex education classes — and be confused.  The educated man knows this use of the word ‘ejaculation’ properly means to speak a quick and short prayer or religious exclamation such as “The Holy Sts. John, pray for us”.  An initiated and educated Mason will acknowledge an example of an ejaculation is “so mote it be”. 

I offer this short message so you might make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge. I serve my Brethren as the Sarnia District Librarian and Historian, so I work to make many resources available for Masonic Education. For information about Sarnia District, visit our website (and look for the page about our District Library).


And here is a short video courtesy of Bro. Danny McLaughlin and ‘Squaring the Circle’.

550 Years Ago…

Old books were carefully printed and bound with care so their value may be appreciated.  The first book of the work of Euclid in the English language is now 550 years old.  Details of its value to Masonry are in an article I wrote that will be published in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (AQC) 133, due out in November.  Subscribe at www.quatuorcoronati.com

Marshall Kern with a copy of the first English-language Euclid — in the rare book room of McGill University, Montreal Quebec.

Pick up the phone and call!

We’ve heard the exhortation to call a Brother.  Pick up the phone and call!

BUT some of us need a bit more information.  What phone number?  What do I say?  How many should I call? 

Phone numbers: check your Lodge Summons (or notice from another body).  There is usually a list of Officers with phone numbers.  Get started!

Ask some questions to get the conversation going.  A script or a few prepared questions can help.  “Did you get the last issue of Ontario Mason Magazine?  Have you visited the Grand Lodge website?  Is there something that the Lodge should plan to do for the next meeting?  Perhaps there is some topic that you’d like to learn more about and we can do some Education on that.  What about the food for a time of fellowship or festive board – what meals have you enjoyed that were really memorable?”  Many Lodge Summonses have a list of milestones such as the years since Initiation; wouldn’t you feel good if you got several phone calls in one month from Brethren congratulating you for your years of fervency and zeal? You can do the same for them!

Keep in mind that is isn’t the number of calls, nor the total time spent on the phone.  This is contact — not a contest. 

Take some notes either during or after the call.  If follow-up is needed then be ready to share some details.

This is something to start now and then keep going.  And going.

Pick up the phone and call!

Now available — a new small book: “Audi, Vide, Tace — An Explanation”

I was hoping to make an announcement of a new publication at a significant event.  Instead I’ll make this announcement here.  ‘Audi, Vide, Tace – an Explanation’ is now available!

This small book is the result of my questions about the motto of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario.  I followed the “five W’s” of an investigation.  Who, what, when, where, and why?  I’ve also explored both an understanding for historians and the public, as well as the esoteric understanding achieved by a Mason who has enjoyed our ritual.

Available for $5 (mailing included) at my website of www.mastersemblem.com


Some History for March 7

It was a Wednesday according to the Julian calendar in use at the time. Middle of the week. 1274, March 7. Thomas was travelling with friends to Rome. He was badly injured when a tree branch struck his head. And he died.

We remember him now as St. Thomas Aquinas.

Why mention this in a blog regarding Freemasonry? There are two reasons. First, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote of ‘cardinal virtues’ and ‘theological virtues’. Every Mason will have an understanding of these virtues from his own experience and from our Ritual. I encourage you to make an advancement in your knowledge today by searching for a bit more understanding of these virtues. Even checking Wikipedia for an explanation will either reinforce your own power of intellect, or give you something for earnest consideration.

The second reason is, in fact, reason. St. Thomas Aquinas believed and taught that reason is found in God. I’ve read a biography of his life and I understand that St. Thomas Aquinas studied the ancient philosophers including Aristotle, Plato, and Euclid(!), to appreciate the beauty of reason. He wrote extensively to draw together Christian spirituality and natural reason. I’ve read several parts of his Summa Theologica, particularly his proofs of the existence of God, and his use of simple principles of logic make for very strong proofs.

So as today marks 1876 years since his death, let’s remember his soul, and thank him the next time we hear mention of virtues in our Ritual.