I was born and grew up in Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape Province. I had heard the word Freemasonry mentioned by my parents and grandparents in conversation but as neither my father nor grandfathers nor other male relatives were Freemasons, I had not paid much attention to it. When I was 13 or 14 however my father was initiated in Lodge De Vereeniging, no. 3 on the role of the Grand Lodge of South Africa in Graaff-Reinet. In those days the members did not speak about Freemasonry and my elder brother and I were forbidden to open our father’s Masonic suitcase. This restriction, however, became a dare and it was not long before we surreptitiously did so. It was a great disappointment however as we only found his apron and his ritual books therein, which appeared to be far too boring to read through. Notwithstanding this, our family was soon invited to the Lodge’s social activities and I was initially surprised and pleased to meet some of my school friends there, whose fathers were also Freemasons. They were however equally uninformed about Freemasonry and we reluctantly accepted that we were just too young to know anything about it. As the years passed Freemasonry became a household word and some months after my elder brother celebrated his 21st birthday, he was initiated into the same Lodge. As he and I had shared the same curiosities, I assumed that he would tell me all about Freemasonry but he refused to do so. Although I was already at University when I turned 21, I asked my father to propose me and I was duly initiated in the same lodge in 1976. I soon learned that this was a road of discovery but with very few books on the subject available to me, no internet and getting no help from my “brothers” in the lodge, who were all much older than I was, I had to be content with reading the ritual books. As I did not fully understand them or the lessons they were meant to impart, I rather concentrated on my academic studies.
Some years later and during 1983 I became employed in Cape Town and I eventually found Lodge De Goede Hoop, no. 1 on the role of the Grand Lodge, which I joined. The vibe was much different as there were many more members than in my mother lodge, some even as young as I was. The business meetings were vibrant and the ceremonial meetings were exhilarating as the members took pride in learning their charges and not only reciting them verbatim but with sincerity, inflection and passion. The Preceptor was a real “sergeant major” and no member, irrespective of rank or position, dared to arrive late for any meeting or be improperly dressed or be unprepared for the working. It was generally expected that even if you were elected as a lodge Steward, you had to know all the ceremonial work up to and including the position of Preparator in case you had to fill a more senior position at short notice. The positions of Deputy Master, Secretary, Treasurer, Master of Ceremony, Almoner, Ambassador, Tyler and Senior Steward were reserved for experienced and competent Past Masters. By the time you were however elected as the lodge’s Orator, you were then hopefully on the final stretch of 3 year’s preparation for the Chair of the lodge. Imagine my disbelief and trepidation in being proposed and subsequently elected as the Senior Warden after patiently coming up through the ranks and successfully completing a year in office as the First Preparator. I had now leap-frogged all the positions in between, much to the dismay of my fellow Brethren who were elected to those positions. During my year as the Senior Warden, I was tasked, amongst other jobs, to propose numerous toasts and I had to endure many corrections and unsolicited advice in this regard, which was all done and given to prepare me for the Chair.
In the intervening years, I had seen and even met the Grand Master and certain Grand Lodge Officers, the Provincial Grand Master of the Southern Division and at least one other as well as the District / Provincial Grand Masters of the local Sister Constitutions. I had also joined a Royal Arch Chapter and a Chapter under the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. I was eventually elected and installed as the Presiding Master of Lodge De Goede Hoop in 1990. I can still clearly remember that the ceremony was conducted by the Provincial Grand Master, with the Grand Master and an array of Grand Lodge Officers in attendance.
My year as the Presiding Master was easy and enjoyable, thanks to the support and advice of the Past Masters in general and the Preceptor in particular. My successor duly appointed me as the Deputy Master and it was only during this year that I started to realise the enormity of my responsibility as a senior member in my Lodge and as a member of the Provincial Grand Lodge structure. Two years later my vocation required me to relocate and I took a sabbatical from Freemasonry for a few years so that I could establish my new business and assist my wife in rearing our daughters. I re-joined Lodge De Goede Hoop in 2005 and I was elected as the Presiding Master in 2006. I again sought the assistance and guidance of the Past Masters of the Lodge, many of whom I did not know as they had joined after I had left. In the same year, I was also appointed as an Assistant Provincial Grand Master and the next year as the Deputy Provincial Grand Master. In 2008 I was appointed and installed as the Provincial Grand Master of the Southern Division, which position I occupied for 4 years. During those years I surrounded myself with experienced and competent Brethren and I had, at any one time, between 200 and 300 years of combined Masonic experience at my disposal on the Provincial Grand Lodge Management and Executive Committees. In 2012 I was promoted to the position of Assistant Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of South Africa and I was tasked with Chairing the Constitutional and Ritual Committees of the Grand Lodge, which I did for the next 8 years. In 2015 I was appointed as the Deputy First Grand Principal of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter and I Chaired the similar Committees in this structure for the next 5 years. In 2017 I was appointed as the Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of South Africa and in 2020 I was elected as the next Grand Master of the Grand Lodge.
Did I ever dream of achieving these positions in Freemasonry when I became a member of the Grand Lodge 44 years ago? The answer is a categorical NO. I did not know the structure, constitution, laws and protocols of our Grand Lodge and the explanations which I received in this regard were convoluted and inexplicable. The dramatic evolution in technology during the past 40 years has fortunately made Freemasonry in general and the Grand Lodge structure in particular so much more accessible and understandable.
Do I now understand the lessons set out in the rituals of the Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees. YES, I do.
Do I appreciate their applicability to my own life, past and present? I THINK SO.
Do I know myself? I HOPE SO, although it has been an interesting journey.
The brief expose above does not reflect my life, which has seen many ups and downs, joys and tragedies. Through it all, I am grateful to and I thank the GAOTU every day for my life and all its parts, for my wife Edelweiss and my surviving daughter, Andrae; for my vocation and for my relatives and friends and I pray for wisdom and the strength to fulfil all my duties and responsibilities of my present Masonic office to the best of my ability.