SHORT HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSTY LODGE OF THE WEST INDIES
The District Grand Lodge of the Jamaica and the Cayman Islands comprises 22 Lodges and is headed by a District Grand Master. The University Lodge of the West Indies is one of the youngest Lodges in the District- it lies 15th in a family of 22 Lodges. To give a sense of perspective, the oldest Lodge in the District, the Royal Lodge, was founded in 1794 – 221 years ago; the University Lodge was founded on March 14th, 1952 – a mere 63 years ago. But its youthfulness belies its stature; rather it suggests a sense of energy and sprightliness of minds of the Brethren who compromise the Lodge.
THE EARLY YEARS
The Lodge evolved from the close association between Dr. Francis Haddon-Bowen and students at what was, then, the University College of the West Indies. Dr. Haddon-Bowen, who in the 1940s was responsible for setting up and heading the Department of Physics at that institution, was also Warden of Chancellor Hall which facilitated that close contact.
Right Worshipful Brother Dr. Aubrey Jacobs, who was District Grand Master some years ago, in his 1996 book entitled, “Jacob’s Ladder,” says of Dr. Haddon-Bowen and the University Lodge:
“I mentioned also his work at that university and his love for the University Lodge:… Many of his students are here as Freemasons. They can testify that he gave much of his time and substance to them as they pursued their degree courses. It was for them that the University Lodge was founded so, as some of them journeyed away from Jamaica into the other lands of the Caribbean, they would be bound close together by the mystic ties of the Order. In all these territories they would be better equipped as a result of their Masonic experience to forge new links of friendship and build new and better bridges of understanding.”
Dr. Haddon-Bowen was the first WM of the University Lodge, he was also the second. The founders comprised Brethren from the islands of Antigua, Guyana, Curacao, St. Lucia, Trinidad and of course Jamaica.
Two of our first initiates (March 14th, 1952), Bro. Amb. Vernon Oliver Smith, QC, PM Unity Lodge (SC) from Barbados and Bro. Dr. Reginald Alford Walwyn, OBE, now retired Deputy Governor General from Antigua, are still alive.
The West Indian nature of the Lodge from its inception and its closeness to the University of the West Indies form part of the uniqueness of the University Lodge. The present Chancellor of the UWI, the Barbadian, W. Bro. Sir George A.O. “Champ” Alleyne, PDSGW, who recently resigned from the Lodge as he now lives in Maryland, was our WM in 1959.
In that year, the Lodge was honoured when W. Bro. Dr. Francis Haddon-Bowen was appointed District Grand Master of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.
Today we have approximately 25% (17) of our members living overseas – including Antigua, Trinidad and Barbados – even as the UWI has become more Jamaican than West Indian. We also have Brethren living in Japan, the USA, and the UK – the world has changed.
It is interesting to note that all our members have tertiary degrees, mostly from the UWI and several of our Past Masters are graduates with science of math-related degrees. We have many medical doctors and engineers of various disciplines, some accountants, economists and even a few lawyers. It is, therefore, not surprising that when in 2012 we celebrated 9 Brethren who had been members of the Lodge for 50 years or more, unequalled by any other Lodge in the District, five were medical doctors.
By Bro. Michael Alexander