The Creation of Flumen Luminis Lodge No. 47 in the Register of the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise
adapted from texts by R.W. Bros. S.A.J. PRATT and H.F. ROSS by D.Wilson
According to Masonic Legend the death of H.A. proved the basis for speculative Masonry as we now know it. In like manner, we can attribute the founding of Flumen Luminis Lodge to the death of Rev. Bro. Cecil WILLIAMS who was Chaplain of Holy Trinity Church, Geneva, from 1940 to 1950.
Very briefly, this Reverend Brother had, in his lifetime, expressed two wishes for his funeral; the first was that he should be accorded Masonic funeral rites; the second was the he should thereafter be cremated. This Reverend English Brother died at Begnins near Geneva in the Spring of 1953 and was to be buried in Begnins; however, there was no English speaking Lodge in the area to fulfill his first wish.
Nevertheless, Rev. Bro. WILLIAMS had three staunch Masonic friends – John BARRETT who used to be British Vice-Consul-General at Nice and held a similar position in Geneva, Solomon PRATT, then an International Civil Servant employed by the ILO and David SCOTT-SMITH, then Operations Manager of Lloyds Bank in Geneva. The three of them met at the preliminary arrangements for the funeral, and discovered quite by accident that all three were Masons. They could therefore offer in a modest way, fitting Masonic prayers, and commended the soul of our departed Brother to the keeping of the G.A.O.T.U. Next day they met at David SCOTT-SMITH’s home and tried to solve the seemingly impossible problem of getting an English speaking Lodge consecrated in Geneva. Their greatest problem was to find out who, in this cosmopolitan city, were English-speaking Freemason, and how many of them would support the venture.
Problems of personal recognition
In the First Degree we are instructed about those marks by which we are known to each other and distinguished from the rest of the world. Caution, however, forbade them from utilising these. They decided, rather, upon oblique verbal slang such as “riding the goat”, “how old is your Mother”, “can you be all squares at the same time” and so on. If the person approached showed marked ignorance, they quickly changed the subject. Of course, they only approached persons known personally to them, preferably those whose with whom a friendship had been developed.
They were surprised, during those days to meet dozens of just, upright, free, mature and very good men in and around Geneva who hadn’t the faintest idea of the existence of Freemasonry!
Sounding out, or rather fishing for Freemasons had its funnier side. Solomon PRATT had written an article for the ILO’s Review. He went with the corrected proof to the Printing Section one morning, and was explaining certain points to an English speaking printer with a Scottish accent. He suddenly said to him “Have you every ridden a goat?” The printer’s eyes sparkled, and he replied “You African snobs know nothing at all about that” then Solomon immediately rejoined “And you printers had better stick to your printing horses and try to be cautious about that”. The printer grasped his hand, gave him the grip, and ultimately became the third Master of Flumen Luminis, W.Bro. William KIDD. He later on introduced Bro. Timothy TALBOT to Solomon. Within a short time, John BARRETT, Solomon PRATT and David SCOTT-SMITH had rallied together a mixed bunch of some twenty English speaking Masons residing in and around Geneva; Masons from every part of the globe – ROSS from New Zealand, HEPLER from America, MARCHAND from Switzerland, KIDD from Scotland, AYYAR from India, BAHR from Australia, RANDALL from West Africa, and so on. Already the diversity of Flumen Luminis had been created.
Many days of fruitless search
A group of Masons, however well-intentioned, do not make a Lodge. Their first objective was to get themselves formed into an English speaking Lodge under the umbrella of the, at that time, Romande Province of the Grande Loge Suisse Alpina. Solomon PRATT was then a regular visiting Brother to the Lodge Union des Coeurs in Geneva. He broached the subject to the then Venerable Maitre who duly made certain enquiries and left him with the impression that it would be extremely difficult to achieve this objective. He stressed that Alpina Lodges would be only too pleased to receive them as members or visitors. Indeed, they thereafter got invited to practically every Lodge meeting in Geneva, and on occasions, in Lausanne. 1953 came to an end without realising their objective.
In 1954, it was decided to approach the United Grand Lodge of England, and PRATT was assigned the duty of initiating the necessary contacts. He wrote to the Grand Secretary, V.W. Bro. Sir Sydney WHITE around February 1954, explaining their intentions and requesting the necessary Petition Forms. Sir Sydney replied that it was not as easy as they thought, and suggested a meeting with him in London whenever convenient. PRATT went to London in May 1954, and met Sir Sydney at Great Queen Street. He expressed sympathy with their aspirations but explained that since the Grande Loge Suisse Alpina was a sovereign body, the United Grand Lodge of England could not consecrate an Overseas Lodge in Geneva, Alpina Territory. He suggested to Sir Sydney that they might acquire a room in the Palais des Nations, which was international territory, and thereby relieve the wrath of Grande Loge Suisse Alpina. he even reminded Sir Sydney of a move to transfer an English Royal Arch Chapter to Berne in Switzerland, the Von Tavel Chapter. Sir Sydney explained that discussions about this Chapter were in embryo, and that in any case the Chapter would have to be under the aegis of the Grande Loge Suisse Alpina. Further argument was fruitless. Probably because he saw how disconsolate PRATT was, Sir Sydney suggested that he should report to his colleagues in Geneva and that he would reflect further on the problem. He then asked whether they had thought of the Grande Loge Nationale Frangaise, seeing that Geneva was so near the French border. PRATT confessed that they had not made any move in that direction. Before he left his office, he was given the address of the GLNF at 65 Boulevard Bineau, Neuilly-sur-Seine, together with the names of certain eminent Brethren whom they might contact.
PRATT reported all that had transpired. SCOTT-SMITH was very glad and announced that one of the contacts, R. W. Bro. ROBINSON, had been his boss at Lloyds Bank in Paris. He took over the job of contacting the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise. After a few visits which both of them made to Paris, the end was in sight.
“Eureka” at last
By the time they started making contacts with Paris, help from “Macedonia” had come. R. W. Bros. ROBINSON and BRADFORD, and many more, cleared the path before them at every step. Very soon they had received a Petition Form, and eagerly they signed it. Flumen Luminis Lodge No.47 in the Register of the GLNF was about to be born.
Why the name?
PRATT thought that he was a modest master of classic antiquities, but SCOTT-SMITH was a past master in the art. They first opted for the name Voltaire Lodge, in honour of the great philosopher who had lived where they intended to their hold meetings. They were, however, uncertain as to whether he had been a Freemason. (It was subsequently discovered that shortly before his death he was in fact Initiated into Lodge Les Neuf Soeurs in Paris on the 7th of April 1778.) The next idea was to use the main symbol of Geneva, the river Rhone. SCOTT-SMITH supported the idea as he had just been reading about certain ancient Egyptian mystic ceremonies wherein Initiates were taken to the top of a pyramid, denied water for a long period, and introduced to their mysteries facing the rising sun whose rays appeared like a River of Light on the eastern side of the pyramid. PRATT quickly suggested a Latin name – Flumen Luminis -River of Light. SCOTT-SMITH agreed and BARRETT gave his blessing.
Operatives for the crest
Their problems were not yet over. They had to find a crest for their banner. SCOTT-SMITH undertook the design of the arms of the Lodge and looked through some books on heraldry. Within a fortnight he had come forward with a draft pattern. After some slight amendments, his pattern was adopted, and still forms the basis of our Past Master’s Jewel.
If it is examined closely, it will reveal a record of the prehistory of the Lodge. The three ferns at the top imply Ferney-Voltaire where the Lodge was to be Consecrated. Switzerland was thought to be a dessert for English speaking Freemasons hence the yellow space where the pyramid is situated
BARRETT, our first Master, is represented by a small bar, i.e. “barrette”, across the crest. SCOTT-SMITH, the first Senior Warden, had been a commander in the British Navy; he is represented by the horizon sign, which can be seen on the coat sleeve of naval officers. PRATT, the first Junior Warden, came from Africa, and is aptly represented by the African Palm Trees. Other Brethren coming from different parts of the globe get mingled in the blue expanse, the River Rhone, and the three universal wells,.
The origin of the name of the Lodge is preserved in the truncated pyramid, the all-seeing eye at the top, emphasizing the Masonic context.
The Lodge moto “Post Proelia Praemia”, “After the Battles the Rewards” is self explanatory.
Operatives for the furniture
They were not rich men in those days, and could not afford to purchase expensive Masonic furniture from England. They, therefore, decided to make the furniture themselves. They purchased plywood, hacksaw, nails, glue, etc. and toiled relentlessly against Consecration Day. How well they succeeded can be testified not by themselves, but by those who came to consecrate them. They even sewed all the first aprons used by their Candidates. And it gave immense pleasure to see that the Cushion for the Volume of the Sacred Law which PRATT designed, sewed and embroidered himself sixty years ago with the help of his wife, bore the three Great Lights in the Lodge. This cushion has since sadly disappeared and may have been destroyed in an unfortunate fire, which also destroyed many archives.
It was a great day – 19 March 1955 – when their dreams were realized at the Hotel Bellevue at Ferney Voltaire, just over the border from Geneva in France and Flumen Luminis Lodge No. 47 was Consecrated, with W Bro J.W.Barrett installed as WM who invested, Solomon Pratt as Junior Warden. Solomon Pratt was the last remaining founder member of Flumen Luminis 47, who sadly died in December 2017.
The M. W. Grand Master, Pierre CHERET was present, as were also several visiting Brethren from Sister Lodges and other Obediences, making a total of 22 Brethren altogether.
The minutes of the consecration meeting record that the MW Grand Master hoped, and I quote,
‘that this Lodge would be a beacon of light and a means of promoting an understanding of Regular Masonry in an area of International influence’ unquote.
Tonight we can say with pride that, in spite of many tribulations, the Foundation Stone was well and truly laid.
Brief resumé of the history to date
Taken from several sources by D.Wilson
The Lodge held its first meetings in the restaurant of the Hotel Bellevue, Ferney-Voltaire right on the border with Geneva, from where came most of the members. The Temple was rather small and as it was adjacent to the bar, ceremonies had to be conducted with discretion, and frequently against a background of much noise.
Despite these difficulties, the Lodge met happily and continued to prosper.
One evening during a ceremony, a fire had taken hold in another part of the building and the local volunteer Fire Brigade burst through the Lodge in order to reach the fire. Little did he know it at the time, but one of the volunteer firemen would be initiated into the Lodge a year later. The fireman was Michael Bell, who was a great asset to the Lodge. Michael eventually became WM of Lugdunum Lodge No. 44 and was subsequently installed as WM of FL 47 on 4th October 1975
A local cleric, who lived nearby, who made representations against masonry in general and FL47 in particular, caused FL 47 to look elsewhere for a suitable place to meet.
Fortunately, the Municipality offered the use of a public gymnasium, the Salle Jean Robert, to which the Lodge moved on 5th July 1956. This was a large, old and draughty building and very cold in the winter. It was written:-
‘The Salle Jean Robert with a single stove was freezing cold and in winter we were frozen to our seats, despite the thick overcoats we were wearing. At the meeting of December 1956 the WM declared that the East would become the West for the evening, because it was in the West where the Stove was located.’
Et en français:-
‘La Salle Jean Robert, avec son unique poêle, était glaciale, et en hiver nous restions gelés sur nos sièges malgré les épais manteaux que nous portions. Lors de la tenue de decembre 1956, le VM déclara que l’Est serait à l’Ouest, puisque c’était là que se trouvait le poêle.
The building was in a poor state of repair and one evening the floorboards gave way and one of the brethren, an Iranian, Amir Abbas Hoveyda fell through and disappeared, being eventually raised from the symbolic grave, into which he had (not figuratively) descended, by the Brethren using the appropriate grips. He became the Prime Minister of Iran but was arrested on his return to his home country by the regime and sadly lost his life on 10th May 1979.
The same cleric, who had previously created problems, continued his representations which forced the search for another meeting place within a cable tow of Geneva. This proved very difficult. Finally, the Chief of Police in Annemasse was approached. Although not a mason himself he proved very sympathetic calling the brethren representatives of ‘real masonry’ in contrast to other bodies which he knew were meeting in Annemasse. As a result, a contact was established with the owner of the Brasserie du Salève, who was also sympathetic.
The first meeting in the Brasserie was on 2nd February 1957. At one meeting in the late 1950s The Chief of Police even provided the Lodge with police protection at the height of the civil disturbances which rocked the region at that time.
The entrance to the Temple was via the kitchen in the Brasserie but the Brethren were well guarded by an unofficial and unpaid Tyler, except for the occasional meat scraps. He was a large and fearsome dog, who barked loudly at the approach on any cowans and intruders.
It appears that the ‘Tyler’ was not fond of organ music as it is reported that he howled every time the organ was played. He disappeared one day to be replaced by another equally large dog, who was so friendly his Tyler duties were less than satisfactory.
The Brasserie became the stable meeting place until late 1970.
Bingo, became a more lucrative venture for the Brasserie owner and the Lodge was obliged to again move.
In April1971 a temporary move was made to the Hotel Terminus in Annemasse where sister Lodges were already meeting and a ‘permanent’ move was made in November of that year.
The meeting room was in the cellar of the building in a very friendly atmosphere. It was, however difficult to tyle the refreshment, as brothers were obliged to use non-masonic forms of address.
An interesting discovery was made during the stay. A cellar room adjoining the Temple had the ceiling decorated with symbols which showed that it had, at some period, been used as a Lodge Temple. Unfortunately there was no history discovered regarding this at the time.
In early 1973 the local building inspectors declared the cellar as a fire trap and once again Lodges were forced to move.
One of the brothers of a sister Lodge placed part of his foundry at the disposal of the Annemasse Lodges. Flumen Luminis met there for the first time on 3rd February 1973. The provisional Temple was located close to a large machine which made so much noise it was impossible to conduct any ceremony without a loud speaker system. It was obvious that another move was essential.
Many other possibilities were explored, including the financing of a temple, but without success.
Eventually refuge was found in the ‘Maison de Compagnons’ a building owned by the Union Compagnonnique de Genéve (constituted in 1889) in Grand Saconnex, Geneva. This was approved by Paris and Grande Loge Suisse Alpina, and of course by the Compagnions who had by their own labours converted the building.
The Lodge met there from 5th May 1973 until 13th June 1987, except for a period of 6 months because of an unfortunate fire. During this period, the Lodge was kindly allowed to meet in the Sister Lodges Temple at Nangy, France.
On 10th October 1987 the Lodge began meeting at La Forge, Versonnex, France, kindly put at its disposal by the Municipality. The accommodation consisted of a dining room, cooking facilities and storage space and a large room on the second floor used as the meeting room. The furniture had to be set up and then stored after every meeting as the rooms were in great demand by other associations.
This Temple was consecrated here in St.Jean de Gonville on 9th April 2005 and named Le Phoenix, a very appropriate name suggested by our own WB John Webb. For the first time in the history of Flumen Luminis we had a permanent place for our meetings together with sister Lodges in the region.
Brothers from this lodge, and sister Lodges together with the Prov. Grand Master Louis Thorens, put on our work clothes, rolled up our sleeves every Saturday ( and sometimes Sunday) and converted what was a carrosserie (car body repair shop) and office in an extreme state of disrepair into what you see today. The names of those receiving merit for the work are displayed on the walls of the ‘salle humide’ downstairs.
The Phoenix was raised from the ashes to live again.
Following the events of recent years, Flumen Luminis entered perhaps our most dark period. Due to the removal of recognition by other Grand Lodges, many of our members, who had mother lodges within the jurisdiction of those Grand Lodges, were forced to resign, leaving only those who were members only of the GLNF.
Thankfully, those bad times are behind us and we are again looking at a bright future, with brothers from many ethnic and religious backgrounds. You may have noticed that we have more than one VSL open to reflect this. The Koran, which is opened at every meeting, was presented to FL47 by WB Amir Abbas Hoveyda, who died at the hands of the Iranian revolutionary government, as mentioned earlier.
As re-integrations and initiations recommence, and thanks to the diligence of our newer members in finding candidates, particularly Bro. Brett Wambach, we are getting back on track and for the first time in several years have the possibility of having a full complement of officers.
Long live Flumen Luminis 47 and long live the GLNF.