Merchants’ Lodge was founded in Liverpool in 1780. The first Master was Thomas Golightly, a wine merchant by trade, a ship-owner, an Alderman on the Town Council, who had been Mayor in 1772. He was to be made Treasurer of the town in 1789, a position he held until shortly before his death in 1821.
The other eight founders included a surgeon and chemist, a ships painter, a ship-owner, a ship’s captain (who was also a privateer), a merchant who was also a ship-owner, and four others who were just designated as merchants. Some were directly involved with the slave trade and in privateering, as were most of the inhabitants of Liverpool at that time.
Many other ports were similarly engaged, for example Bristol, and other countries were also involved, such as France, Spain and the United States of America, to name a few.
Differing ethical standards always seem to be applied at different times. It may seem unlikely, but their behaviour in private life was very different. They were caring, charitable men who founded hospitals, helped the poor and sick, were concerned members of their churches, encouraged the formation of libraries and were models of good behaviour.
Our history mirrors that of our home. Liverpool prospered as a port and trading centre. The Lodge grew and had many members, some of whom were master mariners and ships' officers and ordinary seamen who sailed before the mast. Our members included Swedish sailors, merchants from New Orleans and a Spaniard with the distinguished name of Don Antonio Santo Callo y Castro . Mr Chiyoo Honda, the Professor of Navigation in the Imperial Nautical College, Tokyo, was initiated in 1898 and was the first known Japanese to be made a Freemason in Great Britain. All good men were made welcome, without regard to race, colour , their religion or wealth. Indeed we are proud that in 1836, just three years after slavery was abolished in British overseas possessions, we initiated as one of our brothers an African , John Matthews, perhaps the first such occasion in the Province.
•Brother Thomas Barton owned the privateer “The Pilgrim”, which captured a French ship “La Liberte”. The cargo realised £190,000 - then an immense sum.
•The Rev Brownlow Forde was Master of the Lodge in 1789. He founded eleven Sunday schools in Liverpool to teach poor children how to read. He was eventually appointed to Newgate Prison in London, where he attended at the execution of Col. Despard, who had plotted to kill the King. Despard and his co-conspirators were the last men in England to be hung, drawn and quartered. Our brother was also present as a clergyman when John Bellingham of Duke Street was executed for the murder of the Prime Minister, Spencer Percival, in the House of Commons in 1812.
•In the early 1780s, the 17-year-old William Ewart rode down from Dumfries to start an apprenticeship with a Scottish merchant in Liverpool. He joined our Lodge in 1788, was industrious and successful, becoming one of the benefactors who sought to alleviate the crippling harshness of the poor in Liverpool. He became rich and famous as an expert in foreign trade, leaving the modern equivalent of over 222 million pounds when he died. But his name is remembered today for a very different reason. He was a great friend of John Gladstone, who named his youngest son William Ewart Gladstone as a token of respect for his friend. The young Gladstone went on to become Prime Minister four times and Chancellor of the Exchequer twice. Two of Bro. Ewart’s sons were elected to Parliament and due to the efforts of Wm Ewart jnr, an Act was passed enabling public libraries to be established in England.
•Brother, Captain S.T.S Lecky had a name that was recognised by sailors all over the world for over a 100 years.
An Irishman, he sailed in East Indiamen and also for the Pacific Steam Navigation Co. In 1882, he took charge of the King of Portugal’s ship when the King’s pilot refused the responsibility of bringing the ship into port.
The King invested Lecky as a Knight of the Portuguese Royal and Military Order of Christ. He was a brave man and was awarded the Queen’s Egyptian Medal and the Khedive’s Bronze Star for services in the Egyptian War.
But his fame rested on his reputation as a nautical surveyor, for he was said to be second only to Captain Cook among merchant seamen. A friend of Lord Kelvin, the world-famous physicist, he wrote a book on navigation that went into twenty-two editions and was adopted by the U.S. Navy.
In 1902, he was referred to approvingly by Lord Ellenborough in the House of Lords, who was unaware that Captain Lecky had just died. The record of proceedings in the Lords was amended in his honour, the first time this had ever been done.
•Brother Tommy Lawton, the centre forward of Everton, joined Merchants' Lodge in 1944.
He also played for England , scoring twenty-two goals in twenty-three games.
Lawton who was only 20 years old in September 1939, was at the peak of his form and scored 152 goals in 114 games during the conflict. He also netted 24 times in 23 wartime internationals.
In Merchants' Lodge we agree with C.S. Lewis who wrote that “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point”. We have had many members willing to risk all for their fellow countrymen in both war and peace. In the Great War alone, thirty-three of our brethren served in the armed forces (Gunner Jones and Private Wilkins died on active service) and many more served in the Merchant Navy, including Bro. Captain Mills, who lost his life when his ship the ‘Artist’ was torpedoed in 1917.
•Brother Thomas Porter - A ship painter and Sergeant Major of the 20th Foot (later the Lancashire Fusiliers).
One of our founders in 1780., who fought the French at the Battle of Minden in 1759, when the regiment “were a single line of infantry and broke through three lines of cavalry…and tumbled them to ruin”.
150 years after the event Brother Porter was described by a historian as “an old and gallant soldier”.
•Brother James Broadhurst - A Liverpool watchmaker, he served as an able Seaman on H.M.S Namur, and fought in the Battle of St. Vincent in 1797 against the Spanish Fleet.
The ship astern was the H.M.S .Captain with Commodore Horatio Nelson aboard.
Nelson famously used his initiative, captured one Spanish battleship and used it as a platform to board and force the surrender of a second Spanish ship of the line. Brother Broadhurst served under Nelson on H.M.S. San Josef in 1801.
•Brother Jones - Merchant Navy. In 1873, the Lodge received a letter from Lodge Zetland, thanking our Brother for “having nobly saved Malcolm Rennil and crew from the late ship ‘Kertch’” which had been shipwrecked.
•Brother Inman Sealby - Merchant Navy. He was the Captain of the White Star liner S.S. Republic which in 1909 was rammed in a thick fog by the Florida, a ship carrying Italian immigrants.
Eight lives were lost.
Brother Sealby ordered the wireless operator to send out distress calls - the first time this had ever happened at sea.
All the remaining passengers and crew were rescued. Eventually the Republic suddenly sank into the North Atlantic, with Brother Sealby picked out by a searchlight as he clung to the foremast.
He and his first mate were rescued from the water clinging to a grating. Arriving in New York, he was carried shoulder-high through a large crowd “delirious with joy at the sight of the brave men”.
•Brother Alexander Macnab- Marine engineer and Surveyor General of Ships at Singapore. Captured in 1941 and interred at Changi Camp, he suffered much abuse at the hands of his Japanese captors.
He was badly beaten and survived on starvation rations. He was involved in helping his fellow prisoners, some of whom only weighed six and a half stones when they died.
His family understand that after his release he was offered a knighthood but refused the honour because he held the view that he was only doing his duty.
•Brother George Payne - Stockbroker’s clerk.
During the war he served as an anti-tank gunner in North Africa, was wounded and captured by the Afrika Corp. After treatment in a German field hospital, he escaped and rejoined his regiment. He took part in the invasion of Sicily, and the Italian campaign, including the ferocious battle of the Anzio beachhead.
In 1944, he landed on the Normandy beaches being wounded again, this time by a landmine.
•Brother Stan Johnstone - He served in the Merchant Navy during the War' doubling up as the ship's gunner. After the war he was appointed as Shore Boatswain for the Blue Funnel Line. He never spoke of his experiences and they only became known when the Russian Government awarded him a medal for his service in the Arctic Convoys - described by Winston Churchill as the worst journey in the world.
This went with his Atlantic Star, Pacific Star, Italy Star, 1939/1945 Star and the Victory Medal. Brother Alec Owen the son-in-law of Stan Johnstone received an award from the Liverpool Shipwreck & Humane Society for rescuing a woman and her two children from a blazing flat in Newsham Park, Liverpool.
There were many others, men like Brother Harry Greenlees, a member of a bomb disposal unit, a job which demanded an ice-cold attitude to courage and Brother Les Sharp who was stationed behind the enemy lines in hidden listening posts in the Mediterranean.
The members mentioned are only a portion of the many hundreds of ordinary citizens who have chosen to join Merchants' Lodge, the vast majority quietly doing the right thing at the right time in the service of their country and community.
In 2003, Merchants’ Lodge amalgamated with Prince Arthur Lodge & Sceptre Lodge, and welcomed joining members from Anfield Priory Lodge strengthening our traditions of good fellowship and charitable work. Other points worthy of mention.
Every Provincial Grand Master of the Province of West Lancashire since 1826, when the Province was first created, has been an honorary member of Merchants' Lodge.
We are also proud that since the time those original nine founding members came together in the “Golden Lion” in Dale Street, Liverpool to form Merchants' Lodge in 1780, 227 other daughter and grand-daughter lodges have been created directly from this Lodge.
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