The Grand Conclave of the
Mark Masons Hall,
The Order of the Secret Monitor which developed from a still more ancient degree is the Brotherhood of David and Jonathan and is in its way older than Freemasonry itself. Its principles and its watchwords being founded upon those grand examples set by two worthy Hebrew Princes around 1000BC as recorded in the Jewish history of the Bible.
This is a Society framed upon the principles of self-sacrifice; of mutual trust, watchful brotherly care; of warning in time of danger; solace in time of sorrow; and skilful and effective friendly advice in every circumstance of life: A Society that meets a great and crying need in human affairs and is calculated to benefit those who act up to its tenets.
If a Brother be in sorrow the Conclave will afford him sympathy; if in danger his Brethren will give him consolation; if in distress the Visiting Deacons will bring him consolation; if in poverty he will find aid.
At every turn in life, at every crisis of fate he may look, and not look in vain to the experienced among the Brethren who have pledged themselves to give him caution, to prompt him to good actions, to warn him of doubtful ones – Generally to watch over him, support him and cherish him so long as he may need their care and prove himself worthy of the confidence reposed in him.
Within Craft Freemasonry we are taught, at an early stage, that it has for its Principles, ‘Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth’. In no other Order in Freemasonry, than that of The Order of the Secret Monitor, can there be found a greater emphasis on those funda- mental Masonic Virtues, for the teaching of those Principles are a dominant part of our Ceremonial and Ritual, and enables us to put them into practice.
This Order in Freemasonry is based on the friendship of David and Jonathan. The land of Canaan , or Israel , as it is known today, is a tract of hill country with a narrow coastal belt on the Eastern Mediterranean . When the Children of Israel returned to Canaan from Egypt (circa 1320 BC) they found the country parcelled-out into petty kingdoms, whose people regarded the Israelites as interlopers. There was perpetual warfare between rival tribes for over 200 years but the Israelites, who were ruled by Judges, ultimately had possession of a block of territory from Dan to Beersheba.
From this period on, we have the kingdom of Saul, and then ultimately David; the son of Jesse the Bethlehemite. David distinguished himself not only as a warrior but as a musician. His encounter with Goliath is known to all of us. His success, however, made Saul jealous, and with the help of Jonathan, David was saved from the treachery of Saul. The shooting of arrows is part of this story, as well as the various refuges occupied by David. Jonathan visited David in these refuges and renewed the covenant between them. Jonathan was killed in a disastrous battle against the Philistines near Mount Gilboa (1018 BC). Saul committed suicide, and David was finally accepted as king by the people of Judah.
Origins of the Order
Based on this Biblical history, the Order has been developed. We should be aware that speculative masonry in the 17th and 18th centuries gave rise to the invention of many post-Craft degrees. Particularly in Scotland were those degrees prevalent and the Early Grand Scottish Rite at this time collected degrees from the 4th to the 44th. The 16th degree was the ‘Order of Brotherly Love’, and in the late 17th century, this Order was taken from Scotland to New York , where various interpretations were given to both the French and Dutch Freemasons over the next hundred years or so. The rite worked in the 19th century could be called ‘The Secret Monitor or Trading Degree’. Around 1890 the Sovereign College of Allied and Christian Degrees for America took the Order under its aegis and candidates had to be Ark Mariners of good standing.
This now brings us to the History of the Order in Great Britain. After serving on the Federal side as a surgeon in the American Civil War, an Englishman, Issachar Zacharie, settled in California and took a prominent role in Masonic affairs. He returned to London in 1875 and set up practice in Brook Street, Mayfair . He made many Masonic contacts, and was advanced in the Bon Accord Mark Lodge in 1882. Here he met other Brethren who had received the Degree of Secret Monitor in various places. Amongst these was one C F Matier who had received the signs etc. from an American brother in 1865. At this period the communication of the signs etc. seems to have been a simple and personal ceremony. Brother Zacharie discussed with these brethren the possibility of working the degree in England, as a result of which a Conclave of the Order was formed in May 1887 which ultimately became Premier Conclave No 1.
The Last Hundred Years
From this step the Grand Council of the Order was formed with Bro Zacharie as the Grand Supreme Ruler, which office he filled from 1887 to 1894. Model by laws were discussed and adopted, and Bro W I Spratling was appointed Grand Recorder which office he held from 1887 to 1927. The University of London Conclave No 2 was founded in late 1887 and this was soon followed by other Conclaves.
It is perhaps not surprising that the success of Bro Zacharie’s Secret Monitor organisation should arouse jealousy and competition. The Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees and the Sovereign College of Allied and Christian Degrees for America were both concerned.
It should be pointed out that by then the Order of the Secret Monitor in England was working the three degrees, namely Induction, the Princes Degree and the Chair Degree of Supreme Ruler: whilst in America only one degree was practised.
The outcome of these discussions was that the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees took the Order of the Secret Monitor under its aegis in 1898, but nevertheless, the original Grand Council of the Order of the Secret Monitor remained in existence. However, in 1931 the whole matter was settled when R W Bro Napier-Clavering was the Grand Supreme Ruler of the Order of the Secret Monitor as well as the Grand Master of the Allied Masonic Degrees, and the latter Council officially recognised the former as a separate Grand Council.
As an item of interest, those members of the Allied Masonic Degrees who possess an old bar ofthe jewels for each degree, may find that it also includes the first degree jewel of the Order of the Secret Monitor – indeed some may include the Royal Ark Mariner Jewel.
Another interesting `side’ degree associated with the Order is that of the Order of the Scarlet Cord and the Trading Degree. These are truly ‘side’ degrees and of interest to the Masonic historian.
The Order Today
Over the past 65 years the Order has flourished in England , Wales and Scotland , and altogether there are now over 500 Conclaves in the English Constitution which includes many in India and South Africa , several in Europe and around the globe. France and Australia were formerly part of the English Constitution but were granted independence.
The English constitution of the Order has its central administration in Mark Masons’ Hall, St James, London . With the U.K. being divided into Provinces and the rest of the world into Districts, each is ruled over by a Provincial or District Grand Supreme Ruler.
Secret Monitor in Cheshire and North Wales
The Order of the Secret Monitor has fifteen Conclaves in the Province of Cheshire and North Wales. The Conclaves meet either 3 or 4 times a year.
The oldest Conclave Verney Clayton No 45 meets at Timperley, Altrincham and was consecrated in February 1920. The newest Conclave is The Scarlet Cord Conclave of Cheshire and North Wales No. 530 which meets at Freemasons’ Hall, Plough Lane, Christleton, Chester.
Conclaves also meet at Macclesfield, Stockport, Knutsford, Middlewich, Runcorn, Wallasey, Christleton, Hawarden, Welshpool, Wrexham, Rhyl and Mostyn. All Conclaves meet on a weekday evening. The older Conclaves tend to meet in the September to May slot.
However Knutsford Conclave meets in May, June and July. Dewi Sant and Seal of Solomon Conclaves which have a meeting in June.
The Province and its several Conclaves make donations to Masonic and non Masonic charities. The nominated charities for 2009 /2010 were
The Childrens’ Adventure Farm Trust, Altrincham and East Cheshire Hospice. An application was made to the O.S.M. Grand Charity Benevolent Fund and we received a cheque for £2,000 to add to the £2,000 already raised by Conclaves and members of the Province. This enabled each charity to receive £2,000.
Entry to the Order
For Induction, candidates need only be Master Masons in good standing.
There are Three Degrees, including the Chair. Regalia for the first two degrees is a breast jewel and upon Installation, having received a delightful and personal commissioning ceremony, the Supreme Ruler is invested with a sash, collaret and robe.
Provincial and Grand rank bring with them distinctive sashes of blue and crimson respectively, each accompanied by a collaret and jewel.
Brethren interested in finding out more should, in the first instance, contact the Provincial Grand Recorder: Wy. Bro. Paul Crudge via e-mail email@example.com or telephone: 01244 504567, who will be pleased to provide information on Conclaves in the Province; meeting places; and names and addresses of Conclave Secretaries.
The late R Wy Bro Judge F A Philbrick Grand Registrar. The late R Wy Bro Prof I D Morton, Past Provincial Grand Supreme Ruler for the Province of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Hertfordshire. R Wy Bro G H Jones Grand Guide (2000 – 2004).