Central Otago’s wintry days were an incentive for the establishment of Lodge Manuherikia Kilwinning in Alexandra in 1896, following the revival of the then-dormant Lodge Dunstan in Clyde the previous year.

Lodge chaplain Bert Kemp, who at 81 is its longest-standing member, presented a brief history of the lodge during its 125th jubilee anniversary on Saturday, drawing on a book written by the late Rob Bell for its 100th anniversary.

Mr Kemp said two freemasons regularly travelled by horse and trap between Alexandra and Clyde in the winter of 1895 to assist in the revival of Lodge Dunstan, and suggested starting a lodge closer to home.

The result was Lodge Manuherikia Kilwinning, Mr Kemp said, which he had joined in 1966.

Welcoming new blood . . . Director of Ceremonies, Lindsay Bain, stands by as the Grand Master of Freemasons New Zealand, Graham Wrigley, greets recent members of the lodge – (from left) Neil Gillespie of Cromwell and Andre Cavalanti of Queenstown.

Freemasons did not advertise their activities in those days, so most members heard of the group through word of mouth.

“I had family in the Freemasons and I knew of all the charity they gave out,” he said.

Younger member numbers were dwindling, Mr Kemp said, as younger people were busier these days with longer work hours and a lot of individual sports such as cycling.

Sixty-four diners attended the jubilee dinner but Mr Kemp said many others who would ordinarily attend from the North Island were unable to do so because of concerns about Covid-19 and the possibility of further lockdowns.

Lodge secretary Les Brenssell said Freemasons New Zealand gave about $9million to $10million a year to charities.

In Central Otago, that had included funds raised for Dunstan Hospital, the rescue helicopter and St John, in addition to a mobility scooter scheme that has 20-plus scooters available throughout the region for those who required them temporarily.

A place in history . . . The first home of Lodge Manuherikia Kilwinning was on the top floor of a building between the Calendonian and Criterion Hotels in Tarbert Street, since demolished and now the site of the Criterion’s beer garden. Photo taken circa 1900.