According to the Archivist at Old York Lodge of Mark Master Masons T.I., they can trace their Mark Masonic lineage back, with more than a degree of certainty, to at least 1794 and, during that long and distinguished existence, there have been a great many conflicts; not, they hasten to add, in Old York (although they did come perilously close last time they threatened to increase the dining charge), but conflicts around the world. This set the scene for this piece to be provided by Worshipful Brother Andrew Jagger.
‘For much of the early part of this period there were those from ‘this sceptred Isle’ with an obsession for sailing off and planting the Union Jack in all sorts of places across the globe expanding the Empire, until it covered a fair old proportion, on which the sun never set. Out of all this came unbelievable trade and vast wealth for lots of folk back in Blighty. However it appears not everything went swimmingly for these fat-cat industrialists all the time as, occasionally, other people out there fancied a piece of it and, periodically, they had to dispatch the armed forces to show who was boss. The success of this gunboat diplomacy seemed to rely not on superior numbers but on superior technology and here we had the upper hand.
Now, compared with today’s weaponry, the firearms of 200 years ago appear as technologically advanced as a mangle but, back in the day, they were cutting-edge. Those factories at the epicentre of the industrial revolution, particularly around the Midlands and the North, mass-produced some pretty devastating kit at the time.
Although in the past, I have loosed many a shot off in anger, mine have been with a shotgun and the clay pigeons have invariably fared better than me, I must confess my knowledge of rifles is less than encyclopaedic no, let’s be honest, it’s nil. That was until Tuesday, 24 November, because at our regular meeting of Old York Lodge of Mark Master Masons T.I., and this is the point to these ramblings, the Worshipful Master, W. Bro. Stuart Taylor gave a wonderful presentation on military firearms throughout the ages. To make it more interesting he spiced it up with a few props which went down a treat with the Brethren who, predictably, did their full repartee of Corporal Jones impressions.
The Worshipful Master started with muzzle-loaders from Napoleonic times when the armies of those good-old Masons like the Duke of Wellington and Marshals Blucher, Soult, Ney and Massena were going head-to-head at Waterloo. There was much discussion about cocks, balls and nipples and, before the Provincial Grand Censor starts pressing the delete key on this article, they are all parts of guns – honest! One of these rifles was as tall as me and towered frighteningly higher when a terrifying bayonet was added. He then introduced a variety of breech-loaders from the time of the Boer War through to the end of the Second World War. He also did a bit of myth-busting, particularly around cartridges used in the Indian Mutiny, and told us all about the thin red line (which I now know hasn’t always referred to the Bank Manager’s notations on my monthly statements). He then went on to tell us that a company of well-drilled soldiers could fire single-shot rifles as fast as a machine gun – pretty impressive – unless you were on the receiving end.
All in all it was an incredibly interesting and informative evening and just goes to show you don’t have to fill every meeting with advancements to guarantee a full house.
Thanks go to our Worshipful Master for all the research and hard work he put into this talk. He’s now busy learning how to run a raffle at the festive board because that was a right farce!
Seems to have been a good night at Cleckheaton, other commitments prevented me from attending, but Tuesday the 26 January 2016, their next meeting, is in my diary. You may wish to join me!
Smile, be happy, and enjoy your Mark Master Masonry.