THE DISTRICT GRAND LODGE OF GIBRALTAR’S KEY ROLE IN THE RECOGNITION OF THE GRAND LODGE OF SPAIN BY THE UNITED GRAND LODGE OF ENGLAND
The Duke of Wharton, who set up the first Lodge in Madrid in 1728, introduced freemasonry into Spain. In 1722/3 the Duke, who was also the English Grand Master, died and was buried in a Monastery called La Basilica de Poblet in the Catalonian Province of Tarragona. This is a traditional resting place for Catalonian nobility. However, on the instructions of the Spanish Dictator General Franco the Duke’s remains were removed from the Basilica and buried in a Public Cemetery because of his Masonic antecedents(1).
During General Franco’s dictatorship Regular Freemasonry all but disappeared. It is not generally known that the American Chief of Staff at the time the American Bases were being set up in Spain, Brigadier General Caldera, was a prominent Freemason. The General served in Spain from 1961 to 1963 and personally obtained permission from Franco to set up Masonic Lodges in the American Bases. The only condition being that no Spaniard could join them.
Prior to the opening of the Gibraltar-Spain Border to pedestrian traffic in 1982 the District of Gibraltar had received enquiries from British Masons living in Spain as to the possibility of setting up Lodges. As a consequence of these enquiries the District of Gibraltar entered into correspondence with the United Grand Lodge of England (“UGL”), inter alia as to the regularity of the Grand Lodge of Spain, which was not recognised by the UGL at the time.
On 6th November 1982 the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise consecrated the Grand Lodge of Spain.
Following a meeting in Ireland between V Bro J W V Cumming, and R W Bro M Higham, Grand Secretary, an informal request was made for a report on the Grand Lodge of Spain’s application for recognition. A Report was prepared in late 1983, by W Bro J W V Cumming, with the assistance of the District of Gibraltar (4).
In late 1986, following correspondence and discussions between the District of Gibraltar and the Grand Secretary, the Grand Secretary R W M Higham suggested the preparation of a firsthand and unbiased report from R W Bro Menase J Massias, the District Grand Master of Gibraltar (1977-1997) on the Grand Lodge of Spain. A suggestion was made that a visit to Barcelona on an informal basis would be extremely useful to UGL. An official representative capacity was not possible in the circumstances without giving the wrong impression to the members of the Grand Lodge of Spain (5).
On 22nd February 1987 a team travelled to Madrid from Gibraltar comprising R W Bro Menase J Massias C Eng FICE, District Grand Master for Gibraltar, W Bro Joseph C Perez PGD, Deputy District Grand Master for Gibraltar and W Bro A (Mito) Hassan PDGW, District Grand Registrar (Gibraltar). The object of this “private” visit was inter alia “…to carry out an informal enquiry into the Masonic outlook of the Grand Lodge of Spain, its aims and mode of working.”
The team travelled to Spain with their wives in order to maintain the informal nature of the enquiry. Furthermore, the cost of the visit was met by each Brother out of personal means without the support of UGL.
Over the three day visit the Gibraltar Team met the Luis Salat Gusils, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Spain, Ramos Torres Izquierdo, Provincial Grand Master for Castille, Pedro Alvarez Rodriguez (Grand Almoner), Tomas Sarobe BA (Chairman, Grand Lodge Economic Advisory Sub-Committee and Representative South African Grand Lodge near the Grand Lodge of Spain, now Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Spain), A (Tony) Diaz (Arthur T Weed Lodge, Chief Security Officer for the United States Bases in Spain), A (Michael) Stocks (Arthur T Weed Lodge) and other members of the Grand Lodge of Spain.
The Visit included exhaustive meetings with Brethren, visits to premises, review and collection of all official Masonic documentation and discussions with leaders within the Grand Lodge of Spain.
Following the visit the Gibraltar Team met on a number of occasions in order to collate and consider the documentation and views. In March 1987 the Gibraltar Team prepared a comprehensive report, which was sent to UGL for consideration by the Board of General Purposes (3).
On 9th September 1987 the Grand Lodge of Spain was recognised by the UGL. During the announcement made by the United Grand Lodge of England mention was made, and appreciation was expressed, to the Report prepared by R W Bro Massias.
Seven days later the first historic meeting between the MW the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Spain, Luis Salat Gusils and the UGL took place at the Consecration of the Massias District Grand Stewards Lodge No 9217 in Gibraltar on 16th September 1987. R W Bro Menase J Massias, District Grand Master of Gibraltar and the Grand Secretary of the UGL and a visiting team of Consecrating Officers from the UGL officially welcomed the Grand Lodge of Spain representatives into Regular Freemasonry. MW Salt Gusils attended with 30 Officers of the newly recognised Grand Lodge of Spain.
On 18th September 1987 W Bro Norman Metcalfe officially wrote for the first time to the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Spain saying:
“I am writing to convey the warmest congratulations and best wishes of the District Grand Lodge of Gibraltar on the occasion of the recognition extended to the Grand Lodge of Spain by the United Grand Lodge of England on the 9th of September this year.
The District Grand Lodge of Gibraltar, and in particular its Right Worshipful District Grand Master, is delighted that in future we shall be able to cooperate, and we now offer you our assistance in any matter that may arise and in which we might be able to help. We are very proud of the fact that the Report submitted to Grand Lodge by our District Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother Massias, was unanimously accepted by Grand Lodge.
Please, therefore, convey our best wishes to your Grand Master and to all the Members of your Grand Lodge…(2)”
The close relationship between the District Grand Lodge of Gibraltar and the Grand Lodge of Spain has continued with the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Spain having attended the 200th Anniversary Meeting of the Royal Lodge of Friendship No 278 ( 1987) and the District Grand Lodge’s 240th Anniversary Meeting as well as the Investiture of new District Grand Masters of Gibraltar.
Private letters between R W Bro M J Massias and M Higham, Grand Secretary United Grand Lodge of England (5)
Private letters between R W Bro M J Massias and MW Bro Luis Salat Gusils, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Spain
Letter 1st April 1987 from MW Bro Luis Salat Gusils to R W Bro M J Massias (1)
Letter 18th September 1987 from W Bro Normal Metcalfe, District Grand Secretary to the Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of Spain (2)
Confidential Report on the Grand Lodge of Spain (March 1987) (3)
Private letter/Report 27th December 1983 VW JWV Cumming to the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England (4)