Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library

FREEMASONS IN NEW ZEALAND are fortunate in that besides the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of New Zealand, they have Lodges working under the English, Scottish and Irish Constitutions. The Grand Lodge of New Zealand was constituted on 29 April 1890 with 41 Lodges and 1236 members, although the total number of Lodges working in New Zealand before that was 151 under Warrants or Charters from the Grand Lodges of England, Scotland and Ireland. Since that date many Lodges have transferred their allegiance to the Grand Lodge of New Zealand.

At the 11 th Annual Communication of Grand Lodge (NZ), held in 1900 it was resolved that '... a committee to form a ritual...' be appointed and in 1903 the first copies were printed. In issuing these the Committee explained that no attempt had been made to compile a new ritual but the object was to preserve, as far as possible, the language that had been enshrined by all previous associations and which was acceptable to Lodges whatever their former Constitutions.

Lodges with Warrants or Charters issued on or before 16 May 1912 have been allowed to continue working their customary ritual and ceremonies but those constituted after that date must abide by the approved New Zealand ritual.

The ritual prescribes most of the wording to be used in ceremonies, but the Grand Lodge has never given a direction as to the particular words to be used in the ancient 'penalties'. Usually Lodges chartered after 1912 have been guided by their founders, or have left decisions to either the founder Preceptors or Directors of Ceremonies.

Lodges formed in New Zealand since 1912 have been sponsored by New Zealand Lodges and are required, therefore, to work the NZ ritual, which is similar to Emulation. but with additional material taken from rituals that originated in the north of England plus some other minor variations.

At the 91st Annual Communication in 1980 the Grand Lodge resolved '... that the Obligations in the three Degrees be amended...'. The physical 'penalties' are not now included in the Obligations but are explained by Masters after Candidates have been restored to material light. There are differences in the wording of the ancient 'penalties' used by some New Zealand Lodges and it is one of those differences that is the focus of this paper. While it may be of interest to discuss the use of the word 'cable tow' where and when it is used in other portions of our ceremony, this paper considers only the phrase "a cable tow's length" as used by some Lodges when it occurs in their rituals in relation to the ancient 'penalty' of the Obligation in the First Degree.

The Wording

In considering the words used by different Constitutions, Lodges or ritual types, we are faced with the fact that some Constitutions have no approved rituals. Those Constitutions that publish rituals and require their Lodges to adhere to them, usually left blank the words of the 'penalties' in the Obligations. In New Zealand the majority of Lodges used words similar to the English Emulation ritual, although there were many and varied slight differences, which had come about either by ignorance or design. Generally, however, they followed that of the published 'Nigerian' ritual which was stated to be 'as taught in Emulation Lodge of Improvement' and published with the authority of the Distinct Grand Lodge of Nigeria. The published wording was as follows

,... on the violation of any of them than that of having my t.c.a., my t.t.o.b.t.r. (singular) and b.i.t.s. (singular) o.t.s. at 1.w.m., or a c.'s 1.f.t.s. where t.t.r.e.a.f.t.i.24 hours, or the no less effective punishment ...' This is the same as published in Harmah's Darkness

Visible' and no doubt used by many English Lodges before the UGLE requested Lodges to remove it from the Obligation and insert similar wording after a Brother has been raised to his feet. This procedure has also been adopted in New Zealand.

Because very few rituals printed this particular part of the Obligation, many versions and slight differences evolved. For example, in the Province of Bristol, a city which was once a very prosperous sea port:

• the words 'or either' are added after 'any';

• the word 'root' is given in the plural;

• the words 'my body' are added before 'buried';

• the word 'sands' is plural;

• the phrase 'at low water mark' is not used;

• the phrase 'a cable length' is used instead of 'a cable's length'; 1

• the word 'regularly' is not used and

• instead of the phrase 'in twenty four hours' they use 'in the natural day'.

Other rituals have different variations and include the words 'and my body' before the

words 'buried in the sand'; and also often the word 'shifting' is added before the word

sand. 1 have no doubt that there are other variations but they are not the purpose of this


The Origin of the Phrase "A Cable Tow's Length" in New Zealand Ritual

The Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge for Instruction of the Grand Lodge of A. F &

A. M. of Ireland confirms that the wording of the ancient 'penalty' of their Obligation is

in the rough sands of the sea, a cable tow's length from the shore

In 1890, before the formation of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand, there were 16

lodges in New Zealand working under the Irish Constitution. Several Lodges joined the

new Grand Lodge and others have since joined, with four Lodges still working under the

Provincial Grand Lodge of New Zealand (1. C.).

The influence of the Irish Lodges is evident in New Zealand as several Lodges

continue to adhere to, and preserve as far as possible, the ritual and language of their

previous association. New Lodges formed since 1912 have often included Brethren

belonging to Lodges of the Irish Constitution and their influence has also had an effect

on the new ceremonies. It is not surprising, therefore, to find New Zealand Lodges

(apart from the four Irish ones) using the wording 'a cable tow's length' in the

explanation of the ancient 'penalty'. Having established how and why this particular

wording is used by some Lodges in New Zealand, the question remains: 'When or where

did the phrase "a cable tow's length" originate?

Origin of the Physical 'Penalties'

There seems no doubt that the various 'penalties' which were used in the Obligations

came from the curious ordinances which were observed in the reign of Henry VI for the

conduct of the Court of Admiralty for the Humber. jones' , quoting from William

Andrews' Old Time Punishments, informed us that from 1451 the Mayor of Hull was the

Admiral of the Humber, and that the Court consisted of 'masters, merchants and

mariners with all others that do enjoy the King's stream with hook, net and any engine'

and were addressed as follows:

You masters of the quest, if you, or any of you, dishonour or disclose anything of the

Kingis secret council, or of the council of your fellows (for the present you are

admitted to be the King's counsellors), you are to be, and shall be, had down to the

low water mark, where must be made three times, 0 Yes! for the King, and then and there this punishment, by the law prescribed, shall be executed upon them, that is, their hands and feet bound, their throats cut, their tongues pulled out, and their bodies thrown into the sea.

From this it can be seen that the Craft 'penalties' were taken from those punishments which were once normally enforced under the laws of England. These medieval legal penalties were enforced as it was believed that the deaths of convicted felons not only prevented re occurrences, but also expelled the evil created. Vital parts of the body were selected according to the affectations and passions believed to be originating in each. These penalties were not imposed solely for the purpose of cruelty and revenge but also to satisfy an age old belief.

From their earliest versions, the 'Old Charges' contain an Obligation in the form of a simple oath of fidelity to the King, to the Masters and Fellows and to the craft regulations. The earliest forms of the Obligation did not contain penalties. The candidate swore simply 'by that which he held holy'. At a later date, when there is evidence of 'secrets', the Obligation was still without penalties.

The Edinburgh Register House MS (1696) seems to be the earliest masonic document that contains a reference to a physical penalty. It does not appear in the Obligation as such but was apparently communicated later. It stated: 'Under no less pain than having my tongue cut out under my chin, and of being buried within the flood mark where no man shall know.'

This is the earliest reference to a burial place of which an assortment of others was to follow.

When 'penalties' first appeared in speculative Freemasonry is not clear. They may have been known to Elias Ashmole and his circle. From Aubrey and Plot we learn that the Society was well known to possess 'secret means of recognition.' The whole purpose of the 'penalties' was to prevent disclosure of those secrets. From 1696 we have a burial ,within the flood mark' associated with Freemasonry.

Why a maritime location introduced into speculative Freemasonry which was in no way associated with the sea? The Court of Admiralty of the Humber had the bodies thrown into the sea because that area came under the jurisdiction of the Admiralty. It would seem that the only reason for using the sea was because that area would be unhallowed ground and that would also inflict a further punishment.

The Dumfries No 4 MS (c. 1700) has the first reference to a cable tow, thus:

Question: Why a rope about your neck?
Answer: To hang me if 1 should Betray my trust and the penalty was ye heart is to be taken out alive ye head to be cut of and ye bodys to be buried in ye sea mark and not in any place Qr christians are buried.'

Later we have the following exchange:

Question. 'what is ye length of your cable?'
Answer. 'it is as long as between ye point of my navel and ye shortest of my hair'.

Question. 'what is ye reason of yt.?'
Answer. 'because all secrets lyes there.'

In an endeavour to establish how the phrase "a cable tow's length" came to be used in the 'penalty' of the Obligation, we need to examine the exposures of the 18` and early 19' centuries for signs of its introduction into the ritual.

Brief Analysis

Analysing the wording used in the 'penalties' of the 18 h century exposures, we find that most of them contain a reference to the sea, although the positioning of the burial place in relationship to the shore is defined in the 'Wilkinson' MS and Masonry Dissected. It is not defined again until Three Distinct Knocks (1760) and _7achin & Boaz (1762). The 'Wilkinson' MS uses 'a cables length'; Masonry Dissected uses the words 'The length of a cable rope from the shore' and it is not until the 19th century in Allyri's R1 'tual of Freemasonry that we find the term a cable tow's length' in print. A Ritual and Illustrations by a 'Traveller in the United States (1835), which Spencer stated21 was mainly a copy of Morgan's exposure, uses the 'cable tow's length' wording, whereas Morgan has ' low water mark...'

An exposure entitled Freemasonry British, Continental, etc., by Michael Di Gargano (Dublin, 1883), is another example where the phrase "a cable tow's length" is used.

Use of the Phrase "Cable Tow's Length"

In trying to establish the origin of this phrase, it must be acknowledged that it has been officially sanctioned by the Grand Lodge for Instruction of the Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Ireland, although the Grand Secretary for the Grand Lodge of Instruction is unable to provide a date for when it became official, or the first confirmation of the wording as a part of their ritual. In the year 1818 John Fowler became Deputy Grand Master of Ireland, and from then until his death in 1856 was practically a dictator on ritual matterS21 . In 1814 he called a special meeting '... for the purpose of forming a regular Society of Brethren for promoting throughout this Kingdom a discipline and regularity of Duty and Labour as nearly resembling that practised in England, as shall be found practicable ...' It would appear, therefore, that some Irish freemasons had the intention of altering their ritual, to bring this more into line with the changes proposed

by the English Lodge of Reconciliation. It is interesting to note that a Bro. Col. O'Kelly of the Lodge of Antiquity (in London) attended that meeting. This group worked for at least three years and in 1820 Grand Lodge of Ireland passed a resolution authorising Dispensations for Lodges of Instruction. It was not until 1823 that a Dispensation was issued for a Lodge of Instruction to be attached to Lodge no. 2 (1. C.) which worked for a number of years and the Freemason's Quarterly Review in 1839 reported that 'The Lodge of Instruction still continues its labours ... under the direction of Bro.Fowler'. Further Lodges of Instruction were granted Warrants but the granting of a Warrant for a Grand Lodge of Instruction (which was to be national in character and constituted with full authority to not only teach but also to decide all matters pertaining to the ritual and ceremonies of the Order) was not finalised until 4 May 1876.

The exposures of the 1760s, and in particular Three Distinct Knocks and _7achm & Boaz, give us a good idea of the ritual being used at that time, although between the years 1760 and 1800 many changes were made in the Craft rituals bringing them very much nearer to those in use at the present time". We know that the 'Antients' included freemasons from Ireland, and that it is thought by many that the exposure Three Distinct Knocks mirrored their working of the mid to late 1 Sth century. This particular work was dedicated 'To the Right Worshipful Company of Irish Masters' and includes the following sentence. 'I was invited to an Irish Lodge (in London) ... which is the whole subject of this book.' One would have thought that if the 'Antient' Lodges were at that time using "a cable tow's length" in their Obligation it may have appeared in Three Distinct Knocks but the phrase used in therein is 'a cable's length.'

Those copies of the exposure Jachin & Boaz that belonged to Emanuel Zimmermann have been examined`. One is an autographed copy, and the other is liberally covered with notes in Zimmermarin's handwriting. He was active masonically in Ireland where he became a leading figure during the late 18th century. Zimmermann was a friend of John Fowler (the Brother who organised the first group of Brethren which subsequently became the Grand Lodge of Instruction.) Zimmermann instructed him in the Degrees which were incorporated in the Ancient and Accepted Rite. Zimmermann must have been regarded as an authority on Freemasonry as he was appointed to Grand Lodge (Irish) Committee to examine into and report on the 'Higher Degrees'. His close association with Fowler, who as Deputy Grand Master was recognised officially as an authority on Craft practices, would also suggest that his notes would represent those practices which were in use in Dublin Lodges of which he was a member. Zimmermarin's copy of Jcchin & Boaz was the first of the Dublin editions (1777) and his annotations to the text are of great importance. When we examine his notes on the Obligation in First Degree ceremony, we find that he is most meticulous in inserting or deleting even just one word. 'Herein' has been amended to read 'hereon'. Later the word 'will' has been inserted between 'never' and 'reveal' but there is no~ change indicated there to the wording of "a cable's length". On page nine Zimmermann added, among other notes

the cable tow of a(n) apprentice is fifite(en) Enches, that is from ye tip if ye tong to ye Senter of ye heart.

Later on page twenty four after the Fellow Craft Obligation he wrote another rison for ye Cable tow of a Craft to be 15 1/2 miles because there was 15 P' 2 Milles distance from ye temple to the place where ye stones where route (wrought)' and on page twenty seven he inserted a further note: the Fellow Craft's cable tow is fifteen miles the stones of ye temple were hewe fifteen miles from Moria, in order yt ye Cariage should be liter (lighter).

If the Lodges with which he was associated had been using the phrase "a cable tow length", we would have expected to have found reference to that fact among the additions and alterations made by him in his copy of Jachin & Boaz. Zimmermann It

The Williams Arden MS 25

William Williams was initiated into the All Souls' Lodge no. 170 in 1811. He was elected Master in 1812.; was appointed PGM (Dorset) that same year and remained in that office until 1839. He attended the Lodge of Reconciliation as a member, acted as Master on at least one occasion and his work in connection with the new edition of the Book of Constitutions in 1815 was recognised by the UGLE by a special resolution of thanks to him on 6 March 181626. HRH the MW Grand Master also thanked him on that occasion. Williams became President of the Board of General Purposes in 1818, served as a Grand Steward in 1812 and was elected to be Master of the Grand Stewards' Lodge in 1816.

George Arden was initiated into the All Souls' Lodge no. 170 on 9 June 1815. After serving a year as Master of the Durnovarian Lodge no.395, he resigned and was elected Master of the All Souls' Lodge in December 1818. He was appointed to be a Provincial GJW in 1817, Provincial GSwdB in 1834 and was elected to serve as Provincial Grand Treasurer in 1836, an office which he held for 10 years.

On 23 August 1816 Williams attended a meeting of the All Souls' Lodge, explained the important alterations and changes since the Union, and presented to the Lodge a masonic ritual. 'It is quite certain that Williams was in a position to know what was the ritual that had been ordained by the authorities'17 Several years ago a book marked 'Ritual 1817' written in manuscript on the outside cover was found. Inside was the name of George Arden. Dyer is of the opinion that this book is the actual copy given by Williams to the Lodge in 1816.

Basically the ritual is similar to several other well known rituals, the main exception being the asking of the candidate 32 questions at his passing from the First Degree to the Second Degree and 64 questions at his raising from the Second Degree to the Third Degree.

The Obligation for the First Degree ceremony is written out in full with many alterations, additions, and insertions. Dyer comments that 'Probably the most significant part of the content of this book is the manner in which the obligations in the first and second degrees have been redrafted"" The latter part of the 'penalty' of the First Degree is quite clear and has not been altered. '... buried in the sand of the sea at least a C I from the shore where the tide...' The librarian of the All Souls' Lodge has confirmed that when explaining the ancient penalties the words used are '... in the sand of the sea a cable tow's length from the shore ...' The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies of the Dorset Province also confirms that the same wording is used by several other Lodges in that Province. Both Williams (a Banker) and Arden (a solicitor) lived in Bridport, some 20 miles west of Weymouth in Dorset.

The following details give us an idea of the importance of rope making to the area 29

According to the Domesday Survey, Bridport was a very small Borough yet was taxed of a 'full rate firmer caucus'. The &rig considered the town a great commercial potential for by 1086 'human spiders were already weaving nets and spinning ropes'. The reason given, was that hemp and flax grew all over Dorset. By the let'' century, however, the ,growing area' had condensed into parishes around Bridport where rope manufacturing flourished. The soil and climate were highly suitable and the town was close to the sea with easy access to fishermen, boat builders and others requiring quantities of rope on a regular basis. Some place names, such a Flaxcumbes and Flaxhayes, have survived to remind us of this aspect of the history of the area.

The first documentary evidence for rope manufacture in Bridport dates from 1211 when the Sheriff of Dorset accounted to King John for money which he paid for.

by Bro. Howard Wyatt