Cornerstone Lodge No. 4369 is a Cheshire based lodge meeting at Neston Masonic Hall and I had the honour of giving a talk to the lodge on Saturday 21st April on the origins of Freemasonry. The talk was also open to non-Masons taking place after the lodge had closed. As a ‘white table’ event, the talk was part of an open day to educate non-members with a taste of Freemasonry and to dispell some of the myths about the Order. The event went very well indeed and on attending the festive board, it was good to see the lodge had Masonic firing glasses, though on this occasion – being a white table event – they weren’t used.
The tradition of Masonic fire in England can be traced back to the eighteenth century, with a description in the 1760 Masonic expose Three Distinct Knocks:
“Every Man has a Glass set him, and a large Bowl of Punch, or what they like, is set in the Center of the Table; and the senior Deacon charges (as they call it) in the North and East, and the junior Deacon in the South and West; for it is their duty to do so, i.e., to fill all the Glasses.
Then the Master takes up his Glass, and gives a Toast to the King and the Craft, with Three Times Three in the Prentice’s; and they all say Ditto, and drink all together, minding the Master’s Motion: They do the same with the empty Glass that he doth; that is, he draws it across his Throat Three Times…, and then makes Three Offers to put it down; At the third, they all set their Glasses down together, which they call `firing’: Then they hold the Lefth and Breast-high, and clap Nine Times with the Right, their Foot going at the same Time: When this is done, they all sit down.“
Indeed, that particular description puts it well; the thick base of the glass is brought down fast after the toast in unison to create a bang on the table. The exact origins of Masonic firing are certainly difficult to ascertain, but there is evidence for gun fire salutes after toasting in the seventeenth century. It has certainly become a unique way of toasting in Cornerstone Lodge and adds to the sense of Masonic tradition.