The success of the Special Interest Lodge
Special interest lodges and lodges to cater for certain lifestyles have always been a part of Freemasonry; there are ‘old boys’ lodges that celebrate a certain school, such as Boteler Lodge No. 7367 in Warrington, which was founded in 1954 for ex pupils of the now long gone Boteler Grammar School. There are lodges for Masons who have been members of the Scouts, the Boys Brigade or Youth Organisations in general, such as Arrowhead Lodge of Freedom No. 8500. There are lodges that are attached to certain workplaces, such as in Port Sunlight in Cheshire and lodges that cater for retired or serving Police officers as members such as Red Rose of Lancashire Lodge No. 9640, not to mention lodges that are attached to golf clubs.
In recent years however, special interest lodges have become a Masonic success story, with some lodges being founded to cater for a specific hobby or interest. An example of a recent Special Interest Lodge is the Showman’s Lodge No. 9826, which was consecrated in 2007, members of which are fairground showmen, the lodge meetings fitting in with their work schedule. Another lodge which was has become a successful Special Interest Lodge is the Thames Valley Motorcycle Lodge No. 9885, consecrated in 2013, meeting in Berkshire. Formed by keen motorcyclists, they have regular ‘rideouts’ on the first Sunday of every month, which are open to both Masons and non-Masons, attracting members to the lodge with an active interest in motorcycling. There is also the ‘Widows Sons’ who are a Masonic bikers club, a kind of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ brandishing a square and compass on their leathers. I’m sure if the writer Hunter S. Thompson was still with us, he would spend a few months with the Widows Sons and write a book about their antics.
There is a collector’s lodge; Thomas Harper Lodge No. 9612, founded in 1996, it meets regularly, has guest speakers and members compare their collections of Masonic jewels, and of course, research lodges are nothing new, with many throughout the country, such as Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the world renowned research lodge. There is the Internet Lodge No. 9659, consecrated in 1998, though the lodge is not really a special interest lodge for internet buffs, rather a Universal lodge that makes use of the internet to connect. There is a lodge for amateur radio enthusiasts, aptly named the Radio Millennium Lodge No. 9709, consecrated in 2000, some of the founding members being members of the local Trafford Radio Group. The lodge meets in Urmston in the Province of West Lancashire. There is a Flyfishers’ Lodge No. 9347 for keen fly-fishermen and then there is Morgan Lodge No. 9816 which was founded by brethren with a keen interest in Morgan sports cars. There are lodges with a special interest in stamp collecting and martial arts, and lodges for Masons who enjoy esoteric Masonic research such as the Lodge of Double Horizon.
Special Interest lodges seem to act on a two tier level; they bond men together not only as Freemasons but as fellow members of the hobby and activity they are interested in, be it biking, hiking, collecting, fishing, research, radio, music, work, or the fact that they went to the same school or University. They have become success stories because they unify the Freemason in their shared interests, and create deeper friendships and loyalties, making the lodge experience a more special one, the specialist interest of the lodge members allowing them to expand freely outside the lodge and attract new members into Freemasonry. As some lodges close or merge due to a decrease in membership, the special interest lodges seem to be doing well, and perhaps by taking note, struggling lodges could find a way of surviving.
The above article was previously published in The Square Magazine, December 2015.