A secret society or a society of secrets? Barbados – thought to be the birthplace of one of the movement’s pioneers.
The District Grand Lodge of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, which is affiliated to the United Grand Lodge of England, has about 20 lodges from St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands to Grenada in the south.
There is a very impressive building celebrating Barbados freemasonry in the parish of St George, not far from Gun Hill.
As you drive around the island, watch out for car bumper stickers with the tell-tale masonic symbol of a square and compass (seen pictured in the building’s triangular pediment).
Alexander Irvine introduced freemasonry to Barbados in 1740. He is buried in the church yard of St Michael’s Cathedral.
From Barbados to Boston
Barbados freemasonry has a special place in the movement. It is a place of pilgrimage for some African-American masons.
Prince Hall, widely regarded as the founder of African-American masonry, is thought to have been born in Bridgetown. There is a lodge building and statue dedicated to his memory near Maxwell Hill, just off Top Rock, on the south coast.
Prince Hall Masonry allowed men of African-American origin to practise masonry in North America, where because of racism and segregation in much of the States, lodges of black masons were not recognised.
Instead, the United Grand Lodge of England accepted the movement and, in 1791, Prince Hall was made a Provincial Grand Master, an honorific as well as an administrative position. By this time he had left Barbados for Boston, Massachusetts. Prince Hall was born a freeman, but fought against slavery all his life.
He was one of the most important free black leaders of the 18th century and spent a great deal of his time and effort improving the lives of both free and enslaved African-Americans.
The claim that the movement is founded on liberty, equality and peace is thought to have drawn Prince Hall to freemasonry.
Regalia and ceremonies…
There are about six million masons around the world. Membership is usually restricted to men, although there are some exceptions and a very small number of all-female lodges.
Freemasons raise money for charity and support fellow members but historically have often been associated with unproven theories about secret handshakes, professional networking and corruption in the police and judiciary.
If you are visiting Barbados and want to discover more about the masons, the District Grand Lodge has a website at http://www.districtgrandlodge.org/contact-us.html