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District Grand Master, E.R.
First Past Grand Master, B.C.
By Bro. G. Hollis Slater, Victoria-Columbia Lodge, No. 1, B.C.R.
Whenever the early years of Freemasonry, in what is now British Columbia, especially on Vancouver Island, are mentioned, the name of Robert Burnaby stands out pre-eminently. Although the history of this Province has only just completed its first century, it will not be amiss to refresh one’s memories of the events that transferred the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort Victoria, from being the chief trading post, with its subsidiary posts on the mainland, into a city now known worldwide. The Californian gold rush of 1847 attracted all sorts and conditions of men from all parts of the world, and when ten years later gold was discovered on the Fraser River bars, a goodly number of those men, together with a number of "neophytes" quickly gathered around the Fort preparatory for outfitting, though some, but a very few, when they arrived here entered other fields of enterprise. Robert Burnaby was one of the latter few, coming here directly from England, in 1858. He was the seventh child in a family of ten—5 sons and 5 daughters—and the fourth son. He was born November 30th, 1828. His father was the Rev. Thomas Burnaby, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, born July 3rd, 1786, and died October 18th, 1851, and among his appointments was rector of Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, vicar of Blakesley, Northamptonshire, and Domestic Chaplain to the Marquis of Anglesey. His mother was Sarah, daughter of Andrew Meares, of Daventry, married April 12th, 1819, and died October 31st, 1878, at the ripe old age of 90 years. The family of Burnaby is a very old one. Foster in his Collectanea Genealogica traces it back to the time of William the Conqueror. Col. Burnaby, of the Royal Horse Guards, who gained fame for his ride to Khiva, Turkistan, and afterwards killed at Abou Klea, Egypt, in 1885, was a cousin.
The glowing accounts of the discovery of gold on the Fraser River bars, in the English newspapers, decided Robert to come to Victoria. When he arrived here in the fall of 1858 he brought with him a letter of introduction to Governor Douglas from the Colonial Secretary, the Rt. Hon. E. B. Lytton, dated 8th October, 1858, Burnaby having been for seventeen years previously in the Comptroller’s Office, H. M. Customs. In that letter it was stated Burnaby was a brother-in-law of Col. Dickson, later General Sir Collingwood Dickson, R.A., V.C. (Inkerman), K.C.B., Adjutant-General for Ireland. The letter goes on to state:
He was educated at St. Paul’s School, London, a good scholar, a literary man, a perfect gentleman, and well connected.
While granting the letter, the Colonial Secretary also remarked:
In granting this introduction it has been explained to Mr. Burnaby that it will confer on him no claim to public employment in the Colony, and that it is only intended to serve as a voucher for his respectability and for the character and position which he has held in this country.
With this view Mr. Burnaby has forwarded to me testimonials in his favour (copy of which is enclosed), which I believe will afford you satisfactory evidence on these points, and which leads me to trust that he will prove a useful member of society in the Colony under your government.
Soon after the arrival of Col. R. C. Moody, R.E., on Christmas Day of the same year, the Governor, in view of the laudatory letters of introduction, presented Burnaby to Col. Moody, who at once appointed him as secretary.
In the Provincial Archives is the Official letter-book of those early days, some of them being written by Burnaby. As secretary to Col. Moody he was practically Deputy Land Commissioner, head of the office staff, laid out and saw to the sale of the first lots in the new settlements of Queensborough, Fort Yale, Hope, and Port Douglas.
While surveying Burrard Inlet with, amongst other things, a view to the protection of the new seat of government, Capt. Richards, H.M.S. Plumper, reported that "an apparently extensive view" of coal occurred on the southern side of the inner harbour, about a mile and a half within the first narrows." The report is dated 14th day of June, 1859.
Knowing of that report as "inside information" Burnaby and another fellow employee, following their discharge from the government service, lost no time in investigating these coal measures, and on July 21st, 1859, a syndicate, composed of J. J. Southgate, Burnaby, A. F. Main, and others, was formed, and an application made for the rights of exploring these coal measures, but nothing came of it. An endorsement of the correspondence in the Provincial Archives states: "Not carried out. Ascertained to be an imposture." However, on January 1st, 1860, Burnaby applied for a pre-emption "on the borders of Burrard Inlet on the south side of the Naval Reserve, at the coal site." And in October, 1863, 149 acres were Crown granted to him.
Burnaby must have left the mainland and settled in Victoria, late in 1859 or early in '60 for we next find him in partnership with an old school-fellow, William Henderson, and was carrying on business under the name of Henderson and Burnaby, Commission Agents, at London and Victoria.
The Charter for Victoria Lodge, No. 1085, E.C., applied for in August, 1858, had finally arrived, according to an advertisement in the "Colonist" of March 20th, 1860, after it had been sent back in March of the previous year for a correction, and during the late spring and early summer the Lodge room was furnished. The Inaugural Installation took place on Monday, August 20th, with Robert Burnaby, assisted by Lieut. Henry Aguilar, R.N., as Installing Masters. Ten days later, at the first regular meeting, that being the "Thursday nearest the full moon," Burnaby applied for Affiliation, and was elected a member on September 27th. The Naval Officer never became a member.
Robert Burnaby was initiated into Freemasonry in the Frederic Lodge of Unity, No. 661, E.R., meeting at Croydon, South London, on the 30th May, 1854, age 26 years, address—Clifford’s Inn, London (one of the Inns in the Law Courts); occupation, gentleman. He continued a subscribing member until 1859.
In the Returns of Masters, Wardens, and P.M.’s of No. 661 his name is given as J.W. in 1855-6; S.W. in 1856-7; but the Returns are blank for 1857-8. However, in the new Register, under Lodge, No. 452, his name appears in the list of P.M.’s for 1858-9, so that it seems certain that he served as Master of the Lodge in 1857-8. He joined the Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge, No. 4, on 22nd January, 1856, from No. 661 and subscribed until 1859, the record noting "Gone abroad." He was also P.P.G.D.C. for the County of Surrey. From the day Burnaby became a member, and even before he, was elected a member he was a force to be reckoned with. It had always been considered that there were only seven petitioners for the formation of Victoria Lodge, but a list furnished by Sir Algernon Tudor-Craig, Grand Curator and Librarian of the G.L. of England showed there were 18, and of that number eleven were listed as American Freemasons, although several were Englishmen—including the charter W.M., J. J. Southgate. A "Lodge of Emergency" was held ten days after the first regular meeting and the minutes state that "Bro. J. J. Southgate, W.M., resigned in favor of Bro. Robt. Burnaby to give instruction in the first degree."
The first initiation in the new Lodge took place on November 5th when "Mr. J. Malawanchyk (or Malowanski) being in waiting, he was initiated in due and ancient form in the first degree, by W.M. Southgate." Between that date and the regular meeting of March 28th, 1861, when a communication from Henry Holbrook, a merchant of New Westminster was received, asking Victoria Lodge to endorse an accompanying petition to the G.L. of England praying that the Brethren at New Westminster be given a Charter, there had been four more Initiations and two Passings. The Minutes state the W.M.’s reply was read and approved by the Lodge, and the petition was not returned. What the nature of the reply was we can only make a guess, because in the Archives of the Lodge is a letter, dated 28th February, 1861, from Holbrook in answer, stating he had been examined, as also his certificates, at the time of Hazeltine’s funeral. He goes on to say "your working may be contrary to the English system." There is the hint that the English chartered Lodge was not following the "Emulation Work." Be that as it may, at an emergent meeting on April 1st "it was moved and carried that the English mode of Initiation be adopted." At the May 23rd meeting Burnaby’s motion "with reference to the business of the Lodge being conducted in future in a Master Masons Lodge was put and carried," and confirmed at the June 20th meeting. Since then Emulation Work, in the main, has always been used in the Lodge, and its descendant, Victoria-Columbia, No. 1, B.C.R. Later the business of the Lodge reverted to the English system of conducting it in the first degree, and it was so transacted until the Grand Lodge of British Columbia was formed in December, 1871, and under its Constitution all Lodges were required to transact their business in the third degree.
From the commencement of the Lodge some members had been anxious to "petition the M.W. Grand Master to appoint for Vancouver Island and British Columbia a Provincial Grand Master," and at the meeting of December 19th, 1861, the following addition was added, "and that this Lodge do recommend the appointing of Past Master Burnaby as a Brother well versed in the Masonic Art and Laws of the United Grand Lodge of England." At the February meeting a committee of four was appointed to carry out the recommendation, three of whom were lawyers. There the matter rested until December 22nd the following year (1863), doubtless because Burnaby had shown them the futility of applying to the Grand Lodge of England for a Provincial Grand Lodge for only two English chartered Lodges, Union Lodge, New Westminster, having obtained a charter in spite of Southgate not returning their petition, Burnaby being Installing Master on Tuesday, June 24th, 1862.
At the May 15th, 1862, regular meeting "A communication was read requesting that this Lodge recommend to the Grand Lodge (of Scotland) a proposed Lodge to be called Vancouver Lodge, No. After a good deal of discussion and three motions, the request was adopted, "but in doing so they reserve the precedence of the Grand Lodge of England in General Masonic affairs within the Colony, and they communicate this resolution to the Grand Lodge of England as a matter of record. Carried."
Burnaby was elected Master at the 1862 annual meeting, and installed at the January, 1863, meeting. Whether there had been any friction or jealousy between Burnaby and Southgate is difficult to say, for at the December annual meeting Southgate applied for his demit, which was granted; but at the January meeting on the motion of Burnaby he consented "to rejoin the Lodge," and from then on, until he died at Chelsea on October 4th, 1894, after having left the Colony in 1865, he continued his membership in it.
The minutes of an emergent meeting held on the 19th February 1863, are of interest, as showing the need of a Provincial Grand Master or as it was, a year or two later, termed a District Grand Master, "of a higher authority than the Master of a Lodge." The minute is as follows:
Masonic Proclamation:
To the Officers and Members
of Victoria Lodge, No. 1085, E.R.
I, Robert Burnaby, Worshipful Master of Victoria Lodge, in the absence of a higher Masonic Power, do hereby grant unto the Lodge a Dispensation of Emergency to Pass to the Fellowcraft Degree Brother Peter O'Reilly, who is about to leave this Colony, for British Columbia, at an interval of Seven days, from the time of his Initiation, and a further Dispensation to Raise the said Brother to the sublime degree of a Master Mason at an interval of Seven days from the time of his being passed to the Fellow Craft Degree, and this authority you will cause to be entered on the Minute Book of your Lodge and read before your Lodge before conferring the said Degrees.
Given under my hand this 12 day of Fby.
Anno Lucis 5863 and our Lord 1863.
Robert Burnaby, W.M.
In a notation in the margin of the Book "A copy of these minutes of Dispensation was sent home to England, by Bro. Sec. Thain."
The above was the first Dispensation of the Lodge for conferring a higher degree on a Brother in less time than the By-laws permitted.
The great event of the year of Robert Burnaby’s office as Master was the laying of the foundation stone of the Jewish Synagogue. At a meeting on May 21st, a communication from Mr. A. Hoffman, Secretary of the Society Emanuel, requesting the Masonic Order to lay the foundation stone, was read, and it was decided to comply with the request. A committee was appointed to act with a committee of Vancouver Lodge, and make all necessary arrangements.
Tuesday (High 12) 2nd June, A.L. 5863, arrived and an emergency meeting was held for the purpose of assisting in laying the corner stone. On the motion of Past Master Southgate, seconded by the Secretary it was un(animously) resolved that with Vancouver Lodge, No. 421, R.S., to form a Provincial Grand Lodge "and that a copy of this day’s proceedings be forwarded to the United Grand Lodge of England for sanction." The day’s procession was, up to that time, the most impressive that had taken place in Victoria.
Members of the two Lodges, Victoria, E.C., and Vancouver, R.S., met at their Lodge room and a "Provincial Grand Lodge" was opened; Robert Burnaby was Provincial Grand Master, and Dr. Israel Wood Powell, the W.M. of Vancouver Lodge, was the Provincial Deputy G.M.; J. J. Southgate as P.S.G.W.; and Burnaby’s co-installing master at the inauguration of the Lodge, Lieut. Henry Aguilar, R.N., P.G.J.W.
For laying the foundation stone Burnaby was presented with a silver trowel.
This Provincial Grand Lodge must have brought censure on Burnaby from the Grand Lodge of England. When Union Lodge New Westminster was formed they were given the privilege of appearing at funerals, laying of corner stones, attending places of worship in full Masonic regalia; Vancouver Lodge likewise exercised that privilege, but from now on members of Victoria Lodge were denied the privilege by their W. Masters. In November, 1865, this matter was brought to a head. In May, Bro. J. D. B. Ogilvy had been murdered near Bella Coola, while in the execution of his duty as a Customs Officer, and had expressed a wish, just before he died, to be buried by the Lodge. Lumley Franklin, as acting Master refused to allow the Brethren to turn out in regalia, and it was then "contended" by W. H. Thain "that the Brethren of the Lodge had a right to turn out in regalia, and in support of his views quoted from the Masonic jurisprudence, and alleged that Bro. P.M. Burnaby had been reprimanded by the Grand Lodge of England, not because the Lodge turned out in regalia, but for having assumed the position of Provincial Grand Master." But the Junior Warden, Lumley Franklin, who was also Acting-Master on the day of the funeral, was adamant, and the Brethren, although accompanied by the band of the Victoria Rifle Corps, did not attend in regalia.
At the end of his 1863 year as W. Master he, in connection with his personal affairs, returned to England; the "Colonist" for January 19th, 1864, stating that:
He took his departure this morning for England by the Steamer Oregon. A large number of Mr. Burnaby’s friends accompanied him to Esquimalt.
Ten months later, November 19th, the "Colonist" reported that Mr. Burnaby arrived from England yesterday, by the Sierra Nevada.
During 1864 while Burnaby was still in England, Thomas Harris was Wor. Master, though in the following year Burnaby was again Master, but in September business again necessitated his presence in England. On the 13th the "Colonist" states he was entertained by the Masonic Fraternity at a farewell dinner at the Colonial Hotel. On the 18th, he sailed for England on the steamer Orizaba, and again a large number accompanied him to Esquimalt. He returned on March 26th, 1866, by the steamer Del Norte.
It must have been during this visit to England that he prevailed upon the United Grand Lodge of England to grant the Lodge a Dispensation, with strict reservations, the privileges of allowing the members to appear in regalia at Divine Service, funeral of a deceased Brother and "laying with Masonic Rites and Ceremonies the. Corner or Foundation Stone of any Public Building to be erected for pious or charitable purposes." Three days after his return at the regular monthly meeting, he presented the Lodge with the Dispensation, which is dated 17th day of January, 1866." At the same meeting he also "presented the Lodge with three Trestle Boards, accompanying the gift with some appropriate remarks."
In March and April 1864, while he was in England the first time, the Lodge decided to petition again the Grand Lodge to form a Provincial Grand Lodge as Colonial Grand Lodges were then called. The last paragraph reads:
We would at the same time beg to present Brother P.M. Robert Burnaby, Member of Parliament, to your Lordship’s notice as a fit and worthy Brother to be invested with the highest honours that is in the power of our Ancient Order to bestow. He has exerted himself greatly in our Lodge, and our present prosperity is chiefly owing to his indefatigable exertions and his bright Freemasonry.
Although Burnaby had been censured for assuming the position of Provincial Grand Master in 1863, a second Provincial Grand Lodge was held on June 25th, 1866, for the purpose of dedicating the new Lodge room, built by Bro. Edward Stamp (on Government Street) with Burnaby as Provincial Grand Master, and Powell as Provincial Past Grand Master, and here the two Lodges, and later with the two other Lodges—British Columbia, No. 1187, E.R., and Quadra, No. 508, R.S., and Columbia Chapter, No. 120, R.S., met until the present Masonic Temple was built in 1878.
On May 6th, 1867, I. W. Powell, of Vancouver, No. 421, R.S., had been appointed Provincial Grand Master, under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and constituted his Provincial Grand Lodge on December 24th of that year. Doubtless the formation of this Provincial Grand Lodge had something to do with the Grand Lodge of England forming a District Grand Lodge for British Columbia. On September 10th, 1867, a patent was issued authorizing Robert Burnaby to form a District Grand Lodge. The Charter was not received until the following March, and on the 14th Burnaby took the first steps to form it at a preliminary meeting held at his residence. Before it was received the Brethren of Victoria, Union, and Nanaimo Lodges had drawn up a petition to the Grand Lodge of England praying for the appointment of a District Grand Master.
The last two paragraphs of this petition are worth quoting as showing the esteem in which he was held by his Brethren:
We therefore having implicit confidence in the skill and integrity of our esteemed Brother Robert Burnaby, P.M., No. 661, P.J.W. No 4, P.P.G.D.C. Surrey, would humbly pray that your Lordship may be pleased to appoint Brother Past Master Burnaby as Provincial Grand Master for the Colony of British Columbia and delegate to him the requisite powers as are provided for in the Book of Constitutions.
In thus presenting Bro. Past Master Burnaby to your Lordship’s notice as a fit and qualified Brother worthy to be invested with the highest honors that it is in the power of our Ancient order to bestow we most sincerely hope that this Petition may receive your Lordship’s most favorable consideration.
On Monday, November 28th, 1867, the new Lodge of British Columbia, No. 1187, E.R., was inaugurated, and after attending Divine Service at St. John’s Church, Burnaby installed Thomas Harris as W. Master, and Henry Nathan, Jr., as Senior Warden.
It must have been during the latter half of the year, 1869, that Burnaby’s health began to fail and from then on he was never really well. The December 9th meeting of the District Grand Lodge could not be held on account of his illness, and a committee of Victoria Lodge was instructed to pay him a visit to express the sympathy of the members of the Lodge "in this his hour of sickness and trial." Although better at the end of the month, the District Grand Secretary Plummer writes that the District Grand Master was still unable to undertake the task of installing the Masters of Victoria Lodge and British Columbia Lodge the same evening, as it would be too severe an exertion, but would Install the Master and Officers of British Columbia Lodge on Tuesday, January 4th, and Victoria Lodge on Thursday the 6th, which arrangement was accordingly carried out.
The year 1871 was probably the most momentous in the history of Freemasonry in this Province. During the absence of the Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge (Scottish) in the Old Land the members of the Masonic Lodges in British Columbia chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland had attempted to form an Independent Grand Lodge of British Columbia, but the resolute action of Burnaby and the new District Grand Secretary, Thomas Shotbolt, the plan was a failure. For full details see G.L. Rept. for 1938, p. 165, etc. Since that part of our history was written two other documents have come to light which add to our knowledge of the important doings of that time. The earlier one is the printed text of the address delivered by Burnaby at the quarterly meeting of the District Grand Lodge at Nanaimo, on June 14th, 1871, and the other is his reply to Ellwood Evans in an attempt to form the Independent Grand Lodge, and are inserted here to supplement the Report of the Grand Historian above mentioned.
Delivered at the Quarterly Communication of Freemasons under the Grand Lodge of England, at Nanaimo, June 14th, 1871,
by Robert Burnaby, Esq., D.G.M.
Nanaimo, B.C.
June 14th, 1871
I esteem it a great privilege once more to meet you in Quarterly Communication, although the distance to travel and the exigencies of business prevent many from attending whose hearts and wishes are with us, thus rendering our assemblage smaller than we could wish to see it. But inasmuch as the attendance here would involve an absence of three days at least from Victoria and of seven days from New Westminster, I am quite prepared to receive and to admit as valid, the excuses of those Brothers who are absent. Happily the business to be transacted is not, as yet, of a serious or important nature, though I perceive the probability of such being the case before very long.
I am thankful to be able to state that no case has arisen since our last meeting here requiring the intervention of Masonic discipline in any of the Lodges under my control.
The general feeling is one of prosperity and quiet progress; this is especially the case in this the Nanaimo Lodge, and in Union Lodge of New Westminster; British Columbia Lodge is in a very flourishing state also, but I regret to add that my old Lodge, Victoria, the Mother Lodge of the Colony shows less signs of vitality. The cause of this I am unable to state to you, unless it is that being composed of many old English Masons, they have ceased to take active interest in the craft on account of the lack of practical usefulness which it displays in this country.
I have already alluded to the great advantages the craft would derive from the formation of a Fund of Benevolence, distributed under careful supervision by the United Fraternity of the Colony, and I cannot help remarking, Brethren, that if more money were spent on such objects as this, and less upon pretentious and senseless parades at funerals and processions of a like nature, the Craft would be elevated, and the Brethren individually would be more hearty in their work.
I now desire to advert briefly, but emphatically, to a most vital topic. You are aware of an attempt, commenced in 1869, and gradually persisted in since then, of certain Brethren to form an Independent Grand Lodge in British Columbia.
A pamphlet, prepared under my own inspection, has been sent to every Lodge in this Colony, and to our own Grand Lodges and those of the Territory and States immediately adjacent, which I think sufficiently explains the position of affairs. Thus far, to the best of my knowledge, only one Brother, W. Bro. Eli Harrison, of our Lodges has openly given his adhesion to that cause, the; remainder of the Brethren under our Ancient Jurisdiction are true to their banner.
I now wish to repeat which I have stated before, that each and all of the Brethren are at perfect liberty to use their own judgment on this point. Masonry is a Democratic institution, and its principles are essentially free, but in order to maintain ordinary discipline and organization, rules and laws must be recognized and obeyed. Amongst these, a leading one is that Brethren are to obey and support their chief officers, so long as they are subject to their control.
I therefore wish to state most clearly that should such an Independent Lodge be formed in face of the facts and protests referred to in the pamphlet I have mentioned, no Brother under this jurisdiction (until he shall have retired from it), can be permitted to visit any Lodge acting under the authority of that body; nor can any Master of a Lodge under this Jurisdiction admit as a visitor any Brother who hails as a member from any such Independent Lodge. If in future correspondence the Grand Lodge of England should authorize their recognition the fact will be at once made known to the Brethren. Let it, however, be most clearly understood that until such authority is obtained, every Brother under our banners is prohibited from visiting any such Lodges or receiving or recognizing those who may be members of them; Although they are at full liberty if dissatisfied therewith to demand their clearance and retire from this jurisdiction.
I regret having to occupy your time with this painful topic; but it is one into which I have been driven, notwit standing the utmost forbearance. After 12 years of steady work in assisting to build up, the noble fabric of our Order, it is somewhat disheartening to see its unanimity (its distinguishing mark) imperilled by the rash and ill advised action of a handful of restless and ambitious Brethren. But I can assure you, and through you the Brethren under the Grand Lodge of England, that so long as you remain true to her I will maintain in your rights to the best of my ability, and if you see fit to leave us (as you have undoubted right to do) I shall willingly bow to your wish. Above all let us strive to allay this convulsion that threatens our Order, and endeavour (so far as is consistent with the principles of duty I have already laid down), to cement all into one harmonious whole by the bonds of Brotherly Love.
Before concluding I wish to add that the proposed intrusion into this Colony, being a British possession, by any Grand Officer of an adjacent American Territory for the purpose of performing any officially Masonic function, is in my judgment a clear violation of Territory already occupied Masonically, and that the Grand Master of New York might with equal propriety proceed to Liverpool to inaugurate an Independent Grand Lodge in that place. I shall be happy to hear the views of any member of the Grand Lodge on the points adverted to in this address, and I beg to assure the Brethren at large of my earnest and unceasing wish to promote the harmony and prosperity of our beloved Order.

The second document, the reply to Ellwood Evans, P.G.M. of Washington, is contained in the District Grand Lodge Letter Book, and is as follows:
April 3rd, 1871.
M. W. & My Dear Sir & Brother,
I beg to thank you most heartily for your ample and courteous letter of the 22nd of March, and to assure you that the Fraternal and cordial spirit evinced in it throughout is fully appreciated and warmly reciprocated by me.
It did not require any assurance from you, on the subject, to convince me that your action was bona fide throughout, and the simple result of a desire on your part to make yourself serviceable to the Craft when requested, apparently in due official order to perform an honorable act which your exalted position in the Craft qualified you to undertake. The Onus, if any, lies upon those who failed to put you in full possession of all the facts bearing upon the question. I may here mention that on Monday afternoon, the 20th March at 3 o'clock I approached Bro. Heisterman, the. so styled G.S., and requested him to inform me if it was intended to notify me officially of the proceedings determined upon at the so called convention held on the previous Saturday, he said Oh I suppose so by and by. I replied, Please be so good as to attend to it at once, as it is right you should know I mean to take action upon it.
Being then in possession of your telegram and aware of your Intended arrival that evening he did not impart the facts to me, and I did not know anything of the intended installation, nor know of your arrival, till a letter was conveyed to me, from Bro. Heisterman, which reached me at half past six o'clock p.m. I at once rose from dinner, and wrote my hurried protest—which you duly received, and were kind enough to recognize—I feel that this explanation is due to you to account for the apparent abruptness of my Protest—I should infallibly sought you and explained everything personally, had I been allowed an opportunity for doing so. I could not however enter where I believed irregular action was proceeding.
I am preparing a full statement of the case together with a history of Lodges in the Colony, and also adverting to the various phases that the question of Independent Grand Lodge has assumed, and the action taken thereon from time to time, and also of the many weighty, and as I think, legal objections to the course now attempted, and protested against by me. When this is completed, and in print, it will be sent to you at once, (I hope by this day week), it will also be sent to the Grand Lodges under which we hail, and generally circulated through the Craft. This course I had always intended to pursue, but the precipitate act of the convention forestalled it.
I quite agree with your remarks as to serving two masters, and you will perceive when you receive the statement, that this was foreseen and provided for when the petition for the first Scotch Lodge was recommended by the only Lodge then in the Colony (English), viz., Victoria Lodge. A resolution accompanied its return to the petitioners reserving the precedence of the Grand Lodge of England in general Masonic Affairs within the Colonywhich was to be-and was communicated to the Grand Lodge of England as a matter of record. This took place on the 1st of April, 1862.
You will I am sure pardon me for pointing out a trifling error in your description of the Office I hold. You style me District Deputy Grand Master, whereas I am District Grand Master and as such possess here, all the power, and authority for exercising it, as completely as if I were G.M. of England, with this only exception, that whereas there is no appeal against him, an appeal lies against me, to him, and his Grand Lodge. This I regard as a valuable safeguard in a small and mixed community like ours.
I am decidedly of opinion moreover that this Colony, being British Territory and already taken possession of by competent Masonic Power, as you will hereafter perceive, was not open to all Grand Lodges, but was occupied Territory in the usual acceptation of that term.
I can only add that my earnest desire has been, and ever will be, to harmonize all conflicting elements—for. this reason I have never insisted on or paraded the supremacy already reserved to the Grand Lodge of England—nor would it have been done now, had not the occasion absolutely demanded it.
I warmly thank you for the very kind expressions you use, and feel assured that your every thought and wish is for the good and peace of the Craft. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to visit Olympia and confer personally with you. This I shall endeavour shortly to do. Meanwhile I beg to assure you of my continued friendly and fraternal regard, and of the appreciation I feel of the high sense of Honour and Justice which you have displayed as a Mason.
I am, etc.,
(signed) Robert Burnaby.

One point in Burnaby’s history which has never been fully explained is why did he not become the first Grand Master of British Columbia.
When the solution to the impasse over the formation of the Grand Lodge had been arrived at, it had been tacitly understood that either Burnaby or Powell would be the first Grand Master, and the other Past Grand Master.
At the Convention of October 21st, 1871, which brought the Grand Lodge into existence, when the Committee on Credentials presented their report, Burnaby at once raised the question of the right of proxies to vote. In the Grand Lodge of England there were none—but sensing the temper of the members of the Scotch chartered Lodges he went on to say:
He did not desire to throw any obstacle in the way of proxies voting, if the Convention saw fit, he only desired their rights to be established.
Powell replied:
That proxies were allowed in the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and in all the Provinces, and American Grand Lodges, and that if proxies were not allowed, his Lodges in Cariboo, Burrard Inlet, and Nanaimo would not be represented, and he moved that Master, Warden, or Past Master of any Lodges in the Province, who was unable to attend, could nominate a proxy.
Burnaby seconded the motion, and it was carried; thus defeating all hopes of his being Grand Master, there being five Scotch Lodges to four English chartered Lodges. Two sweets were provided,. however, (1) That for the purposes of the Convention the rules of the Grand Lodge of England were to apply,; (2) The appointment of the Grand Secretary, even after a vote on the question, and it fell to Burnaby to propose:
That in order to establish perfect fraternal harmony and concord, to promote the lasting welfare of the Masonic fraternity in British Columbia, it is expedient to form a Grand Lodge in and for the Province of British Columbia.
At the Convention it was resolved:
That the R.W. Robert Burnaby is hereby constituted a permanent member of this Grand Lodge, with the title, rank and dignity of Past Grand Master.
It was also Burnaby’s privilege at the inauguration of Grand Lodge to install the Grand Master, on December 26th.
Earlier in the month the D.G. Secretary sent a letter to the various English chartered Lodges that the present opportunity should not be permitted to pass without presenting Burnaby with a Past District Grand Master’s jewel, accompanied by a suitable address engrossed. on vellum.
To the pages of the "Daily Colonist" for December 28th, 1871, we are indebted for the sequel to that appeal. It is as follows:
MASONIC JEWEL PRESENTATION. The handsome and costly Past Grand Master’s jewel presented on behalf of the Craft to Bro. Robert Burnaby by Grand Master Powell, bears the following inscription:
Presented to M.W. Robert Burnaby, Esq.,, P.G.M., of the, Grand Lodge of F. and A. M., of British Columbia, by his Brethren as a token of respect for long and distinguished service to the Craft. Victoria, B.C., December 27th, A.L. 5871.
The jewel comprises the Square and Compass surmounted by the emblem of the First Principal, R.A., and having in the centre a five-pointed star and valuable diamond. The jewel was made in this city.
The Grand Lodge of England was asked by the British Columbia Grand Lodge to accord Burnaby the rank of Past District Grand Master, although he had not been a District Grand Master for the necessary five years to claim that rank, which request was later granted.
At the Installation of Victoria Lodge in 1873 the minutes state that this ceremony was performed by Robert Burnaby, but the Installation of 1874 was carried out by the Grand Master assisted by Burnaby. Evidently he must have been in a very bad state of health. Seven weeks later a letter was sent to the Secretary of Victoria Lodge, expressing gratification at the kind action proposed to be taken by the Lodge, but regretted that the state of his health prevented him taking a personal farewell of his Brethren. Although the signature was Burnaby’s own the body of the letter was in another handwriting.
Before he left he presented the Lodge with a massive silver candelabra. It had been given to him, on his first trip to England, by an old friend, Bro. Wright, who in one of the two inscriptions on the candelabra states:
Presented by the Board of Grand Stewards to Brother John Wright of the Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge, No. 4, as a Mark of their sense of his zeal and attention as Honorary Secretary to the Board, 1859.
On returning to England on the second occasion he loaned it to the Lodge. The second inscription records:
Presented by R.W. P.G.M. Robt. Burnaby to Victoria Lodge, No. 1, B.C.R., in memory of his lengthened and pleasant connections with the Lodge. Victoria, B.C., 27th February, 1874.
On a piece of torn blue paper, evidently from a ledger, is written "Give my Candelabra to No. 1," the loan was made into a gift; and on another similar piece of paper, but in even shakier handwriting, as to be almost illegible, "I will take my Regalia Home."
Of the fifteen occasions of Installations of Wor. Masters in Victoria Lodge since it was inaugurated in 1860 to 1874 inclusive, the Minutes record that twice Burnaby was himself installed as Master—1863 and 1865; twice he was absent in England on the night of installation; twice the Minutes do not state who performed the ceremony but once Burnaby was the only Past Master present, and on the other occasion J. J. Southgate was the only other Past Master besides Burnaby, seven times he was definitely the Installing Master, and the last year he was in Victoria the Grand Master performed the ceremony "assisted" by Burnaby.
Robert Burnaby died at Woodthorpe, a very small township about one and one-half miles from Loughborough, Leicestershire, on January 10th, 1878, at the comparatively early age of 49 years. He never married.
For particulars of the family and exact date of death, the writer, is indebted, and extends his thanks to W. Bro. W. H. Riley, F.R.I.B.A., P.M. Lodges Nos. 3448 and 2429; Prov. (Leicestershire) J.G.W., and Secretary of the Lodge of Research, No. 2429, Leicester; and to W. Bro. W. H. Wickham, P.G.J.D. of Ealing, London.
The "Daily Colonist" for February 12th, 1878, states:
Letters received from England yesterday announce the demise of Mr. Robert Burnaby, a prominent much respected merchant of this Province, from 1859 to 1872. Mr. Burnaby had been helplessly paralized for six years, and died at last among his friends in his native town, having survived his old friend and partner, Edward Henderson, who died at Algiers, on February 20th, fifteen years previously.
In civil life, until his health began to fail, he took a very active interest in all matters that appertained to the well-being and development of the Colonies.
Even before Victoria Lodge was established there was, according to the "Colonist" of August 11th, 1860, talk of his being nominated to represent Esquimalt District in the Local House of Assembly. In the issue of November 16th there is an advertisement appealing to the Electors to be allowed to represent them, and in the same issue the Editor, Amor De Cosmos, who was also the Lodge Secretary, had an editorial against him, as, according to the Editor, he was "the tool of the Cary Faction," "allied with the men who libelled Mr. Langford" (reminiscent of the Settlers feud with Douglas), "when in office (at New Westminster) he was snubbed by Gov. Douglas, and yet he licks the hand that snubbed him. Do you want such unmanly representative."
The next day, in another editorial, De Cosmos is even more bitterly sarcastic. "Burnaby the Obstructionist" allied with people favorable to Douglas and Chief Justice Cameron, and ends the article with the pre diction that Trimble (a Doctor, and later also a member of Victoria Lodge), would win 2 to 1. The prediction failed. Burnaby triumphed by 19 votes to Trimble’s 14; and in an editorial on the same day as announcing the result, De Cosmos is gracious: "So far as Mr. Burnaby is concerned, were we to judge from his speech, he evidently is a man of some ability."
In July, 1863, Burnaby was again a candidate for re-election as a representative for Esquimalt and Metchosin District, being proposed in open meeting, by W. Bro. J. J. Southgate. There were two seats and Dr. Helmcken the only other person nominated, so they were both declared elected. It is evident that De Cosmos and Burnaby had come to understand each other better, for the "'Colonist" states "Mr. Burnaby then came forward and expounded his political creed in a masterly manner." The following January 19th, 1864, Burnaby again took his departure for England, by the steamer "Oregon." A large number of his friends accompanied him to Esquimalt. Ten months later he, arrived back.
While Burnaby was in England De Cosmos sold the "Colonist" to Walford A. Harris, and seven weeks after Burnaby’s return the new Editor in an editorial, on "Our Representative Men" says:
Mr. Burnaby, although with less Parliamentary experience, is much more practical, representative than Mr. Franklin, and shows a greater apitude [sic] for Colonial politics. Unlike most of the Members, who draw most of their political inspiration from the Mother country, Mr. Burnaby is to a great extent free from that serious defection of striving to adapt the cumbrous and complicated system of things in England to a country in its infancy . . . On general matters Mr. Burnaby is disposed to be much more liberal than his commercial confreres, and is, if not one of the most frequent, at least one of the most lucid speakers in the House. He is not so punctual in his attendance, nor so industrious as Mr. Franklin, but he is nevertheless a much more useful member. His principal defect is, however, like that of Mr. Franklin, a want of force. He goes into politics much too lightly. A little more serious attention to the business of the country, and a wider study of political science would make a vast improvement in him as a representative.
A week later the Editor states Burnaby was to be "ministerially charged with the conduct of the estimates through the House of Assembly."
The next day a denial appeared in the paper from Burnaby stating:
"That he had not been selected by the Executive to father the estimates."
The following month Burnaby and the new proprietor of the "Colonist" had a tilt. In the issue of February 15th, the paper states that Robert Burnaby:
Nettled at our recent action in connection with the Union (of the two Colonies) and Tariff question, but much more nettled at its final success; and therefore like a strongminded man as he is withdraws his advertisements and subscription.
Once more business demands his presence in England, and on September 13th, "the Masonic fraternity of the city entertain him to a farewell dinner at the Colonial Hotel." Five days later he set sail on board the steamer Orozaba, and again a large number of friends accompanied him to Esquimalt.
Before leaving, expecting to be absent a long time, he resigned his seat for Esquimalt. Arriving back the following March, he states that he is authorized to make a proposition on behalf of the Royal West Indian Mail Steamship Company for placing direct steamers between Panama and Victoria, calling at intermediate ports. So far as it is known the proposition did not materialize, but as far back as the spring of 1861, he was chairman of two meetings to consider the question of the advisability of placing a steamer on the route between Victoria and San Francisco; and in June of that year he was secretary of a meeting called to consider the feasibility of exploring a coast route from Bute Inlet to the Cariboo.
In May he was Foreman of the Grand jury at the Assizes.
At a mass meeting held in the Theatre, on January 8th, 1867, in connection with the burning question where the capitol of the united Colonies should be, he was given the honor of proposing the chief proposition, "that Victoria is the most suitable place that can be selected for the seat of Government."
In October, 1869, he was appointed a Commissioner of the Savings Banks in the Colony.
At the formation of the Chamber of Commerce, on February 9th, 1863, he was the presiding chairman, and at that meeting was elected the first President. Among the many things suggested to the Government by the Chamber was the Cariboo Gold Escort; and the union of the two Colonies was warmly supported.
In church life Robert Burnaby was a member of the Church of England, and attended St. John’s (the old iron) Church. At a meeting of all the Anglican Church people, called by Bishop Hills, in January, 1861, to organize the governing circles of parishes in the new Diocese, which then comprised the whole of the two Colonies, it was Burnaby, who after "a clear and concise speech" proposed "That it is expedient that the constitution of a fully organized Parish should consist of Rector, Church Wardens, Church Committee, and Vestry." A Synod was even then mentioned.
Among the several places named after Burnaby are Burnaby Lake and the Municipality of Burnaby; Burnaby Shoal in Vancouver Harbour; Burnaby Range, Mackenzie Sound; and Burnaby Island and Strait, Queen Charlotte Islands, through a mining venture on the Island.
In parting from our eminent Brother let me quote the last words of the Grand Secretary in his "In Memoriam!' in the Grand Lodge Report for 1878.
In knowledge of the English Ritual, Burnaby has never been surpassed by any Brother in the Craft of this Province. His kind and courteous bearing whilst presiding over the Craft and his liberality and goodness of heart, endeared him to all who came in contact with him. May he rest in peace.
For further references please see:
(1) Grand Lodge Proceedings, 1935, Founding of Victoria Lodge, No. 1085.
(2) Grand Lodge Proceedings, 1935, Grand Historian’s Report.
(3) Grand Lodge Proceedings, 1937, Grand Historian’s Report.
(4) Grand Lodge Proceedings, 1938, Formation of Grand Lodge.
(5) Grand Lodge Proceedings, 1943, Victoria Lodge, No. 1085.

In the absence of M.W. Bro. R. L. Reid, Grand Historian, due to illness, it was duly moved and seconded:
That the report be adopted , and that Grand Lodge extend to M.W. Bro. Reid the hope that he will soon be restored to good health.
The Most Worshipful Grand Master thereupon instructed M.W. Bro. Grand Secretary to write M.W. Bro. Reid, expressing our appreciation of his report, assuring him of our sympathy in his illness, and of our hopes for his speedy recovery.
M.W. Bro. F. J. Burd reported that M.W. Bro. R. L. Reid had collected all the material necessary for the history upon which he is engaged, and that arrangements are being made to bring it to a conclusion.

Annual Communication Proceedings, Grand Lodge of British Columbia. Victoria : 1944. pp 137-53.


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