Masonic burials

Submitted by jill on Wed, 01/20/2021 - 03:46

In her book “Forgotten Souls. A Social History of the Hong Kong Cemetery”, Patricia Lim devotes a whole chapter to the History of the Free Masons in Hong Kong. She reckons that about eighty headstones in the cemetery carry the masonic symbol of compasses and set square. She includes a description of a masonic funeral as follows:

In March 1876, a purely Masonic burial service took place in the Hong Kong Cemetery. Fifty brethren wearing their aprons and carrying acacia sprays, the Freemason symbol of immortality, followed the coffin of Mr. Estarico to the graveside. The brethren were led to the graveside by the banner of Zetland Lodge draped in black. The Freemasons seem to have been the first recorded organization, not a recognized Christian denomination, to be given the freedom to conduct their own rites at the graveside in this period.

Following the recent discussion concerning Robert Reed, I was struck by the severe design of his 1873 masonic grave, photographed by Chris Nelson for FindaGrave, that bears the masonic symbol, and is bereft of any Christian symbols, bible verse or affectionate inscription. It seems that female family members would not be permitted to attend a masonic burial. I wonder if a Christian church service admitting female mourners and friends would have preceded the graveside ritual.

It's an interestimg question. Just becasue a person was a Freemason it does not follow they would have had a masonic funeral service. Like all things, it would depend on the individual wishes concerned. I wonder if there is a single resource that documents the number of masonic burials in Hong Kong.

I came across a masonic funeral service in the 1960s at the Chinese Christian Cemetery in Pok Fu Lam.