Masters Message May 2022
Two hundred and fifty years ago this June, a group of “concerned citizens” angered by England’s increasingly aggressive control of trade in Rhode Island rowed into Narragansett Bay to assault a customs schooner that had become beached on a sandbar. In the fracas that followed, someone – and I’m not saying who – may have set fire to the boat...which then blew up...and then burned to the waterline.
In the centuries since, the HMS Gaspee “incident” has become inseparable from the story of Saint Johns Lodge #1 Providence. Our lodge’s role in the burning of the Gaspee is a matter of deep pride, and it connects Saint Johns and Rhode Island Freemasonry – and by extension, ourselves – to the first gasps of the American struggle for Independence.
As we approach the semi-quincentennial (I just learned a new word!) of the burning of the Gaspee, this important history ought to be front and center in our minds. There are three Gaspee-related matters I’d like to bring to your attention.
The first is that at our Regular Communication on May 18, Worshipful Tim Culhane will be presenting his paper on “The Involvement of Saint Johns Lodge in the Burning of the H.M.S. Gaspee.” W:. Culhane spent many months in the archives of Grand Lodge doing painstaking research for this paper, which asks to what degree Saint Johns Lodge was actually involved in the Gaspee Incident. Like all good history, the answer is both complicated and enlightening.
Secondly, Saint Johns has been approached by the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) for financial assistance for their search for the remains of the Gaspee. After consultation and a careful audit by the Finance Committee, I have made a motion that Saint Johns provide $30,000 in funding to this effort. Because of the significant amount of money requested, I will be putting this to a Lodge referendum at the May Communication. This referendum will require the approval of 5/6ths of all SJ1P members present to pass. You will find a detailed description of the referendum proposal on the following page, and I welcome your comment and informed consent.
Lastly, brothers from throughout the Grand Jurisdiction will be marching in the Gaspee Days parade on Saturday, June 11, with Grand Lodge and Saint Johns at the front of the group. Because there are brothers for whom the two mile walk would be difficult (and also, because it will be awesome!) we are looking to construct a parade float in the shape of the longboats that our colonial brethren used to row out into Narragansett Bay that fateful evening in 1772. This, of course, is going to require some planning and elbow grease, and time is very limited. If you have the tools, talent, and time to help in the construction of this float, please contact W:. Culhane and Brother Jason Shealy as soon as possible.
Onward into history, my brothers!
W∴ Joshua A. Irizarry