Freemasons in Hong Kong: John McPherson

by Mark MacAlpine

On July 22, 2012, Mark MacAlpine (member, University Lodge of Hong Kong) emailed to let me know that he had information for me on John McPherson and Freemasonry in Hong Kong, saying, 

“I believe I can add a few small bits of information to your interesting biography of your grandfather at . You mention him returning to HK to become Provincial Grand Master, although the post is in fact District Grand Master, i.e., Chairman of the umbrella organization for the (then) half-dozen English Lodges.”

Mark MacAlpine explained that the error of referring to ‘Provincial’ instead of ‘District’ may have arisen because in England the Lodges are grouped into geographical Provinces, whereas overseas the groupings are known as Districts. 

Continuing on, Mark MacAlpine explains more about John McPherson’s masonic career in Hong Kong:

“He [John McPherson] joined the University Lodge of Hong Kong No.3666 (English Constitution) on 29th December 1913, just after it was formed (‘Consecrated’) on 27th October 1913. He became Master (i.e., chairman) of the Lodge for 1919, was Deputy District Grand Master from 1931 to 1935 and District Grand Master from 1935 until his resignation in 1938 (from England)” (The archived Annual Returns of Lodge Secretaries, and the Minutes of the District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong & the Far East, in the Library and Museum of the United Grand Lodge of England, London, UK, retrieved by M. MacAlpine, 2012).

Thanks, Mark. This ties in with the information in a letter I received from John’s daughter Lesley Reader, speaking from memory in 1992 while in her late 70s. 

It was after his 1932 visit to England (while on the ship going back to Hong Kong) that John McPherson got news of his wife Gertrude having a stroke, resulting in him returning to England immediately (taking 6 weeks) and setting up care for her before returning to HK. 

Lesley said that Gertrude had insisted he return to Hong Kong (by then, either 1932 or 33) to take up the post of Provincial (sic) [District] Grand Master for one year. So he returned to HK, took up the Freemason position of District Grand Master (DGM), and finished up his YMCA work, retiring from the HK YMCA in 1935 - and returning to England that year. John may have hoped to return to Hong Kong again, post-retirement, to continue his work as DGM, but in 1938 he resigned, Mark MacAlpine discovered. As I wrote in the essay, at some point he joined a Lodge in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, continuing his membership until his death in 1947. 

Note: In 2013 the Hong Kong Lodge will commemorate its centenary, 100 years after it first began and John McPherson joined.

See the following for more on Freemason history in HK by Mark MacAlpine.

Early Freemasonry in Hong Kong: Joseph Emanuel and the Formation of Lodge St John No. 618 SC
By Mark MacAlpine
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch, Vol. 51, 77-102. 2011 

This is the story of Joseph Moses Emanuel, a freemason who misbehaved in his English Constitution Masonic Lodge, was rapped over the knuckles by his District Grand Master, misbehaved a second time and again had his behaviour condemned as unworthy. Seemingly unrepentant, he went on to cause a temporary rupture of good will between the Scottish and English Constitutions in Hong Kong by asking and gaining permission to form a new Scottish Lodge—St John’s No. 618—and becoming its first Master.

                                        This page is being made available on the SAMcPherson website

                                    J. L. McPherson, Hong Kong YMCA: General Secretary 1905-1935
                                                        By Sue (Fulham) McPherson 2006

                                                        This page was created July 2012
                                                                              updated 2018

The following was written by Mark McAlpine, in 2012, about the early history of                                         Freemasons in Hong Kong

on the S. A McPherson website

Thanks Mark