CELEBRATING MEMORIESA JOURNEY THROUGH TIME WITH BEAUFORT LODGE
by: Wilson C. A. CHANG of Table Lodge No. 9717 E.C.
Saturday, 29th July 2023, Tanjung Aru Railway Station at Aeropod
As the old saying suggests, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," and the wisdom of the Chinese adage echoes, "The fallen leaves return to the roots." It is this philosophy that underpins the essence of the Beaufort Lodge Reminisce Expedition. The intent is to rekindle our a historical journey through time, gently guiding the Beaufort Brethren back to their origins, connecting them with the birth and evolution of Beaufort Lodge No. 7989 E.C.
Drawing from my personal engagement in the Beaufort Lodge Reminisce Expedition, allow me to unfold the story of our expedition — the passage of which I humbly share the joys of my journey, one that led me back to the satisfying world of reading, researching, and ultimately compiling a concise history of the Beaufort Lodge.
The term "reminisce," imbued with the essence of fondly revisiting bygone moments, beautifully encapsulates the act of recounting cherished memories. It's a narrative woven with the threads of past encounters and cherished experiences of old.
Before jumping back in time, allow me to share a glimpse of the Reminisce Expedition. The journey was graced by the presence of RW Bro Dato’ Jeyaraj Ratnaswamy our own DGM, RW Bro Peter Wong Hong Yuen GBS, OBE, JP (PDGM of the District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and Far East), and VW Bro Jacob Pang, our DDGM and a host of past masters of the Beaufort Lodge, along with 60 other enthusiastic participants. Special mention must be made of Worshipful Brothers Datuk John Lo, Khoo Boo Khean, E. Balakrishnan, and R. Sambasivam, who had attended meetings at our old Beaufort Lodge premises.
On Saturday, 29th July 2023, the excursion commenced from the Tanjung Aru Railway Station at Aeropod, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, with Brethren and their Ladies gathering around 8:30 am. Warm greetings were exchanged by WM Dr. Prem Vasuthevan and his diligent organizing team. As we awaited the train's departure, the camaraderie was evident, as many snapped photos of themselves with the train in the background, which the train itself a rare keepsake from a journey aboard Sabah's sole railway line. Within the train carriages, veterans and old friends rekindled connections, while new friendships blossomed. Such interactions were only made more delightful by the light refreshments thoughtfully arranged by the organizing committee.
The non-stop train journey, spanning approximately 2 hours, unfolded at a leisurely pace due to the aged tracks. Amidst the rhythmic rattle of the tracks, laughter and songs melded, enveloping us in a sense of our shared experience. The scenery unfurled outside our windows, coastal areas, rural villages, bakau swampy area and glimpses of the South China Sea. The Kimanis oil refinery was a notable highlight, its presence a unique spectacle against the backdrop of this nostalgic expedition. We then passed by Residensi Woodford Estate, offering modern terrace accommodations in Beaufort Town. This site holds a unique history as it was developed on the grounds of the former Woodford Estate, once dedicated to rubber plantations. This blend of past and present showcases how places can evolve while retaining their historical essence, adding an extra layer of fascination to our train adventure.
Upon arrival, a collective photograph by the train served as a testament to our odyssey.
Our next phase took us via chartered buses and vans to the hotel, where our check-in preceded a delicious feast of local Hakka cuisine at the Kim Fah Restaurant. The climax awaited as we ventured to the site of the old Beaufort Lodge's former residence (which is located at 5°20'26.0"N 115°45'20.5"E [5.340555, 115.755707]).
Though the last meeting of Beaufort Lodge transpired in 1983, details regarding the date of its demolition remain elusive. Today, oil palm trees stand where the lodge once held sway, their presence serving as a reminder of a bygone era. Gathering at this hallowed ground, the participants sought to resurrect the echoes of the past. Guided by the reminiscences of elder Brethren, the boundaries of the building took shape in our minds. Evidences of its existence linger, like an enduring pole and fragments of weathered bricks, captured in photos that sealed this moment for posterity.
The participants then retired to their hotel rooms for rest, rejuvenating themselves before reuniting at the River Park Hotel for pre-meeting tea. The 388th Regular Meeting of Beaufort Lodge No. 7989 E.C. commenced at 6:30 pm, concluding at 7:15 pm in the First degree.
This auspicious event transpired within the conference room of the River Park Hotel, culminating in a vibrant Festive Board hosted within the hotel's dining quarters.
Amidst the customary toasts, a Malay-style dinner was relished, with the free-flow of drinks, wine and whiskey, infusing the evening with a cheerful air. A touching moment arose when Rt W Bro Peter Wong recounted his endeavor to hold a Beaufort Lodge meeting in Beaufort town back in 2017 [Emphasis in italic is added by the writer]. The pandemic upheaval of COVID-19 subsequently intervened, altering the course of events.
As the evening progressed, the Worshipful Master extended his gratitude to all the attendees, while acknowledging the contributions of the organizing committee. The spirit of enjoyable recollection thrived during this heartwarming assembly, and a shared piece by W Bro Datuk GG Murugasu, masterfully presented by the WM, encapsulated the essence of the occasion, inciting laughter and enlightenment.
WBro Datuk GG Murugasu’s sharing is reproduced here:
Beaufort Masons by W Bro Datuk G G Murugasu
1. Early years- as far as my memory goes:-
2. Sabah formed, together with others, Malaysia on 31 August 1963; Beaufort Lodge No. 7989 EC was consecrated on 31 October 1964.
3. I was initiated in Beaufort Lodge on 23 February 1974; passed on 22 February 1975 and raised on 28 February 1976. I was a Steward in 1974/75; Treasurer in 1976; Inner Guard in 1977; Junior Deacon in 1978; Junior Warden in 1979 & 1980; Senior Warden in 1981; Tyler from 1982-84 and finally Master in 1987. It took me 13 years from initiation to become W. Master.
4. Trips to Beaufort by rail car.
a) We would leave Tanjung Aru station at 1.30pm sharp on the last Saturdays of the month and the rail car was filled with two ice boxes with beer, 100 cans per box, which were just enough to reach Beaufort Station.
b) The rail car was non-stop from KK to Beaufort except sometimes buffaloes would be on the tracks and the rail car had to stop.
c) Brethren were busy practising their workings; rushing for the beer, distributing titbits which were bought for the journey and shuffling the playing cards for the game of “tau ngau”.
d) As the rail car rumbled on, Brethren were busy taking money from their pockets, or stuffing their winnings into their pockets.
e) We would arrive at Beaufort Station at about 3.30pm to 4 pm.
5. Arriving at Beaufort Station
a) All busy picking up their Regalia & suits, and most importantly settling their gambling debts by cash of I.O.U. chits.
b) We then found our way to Man Tai restaurant across from the station. High tea was only ngau chap, char sau and rice! The owner closed his shop for the day and only prepared high tea and dinner for the masons and banquet.
c) After tea, we retired to the Shop House hotel to wash and change. W Bro Peter Chia would have arranged all these. PWD land rovers would transport us to the Lodge come what may in rain or flood.
d) High ranking Brethren like W. Bre. Peter Yew, Michael Wong, Hugh Teo along with the DGM or DDGM or ADGM would be provided with special transport.
6. The Masonic Lodge
a) We would arrive at the Lodge in about half an hour, and as I said come what may, including heavy rain.
b) The Lodge building was a very beautiful wooden structure with corrugated metal sheets as roof. We climbed the single stairs to the first floor. Now the whole building creaked with a bit of bounce. From the first floor, you had to go down the staircase to the toilet and changing room. It was dark and scary with the royal orchestra of bees, birds, dogs and whatever else may be there. Imagine the poor candidate prepared to be initiated, staying there alone (of course with the Tyler helping him to be scared to death). The Temple was one inner hall built within the main building and once the windows and doors were closed, it was quite sound proof.
7. Festive Board
a) All the Brethren came back to Man Tai the same way we went. The restaurant was exclusively for us for the banquet. Long T-shaped tables and chairs were arranged in the standard norm.
b) The main course was 2-3 large Sun Hock, caught by the restaurateur from Padas River. Each fish would be at least 5 kg, beautifully steamed and the softness, we could not taste in any other restaurant in Sabah.
c) This was the time the JW and his assistants showed their true colours. They dutifully cut the fish in well- balanced and right quantity. The High table was well looked after. The JW and his stewards would always sit at the corner and eat the left over fish heads. The best in the world. Jeffrey Yong and I did not mind to be JW and stewards, whole fish heads each, all to ourselves. Until on one trip W Bro Samuel Chin caught us. I resigned as JW with immediate effect and started complaining why I was always serving food without any promotions!
8. Return Journey to KK
a) We usually returned to KK from Beaufort at about 11 to 11.30 pm. All Brethren had to be at the station by that time. There was no compulsory roll call but somebody checked and made small mistakes like missing out Brethren who went to the toilets to relief themselves.
b) One incident that comes to memory is that on one occasion, the train left and all was going well with many trying to recover our losses. Suddenly our train was stopped by the Field police just before Papar. We were then informed that Bro Albert Lim (Special Branch police) and Datuk Sidu Singh (Commissioner of Elections, Sabah) were still in Beaufort and that we had to go back and fetch them. It was 1.10am and we went back to fetch them!
c) The return journey was also quite exciting. Some Brethren, like Bro Joe Mayer, Bro Alfred Jayasuriya were very friendly minded. While we were lounging around before the meeting, they would go to the market and buy fruits like durians, oranges, langsat, rambutans etc. for their darling wives. However, due to heavy workings, drinking and eating, they would usually fall asleep. Alas when we reached KK, their boxes were still heavy but full of seeds and skins!
That is all Brethren, for those who want more- the serious side, there are two books written by the late W Bro Andrew Lo (50 years of Beaufort and by committee of the 75 year celebration), which are available at the Lodge library.
The Organizing Committee of the Beaufort Lodge 50th Anniversary Celebration, chaired by W Bro Datuk GG Murugasu who is seated on the right.
With the formalities concluded, as talents emerged and Brethren and couples danced to harmonious rhythms. With the dawn of the following day, an early walk through town and a free and easy breakfast paved the way for our departure. At 10:30 am, we boarded buses, aligning perfectly with the train's departure from Beaufort Train Station. During the returning train journey, fellowship among the Brethren continues while they enjoyed the togetherness of all travelling together in the train [Emphasis in italic is added by the writer]. No beer was served, but we just had to finish those red and white wine sponsored, and chit-chat and laughter grew under the influence of the fine wine. Upon reaching Tanjung Aru Train Station, farewells were exchanged, some embarking on a journey homeward via the airport, punctuating the conclusion of our unforgettable Beaufort Lodge Reminisce Expedition.
And with that, our Beaufort Lodge Reminisce Expedition comes to a close.
_______________ ~ ________________
A BRIEF HISTORY OF BEAUFORT LODGE
You might wonder, why Beaufort in particular?
According to a passage by the name of “Beaufort - Venice of the East”
The town of Beaufort was founded in 1898 by the Managing Director of the British North Borneo Chartered Company, Mr William C. Cowie. It is named after Sir Leicester Beaufort who was then the Governor of Labuan and British North Borneo (1895 – 1900).
Originally set up to help economic development of the interior of Sabah, Beaufort's early prosperity was closely linked to rubber cultivation.
Beaufort also played a role in the survival of our Kota Kinabalu city, which was known as Jesselton then. The following is an excerpt from Sabah – A General Geography by Godfrey A. Chatfield:
“No sooner had Jesselton been chosen than it became, in 1900 and 1901, a railway boom town with a population of about 1,500 persons, mostly Chinese labourers. …. A railway without either passengers or cargo to carry is of little use so the coming of rubber to Sabah soon after was a godsend. As the export of rubber expanded after about 1910, so Jesselton slowly grew too.”
Here's a sneak peek into present-day Beaufort:
Kung Ming Primary School Circa 1953. Building is still in existence.
SJK(C) Kung Ming, Beaufort.
The traditional colonial-period houses with wooden tiles.
Now let us move on to the brief history on the formation of the Beaufort Lodge.
Beaufort Lodge is a unique Lodge that has shifted its location four times within a short period of 59 years. It was consecrated on 31st October 1964 during the Age of the Railway. The railway changed the economy of North Borneo as it traversed lands suitable for rubber plantations and opened up the entire West Coast.
The desire for a second Lodge in Jesselton and the presence of planter Brethren in Lodge Kinabalu led to the formation of Beaufort Lodge. The planter Brethren, particularly W Bro RR Lawes, played an important role in its formation.
Historical record showed that: “When North Borneo became Sabah and joined Malaysia with Sarawak on 16th September 1963. This major political change created a state of flux in Jesselton among the majority of the Brethren who were expatriate Government servants as their future in the State became uncertain. This could have been the very reason why the senior Brethren of Lodge Kinabalu at that time decided to expand Freemasonry while they could, as W Bro RR Lawes aptly put it much as a dying tree will throw out more seed.”
Let us remembered (part of) the message from our then District Grand Master: “Brethren,When the granting of a Warrant to this Lodge was discussed by the Board of General Purposes on 10thJune 1964, there were some doubts expressed. I was at Grand Lodge that day and the MW the Grand Master discussed the matter with us. I assured him of the viability of the Lodge, the keenness of Masters of other Lodges in Borneo when necessary. This evening the Register of Lodges of the Grand Lodge of England is enriched by the addition of Beaufort Lodge, the third Lodge to be Consecrated in Sabah. Its Founders have a sacred task to perform in ensuring its strength and stability, and only by their dedicated services and undivided loyalty to the Lodge will this be accomplished. And as we individually make our daily advancement, so may this Lodge day by day grow in strength, and bring happiness to all who come within the ambit of its benign influence.” - RW Bro J.W.Y. Eu, Past DGM of the DGLEA
The Beauford Lodge Crest
The design of the Lodge Crest was done by Bro T. Robertson, the then 1st Beaufort Lodge Junior Warden Designate. It incorporated within a circle of gold and green, a white Maltese Cross surmounted by the Square and Compasses, Hevea Brasiliensis or para-rubber trifoliate leaves and the All Seeing Eye, all on royal blue background. The rubber leaves were incorporated in the design as Beaufort was the centre of the rubber planting industry in the West Coast of Sabah and the three Founder Principal Officers were rubber planters.
The crest shown here is The Millennium Revision to modernise the Lodge Crest was done by W Bro David Shen I-Tan in 1999 during the 35th Anniversary of Beaufort Lodge.
Beaufort Lodge continued to meet regularly at Woodford Estate until 1983 when another round of major repairs and improvements were due. The Brethren saw no advantage to be gained with any further improvements to the building and decided to move to Dewan Freemason in Kota Kinabalu which was originally All Saints Church. Finally, they have been situated at the new Dewan Freemason Kota Kinabalu since 2001.
It was recorded that: “At the Committee Meeting on 21stMarch 1983 that the Regular Meeting scheduled on Saturday, 28thMay would be the last meeting of Beaufort Lodge at Woodford Estate due to the insecure structure of the building and that the Worshipful Master would approach Lodge Kinabalu for the use of the Kinabalu Masonic Hall on a permanent basis.”
The other reason of moving Beaufort Lodge is from this history record:
“The possibility of road transport ironically changed the character of meeting in Beaufort. The Brethren missed the togetherness of all travelling together in a rail car. They missed the fellowship in the train. It essentially changed the character of what was basically a special outing when attending a Beaufort Lodge meeting. There was the added concern of road safety. With drinking and driving at night and with buffaloes bedding down on the highway, the Brethren were lucky to have come through without any mishap. But this concern for road safety was a factor in the decision to move the Lodge to Kota Kinabalu.”
Beaufort Lodge has continued to thrive and serve its members throughout its history. And that brings us to the end of my short history write-up.A substantial portion of this historical narrative draws upon the contents within The Pentagram's December 2016 issue.
I want to express my deep gratitude for everyone who joined the Beaufort Lodge Reminisce Expedition. A big thank you to WM and the hardworking organizing team, for making this incredible journey possible. They put a lot of effort into planning, like visiting Beaufort many times, arranging places for us to eat and sleep, coordinating the charter of trains, getting buses ready, making sure we had enough drinks, and the setting up a mobile Temple. It was all done with care and attention.
I resonate with the sentiments shared by this website's author, who astutely pointed out “We must identify sites of historical significance and consider installing informational plaques detailing the events that transpired at those locations. For a town as ancient as Beaufort, which played a pivotal role in the state's early economy, the absence of a dedicated museum to showcase our profound cultural and historical heritage is disheartening.” The writer hopes that, subject to the estate owner's consent, a suggestion to install an informative plaque at the old Beaufort Lodge location, along with an explanatory narrative, will serve as a noteworthy and impactful initiative.
In wrapping up this historical journey, it is important to recall that the first Sabah lodge was established only after facing three unsuccessful attempts [Lodge Kinabalu No. 7047 was consecrated on 26th January 1951 in Jesselton]. The formation of Beaufort Lodge owes much to the foundation laid down by W Bro RR Lawes, which played a pivotal role, as supported by the accounts of Past DGM RW Bro J.W.Y. Eu. Their struggles in gaining approval from the Grand Lodge for new lodge installations were formidable.
In this year, DyDGM W Bro Jacob Pang’s birthday wishes, he wished that “our brothers would take care of one another, take care of our buildings, and to always remember the 1st Degree badge.” Interestingly, this sentiment found resonance during the Festive Board, where Rt W Bro Peter Wong's speech echoed similar themes. He shared that even as Freemasonry has transitioned from China to Hong Kong, five lodge buildings in China remained preserved and intact.
In conclusion, while the loss of the old Beaufort Lodge building brings a tinge of sadness, there's a heartening note. Beaufort Lodge is poised to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2024. This impending milestone symbolizes a journey rich with meaningful memories. As the chapters of history continue to be written, an idea arose from the attendees - to rekindle the connection with the original lodge by planning Beaufort Lodge meeting in Beaufort town again in the future [Emphasis in italic is added by the writer]. This approach ensures that the Beaufort Lodge Brethren will comprehend the origin of the seed that was sown.
Finally, let us be encouraged by the speech of the Beaufort Lodge WM during the Festive Board: “As we walk down memory lane, we find solace in knowing that we have been a part of each other’s stories – an indelible mark on one another’s lives. As we remember those who are no longer with us, we honour their legacies by holding their memories close to our hearts. They are the stars that continue to guide us, even in the darkest nights. Today, let us celebrate the present by paying homage to the past. Let our memories be a beacon of hope for the future, reminding us of the strength we possess as individuals and as a fraternity. We are after all, just, upright and free men, of mature age, sound judgement and strict morals. In closing, let us cherish the memories we’ve created and continue to create. And as we embark on new chapters, let us carry the essence of these cherished moments with us, knowing that the ties of our reminiscence will forever bind us.”