All Our Yesterdays



Freemasons Chronicle -17 March 1945 – PROVINCES



Although claims to unique achievements are often disputed and proved, when brought to the light of publicity, even when of an outstanding character to have been previously equalled, if not exceeded, it must be difficult to visualise such a possibility before the truly remarkable and most worthy example of Masonic constancy and zeal, coupled with claims to longevity as a trio which can have found few precedents, if any provided by three Senior Past Masters of the Forest Lodge, No 1852 of Mansfield, Notts; whose combined actual ages reach no less than 271 years, and all three of whom are able to prove over 63 years membership of the Order and to have occupied their first Chair in the same Lodge, of which they are still full subscribing members, 55 years ago.

They are in order of seniority, and the first two are brothers, W.Bro. George Gershom Bonser PAGDC (shown on the left in the photographic group) who at the end of the month will enter his 95th year; W.Bro. Arthur Howard Bonser. PProGW (Notts.) (on extreme right) who next month will enter on his 91st year and W.Bro John Harrop White P.A.G.D.C (centre) who next June enters his 90th year, and to thank them all the Craft will wish to join in hearty congratulations and to express admiration for their steadfastness and aspiring example their many sided Masonic activities have proved to their Brethren and help in the furtherance of the cause.

Their individual records as initiates of the same Lodge are as follows:

W.Bro George Gershom Bonser who was born on 30th March 1851 was initiated in Forest Lodge, No 1852 Mansfield on 11th April 1881, a few days after his 30th birthday and in 1889 occupied the Chair as Master. In 1904 he was appointed Provincial Senior Grand Warden of Nottinghamshire, and in 1915 to the active functions of Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in Grand Lodge. In 1891, he became Founder and first Master of Ashfield Lodge, No 2412, Sutton in Ashfield, and in 1919, Founder of Byron Lodge, No 4014 Hucknall of which the following year he was Master. In 1912 he was a Founder of the Notts. Installed Masters Lodge, No 3595. Exalted in the Forest Chapter No 1852 in 1885 he was MEZ in 1891, and again in 1905 and in 1913 appointed 3rd Prov.Gd Principal, and in 1915 Grand Standard Bearer in Supreme Grand Chapter, He was also a Founder of the Ashfield Chapter, No 2412 in 1935.

Advanced in St Albans Mark Lodge in 1888, he was a Founder of Mansfield Mark Lodge, No 654, in 1914 and Master the following year, and Prov. G.S.M, Notts, in 1920. Perfected in Notts Rose Croix and MWS in 1909. His other Masonic activities have included the Secretaryship of the Notts Prov. G.L. Benevolent Committee for 30 years 1904-1934 and representation on the Board of General Purposes 1907-1921, of Group 8 of the Associated Provinces, whilst in addition he has rendered valued service in civic and municipal directions being appointed a J.P for the County of Notts in 1910.

W.Bro Arthur Howard Bonser who is his junior by 4 years was born on 15th April 1855 and was initiated with his brother on the same date 11th April 1881, occupying the Chair of the Lodge two years before him, in 1887, and appointed Prov. Junior Gd Warden, Notts in 1893. He became a founder of Ashfield Lodge, No 2412, in 1891 and it’s Master in 1917. His son W.Bro Cyril A Bonser incidentally, was installed in 1933, as Master of Forest Lodge, thus adding to the family record in the Lodge. Associate of the Royal College of Organists W.Bro A.H.Bonser has been Organist and Choirmaster at St Peter’s Church, Mansfield for 20 years, while his many activities which speak for his zeal in service, include membership for 32 years on Sutton-in-Ashfield U.D.C, of which he was Chairman, no less than 39 years as a J.P for Notts, and still serving despite his great age; 36 years on the Notts County Council and Education Committee, and equally worthy records on the Mansfield Board of Guardians etc.

W.Bro John Harrop White who completes this outstanding trio of Masonic stalwarts and is the junior was born on 20th June 1856, and was initiated in Forest Lodge on 23rd February 1880, occupying the Chair in 1886. In 1905, he was appointed Prov.Senior Gd Warden, Notts: and in 1919 to the active rank of Asst.Gd. Director of Ceremonies in Grand Lodge. He was a Founder of the Haymans Lodge. No 3414 in 1909 and it’s Master in 1912.

In the same year, he became a Founder of the Notts Installed Masters Lodge, No 3595 and in 1938 occupying the Chair, The following year a Founder of Broxtowe Lodge, No 3648, he had the honour of being it’s first Master.

In the Royal Arch, he was exalted in the Abbey Chapter, No 47 Nottingham, in 1883 and becoming Founder of the Forest Chapter attaches to his mother lodge, two years later, was M.E.Z in 1894, and again in 1910. In 1925 he had the honour of being appointed Second. Prov. Gd. Principal, Notts; while six years earlier he had received the rank of P.G.St.Br. In Supreme Grand Chapter. In Mark he was advanced in 1914 in the Mansfield Manor Lodge, No 654 and became Master in 1921, and appointed in 1928,Prov Gd.S.W.Notts (Provincial Grand Senior Warden.

His civic and municipal activities have been tireless and multifarious and among others he has been successively Deputy Town Clark, Town Clerk and Mayor of Mansfield of which he was made Hon Freema, a member of the Notts County Council and Education Committee, Clerk to the Warsop U.D.C for over 50 years, Chairman of Governors County Technical College, Brunt School, Mansfield and for over 50 years a Governor and Chairman of Board Mansfield Hospital, and member for over 50 years, President of the General Assembly Unitarian and Free Christian Churches in 1931, and appointed in 1924 J.P, Borough of Mansfield.

From this long recital of the more outstanding among their activities, can be judged how worthy these three Masonic veterans have the right to claim in the fullness of their lives of such usefulness, spent in the service of their fellowmen, to have redeemed in the most complete measure the pledges taken at their entry into our Order and thereby to have shed lustre and prestige upon the vocation of a Mason in the eyes of the world, and to the greater inspiration of their Brethren which their example offers.