The following is taken from our Volume II History book (1937) and is replicated, as written, here. A postface is added at the bottom to give a little further information.
Our hearts are filled with pardonable pride whenever the names of Bros' Thomas Hardy, Michael Scarth, Rowland Burdon and Sir Cuthbert Sharp are mentioned, we in Palatine Lodge revere the memory of these illustrious Brethren of bygone days who did so much by their fervency and zeal to foster and consolidate this old lodge in early days, through good times and bad, and handed over to us a heritage of which we are extremely proud, all the encomiums we pass upon these stalwarts are justly deserved.
At the same time I maintain that during more recent years, and even at the present time, there have been, and are, Brethren who from the foundations laid have raised a superstructure perfect in all its parts and honourable to the builder. In this category I would place Brother James Hall who has never spared himself in his efforts on behalf of his Mother Lodge, Palatine No. 97.
His year of office was marked by an official visit from Provincial Grand Lodge Officers on March 11th 1909. Among those who attended were WBro C W Napier Clavering, SGW, who afterwards became Provincial Grand Master of Northumberland, WBro C J De-Pledge, PPSGW, the present Deputy Provincial Grand Master, WBro C Wilkinson, PPJGW, and WBro John G Finlayson, PDGDC, the present highly esteemed Director of Ceremonies, and others.
Proposed Reform of Grand Lodge
A circular was received from the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, on the proposed reform of Grand Lodge, which pointed out among other things, that there was no question something must be done to reform the Constitution of Grand Lodge, they might have at a quarterly communication about 800 Brethren present, and at another quarterly communication another 800 Brethren present, he (Lord Ampthill) had been informed that there were 50,000 eligible to attend. He contended that Grand Lodge should be made a more responsible and a more representative lodge.
Members of Grand Lodge would probably object to giving up their right, but it was an empty privilege to be a member of an assembly which resembled a mob gathering; at present the Worshipful Masters, Past Masters, and the Wardens of the Lodges, who are subscribing members are eligible to attend the quarterly communications of Grand Lodge.
It is open to the Brethren of the several Lodges to give their Council any advice upon the matter of what would be a responsible representative body.
This circular was brought before a meeting of Permanent Committee held on 7th July 1909, and after considerable discussion it was agreed “That this Committee having had before them the circular bearing upon the proposed Reform of Grand Lodge, referred to them from the last Lodge meeting, is of the opinion that some reform is desirable, but without further details, defer the matter until a later date, in view of the meeting of the Worshipful Masters Committee to consider the subject”.
On the 14th October 1909, this matter was again brought before the Lodge, when on the proposition of the Worshipful Master it was resolved, “That we adhere to the principles of direct representation of each Lodge to Grand Lodge, but are prepared to consider a scheme for a limitation of the number of representatives”.
This was unanimously agreed to.
The cause of Charity has always had the warm support of WBro Hall and his contributions to the various Masonic Institutions are worth of the highest praise, as the following records will show.
Royal Masonic Institution for Boys, Vice Patron – 3
Royal Masonic Institution for Girls, Vice President – 4
Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, Vice President – 5
In addition, his work in connection with the Benevolent Committee of the Province of Durham, of which body he is Treasurer, has been highly appreciated.
During the time he was Charities Representative of Palatine Lodge the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys 1921 festival took place under the Chairmanship of the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master, Lord Ravensworth.
On this occasion the Province contributed the magnificent sum of £35,500, which included the Lodge subscription of £1,200, which placed Palatine lodge well at the head of the list of Lodge subscriptions for the Province of Durham, largely owing to the manner in which Bro Hall carried out his duties as Charities Representative of the Lodge.
James Hall, who was born at South Shields in 1861, is a most enthusiastic and honoured Brother. He was educated at the Barnes School, South Shields, and on leaving entered the office of a Tyneside firm of shipbuilders, timber merchants, coal exporters, etc, until 1887, when he came to Sunderland and commenced business as a Shipbuilders and Steam Trawler broker.
He is the Managing Director of the Wear Steam Fishing Co Ltd, and a Proprietor of the Sunderland Ice Company. He is also a Director of the Total Loss Mutual Steamship Insurance Co, Steam Eng. and Trawlers Mutual Protecting and Indemnity Association, Sunderland Working Men’s Building Society, the British Trawlers Federation Ltd, and of the Sunderland Masonic Hall Company.
He is an active member on the Wear Fishery Board and the North Eastern Sea Fishery Committee.
A further biography detailing more of his life and working career can be found on the Durham at War website (link). Well worth a read.
The following is a record of his Masonic career
Initiated in the Palatine Lodge No.97, Sunderland, on the 12th March 1903, and installed Master on the 10th December 1908.
He was Charities Representative for 10 years, from 1912 to 1922.
He joined the Vedra lodge No. 3137 in 1912 occupying the Secretary-ship from 1914 to 1916, Installed master on the 26th September 1916, and since September 1918, he has been the Treasurer, and is the oldest Past Master of Vedra Lodge.
In the Province he was appointed Senior Grand Warden, September 1915, and on the 21st September 1918, he was promoted to the acting rank of Junior Grand Warden, and in 1920 he was appointed ADC in Grand Lodge.
Royal Arch Masonry
Exalted in the Strict Benevolence Chapter No. 97 on the 19th May 1905, occupying the Chair of First Principal in 1914, and from 1917 to 1926 he held the office of Treasurer. He was invested First Assistant Grand Sojourner of the Province on the 30th October 1915, and promoted to the rank of Third Grand Principal on the 12th October 1918, and PG Standard Bearer in 1930.
In Mark Masonry he was advance in the Vedra Lodge No. 793, on the 11th March 1924, and is also a member of the 18th Degree, attaining the 30th degree in 1930, being perfected in the Ravensworth Rose Croix Chapter No. 183, on the 22nd January 1919. For two years he has held the office of Treasurer in this Chapter.
He was present at the Bi-Centenary of Grand Lodge held in London, June 1917, and also at the Peace Celebration in 1919.
The Wearside Masonic Temple
It is in connection with the above that Bro Hall did his best work. For years he had held the opinion that the Masons of Sunderland should have a building worthy of them and their great town. He it was, in conjunction with the late WBro Dr Boyd Cunningham, who purchased the site in Douro Terrace, and from that time he worked like a Trojan. Difficulties were encountered, only to be surmounted.
He accomplished the work of three or four men, till at last the foundation stone of the Temple was laid, particulars of which will be recorded in due time.
When the Temple was finished, the Brethren of Palatine Lodge thought it was fitting that his Herculean efforts should be recognised, and on November 10th 1932 he was presented with a silver inkstand, suitably inscribed, by the Worshipful Master, WBro W D Campbell.
One of the pleasures I have experienced in compiling this Vol II of Palatine Lodge History, is the opportunity I have had of paying tribute to one of its greatest and best beloved Past Masters.
The part he played in the erection of the Wearside Masonic Temple is well known to all, and to quote the words of the DPGM when he said “If it had not been for WBro James Hall, this great scheme could not have been carried through” as the spirit which conceived it and carried it to a successful end he is entitled to the utmost praise and admiration, for his foresight and outstanding ability.
There must have been occasions when he realised the tremendous responsibilities he had undertaken, and there would probably be times when the difficulties he encountered would be well-nigh insurmountable.
Wearside Masonic Temple, pictured 2018
He has been to this his Mother Lodge, Guide, Philosopher, and Friend, for many years, and we trust the GAOTU will be please to spare him to us for many years. Long may the Temple stand, a monument of Wonder, Strength and Beauty, and serve to remind future generations of Masons of the wonderful work of WBro James Hall.
A wonderful tribute, I'm sure you'll agree, but what did the man himself think?
Much too thick. A lot of the foregoing should have been left over until I was dead. JH
A note written in pencil by James Hall himself!
Further research shows that he was born to Mathew Hall and his wife Sarah, being the third of four children, having an older brother and sister and a younger brother. He married twice. His first wife, Eleanor, suffered from epilepsy and was for a time admitted to Sunderland Borough Asylum, where she ultimately died in 1922. I have been unable to trace any details for his second wife but from the Durham at War article understand he outlived her. He never had children.
WBro James passed away in 1944, but his legacy will forever live on in Wearside Masonic Temple, and those that have visited will have noted that the main floor is named in his honour:
The James Hall Suite