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THE JOHN ROSS ROBERTSON CHAIR
By WBr. Roy Gomes------August 2011
My name is Roy Gomes and I am a Past Master of Doric Lodge No. 316 in the Toronto DonValley District where I have two very dear friends, VWBr. Doug Morton and VWBr. Gordon Boutlier who belong to Riverdale John Ross Robertson Lodge No 494, Doug has been the WM a few times and Gord who is in his 90s is the Historian, they are both great Masonic story tellers.
I first met Doug at Black Creek Pioneer village where we work as interpreters at the Masonic display lodge at the village, this was when I was an EA, and he was present at all my ceremonies of progression to the Masters Chair and continues to be one of my trusted and sure backstops. Gord who always accompanies Doug or visa versa has become my dear friend and adviser as well.
These two brethren invited me to their lodge for one of the times that Doug went into the East. I being curious about old things including furniture, enquired about a certain old chair that occupied a prominent position in the East of the large lodge room in the Chisholm Avenue Temple where Riverdale John Ross Robertson Lodge meets.
I was then told that this chair was used when a new Grand Master is installed, the chair is transported by a certain courier company to the Royal York Hotel where the Installation Ceremony is conducted during our Annual Convocation which takes place in the Month of July.
This story triggered my curiosity and I decided to find out more about this piece of furniture.
After a Special Communication of Grand Lodge,on the 17th of November, 1917 at the corner of Yonge Street and Davenport Road in Toronto in which the Cornerstone of the new Temple was laid by MWBr. William H. Wardrope, MWBr. John Ross Robertson a Past Grand Master addressed the audience and said:--quote “The chair in which the Grand Master now sits is made from the oak beam which supported the floor of the room in which the first Grand Lodge was organized in 1717 A.D., in the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in London Yard.” unquote.
Historical documents tell us that the building was demolished in 1895 and that the contractor on the job saved two of the oak floor joists and presented them to MWBr. John Ross Robertson, who had a substantial chair made from that wood. It is also said that quote” all Grand Masters of our Grand Lodge are seated thereon whenever Grand Lodge meets in Toronto” unquote.
On the 19th of April, 1938 the chair became the property of John Ross Robertson Lodge No. 545 when the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the John Ross Robertson Estate, Mr. A.T.Chadwick, before the Lodge assembled, the DDGM of Toronto District A, RWBr. B.E. Elblad and the Grand Master, MWBr. W.J. Dunlop, read a letter from the trustees, conveying the historic chair into the possession of the Lodge where it has since occupied a place in the East in the Large Lodge Room in the Chisholm Avenue Temple.
John Ross Robertson the then Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of Canada sat on this chair when he wrote the fifth chapter of the History Freemasonry, in which the story of the Masonic Grand Lodge of England is told.
Inscription on the underside of the seat:- This Chair is made from the Rafters which supported the first floor room of the Goose and Gridiron Tavern, London Yard St. Paul’s Churchyard, London England. Built 1670 in which Election of Anthony Sayer, First Grand Master, Grand Lodge of England, took place June 24th 1717. Secured by J. Ross Robertson of Toronto on its demolition in 1897.