100 years of the Murilla Lodge
MILES man Ben Rees says he isn't one for large crowds.
Perhaps that's part of the reason the farmer and research economist chose to join the Freemasons more than 50 years ago, in 1967.
After all, a well kept secret can't be protected for long by too many people.
"I wanted to become a part of something bigger than myself," said Mr Rees, now the Master of the Murilla Masonic Lodge.
Born and raised in Miles, Mr Rees became more heavily involved in "lodge" as the members affectionately call it after returning to the region following a run of bad health in the 80s.
"With life slowing down after raising our children I wanted to find a way to give back to my community again," he said.
"A lot of people aren't aware of just how much the Freemasons have provided to Australians over the years because of the humble nature in which the society operates."
As the Murilla Lodge commemorated 100 years over the weekend, Chinchilla News thought it was the perfect opportunity to delve a little deeper into the world of the freemason and help demystify the men behind their immaculate tailcoat suits, aprons and collars.
Indeed pop culture and shows such as the animated cult series The Simspons would have the world believe there's a far more deviant side to the Freemasons, but in fact the society's clandestine background came from a far more practical place.
"After the Second World War and even more so during the cold war era, governments around the world declared freemasons make their operations public knowledge," Grand Master of Queensland Freemasons, Paul Holland said.
"The Freemasons' natural reaction was to do the complete opposite and go out of their way to keep things under wraps.
"Two to three generations down the track and now we have sons, grandsons and even great-grandsons who are still in the dark about their family's masonic past, which is a real tragedy in many ways."
Mr Rees and Mr Holland refused to confirm whether there was a secret handshake for members, but both masters wanted to set the record straight.
"We're not a secret society, we're merely a society of secrets and unfortunately all these years later it has shot us in the foot a little bit," Mr Rees said.
"Put simply the Masons are a service club just like Lions, Rotary and Apex. We're ordinary men trying to help the community."
But like all regional Australian service clubs, numbers are declining and a majority of today's masons are entering later life, with very limited young men joining to take the reins.
"In the past, lodge became a place for men from all backgrounds and social standings to gather and learn from one another," Mr Holland said.
"At its core that is still what our brotherhood is about today, how can we become better men and how can we better the world around us.
"The fancy suits are just a way that we can all be identified as equals, no matter your age, occupation or religion, lodge is a place where every man enters as an equal."
While the fate of the freemason in today's modern era hangs in the balance, one thing is certain: the Miles community is a better place thanks to the Murilla lodge's generosity and hard work (see below article).
Whether the brotherhood will be around to mark another century is all up to the next generation.
To see all the friendly faces from the Murilla Masonic Lodge 100th birthday celebrations, take a look at our photo gallery bellow: