A SECRET society is fighting to save its home of 130 years because it says the governing body in Brisbane listed the historic lodge for sale without consulting members.

Southport Freemasons saw the property advertised by a real estate agent. The lodge goes under the hammer on Thursday.

Southport Freemasons worshipful master Michael Kilmartin plays the piano one last time at the lodge hall. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Southport Freemasons worshipful master Michael Kilmartin plays the piano one last time at the lodge hall. Picture: Glenn Hampson

The United Grand Lodge of Queensland (UGLQ) said it was selling the property because it could no longer cover losses. However, the Southport freemasons say numerous groups use it and they alone were tipping in thousands of dollars in rent.

The freemasons have been meeting in Southport since the late 1880s. The 76 Nerang St property advertised for sale contains a Queenslander at the rear dating back to 1906 with the building at the front built in 1959. Property records show the land was last valued at $980,000.

An old sign in the property. Picture: Glenn Hampson
An old sign in the property. Picture: Glenn Hampson

"We are all in shock," said Southport Freemasons worshipful master Michael Kilmartin, a family lawyer.

"This has all been done without even asking us.

 

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"It has been the home of the freemasons at the northern end of the Gold Coast for 132 years.

"The building at the rear of the property is of historic significance not only for freemasons but for the Gold Coast."

UGLQ board of directors president Martin Overman said: "The demise of a number of lodges meeting in the building has exacerbated the losses incurred through a reduction of rental income.

The Southport Freemasons have been meeting in the building for 132 years. Picture: Glenn Hampson
The Southport Freemasons have been meeting in the building for 132 years. Picture: Glenn Hampson

"This can no longer be borne by UGLQ.

"The UGLQ general board of directors has consulted with the trustees of Southport Lodge in relation to this matter.

"Furthermore, there have been numerous communications to UGLQ members including those members of the Southport Lodge dating back to October last year, advising of the issues related to the centre and notifying them that the Southport Masonic Centre would be sold in the absence of any viable alternative proposal."

Southport Freemasons senior officer Garth Joseph said the governing body - the United Grand Lodge of Queensland (UGLQ) - presented the sale as a "fait accompli".

"No real reason was given to us. They said it was just a commercial decision has been made," he said.

Inside the property. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Inside the property. Picture: Glenn Hampson

"There are a lot of members there who have been there for 60 years.

"It is quite devastating to us as a fraternity to have the loss of our home."

Mr Kilmartin said five groups of freemasons - Rose Croix, Surfers Paradise-Broadwater, Stradbroke, Southport and Knights Templar - met regularly at the Nerang St premises.

He said these lodges, plus a yoga studio that met downstairs, generated tens of thousands of dollars in income for UGLQ. He said Southport alone contributed $14,000 in rent and membership fees.

Mr Kilmartin said the Burleigh branch would not be able to accommodate Southport, which had 60 members, if the sale went ahead.

An old photo inside the building. Picture: Glenn Hampson
An old photo inside the building. Picture: Glenn Hampson

He said there had been multiple requests to return ownership of the buildings to the lodge.

"The members of the lodges are easily paying for the upkeep and maintenance of the buildings."

Southport Freemasons has had many high-profile members, including baker Frank Goldstein.

The fraternal organisation, which describes itself as a group of men trying to be the best individuals it can be in work and family, has donated millions to charities in the past.

In 2018, the Southport lodge hosted a gala dinner at Royal Pines RACV and donated $10,000 to the Women's Domestic Violence Refuge.

The old lodge squashed at the back. Picture: Glenn Hampson
The old lodge squashed at the back. Picture: Glenn Hampson

Mr Kilmartin alleged the sale was in breach of the transfer agreement from the Southport lodge to the UGLQ in 2008.

According to the document, seen by the Bulletin, any future sale cannot be done without two-thirds of the lodge voting in favour of the deal.

Mr Kilmartin said he would be lodging a caveat with the Titles Registry Office based on this clause to prevent the sale as there had been no consultation.

Old medals in the building. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Old medals in the building. Picture: Glenn Hampson

An auction has been scheduled for Thursday, February 4, through Kollosche.

Southport MP Rob Molhoek said the sale was concerning.

"Clearly, there is not an agreement between the Southport or Gold Coast chapters of the movement and head office and I think it is inappropriate for head offices based in Brisbane calling the shots over a group that is still meeting and still has a purpose for the facilities here," he said.

Southport councillor Brooke Patterson said she was exploring whether alternative premises for the Southport Freemasons could be found.

alister.thomson@news.com.au

Originally published as 'Shocked' Coast Freemasons in battle to save historic home



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