Thomas Ralling – the man
Thomas John Ralling was born at Colchester on the 22nd August 1846, he had seven brothers who all became Masons (and he personally initiated six of them). He was initiated into Freemasonry on the 19th October 1869, and duly passed and raised in the November and December following, in Angel Lodge No. 51, the oldest lodge in the Province of Essex.
In June 1871 he was appointed Secretary of the Lodge, and he was Master in 1877, in which year he was also appointed Provincial Grand Secretary, which office he held until his death in 1924. Ten years later, at the great meeting held at the Albert Hall on 13th June 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, he was appointed Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies, and he was promoted to Past Grand Deacon in Grand Lodge in September 1916 where he was presented by the Provincial Grand Master Colonel Lockwood with the collar that he himself had worn when he had held a similar rank.
He was, in 1894, the first Founder and first Master of Thomas Ralling Lodge, and he was Master of the Essex Masters Lodge No. 3256, founded at Colchester in 1907. At the time of his death he was the Master, perhaps unsurprisingly, of the Fratres Calami Lodge No. 3791 – membership of which was confined to Secretaries of Lodges!
In Royal Arch Masonry, he was exalted in Patriotic Chapter, No. 51 on 11th May 1871, appointed Scribe E, in 1873 and installed as MEZ in 1883. On the formation of the Essex Provincial Grand Chapter in 1873 he was appointed its Provincial Scribe E and in 1887 he was appointed Grand Sword Bearer of England. He was a founder, in 1907, of Thomas Ralling Chapter, and was its first MEZ.
Outside of Craft Masonry, in the Mark degree he was advanced in the Constantine Lodge No. 145 in 1872, became Secretary in 1873, and occupied the Chair for two years in 1880 and 1881. He was appointed Grand Overseer of the Mark Province of East Anglia on its constitution in 1883, and Grand Junior Deacon in the Grand Lodge of Mark Masons a month later. In 1899 on the formation of a separate Essex Mark Province he became Provincial Grand Mark Secretary, which appointment he also held until his death. In 1919 he was promoted to Past Grand Junior Overseer of England. He was also a Royal Ark Mariner and first WC of George Graveley Lodge No. 461 (and its Scribe!).
In Knights Templar, his activities were confined to the county of Sussex, where in 1902 he was installed in the De Warenne Preceptory No. 126, and reached the distinguished rank of First Constable in the Provincial Priory. In Sussex also, in the Ancient and Accepted Rite he was perfected in the Eureka Chapter of the Rose Croix of Heredom No. 43 in 1902 and was MWS in 1907 and again in 1916. In Essex he was a Founder, and second MWS of the Helena Chapter of the Rose Croix of Heredom No. 175 at Colchester.
During his long and distinguished Masonic career Thomas Ralling was the recipient of many marks of esteem from his brethren. In 1875 the members of Angel Lodge presented him with a gold watch and an address, in 1898 he received a cheque for £250 and an address to mark his 22nd year as Provincial Grand Secretary, in 1903 a silver salver to mark a visit to Warwick Castle (home of the Provincial Grand Master) by Essex brethren and their wives; in 1903 a silver salver from the brethren of Thomas Ralling to mark his silver wedding, in 1911 a silver rose bowl and a cheque for 500 guineas to mark his 36th year as Provincial Grand Secretary and in 1920, to mark his appointment as Secretary of Angel Lodge for the 50th year, his portrait in oils.
Outside of Freemasonry, he was one of Colchester’s leading citizens. He joined the staff of the “Essex Standard” aged 16 as a reporter, held the position of manager for many years, and was associated with the newspaper until his death. He was also one of the Registrars of Births and Deaths, the local secretary of the RSPCA, and an auditor to two local companies!
He died on 5 April 1924 at the age of 77, having held office as Provincial Grand Secretary for 47 years, and as Secretary of his mother Lodge for 53. He had been Treasurer of Thomas Ralling Lodge since 1898, and of Thomas Ralling Chapter since 1910. His wife for over forty years having died less than twelve months previously, he left two sons (one a mason) and two daughters.
Essex Lodges went into mourning for three months to mark his death, and donations were solicited for a memorial fund in his memory. The objects of the fund were to provide an income for life for his daughter Mary, who was his right hand in his duties in the province, and her brother Tom, who was an invalid; and to erect a memorial cross over his grave. Subscriptions to his memorial amounted to over £2,150 and £2,000 was set aside for investment to provide income. After their deaths the money was used to fund “The Thomas Ralling Scholarship” at the Royal Masonic Schools.
At the first Installation meeting of Thomas Ralling Lodge after his death the following resolution was passed:
“The Master Wardens and Brethren in open Lodge assembled deplore the lamented death of our Beloved Founder and Treasurer, W. Bro. Thomas J Ralling, first Master, PGD. Treasurer for 26 years, ProvGSec for upwards of 47 years, whose irreparable loss is deeply mourned by us all. By his unfailing courtesy and kindness to one and all, his innate modesty and unassuming ways he had endeared himself to all the Brethren, and the world as well as Masonry is the poorer for his Passing. We tender our heartfelt sympathy to his family and relations and especially to his daughter Mary who was his right hand in connection with the duties of his important office in the Province, and who is inconsolable at his loss. He was as proud of his Lodge as he was jealous of its dignity and honour in the Province, and it behoves us who are left behind to guide its destiny in the same path as he has done during the 30 years of its existence. We trust the memory of this great mason will be handed down through this Lodge pure and unsullied until time shall be no more.”