The Tyler's Toast
by Lewis J. Birt (New Jersey)
Royal Arch Mason - 1980
One of the more delightful and interesting of
all Masonic Ceremonies is the Table Lodge, or
the Festive Board. An almost essential part
of such a gathering is the "Tyler's Toast."
It is not a part of any Masonic ritual, but
it is a charming part of the work that adds a
little something to the overall ceremony. The
form or wording may vary somewhat from
jurisdiction to jurisdiction, nor is it
always known as the Tyler's Toast because it
is not always proposed by the Tyler. In some
cases it is known as "The Toast to Ancient
Brethren." Probably the most commonly used
wording is this:
"To All Poor and Distressed Masons, wherever
they may be, dispersed over the face of the
earth or on the water, here's wishing them a
relief from their sufferings, and a happy
return to their native land, should they so
To place a date on when this or a similar
toast was introduced into the ancient
ceremonies of the Craft is not easy as our
ancient Brethren in the early Lodges lived
closely by their obligations about committing
any of their ceremonies to paper. "Silence
and Circumspection" may be good for Masonic
conduct, but they make for very poor history.
Thus we can take only a few facts and
accounts and from those make a few
The earliest (probably) recorded reference to
this toast may be the one in Laurence
Dermott's Ahiman Rezon, published in 1756.
The "Book of Constitutions" of those years
usually contained many pages of Masonic Songs
which the members probably engaged in singing
after the Lodge was over. These were usually
rather long and rambling and were frequently
interrupted to propose a toast, or "drink the
health of. . .," various persons or groups.
On page 148 began this song which continued
for two more pages and ended with this
My Brethren, all take Glass in Hand,
And toast our noble Master Grand,
And in full chorus sing,
And in &c.,
A Health to ancient Masons Free,
Throughout the Globe, where-e'er they be,
And so God save the King,
And so God save the King.
To all Ancient Masons, wheresoever dispers'd,
or oppressed, round the Globe, &c.
This custom of engaging in song after the
Lodge was over is noted in many instances in
the earliest days of the Craft. It is noted
that Dr. Desaguliers, after being installed
the third Grand Master in 1719, "reviv'd the
old regular and peculiar Toasts of
Freemasonry." They were not named although
some of them are mentioned in Anderson's
"Constitutions of 1723" among the songs
included in the book, some sixteen pages of
such. The fact that Dermott used "&c." in the
toast cited above would seem to indicate that
it was well known to all, so that the
printing of the full form would not be
necessary. In contrast, many of the toasts
that were mentioned in this edition were
printed in their entirety.
The toast does not appear in Anderson's
Constitutions of 1738, so we might assume
that it came into practical use between 1738
and 1756. Bernard E. Jones stated that the
earlier form of this toast was: "To all
charitable and distressed Masons dispersed
So if we assume that this toast or health may
have entered Masonic use about 1740 or 1750,
we can look to that time as a period of
expansion of Masonry in England. The Grand
Lodge was only twenty or thirty years old and
growing. England was expanding into Empire
and deeply engaged in the wars on the
continent and in America. Many of those who
were engaged in these engagements were
Masons. This is certain for we can note the
many military lodges and colonial warrants
issued which surely show a number of Brethren
in foreign lands or in the Royal Navy. Surely
the brethren at home would be apt to remember
their Brethren "wheresoever scattered over
the face of the Earth and on the Water.......
To make this a custom, almost a ritual, would
be a natural outgrowth of this remembrance.
At the same time we might also make note of
the fact that the concluding words of this
toast were sometimes modified by adding the
words - "should they so desire and deserve
it. " The addition of those words - "and
deserve it" - would be a reflection of the
conditions and times. There were many
Englishmen impressed into service
(shanghaiing is more like it) and undoubtedly
many would be Masons. They would enjoy "a
happy return to their native land" and surely
would deserve it. There were others who were
"transported" - a term used to describe the
forced emigration of convicts, and surely
they would not "deserve it." This is not to
put down all of those who were "transported"
as many of those formed and became good
members of lodges in the land to which they
were transported - Solomon's Lodge No. 1 of
Savannah, being an example: others in
Australia and other colonies.
In a song included in William Preston's
"Illustrations of Masonry," of 1776, there is
a line which goes: "The absent we claim, tho'
dispers'd round the ball .... which places
that toast as fourth among six healths given
in that song. So placing it fourth does not
mean that it should always be given last or
just before closing.
The American Lodge of Research, chartered
under the Grand Lodge of New York, usually
halts labor at nine o'clock (or as near to
that hour as is convenient) so that all
members may rise and give the Tyler's Toast.
In this case (ALR) the first mention in the
Proceedings of this custom was April 25,
1933, "at 9:00 P.M. the Master announced the
singing of the Tiler's [sic] Toast." On March
29, 1954, the Transactions state: "At the
traditional hour of 9 o'clock, the Tiler's
Toast to absent brethren was observed in
In Massachusetts at the grand Feast (1972),
this Toast was given by the Grand Master:
G.M. - "To the Fraternity wheresoever
dispersed upon the face of the earth. May
Masons of all nations be united under the
mantle of universal Friendship and
Brotherhood for the benefit of all mankind."
Brethren: - To the Brethren wheresoever
In Western Australia, the Tyler's Toast is
listed as the fifth of the standard toasts
that are given at the Festive Board.
According to Mackey, in the French Lodges
prior to 1872, there is this toast - To "The
Health of all Masons wheresoever spread over
the two hemispheres .........
As a matter of fact, this toast was not given
by the Tyler in the early days of the Craft.
Bernard E. Jones pointed out that in some
early English Lodges it was given by the
Senior Warden, and the Junior Warden then
proposed a toast to "our next Meeting." In
some cases it has been noted that it is given
by the Master. At the present time when the
Tyler proposes this toast, it is usually last
or just prior to closing. Otherwise it is
given as one of the standard ceremonial
toasts (usually seven, but this number will
The Lodge Service Committee of the Grand
Lodge of Iowa, A.F. & A.M., in 1978,
published a format for giving the Tyler's
Toast. It is presented here in full:
"7. The Tyler's Toast: (Always given by the
Tyler) Then to our final toast tonight, our
glasses freely drain, happy to meet, sorry to
part, happy to meet again.
Dear Brethren of the Mystic Tie, the night is
Our work is done, our feast is o'er, this
toast must be our last. Good night to all,
once more good night, again that farewell
strain. Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy
to meet again.
To all poor and distressed Masons,
wheresoever dispersed (over the face of the
earth or water), a speedy relief to their
suffering, and a safe return to their native
land if they so desire. (Three knocks) With
me, my brethren, To All Poor and Distressed
Masons! (Drink and present arms as before,
glasses down at the same instant as Tyler's.)
There is no response to the Tyler's Toast."
Probably there would not be a complete story
about the Tyler's Toast if we did not mention
that Rudyard Kipling, a Mason raised in
India, used it as the subject or inspiration
of his poem "The Widow at Windsor." Without
taking that whole story here is only the last
Then 'ere's to the Son's o' the Widow.
Wherever, 'owever they roam.
'Ere's all they desire, an' if they require,
A speedy return to their 'ome.
(Poor beggars! - they'll never see 'ome!)
A final note - there is no authority that has
stated why it is called Tyler's Toast. In
fact, as noted above, there is no set rule
that says it will be proposed by the Tyler.
Even when it is referred to as the Tyler's
Toast in some jurisdictions that have
regulations governing Table Lodges, it may be
given by some officer other than the Tyler.
It may just be that with the Tyler outside
the door doing his duty, he was selected to
give the Toast to the Absent Brethren because
from his position he was almost as absent as
they during the festivities. So There!!
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