Sir Christoffel Brand
By Right Worshipful Brother John Smith OSM
First published in the 2010 GLSA Southern Division Spring Ball magazine
Christoffel Joseph Brand was born in Simonstown on 21 June 1797. After receiving his initial education in Cape Town, he attended the University of Leiden in the Netherlands from 1815 where he obtained a Doctorate in Law as well as a Doctorate in Literature.
Brand returned to South Africa in 1821 and established a law practice in Cape Town and took an active interest in politics. He was a co-founder of the Zuid-Afrikaansch Athenaeum in 1828 and he became an advocate of the Supreme Court in 1829.
He was a leading figure in the Afrikaner community and was a founder member and later the editor of De Zuid-Afrikaan newspaper. Together with John Fairbairn, the editor of the Grahamstown Journal, F W Reitz (senior) and Andries Stockenström, the Landdrost of the Graaff-Reinet district, he campaigned for a representative government and an elected Legislative Assembly. When a representative government was finally introduced in the Cape Colony, he became the first Speaker of the House of Assembly in 1854, a position he held until shortly before his death in 1875.
Brand was initiated into Freemasonry in Lodge de Goede Hoop and served as its Presiding Master from 1837 to 1839 and from 1844 to 1847. During 1847 he was appointed to the position of Deputy Grand Master National under the Grand Lodge of the Netherlands, a position he held until 1874. Brand was knighted in 1860 by Queen Victoria for his outstanding achievements as a politician and as the Speaker of the House of Assembly.
During 1861 Brand, already 64 years of age, embarked on the first of his “missionary” travels into the interior of South Africa. He undertook these expeditions between 1861 and 1870 to promote Netherlandic Freemasonry in South Africa. At that stage there were only 3 Netherlandic Lodges, namely Lodge de Goede Hoop which had been established in 1772 in Cape Town, Lodge de Goede Trouw which had been established in 1800 in Cape Town and Lodge de Vereeniging which had been established in 1834 in Graaff-Reinet. The first expedition was probably prompted by the establishment of Lodge Southern Cross in Cape Town under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Scotland during 1860.
Brand travelled through George and Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown and then on to Bloemfontein. En route he established Lodge Rising Star in Burghersdorp and Lodge Harmony in Richmond during 1862. During 1863 he established Lodge Star in the East in George and Lodge L’Astre de L’Orient in Stellenbosch.
During 1863 Brand also requested the Grand Lodge of the Netherlands to establish a Provincial Grand Lodge with its headquarters in Cape Town. This request was granted and Brand appointed Wor. Bro. Oloff Truter as the first Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Southern Africa under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the Netherlands. During or about the same time, Wor Bro Southey was appointed by the United Grand Lodge of England as the District Grand Master in the Cape to control the Lodges operating under the English Constitution.
On his second journey during 1865 Brand established Lodge Flaming Star of Africa in Potchefstroom, the first Netherlandic Lodge north of the Vaal River. During the same year he also established Lodge Excelsior in Willowmore and he re – opened Lodge de Vereeninging in Graaff-Reinet, which had closed a few years earlier due mainly to the continual unrest on the north-eastern border of the Cape Colony.
When Brand sought to consecrate Lodge Unie in 1866, he found that there were not sufficient Netherlandic Freemasons in Bloemfontein to form a properly constituted Lodge. Undeterred, he requested the Freemasons from Lodge Rising Star (English Constitution) in Bloemfontein to assist him and he promptly initiated eleven of them into Lodge Unie. Although this was most unusual, it is indicative of Brand’s vision to establish harmony between English and Dutch speaking South Africans. One of the petitioners of Lodge Unie was the President of the Republic of the Free State, Marthinus Wessels Pretorius (a son of the Voortrekker leader, Andries Pretorius) who had been initiated into Freemasonry in Lodge de Goede Hoop during 1862.
Brand’s son, Johannes Hendricus Brand (known later as Sir John Brand), was initiated into Freemasonry in Lodge de Goede Hoop in 1842 and succeeded Marthinus Wessels Pretorius as the President of the Republic of the Free State. He laid the foundation stones for Lodge Rising Star’s temple in 1865 and later for Lodge Unie’s temple, both in Bloemfontein. During 1866 Brand also established Lodge Northern in Colesberg and Lodge Flaming Star in Ventersdorp. In 1867 he established Lodge St. Jan in Malmesbury and Lodge Oranje in Paarl.
During January 1869 Brand, now 73 years old, set out on his last “missionary” journey. He established Lodge Eintracht in Somerset East; Lodge Patronheid in Phillipolis and Lodge de Vriendschap in Adelaide.
During 1870 he established Lodge de Morgenster in Kroonstad. He also visited Lodges en route at Graaff-Reinet, Richmond and Potchefstroom and laid the foundation stone for Lodge Aurora’s new temple in Pretoria. He recorded that he was well received by all the Lodges en route which provided him with fresh horses, food and shelter.
As Brand’s domain grew, his authority over the Netherlandic Lodges in the two Republics however diminished. This was due mainly to the distance between Cape Town and the Lodges in these outlying areas and several discussions were held about forming Provincial Grand Lodges in the Transvaal and the Free State. There were even discussions held about the formation of a United Grand Lodge of South Africa to control the affairs of all the Netherlandic, English and Scottish Lodges which were scattered throughout the country. Lodge Harmony in Richmond took the initiative and submitted a formal proposal regarding the formation of a United Grand Lodge of South Africa to its Provincial Grand Lodge in Cape Town during 1870.
Pursuant to this proposal, the Netherlandic Provincial Grand Lodge duly invited the senior representatives of the English and the Scottish Lodges and Constitutions to meetings to discuss the formation of a United Grand Lodge of South Africa. At that stage there was no Lodge in South Africa working directly under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
Brand had such an influence on the affairs of the country during the mid-1800s that the town of Ladybrand, which is situated at the foot of the Platberg in the Eastern Free State, was named after his wife, Lady Catharina Brand. Unfortunately, Brand did not live to see the formation of a United Grand Lodge of South Africa and most of his hard work at establishing peace and harmony between the language groups in South Africa received a severe setback through the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War during the late 1800s.
Notwithstanding the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, the establishment of the Republic of South Africa in 1961 and the success of the first multi-racial political elections in 1994, discussions between Freemasons from the English, Irish, Scottish and South African Constitutions regarding the formation of a United Grand Lodge of South Africa remain unresolved.