In Memoriam: Wallace McLeod, FPS

Wallace McLeod was a Mason, a professor of classics, and a passionate researcher, writer and lecturer on all aspects of Freemasonry who applied his considerable intellectual faculties and great erudition to his work on the history of Freemasonry and its symbolism. He was equally adept at writing and lecturing on the management of the Craft.

Early in my Masonic career in Canada, I came to know Wallace and to appreciate his tremendous appeal as a speaker and educator. On a personal level, I found that his great warmth, courtesy, and engaging demeanour drew me to him and encouraged me to embrace his approach to Freemasonry.

Bro. McLeod, as a consequence of his tremendous talents, was appointed Prestonian Lecturer for the United Grand Lodge of England, was installed as the Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No- 2076, and served as President and as Executive Secretary of the Philalethes Society. Wallace also received many awards from premier research lodges throughout the United States and beyond. Wallace authored eleven books and numerous pamphlets, articles, and book reviews on Freemasonry, over a period of about forty years in the public Masonic forum.

Wallace was born in East Toronto on May 30, 1931. He graduated from Victoria College at the University of Toronto in 1953 with a degree in Classics (Greek and Latin). He proceeded to Harvard University where he earned his master’s degree in 1954 and his doctorate in 1966.

Wallace married his wife Elizabeth, a classmate whose subject was Latin and who went on to pursue a career as a teacher of Latin. Both with scholarships, they spent two years together in Greece studying archaeology as Fellows of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens (1957–1959). A bit of the time was spent in Turkey.

On their return, after brief sessions of Wallace teaching at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut (1959), University of British Columbia (1960–1961), and University of Western Ontario (1961–1962), he returned to his Alma Mater, Victoria College. There he taught Ancient Greek Language and Literature from 1962 until his retirement as Emeritus Professor of Classics in 1996.
Wallace came from a Masonic family. His paternal grandfather was initiated into Edmonton Lodge No- 53, at that time on the Grand Register of Manitoba, on 10 February 1893. His father belonged to Mizpah Lodge No- 572, Toronto. His mother’s oldest brother was the first Master of Todmorden Lodge No- 647, Toronto. It was truly a Masonic family on both sides, as Elizabeth’s father, grandfather and great grandfather were all Masons as well as all being professors of Latin at Victoria College. Wallace was initiated into Freemasonry in his father’s lodge, in 1952, and served as its Worshipful Master in 1969.
Wallace became a charter member of The Heritage Lodge (of research) No- 730, Cambridge, Ontario in 1977 and was made an honorary member of several other Ontario lodges along the way.
In the 1970s, a large group of expatriate Hungarian Masons wanted to form their own lodge in Toronto. As the Grand Lodge of Hungary was not recognized by the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario, special arrangements were mandated, including the re-initiation of the members. Wallace played a large role in mentoring them on their way under the name Andor Gero Lodge A.F & A.M. No- 726 GRC and continued to be an important part of their lodge.
He served for 15 years as the Grand Historian from 1980. During his tenure, Wallace brought the history of Freemasonry in Ontario to life through his publications and entertaining lectures.
He was appointed to the Board of General Purposes of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario in July of 1972, where he served until 1982; he was an honorary member from 1989 until 1993. By virtue of his election, he carried the rank of Honorary Past Grand Senior Warden. During those years he served at various times as the chairman of the standing committees on the Library and on Masonic Education, and of the Special Committee on Publications. He was a Director of the Masonic Foundation of Ontario from 1976 to 1995, serving as Chairman of its Committee on Bursaries from 1981 until 1995 and as its president from 1993 to 1994. From 1993 to 1996, Wallace was the representative of the Grand Lodge of India at or near the Grand Lodge of Canada. That came about because his son John McLeod, a history professor, had spent three years in India doing research and writing books; it was John who made the introductions.
In 1986, he delivered the lecture at the annual meeting of the Philalethes Society in Washington, D.C., and named a Fellow the same year. He served as the society’s President in 1992, being the first person from outside the States to hold that position. Over the years, he has written or edited fourteen books, and hundreds of articles and book reviews, dealing with Greek literature, archaeology, but mostly with Freemasonry.
For his Grand Lodge, Bro. McLeod wrote and or edited three books: Beyond the Pillars (1973), Meeting the Challenge (1980), and Whence Come We (1980), and several booklets. For the Masonic Book Club of Bloomington, Illinois, he prepared extensive introductions to the reprints of The Sufferings of John Custos (1979), The Old Gothic Constitutions (1985), and A Candid Disquisition (1989). He also provided articles for Masonic periodicals such as the Proceedings of the Heritage Lodge, the Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, Philalethes: The Journal of Masonic Research and Letters, and The Freemason Magazine (of Canada).
He joined King Cyrus Chapter, Royal Arch Masons No- 232, Toronto in 1980 and was installed as First Principal in December 1986. Wallace was very involved in the Allied Masonic Degrees.
Outside of Freemasonry, Wallace performed research on ancient weaponry and authored a classic work on the bows found in the tomb of Tutankhamen.
He became a subscribing member of the Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle in 1972 and in 1979 he was elected a full member of the Premier Lodge of Research, serving as Worshipful Master in 1983. He was the first North American to be so honoured in the lodge’s hundred years. He held the Delmar D. Darrah Medal of Ancient Landmarks Lodge No- 3579, Bloomington, Illinois; the Distinguished Service Plaque of the Virginia Lodge of Research No- 1777; the Certificate of Literature of the Philalethes Society; and the William James Dunlop Award of The Heritage Lodge No- 730, in Ontario. He was named a member of the Masonic Brotherhood of the Blue-Forget-Me-Not, which was restricted to Masonic educators. In 1984, he was inducted into the Society of Blue Friars—a very select group of Masonic writers. He served in the role of Grand Abbot for several years.
In 1986, he served as the United Grand Lodge of England’s Prestonian Lecturer. In that capacity, he delivered his paper on “The Old Charges.” This lecture was an excellent example of the way in which Wallace could present an academic topic in a manner that thoroughly engaged the audience. Wallace had an uncanny wit and humour that he wove into his presentations. The reports that he delivered verbally to the annual communications of Grand Lodge as Grand Historian had become the highlight of the proceedings. He was a brilliant academic and without doubt an accomplished entertainer.
By this point in his career, Wallace had been established as one of the most sought-after Masonic speakers. This was evidenced by his accepted invitation to do a lecture tour in Australia in 1996 hosted by Bro. Tony Pope.
One of my most treasured experiences involving Wallace occurred while I was serving as Master of the Heritage Lodge GRC. I was approached by Wallace with the idea to conduct the annual Heritage Banquet as an almost reenactment of a Grand Banquet put on by Most Worshipful John Ross Robertson in 1892. The original banquet was held to celebrate the 1792 arrival of Governor General John Graves Simcoe in Toronto. M.W. Bro. Robertson was one of the outstanding Grand Masters in the history of Freemasonry in Ontario. Wallace had the original toasts, speeches, the guest list and even the menu. It was a huge success and Wallace had a large part in that. For the Banquet itself, Wallace appeared attired as M.W. Bro. Robertson at the head table in period costume. A second head table included the then-current Grand Master M.W. Bro. Norman Byrne and members of Grand Lodge. The event planning and productions, including a commemorative coin that was struck took almost a year. During that time the whole committee became close with Wallace and his positive effect on them remained for many years. Wallace had that effect on all who knew and worked with him. At the Quatuor Coronati 1983 Installation toast to the Master of the Lodge, Bro. Harry Mendoza said of Wallace “those of us who have come to know him during his visits to this country can testify not only to his willingness to help others but also his kindness, courtesy and unfailing good humour.” There is no better way to sum up a tribute to Wallace than with those few words.
Tragically, some twelve years ago, Wallace started to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease, and subsequently withdrew from public involvement in Freemasonry. This change in his personal condition was a great loss to the Masonic world and all who appreciated his presence and his contribution. During this later period, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to maintain my fairly close contact with Wallace, speaking with him on the phone and visiting from time to time.
It was in the later part of January 2019 I decided to pop in and visit with Wallace. When I visited, I could not know if he was able to recognize me or understand me at all, but Elizabeth told me that he would be pleased to see me anyway, for he liked company. This time, when I called to set a time to visit, she told me that she had been in the hospital herself over Christmas and New Years and that the family had moved Wally, as she usually called him, to a very nice retirement residence, not too far from their house.
The decision had subsequently been made that they would stay together in the residence and sell their home which they had occupied since 1968, and in which they had brought up their four children, Betsy, John, James, and Angus. Their new home was quite close to my office and so I went right over and I sat in their living room chatting for an hour or so. Wallace was his normal jovial self, showed so much interest in all I had to tell him, but clearly he was just going through the motions. Elizabeth and I had a nice chat. I left, promising another visit shortly but it was only another few days later that Elizabeth called me to tell me that they would be selling their house. She asked me if I could take out all of the Masonic possessions that Wallace had accumulated over his nearly 70 years in the Craft. So began nearly two weeks of heavy work, sorting, and packing the contents of three rooms that were stacked with Masonic treasures, treasures that represent the life of one of the most important Masonic academics in the history of Freemasonry in Canada: a Freemason internationally renowned for his lectures, research, books, pamphlets and articles, and his extensive involvement with Freemasonry on both sides of the Atlantic, in Australia, New Zealand and India.
On June 3rd Wallace quietly passed to the Grand Lodge Above, as we say, to be reunited with companions of his former toils.
Today as I sit in my library at home I am surrounded by his regalia and so many of Wallace’s valued Masonic possessions. And from this vantage point I can not help but reflect on the special influence that he has had on my quest for Masonic light, and to reflect on the similar influence that he has undoubtedly had on so many other brethren.

(Thanks to Bro. Stephen Maizels, MPS, for this tribute.)

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