Interpreting the Past – Our Lodge Motto Reconsidered

It is a strange thing about Freemasonry, you seem to learn something new every day and you turn up the most amazing stories about everyday things that you just wouldn’t guess were there beforehand.

Petts Wood Lodge No. 5435 Founders
The Founders of The Petts Wood Lodge No. 5435

It has always been considered that the Founders of the Lodge (SEE PICTURE) used the motto from the Willett Memorial Sundial in Willett Woods (Petts Wood) and used an illustration of the sundial as our logo. The motto on that sundial is:

Pettswood Lodge 5435
Petts Wood Lodge No. 5435


Our Lodge history translates this as I ONLY COUNT THE SUMMER HOURS. Sometimes I have heard it stated as I ONLY NUMBER THE SUMMER HOURS. Another translation in common circulation was I WILL ONLY TELL THE SUMMER HOURS.

Asking a forum what they thought, as there are far better Latin Scholars than I (I gave up when I was 11), brought a number of other translations. By far the most humorous, translated from Google was I COUNT ONLY THE HOURS IN THE SUMMER HOUSE!

One of the members suggested “not to forget that the verb to tell has several meanings. The most common one is to communicate information. The counter staff in a bank are sometimes called tellers. That name comes from the Middle English verb “tellen” – to count”.

And so we were left with the counting or numbering of the summer hours or the telling of or perhaps teaching of (communicating information).

In the interim I had found a reference in the book, ‘Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time’ By David Prerau

Book Cover
Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time

He states that the translation is ‘I MARK ONLY THE SUMMER HOURS‘ and that it is a variant on a famous sundial near Venice which translates as ‘I MARK ONLY THE SUNNY HOURS

It was then proposed that we were all perhaps looking at this from a different angle and that the more likely translation that our forebears had considered was a far more meaningful one. Another member of our forum suggested that “Your first impression is correct, I count only the summer hours but the real translation and meaning is REMEMBER ONLY THE GOOD THINGS. This is a basis for living recommended by all sorts of deep and religious thinkers through the ages and stops us from harbouring grudges and thinking bad thoughts about our lives and friends or relations. It is rather a good motto in my opinion and well worth a bit of research online”.

Certainly, Buddhism appears to suggest that remembering the good things is preferable to reflecting on the bad. Eckhart Tolle too suggests that living for the moment and enjoying it in the present is preferable to harbouring bad thoughts about ourselves and others.

That is the joy of Freemasonry. It allows you the opportunity to challenge accepted thinking or perhaps think about things in a different way, to reflect on how to make things better not only for others but for yourself too. As you progress through Freemasonry you continue to see things differently and moralise on what you see and how you perceive it. What started as a search for the literal translation of our Lodge motto has turned out to be another learning journey and one that perhaps has taken us nearer to the truth of what our Lodge founders wanted us to think and moralise on. Whilst we may have counted the summer hours what they may well have wanted us to consider is that we should remember only the good things and to cast aside those things that are bad or impure?

Another joy of Masonry is that each of us views these words and stories in our own unique way. Our motto is an allegorical motto, one that has taken many years to surface and to perhaps see the true meaning behind the Founder’s ideals in forming our Lodge. Communicating happiness seems to be the overarching consideration I feel.