A sense of optimism

With planning for the Royal Albert Hall celebrations well in hand, Coordinator of Tercentenary Planning Keith Gilbert looks forward to the expanding calendar of events in the Provinces and Districts

The team of volunteers planning the central Tercentenary events is growing. In addition to myself, we have Tim Pope, the secretary of the Planning Committee; Ian Chandler, who is responsible for organising the transport for our distinguished guests over three days, as well as our own brethren, from the Royal Albert Hall (RAH) to Battersea Evolution (BE); and Gerry Hann, who is masterminding the major celebration at the RAH.

Taking on coordination of aspects of the three-day central events are Marc Wentworth (Mansion House), Stephen Finch (BE), John Clark (streaming the RAH across the country and the world) and Bob and Darren Upton (Grand Connaught Rooms).

Places at the RAH and BE have been allocated to Metropolitan, Provinces and Districts, who are now considering best practice for distribution among their brethren. Recent successes, such as the tickets for the Grand Ball selling within a short time of release and the sale of Tercentenary Jewels already passing 14,000, gives me a total sense of optimism.

The number of enquiries about dining places at BE means that we would be able to fill the venue twice over. Feedback from 2017 Provincial and District representatives on interest in their events suggests large numbers will be attending, and leads me to feel that 2017 will be a highlight in our masonic lives.

Spreading the word

Another success was the distribution of the Tercentenary Sticker in a copy of Freemasonry Today. What a great opportunity to show people we Freemasons have a very important birthday to celebrate.

John Parry, the organiser of the Met’s contribution to the Lord Mayor’s Show, set up the hashtag #tercentenarychallenge on Twitter and started using the tagline ‘Where will you stick yours?’ Just five days after launching the challenge, it had 1,000 hits a day, and by day 15 it had more than 22,600 impressions on Twitter.

But you can help us get more. Just put your Tercentenary Sticker, which would have come with your previous copy of Freemasonry Today, in an interesting or fun place, take a photo and tweet it to @JohnMetevent. Use the hashtag #tercentenarychallenge and you could win a prize for the best idea, most unique photo or largest number of retweets.

Published in UGLE

On the level

At 26, Alex Rhys has just conducted his first initiation. Peter Watts finds out how younger members are embracing Freemasonry for its sense of continuity

When Alex Rhys is asked how he came to join the masons at the age of 21, he puts it down to an instinctive inquisitiveness you might ordinarily expect to find in a scientist. ‘I’d always been a bit nosey and I was at university, procrastinating during revision, when I saw on the university website that the alumni had been on a tour of the local masonic temple,’ he recalls. ‘I then found out about the Universities Scheme in Bath, went on a tour of the lodge and found it very interesting.’

From there, Alex moved fast. He was initiated at 21 and, five years later, has just presided over his first initiation as a Master, having gained the chair of Bath’s St Alphege Lodge, No. 4095, earlier this year. The ceremony was well attended as it came on the same day that Somerset’s club for new and young masons, the Adair Club, hosted the second annual New & Young Masons Clubs’ Conference at Bath Masonic Hall – an event that attracted 60 delegates from clubs in 20 Provinces and saw much discussion about the problems and possibilities of recruiting and retaining young masons.

‘Alex is an inspirational figure,’ says Sam Mayer, who founded the Adair Club in 2012 to support young masons in Somerset and allow for better interaction between masons across the Province. ‘Some young masons can feel isolated,’ says Sam, who also became a mason at 21. ‘I didn’t experience that myself, which may be the reason I stayed. I want other masons to have the same experience I did.’

Once in the Craft, Alex embraced all that it offered. He joined a second lodge in the South West before moving to London, where he was invited by the Universities Scheme to help take over the Lodge of Good Fellowship, No. 3655, in Great Queen Street, which was seeing declining numbers.

Alex holds regular drop-in sessions for interested young masons and has also been invited to join the Universities Scheme committee. ‘At Great Queen Street, we filled the offices with interested people and now bring in about 12 people a year – it’s thriving,’ says Alex, who achieved all this while working on his PhD in cancer research.

Since becoming Master of St Alphege, Alex has decided against jazzing up ceremonies for a younger audience. ‘Our last Master tried to change the lighting levels and that caused enough of a fuss,’ he jokes. Instead, he believes a sense of continuity can appeal to younger masons, who enjoy tapping into a tradition that goes back three centuries. ‘What’s most important is that they know what to expect,’ he says.

Thinking differently

Alex feels his role is to fill meetings with enthusiastic young masons who will maintain momentum without upsetting older members. This mix of youth and experience is one of the things he most enjoys about Freemasonry.

‘I can sit next to a judge or a student and we are all completely on the same level; there’s no hierarchy,’ he says. ‘You get to know people at the top of their profession on a first-name basis. If we weren’t wearing the apron, I’d never have the chance to talk to people like that on a professional level, let alone a social one.’

In October, Alex returned to the South West to attend the Adair Club conference, where concerns about recruitment and retention were the main topics of discussion. Delegates from various clubs spoke about the specific structure and organisation of clubs for young masons as well as asking these members what aspects of Freemasonry were most important.

Ben Batley, Assistant Provincial Grand Master for Somerset, explains how important it is for groups like the Adair Club to target masons under 40 or with fewer than five years’ experience. ‘It’s that critical group who we view as most important to take masonry forward in our Province in the next 30 years,’ he says. Somerset has also introduced a Future of My Lodge initiative for all its 88 lodges. ‘We’ve been asking lodges to think carefully about young members, those at work or with a young family and how to keep them engaged with the Craft.’

‘Nothing can prepare you for how welcoming everybody is.’ Alex Rhys

Learning the Craft

The Adair Club has both a social and learning element, so members can learn more about the Craft and are better equipped to understand their place in it. ‘Recruitment is important but so is retention, and some of the learning opportunities may suit the more inquisitive mind of the younger masons,’ says Ben.

Sam takes up this theme. ‘The tradition has always been for masonry to be quite secretive, but it’s fundamental that people know about its history, its tenets, why it’s there,’ he says. ‘If people can get a grasp of that early on it will help them develop, and that’s fundamental for retention.’

The Bath Masonic Hall conference featured workshops, speed-networking sessions and talks about the traditional membership history of Freemasonry. The information will now be spread around the Provinces, helping those who are in similar clubs or thinking of setting one up. ‘It was very positive,’ says Sam. ‘We know there are a lot of capable people committed to the cause. We will now spread the word as far as possible.’ Staffordshire had already agreed to host the third annual conference next year.

Freemasonry’s increased confidence in reaching out to younger people is epitomised by the figure of Alex, whose enthusiasm remains unabashed despite the occasional quizzical response from colleagues and friends. ‘It’s difficult to explain that we wear aprons and do these little plays,’ he says. ‘But I am very open about it – for lodge meetings I wear a suit to work and my colleagues know where I’m going. I don’t hide anything.’

Alex enjoyed the conference, noting the enthusiasm and how people new to Freemasonry would have benefited from meeting others at a similar stage in their journey. As for how his first initiation played out, Alex says that it went as faultlessly as it could have done, remembering his own initiation five long and busy years ago.

‘I was probably more nervous this time as I had an actual part to play, whereas for my own initiation I didn’t know what was going to happen. Everybody says Freemasonry is sociable, but nothing can prepare you for how welcoming everybody is. They are all there to see you flourish, and want you to get the most out of your experiences.’

Published in Universities Scheme

Tea and sympathy

A self-made man who brought tea to the British masses, Freemason Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton also campaigned for the sick and the poor, as Philippa Faulks discovers

Many masonic lodges around the world can boast of a famous member among their ranks, but Glasgow’s Lodge Scotia, No. 178, has one rather remarkable brother – Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton. As with many other masons quietly carrying out acts of philanthropy, Lipton remains an unsung hero.

Lipton was a self-made man, endowed with the energy and drive to revolutionise the grocery trade and subsequently distribute large portions of his amassed fortune for the benefit of others.

Alec Waugh, in The Lipton Story, describes him as ‘a legend in his own lifetime, a millionaire before he was 40, an intimate of royalty and an unforgettable sportsman on both sides of the Atlantic’.

Born on 10 May 1850 into a respectable working-class family in Glasgow, Lipton was the youngest of five children. His parents had emigrated from Ireland to Scotland in the late 1840s due to the devastation of their smallholding in the Irish potato famine of 1845. By the 1860s, resilient to the core despite having also lost four of their children in infancy, the couple established a small shop selling butter, ham and eggs.

Young Lipton, now the only surviving child, received a good but basic education at St Andrew’s Parish School. However, wishing to help support his parents, he left school at 13 and worked his way through various uninspiring jobs until he signed up as cabin boy on a steamer between Glasgow and Belfast. He earned eight shillings a week and it was the start of a lifelong passion for travel and sailing.

According to A Full Cup, by Michael D’Antonio, Lipton stated that ‘it was good to be alive and better still to be a cabin boy on a gallant Clyde-built steamship’. The opportunity to go further than Belfast presented itself sooner rather than later when he was let go by the steamer company and, using his saved up wages, he booked passage to New York.

For five years Lipton travelled all over the country, employed in numerous and varied jobs, which included a stint at a tobacco plantation in Virginia. However, it was a job in New York as a grocery assistant and the subsequent initiation into the world of fast-paced advertising and retail competition that determined his decision to reverse his quest and find fortune back in Glasgow.

Back home he soon opened a shop of his own, which, with his acquired business acumen, expanded nationally and the Lipton empire was born. He saw an opportunity to branch out from ham, eggs and butter into the tea trade.

‘In 1898, he received a knighthood for his contribution to business and for his charitable work.’

A special blend

Without Lipton’s efforts, our great British passion for tea would never have been quite so widespread. In the mid-to-late 1800s, tea was still a precious – and expensive – commodity available only to the upper echelons of society. But as tea prices began to fall, Lipton saw a way of fulfilling a demand from the middle and lower classes. He decided to do away with the middleman and gradually acquired his own tea plantations in Ceylon.

Lipton improved the lives of the tea blenders and pickers with increased wages and created his own unique blends, which he shipped back to the UK to sell by the pound, half pound and quarter pound to ordinary folk. He improved on this by having the tea blends tailored to the area where the shops were located; his adverts then boasted that it was ‘the perfect tea to suit the water of your town’.

Lipton tea soon became a household name. After the death of his parents in 1898, he was persuaded to move his business to London and capitalise on its success – Lipton floated his company on the Stock Exchange for £2.5 million.

Perhaps more important than the introduction of our national beverage to all social classes was Lipton’s boundless altruism, social philanthropy and selfless actions during World War I. In 1898, he received a knighthood for his contribution to business and for his charitable work. During 1897, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, he had donated £25,000 to the Princess of Wales to help set up a trust providing meals to the poor of London.

Being in London saw Lipton become friends with then Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, later to become Edward VII. The two men were matched in their passion for yachting – and also bonded thanks to their membership of Freemasonry.

The Prince of Wales became Patron of Scottish Freemasonry the same year that Lipton joined Lodge Scotia on his return from the United States in 1870. Initiated on 31 May, he was then both passed and raised on 17 August of the same year.

Lasting legacy

As a keen yachtsman, Lipton challenged five times for the America’s Cup between 1899 and 1930, although he never won a thing. However, in 1915, his yachts were put to use when a typhus epidemic broke out in Serbia during World War I.

Responding to a national call to action, Lipton put his yachts at the disposal of the Red Cross, the Scottish Women’s Hospitals Committee and the Serbian Relief Fund, for transporting medical volunteers, doctors, nurses and urgently needed medical supplies.

At the height of the epidemic, Lipton set sail in his steam yacht Erin to Serbia, on an expedition ‘sent out by the Joint Committee of the British Red Cross and the Order of St John’. The purpose was to report on the massive devastation wrought by the disease and to appeal to the world for humanitarian aid.

On his return, he made a lengthy appeal in The Times for funds and assistance, stating that: ‘Typhus… is spreading like a terrible blight from which neither man nor woman nor child of any station in life is immune.’ He was made an honorary citizen of the city of Niš in northern Serbia for his humanitarian service.

Sir ‘Tommy’ Lipton died in his sleep at his home in Osidge on 2 October 1931, at the age of 81. Unmarried and without heirs, his fortune was distributed among friends, servants and to establish dedicated foundations, but the majority of his estate was left in trust to Glasgow, his beloved city of birth. By 1946, all funds had been distributed; the Lipton trust had bestowed £821,000 to various good causes. Today, his commercial legacy lives on – his teas still resplendent in their famous yellow boxes.

Published in Features

A better person

Whether it’s organising a football match in a war zone or catching fish by hand in a life raft, Wayne Ingram is a serial fundraiser. Imogen Beecroft discovers why joining Freemasonry was the logical step

Despite having raised more than £100,000 to give one boy life-changing facial surgery, £67,000 to build an orphanage in Africa, and £12,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), Wayne Ingram doesn’t spend much time considering his role in improving the quality of people’s lives. ‘I don’t really think about my involvement,’ he says.

‘I’m just glad it happened.’

While Wayne describes himself as ‘lucky’, ‘fortunate’ and ‘a better person’ to have been able to raise these funds, it’s hard to believe there are many who could have achieved what he has.

Masonic values

Wayne’s commitment and compassion sit well with his membership of the Craft.

His father a mason, Wayne joined All Souls Lodge, No. 170, based in Dorset, in 2007. ‘When they asked if I wanted to join I said yes – I don’t think people realise quite how much Freemasons do for charity. At first, I just enjoyed going to the events and didn’t want to seek progression. But it’s such an amazing lodge: most of them are ex-servicemen and there’s a great family atmosphere.’

Worshipful Master Grant Baker from Portland-based United Service Lodge – which Wayne joined in 2014 following four years working abroad – is amazed by Wayne’s fundraising efforts. ‘He’s a one-man collection band, a phenomenon. He is a great example of a mason displaying true masonic behaviour in every possible way. He doesn’t need to put the suit on: it’s in the way he lives his life. Concerning himself with other people’s welfare is just in his personality.’

Wayne speaks fondly of the support he’s received from the masonic community. ‘They’ve never put any pressure on me, but last year I decided I’d like to progress so have started to move up the ladder. I’ve made some amazing friends and I think it’s good for the whole family. It’s such a lovely collection of people – yes, they think I’m mad occasionally, but are extremely supportive of my fundraising.’

‘He doesn’t need to put the suit on: it’s in the way he lives his life. Concerning himself with other people’s welfare is just in his personality.’ Grant Baker

Plea for help

Wayne’s fundraising fervour began after a chance meeting with a man in Bosnia. It was an unusual encounter, but something Wayne believes ‘happened for a reason’. He was working in reconnaissance in the army when he heard about Stefan Savic, a boy of four born with a facial cleft – a block of bone in the centre of his face. At the time, Wayne was chasing the chief of police out of a police station, as the chief tried to avoid a scheduled meeting. Wayne leapt over a counter to reach him, tripped, and ended up in a ball of dust on the floor. ‘Looking down at me was Milos, Stefan’s father, and we just started laughing.’

When the two began talking, Milos showed some pictures of Stefan, which had a profound effect on Wayne. ‘You never want to see any child disfigured, injured or hurt,’ he says. Stefan’s family had approached a hospital in Paris to help him, but the fees for the operation were over €30,000 (about £27,000 in today’s money). With Milos earning just €180 (£160) per month, he knew this wasn’t an option and asked Wayne for assistance. Wayne couldn’t say no: ‘I just thought: I’m going to do this.’

Initially, Wayne admits, he was naive in his expectations. ‘I thought he could just have an operation and that’d be it.

I didn’t think that 13 years later I’d still be raising funds for him. I wrote to lots of celebrities, expecting the money to come flooding in. And it didn’t.’

Typical to Wayne’s determined character, it was a rejection letter from a celebrity, apologising for not being able to help, that spurred him on. Still stationed in Bosnia, Wayne organised a football match between the British Army and local nationals, uniting previously warring Serbs, Muslims and Croats on one team – no mean feat – to raise more than €6,000 (£5,000).

Wayne continued fundraising in camp and when he returned home began holding barbecues and shaking his collection bucket in supermarkets. ‘There have been many, many sleepless nights when the money just wasn’t coming in. I put my motorbike up for sale at one point.’

Wayne was also searching for a surgeon to help with Stefan’s surgery and managed to enlist the help of David Dunaway. Wayne credits Dunaway – who has performed all Stefan’s operations pro bono – with changing Stefan’s life. ‘I’m the lucky one to have met Stefan, contacted David, and asked people to donate. But it’s the magic of David’s skill that has changed Stefan’s life,’ he says.

Opening the door

Stefan’s first operation in 2003 was a success, but it was the start of a very long road for the boy, who, Wayne says, takes it all in his stride. ‘We have a fantastic relationship, and keep in touch via social media. He’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. He just gets on with it. He’s never complained: for his last operation he had a morphine syringe for when the pain was too much and pressed it once. The nurses couldn’t believe it.’

Over the next 13 years, Stefan has needed a series of lengthy operations, all of which were performed by Dunaway with funds raised by Wayne. During this time, Wayne saw what he could achieve when he set his mind to it, which opened the door to other fundraising efforts.

When working in Nouadhibou, Africa, in 2012 Wayne was asked to do a health and safety audit on an orphanage. ‘The first thing I saw was a doll, stuck to the wall, to show the children what a toy looked like. There were 40 children sleeping on the floor, in a room with no lights, open sewage and rats running around. They had nothing at all.’

True to form, Wayne set about raising money for the children, intending to cycle 900km across the African countryside. When this was thwarted because of a kidnap threat, he altered the challenge to have expats and locals cycle in a gym for 24 hours under the banner, ‘Cross a Mile n’ Bring a Smile’, raising £67,000 to build a completely new orphanage.

Once settled back home in Portland, Wayne started working as a paramedic. In 2015, he decided to raise money for GOSH, where Stefan’s operations were performed. ‘As a nation we are always giving to various charities – so I had to do something completely different to encourage people to donate.’

Different it certainly was: Wayne spent seven days and nights in a 1.3m2 life raft 300m off the Dorset coast. Initially, he planned to take four days’ worth of food and water, but when his wife suggested this sounded easy he limited it to 24 hours’ food and water. He completed the challenge, using a reverse-osmosis pump for clean water and catching fish with his hands for food. He raised £12,727 for the GOSH Family Centre, which enables parents to stay with their children while they are in hospital.

On 18 October 2016, Dunaway performed Stefan’s final operation. It went smoothly, and Stefan is now heading home so that he can go back to school. As for Wayne, what’s next? ‘Work-wise, I’d like to move into practising offshore medicine on oil rigs,’ he says. ‘In terms of fundraising, I’m up for anything. If anyone needs help, I’ll help.’

Published in Features

The perfect complement

For Gareth Jones, the roles of South Wales PGM, Third Grand Principal and Deputy Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group (IDG) share a number of common goals – in particular, ensuring a strong future for the Craft and Royal Arch

How has your career built up to this moment?

I retired this time last year. I had been a civil servant for nearly 37 years, working in a variety of roles – from private secretary to a cabinet minister in the Thatcher government, to head of operations for Wales during the foot and mouth crisis, to Registrar of Companies for the UK, and finally director general for national resources in the Welsh government. I say retire, but that’s a bit of a misnomer because I’m still very busy doing my masonic activities and some non-executive work.

I saw the civil service going through massive changes. Over the years there was a realisation that it needed to deliver more efficiencies as well as respond to increasing customer expectations.

We went from an environment where people were pretty risk-averse to a huge explosion of expectations that meant change was the only show in town.

There are quite a few parallels with Freemasonry in that regard because there has been an increasing realisation in the Craft and the Royal Arch that we’ve got to change if we are to survive and flourish.

How has Freemasonry changed?

Society is changing around us – people are less deferential than they used to be, they have busy lives, and families rightly expect to be involved more in what their partners do. There is also a need for better relations and good engagement with local communities. And all of this feeds into a clear agenda for us to change.

Freemasonry is like any big organisation; whether it be public sector or private sector, there will be some people who are reluctant or resistant to change and some who are prepared to lead that change and embrace it. The difference between Freemasonry and professional organisations is that while we’re here to develop, we’re also here to enjoy ourselves. The fact that we’re mostly volunteers in some ways makes it even more difficult to drive change.

One of the key challenges that faces Freemasonry now is that, over the years, we haven’t set out clearly enough who is responsible for what and therefore who is accountable for what. That’s arguably why Freemasonry found itself in the situation where it was losing so many members in an unplanned way. Nobody was actually responsible and no one could be held accountable because a clear framework of accountability hadn’t been established.

Does that framework exist now?

This is work in progress. Freemasonry is by and large populated by people who believe in traditional values and traditional ways of doing things. So you can’t change things overnight, but there’s been a realisation among the Rulers and among Provinces and Districts that we have got to establish such a framework and drive changes within that context.

In establishing the strategy for 2020, which was sent out to brethren in December last year, there is now a real framework for change. It’s a strategy within which we can deliver improvements in a realistic timescale – not that we will stop in 2020; continuous improvement has to be the order of the day from now on.

‘Continuous improvement has to be the order of the day from now on.’

When did you become a Freemason?

It was in 1984 via my rugby club in Cardiff. My brother and I had been interested in Freemasonry... not that we knew very much about it. I think I relied on the fact that the members of the lodge I knew were people I liked and respected.

For me, Freemasonry moved beyond membership of my lodge and chapter when I was asked to sit on an organising committee for a festival event in 1999. I enjoyed this greater involvement and in the same year I was appointed to my first Provincial office when we had a new Provincial Grand Master (PGM). He was getting out and about a lot more, so I spent time with him travelling around the Province. This eventually led to me being appointed as the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies in 2004. At that point, I was also starting to get more involved with other Provinces, meeting new people and broadening my outlook on Freemasonry very considerably.

How was the progression to Provincial Grand Master?

After serving as Assistant and Deputy PGM, I was appointed to the role in 2013. I’ve had nothing but enjoyment as PGM. One never dares to think that one will get that job but, when asked, it was one that I seized very enthusiastically and I had great support from my wife and family, as well as the understanding of my lodge and chapter.

South Wales is quite a big Province. We have 163 lodges based over a wide geographical area; there are some large urban areas with many lodges and then quite a few small rural and semi-rural areas with just a handful. So it’s quite an eclectic mix.

But the thing that binds it together is that it’s a very friendly and happy environment within which we all enjoy our Freemasonry. It’s an environment that is very caring and I like to think that we do a lot to improve our relations with communities as well as help those who need support.

One of the things that I learned from my professional career in terms of managing organisations is that you can never communicate too much and you can never communicate in too many ways. There are still a lot of brethren who like to be communicated with face-to-face, but there are an increasing number who like to be communicated with electronically via a good-quality website or social media. We have tried in South Wales to embrace all possible channels of communication.

‘We need to make sure that we have the tools in place for leaders in Provinces to take good decisions.’

Did your appointment as Third Grand Principal creep up on you?

It didn’t creep up on me; it jumped out at me! I was lucky enough, in autumn last year, to be asked by the Pro First Grand Principal whether I would be prepared to take on the role of Third Grand Principal. I didn’t have to think very long about the answer. The Royal Arch has always been really important to me.

I have always believed it important for brethren to join the Royal Arch when the time is right for them, but hopefully before they attain the Chair in the Craft. Not only does it complete the pure and ancient Freemasonry story, it is a beautiful and enjoyable ceremony and a significant contributor to improving retention.

The roles of PGM and Third Grand Principal dovetail with each other very neatly. I am not, and never have been, the Grand Superintendent of my Province, although in many Provinces the PGM and Grand Superintendent are the same. Both the Grand Superintendent of South Wales and I believe that my two roles provide an ideal opportunity to encourage more Craft masons in South Wales to join the Royal Arch.

There are some issues that are specific to the Craft, such as the whole concept of recruitment at the outset, but with the Royal Arch being the completion of one’s journey in Freemasonry we have been very keen to ensure that the Royal Arch is part of everything we’re doing in the context of the Improvement Delivery Group (IDG). Grand Superintendents need to feel that they are fully a part of this whole change agenda.

Can you explain what your work with the IDG entails?

The Membership Focus Group was a creature of the Board of General Purposes. We realised last year that we needed to go beyond the realms of surveying, strategising and thinking about the future to a point of saying, ‘Right, we’ve actually got to start delivering some of these priorities.’

We recognise that one size definitely does not fit all. Different Provinces have different priorities, different structures, different sizes and different geographical make-ups, so the idea is to provide options, a toolkit of best practice.

It’s not an overnight job. The strategy is a 2020 strategy and we need to make sure that we have the tools in place for leaders in Provinces to take good decisions as to how they drive things forward.

Is the IDG setting hard or soft targets?

I think both, to be honest. There are a few hard-edged targets in the strategy – for example, reducing the number of brethren who resign shortly after they’re initiated, and turning around the decline in membership. But there are some much softer things as well that are equally important, around helping PGMs and Grand Superintendents realise that action does have to be taken to ensure the sustainability of the Craft and the Royal Arch in their Provinces.

We as members have to make some conscious decisions to make changes to improve Freemasonry for the future and to ensure that it moves with the times, meets people’s expectations better and provides enjoyment for our members and their families while still not forgetting our responsibility to help others.

By 2020, I’d like to be answering questions about how successful the IDG has been. It would be very nice to think we’ll be answering questions about why it is that our image seems to have improved so markedly, as well as our relations with community groups more generally. And from a Royal Arch perspective, it would be lovely to think I’ll be answering questions about why the Royal Arch has become so popular right across England, Wales and our Districts.

Published in UGLE

The title deeds of the Craft

Director of Special Projects John Hamill traces the origins of the Antient Charges and what they reveal about masonic values

On the first occasion on which a brother is installed as Master of a lodge he is required to give his assent to a Summary of the Antient Charges and Regulations, read out to him by the Secretary. This summary first appeared in print in the second edition (1775) of William Preston’s Illustrations of Masonry, in which he outlined the installation ceremony and since 1827 has formed part of the Book of Constitutions.

Manuscripts

For something to be called a summary begs the question: ‘Of what?’ The charges and regulations are predominantly based on The Charges of a Freemason, first published in the first edition of the Constitutions, compiled by the Rev Dr James Anderson in 1723 and printed in every subsequent edition of the Book of Constitutions. They are divided into six sections: Of God and Religion; Of the Civil Magistrate; Supreme and Subordinate; Of Masters, Wardens, Fellows and Apprentices; Of the Management of the Craft in Working; Of Behaviour (with six subsections).

Anderson stated that he had ‘digested’ them from a series of old documents relating to masonry in England, Ireland, Scotland and ‘lodges overseas’. The latter was something of a pious fiction as there were no lodges overseas until the late 1720s.

These documents used to be known as the Old Manuscript Constitutions and are now, collectively, the Manuscript of Old Charges. More than 130 versions of them have survived (many now in the Library and Museum of Freemasonry) and more than 20 other versions have disappeared. Many of them are parchment rolls almost six feet in length and up to nine inches wide.

‘Some of the versions from the late 1600s in the final section begin to give us our first glimpses of ritual.’

The two oldest versions – The Regius Poem circa 1390 and the Cook manuscript circa 1420 – are in the British Library and their content applies only to stonemasons. The next oldest is the Grand Lodge No. 1 manuscript, which carries the date 1583 and includes elements relating to speculative masonry. The majority of the extant versions can be dated to the 1600s when we begin to get evidence of speculative lodges, and a small group are from the 1700s and appear to have been copied out of antiquarian interest.

There are differences between the surviving versions, but they have a common tripartite form. They begin with an invocation to God, followed by a history of the mason Craft, and end with a series of charges, that is the duties that a mason owed to God, the law, his employer, his family and society in general. Some of the versions from the late 1600s in the final section begin to give us our first glimpses of ritual and ceremonial.

Making a mason

In the custom of the times during which they were written, the historical section is an amalgam of legend, biblical stories, folklore and some facts tracing masonry almost back to Adam in the Garden of Eden. It includes many biblical, historical and legendary figures as at least promoters of masonry, if not in fact Grand Masters. When Anderson digested his version of the history he made no difference between operative and speculative masonry, giving birth to the idea that Freemasonry was a natural outgrowth from the operative Craft, an idea that has been much disputed by masonic historians over the past 50 years.

It is clear from some of the later versions of the Old Charges that reading of them was a part of the original ceremony of making a mason. Indeed, some masonic historians have characterised them as the ‘title deeds’ of the Craft. Their importance to us today is not only that they are the originals of the Antient Charges that we all subscribe to, but as evidence that the fundamental principles and tenets of the Craft are truly time immemorial, immutable and unchangeable.

Published in Features

The test of time

Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence discusses how the tenets of Freemasonry have provided a firm foundation over the past 300 years

Many of you will be aware of the excellent work undertaken by the Membership Focus Group (MFG) over the past two-and-a-half years. I hope that you are all still referring to the UGLE strategy, which was a significant development resulting from the group’s work. 

We have now moved on to ensuring the timely implementation of the strategy and the MFG has been superseded by the Improvement Delivery Group (IDG). This group will, rather like a well-known wood treatment product, do ‘exactly what it says on the tin’.

The IDG’s remit is to facilitate the delivery of change in order to secure a successful future for Freemasonry by meeting the needs of modern man while retaining our traditional standards. It is chaired by the Assistant Grand Master, the Third Grand Principal is Deputy Chairman, and membership is drawn from London and all the regional groups of Provinces. The IDG will be reporting to Grand Lodge at the Quarterly Communication in September 2017. There is a considerable amount of work to do and we wish them all well in their endeavours.

‘The principles of the Craft are as relevant today as they were then.’

Marking a milestone

The Tercentenary celebrations have already begun and I am very pleased to see the variety and breadth of events that are planned to mark this significant milestone in our history. Events are being planned throughout the English Constitution. 

So far, well over 100 events are scheduled, ranging from cathedral services, race meetings, classic car rallies, family fun weekends and supporting youth activities through to dinners and balls. This includes The Grand Ball, which will take place in Freemasons’ Hall next September and will see the Grand Temple converted into one of the largest dance floors in London.

As the premier Grand Lodge, it is appropriate we also celebrate this achievement with the other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, which we will do with the event at the Royal Albert Hall. I very much hope there will be a full cross section of our membership, including Master masons, from London, Provinces and Districts and elsewhere overseas attending.

As you are all aware, 2017 will start with the broadcast in February of the Sky observational documentary. I have been fortunate enough to have been part of the small group who have seen all the programmes and while, for confidential reasons, I am unable to say more about their content, I can assure you our privacy has been respected entirely for those matters that ought to remain private for our members.

Uncertain times

It has become very noticeable that the times in which we live are described by some as ‘uncertain’. This word is used to describe many aspects of our national life, almost as a default mechanism. In many ways our predecessors, who were there at the foundation of the Grand Lodge, would have felt a certain affinity and seen possible parallels with their own time, although they would probably have used the word ‘turbulent’ to describe the second decade of the 18th century.

In their case, the uncertain times included a new ruling dynasty following the accession of King George I in 1714, a significant rebellion from supporters of the old dynasty defeated in 1715, and an incipient share scandal with the South Sea Bubble. In those and the intervening uncertain times of the subsequent 300 years, the principles of the Craft have withstood the test of time and are as relevant today as they were then. We may now restate them in more modern language as integrity, honesty, fairness, kindness and tolerance, but their essence is unchanged and we should all be justly proud of them and, needless to say, act in accordance with them. 

To finish, I quote King Frederick II, or The Great, of Prussia who said his support of the Craft came from its objectives being ‘the intellectual elevation of men as members of society and making them more virtuous and more charitable’. I do not think that his view can be bettered. 

Published in UGLE

Not to be frowned upon

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes points to the enjoyment that can be found in masonic ritual

As you are well aware, Freemasons’ Hall is a peace memorial to all those who gave their lives for us during World War I. It is worth, therefore, drawing your attention to two events taking place next year.

The first is on 18 April 2017 at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, when the new Masonic Memorial Garden, built in memory of all those masons who gave their lives during conflict in the service of our country, will be opened.

The second is the unveiling of the Victoria Cross Memorial by the Grand Master on 25 April 2017. It will be placed on the pavement in front of the Tower Entrance of Freemasons’ Hall and will take the form of a number of paving stones, with the names of the 63 Victoria Cross holders who were awarded the military decoration in World War I and who were members of the United Grand Lodge of England. Of these, 17 were also companions in the Royal Arch.

Past and future

Companions, this seems to be an appropriate time to say a few words about Denis Beckett. He was a very remarkable man and I had the good fortune to know him well. Indeed, Beckett was President of the Committee of General Purposes when I joined it in 1987.

Beckett was a Craft mason for 71 years and a Royal Arch mason for 59 years. He was initiated immediately after World War II, in which he served with such distinction. He was awarded the DSO for his extraordinary courage during the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy – there were those who felt a Victoria Cross would have been more appropriate. We were privileged to have him as a member and particularly in that he presided over the Committee of General Purposes for seven years.

‘In the Royal Arch... our Exaltation Ceremony is one of the finest.’

While it is clearly important to remember the past, we must also look to the future. I am therefore very pleased that the successor to the Membership Focus Group, the Improvement Delivery Group, is composed of both Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents, with our Third Grand Principal, Gareth Jones, as its Deputy Chairman. It will be designing and delivering the future direction of both the Craft and Royal Arch.

You may have seen that, after my Quarterly Communications address in June, I have been accused in the national media of suggesting that masons are all grumpy and boring – a misrepresentation, companions. I said that if an amusing incident occurs at one of our meetings, it should not be frowned upon as had sometimes been the case in the past.

It is not a capital offence to smile during meetings. While I was not suggesting we should turn our meetings into a pantomime, there is no harm in us being seen to enjoy ourselves. I believe this to be particularly so in the Royal Arch, as our Exaltation Ceremony is one of the finest and, in my experience, candidates derive great enjoyment from it. I think this is particularly so when the new format of the ritual is used, which involves more of the companions and has the benefit of changing the voice that the candidate hears, which I always feel refreshes his interest.

Published in UGLE
Monday, 12 December 2016 14:45

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2016

From the Grand Secretary

It does not seem possible that I have already completed my first six months as Grand Secretary. I am extremely grateful for the first-rate support I have received from all the staff at the United Grand Lodge of England and the encouragement I have been given from all those who provide such tremendous support in their own time to make Freemasonry such a vibrant and relevant organisation.

We are in the process of preparing a comprehensive Communications Plan to ensure that we capitalise on the unique opportunity presented by our Tercentenary celebrations.

We start 2017 with the five-part Sky television documentary Inside The Freemasons. We then have a vast number of events planned throughout the Metropolitan, Provincial and District areas, indicating the tremendous enthusiasm that this milestone has generated.

Sense of continuity

In this issue of Freemasonry Today, Keith Gilbert discusses the precision planning going into the Royal Albert Hall and Battersea events that will be part of the central Tercentenary celebrations, with a 2017 calendar giving a flavour of the many activities taking place at a local level. Also marking our 300th year, we report on the opening of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s newest gallery, which explores three centuries of masonic history to show how our values of sociability, inclusivity, charity and integrity have stood the test of time.

With Sir Thomas Lipton best known as the man who brought tea to the British masses, our piece on this famous Freemason explores how he improved the lives of the tea blenders and pickers with increased wages. We find out why Lipton set sail in his steam yacht during World War I to report on the devastation wrought by the typhus epidemic in Serbia and how he helped to set up
a trust to provide meals to the poor of London.

Our profile of Wayne Ingram illustrates how the core masonic values typified by the likes of Sir Thomas Lipton are still alive and well. From organising charity football matches in a war zone through to a 13-year crusade to give a boy life-changing facial surgery, Wayne is a serial fundraiser who thinks nothing of putting other people’s welfare before his own. ‘I don’t really think about my involvement,’ he says of the many causes he’s supported. ‘I’m just glad it happened.’

As a new generation takes Freemasonry forward, we meet 26-year-old Alex Rhys, who has just conducted his first initiation. While keen to explore new ways of recruiting and retaining members, Alex believes that it is the sense of continuity found in Freemasonry that appeals to younger masons, who enjoy tapping into a tradition that stretches back to 1717.

I hope you enjoy our winter edition and wish you and your families a wonderful festive season.

Willie Shackell
Grand Secretary

‘I am extremely grateful for the first-rate support I have received from staff at UGLE.’

Published in UGLE
Monday, 12 December 2016 13:02

The stories we tell

The stories we tell

Now in its third year, Letters Live returns to Freemasons’ Hall in a sell-out run. Emilee Tombs takes notes

A hush falls over the crowd inside the main chamber of Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden, London. The anticipation is palpable as actor Toby Jones takes to the stage and grabs the microphone to speak. ‘Letters cast powerful spells,’ he starts. ‘They take the reader to places familiar and strange.’

It was with this thought that Letters Live, now in its third year, was conceived. Based on the blog and then best-selling book series Letters of Note by Shaun Usher, and Simon Garfield’s book To the Letter, the event is the reading aloud of a collection of the world’s most entertaining, inspiring and unusual letters ever written. What makes it more compelling is that the acts who read the letters during the week-long event are a secret until they appear on stage.

From Virginia Woolf’s heartbreaking suicide letter, to Queen Elizabeth II’s recipe for drop scones sent to President Eisenhower, and Iggy Pop’s beautiful letter of advice to a troubled young fan, Letters Live celebrates the power of written correspondence and its ability to capture the humour, pathos, anger and wisdom of its authors. Supporting charities First Story, Ministry of Stories and Help Refugees, Letters Live this year enjoyed a sell-out run.

‘Someday find my [son] Karl, and tell him about his father. Tell him what times were like when we [were] not separated by war…’ Luz Long, writing to Jesse Owens

Politics and power

‘The great thing about a letter,’ says actor Nick Moran, standing opposite fellow actor Colin Salmon, ‘is that it invites a response.’ What follows is a hilarious exchange from 1676 between the Zaporozhian Cossacks and Turkish sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire, in which the sultan (read by Salmon) bombastically lists his successes and personal affiliation to God, and demands: ‘I command you, the Zaporozhian Cossacks, to submit to me voluntarily and without any resistance, and to desist from troubling me with your attacks.’

To this, the Zaporozhian Cossacks (read by Moran) reply with a barrage of Monty Python-worthy insults: ‘O sultan, Turkish devil and damned devil’s kith and kin, secretary to Lucifer himself. What the devil kind of knight are you, that can’t slay a hedgehog with your naked arse?’

Later in the evening, letters from readers of The Guardian on the subject of ‘The dog’s politics’ also elicit laughter from the audience. ‘There will always be some dogs who are corrupted, misled and – like Stalin – born to the left but end up on the fascistic right. Just as there must be rare examples of cats who have abandoned their life of comfort – Che Guevara comes to mind – and given their lives to the betterment of others (though I am yet to meet one). Which brings us to the one undeniable truth shared by anyone, of any political persuasion, who has ever canvassed door-to-door: dogs vote Labour, cats vote Conservative.’

Throughout the five-day run, audiences are treated to readings by Sanjeev Bhaskar, John Bishop, Edith Bowman, Jarvis Cocker, Julian Clary, Jamie Cullum, Sophie Dahl, Simon Day, Omid Djalili, Mariella Frostrup, Miriam Margolyes, Michael Palin, Nicholas Parsons and Robert Rinder.

On the third night, Gillian Anderson reads a letter from an old Irish lady in a nursing home, describing to her family how she got her own back on the mean women she shares a room with.

There’s also a letter from director Michael Powell to his friend Martin Scorsese, congratulating him on the script of Goodfellas, read – with awe – by Danny Boyle.

Beyond the words

One letter, penned during World War II by German Olympian Luz Long to American Olympian Jesse Owens, is a tear-jerker. The pair met during a tense 1936 Olympics hosted by Adolf Hitler and became firm friends and pen pals even through the war that followed. Writing from North Africa, where he was stationed with the German army and later killed in action, Long implores Owens: ‘Someday find my [son] Karl, and tell him about his father. Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we [were] not separated by war. I am saying – tell him how things can be between men on this earth.’

What makes this and many other readings at the event so special is that the audience is privy to background information, researched by the Letters Live team. In this instance, we learn that Owens did in fact travel to Germany some years later to meet Long’s son, and that the pair remained friends until Owens’ death in 1980.

Towards the end of the evening, a letter written by a former slave to his old master almost brings Colin Salmon to tears, and not – as we learn later – under the guise of his character. It goes to show that such a strong message, even one sent decades ago, cannot be underestimated. As the audience exits Freemasons’ Hall, it is heartening to think that even in an age of emails, texts and Facebook updates, the art of letter writing still has the power to capture our imaginations.

Published in Features
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