Celebrating 300 years
Wednesday, 08 March 2017 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Spring 2017

From the Grand Secretary

By the time you receive this issue, our Tercentenary year will be well under way and our Rulers will have already attended overseas events in Denmark, Mumbai, India, and Zakynthos, Greece, at our unattached Star of the East Lodge, No. 880. His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent has also attended a church service at Canterbury Cathedral for the Provinces of East and West Kent, Sussex and Surrey. We now await the broadcast in April of the long-anticipated Sky TV documentary Inside The Freemasons.

It is an exciting year as we build towards our showpiece event at the end of October. So far, it is likely that we will welcome around 160 Grand Lodges from around the world to celebrate with us at the Royal Albert Hall and look forward to our next 300 years. We now need to build on our successes and use this year to show ourselves as the vibrant and relevant organisation which is Freemasonry.

Looking forward to the Tercentenary in this issue of Freemasonry Today, Keith Gilbert highlights the planning and organisation of celebratory events taking place across not just the UK but the entire world. As Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes notes in his Senior Insights column, these are exciting times, so we should celebrate in style by showing our pride in being Freemasons.

When it comes to showing the best in Freemasonry, Spinnaker Lodge in the Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight is a shining beacon. We find out how its members are encouraging younger Freemasons into the Craft with a shared interest in all things sailing. The sixth specialist lodge in the Province to be consecrated in the past four years, Spinnaker will be visiting new marinas and hosting social events at sailing clubs to raise both its own profile and that of Freemasonry in 2017.

Best foot forward

In the north-west of England, we meet a 54-strong group of Freemasons, their families and friends who trekked across Morecambe Bay. Cumberland & Westmorland Provincial Grand Master Norman Thompson and his intrepid travellers not only raised money to help victims of the Cumbria floods, but also showed how Freemasonry is connecting with local communities. The team joined some 1,000 walkers at Arnside Promenade to brave the wet and puddled sands for a memorable day that is now an annual event in the Provincial calendar.

The opportunities for Freemasonry are not just in the face we show the world, but are also in our governance, our leadership, our retention and our management of masonic halls. The Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group, David Wootton, reports on how he and his team are leading the implementation and delivery of our agreed strategy for Freemasonry to 2020. As David notes, there is much to do but also much to enjoy.

Willie Shackell
Grand Secretary

‘We need to use this year to show ourselves as vibrant and relevant’

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 08 March 2017 00:00

Painting in the reverse

Painting in the reverse

The acquisition of a painting of the Prince of Wales by the Library and Museum reveals the Chinese art of glass painting

The Library and Museum’s collection is extensive, but just occasionally there is an opportunity to add more objects or books to its world-class displays. One such occasion occurred in November 2016 when Library and Museum staff noticed that a painting of the Prince of Wales (who would become King George IV) was being sold at auction. And unusually, this was a painting on glass.

The Chinese practice of reverse-glass painting dates back to the early 1700s. In Europe the fashion for such pieces became popular in the 1750s but, given their fragile nature, few examples survive.

In this case, the glass artist copied a portrait of the Prince of Wales in masonic regalia with the breast star of the Order of the Garter, seated on the Grand Master’s throne. The Prince was Grand Master of the Moderns Grand Lodge from 1790 to 1813. The glass painting is now on display at the Library and Museum.

The original painting, circa 1802, is by Edmund Scott (1758-1815) and is held in the collections of the Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries – but Scott also drew and engraved a print of the portrait, a copy of which was already held by the Library and Museum.

Published in UGLE

Tea for one

Up and down the country, Sunday tea parties offer companionship to elderly people who might otherwise face loneliness and isolation. Steven Short discovers how the Masonic Charitable Foundation is helping

Who did you have dinner with last night? Your partner? Friends? Work colleagues? Perhaps you ate dinner alone. If you did, imagine what it would be like to eat alone tonight and every night, or not to speak to another human being for weeks on end.

Sadly, this level of isolation has become normal for thousands of elderly people up and down the country. It is estimated that a third of people over the age of 70 eat alone every day, and that more than one million older people haven’t spoken to anyone for weeks.

‘It’s so easy for an elderly person to become isolated,’ says Suzan Hyland at Contact the Elderly. ‘If someone can’t walk to the shops for a chat, or can’t get to the door quickly enough when the postman or milkman rings, they can go for days without speaking to another human being.’

To help to improve the situation, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) awarded Contact the Elderly £75,000 to enable it to provide more companionship to elderly and frail people aged 75 and over who live alone, something it has already been doing for more than 50 years.

The MCF grant will fund the role of a new national support officer, who will help to co-ordinate 700 of the 10,000 volunteers needed to organise monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties across the UK. These events provide a regular and vital friendship link for small groups of older and infirm people who live in isolation.

‘We currently have about 5,500 guests who we take out to a free tea every month,’ says Hyland. ‘But that is just the tip of the iceberg. We want to expand because we know the need is there. In most of our areas we have waiting lists of people wanting to join the groups.’

NOT ALONE

The grant will allow Contact the Elderly to grow the support it provides in difficult financial times with an increasing elderly population. Hyland, currently the charity’s only support officer working on a national level, highlights the reason for the heavy demand: ‘There’s a generation of elderly people who, because of the war and because of medical conditions associated with wartime and the period directly after, have ended up being alone.’

She explains that even if people do have family, relatives might only be able to visit two or three times a year. But living on one’s own needn’t mean always being alone, which is why the charity developed its tea party model.

On one Sunday of each month, a volunteer host invites a group of elderly people (typically aged 85-95) into their home for a free tea party. The same group meets 12 times a year – each time in a different home, with the host providing tea and refreshments from their own pocket.

GET TOGETHER

The parties offer guests not just tea, but also companionship. Organised by volunteers of all ages, they bring together people who may never otherwise have met, and help to foster fulfilling relationships.

‘It’s a great model because the older guests get a lot of things to look forward to throughout the year,’ says Hyland, who is currently responsible not just for supporting existing volunteers, but also for recruiting new ones. The model works well because each volunteer only has to host one party a year, which helps with retention – some volunteers have been with the charity for 40 years.

Erica, a volunteer from Surbiton, Surrey, says: ‘It’s rewarding because you get to know the older guests and talk to them about what they’ve been up to. Seeing how much they enjoy the parties and how much they look forward to them is wonderful.’

Summing up her first tea party, one guest said, ‘It’s so nice to have a chance to dress up and go somewhere. I can’t remember when I last had such a lovely time.’ For another guest, the events were a turning point: ‘I felt like I’d come out of a dark tunnel and into the light. Before I joined Contact the Elderly I thought my life had ended, and now it’s started again.’

Some guests have reconnected with people they used to know but had lost contact with. ‘We’ve had people who went to school together who haven’t seen each other for 40 or 50 years,’ says Hyland. Attendees regularly phone each other, and the more mobile members meet outside their Sunday calendar dates.

But there is still work to do. ‘It can be frustrating when there is a need. I look at an area sometimes and see the waiting list and think, “I will get round to that…” but it just takes so long,’ says Hyland. ‘My basic role is supporting existing groups. Opening new ones has, sadly, had to come second. Appointing a new officer will make those extra groups possible. Instead of thinking “we could have a group here, we could have a group there”, we’ll have the manpower to make it happen, which is fantastic.’

PRACTICAL SUPPORT

It is estimated that the new officer will support 55 groups across the country, giving some 450 guests something to look forward to each month. The MCF grant that is making this possible is not the first instance of the masonic charity supporting Contact the Elderly – some £100,000 has been donated since 2000.

‘Freemasons have always been active in the community and loneliness and isolation in old age are issues that they are keen to help with,’ says David Innes, MCF Chief Executive. ‘Contact the Elderly was an obvious choice for our funding.
The MCF is delighted to support the charity with a grant to help to grow the tea parties, which do so much to bring companionship to older people’s lives.’

That companionship is summed up perfectly by one happy tea party participant, who says that once a month she tells her walls, ‘I can’t speak to you today, I’ve got real people to talk to.’

The volunteer driving force

Contact the Elderly not only recruits hosts for its parties but also volunteer drivers, who transport the guests on the day.

‘I got involved three years ago as I wanted to do something worthwhile with my Sunday afternoons – and I’m particularly partial to homemade cakes,’ says Thomas, who currently drives guests to tea parties in Birmingham and – like all drivers – pays for the petrol himself.

‘The ladies I drive are all good fun and really appreciate our efforts, even though it’s only a few hours a month.’ Thomas is fascinated to hear all their stories about life in the early part of the 20th century and during the war. ‘At Christmas I drove us into the city centre after our tea and cakes to look at the Christmas lights, which they hadn’t seen for years – that quick 15-minute diversion made their month and it made my month making theirs!’

Wednesday, 08 March 2017 00:00

The Orchid King

Finding the thread

Rarely to be seen without an orchid in his buttonhole, lacemaker Louis Oram Trivett embraced the core values of Freemasonry and the Scout Movement, as Philippa Faulks discovers

A visit to the present-day Lace Market in Nottingham not only offers you the chance of some fine shopping and eating in a bustling heritage centre, it also plunges you straight back into the glorious past of one of the greatest industries of the British Empire era. In this quarter of the city, the streets are still resplendent with former warehouses and merchant houses of the famous Nottingham lace industry.

One building in particular catches the eye. With its prominent tower forming a local landmark, Trivett Square is named after one of the most prolific philanthropists of the era – Louis Oram Trivett. Born in Mansfield on 26 August 1864, he was destined to be a hard worker. At the age of nine-and-a-half, he was already earning a few shillings a week working on a news-stand owned by Messrs WH Smith and Sons.

Trivett was educated at the High Pavement School in Nottingham, beginning work in the employ of Simon, May & Co lace manufacturers, followed by a rapid rise through the ranks at a succession of companies. By the time he was 26, he had gained enough experience to start his own small company in Woolpack Lane.

RAPID GROWTH

The business grew rapidly and new premises were sought, with the final location in the lacemaking district of Short Hill, where the factory, with its tower, was constructed. The firm became a limited liability company and Trivett appointed himself as chairman and company director. ‘LO Trivett, Ltd, lace, net, hosiery and veiling manufacturers and shippers’ had been born.

In later years, Trivett partnered with Fred Randall in patenting a new and improved version of the chenille-spotting machine. The apparatus ‘spots’ fabrics such as laces and veilings with chenille, which is a type of tufted yarn. The invention was approved by the UK Patent Office in 1901 and subsequently by the US office.

During World War II bombing raids, the Lace Market and Trivett’s building were badly damaged but the area was sympathetically restored and is now one of Nottingham’s most fashionable parts.

Aside from his business interests, Trivett was also a pillar of society. Serving as a magistrate in 1910, he also held positions on various committees including chairman of the Committee of the Care of the Mentally Deficient; a role he held until his death. He was also a member of the education, finance and public assistance committees of Nottingham. Trivett’s work for Nottinghamshire County Council was rewarded in 1926, when he was elevated to the role of alderman.

Trivett was a keen philatelist. His obituary in the West Bridgford Times (13 January 1933) stated that: ‘L Trivett was the first Vice-President of Notts Philatelic Society and went on to hold the office of President on five occasions... Some years before his death, Mr Trivett, who was a fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society, disposed of a large part of his collection of foreign stamps for several thousands of pounds. However, he retained some rare specimens of Jamaica and Gibraltar, which were claimed to be the finest collection in the world.

He wrote two brochures on philately entitled The Inception of Penny Postage and Evolution to the Adhesive Postage Stamp, a copy of which the King was pleased to accept, and Philately – a National Asset as World Training for Growing Boys.’

CORE VALUES

Stamps aside, Trivett’s chief interests in his life were Freemasonry and the Scout Movement. Trivett was a close friend of Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts Association. While Baden-Powell never joined the fraternity, although his brother was a member, its core values and discipline drew his admiration.

Trivett was appointed assistant county commissioner of the Boy Scouts Association and was more than a mere figurehead, becoming a hero among the boys and encouraging many of them to engage in his passions of stamp collecting and social awareness. He attended the first World Scout Jamboree at Olympia in 1920 and had the honour of conducting Princess Mary and other members of the Royal Family around the philatelic display, which included many of his own specimens.

With a masonic career that spanned most of his adult life, Trivett was one of the oldest members of Southwell Lodge, No. 1405, passing through the chair in 1901. He was present at the dedication ceremony of the new masonic hall in West Bridgford on Tuesday, 19 April 1910, which was also the date of the consecration of Bentinck Lodge, No. 3416, and the new hall became the new lodge’s meeting place. In 1914, while Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works in the Provincial Grand Lodge, he became a founder member of Rushcliffe Lodge, No. 3658, also in Nottingham.

BLOOMING SUCCESS

Apart from his philanthropy and commitments to society, Trivett had several more relaxing leisure-time pursuits. As a member of the Trent Fishery Board, he became a keen angler, but his other passion, executed with his same customary thoroughness, was the cultivation of orchids.

The Orchid Review notes in October 1923: ‘[At] Grafton House, West Bridgford, the residence of LO Trivett, Esq, an ardent collector of orchids, is to be found an exceedingly well-selected assemblage of these plants. Containing over 600 plants, the collection is accommodated  in one three-quarter span house divided into three sections.’ Trivett was given the moniker ‘The Orchid King’, for he was rarely to be seen without an exquisite bloom in his buttonhole.

Trivett’s tireless role in his community, his position within Freemasonry and congenial nature ensured that he was always held in great esteem. According to a report in the West Bridgford Times, 13 January 1933: ‘His funeral was, despite indisposition and fog… the largest seen in Nottingham for many years, representatives from the many organisations with which Mr Trivett was identified being present.’

Five boys from the 1st (West Bridgford) Scouts flanked the entrance to Nottingham Church Cemetery and members of Trivett’s masonic lodges came to bid him farewell as he ascended to the Grand Lodge above. Married twice and with two children by his second wife, he was a fine man who would be much lamented in his passing.

The day after Trivett’s death, Lieutenant-Colonel P R Clifton addressed the county court as the presiding magistrate, and summed up the feelings of the community at large:

‘Alderman Trivett was well known to you… but I have had singular opportunities of being associated with him in the Boy Scout Movement, to which he gave, as he did with everything he pursued, the whole of his heart, mind and intelligence. I do not think there was anything connected with the welfare of his fellow citizens to which he did not give the whole of his mind. I am sure it will be the opinion of all of us that this county and this court are the poorer by his death.’

Published in Features
Wednesday, 08 March 2017 00:00

A chance to shine in a Special Olympics

Physical Impact

A Special Olympics initiative is offering people with profound learning difficulties the chance to take part in sporting activities. Peter Watts finds out how Freemasons are supporting the scheme

Niamh-Elizabeth Reilly recalls a particular moment from the training programme she organises for people with profound and multiple learning difficulties when a mother of one of the participants had become very emotional at an end-of-course Challenge Day.

‘The mother said her son was 33 years old and that she’d never had the chance to see him participate in anything, to achieve anything before,’ says Reilly. ‘She was overwhelmed by the support from the crowd, with everybody cheering him on and seeing how he relished that. He was doing something she didn’t know he was capable of – a grip-and-release ball task she’d never seen him do before. That’s the impact [the programme] can have.’

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) hopes to encourage more such moments through its award of a £60,000 grant to Special Olympics GB to expand the Motor Activity Training Programme (MATP), funding additional resources and training so it can reach several thousand people rather than a few hundred. The 12-week course is directed at adults and children who are unable to participate in regular Special Olympics sessions as their disabilities are so complex.

‘The course is targeted at people with profound and multiple learning difficulties,’ says Andrew Ross, Chairman of the MCF Charity Grants Committee. ‘Physical exercise makes us feel confident, healthier and more resilient, and this programme is for a group who would otherwise not have access to these benefits.’

What makes MATP unique is that it is open to adults and children who tend to have little involvement in any physical activity due to the huge levels of support their learning difficulties demand. ‘There is a great difficulty in communication and often there are associated health needs such as diabetes or epilepsy that are complex,’ says Reilly.

Taking place in centres and schools that already have the required equipment – toilets, hoists, changing beds – the training is geared towards improving motor skills, using sports-related activity as a lever towards gaining greater control of the body.

LIFE SKILLS

Reece Wallace, a 16-year-old with gross global developmental delay and epilepsy, who is visually impaired and unable to walk or communicate verbally, has been taking part in MATP courses since he was 11.

His mother, Melinda, explains how it helps: ‘The programme breaks down all the key skills in terms of standing, stepping in a walker, gripping, releasing. Reece is currently focused on pushing a disc down a slide to knock skittles over and this teaches him to place it on the slide and then let go with intention rather than just flinging it. These are life skills; they can benefit other things.’

Each course addresses upper body skills, lower body skills, greater motor skills and fine motor skills. Sessions are inspired by sports – from swimming to badminton – and adapted for the capability of the participant. Walking or wheelchair events can take place on a track or in water, while others encourage kicking, hitting or throwing balls, or striking pucks and shuttlecocks. Collectively, the activities can improve health and wellbeing, motor skills, social skills, physical fitness and functional ability.

The sessions not only help the participants, they also benefit parents, carers and society as a whole by allowing people with profound disabilities to engage with the outside world. ‘It’s a win-win situation,’ says Reilly. ‘It is about introducing people to the idea that there are people with complex needs out there. We are trying to provide meaningful opportunity and engagement for everybody.’

As life expectancy has improved, Reilly says that there are now more children with profound disabilities in Special Educational Needs schools. ‘There can be some discomfort and fear towards disability, and the best way to combat that is by engagement, so people learn that just because there is no verbal communication that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate in other ways.’

The MATP sessions have been running for several years and there is now a long waiting list. But the support from the MCF means that the number of adults and children benefiting from the programme over the next three years will rise from a few hundred to around 4,500.

The grant will be used to develop resources and train additional coaches, and help to create 60 new MATP groups in schools and community clubs and eight Youth Sport Trust schools, as well as Come and Try sessions.

‘We are creating resource cards so that teachers have all the information they need for the different elements of the course,’ says Reilly. ‘It’s a resource we will be able to use again and again. We will also be training more tutors – individuals who have experience of people with these conditions so they understand the complexity and are able to communicate with the participants, parents and carers.’

‘There can be some discomfort and fear towards disability, and the best way to combat that is by engagement’ Niamh-Elizabeth Reilly

BIG SMILES

For the participants, progress can be slow but the benefits are enormous. Each course ends with a Challenge Day, which is a fully branded Special Olympics event. ‘These individuals aren’t just improving their motor skills, they are also getting the chance to be Special Olympic athletes and showcase their skills at Challenge Days, complete with opening and closing ceremonies,’ says Reilly.

For children like Reece and their parents, these events are unique and unforgettable. ‘It’s lovely to get the children together in this great encouraging atmosphere, to see all these big smiles on their faces,’ says Reece’s mother Melinda, enthusiastically. ‘Everybody is clapping and cheering while they achieve their goals. There’s nothing else like that for them or for us.’

Breaksea Lodge, No. 8358, presented a donation of £1,630 to the Barry Dock RNLI in memory of lodge members Dai Sam Davies, Doc Stephens and Ted Powell who sadly passed away last year

Ted had received an MBE for his services to the RNLI.

The lodge has historical maritime connections, having been named after the Breaksea Light Ship. The donation was raised at a social event at the Seashore Grill and Bar, Sully, attended by many friends and Freemasons, as well as Beryl Davies, wife of Dai Sam.

Brethren, 2017 is without doubt a landmark year in the history of our great organisation. It provides a wonderful opportunity both to celebrate past achievements and to ‘lay schemes and draw designs’ to ensure its future.

I am very conscious that we are already three months into the year and that a number of celebratory events have already taken place.

I was particularly pleased to be able to attend the service at Canterbury Cathedral on 18 February, which was a marvellous celebration of our achievements, and I look forward to taking part in other events during the year.

I am impressed by the number and variety of events that are taking place in the Metropolitan area and our Provinces and Districts. I know how you have all worked and are working tirelessly to ensure that our Tercentenary year is both memorable and enjoyable.

I wish you every success in 2017 and, above all, strength and stability in the future.

Published in UGLE

International brotherhood

With soldiers from across the world meeting and sharing values during World War I, Diane Clements looks at how this period shaped New Zealand’s relationship with Grand Lodge

The armed forces of many different countries fought in World War I between 1914 and 1918, with their experiences often being pivotal in the formation of national identities. But what of the effect these nations had on each other as they fought side by side? The experiences of masons as they travelled to new countries provide an intriguing window into how the war helped to develop the links between Grand Lodges across the world.

In 1914 there were 1,700 lodges across England and Wales, with a further 1,300 spread throughout the British Empire. As British colonies had become independent from the mid-1800s, they had established their own masonic jurisdiction or Grand Lodge. The relationship between the English Grand Lodge and the overseas Grand Lodges strengthened during World War I and was marked at celebrations of the Grand Lodge’s bicentenary in 1917 and of the peace in 1919.

For the soldiers, the experience of travelling to foreign countries, the comradeship and the trauma of war were significant in their personal development. For many, informal links with Freemasons were widened and reinforced, and the bond formed between New Zealand masons and their English brethren is a prime example of how the Craft came together during wartime. 

The first masonic lodge in New Zealand was formed in 1842 and each of the English, Irish and Scottish Grand Lodges all formed lodges there. In 1890, 65 lodges established the Grand Lodge of New Zealand, with Henry Thomson as the first Grand Master. A medal was produced in 1900 to mark its first 10 years. The three ‘home’ Grand Lodges also maintained District and Provincial Grand Lodges in New Zealand. 

William Massey, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, sent a telegram on the outbreak of war in 1914, saying: ‘All we are and all we have is at the disposal of the British government.’ He travelled to Britain several times, both during and after the war, and attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, signing the Treaty of Versailles on behalf of his country. Massey was installed as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand in November 1924.

In 1914, the population of New Zealand was about 1.1 million and 100,000 New Zealanders served overseas in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), which went first to the Middle East and fought at Gallipoli and then to the Western Front. Around 18,000 New Zealanders died in or because of the war, with more than 41,000 wounded.

Wartime fraternity

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry collection includes a gavel with a head made from the stock of a German rifle found on the Somme battlefield in 1916 during an advance on Flers by the NZEF. It was then taken to New Zealand where it was mounted and polished.

The NZEF Masonic Association was formed in France by Colonel George Barclay in 1917. According to an article in The Freemason in April 1918, the association developed from an informal meeting of serving New Zealand troops near Armentières in June 1916.

The association’s original objective was to hold meetings to promote fraternity among its members, with branches formed in various camps, depots and hospitals. One branch was formed in Egypt and Palestine in May 1917 by Brigadier-General William Meldrum (1865-1964), the officer commanding the mounted division. This group held a meeting in the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in April 1918. The association’s meetings included lectures and discussions and its members were encouraged to visit other local lodges.

English training

NZEF soldiers came to England for rest, recuperation and training, with Wiltshire’s Sling Camp functioning as their chief training ground, while in London, the NZEF Masonic Association organised visits to Freemasons’ Hall. The association was active along the south coast of England and correspondence between Grand Lodge and Jordan Lodge, No. 1402, in Torquay from December 1917 provides a fascinating glimpse into the interaction between the troops and local lodges.

The Lodge Secretary, Stanley Lane, wrote to London about a candidate, Eric George Rhodes, a corporal in the New Zealand Paymaster’s department: ‘There has been a large camp of discharged New Zealanders near Torquay, this being the convalescent base before embarking for home… several of the officers have visited Jordan Lodge many times.’ Rhodes’ candidacy was supported by a letter from George Barclay himself who was then based at Boscombe.

By the end of the war the NZEF Masonic Association had about 1,500 members. Its members’ jewel was in three grades: metal, silver gilt and gold. In 1919, one of these gold jewels was presented to the Grand Lodge in London to commemorate the association’s wartime work and it remains a treasure of the collection.

Published in Features

A year to be proud of

From fundraising to the formation of new masons clubs, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes reflects  on the reasons to celebrate Freemasonry in 2017

I have received a copy of the Report of the New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference and was delighted to learn just how well the clubs are progressing with more than 30 established across London and the Provinces. This is a fantastic achievement and I would encourage those new Freemasons in Provinces without such a club to consider setting one up. You would have our full support and I am sure you would be greatly encouraged by your Provincial hierarchy.

I have asked Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales and Third Grand Principal, to act as the focal point for the movement. It really is a splendid initiative and I congratulate all those involved.

Shared achievement

I have frequently said how proud we should be of all our charities, and not just the big four. They all do tremendous work. The astonishing sum of £14.5 million was raised through the hard work of our brethren. The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Festival total of nearly £7.75 million is the highest total ever achieved.

Across the board, the money raised per capita by all four Provinces in Festival during 2016 was extraordinary and of a similar level. Your generosity is not taken for granted and is greatly appreciated.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation has launched a scheme to give £3 million to your local charities next year in recognition of both its own formation and, of course, our Tercentenary. This not only shows your generosity but is also aimed at promoting our involvement in the community.

Cause for celebration

I know that some of you have become frustrated at not being able to get hold of a Tercentenary Jewel. Please be assured that there are now plenty available in Letchworth’s Shop. Unfortunately, initial demand far outstripped supply. In spite of your frustration, may I ask you to beware of cheap imitations. Sadly, they do exist and are being offered at a very reduced price, but they are unauthorised and unlawful copies. We are working closely with the Provinces to get them all removed.

The forthcoming Sky documentary entitled Inside The Freemasons gives us a great opportunity to capitalise on the publicity being generated, and we anticipate that other high-profile events throughout the year will keep us in the public eye and produce some really positive results.

These are exciting times; let us celebrate in style by showing our pride in and talking about our membership. I am absolutely certain that we will all enjoy a splendid year in 2017.

‘Your generosity is not taken for granted and is greatly appreciated’

Published in UGLE

The red aprons

Director of Special Projects John Hamill explores the history behind the Grand Stewards, the lodge without a number

Like many membership organisations, Freemasonry relies on volunteers to run smoothly. One of the longest-serving groups of volunteers is the Grand Stewards, whose members, because of their privilege of wearing crimson collars and edging to their aprons, can cause confusion when they visit outside London.

The Grand Stewards’ prime function is to organise the Grand Festival, which immediately follows the annual investiture of Grand Officers on the last Wednesday in April each year. That has its origins in the famous meeting that took place on 24 June 1717 when the first Grand Lodge was formed. Indeed, for the first few years the annual feast and election of the new Grand Master appears to have been all that Grand Lodge did.

As the 1720s advanced and the number of lodges and members increased, organising the Grand Feast became more complex, so a number of individuals volunteered as stewards for the event.

Glittering success

In 1728, to formalise the arrangement, Grand Lodge invited 12 individuals to form a team to take on the preparations. This proved successful and the stewards became Grand Stewards, with their own jewel of office to be suspended from a crimson ribbon and the privilege of having their aprons lined and edged in the same colour. The original jewel was said to have been designed by William Hogarth, himself a Grand Steward in 1735.

The Grand Stewards received a further privilege in the same year when they were given a warrant as the Stewards Lodge. Originally they also carried a number but, in 1792, the Grand Stewards Lodge was formed, which was permitted to meet ‘without number, but first on the list of regular lodges’. Like the three time immemorial lodges, which formed the original 1717 Grand Lodge, the Grand Stewards Lodge meets without a warrant.

The Grand Stewards grew into a powerful body, with 12 representatives of the lodge entitled to attend and vote in Grand Lodge (usually only the Master and Wardens represented a lodge). The Grand Officers, for much of the 18th century, were chosen from among their number. Both these practices were lost after the Union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, although the Grand Stewards retained the right to occupy the front rows on the north and south areas of the Grand Temple.

Up until the Union, the outgoing Grand Stewards had the right of nominating their successors, which naturally led to the office becoming associated with a small group of London lodges. Although the Antients Grand Lodge used stewards occasionally and had a Stewards Lodge (in effect, their Committee of Charity), they did not have a similar system of Grand Stewards.

After the Union in 1813, the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Sussex, began to formalise many of the pre-Union practices. In 1815, 18 London lodges were given the privilege of each year nominating one of their members for appointment by the Grand Master as a Grand Steward. Many of these lodges had previously provided Grand Stewards for the premier Grand Lodge.

The Grand Stewards were to assist at great ceremonials and the Quarterly Communication. In addition to organising the Grand Festival, they were to bear its cost. This later proved to be problematic and the present system was evolved, whereby Grand Lodge sets the ticket price for the Grand Festival and the Board of Grand Stewards makes its plans in the full knowledge that any costs exceeding those funds will fall on the board itself.

In making the new arrangements in 1815, the Duke of Sussex set up a curious anomaly. During their year of office, the Grand Stewards are Grand Officers. At the end of their year they become Past Grand Stewards and retain the right to wear their distinctive regalia but cease being Grand Officers – unless they are promoted or already hold Grand Rank.

On a number of occasions, I have seen consternation cross the brow of a lodge Director of Ceremonies when a Past Grand Steward visits his lodge. He does not fit into any of the conventional groups, so where does he go in the procession?

Is he saluted? And where does he fit in on the toast list…?

‘A Past Grand Steward does not fit into any of the conventional groups, so where does he go in the procession?’

Published in Features
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