When memories are made
With the masonic world coming to London in October to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry, John Hamill reports on a very special meeting to honour the creation of the first Grand Lodge
The Tercentenary celebrations reached their peak on 31 October, when more than 4,400 brethren attended an especial meeting of the Grand Lodge at London’s Royal Albert Hall. In addition to brethren from overseas Districts, there were more than 130 Grand Masters from all parts of the world – the largest gathering of Grand Masters ever to have been held.
These visitors and guests from other Grand Lodges met at Freemasons’ Hall on 30 October, where they were welcomed by and introduced to HRH The Duke of Kent, with many presenting gifts to mark the Tercentenary. These were displayed in the Library and Museum. Later that evening, guests attended a reception at Mansion House, official residence of The Lord Mayor of London, Dr Andrew Parmley.
Those able to get tickets for the Royal Albert Hall will long remember this special event. Proceedings began when Grand Lodge was opened and called off in a side room. Following the fanfare, the Grand Master entered the Queen’s Box to huge applause, accompanied by HRH Prince Michael of Kent. The visiting Grand Masters were then introduced, while their location and Grand Lodge seals were gradually added to a map of the world projected on two large screens.
As it was an especial meeting, there was no formal business, and entertainment was provided by actors Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar, with screen projections exemplifying the principles, tenets and values of Freemasonry. The performance gave insight into Freemasonry’s history over the last 300 years with reference to the famous men who have graced it with their presence. Those who organised this memorable performance deserve great thanks.
At the end of the evening, the Grand Master was processed onto the stage. The Deputy Grand Master read out a message of loyal greeting sent to Her Majesty The Queen, and the response received. With the assistance of the Grand Chaplain, the replica of Sir John Soane’s Ark of the Masonic Covenant was dedicated. The Pro Grand Master congratulated the Grand Master on his 50th anniversary in that role and thanked him for his service. In response, the brethren rose and gave the Grand Master a prolonged standing ovation. He was clearly touched. The Grand Master was then processed out of Royal Albert Hall with his Grand Officers.
Afterwards, nearly 2,000 attendees were bussed through London’s rush-hour traffic to Battersea Evolution for a reception and banquet, which will be long remembered. The activity at the Royal Albert Hall was streamed online to the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, where nearly 1,000 brethren and ladies (including the wives of our official guests) were able to watch the ceremonies. They then attended a special dinner in the Grand Connaught Rooms chaired by Earl Cadogan, who was assisted by senior members of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London.
It was a remarkable occasion, and all who were involved in organising it are due our grateful thanks for such a fitting celebration of the Tercentenary of the first Grand Lodge in the world.
A special invitation
From flapper girls and casinos through to big band orchestras and silent discos, The Grand Ball was a night to remember for the guests coming to Freemasons’ Hall
On the evening of Saturday, 30 September 2017, more than 2,000 Freemasons, their families and guests braved the autumnal weather to attend The Grand Ball at Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street.
A highlight of the Tercentenary social calendar, The Grand Ball was an opportunity for brethren of all ranks to enjoy a night of entertainment at UGLE’s headquarters. Lodge rooms were transformed into music venues, bars and even a tea room. The Grand Temple was unrecognisable following the installation of the largest raised dance floor in the capital.
Guests visiting from as far away as the US, Brazil, South Africa and Australia were treated to wine tasting, minigolf, arcade games, a giant Scalextric track and virtual-reality installations. The more active had a chance to dance to a jazz orchestra in the Grand Temple and a ceilidh in the Old Boardroom. Those heading up to Lodge Room 9, which had been transformed into a ‘rockaoke’ venue, had the opportunity to sing along with a live rock band.
Speciality gin, whisky and cognac bars, along with The Goose & Gridiron ale house, offered guests their favourite tipple, with more than 1,000 bottles of Champagne consumed by the end of the evening. Luckily, there was plentiful food available, including a seafood bar, world food stalls and an upmarket barbecue – all of which culminated in a breakfast served in time for the survivors’ photograph at 2.30am.
With an estimated 1,300 guests still partying the night away at 3am, the hardest part of the evening proved to be persuading them that it really was time to go as the doors were closing.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes salutes the generosity of Freemasons who have helped to support good causes all across the world
In June, the Grand Master unveiled a plaque on the outside of Freemasons’ Hall, erected by the time immemorial lodges, and he was then declared their Worshipful Master at a splendid ceremony at Mansion House. This was particularly appropriate as, 100 years ago, his great uncle and godfather, the Duke of Connaught, had received a similar honour.
The other Rulers and Past Rulers have covered cathedral services commemorating our Tercentenary from St David’s in West Wales to Norwich in the east, and from Salisbury and Exeter in the south to Durham in the north, with many in between. You have then arranged dinners, a race meeting, car rallies, choral events and concerts, family fun days and fossil digs – all of which were splendidly organised.
I was privileged to visit our Districts in the Eastern Archipelago and Sri Lanka, witnessing first-hand the charitable work that they have been involved with. In Kuala Lumpur I visited the site of what I believe will be a splendid new home for the elderly. In Sri Lanka, the District has raised funds to bring drinking water to an outlying village and three schools in that area. Together with the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), they are also supporting the relief efforts following the flooding caused by the unprecedented May monsoon.
These felt like short trips compared with those of our Assistant Grand Master, whom I feared was in danger of meeting himself coming back as he flew to Buenos Aires on 4 August for a meeting of our District of South America, Southern Division, and then on to Chile for talks with their Grand Master, before flying back to Heathrow on 8 August for onward travel to our District of Madras in Chennai.
It is humbling to witness your splendid efforts in support of Freemasonry. I have mentioned the Districts, but there has also been extraordinary work carried out in all the Provinces.
In June, I mentioned the phenomenal response you made to the Manchester bombing and Grenfell Tower fire in London. I can confirm that East Lancashire gave the Red Cross in Manchester more than £226,000 for the victims and that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge gave £100,000 to the Grenfell Tower Appeal – thank you for your generosity. And well done, North Wales, whose Festival with the RMGTB raised £3.1 million at £899 per member.
Thank you for your efforts with the MCF grants and public vote. I can report that more than 150,000 votes were cast across UGLE for the 300 charities to be awarded grants, and most of these votes – more than 80% – were from the general public. I know that the MCF has scrutinised these votes and has announced its award recipients. Congratulations to all involved in the MCF for this splendid initiative.
The project would not have been as successful without the exhaustive use of all social-media outlets, but I must here issue a caution on its use. Last year, we issued a very comprehensive instruction on the use, values and dangers of social media. One of the key points made was that you should ensure that anyone who you post images of on one of these sites should have agreed to be pictured. Yes, we need to be open and we want to promote our activities, but we must protect our members’ wishes. A little bit of common sense goes a long way.
Pause for thought
Having helped oversee the establishment of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, Second Grand Principal Russell Race now wants to give Craft members enough time to understand the Royal Arch
What have you taken from your professional career?
I did an economics degree at Liverpool and worked initially for British Steel, then for an administrative body looking after the fishing industry. When I was 24, I went into the City as an investment analyst. I was there for the rest of my working life, for the last 20 years in corporate finance, and retired in my early 50s.
I found my enjoyment was in building good working relationships, and ultimately friendships, with colleagues and clients – which, on the corporate side, is crucial. I had around 30 clients and if you did a good job for them, they would not seek to move somewhere else for a quarter per cent on a deal. And relationships take us into Freemasonry. It’s all about working with people, interacting with them and enjoying their company.
When did you find out about Freemasonry?
I was born in Gloucester, and the first 12 years of my life were spent there. My father joined a lodge just after the war and he went into the Chair in 1956, two years before we moved to Kent, where he became a founder of what became my mother lodge in Rochester.
Lodges had a big social calendar and as a teenager I went to many lodge events with my parents. When I came back from university at 21, and was still living in Kent, my father said to me, ‘Well, you know something about masonry and you’ve met many members of the lodge, so if you’re interested in joining, let me know.’ It was a very smart psychological move. Many fathers might have said, ‘Well, I’ve got you down to join at the next meeting, now you’re back in the area,’ but mine didn’t. I took about two years, got settled in a job, and then said, ‘I’d like to join.’ It was very much my decision, rather than feeling any obligation to join.
Did joining the Royal Arch feel like a natural progression?
I was 29 when I joined the Royal Arch, again in the local chapter in East Kent. I didn’t go into it with any preconceptions and I loved the ceremony from day one – despite being on the receiving end of all three lectures on the evening of my exaltation! In those days, the Royal Arch was considered the completion of the Third Degree, which is now an area of debate. But you could also just say it was seen as the natural progression from the Craft, which is something we rightly still emphasise.
The pressure on chapters was rather less in the 1960s and 1970s, because our numbers were higher than they are today, albeit beginning to level out. Chapters were thriving with 30 or 40 members, but it’s when you get below critical mass of 20 to 15 that you suddenly start thinking, ‘What do we do?’ It’s only at this late stage that many chapters try to re-establish links with the mother Craft lodge, which may be too late.
Why did you become involved in Metropolitan?
As a member of London lodges and chapters, I was aware that Metropolitan was being set up as a separate entity, but my move to London was a complete shot out of the blue. As East Kent Deputy Provincial Grand Master, I had met the Pro Grand Master Lord Northampton for the first time at a dinner. A little later, Rex Thorne asked me out to lunch in Long Acre, and when I arrived Lord Northampton was with him. To my surprise, he asked me to move up to London to become the first Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master.
I took some time to think about it because it was a new job and I knew the time commitment would be substantial. I asked the opinion of a few close friends who were unconnected with London, and they all said the same: ‘You can’t say no. It’s a great opportunity.’ Which indeed it was, but the workload proved to be quite heavy as well.
How did you feel leaving Metropolitan to become Second Grand Principal?
I think I made it known to people over time that Royal Arch is one of my great loves. Having completed six years as Metropolitan Deputy Grand Master and six years as Metropolitan Grand Master and Grand Superintendent, I knew it wasn’t a job I was going to do forever. I had a meeting with Peter Lowndes, who asked how I would feel about taking the position of Second Grand Principal, as George Francis was retiring. I paused slightly but, on this occasion, I didn’t ask for time to think about it, I said, ‘Yes, I’d love to do it.’ The best things in life come unexpectedly, don’t they?
For my successor as Metropolitan Grand Master, Sir Michael Snyder, the intention is to perform the role in a slightly different way, which I am sure is right. It was important in the early days of Metropolitan Grand Lodge for the rulers to be seen to be out visiting lodges and chapters on a regular basis and to be visible to all London masons. I was able to do that, but it wasn’t something that necessarily needed to be carried on at the same pitch, because London now has a firmly established base and identity.
‘We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch’
What have you inherited from your predecessor in the Royal Arch?
I think one of the important things that George Francis brought to the job was being visible to companions all around the country, visiting widely in the Provinces and London. There is no substitute for hearing people’s views first-hand. Additionally, he was a keen promoter of making the ritual more dramatic and understandable for all participants.
What I would say is that we now need a slight pause for breath to allow the changes to sink in. We have a number of initiatives going on, following on from the ritual change a few years ago, and we have to get these embedded within each Province. Although there may be minor adjustments, I don’t envisage radical changes in the near term. We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch.
In lodges where there is no active Royal Arch representative, or the Secretary’s not particularly keen on our order, the young mason coming through may have no awareness of the Royal Arch at all. Why should he be deprived of that experience? We need to ensure that all masons have the opportunity to join. I’m not saying you’re an incomplete mason if you’ve not come into the Royal Arch, but rather that your breadth of understanding is not as full as it might be.
Imagine when somebody’s interviewed for initiation and saying to them, ‘You are beginning an exciting four-stage journey.’ If you can get that message across on day one, it’s far easier than going to them after they’ve done their Third Degree and saying, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s another step and here’s a leaflet about it.’
Even if, on a flat Craft membership, we can increase the conversion rate to 45% or 50% across the board, rather than current rate in the high thirties, that in itself will take up our membership to more acceptable levels.
Do you see your role as ambassador or enforcer?
Gareth Jones, the Third Grand Principal, and I are certainly ambassadors. I think it’s about communicating to Superintendents and their Deputies, as well as to all companions, that we’re here to help and guide them in the right direction. I sense a strong desire for consistency across the piece, and that has to come from Supreme Grand Chapter. A Province or a private chapter can’t take effective decisions about the direction in which they are going unless they have the proper information to start with. I think it’s quite compelling if you say to a Grand Superintendent that these initiatives are available, they’ve worked in other Provinces – look at the results, maybe there are lessons for you.
I mentioned before about taking a slight pause, giving yourself the time to think. I saw a very good demonstration in Freemasons’ Hall some years ago. At various stages in the ceremony they stopped and said, ‘Right, we’re about to do this. Somebody tell me why we do it this way.’ And the members hadn’t thought about it. They were just hearing the words. That was in a Craft lodge, but the moral applies equally to the Royal Arch.
Every now and again it behoves us all to stop and think, ‘What do the words mean? Why do we do what we do, for example, in terms of choreography of the ritual?’ I would like to reverse the trend in numbers, which we are beginning to do in some areas, but I believe that will only come through companions having a better understanding, and with it greater enjoyment of our unique order.
From the Grand Secretary
What a year that was – a year to look back on with a great sense of achievement and pride. The sheer number and variety of events held across Provinces and Districts is a testament to the vitality and relevance of Freemasonry today, and to your hard work.
It has been a year when we have opened up Freemasons’ Hall to a number of major events, including the unveiling of our VC Memorial, our Artist in Residence, Sky TV, two Open Days and two organ concerts. Not forgetting a Grand Ball, at which 2,000 or so revellers marvelled at the transformation of the Grand Temple and many other art deco rooms for a splendid night.
It was also a year when other Sovereign Grand Lodges from around the globe celebrated with us the 300th anniversary of the formation of the world’s first organised Grand Lodge, which was established in London in 1717. Indeed, we were greatly honoured that more than 130 Grand Masters from these Sovereign Grand Lodges travelled great distances, many with their wives, to be with us at the various events taking place from 29-31 October. All of which culminated in the spectacular celebration at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 31 October.
A TIME TO REMEMBER
How privileged we have been as Freemasons in the United Grand Lodge of England to have been part of such an important and influential organisation at this time; 2017 will long be remembered, and we must now capitalise on this success as we move forward into the next 300 years.
In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we feature the spectacle and fanfare at the Royal Albert Hall when the Grand Master was joined by more than 4,400 brethren for a very special meeting. A testimony to the enduring strength of Freemasonry, the event was a remarkable feat of organisation that saw members transported to a banquet held in Battersea, south London – all of which required some meticulous preparation and planning.
Yet amid the grand celebrations, the everyday business of Freemasonry continued. We report on this year’s New and Young Masons Clubs Conference at the Severn Street Masonic Hall in Birmingham, which welcomed 100 new and young Freemasons from across the country. With attendees discussing ways to ensure the Craft’s relevance in the 21st century, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales Gareth Jones emphasised the need for masonry to become more intertwined with everyday communities.
As John Hamill explains in his ‘Reflection’ column this issue, it is our contribution to communities that will stand the test of time. While the central core of our membership may not make the headlines, they do keep Freemasonry alive by following its principles and tenets. In the process, they make a difference to their communities and ensure our legacy. I hope that you and your families have a wonderful festive season.
‘It is our contribution to communities that will stand the test of time’
Freemasons from Leicestershire and Rutland, who cycled 300 miles during the summer, made their last short trip from Leicester to Loughborough to present a cheque for £11,704 to Rainbows Children’s Hospice in Loughborough
In June 2017, 23 Freemasons cycled around the Masonic centres in Leicestershire and Rutland and down to Freemasons’ Hall in London and back – completing a total of 300 miles as part of their 300th anniversary celebrations.
A total of £23,408 was raised from Freemasons, family and friends which was split equally between Rainbows and the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
A number of the cyclists took the short ride to Rainbows Hospice at Lark Rise in Loughborough to present the cheque to David Strudley, Rainbows CEO. The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland David Hagger was also on hand to formally present the cheque.
After light refreshments, the cyclists were delighted to have a guided tour of the Hospice and hear first-hand about the amazing care and support provided by Rainbows for life-limited children and their families.
Simon Oldfield, who organised the ride, said: ‘Riding 300 miles in four days was a first for many of us. After seeing the excellent work that Rainbows do, it makes me very proud to be a Freemason and to have been part of the team to help raise funds for such an amazing charity.
‘We all felt very humbled and everyone who took part in the ride, the cyclists and support team, felt immensely proud of our fundraising achievement and the opportunity to support such a deserving local charity. It made all the hard work of training through the depths of winter so very worthwhile.’
David Strudley, Rainbows CEO, commented: ‘We are especially grateful to Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons in making Rainbows Hospice part of their 300th anniversary fundraising event. The magnificent total raised from their cycling marathon will go a long way to supporting youngsters with life-limiting conditions and their families when they need it most.’
Provincial Grand Master David Hagger added: ‘I most sincerely thank the cyclists and assisting crew on behalf of all the Freemasons and their families in Leicestershire and Rutland for the generous contribution they have made – it is truly a magnificent achievement.’
Funds will buy two extended high-res lifts for London Fire Brigade
Metropolitan Grand Master Sir Michael Snyder surprised a packed Freemasons Hall on 2nd November 2017 when he announced the launch of a £2.5 million appeal to purchase two extended high rise aerial vehicles for London Fire Brigade
This took place at the annual London Grand Rank Investiture meeting of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, where a party from London’s Fire Brigade were welcomed into the Grand Temple, led by Steve Apter, London Fire Brigade Director of Safety and Assurance, and Dr Fiona Twycross, Chair of London Fire EPA. They were presented with the first instalment of a cheque for £375,000.
These appliances will be in addition to the extra resources for extended height aerial vehicles already requested by the Commissioner as part of a Mayoral review into the Brigade’s resources in July.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton thanked Sir Michael Snyder for their generosity: ‘We are very grateful to Sir Michael Snyder and London Freemasons for this first donation and their commitment to raise the significant sum of money to buy such important equipment. It’s important that we have the most effective resources for the city environment in which we serve, so we not only have to consider the reach of our aerial appliances but whether they are agile enough to move around the capital’s narrow streets.
‘This has been an incredibly busy and emotional year for everyone connected with London Fire Brigade and we welcome this recognition.’
At the meeting Steve Apter, in his address to the members of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, commented: ‘They will be mobilised across London and used for both fighting fires and effecting rescues. They can reach 22-24 floors far higher than anything we currently have in service. This generous donation by London Freemasons provides a very large support to our tight public funds and financial capability.
'On behalf of The London Fire Brigade and the people of London, we thank you for your very kind offer and look forward to working with you in the future.’
Sir Michael Snyder then replied: ‘On behalf of every London Freemason, I am delighted to announce the launch of our latest charity appeal in support of the London Community. These extended height aerial vehicles will help better equip the busiest fire and rescue service in the country. The appeal is the latest step in the London Freemasons objective to support the London community and help make London a safer place to live and work.’
'It follows successive appeals to support London’s Emergency Services by the purchase a two-million-pound state of the art Cyberknife for Bart’s Hospital, five rapid responder cars for the London Ambulance Service, and the recent two million pounds donation to help fund London’s badly needed second Air Ambulance.’
Grand Masters from around the world come bearing gifts
When Grand Masters from around the world came to Freemasons’ Hall as part of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations last week, many of them also came bearing gifts
Around 90 gifts were presented to the UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, who spent time inspecting this wonderful selection which ranged from a ceremonial sword and bronze stag, through to a collection of Russian dolls depicting the Grand Master himself.
The gifts have now been put on display in The Library and Museum of Freemasonry for anyone who visits Freemasons’ Hall to see.
As you can see from the gallery at the top, the array of thoughtful gifts was vast.
Over 4,000 Freemasons from Provinces, Districts and 136 Grand Lodges around the world were present as the Royal Albert Hall was centre stage for the United Grand Lodge of England’s Especial Meeting and Tercentenary celebrations on Tuesday 31st October
This gala event marked 300 years since four lodges met at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in St Paul’s Churchyard on St John’s Day, 24th June 1717, to form the Premier Grand Lodge. The spectacle was also streamed live to audiences from around the world, including UGLE’s headquarters at Freemasons’ Hall.
With Grand Lodge having been opened and called off in a convenient room, the procession of Grand Officers entered the Hall, before the Grand Master, MW Bro HRH The Duke of Kent, took his place in the Queens’s Box. He was accompanied by the Pro Grand Master MW Bro Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master RW Bro Jonathan Spence and Assistant Grand Master RW Bro Sir David Wootton.
He was also joined by a number of special guests, which included RW Bro HRH Prince Michael of Kent, VW Bro HM King Tutu II of Ashanti and RW Bro HE John Kufuor, Senior Grand Warden.
The audience was wowed by a theatrical extravaganza showcasing the history and heritage of Freemasonry and featuring a cast of renowned actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar. The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra provided the musical accompaniment against the backdrop of a colossal 55ft gold Square and Compasses and dramatic light show incorporating the ‘All Seeing Eye’.
After the performance, the Grand Master was processed on to the stage and all the Rulers were seated in their normal thrones. The Deputy Grand Master then read a letter of loyal greetings sent to Her Majesty The Queen and the reply received sending ‘warm good wishes to you all for a most successful event’.
The Grand Master, as Permanent Master of the three Time Immemorial Lodges (Lodge of Antiquity No.2, Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No.IV, and Lodge of Fortitude and Old Cumberland No.12), then called upon his three Deputy Masters and was presented with the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Square and Compasses and the Wren Maul.
Other highlights included the return of the Soane Ark – the Ark of the Masonic Covenant – as the Deputy Grand Master announced that following 30 years in the making, a replica had been made to the original design. This was brought onstage where it was dedicated by the Grand Master.
The finale was the most rousing singing of the National Anthem, before the procession of Grand Officers retired from the Hall.
Following the meeting, Grand Lodge was called back on in a convenient room, and this Especial Meeting to celebrate UGLE's Tercentenary was closed.
The Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall was the setting for the largest gathering of Grand Masters from all corners of the world on 30th October
For the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations, Grand Masters from over 130 foreign Grand Lodges were welcomed by UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
HRH The Duke of Kent then addressed all those present: 'Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren, I am delighted that so many of you have been able to come to London to celebrate our Tercentenary anniversary with us. Indeed, I am advised that this is the largest gathering of Grand Masters that there has ever been.
'I am so pleased to have this opportunity to greet you all this morning in the relative peace and tranquillity of our magnificent Temple within Freemasons’ Hall, and it is most important to me that I meet you all.
'May I also thank you for your gifts which we will have the chance to see in the Museum after this meeting. Thank you again for your support.'
Dressed in their formal Regalia, they bought kind words and greetings – and some brought gifts to commemorate the Tercentenary – for the Grand Master, which the Library and Museum of Freemasonry will soon be putting on special display for visitors to see.
Events were then set to continue into the evening when the Grand Masters, along with their guests, attend a reception held at the Mansion House, with a welcome by the Lord Mayor of London Andrew Parmley and Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes.