Celebrating 300 years

Surgeon support from Devon Royal Arch

At the Riviera International Centre in Torquay, Second Grand Principal George Francis attended the Holy Royal Arch Masons of Devonshire Annual Provincial Grand Chapter. To a packed auditorium including more than 100 distinguished guests from the Provinces, Grand Superintendent Simon Rowe announced that Provincial Grand Chapter had contributed more than £75,000 to the Supreme Grand Chapter Royal College of Surgeons 2013 Appeal.

The Royal Arch Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight has taken an innovative approach to its fundraising for the Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons Research Fellowship

The Province invited chapters to nominate an individual who has undergone major surgery, showing exceptional fortitude and bravery, to qualify for a Badge of Courage Award (BOCA). 

Chapters were invited to sponsor individuals by pledging a donation of £1,000, of which £500 would be donated to the appeal with the £500 balance going to a non-masonic charity nominated by the award recipient. A gala BOCA ball was held at HMS Collingwood in Gosport, at which Grand Superintendent Alan Berman presented Second Grand Principal George Francis (pictured above) with a cheque for £80,000 for the appeal.

Eight donations of £500 each were also made to the charities nominated by the BOCA winners.

The nave of Canterbury Cathedral welcomed around 1,000 masons, their families and friends for a service to celebrate the bicentenary of Royal Arch Masonry

On Saturday 21 September, a unique event was held at Canterbury Cathedral that not only marked a special milestone in masonic history but also demonstrated a great affinity between Freemasonry and the cathedral’s stonemasons. Freemasonry has its roots in the lodges of medieval stonemasons and to this day supports the training of apprentice stonemasons at the cathedral.

The occasion was a combined celebration for the Provinces of East Kent, West Kent, Sussex and Surrey, each led by their respective Grand Superintendents, Geoffrey Dearing, Jonathan Winpenny, Kenneth Thomas and Eric Stuart-Bamford. The significance of the event was acknowledged by the presence of the Second and Third Grand Principals, George Francis and David Williamson, respectively. Russell Race, the Metropolitan Grand Superintendent, and David Boswell, the Grand Superintendent of Suffolk, were also in attendance, as was the Sheriff of Canterbury, Cllr Ann Taylor, who represented the city and people of Canterbury.

The Archdeacon of Canterbury, the Venerable Sheila Watson, conducted the service, with the grand setting and the superb King’s School Crypt Choir adding to the memorable ambience. The Archdeacon referred to the long connection between the cathedral and Freemasons, in particular the gifts of the Chapter House east window and the Coronation window. She paid tribute to the masonic principles of unity, fellowship and service to the community, and spoke of ‘service beyond ourselves’, a virtue embraced by the Church and Freemasonry alike.

At a special meeting of Salopian Chapter No. 262 in November, the oldest chapter in the Province of Shropshire, the Provincial Grand Chapter celebrated its centenary in the presence of ME Comp George Francis, Second Grand Principal

This was no sinecure for the Provincial Officers, however: at the invitation of the Principals of 262 Chapter, the Provincial team took the various Offices and conducted a ceremony of Double Exaltation. Grand Superintendent Peter Taylor acted as Z, Roger Brentnall Pemberton acted as H and Roger Wedlake as J. The work of the Principal Sojourner was shared between two Officers, and the Mystical Lecture was given in its full catechetical form by John Williamson, with the assistance of the companions of 262 Chapter.

Indeed, the only member of the Provincial team who could rightly be said to have put his feet up was David Kettle, who had recently suffered an injury which necessitated him appearing on crutches. He was still involved in the Mystical Lecture, however!

The Second Grand Principal was received warmly by the companions of Shropshire, and was generous in his comments about the evening. He received a significant donation towards the Supreme Grand Chapter's Appeal, and himself conducted the companions at the festive board as they sang happy birthday to John Holyoake on the eve of his 90th birthday.

Peter Taylor received his Grand Superintendent's cufflinks from Comp Francis, who in his turn received a large cheese as his memento of a pleasant sojourn in Shropshire.

All concerned wished the Province good luck for its next 100 years, and the two exaltees, Comp Simon Parker and Comp Jim Banks, certainly went home with memories to last for a long time to come.

The Bicentenary Celebrations for Supreme Grand Chapter started with a demonstration of the new ceremony of exaltation by the Metropolitan Grand Stewards Chapter, which was followed by a celebratory luncheon in the Grand Connaught Rooms, presided over by the Pro First Grand Principal, ME Comp Peter Lowndes

Published in SGC

Out of the shadows

As the Royal Arch marks two hundred years of recognition, Second Grand Principal George Francis explains its evolution and sometimes complex relationship with the Craft

What is the Royal Arch?

It’s a difficult concept to explain, even to a mason. Part of the problem is that the Royal Arch developed in a way that has been forgotten. The main idea goes back to the sixteenth century, if not before. Around the Tudor period there was Freemasonry which had come from the stonemasons, and the Royal Arch was the first attempt to branch off and do something extra. We have to be careful not to call the Royal Arch the ‘Fourth Degree’; that’s just one way to explain it to an outsider, but it is a completion of the Three Degrees. It gives you new insights and is the culmination of the first lessons and meanings – it completes the journey.

The Royal Arch dates back to the 1700s. Why is the bicentenary in 2013?

The people who started Grand Lodge in 1717 decided they were not going to include the Royal Arch and were going to stick to the main idea, or trunk. That’s really the start of the story, before then it’s all speculative. By 1750, another group who were also part of the main trunk said this isn’t quite how Freemasonry ought to be, that the Royal Arch was absolutely essential, so they were going to split off and do things differently. Suddenly two Grand Lodges were operating side by side and they gave one another inappropriate nicknames. The newer Grand Lodge members called themselves ‘the Antients’ (as they felt they were the real keepers of the flame) and called the other Grand Lodge ‘the Moderns’ – even though the Moderns had actually been established earlier. So you had this slight friction between them and they trundled along rather uneasily side by side.

How did the happen?

Eventually both lodges decided the situation was counter-productive and that they should join up. The Duke of Sussex was the main mover in this, heading up the Moderns, and the leader of the Antients was his brother, the Duke of Kent, who insisted that the combined organisation must have the Royal Arch as part of the journey. It wasn’t until 1813 that the Royal Arch became a formal part of the structure.

What else did the Duke of Sussex do?

One point the Duke of Sussex stipulated at the was that we should all wear the same regalia, and also that we were to use the same rituals and words. The second part never quite happened, so there are still differences in the rituals and wording used by different lodges. However, we’re greatly indebted to the Duke of Sussex; he was an interesting person and very left wing for a royal prince – he was anti-slavery, pro-Catholic (although not one himself) and pro-Jewish. These things were rather unfashionable at the time. He was very much a figurehead for the Whigs and people who wanted change. The Duke of Sussex was the one who said we are not going to be just Christian in the Freemasons, we’ll allow everybody in as long as they believe in God.

What’s the difference between the Craft and the Royal Arch?

We call the three main degrees, which have adopted the colour blue, the ‘Craft’ and we call members ‘brothers’ and ‘brethren’. Even the female masons call one another brother. In the Royal Arch, you become ‘companions’. You’ve made that additional step, you’re taking it a bit more seriously, so there’s a different atmosphere – it’s more intimate, you’re more closely linked. We meet up in chapters and have adopted the colour red as well as blue. It’s very much an eighteenth-century idea of a harmonious society.

Is the Royal Arch more complicated?

I try to get people to realise that you don’t have to understand everything that’s going on, you just have to enjoy it. There are interesting ideas and stories – some of it’s quite deep – but you don’t have to comprehend every single part. It’s quite fun exploring and finding out these things slowly. You’ve got to enjoy time with people, enjoy doing a bit of acting, listening to stories and maybe understanding something you didn’t understand before. That’s what it’s about really, doing things together.

Are more Freemasons coming to the Royal Arch?

Around forty per cent of Craft masons are in the Royal Arch and it’s a shame that it isn’t more.

Clearly there are some who really don’t want to go into the deeper meanings, which is fine because Freemasonry should appeal on different levels. But what I’m trying to express to the Craft is that you should really complete the journey, it’s not that much more time or expense and you’ll really enjoy it.

It completes the circle of understanding and the basic journey. This way of thinking is having some effect and our proportion of Craft masons is gradually rising.

How can you improve recruitment?

The problem is that when you come to Freemasonry, the Royal Arch is not explained because it’s difficult to describe. It sometimes doesn’t get mentioned until quite late on – someone might have been in masonry a couple of years before they come across it. We’re trying to change the perception that it’s just an optional extra and make sure that it’s explained at the outset. We thought at one stage we might go back to a Fourth Degree idea so everyone would be involved. It would be free of charge and there wouldn’t be any reason for not doing it. But the Royal Arch is slightly different so it shouldn’t really be an automatic stage; people ought to think about it, and we’re hoping the bicentenary will help to explain that.

What are you trying to achieve with the bicentenary appeal?

The Bicentenary Appeal is about three things: formal recognition, an appeal and an excuse for a party.

We added the appeal idea so we would have a legacy of our celebration, one that adds to the Fund we created in 1967 for the benefit of the Royal College of Surgeons. We’ve ninety thousand members in England and Wales and ten thousand abroad, and it is important when you’ve got such a big organisation to continue to show members what can be done, to not just sit back and do more of the same.

What do you do as the Second Grand Principal?

My role was traditionally carried out by the Deputy Grand Master but for various reasons the roles got split a number of years ago. It means that I can concentrate on the Royal Arch. I try to visit all forty-six Provinces as well as the Metropolitan Area of London and explain what’s happening at the centre, what the challenges are for the future and encourage our members generally. It’s an opportunity to speak to the Provinces on a different level and not just go through the motions.

Is the Royal Arch changing?

We try to alter the ritual as little as possible because it’s something that people have to learn by heart – you can’t keep changing it all the time. But part of my job is to find the things that we can improve to make it more enjoyable and exciting. My job is to also get the message out there that this is for younger chaps, too, and that we can add a bit more colour and a little less formality.

Find out about the discovery of an old manuscript that could reveal crucial elements about Royal Arch ritual here.

Published in SGC
Thursday, 07 March 2013 00:00

Socking it to the Wigton chapter

The special Bicentennial Convocation of the Chapter of St John, No. 327, which meets at Wigton, Province of Cumberland and Westmorland, was attended by the Second Grand Principal, George Francis, and a deputation from the Supreme Grand Chapter in celebration of its 200th year.

Bob Aird gave a brief history of the chapter’s origins in the town as well as a flavour of the local industry and notable people of the time, John Hamill read the bicentenary charter, and Third Provincial Grand Principal, the Reverend Robert Roeschlaub, gave an oration.

At the Festive Board, George Francis had special gifts for Grand Superintendent Norman Thompson and the Principals of the Chapter. The Second Grand Principal is renowned for wearing red socks to chapter convocations and so presented the Grand Superintendent and Principals with their own stylish pairs.

A matter of patients

As the Royal Arch marks its two-hundredth anniversary in 2013, Sophie Radice looks at how members and the chapters have been supporting the Royal College of Surgeons in groundbreaking medical research

At the Blizard Institute of Cell and Molecular Science in London, William Dawes is trying to find out how to lessen the damage done to premature newborn babies who have suffered a stroke. Part of the surgical research fellowships scheme run by the Royal College of Surgeons, Dawes is just one of the medical pioneers in the UK whose work has been funded by Freemasons.

From investigating how to prevent acute kidney injury during major heart surgery through to exploring how to decrease mortality rates following traumatic brain injury, the fellowships scheme will be benefitting from financial support given by the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal. The fundraising exercise aims to provide a permanent reminder of the Supreme Grand Chapter’s full emergence two hundred years ago by its future relationship with the Royal College of Surgeons.

‘Schemes such as the surgical research fellowship are invaluable for surgeons,’ says Dawes, who is also being supported by Sparks, the children’s medical charity. ‘The research we have been funded for will look at ways of lessening the damage done to the brains of premature newborns who have bleeding into the ventricles of the brain. Our focus is a collection of tiny, fragile blood vessels in the germinal matrix, which is the area of brain adjacent to the wall of the ventricles. These blood vessels are vulnerable to fluctuations in blood flow, which can cause them to rupture and bleed. The younger and smaller the baby, the higher the risk. Our research will look at ways of making the cells that survive the bleed perform better so that the damage will be minimised.’

Providing crucial support

Dawes trained in Leeds and then Liverpool before moving to London, and is now at the Blizard Institute, Barts and the London School of Medicine doing a PhD. ‘I knew very little about Freemasons until I discovered how much money they give to surgical research. I have since given presentations to chapters and have found the Freemasons I’ve met to be so supportive. It has been a real pleasure to speak to them about what we are trying to do – we are extremely grateful for their generosity,’ he says.

The Royal College of Surgeons launched the surgical research fellowships scheme to enable the brightest and best surgeons of each generation to explore treatments for conditions and injuries that affect millions of people worldwide. The scheme relies completely on voluntary donations from individuals, trusts and legacies, and needs more funding to continue the number of worthy research projects supported.

George Francis, Second Grand Principal of the Royal Arch Masons and Chairman of the appeal, explains: ‘In 1966, the Eleventh Earl of Scarbrough, as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, launched an appeal to mark the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge in 1717. The income from the appeal was given to the Royal College of Surgeons. We are so proud of our contribution to surgical research that it seemed natural that our 2013 Bicentenary Appeal should go into funding more research. We hope to raise well over £1,000,000.’

Professor Derek Alderson, Chairman of the Academic and Research Board at the Royal College of Surgeons, adds: ‘We feel it important that donors should understand exactly what is being done with their money, so in the past twelve months research fellows, supported by officers of the College, have made more than forty presentations to a variety of masonic bodies. We never have any problems finding young surgeons to talk about their research, but I suspect that this says more about masonic hospitality than anything else.’

Like William Dawes, Nishith Patel and Angelos Kolias have made presentations to chapters throughout the UK to discuss their vital research work

Bodies of work

Nishith Patel

Research Title: Acute kidney injury following heart surgery
Location: Bristol Heart Institute, Bristol Royal Infirmary

‘I first heard about the fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons and I jumped at the chance to apply. It is very competitive, with a four-part application process, because so many surgeons want the chance to kick-start vital research in their surgical area.

‘We are looking at the way two different methods can prevent acute kidney injury during major heart surgery. The first method is a drug trial and the second is to put the blood through an automated washer during surgery to prevent organ injury. We looked at the blood used in blood transfusions and found that some of it had gone off because it had been stored too long. Putting blood through an automated washer to remove toxins could be very useful for all those who need blood transfusions and so that has become part of our research too.

‘I was surprised that the Freemasons funded these fellowships because I knew very little about them.

I have since given presentations to small groups of Freemasons and found that they not only asked very detailed and intelligent questions but that they also seem to really appreciate and understand our work when we explain it to them.

I have found the Freemasons to be very decent and down-to-earth people who are open to hearing complex medical explanations, which is very refreshing. I so appreciate the opportunity they have given me.’

Angelos Kolias

Research Title: Traumatic brain injury: the role of veins
Location: Addenbrooke’s Hospital and University of Cambridge

‘I heard about the fellowship from my supervisor, Peter Hutchinson, who was himself supported by a Freemasons fellowship during his PhD.

Peter is now a reader and honorary consultant in neurosurgery at the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

‘Head injuries still claim the highest toll in terms of lost lives and disability for those under the age of forty. The aim of my research project is to examine whether blockage of the large veins inside the head is contributing to the brain swelling after head injuries. Research in patients suffering from another condition that leads to high pressure inside the head has shown that quite a few of these patients have blockage of the veins. A novel way of dealing with this problem is the insertion of a stent, which is an artificial tube, inside the blocked vein. As a result of this, the pressure inside the head is reduced and the patient gets better. This treatment was developed in Cambridge about ten years ago.

‘Essentially, my research project aims to find out whether a similar mechanism applies to patients with severe head injuries. So far we have some promising results showing that about one-third of those who have a severe head injury and skull fracture develop blockage of the veins. Without the help of the Freemasons, we would not have been able to undertake this kind of research – we are very grateful for all their help and support.’

Without the help of the Freemasons, we would not have been able to undertake this kind of research’ Angelos Kolias

Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013

 

Charity for all

 

Sir, I read with satisfaction the article ‘A Matter of Patients’ in Freemasonry Today, spring 2013. Satisfaction because it reminded me that thanks to the focus of both the Royal Arch and UGLE on the medical profession in general as recipients of our charitable giving, we have recently attracted two initiates (both GPs) who said they had previously had no idea of
the extent of our charitable work within medicine. On the basis of their discovery, they had decided that they now wanted to be part of Freemasonry.


Publicity for the charitable giving that we all do – both generally and within the medical profession – is certainly having an effect on the general public’s perception of Freemasonry. Based upon our experience here in Cyngesburie Lodge, I would suggest that it may benefit other lodges seeking to increase their membership to focus some attention on potential initiates within all branches of medicine. Appraising them of the tremendous work we do to support their profession can only be beneficial, regardless of whether or not they subsequently decide to join the Craft.


Martin Day, Cyngesburie Lodge, No. 5607, London


 

Published in SGC

At the April meeting of the Essex First Principals Chapter No.3256, over 200 members and guests went on to see a demonstation of the 'Ceremony of the Veils' given by the Essex Provincial Stewards Chapter No 8665. The chapter was particularly honoured by the presence of many distinguished Royal Arch masons which included: ME Comp George Pipon Francis, 2nd Grand Principal, ME Comp David Kenneth Williamson, 3rd Grand Principal and our own ME Comp John Michael Webb, Grand Superintendant.

This Ceremony had been authorised by the Committee of General Purposes of Supreme Grand Chapter solely for demonstrations at a Provincial or District level held under the authority of the respective Grand Superintendent.

The basis of the current Royal Arch ceremonies worked in England was established and agreed by Supreme Grand Chapter in 1834. There is some evidence that before the 1834 changes the ceremony of Passing the Veils was practised as a preliminary to the Exaltation ceremony. This was particularly true in Lodges under the former Antients Grand Lodge which worked the Royal Arch within the Lodge, but there is little evidence of it being worked in Chapters under the original Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter.

Today in England the ceremony is solely authorised for use in Chapters in Bristol but it is still very much part of the Royal Arch system in Ireland, the United States of America and in Scotland - where it is known as the Excellent Master Degree. For those wishing to see the Bristol ceremony, the Province and its Chapters are always delighted to receive visitors.

This demonstration is not the ceremony as practised in Bristol, Ireland, Scotland or the USA but necessarily includes material which appears in the ceremonies worked in those countries. It has been compiled from manuscripts in the Library and Museum of Freemasonry and published sources such as Carlile and Claret.

Following the demonstation the 1st Principal, E. Comp Edward A Hilburn, PGStB, presented a cheque on behalf of the Chapter to E Comp Keith Huddlestone, PGStB, PAPrGP, the Essex Provincial Stewards Chapter 'Demonstation Team' represntative, who announced that the very generous donation of £500 would be going to the The Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for 'The Royal College of Surgeons of England'.


The long-standing association of the United Grand Lodge of England with the Royal College of Surgeons has taken another step, this time through the Royal Arch. Full information was provided by George Francis, Second Grand Principal at Grand Chapter in November.

The Royal Arch has launched an appeal through a Relief Chest with the Grand Charity into which all donations will go. The aim over the next three years or so is to raise a minimum of £10, plus Gift Aid from every companion.

Published in SGC
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