Celebrating 300 years

Rose-tinted glasses

Director of Special Projects John Hamill crunches the numbers to show why we should not hark back to a bygone age when Freemasonry was thriving

The sad aspect of reading the business paper for each Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge is the list of lodges that are closing. There is a perception that this is a modern occurrence linked to declining membership in the past thirty years, but this isn’t so.

That there was a golden age of Freemasonry during which the membership and the number of lodges was on a continual rise, is a myth. During this halcyon era, lodges had large attendances and many had enrolment waiting lists. While there have certainly been periods of expansion in membership – for example, immediately after the end of the First and Second World Wars – there have also been times when membership barely moved or was in a period of decline. A graph of membership over the past three hundred years would not show a gradually ascending line peaking in the late 1960s and then beginning to descend, but one of peaks and troughs.

The same would be true of a graph showing the number of lodges. Our perceptions have been coloured by masonic life in the late Victorian era and the early twentieth century – a period of stability in English Freemasonry. If we look at the period between the formation of the premier Grand Lodge in 1717 and the 1870s we get a very different picture.

The Cycle of Freemasonry

In the eighteenth century the average lodge would have about twenty-five members and a life of about forty years. Lodges closed so often that, from the premier Grand Lodge first numbering its lodges in 1729 until the of 1813, it renumbered its lodges on six occasions to close up gaps on the register.

When the last renumbering took place in 1863, the last lodge on the register was Pentalpha Lodge, Bradford, which was warranted as No. 1276 on 16 June 1863. When the renumbering took place later that year its number dropped down to 974.

With all the lodges that had existed before June 1863 having at least two numbers, the Library and Museum developed a serial number system so that all the material relating to a particular lodge is filed in one place. More than 2,500 serial numbers are used, which means that given there were just 974 lodges in existence in 1863, another 1,500 lodges must have gone out of existence, which had been warranted by the premier, Antients or United Grand Lodge between 1717 and 1863.

Mercifully for the lodges concerned and the filing systems at Grand Lodge, there has not been a renumbering of lodges since 1863. The latest warrant to be issued is No. 9884, which would imply that there is that number of lodges on the current register? Not so. In March of each year the Board of General Purposes gives a statistical table of the number of lodges on the register for the last ten years. The latest table shows that at the end of 2012 there were 7,696 lodges on the register.

Therefore, if 9,884 lodges have been numbered, but only 7,696 existed, we can deduce that between 1863 and 2012 some 2,188 lodges came into existence, flourished, waned and died.

Part of that figure is covered by lodges that were warranted to meet in the former colonies and withdrew from our constitution to form their own Grand Lodges. The majority, however, form part of a cycle that has always been present and, to my mind, paradoxically, are evidence that Freemasonry is very much a living institution.

All is not doom and gloom, as new lodges continue to be formed. However, the answers to why new lodges are made rather than old lodges preserved are many, complex and for a future occasion.

Letters to the editor - No. 23 Autumn 2013

Rose-tinted glasses

Sir,

I read with both interest and sadness John Hamill’s article ‘Rose-tinted Glasses’ (summer 2013 issue) regarding the number of lodges closing each year. Whilst I appreciate his comment that this in fact is ‘evidence that Freemasonry is very much a living institution’, it raises the serious question of why it is that once a lodge (or chapter) has handed back its warrant, it can never again be ‘resurrected’.

We would all accept that some lodges are not suitable for resurrection – for example a school lodge where that particular school had closed long ago – but some old and venerable lodges could surely be ‘put on the shelf’ and resurrected as the demand for a new lodge in the same area grew?

Martin Day, Cyngesburie Lodge, No. 5607, London 

 


 

Sir,

The director of special projects has written an uplifting paper, meaningfully entitled ‘Rose-tinted Glasses’ (summer 2013 issue), with an equally uplifting belief that Freemasonry continues to be a living institution. I heartily agree with both, subject to the following proviso. 

Of recent years a notion has become rife that recruitment can be increased by decreasing standards of entrance. Who has not visited a lodge where the Festive Board has the ambience of a four-ale bar? However much recruitment falters, it must never be restored at the cost of reducing standards. To do so would be an affront to the brethren and Freemasonry alike.

Herbert Ewings, Septem Lodge, No. 5887, Surbiton, Surrey

Published in Features

Something old, something new

The discovery of an old manuscript could reveal elements about Royal Arch ritual that have remained hidden for almost two centuries, as John Hamill discovers

As we prepare to celebrate the bicentenary of the acceptance by the whole Craft of the Royal Arch as being both an integral part and the completion of ‘pure ancient masonry’, a significant discovery has been made about the development of Royal Arch ritual.

In a large box full of old files and papers, in a strongroom at Freemasons’ Hall, was found a packet containing a slim, foolscap-size volume, bound in red leather with a Royal Arch symbol blocked in gold on its cover. Bound into it were fourteen sheets of paper closely written on both sides.

What immediately caught the eye at the top of the first page was the word ‘Approved’, followed by the florid signature of HRH Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, First Grand Principal 1810-1843, and the letters GMZ. The letters stand for Grand Master Zerubbabel, an alternative title for the First Grand Principal in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. At the foot of many of the pages the Duke’s initials appear, followed by the letters GMZ, and on the last page he had written ‘Approved. Newstead Abbey Nottingham November 2 1834’, followed by his full signature.

Newstead Abbey, once the family home of the poet Lord Byron, had been sold to Colonel Thomas Wildman, Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire 1823-1859, and the Duke of Sussex was staying there as his guest.

The manuscript proved to be an introduction covering the testing of a candidate for membership of the Royal Arch and the ritual for the opening of a chapter, the admission of a new companion (including the Principals’ lectures) and the closing of the chapter. Having been approved and signed by the Duke of Sussex, it leaves no reason to doubt that the manuscript was the work of a special committee he set up in 1834 to establish what were the ceremonies of the Royal Arch. And herein hangs a tale.

Striving for unity

In 1813 the original Grand Chapter gave its First Grand Principal, the Duke of Sussex, full authority to make whatever arrangements he deemed necessary and proper for the Royal Arch once the of the two Grand Lodges had taken place.

The Grand Chapter did not meet again until 1817 – I suspect because the Duke was concentrating all of his efforts on ensuring that the Grand Lodge was successful – but its administrative officers continued to keep in contact with its chapters, who continued sending in their returns and their fees.

The so-called Antients Grand Chapter, which had never been more than a committee of qualified members of the Antients Grand Lodge, ceased to exist once the Craft was achieved, but its former lodges continued to work the Royal Arch as part of their lodge business.

In 1817, the Duke of Sussex summoned the original Grand Chapter and the members of the Antients’ former Royal Arch and ‘united’ them into the United Grand Chapter, a name that lasted a very few years until the present title of Supreme Grand Chapter was adopted. The administrative links between the Craft and Royal Arch were put into place but little else was done.

Reforming ritual

In 1834, there being some doubt as to what the proper ceremonies were, the Duke of Sussex set up a special committee to investigate and recommend to the Grand Chapter what they should be. This they did and their deliberations were approved by both the Duke and the Grand Chapter. It was ordered that they should be adopted by all of the chapters then in existence and those that might come into being in the future.

‘had it been known that the Grand Chapter had a written version of the agreed 1834 ritual, a fine storm would have ensued’

The special committee was given a time-limited charter as the Chapter of Promulgation, its remit being to give demonstrations of the ceremonies in London to which chapters were invited to send representatives. Therein lies the possible reason why this manuscript disappeared from view for so long.

At that time, ritual was passed on by rote and it was a heinous masonic crime to write down or print ritual material. Indeed, a number of characters, such as William Finch and George Claret, were charged with breaking their obligations by printing portions of the ritual or catechetical lectures. Were it to have become known that the Grand Chapter had a written version of the agreed 1834 ritual, a fine storm would have ensued.

With the seeming absence of any formal record of the special committee’s 1834 instructions, a certain degree of mythology has grown up. The discovery of this manuscript will enable us to establish what did happen and will greatly increase our knowledge of how Royal Arch ritual developed.

Published in More News

Cause for celebration

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains that while Freemasons should be proud when a lodge celebrates a milestone anniversary, the creation of a new lodge can be an equally significant landmark

Last December I commented that we should be proud of our history. I therefore have no qualms in mentioning – indeed I believe it is important to do so – that this year marks a key landmark in the history of our Grand Lodge: the two-hundredth anniversary of the union between the Antients and Modern Grand Lodges. The actual – forming the United Grand Lodge of England – took place in 1813 at Freemasons’ Hall on St John’s Day, 27 December.

It is therefore more appropriate that we mark this major anniversary later in the year at the December Quarterly Communication. At that time I hope that John Hamill and Graham Redman, authorities on masonic history and protocol, will give us an account of the intriguing story of how the was finally achieved and its importance to English Freemasonry in particular, as well as Freemasonry around the world.

Order of the day

I mention this anniversary here, however, for two main reasons. Firstly, because those of you who are also members of the Royal Arch know that the Order is holding its own celebration in October of this year. It is to mark the decision, achieved during the negotiations leading to the , that the Royal Arch be recognised as an essential part of ‘pure ancient masonry’, forging an indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch.

Secondly, and importantly for us, rather than making major celebrations this year we have decided to concentrate our efforts on 2017 and the celebration of our tercentenary of the formation of Grand Lodge in 1717. This is considered the more important of the two events and a celebration of both would inevitably stretch all resources beyond any reasonable limit. It is intended that these celebrations will take place throughout the constitution, both at home and overseas.

Freemasonry is good at celebrations. Lodges are usually very keen to celebrate their important anniversaries, and rightly so. There can be few, if any, other organisations that have so many individual component parts that survive to celebrate fifty, one hundred, two hundred years and beyond.

We should be immensely proud that our lodges not only survive and thrive, in most cases, for so long, but that they also keep full and accurate records of all their meetings. It is, of course, a prerequisite of the granting of a Centenary or Bicentenary Warrant that the lodge can show continuous working. Some latitude is given to take account of wartime conditions, but, otherwise, we are firm about this.

We do have lodges that fail and at every Quarterly Communication there is a list of lodges to be erased. Sad as this is, it is inevitable when overall numbers have fallen, the redressing of which is on the top of any list of priorities that is drawn up. Conversely, we still have new lodges being consecrated, which may seem somewhat surprising in the face of falling numbers.

I would argue that, if there is a group of like-minded people who want to get together to form a lodge and they can show reason for doing so as well as an ability to sustain it in the future, why not? The members will have considered the sustainability of the lodge carefully and, even if it only survives for, say, fifty years, many people will have derived great enjoyment from it and many will have been introduced to our great institution who might otherwise have missed out. Let’s celebrate on all possible occasions.

Published in UGLE

Parallel lines

The histories of the railway system and Freemasonry are inextricably linked. John Hamill examines the impact that long-distance rail travel and commuter belts had on the Craft

Public transport is such a part of our daily lives, and we take it so much for granted, that it is difficult to imagine a world without it. Its development, particularly that of the railway system, was a key element in Britain’s rise as a major commercial and industrial power. The railways also had an effect on the development of Freemasonry and the workings of Grand Lodge itself.

Before the development of the railways, a journey to London – especially from the north, the West Country or Wales – was a major expedition involving days of travel in a horse-drawn coach or by sea. As a result, there was a tendency to appoint the Grand Officers for the year, and members of the Boards of General Purposes and Benevolence, from among the past Masters of London and home counties lodges, as they had little difficulty in regularly attending Grand Lodge or its boards and committees.

Attendance at Quarterly Communications was also predominantly by members of lodges from those areas, for the same reasons. Not surprisingly, the Provinces began to resent what they saw as the over-representation of London and the home counties in ‘the councils of the Craft’. Indeed, the question was raised from time to time as to why Grand Lodge could not on occasion be held in the Provinces to give them an opportunity of having their say.

The development of rail links between London and the major provincial cities and towns began to make it easier for the Provinces to come to London and make their voices heard. In the 1930s it was possible to hire special trains from the great railway companies to make journeys to and from London. And that is exactly what the northern brethren did to ensure that they could attend the Quarterly Communication on 3 December 1930, at which the main item on the agenda was a resolution to introduce Grand Lodge dues as we know them today.

‘It is interesting to reflect on how the expansion of the railways and Freemasonry ran in parallel, influencing the way society and communities developed’

Thanks to the trains, several hundred brethren were unable to get into the meeting due to the unexpected over-attendance. The Pro Grand Master at the start of the meeting had to announce that as a result of this, while arguments for and against would be heard, no vote could be taken and that a special Grand Lodge would be held the following March at the Royal Albert Hall to complete the debate. Trains were again booked and more than six thousand brethren attended the special meeting.

The building of the national railway lines also led to the building of hotels, often by the main railway companies themselves, at major stations.

In Victorian and Edwardian times many of these hotels included lodge rooms. The finest was the Grecian temple, built in 1912, at the Great Eastern Hotel at Liverpool Street Station in London.

Lord Claud Hamilton, then both a Freemason and chairman of the railway company running out of Liverpool Street, together with family members and other directors who were Freemasons, commissioned the temple and paid for it out of their own pockets. It is now a Grade I listed structure.

The development of local railways also had an effect. Until the arrival of such transport, Freemasonry was very localised. Most brethren lived within a reasonable walking distance or short horse ride from their lodges. Public transport made them more mobile. A good example is the development of the railways from the City of London through east London and out into Essex. They gave birth to the London commuter, with the growing middle classes moving out of the City and East End to what were then the leafy villages of Stratford, Forest Gate, Wanstead, Ilford, Romford and Dagenham. The new commuters took their Freemasonry with them and from the 1860s we see the warranting of lodges to meet in those areas. The same story can be replicated in other parts of the country.

It is interesting to reflect on how the expansion of the railways and Freemasonry ran in parallel, at times complementing each other as they influenced the way society and communities developed.

STATION IN LIFE

Some of the major figures in the early development of the railways were active Freemasons. Sir Daniel Gooch, Bt (1816-1889), for many years chairman of the Great Western Railway, was Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Wiltshire and Provincial Grand Master for the Provinces of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

Born in Northumberland, Gooch was a Freemason who trained as an engineer with Robert Stephenson, designer of the famous Rocket locomotive. Gooch’s father moved his family to Tredegar where Daniel became manager of the ironworks. He continued his training with Thomas Ellis, Samuel Homfray, and Richard Trevithick (a Freemason), who were pioneering the development of locomotives.

Through them Gooch met Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who was planning what became the Great Western Railway. In 1837, Brunel appointed Gooch as locomotive superintendent for the project, responsible for designing all the engines but also helping Brunel solve the engineering problems of a long-distance railway track. When Swindon was settled on as a major railway engineering centre, Gooch was heavily involved and brought Freemasonry to the town.

 

 

Published in Features
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 14:00

Pro Grand Master's address - March 2013

Quarterly Communication
13 March 2013
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,

In my address to Grand Lodge last December I commented that we should be proud of our history. I therefore have no qualms – indeed I believe it is important – in mentioning that this year marks an important landmark in the history of our Grand Lodge: the two hundredth anniversary of the between the Ancients and Modern Grand Lodges. The actual – forming the United Grand Lodge of England – took place at Freemasons’ Hall on St John’s Day, December 27th 1813.

It is therefore more appropriate that we mark this major anniversary later in the year at the December Quarterly Communication. At that time I hope that Brothers Hamill and Redman will give us an account of the intriguing story of how the was finally achieved and its importance to English Freemasonry in particular and world-wide Freemasonry in general.

However, I mention this anniversary today for two main reasons. First, because those of you who are also members of the Royal Arch know that the Order is holding its own celebration in October of this year. It is to mark the decision, achieved during the negotiations leading to the, that the Royal Arch be recognised as an essential part of pure ancient Freemasonry, forging an indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch.

Secondly, and importantly for us, rather than making major celebrations this year we have decided to concentrate our efforts on 2017 and the celebration of our tercentenary of the formation of Grand Lodge in 1717. This is considered the more important of the two events and a celebration of both would inevitably stretch all recourses beyond any reasonable limit. It is intended that these celebrations will take place throughout the constitution both at home and overseas.

Freemasonry is good at celebrations. Lodges are usually very keen to celebrate their important anniversaries, and rightly so. There can be few, if any, other organisations that have so many individual component parts that survive to celebrate 50, 100, 200 years and beyond. We should be immensely proud that our Lodges not only survive and thrive, in most cases, for so long, but that they also keep full and accurate records of all their meetings. It is, of course, a prerequisite of the granting of a Centenary or Bicentenary Warrant that the Lodge can show continuous working. Some latitude is given to take account of war time conditions, but, otherwise, we are firm about this.

We do have Lodges that fail and at every Quarterly Communication there is a list of lodges to be erased. Sad as this is, it is inevitable when overall numbers have fallen, the redressing of which is on the top of any list of priorities that is drawn up. Conversely we still have new Lodges being consecrated, which may seem something of a paradox in the face of falling numbers, but I would argue that, if there is a group of like minded people who want to get together to form a Lodge and they can show reason for doing so as well as an ability to sustain it in the future, why not? The members will have considered the sustainability of the Lodge carefully and, even if it only survives for, say, 50 years, many people will have derived great enjoyment from it and many people will have been introduced to our great institution who might otherwise have missed out.

Brethren let’s celebrate on all possible occasions.

Published in Speeches
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.

Where freedom exists, Freemasonry can flourish. Director of Special Projects John Hamill explains why the Craft thrives in democratic societies

In January, National Holocaust Memorial Day passed almost unnoticed in the media, and where it was commented on there was no mention of Freemasonry. It still appears largely unknown outside the Craft that a significant number of Freemasons in Europe disappeared into Nazi labour and concentration camps never to be seen again. Nor had the attacks been confined to the Nazis. Freemasons had been persecuted in Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain and Stalinist Russia.

Freemasonry under England, Ireland and Scotland has been remarkably free from persecution at home. The closest it came to being closed down by government was in the aftermath of the French Revolution, when the 1799 Unlawful Societies Act was passing through Parliament.

In its original form the Act would have made masonic meetings illegal. Fortunately, the Earl of Moira, Acting Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge, and the Duke of Athol, Grand Master of the Antients Grand Lodge, were able to persuade the Prime Minister, William Pitt, of the moral basis of Freemasonry, its support for lawfully constituted authority and its benevolent activities. As a result, clauses were introduced into the Act specifically exempting Freemasonry from its provisions, provided that each year every lodge secretary supplied a full list of the members of his lodge together with their ages, occupations and addresses.

It is not difficult to see why totalitarian regimes hate Freemasonry. Our insistence that candidates believe in a supreme being; our basis in morality; our striving for high standards; our practice of tolerance and respect for others; our belief in equality and freedom of thought; and our caring for others in the community are all anathema to a dictatorship, and things we should jealously guard.

After the Second World War and a short period of freedom, an ‘Iron Curtain’ descended dividing western and eastern Europe. In countries in the Eastern Bloc, Freemasonry had a brief revival but was driven underground when Communism prevailed. It says a great deal about our principles that there were individuals in Eastern Europe who had come into Freemasonry, either in the 1930s or in the brief period after the war, who were willing to put themselves into real danger to keep the spirit of Freemasonry alive in their countries.

The road to freedom

It was because of their courage that when the Iron Curtain finally crumbled in 1989, Freemasonry was brought back into the open. Their road back has not always been easy but Freemasonry is flourishing. A simple statistic shows how much has been achieved: in 1990 England recognised nineteen regular Grand Lodges in Europe, today it recognises forty-three.

Those who were present at the two hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary of the Grand Lodge at Earls Court in 1992 will remember the rather diminutive, elderly figure of the Grand Master of the recently revived Grand Lodge of Hungary. He explained how from the opening of the first lodge in Hungary in 1749, Freemasonry had been regularly persecuted but now ‘in a democratic country, Freemasonry can continue its work’. As one American masonic writer wrote: ‘Where freedom exists Freemasonry can flourish and nurture that freedom.’

We, who in our long masonic history have never suffered persecution, should remember with pride those who so believed in Freemasonry’s importance that they, like that great character in our ritual, were willing to face death rather than betray their principles or the trust reposed in them.

Letters to the editor - No. 24 Winter 2013

In remembrance

Sir,

On Saturday 5 October over twenty thousand bikers from across the country made their annual pilgrimage to the National Memorial Arboretum near Burton upon Trent to pay their respects to members of the armed forces who have lost their lives in the service of their country. Amongst these were more than sixty brethren, most being members of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association, all from lodges across the country. 

They travelled from the north, south, east and west and at 1pm gathered in the Freemasons’ Garden to stand together for a few moments to remember lost friends, relations and brothers who have been lost in the various armed conflicts since the Second World War. The Freemasons’ Garden, which forms an important part of the National Memorial Arboretum, was conceived and established in 2002. It is now in line for a makeover and upgrade during the coming months as part of the multi-million-pound redesign of the Arboretum Visitor Centre.

John Perridge, Compass Lodge, No. 8765, Syston, Leicestershire and Rutland


Sir,

I read with interest the letter of Denis Baker (Autumn 2013) regarding the dilapidated state of the Freemasons’ memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. I am a Warwickshire Freemason residing in Staffordshire and have visited the Arboretum on several occasions since it was first formed, including a visit just recently. 

I concur entirely with the comments made by Denis Baker and consider that the state of the Freemasons’ memorial reflects badly on Freemasonry in general and it needs improvement work carried out immediately. 

A notice board at the Freemasons’ memorial plot informs visitors that work is ongoing but this information is over five years old and there is no sign of any such work being carried out. The whole area occupied by the Freemasons’ memorial, together with the information notices, give it an abandoned and uncared for appearance.

John Wileman, Goldieslie Lodge, No. 6174, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire


Sir,

May I assure all your readers that the concerns expressed about the Masonic Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum are shared by every member of the Staffordshire Province. For the past ten years we have not been allowed to do anything because it was expected that the new Visitor Centre would be extended over our garden and we would be relocated. The plans for the new Centre have now been agreed and we can now make some progress.

Our first plan was accepted this summer by the Arboretum but the cost of the project, £170,000, was too great and we are now finding out whether our second proposal is affordable. It is all complicated by the ground conditions: the site is a former sand and gravel quarry on a river flood plain with a high water table, and it is essential to build a concrete raft supported by piles. That alone will cost about £18,000.

Plans are already in hand to replace the yew trees with a field maple hedge. When we have an affordable plan we hope that the United Grand Lodge of England will lead our fundraising efforts, supported by all the Provinces in the country, for a National Masonic Memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum to those Freemasons who have died in the service of their country. 

It would also be fortuitous if we can celebrate its completion and opening early in 2017 as part of our national celebration of three hundred years of Freemasonry in England. We are working hard to make this project a success and a credit to all concerned.

Sandy Stewart, Provincial Grand Master, Staffordshire


Letters to the editor - No. 23 Autumn 2013

Service remembered

Sir,

On the theme of Service Remembered (summer 2013 issue), my father James Carroll was in the Royal Navy during World War II aboard the Captain Class Frigates, which carried out convoy duties not only across the Atlantic but to the Arctic on the Russian convoys. After sixty-eight years the government finally recognised the extreme conditions and sacrifices made by those who carried out what Churchill called ‘the worst journey in the world’. 

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Russia’s President Putin held a ceremony at Number 10 Downing Street, presenting my father with the Arctic Star and one of the highest naval decorations in Russia, the Ushakov Medal. Some thirty veterans were invited along for tea and the award was made prior to the Prime Minister and President Putin leaving for the G8 conference in Northern Ireland. 

At nearly ninety, my father was very proud, as were we, at being able to receive this long overdue recognition. He was initiated into Freemasonry ten years ago, in May 2003 at the age of eighty.

Alan Carroll, Vicar’s Oak Lodge, No. 4822, London  


Sir,

Having visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire at the weekend I was greatly impressed with the many memorials located on the site. 

The memorial to Freemasons who gave their lives in defence of the nation comprises two stone blocks representing the rough and smooth ashlar standing on a chequered pavement surrounded by a yew tree hedge to indicate eternity. I was surprised to see that this memorial is in a dilapidated state, with part of the yew tree hedge having died off leaving an untidy gap.

I felt that this dilapidated memorial creates a poor image of Freemasonry, particularly when compared to those of other organisations, and believe that Grand Lodge should take a lead and ensure that the memorial is repaired as a matter of urgency. The costs involved are likely to be very minor compared to the very large sums that Freemasonry gives to other causes.

I am sure that many of the brethren will agree that in this case charity should begin at home, and I look forward to hearing and seeing that Grand Lodge takes this on board and carries out the remedial work. 

I understand that Staffordshire Province has undertaken work in the past but as this forms part of a national memorial, I consider that it falls more appropriately in the province of Grand Lodge.

Denis J Baker, Ravenshead Lodge, No. 8176, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire 


Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013

Service remembered

Sir, 

I read with interest John Hamill’s article entitled ‘Free from Persecution’ in the spring 2013 edition of Freemasonry Today. Although the number of Freemasons who perished in the Holocaust is unknown, it is believed to be between eighty thousand and two hundred thousand.

I had been privileged to give a reading on behalf of the Freemasons at a well-attended Holocaust Remembrance Day Service in Portsmouth last year when later the same day my wife and I attended the reception preceding the masonic province of Hampshire’s Thanksgiving Service. At that reception I was approached by the Mayor of Havant. Among the guests were many dignitaries from local authorities within the Province but I had known the mayor for many years and he asked whether the Province would like to send representatives to attend the Havant Holocaust Remembrance Service. He is not a Freemason, but he is Jewish, like myself.

It was a cold January afternoon when the Provincial Grand Master, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, an Assistant Provincial Grand Master (who had been invited to wear their chains of office), our Provincial Information Officer, our wives and I attended the sombre and fitting service. About a hundred people attended and wreaths were laid. There were readings by civic dignitaries, school children and a member of the travelling community.

At the reception that followed we were invited to give a reading and lay a wreath on behalf of Freemasons within the Province at future Holocaust Remembrance Day Services. I hope other local authorities will follow the example of Havant Borough Council and Portsmouth City Council. Both these services were extremely moving and a fitting tribute to those who perished under Nazi persecution.

Philip Alan Berman, Old Portmuthian Lodge, No. 8285, Portsmouth, Hampshire and Isle of Wight


Sir, 

I enjoyed John Hamill’s article ‘Free from Persecution’ in the recent edition of Freemasonry Today. However, there is always an exception to the rule. I was rather surprised on a visit to Cuba two years ago, to find that Freemasonry was well in the public domain. Our tour guide organised for me a visit to one of the temples to meet up with a few Freemasons – but alas time did not permit attendance at their meeting.

Garth Ezekiel, Richmond Hill Lodge, No. 6698, Twickenham, Middlesex 

Published in Features

With the spread of the Royal Arch across the world creating different rituals in each of the countries it has touched, John Hamill explains why international relations can be complex

In the news section of this issue there is a short piece on the change of Grand Chancellor in the Craft. That office has now been in place for just over five years and the question has been asked why, unlike the other ‘executive’ offices in the Craft, there is no equivalent of the Grand Chancellor in the Royal Arch? The simple answer is that, from a combination of historical reasons and the close administrative links between the Craft and Royal Arch in England, there is little in the Royal Arch for a Grand Chancellor to do.

There is no doubt among historians of the Royal Arch that it originated within the British Isles. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it quickly followed the spread of the Craft into what were then the Colonies and became firmly established in North America, the West Indies and Caribbean, India, Africa, the Far East and Australasia, in all of which it is still practised today.

After the Second World War, England was asked by various European Grand Lodges to assist in establishing the Royal Arch

The Royal Arch, however, never took hold in mainland Europe until the second half of the twentieth century. Apart from a short-lived Grand Chapter in France in the early nineteenth century, there is no evidence for any Grand Chapter being formed in Europe before the one attached to the National Grand Lodge of France in the 1930s.

Scandinavian countries that have the Swedish Rite do not work any of the degrees we have ‘beyond the Craft’, yet the degrees above the first three in the Swedish Rite are regarded as being equivalent to, but different from, our Royal Arch, Knights Templar and Ancient and Accepted Rite degrees. In other European countries and in Central and South America, the Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite and the Rectified Scottish Rite were the preferred steps after the Craft.

Expansion in Europe

After the Second World War, England was asked by various European Grand Lodges to assist in establishing the Royal Arch, leading to the erection of Grand Chapters in Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Hungary and Estonia. That process continues today with English Chapters meeting by dispensation in Bulgaria, Russia and Macedonia. There are also Grand Chapters in Austria, Germany, Italy and Slovenia set up under the American Royal Arch system.

There is an added complication in that not all Grand Chapters work the same ritual. Some have preliminary degrees that are taken between the Craft and the Royal Arch. The closest rituals to the English traditions are the Grand Chapter of Scotland and those in Canada and Australasia – the majority of whose founding Chapters originally worked under either England or Scotland. Scotland works the same Royal Arch ritual as England but requires candidates to take the Mark Degree and the Excellent Mason before they can be exalted into the Royal Arch.

The English and Scottish ritual explains to the candidate how certain major discoveries were made when the Children of Israel returned to Jerusalem from their Babylonish captivity and were clearing the ground for the rebuilding of Solomon’s temple under Zerubbabel. The principal officers of English and Scottish Chapters are Zerubbabel the Prince, Haggai the Prophet and Joshua the High Priest.

While the import of the ceremony is the same in Ireland and the US, the discoveries were made at a different time, when the second temple at Jerusalem was being built under King Josiah. Their principal officers are King Josiah, Hilkiah the High Priest and Shaphan the Scribe, although in the US – the Great Republic – the High Priest is the senior of the three. As in Scotland, Irish and American Chapters include the Mark Degree and the Ceremony of Passing the Veils as preliminaries to entry into the Royal Arch.

Add to these differences the unique relationship between the Craft and Royal Arch in England – the bicentenary of which we will be celebrating next year – and you will begin to understand how complex international relations are within the Royal Arch. In all other constitutions the Craft and Royal Arch are entirely separate. The closest is Ireland, where the Grand Secretary is always the Grand Registrar of the Grand Chapter (the equivalent of our Grand Scribe E) and Chapters bear the number and, in very many cases, the name of the lodges to which they are attached.

Royal Arch acceptance

When, in 1813, the indissoluble link was forged by the acceptance of the Royal Arch as an integral part of pure ancient masonry, a number of links were put in place to strengthen the relationship. In particular, a preamble was made to the General Regulations governing the Royal Arch which, in short form, states that anything not specifically covered by the regulations is to be considered as bound by the Book of Constitutions of the Grand Lodge.

While the Grand Chapter is sovereign over the regulation and administration of the Royal Arch, the Craft is paramount and certain aspects remain in its sole remit. This is particularly so in regard to our relations with other constitutions. It is Grand Lodge, on the recommendation of the Board of General Purposes and its External Relations Committee, which grants recognition to other constitutions. The Royal Arch has a voice in such recommendations, as the President of the Committee of General Purposes of Grand Chapter is ex officio a member of the Board and sits on its External Relations Committee.

As recognition has always been a Craft matter, Grand Chapter does not formally recognise or exchange representatives with other Grand Chapters. It is, however, very happy to receive companions from, and to allow its members to visit Chapters under any Grand Chapter that draws its membership solely from a Grand Lodge recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England.

With all these differences, a companion wishing to visit a foreign Chapter would be wise to seek advice from the Grand Scribe E’s office in advance.

Published in SGC

The Royal connection

With members of the Royal Family carrying out a vital role in Freemasonry, John Hamill counts the line of princes and dukes who have played their part over the past three hundred years

This year, the nation rightly celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen, but there is another significant royal and masonic anniversary of which many of the Craft may not be aware. It was the two hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary of the initiation of HRH Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales, the first member of the English Royal Freemasons, on 5 November 2012. The eldest son of King George II, Frederick Lewis did not come to the throne, as he died in 1751 at the early age of forty-four. This was some nine years before the death of his father, who was succeeded by Frederick Lewis’s son George, who went on to reign for sixty years as King George III.

Frederick Lewis was made a Freemason in what was termed an ‘occasional’ lodge, presided over by the Reverend Doctor JT Desaguliers, Grand Master in 1737. In the fashion of the day, the prince was made both an Entered Apprentice and a Fellowcraft at the meeting. A month later, another occasional lodge was held and he became a Master Mason. Due to lack of records for the period, we have no information as to what Frederick Lewis did in Freemasonry, other than that in 1738 he was Master of a Lodge. We know this because in the same year, the Reverend Doctor James Anderson published the second edition of The Constitutions of the Free Masons, which has a wonderfully flowery dedication to the prince ‘now a Master Mason and Master of a Lodge’.

Rapid promotion

It would be interesting to speculate if Frederick Lewis discussed Freemasonry within his family, for one of his brothers and three of his sons went on to become Freemasons. The youngest of his sons, Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland (1745-1790), had rapid promotions. He was initiated at an occasional lodge on 9 February 1767; was installed as Master of the Horn Lodge in April 1767 and in the same month elected a Past Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge. In 1782 he became our first Royal Grand Master and held that office until his untimely death in 1790. He was also the first Royal Brother to enter the Royal Arch, being exalted in the Grand Chapter in 1772 and was its Grand Patron from 1774 until his death.

Henry Frederick introduced the next generation of royalty to the fraternity, with sons of King George III becoming Freemasons. Three of them went on to serve as Grand Master: George, Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent and King George IV) succeeded his uncle as Grand Master in 1791 and served until he became Prince Regent in 1812, when he was succeeded by his younger brother Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex. At the same time, their brother Edward, Duke of Kent, became Grand Master of the Antients Grand Lodge.

With two royal brothers at their head in 1813, the two Grand Lodges came together as the United Grand Lodge of England, with the Duke of Sussex as Grand Master. Sussex was determined that the would succeed, and put in place a number of procedures that today still form the basis of the government of the English Craft and Royal Arch.

The death of the Duke of Sussex in 1843 marked a twenty-five-year period without royal participation for the simple reason that – with the exception of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert – there were no princes of an age to join. That situation was happily rectified in 1868 when the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) became a Freemason on a visit to Sweden. In 1869 he was elected a Past Grand Master and in 1874 became Grand Master, holding office until he came to the throne in 1901 when he took the title of Protector of Freemasonry.

Invaluable support

The Prince of Wales was soon joined by two of his brothers, the Duke of Connaught and the Duke of Albany, and brought in his son, the Duke of Clarence. The Duke of Connaught succeeded his brother as Grand Master in 1901 and was to be an active ruler until 1939. He was supported by his son Prince Arthur and by his great nephews, the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor); the Duke of York (later King George VI); and the Duke of Kent, father of our present Grand Master. The Duke of Kent succeeded as Grand Master in 1939 but his rule was cut cruelly short when he was killed in an RAF air crash in 1942.

Today, English Freemasonry is fortunate to still have Royal support. HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh became a Master Mason in Navy Lodge, No. 2612, of which he is still a subscribing member. HRH The Duke of Kent has been our Grand Master since 1967 and his wise counsel and great support in what has been a turbulent time for English Freemasonry, have been invaluable. His brother HRH Prince Michael of Kent has given long service as both Provincial Grand Master for Middlesex in the Craft and as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons.

To look back on two hundred and seventy-five years of Royal support is a wonderful sight and something that English Freemasons hope will continue long into the future.

Published in Features
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 13:00

Pro Grand Master's address - December 2012

Quarterly Communication
12 September 2012
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,

I have recently finished the two yearly Regional Conferences that I have with Provincial Grand Masters. These are relatively informal affairs and cover a wide range of subjects. I find them extremely useful and they are kind enough to say the same – but, of course, what else could they say!

One theme that ran through them all was a determination to see our numbers on the increase by 2017. Indeed, in one or two cases, this has already started.  This means that perhaps we are getting some things right.

I have said frequently that we must not be looking for new candidates simply for the sake of increasing numbers, but if we can start this increase with the right candidates there should be a knock on effect.

Enthusing new members is of paramount importance and we heard from Brothers Soper and Lord at the September Quarterly Communication about the work of the Universities Scheme. Following that talk I have asked the Universities Scheme Committee to think about how best we can implement some of the principles that were mentioned, across the whole Craft.

Recruiting and retaining young candidates is our most important task and I am confident that those who have made the Universities Scheme successful can help us with this important challenge. However this is not just down to them and we must all pull our weight in this respect.

Brethren, in November I visited my Great Grandfather’s mother Lodge in Hertfordshire and a splendid occasion it was, with an almost faultless 2nd Degree Ceremony being performed. I can almost hear you all thinking that they would have spent hours rehearsing. Not so, as they didn’t know that I was coming.

The reason for mentioning this today is that in the Reply for the Visitors the Brother speaking referred to the Craft as an altruistic society. Altruism is one of those words that I have often heard used and possibly even used myself without having been completely sure of its meaning. The dictionary definition is “regard for others as a principle of action”. Rather a good description for a lot of what Freemasonry is about.

If we can instil this ethos into our candidates, we won’t be going far wrong. Of course it is not all that we are about, but it is not a bad starting point, as it should naturally lead to a practice of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, which in itself leads on to our charitable giving, which seems to be second nature to us.

During this year the Festivals for our Charities in our Provinces have raised a total of nearly £10m, of which Leicestershire and Rutland raised £1.7m for the RMBI; Warwickshire raised £3.16m for the MSF; Cambridgeshire £1.285m for the Grand Charity and Devonshire £3.836m for the RMTGB. In these troubled economic times this, Brethren, is remarkable and I congratulate all those concerned.

I hope that our membership, as a whole, are far more familiar with the activities of all our Charities than might have been the case 20 or so years ago. The promotion of their activities by the Charities is excellent and the Freemasonry Cares campaign has enlightened many people at home and abroad about what support is available.

Whilst 3 of our Charities are Masonic in their giving, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in that - quite the contrary in my view, the Grand Charity, of course, has a wide brief for giving to non Masonic bodies, provided that they are also Charities. Not everyone appreciates this aspect, or how much money is involved and we should be quick to point it out.

Brethren, since 2007 we have had excellent and amusing talks on the past at the December Quarterly Communication from Brothers Hamill and Redman and we should be proud of our history, but it is of paramount importance that we look forward and ensure that we go from strength to strength in the future in both numbers and our usefulness to the society in which we live.

Brethren, I wish you all a very relaxing break over Christmas, particularly if, like me, you will be having your Grand Children to stay.

Published in Speeches
Page 5 of 8

ugle logo          SGC logo