Celebrating 300 years

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.

Published in UGLE & SGC

Last Wednesday’s Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter was a special meeting as HRH The Duke of Kent celebrated his Golden Jubilee as First Grand Principal with a special investiture of Grand Ranks

Afterwards HRH The Duke of Kent was photographed with the Pro First Grand Principal, Second Grand Principal and Third Grand Principal to mark the occasion.

Read the First Grand Principal’s address here.

Read the Pro First Grand Principal’s address here.

Published in SGC

Retirement dinner for George Francis

After 10 years as Second Grand Principal, George Francis has retired. To mark his retirement a dinner was held at Freemasons’ Hall in London for those Grand Superintendents that he had installed. Also present was his successor as Second Grand Principal, Russell Race.

Published in SGC

Out of the scrum at Northampton

A record number of attendees were at the 2015 Convocation of the Provincial Grand Chapter of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire, in Northampton, where the guest of honour was Second Grand Principal George Francis. At the Festive Board, Grand Superintendent Wayne Williams presented him with a ‘refill’ for a previously bestowed cut-glass decanter, and a Northampton Saints rugby shirt bearing the number two and the name ‘Francis’. The Second Grand Principal said he was pleased to visit the Province in which he had started his masonic career at Castle Ashby many years earlier.

Regular Convocation

11 November 2015
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes

Companions, I am very pleased to see so many of you present today to witness the Installation of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race as Second Grand Principal. On behalf of all of you I wish him a long and happy tenure in this important role.

It is to the future that we should now look, but I would like to repeat my thanks to Most Excellent Companion George Francis for his many achievements and tireless work in raising the profile of the Holy Royal Arch since his own Installation in November 2005.

Companions, today, apart from celebrating the Installation of a new Second Grand Principal you will all be aware that it is also Armistice Day when we commemorate those who gave their lives in two World Wars. The observant amongst you will have noticed that a poppy wreath has been laid at the memorial shrine in the first vestibule to this Grand Temple, in front of the casket which holds the roll listing over 3,000 of our members who gave their lives on active service in the First World War.

I think it is worth reminding ourselves, however, that it is not just the shrine which is the memorial but the whole of Freemasons’ Hall itself. Indeed, during the planning stages in the 1920s and the first years of its existence, the building was known as the Masonic Peace Memorial.

As a memorial it was originally intended that the building should be reserved solely for masonic purposes but time and economics and the fact that the building is now Grade 2* listed both internally and externally have gradually led to the building being opened for non-masonic events and filming.

I would assure you however, companions, that our excellent and hard-working in-house events team take great care to ensure that outside events, especially filming, are consistent with the building’s origins and core purpose. We have a building of which we can be justifiably proud which is recognised as one of the landmark buildings of London.

Today we remember not only those in whose name the building was raised but also the many other thousands of our members who gave their lives during the Second World War and the other conflicts that have taken place since then. Although we have already stood in memory of recently departed members, in particular Most Excellent Companion Iain Bryce, Past Second Grand Principal, I believe that on this special day we should stand again to remember those who gave their lives to preserve those ideals which allow Freemasonry to flourish.

Companions, on September 30th this year, a packed Grand Temple enjoyed a magnificent Inaugural Concert to celebrate the refurbishment of our organ and when Supreme Grand Chapter is closed I am sure you will enjoy the talk by Ian Bell, Organ Consultant entitled ‘Achieved is the Glorious Work or Proof of the Pudding’, with musical illustrations played by Excellent Companion David Cresswell, Grand Organist.

Thank you, companions.  

Published in Speeches

Missed by many

After a short illness Iain Ross Bryce, Past Deputy Grand Master and Past Second Grand Principal, died peacefully in hospital on 30 June aged 79

Educated at Bridlington Grammar School, Iain Ross Bryce trained in accountancy, becoming a Fellow Chartered Accountant and joining Ernst & Young, where he rose to senior partner and ran the Hull office. After national service with the Royal Engineers, he enlisted in the Territorial Army, becoming colonel and earning the Territorial Decoration. 

A keen yachtsman, Iain served as treasurer, chairman and president of Bridlington Royal National Lifeboat Institution and was for many years the charity’s national treasurer. A well-known and popular figure, he was involved in many community organisations in the town and was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire. 

A lifelong friend commented: ‘He did a great deal for Bridlington, mostly behind the scenes. He had a very kind nature and many people in Bridlington have received his help, mostly without knowing it.’

In Freemasonry, Iain was active in the Province of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, serving as Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent from 1984 to 1991. Appointed Deputy Grand Master and Second Grand Principal in 1991, he served for 13 years during which time he gave wise counsel and strong support to the ‘top to bottom’ overhaul of the administration of the Craft. He also did much to bring the masonic charities together, laying the foundations for the major changes taking place.

A big man in every sense, Iain had a great love for and enjoyment of life, but always said that he could not have achieved anything without the great support of his wife Jan and their family. 

He will be much missed by many.

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 01 July 2015 12:03

RW Bro Iain Ross Bryce 1936-2015

We regret to announce the death of RW Bro Iain Ross Bryce, TD, DL, Past Deputy Grand Master, on the afternoon of 30 June 2015.

RW Bro Bryce served as Deputy Grand Master from 1991 until 2004, and in Supreme Grand Chapter ME Comp Bryce served as Second Grand Principal from 1991 until 2005.

Published in UGLE & SGC

Quarterly Communication

10 June 2015 
An announcement by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, I have to announce that the MW The Grand Master has made the following appointments:

In his capacity as First Grand Principal, he has appointed E Comp Russell Race, Metropolitan Grand Superintendent in and over London, to succeed ME Comp George Francis, who will retire as Second Grand Principal on 10 November. Comp Race will be installed at the Convocation of Grand Chapter the following day.

In consequence, Bro Race will retire as Metropolitan Grand Master and Metropolitan Grand Superintendent on 20 October. To succeed him as Metropolitan Grand Master, the Grand Master has appointed RW Bro Sir Michael Snyder, who was last year's Junior Grand Warden. Bro Snyder will be installed on 21 October.

Published in Speeches

Somerset Royal Arch anniversary

To celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Royal Arch in Somerset, an especial convocation was held in Bath, where the original recorded meeting was held. The Grand Superintendent John Bennett attended and the guest of honour was Second Grand Principal George Francis. Presentations were made to the Bath Masonic Museum by the Grand Superintendent of the now retired Holy Royal Arch Banner and Past Grand Superintendent Denis Calderley.

Published in SGC

Careful consideration

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes discusses when it is the right time to approach a member of the Craft to join the Royal Arch

The Second Grand Principal has completed a series of meetings with Grand Superintendents, discussing the relationship between the Royal Arch and the Craft – specifically, the selection of Royal Arch representatives in Craft lodges and the taking of wine with Royal Arch members at Craft Festive Boards.

The appointment and monitoring of the Royal Arch representative in a Craft lodge needs careful consideration. There has been debate as to who is responsible for this important appointment. In Provinces where the Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent are the same, there should be no issue. However, where the heads of the two orders are different, I believe it is essential that the Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent liaise. The appointment should never be a box-ticking exercise.

As a member of the Royal Arch, the representative will need to know sufficient about the merits of joining the Order and be able to work closely with the lodge mentor. In many instances it could be best judged that a member should be approached at the same time that he receives his Grand Lodge Certificate. I know from experience that there is a balance between judging whether someone will enjoy the Royal Arch and if it is the right time for that person to join. 

This timing is also pressurised by the concern that an individual will be approached to join one of the side Orders first if there is any delay in recruitment. I continue to believe that there is a good stage to brief Master Masons on the merits of the Royal Arch, but that the actual timing of joining should be linked to each individual’s appetite for masonic advancement and personal circumstances.

‘The actual timing of joining should be linked to each individual’s appetite for masonic advancement and personal circumstances.’

For those of you who are very involved with the side Orders, please do not think that I am in any way against Craft members joining them, far from it. However, I do firmly believe that Royal Arch should be the first priority. 

As for wine-taking with Royal Arch members at Craft Festive Boards, I believe that this custom should be treated sensitively, if it is used. The decision should lie in the hands of each Provincial Grand Master. I can see a case for this where a chapter is linked to a Craft lodge, but even so it is recommended that this wine-taking is conducted with everyone sitting down so that those who are not members of the Order are not embarrassed or, worse still, pounced on with a joining form.

Companions, you will have read in the last issue of Freemasonry Today about the Membership Focus Group and its mission to stop the bleed in membership. 

It is clearly of the greatest importance to Royal Arch recruitment that this depletion is halted, while recruiting and retaining men of quality and integrity. Members were asked to participate in a series of short surveys so that the Membership Focus Group could seek grassroots ideas about the future of Freemasonry. I would ask as many of you as possible to take this opportunity to register and so be able to give your views.

Published in UGLE
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