Celebrating 300 years

It is rare that a candidate has one of his ceremonies carried out by the Provincial Grand Master

But such was the case for Gary Wright of St John’s Lodge, No. 8660, which meets at Workington in the Province of Cumberland & Westmorland.

After being initiated in his mother lodge, he was passed in St Bega Lodge, No. 8796, in St Bees and raised in Huddleston Lodge, No. 6041, in Millom.

It was at Millom that Gary’s ceremony was carried out by PGM Norman Thompson, who also presented the candidate with a Tercentenary Jewel.

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Cornwall held a Tercentenary Sunday Lunch Celebration at the Hotel Bristol in Newquay

The event was attended by more than 180 guests, including the mayors of Newquay, St Columb Major and Truro, as well as Cllr Ann Kerridge, chairman of Cornwall County Council.

More than £1,700 was raised for the Cornwall Masonic Benevolent Fund, with the bottom tier of a specially baked Tercentenary cake donated to homelessness charity St Petroc’s Society.

Peak Time Viewing

With a new documentary series revealing the workings of the Craft, Edwin Smith talks to Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes about why this is the perfect opportunity for Freemasonry

For certain members of the general public a misconception persists that Freemasonry is a mysterious organisation shrouded in secrecy. A Sky 1 five-part television documentary series that debuted on 17 April is hoping to finally put these rumours to bed.

Coinciding with the celebration of the Craft’s 300-year anniversary, the timing of Inside The Freemasons could not have been better. ‘We’ve targeted the Tercentenary as a catalyst to being as open as we possibly can,’ says Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, adding that the decision to let the cameras in does not signify a major shift in philosophy. ‘I actually don’t think our openness is anything new. What is new is the way we’re going about it.’

The series meets members of the Craft at every level, from the Pro Grand Master to James Wootton, a Bedfordshire farmer preparing to take the First Degree under the watchful eye of his father in the first of the five episodes. The second and third episodes follow the fortunes of an Entered Apprentice and a Fellow Craft Freemason undertaking the Second and Third Degrees. After an introduction to Freemasonry in the first episode, each programme takes a theme, exploring masonic charity, brotherhood, myths and the future of the Craft.

BEHIND THE SCENES

It took a year of discussion before the project got off the ground, with the episodes then taking a further year in the making, explains Emma Read, executive producer and managing director of Emporium Productions, the company behind the documentary series.

‘These things always take a long time because everyone’s got to be comfortable [with the process]. But once we started, everyone was 100 per cent committed,’ says Read, who was also responsible for 2013’s Harrow: A Very British School documentary series and has made over 1,000 hours of factual television for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Discovery.

Read believes that UGLE felt comfortable working with Emporium and Sky because they specialise in getting access to institutions and individuals who have a reputation to protect, but about whom there are misconceptions.

‘The way that we make programmes with people is to explain that we are not here to express our opinion – this is not investigative, this is not current affairs, this is a proper documentary where we show people and places as they are,’ explains Read. ‘We film people going about their various activities and they then tell the story themselves. It could also have been called “The Freemasons in their Own Words”. It’s that kind of approach.’

With two small teams carrying out the filming, recording for hundreds of days in total, Lowndes was impressed with the discreet way in which the project was managed. ‘They’ve been very unobtrusive and therefore got the best out of people,’ he says.

‘The most effective way to make observational documentary is not with a hoard of people,’ adds Read. ‘In observational documentary, or in fact in any television, the relationship with the people you’re filming with is everything. Why would somebody allow you to carry on filming if they didn’t like you? I wouldn’t. You have to have trust on both sides or it doesn’t work.’

‘In observational documentary, or in fact in any television, the relationship with the people you’re filming with is everything. You have to have trust on both sides or it doesn’t work’ Emma Read

A DEGREE OF SURPRISE

Despite the levels of trust, certain elements of Freemasonry had to remain off camera. Some of the Second Degree is filmed, but almost nothing of the First or the Third appears on screen. ‘Naturally we would have liked to film elements of both the First and Third Degrees,’ says Read, ‘but that was where the line was drawn. As a mason, you only do those once and each is supposed to be this amazing moment – so if you know what’s coming, it’ll spoil it.’

Read did discover a great deal about Freemasonry, however, and was struck by the scale of the charitable work that is done – ‘they hide their light under a bushel, I think’ – as well as the powerful bond of brotherhood that exists throughout the Craft.

In particular, there were two men whose stories resonated with Read. The first, Peter Younger, draws on the support of his fellow Widows Sons masonic bikers after unexpectedly losing his wife, and the mother of his seven-year-old daughter, after she suffered a heart attack. The second, Gulf War veteran Dave Stubbs, recounts the way that he used to sit up at night and feel as though he had ‘been thrown away’ after leaving the army. Later, says Read, ‘we see him being elected and installed as Worshipful Master of his lodge, which is a tearful moment’.

Read expects the series to draw a varied range of responses from the public. ‘My feeling is that some people will have this ridiculous, conspiratorial approach and say, “You’re not showing X, Y and Z.” There will be other people who already love Freemasonry and hopefully there will be some people who go, “Oh that’s interesting, I didn’t know that. It’s completely opened my eyes to it.”’

Although Lowndes expects some concerns from within the brotherhood, he’s anticipating a positive response overall. ‘I’m sure there will be criticism from some of our brethren that we should never have got involved with the documentary. There will no doubt be things in it that some people think we should not have done. However, the general impression I have is that it will be well received – I think we’ll get a lot of support both internally and externally.’

Marking the Tercentenary of Freemasonry naturally raises the question of what the next 300 years will hold. ‘I think we have a very exciting future ahead,’ says Lowndes. ‘We now have more young people coming in and I think we’re giving them better chances to find their feet in Freemasonry than ever before. Within that age group, I can’t remember the Craft being in better shape.’

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 13 June 2017 01:00

Grand Secretary's column - Summer 2017

From the Grand Secretary

We have been fortunate in recent months with extensive coverage across many media outlets. The Sky 1 documentary series has now finished and the DVD will be available for purchase in Letchworth’s Shop. Viewing figures have been excellent, comments from our members supportive and reports indicate a significant interest in Freemasonry from non-masons and potential recruits.

Interest in our organisation has also been enhanced by the coverage given to the unveiling ceremony of the commemorative paving stones that honour those Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War. The event is covered in detail in this edition of Freemasonry Today.

This has been a splendid first half of our Tercentenary year as we approach 24 June, our founding date. Our new Grand Officers for the year have been invested and many have already been involved in various duties. They will clearly become increasingly busy in the run-up to the main event at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 31 October, which promises to be an impressive and memorable occasion.

In this issue, we report on some of the remarkable events and initiatives that are helping to mark our Tercentenary around the country. In Staffordshire, 300 masons and civic dignitaries came together for the dedication of the Masonic Memorial Garden, which has been 16 years in the making. In Canterbury, a Tercentenary Thanksgiving service was held in recognition of the cathedral’s long-standing relationship with Freemasonry. And over in the Isle of Man, six stamps have been issued that are filled with masonic references and – intriguingly – hide a surprise that is only revealed under ultraviolet light.

PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE

The Tercentenary is not just about celebrating our rich history, it is also an opportunity to look forward. Grand Superintendent of Works John Pagella sets out his objectives for UGLE’s property portfolio, as well as a broader agenda to help anyone involved in the management of a masonic building or centre. For John, while Freemasonry is a craft, managing a masonic property is a business. He is keen to encourage masons at Provincial level to ask themselves whether their buildings are not only fit for purpose today but will continue to be so in 10 or 20 years’ time.

In Yorkshire, we meet Jeffrey Long, an 85-year-old army veteran and unstoppable fundraiser who has walked 127 miles between Liverpool and Leeds, undertaken a 90-mile route that included climbing three Yorkshire peaks, and completed the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall in his 84th year. In Leicester, martial artist and cooking sensation Kwoklyn Wan shares his passion for teaching. For Kwoklyn, joining the Craft has been the perfect progression, as it echoes the values he acquired growing up: ‘You learn from a young age to respect your elders; you treat people how you want to be treated. And with the Freemasons I felt that immediately.’

Willie Shackell
Grand Secretary

'Remarkable events are helping to mark our Tercentenary around the country’

Published in UGLE

Brethen of Valour

Special paving stones outside Freemasons’ Hall pay tribute to English Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross in World War I

A set of paving stones commemorating the 64 English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) during World War I was unveiled outside Freemasons’ Hall on 25 April.

The VC is the highest award for gallantry that can be conferred on a member of the Armed Forces regardless of rank or status – and almost one in six of the 633 VC recipients during the First World War were Freemasons.

Of these, 64 were under UGLE and 43 were under other Grand Lodges in the British Empire. Freemasons’ Hall itself is a memorial to the 3,000-plus English Freemasons who gave their lives in World War I.

The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, attended the ceremony for the stones’ unveiling and blessing, together with Lord Dannatt, a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater London; the Mayor of Camden; senior officers from the military services; a group of Chelsea Pensioners; and representatives from the VC and George Cross Association as well as some of the regiments in which the VC holders had served. Specially invited were the families of those who were being commemorated.

The event was open to the public, with Great Queen Street and Wild Street closed to traffic. The crowd included representatives from many of the service lodges as well as passers-by.

Music was provided by the Band of the Grenadier Guards and the North London Military Wives Choir. Radio and television presenter Katie Derham narrated the first part of the ceremony, which opened with Chelsea Pensioner Ray Pearson reading an extract from AE Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, followed by the President of the Board of General Purposes, Anthony Wilson, welcoming those attending.

Derham set the scene at the outbreak of war in 1914 with the aid of archive film showing how young men ‘flocked to the flag’ in the expectation that the war would be over by Christmas – and how the reality set in that it was not to be a short war but one that would affect every community in the country.

Simon Dean OBE paid tribute to his grandfather Donald John Dean, who, at the age of 21, was awarded the VC in 1918. Col Brian Lees LVO OBE, chairman of the Rifles, Light Infantry and KOYLI Regimental Association, and Lt Col Matt Baker, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, The Rifles, paid tribute to Oliver Watson, who was posthumously awarded a VC in 1918.

The horrors of the war were brought vividly to life by Sebastian Cator, a pupil at Harrow School. He read extracts from the diaries of Major Richard Willis, who had also been a pupil at Harrow, in which he described the carnage resulting from landing his men on W Beach at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. For his part in that action he was one of the famous ‘six VCs before breakfast’ of the Gallipoli landings.

The Grand Secretary, Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, gave an exhortation that was followed by the last post, a one-minute silence and reveille. The memorial stones were then unveiled and blessed by the Grand Chaplain, Canon Michael Wilson. The Grand Master and Lord Dannatt then inspected the stones, after which family members and other invited guests had an opportunity to view them before entering Freemasons’ Hall for a reception in the Grand Temple vestibule area.

You can watch highlights of the unveiling of the memorial to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War here

A special commemorative programme for the ceremony, including portraits and brief details of the 64 brethren of valour, can also be viewed here

Letters to the Editor - NO. 38 SUMMER 2017

We will remember

Sir,

I wasn’t really sure who to address my comments to regarding the Victoria Cross memorial paving stones unveiling ceremony at Freemasons’ Hall, except Grand Lodge, brethren and friends. Freemasonry stood tall and exemplified what we are about in the unveiling of the wonderful memorial to those gentlemen who were Freemasons, and who paid the final sacrifice. This was a wonderful day for Freemasonry and a day of pride for Freemasons. Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of it.

Lou Myer, Ubique Lodge, No. 1789, London

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 13 June 2017 00:00

Stamp of approval

The Isle of Man Post Office is marking the Tercentenary with a set of six stamps hiding a surprise that can only be revealed under a special light

As English Freemasonry celebrates 300 years of Grand Lodge, a collection of six stamps has been issued, with illustrative designs that feature badges of office for senior lodge members, as well as architectural elements inspired by the lodges of England and the Isle of Man.

Filled with masonic references, the stamps were designed by Freemason Ben Glazier of Barbican Lodge, No. 8494, which meets in London. Paying respect to the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, now in his 50th year in office, was key: a subtle ribbon of the repeating letters ‘HRHDOKGM50’ runs around the edge of each stamp, commemorating the milestone.

The designs also include GPS references to places that are important to Freemasonry, and the official logo of the Tercentenary – only visible under ultraviolet light. Officially approved for use, the logo becomes visible during the postal system process, as items are scanned.

Commenting on the collection, UGLE Grand Secretary Willie Shackell said: ‘The United Grand Lodge of England is delighted to be celebrating its Tercentenary by working with the Isle of Man Post Office and the Province of the Isle of Man to present this very special set of stamps.’

While proud of its 300 years of history, Shackell explained that UGLE is now looking forward to the next three centuries, which is symbolically reflected in this innovative stamp issue. ‘Freemasonry is rightly proud of its contribution to family and in the community over the centuries. It is this very same contribution to the community which United Grand Lodge of England shares with Isle of Man Post Office.’

Isle of Man Stamps and Coins general manager Maxine Cannon saluted the efforts of the United Grand Lodge of England, in particular Mike Baker, Director of Communications, and on the Isle of Man, Keith Dalrymple and Alex Downie, who provided a wealth of material: ‘We thank them for their time, knowledge and assistance in making this such an interesting project.’

View the Freemasonry stamp issue here

Published in UGLE

'Rough to Smooth' exhibition will open on Saturday 24th June

Fans of developing artists will be in for a rare treat at Freemasons’ Hall from Saturday 24th June, when a new collection of art will be unveiled to mark the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations

As part of the 300th anniversary of English Freemasonry, The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is organising a unique Open Day on Saturday 24th June, of exhibitions, music and architecture. Jacques Viljoen has been appointed Artist in Residence and has created an exhibition of new artworks to celebrate Freemasonry and its continued role and relevance in society today.

‘Rough to Smooth’, which will also feature nine guest artists, presents works inspired by Freemasonry from the past, present and future, and focuses on the symbolism of Freemasons’ Hall, the themes of ceremony and rites of passage and the experiences of Freemasons in World War 1.

Visitors can tour the impressive and ornate Grand Temple, the Library and Museum and the Three Centuries of English Freemasonry exhibition. Informal music performances will also take place throughout the day: the Occasional Strings quartet in the morning, organ recitals around midday and the Art Deco Orchestra in the afternoon.

The exhibition will be open every day from Saturday 24th June until Saturday 1st July, with the exception of Sunday 25th June. Admission is free and Freemasons’ Hall will be open from 10am to 5pm, with last entrance at 4:30pm. The artwork will be displayed in the Vestibules, Processional Corridor and Corridor to the Library and Museum.

The exhibition and residency has been directed by the Director of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Diane Clements, who commented: ‘It has been a remarkable experience working with these talented artists and they have produced a defining set of works, which we hope the general public will come and view.’

Make sure you also follow the United Grand Lodge of England’s FacebookInstagram and Twitter accounts in the build-up to the exhibition, as we unveil the guest artists and take a detailed look at their artwork.

Published in UGLE

There’s nothing like a bit of fun and games to keep people entertained and that’s exactly what happened at the 2017 Cornwallis It’s A Knockout Competition

Sponsored by the Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons’ Charity and supported by the KM Charity team, the event was held as part of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations and to help raise £20,000 for Macmillan Nurses.

The head of East Kent Freemasons, Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing, opened the event at the Aylesford Bulls Rugby Club on Sunday 4th June, where over 200 people took part in the challenge. They made up a total of 21 teams as they ran, slid and tumbled their way across a number of activities including inflatable obstacles and dragon racing – all in the name of charity!

Over a thousand spectators were also present to cheer on the teams before Cornwallis Charity Trustee, Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master Nick Waller, presented the trophy to the winning team from the Spirit of Rugby Lodge.

John Grumbridge, Chairman of the Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons’ Charity, commented: ‘What a fantastic day seeing all sorts of teams having so much fun in doing something that will ultimately help others. I am sure that one or two people will be aching, but the fundraising achievements will have been greatly worthwhile.’

Please scroll through the gallery at the top to view some of the action from the competition

Man among Men

A new photobook on Freemasonry, created to coincide with the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary, has been described as giving a detailed and colourful insight into the world of Freemasonry

The photobook is the work of Juliane Herrmann, a documentary photographer from Cologne, Germany, who has spent the last five years travelling to different countries around the world, which include England, Brazil, Germany, Israel and the Netherlands, to document Freemasons.

Juliane has now started up a crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter to help finance the printing costs, where people can make contributions by ordering the book.

Juliane Herrmann commented: ‘For over five years I have worked relentlessly on a project about Freemasonry. The upcoming book will give a complex, unprecedented perspective into a world, which has never been photographed in such a comprehensive way before.’

Titled, ‘Man among Men', the photobook will hold over 300 pages in a blue velvet hardcover with gold stamping and will contain 160 colour photographs.

Please scroll through the gallery at the top to view some of the images from the book.

You can find out more and support the project here

Published in More News

You meet such a huge range of people

The Provincial Grand Master for Wiltshire Philip Bullock has given an insightful interview following a recent visit to Swindon to promote the town’s nine lodges during the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary

Philip commented: ‘Freemasonry is a body of people who – I think it’s reasonable to say – share the same view, which is that we’re not bystanders of life.

‘We want to be active members of life. What I mean by that is that we care about one another and we care about helping others, not because we want acclamation for it, but because we are compassionate people. We give to charity with compassion rather than, necessarily, looking for a spotlight.’

Freemasonry means something different to each individual and Philip Bullock is grateful for the opportunity it has given him to meet a huge range of friends: 'For me, one of the predominant things about it is the superb range of friends that I’ve met, really genuine people who are a delight to be with.

‘We are always looking for men of good character who want to join an organisation which has high values and places great emphasis on personal integrity, a desire to help and personal development.

‘I think most Freemasons would say they are better people for being exposed to Freemasonry. It also develops your self-confidence, not in a flamboyant way but a general inner self-confidence.’

Read the full interview from This Is Wiltshire

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