Celebrating 300 years
Friday, 16 December 2011 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2011

Now that Freemasonry Today has settled into its stride I think it important to confirm our editorial policy. For news, we cover stories about our members in both the Craft and the Royal Arch. We are keen to see news about the end product of our giving – from our time helping others through to our charitable donations. Editorial needs to be of interest to both our members and their families, consistently supporting our communications philosophy.

A good example of this can be found on page ten of the news section, where we report on the Red Balloon Learner Centre Group in Cambridge, which has received a major grant of £25,000 from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity to fund training for staff at its centres for severely bullied children. The centres help restore a young person’s confidence as well as helping them cope academically and socially. With a survey from Red Balloon finding sixteen thousand children absent from school due to severe bullying, such stories not only point to the work of one of our four charities but are also of interest to everyone, mason and non-mason.

One of the many benefits of our new members’ website is that it can carry – among many other things – the latest, and particularly time sensitive, news. This allows us to concentrate on the thinking and direction of our most senior leaders in the magazine, with our section named Senior Insights. These are not time sensitive messages but are hugely important for us all to know about. On page twenty-two, Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes considers how best to explain the importance of the Royal Arch in the completion of pure ancient masonry. Is this best done after they have been raised? How does their mentor brief them? And how does the mentor or Royal Arch representative gain the right level of knowledge to correctly brief them in the first place?

Freemasonry Today is not a lifestyle magazine. It will, however, concentrate on stories and achievements of our members – showing how relevant Freemasonry is in today’s society. A young, up-and-coming dancer called Blaze Porter is profiled on page sixteen and you can find out how Freemason Humphrey Ball is helping Blaze fulfil his dreams.  History that depicts the work of Freemasons is also very popular among our readers and we look at the life and times of Anthony Sayer on page forty-one. Chosen as the first Grand Master of Grand Lodge in 1717, little is known about his life and we ask whether historians have deliberately ignored him out of snobbery.

For information that members need to know quickly, or when action needs to be taken, these can be transmitted via Metropolitan, the Provinces and Districts through their grand secretaries, information officers and mentors.

We are constantly updating our mailing lists and if you have any problems, or know of a fellow member who is having problems receiving their copy, please do let us know.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 10:29

Educational voyage

With a proud tradition stretching back almost 200 years, HMS Trincomalee is on the crest of a new learning wave, as Euan Houstoun, a descendant of a past captain, explains

It would be an enormous task to make up the story that has made HMS Trincomalee the icon of the celebrated ‘wooden walls’ of the Nelson era. The ship’s survival has been remarkable, coming back from the brink of extinction on numerous occasions. The second oldest ship afloat in the world, what has kept her hull above water for so long has been the fact that young people from across the UK continue to have the chance to learn about her proud and exciting history.

As national educational priorities change, it is essential that HMS Trincomalee changes with them. Thanks to the support of local development authorities, Freemasons and the hard work of the HMS Trincomalee Trust, the ship has been able to offer schools opportunities for learning outside the classroom in a unique and stimulating environment.

Built for the Admiralty in the East India Company dockyard at Bombay in 1817, HMS Trincomalee was constructed of Malabar teak and named after the superb natural harbour in eastern Ceylon that provided British control of the Indian Ocean from 1795. By 1862, social and technological changes gradually transformed the Royal Navy and for the next fifteen years HMS Trincomalee was to assume a drill ship role at Hartlepool, where the training of reservists afloat was seen as the key to retaining and refreshing skills. However, by 1897 the end was in sight with the ship being offered for breaking.

Out of the woodwork came Geoffrey Wheatley Cobb, a sea training enthusiast who took loan of HMS Trincomalee from the Royal Navy, and renamed her after his earlier vessel, Lord Nelson’s Foudroyant. Cobb took the ship to Falmouth and Milford Haven where young people, often from poor families, were given experience of life on board. In 1932, the ship transferred to Portsmouth and during the Second World War it was commissioned to train new entry recruits known as the ‘Bounty Boys’.

With a trust formed to promote the training and experience for young people all over the country, the ship became a beacon in the busy harbour for years, sharing water with modern-day warships. By the 1980s, however, curriculum and career changes resulted in fewer young people visiting the ship. A shortage of funds also meant that there was a severe lack of maintenance. Consequently, the structure of the ship continued to deteriorate and in 1986 the trust had to face the prospect that the ship may have made its final voyage.

Captain David Smith, chairman of the trust, came up with an alternative plan to restore the ship. After exhaustive negotiations, it was agreed that she should abandon her home in Portsmouth and move back to her former location at Hartlepool, where the regeneration and renaissance of the town could be centred on the ship. Crucially, this was also an area where there was a skilled workforce who could undertake a restoration of this magnitude. Transported by submersible barge to Hartlepool in 1987, the restoration process began in 1990 thanks largely to grants from Teesside Development Corporation and other generous supporters.

With the ship regaining its original name in Hartlepool, the restoration of HMS Trincomalee took eleven years from 1990 to 2001. The facts are staggering – the trust raised £10.5 million for the work; the process subsumed more than three quarters of a million man-hours of skilled employment; and about £8 million was fed into the local economy through wages and purchases. Not a bad achievement for a small charitable trust. Most important of all perhaps, was the outcome that more than 60 per cent of the original fabric of the ship survives today, making it one of the most important ships in the UK.

Like any survivor, HMS Trincomalee must move with the times and maintain relevance. The trust is therefore determined to upgrade the educational resources and materials for teachers and pupils across all key stages of the National Curriculum. With the support of the Freemasons, it has been able to make an exciting start to this work, and already all-new materials to stimulate writing skills at key stage 2, which covers the seven to eleven-year-old age group, have been developed.

Built for war and for a twenty-five-year life expectancy, HMS Trincomalee has already achieved a lifespan of over one hundred and ninety four years thanks to those who have nurtured her over the decades. As well as developing new educational resources, a team of educators and trustees is coordinating a broad and balanced approach to the historical relevance of HMS Trincomalee to the maritime and social history of Britain. The priority remains to create financial sustainability in order to continue the essential maintenance and conservation of HMS Trincomalee, ensuring that she is open year-round for the public’s education and enjoyment.

To find out more, go to www.hms-trincomalee.co.uk

 

Letter to the Editor - FreemasonryToday No.17 - Spring 2012

Sir,
I want say how much I enjoy reading your magazine each month, and particularly the last edition, containing the article about HMS Trincomalee.  
As a schoolboy in the early 1960s, I was among a fortunate group from Bolton Grammar School who were ‘billeted’ on the ship for two weeks during the summer holidays. The ship was called the TS Foudroyant at the time and was moored in Gosport harbour. Although afloat, most of her masts had been removed and she had little rigging. We young adventurers quickly adopted her as our home, and enjoyed the novelty of sleeping in hammocks and eating at galley tables suspended under the deck.
Our youthful exuberance was kept in check by a formidable bosun called ‘Sharky’, who would pipe us to and from our activities and terrify any boy who tarried. Apart from scrubbing decks and polishing brasses, we had daily PE and games. The highlight for me was sailing a dinghy out into the Solent past the gargantuan hull of decommissioned aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal.
It makes my heart glad that such an historic vessel will be appreciated by another generation of children, and Hartlepool is now on my list of must-see destinations!
Steven Grimshaw
Cuerden Lodge, No. 6018
Leyland, West Lancashire




Published in Features
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 10:22

City stories

Take a minute to look up from the pavement in the City of London and you will find historic gems that reveal a great deal about the founding of Freemasonry. Yasha Beresiner is your guide

Hello and welcome to this tour of three of the historic masonic sites in the City of London that are inextricably linked with Freemasonry and its development. We start our journey on the spot where once stood the entrance to the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house, some fifty metres north of the last step leading to St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is here that the foundation of the undisputed first Grand Lodge in the world took place on 24 June 1717.

Unfortunately, and rather surprisingly, there appear to be no mementos of this historic tavern situated in what was St. Paul’s Church Yard and the only surviving item, now in the Museum of London, is the pub sign. Up until the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Goose and Gridiron was known as the Mitre. After being devastated in the blaze, it was rebuilt and renamed The Lyre, on account of the tavern’s musical associations (a musical society met on its premises), and took as its sign Apollo’s lyre surmounted by a swan. However, this image was often unrecognised and misinterpreted and a new name was born from the error: Goose and Gridiron.

battle for the blue plaque
It was in this tavern that four London lodges came together to launch Freemasonry, electing Anthony Sayer (1672-1741/2) – the ‘oldest Master Mason and then Master of a Lodge’ – as its Grand Master. It must be noted here, however, that the only source for all the information we have about the premier Grand Lodge in 1717 is from James Anderson’s reports that were published more than two decades later in 1738.

Moving on now, if you look to your right you will see, on the last column of the building you are facing, the official blue plaque commemorating the foundation of the Grand Lodge. It simply states:
 
Near This Site
The Grand Lodge
Of English
FREEMASONS
First Met in 1717   
              
However, obtaining it was anything but simple. Persuading the City of London Corporation to place an official plaque within the City boundaries is no easy task. Our efforts began in 1995 with the formation of the Goose and Gridiron Society, and within twelve months the society had submitted a well-supported request to the City authorities for a plaque to commemorate the foundation of Freemasonry. Although the request was accepted, it then transpired that the building on which the plaque was to be placed was due for demolition.

Nonetheless, after eight years of perseverance, on 15 June 2005, the then Lord Mayor, Alderman Very Worshipful Brother Michael Savory, finally unveiled the blue plaque that we are now so proud of.

foundations of freemasonry
It is interesting to consider how amazed our founding forefathers would no doubt be at the spread of Freemasonry through the four quarters of the globe. You see, the four lodges did not originally meet with the aim of forming a Grand Lodge. Rather, their decision to unite stemmed from a need to strengthen each individual lodge’s membership. Indeed, in unity they found this strength and it was at the initiative of other lodges wishing to join the group that a Grand Lodge was declared and formed as a controlling body. Freemasonry has never looked back.

Follow me now please, past Paternoster Square, Goldsmiths, The Saddlers’ Hall and Guildhall Yard, and let us make our way into the passage entrance of Mason’s Avenue. Now, once we move twenty metres into the alleyway, we are standing in front of the Select Trust Building.

Let me first point out that the whole of this two- hundred-yard-long avenue has not changed in four centuries. The imitation Tudor-style buildings are recent, of course, but the shape and size of the alley has remained identical and right here, on what is now 12-15 Mason’s Avenue, stood the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Masons, one of the City of London Livery Companies with which our society is closely, and at times quite wrongly, identified.

The Masons Company has its earliest record dating to 1356 and received its Grant of Arms in 1472. By then the building on this site was already functional and it was only demolished in 1865, some four hundred years later. As a reminder of the old days, the present building, which was completed in 1980, has the beautiful stained-glass windows with masonic emblems incorporated into the design. A gilded inscription embedded into the wall serves as a further reminder. It reads:
  
On This Site Stood
The Hall Of The
Worshipful
Company
Of Masons
A 1463 – 1865 D  
        
While the Masons Company has no connection with our Craft, it is notable that twenty-one of the City of London Livery Companies have an associated masonic lodge consisting exclusively of members from that particular livery.

For our third and sadly last stop on this tour, let us walk the short distance to the Royal Exchange. From this vantage point you have a particularly good view of the main entrance to the Bank of England, which is popularly known as ‘The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’.

The Bank of England has been situated in this area since its inception in 1694, with three bank buildings rising on this same site since 1734. As an interesting aside, did you know that the Bank of England was the first purpose-built bank in the British Isles? Another notable, and quite surprising fact is that the Bank of England remained a private entity until the Parliament Act of 1946, after which it was finally nationalised.

soane’s speedy advancement
Returning to the building, Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was the bank’s third architect and worked on it for forty-five years (1788-1833). However, the only part of his work that still remains is ‘the curtain wall’, which is the elongated windowless screen wall that you can see along the front. This wall encloses the whole of the block, which consists of an area of three and a half acres containing the premises of the bank.

The Duke of Sussex, who was elected as the new Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813, favoured Soane’s architectural work. As such, when the Duke of Sussex directed the extension of the Grand Lodge premises in Great Queen Street, one of his many dynamic and innovative activities, it was Soane who undertook and completed the task.

On 25 November 1813, an emergency meeting of the Grand Master’s Lodge, No. 1, under the Grand Lodge of the Antients, was held at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand. At this meeting Soane was initiated as an Entered Apprentice, passed to the degree of a Fellowcraft and raised to the degree of a Master Mason. In addition, following the inauguration of the United Grand Lodge of England, Soane was formally appointed President of the Board of Works and given the appropriate high masonic rank of Grand Superintendent of Works – both a well-deserved and speedy advancement by any standard.

This brings us to the end of our tour in which I hope to have shown you the significance of the City of London to the history of Freemasonry, along the way unearthing a few masonic gems that you may not have known existed. Thank you very much for joining me – I hope you have enjoyed your trip and I wish you a safe journey home.
Published in Features
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 10:13

Road Craft

Is it possible to belong to a gang of leather-clad bikers and stay true to the principles of Freemasonry? Adrian Foster summons up the courage to meet with the Widows Sons on their own turf and find out for himself


In a bleak, concrete-walled car park at the rear of the Masonic Hall in Goldsmith Street, Nottingham, a group of leather-clad bikers are relaxing next to their silver steeds. They have not stopped off for a break on their way to a rock festival, they are in fact Freemasons who have just presented a cheque to The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal. They call themselves the Widows Sons.

For the uninitiated, the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association (WSMBA) is an international association that is open to Freemasons who enjoy motorcycling and have a desire to ride with their fraternal brethren. Though not a masonic order, the WSMBA serves as a recruiting drive to help raise awareness of Freemasonry while attending public motorcycling events, supporting Craft lodges and actively raising funds for charities and good causes.

Among the motley crew assembled today is Peter Younger, President of the Northumberland Chapter of the Widows Sons, together with Justin ‘Jay’ Waite and Chris Bush Jnr, Vice President and President of the National Chapter of the Widows Sons, respectively.

‘My association with them started when I was on the internet and I googled “Freemasonry and motorcycling” to see what came up,’ explains Jay. ‘I discovered a website that Widows Sons’ founder member Jon Long had set up, emailed them and we arranged to meet. I went out on a ride with them, had a really enjoyable day and saw that they were involved with a lot of good work for charity, so I asked there and then whether I could join them. Foolishly, they accepted me, so here I am today,’ he laughs.

MERGING MASONIC INTERESTS
Jay emphasises that the WSMBA is not a masonic lodge, although it has aspirations to form one in the future. ‘What we are is an association of bikers who are all Master Freemasons. We all belong to different lodges and we carry masonic insignia on our leathers and clothing. But when we attend our lodge meetings we all dress as you’d expect us to and wear our normal lodge regalia. Widows Sons has members as far afield as Land’s End and Aberdeen and it would be very difficult to get us all together in one place for meetings.’

Peter Younger reveals tentative plans to establish a bikers’ lodge and that the Northumberland Chapter of the Widows Sons is building up funds to enable this in the next two to three years. ‘We have had informal discussions at Provincial level and they have no objections to the idea. I started the Northumberland Chapter, so this could be my next project. I can see Freemasonry swinging more in the direction of shared interest lodges. The article in Freemasonry Today about the Morgan Lodge is a good example of this.’

But is the notion of bikers as Freemasons a contradiction in terms? ‘I’m sure people would think we’re worlds apart because I’m here dressed in biking leathers, not a suit,’ answers Jay. ‘But motorcycling is a fraternal pastime and in the biking world we refer to one another as brothers, and the two associations build bonds of friendship between their members. Both bikers and Freemasons do a lot of charitable work and I’m certain there are other overlaps too.’

Chris Bush agrees, adding: ‘It was my father who introduced me to motorcycling and Freemasonry. We are two of the remaining seven founding members of the Widows Sons (UK), which had its first meeting in February 2004 here in Goldsmith Street.’

Peter Younger admits that there is still work to be done in convincing some of the non-biking masonic fraternity. ‘It’s been a bit of a learning curve,’ he says. ‘If we’d tried to set up the Widows Sons fifteen years ago it might not have had the positive reception we get today. But the benefit is that it’s providing a new, younger face. Freemasonry is very good at hiding itself away – we hide behind doors that you have to knock on to get in, but if more people had a clearer idea of what we do they’d be queuing up to become masons.’

challenging traditions
Peter believes that Freemasonry needs to be far more open. ‘There’s no good reason why it can’t be – I don’t think anyone in Freemasonry would say they are ashamed of what they do. I proudly wear the square and compasses on my lapel as a Freemason and I am glad to be associated with the Widows Sons,’ he says, making the point that there are golfing, fishing and shooting societies, so why not a motorcycling society?

‘We’re ordinary people who have pastimes and hobbies just like anybody else. I once heard a great saying by Woody Allen that “tradition is the illusion of permanence”. Tradition has for too long been the scapegoat for people in Freemasonry who don’t want things to change. People hide behind tradition because they’re not willing or courageous enough to try something new. I feel we need to break that pattern and new associations should be formed. Giving a public, modern face to Freemasonry is one of the most important things Widows Sons can do.’



Force to be reckoned with
The Widows Sons chooses to raise funds for The Royal British Legion (RBL) because many of its own members are forces veterans. ‘It’s a charity that’s very close to our hearts,’ says Jay, who approached Bob Privett from the RBL’s Poppy Appeal in Nottinghamshire in 2010.

‘We raise over £500,000 each year for the Poppy Appeal and spend a similar amount on the welfare of ex-servicemen and their dependents,’ explains Bob. ‘The RBL will be spending £50m over the next ten years on a new Battle Back Centre for injured servicemen returning from military operations.’

Bob admits that The Royal British Legion tends to conjure up images of old soldiers on parade. ‘This perception leads the public to assume that we are there only for old soldiers,’ he says, ‘but already this year we have dealt with 20,000 cases from the Afghan and Iraq war zones.’

 

Letters to the Editor - FreemasonryToday No.17 - Spring 2012

     

Sir,
May I take this opportunity to thank you for the article on the Widows Sons in the Winter 2011 edition, which made for a great read and is a positive contribution to our association.
Since the article appeared we have had a number of enquiries regarding the association. Some have mentioned that they have found it difficult to find contact information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  is the email address to enquire on.

Peter Younger
Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association Northumberland Chapter (www.wsmban.com)

  

Sir,
I read with great interest of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association, as I am a founder member of the Square and Compasses Scooter Club, a club similar, but not (yet) as big, as the WSMBA. We started as a Facebook group in February 2011, and currently have more than forty members. Around eight members met at Kelso Scooter Rally in May, and were kindly shown around Kelso Masonic Lodge. We ride Lambrettas and Vespas, and attend rallies all over the country.
Once we are more established we intend to meet at a lodge once a year in each of our Provinces. Should any readers have an interest in classic Italian scooters, or more modern ‘twist-and-gos’, they are welcome to join our ‘Square and Compasses Scooter Club’ group on Facebook.

Paul Hunter
Rosemary Lodge No.6421
Newcastle upon Tyne Northumberland

 

Published in Features

When Freemasons’ Hall hosted the launch party for West End musical Rock of Ages, Anneke Hak slipped past the celebrities to find out what goes on behind the scenes

Jeremy Clarkson schmoozes with paparazzi on the purple carpet while Ronnie Wood’s ex-wife Jo Wood mingles with friends in the foyer. Glasses clink together, Champagne flows and loud chatter fills the room as the band takes centre stage in the Grand Temple. All the while, everyone is wholly oblivious to the fact that just one hour ago their spectacular venue, Freemasons’ Hall in London’s Great Queen Street, was a picture of organised chaos.

Having hosted some of the biggest events in the British social calendar, including London Fashion Week catwalk shows, Freemasons’ Hall isn’t afraid of glitz and glamour, it oozes it. However, the Rock of Ages launch party was a very different beast.

On 28 September, the production team had only a three-and-a-half hour slot between the departure of 700 Freemasons visiting from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Hertfordshire at six in the evening, and 1,000 party guests arriving at 9.30pm. In this small time frame, they had to transform the building into a venue fit to celebrate a musical that takes audiences back to the times of big bands with big egos playing big guitar solos and sporting even bigger hair. The Grand Temple in Freemasons’ Hall needed to be fitted out with a dance floor, disco ball and stage for a rock band to perform on. No mean feat, especially considering how precious the Grade II-listed building is to hundreds of thousands of Freemasons.

Helping smooth the proceedings was Lee Batty, Production Manager at Stoneman Associates. As Freemasons left the Grand Temple, Batty’s team moved in, quickly assembling their scaffolding to start the mammoth task of hoisting the lighting and glitter ball 93ft to the top of the Temple roof, before focusing their attention on the dance floor and rock band sound check. ‘We did a little bit of prep work the day before,’ Batty reveals. ‘Well, I say a little bit, we worked eight hours to programme all the lighting, and then when we got into the venue we had to go hell for leather to get it all up and working.’

Technicalities of transformation

Of course, moving scaffolding, heavy lighting and sound equipment around an 80-year-old building, and one of the finest Art Deco creations in the country, can prove challenging. ‘I’ve not worked at Freemasons’ Hall before,’ says Batty, ‘but I’ve done events in historic palaces and English Heritage properties over the years. So I’m aware that you have to look after furniture and any element of the building that’s been there for a long time – you have to be very careful.’

As a result, every little detail is thought about months in advance, and some elaborate ideas are thrown straight out. Karen Haigh, Head of Events at Freemasons’ Hall, explains, ‘There was talk about hanging some Harley Davidsons from the ceiling at one point. I feel anything is possible, so long as I know it’s going to be safe.’

As the last piece of purple carpet is laid, the Rock of Ages signs go up and the façade of the glorious building is lit from below, Matthew Quarandon, Director of Moving Venues, makes sure all of his staff are in place to welcome the guests with food and drink, and one thing he can’t help but notice is how easy-going everything is. ‘Freemasons’ Hall seems to be very liberal,’ says Quarandon, who’s used to working in old, protected properties. ‘They’re allowing us to push cages across old stone floors and serve red wine on their marble floors upstairs.’

Most excited about tonight’s event has to be Grand Secretary Nigel Brown, who praises the great job Karen Haigh does booking events for the Hall and thinks these nights are the perfect opportunity to show the public that Freemasonry isn’t about secret handshakes. ‘Can you imagine, you’re at a dinner party and the lady next to you says, “You went into Freemason’s Hall? What did you go in for? A fashion show!”’ laughs Nigel. ‘It’s breaking all these myths and, although being teased about Freemasonry doesn’t matter much, people are often making a decision based on false impressions. I think hosting these events is changing people’s preconceptions.’

SURPRISE PACKAGE 

Batty admits that the mystery surrounding the organisation is a great reason to hold events like the Rock of Ages party at Freemasons’ Hall. ‘It’s nice that people come in and see it in a different light,’ he says. Karen Haigh agrees: ‘The best thing about it is that you bring a group of people that have never been in the building before and they come in and say, “Oh, wow!” It’s like opening a little package.’

So, after months of planning, which began back in June, how does it feel when it all finally comes together? ‘You get a massive buzz from the final product,’ admits Batty. ‘The response that we got when we opened the main doors to the Grand Temple was worth all the pressure.’

As the guitar amplifiers and purple carpet are packed up and glasses of half-drunk Champagne cleared away, all the hard work and preparation has paid off – the Rock of Ages launch party has been a brilliant success. So, the only question left now is when’s the next one?

Published in Features
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:58

Community Chest

With the Relief Chest Scheme celebrating its 25th anniversary, Freemasonry Today looks at how the scheme makes giving easier for Freemasons around the UK

Launched in 1986, the Relief Chest Scheme provides administrative support for the fundraising activities of masonic units. The Freemasons’ Grand Charity operates the scheme for free, enabling masonic organisations to manage their charitable donations more efficiently by offering individual chests that can be used to accumulate funds for charitable purposes. The scheme maximises the value of charitable donations by pooling funds to ensure that they earn the best possible rate of interest and by claiming Gift Aid relief on all qualifying donations. By taking on this administrative function the scheme saves valuable time and resources involved in lodge fundraising.

The scheme is particularly useful to Provinces running charitable fundraising campaigns, including festivals, with Provinces able to request that the Relief Chest Scheme open special chests. ‘Following our very successful 2010 RMBI Festival, we decided to maintain the culture of regular charitable giving by making use of the Relief Chest Scheme, which had not been previously used by our Province,’ explains Eric Heaviside, Durham Provincial Grand Master. ‘The scheme is a very efficient way to generate funds, as it not only makes giving regularly easy but also provides the opportunity for tax recovery via the Gift Aid allowances. All of this is professionally managed by the Relief Chest Department in The Freemasons’ Grand Charity office in London.’

With over four thousand chests, the scheme is helping Freemasons give charitable support to the people who need it most. Grahame Elliott, President of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, explains how the scheme has evolved over the years, ‘When the idea for the Relief Chest Scheme was announced in September 1985, it was hoped that it would provide a simple and effective way for lodges to give to charity. Lodges would be able to give practical proof of an ever-increasing attachment to the first two of the grand principles on which our order is founded – brotherly love and relief. Twenty-five years later, it is clear to me that the scheme has successfully met these aims, evolving as an excellent way of helping lodges to spend less time on the administrative work involved in processing donations, giving them more time to spend on other important activities.’

With over £14 million donated to charitable causes via the Scheme in 2010, it is hoped that this success will continue, assisting the masonic community in its charitable giving for many years to come.

To find out more, go to www.grandcharity.org



Provincial supporters

Provincial Grand Masters from around the UK give their experiences of working with the Relief Chest...
‘We opened our Relief Chest in the name of the Provincial Benevolent Association principally to take advantage of the Gift Aid tax reclaim facility. In addition, by utilising the expertise of the team we have been able to develop a much more efficient and thorough analysis of donations. The Province looks forward to our continuing association with the Relief Chest team and thanks them for their ongoing advice and assistance.’
Rodney Wolverson
Cambridgeshire Provincial Grand Master

‘Relief Chests have proved an immense boon to London charity stewards and treasurers in easing the administration of charitable giving. For our big appeals – the RMBI, the CyberKnife and the Supreme Grand Chapter’s 2013 Appeal – the support given by the Relief Chest team is vital.’
Russell Race
Metropolitan Grand Master

‘The record-breaking success of the 2011 Essex Festival for the Grand Charity was not only due to the generosity of the brethren, but also to the support we received from the Relief Chest Scheme. The scheme’s online reports and personal support made the tracking of donations, interest accumulated and Gift Aid recovery
a seamless operation for our administration.
That information enabled us to keep the lodges and brethren informed of their totals.’
John Webb
Essex Provincial Grand Master


Relief chest breakdown

Who can receive a donation from a Relief Chest?
• Charities registered with the Charity Commission
• Any organisation holding charitable status
• Any individual in financial distress
The benefits provided by the Relief Chest Scheme:
• Interest added to your donation: A favourable interest rate is earned on funds held for each Chest and no tax is payable on interest earned
• Tax relief: The Gift Aid Scheme means HMRC gives 25p for every £1 donated to a Chest, where eligible
• Easy depositing: Make donations by direct debit, cheque and the Gift Aid Envelope Scheme
• Ease of donating to charities: Once a donation is authorised, the payment is made by the Relief Chest Scheme
• Free: There’s no direct cost to Relief Chest holders
• Easily accessible reports: Annual statements are provided, plus interim statements and subscribers’ lists are available upon request
• Additional help for Festival Relief Chests: Comprehensive performance projection reports and free customised stationery are available      




Published in The Grand Charity
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:57

Back to basics

Anthony Sayer may have been chosen as the first Grand Master of Grand Lodge in 1717, but little is known about his life. Steven Smith questions why, and wonders whether historians have deliberately ignored him

Little is known about Anthony Sayer for the simple reason that there has been a lack of research into the first Grand Master. One explanation for this may be that he has been regarded as an ordinary person with low social standing, and has therefore been deemed of little importance. However, this approach flies in the very face of the essence of Freemasonry as we are all brothers, equally entitled to our regard.

Anthony Sayer was elected to be the first Grand Master on a majority show of hands by the members of the four lodges (some say six lodges and others add some ‘unattached’ older brethren) that met at the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house in St. Paul’s Church Yard, on 24 June 1717. The lodges had previously met at the Apple Tree Tavern, in Covent Garden in 1716 and agreed to form a Grand Lodge.

Dr James Anderson in the first Constitutions of 1723 records that at that meeting it was resolved to choose ‘a Grand Master from among themselves, till they should have the honour of a noble brother at their head’. Anderson goes on to refer to Sayer as ‘Mr Anthony Sayer, Gentleman’. This lack of further information regarding who he was and what he did has led to speculation that Sayer was of no real financial means. It certainly suggests that he was not a person with any connection to the aristocracy and therefore of low social standing.

Falling into disrepute
The matter is further clouded by the fact that Sayer had to call on the charitable assistance of the Grand Lodge. This is recorded on a number of occasions in the minutes of Grand Lodge, as is the extent to which he was assisted in some cases. Sayer’s reasons for asking for assistance are not known but it may be that he had simply reached the lowest spoke of fortune’s wheel. It is also recorded that he was charged with clandestine and irregular practice in relation to the Craft, but it was later found that his actions were only irregular, and he was admonished accordingly.

Sayer ended up acting as Tyler of his lodge up to his death after leaving the Grand Master’s chair, and in the interim was also Senior Grand Warden and Warden of his own lodge. This is considered a great demotion by some commentators, with detractors claiming that he was a ‘nobody’ who could not maintain his standing in the Craft and was in fact bettered by those who followed him.

other side of the coin
If these facts are interpreted in the true spirit of Freemasonry, with an open and charitable mind, the converse view could be true. It could be argued that Sayer was held in such high estimation among his brethren and fellows that he was elected on merit by the majority of brethren present as the best person for the job. At the very least, if this were not the case, it might be said that he graciously volunteered for what was undoubtedly an important and difficult role, overseeing the new concept of uniting lodges under one umbrella – a concept which has subsequently survived the wreck of mighty empires and the destroying hand of time.

Another view that may be considered is the humility of Sayer. When he was in need of assistance, he was not too proud to ask for it. Similarly, neither did his ego stand in the way of him acting as Tyler when previously he had been Grand Master. His misfortune did not cause him to turn away from the Craft and it could be argued that Sayer should be held up as a role model for Freemasons today.

When he left this life for the Grand Lodge above in late 1741, Sayer was buried in St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden in January 1742. Standing as a further indication of the esteem in which he was held by his peers, a newspaper article recorded the event as follows: ‘A few days since died, aged about 70 years, Mr. Anthony Sayer, who was Grand Master of the most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in 1717. His corpse was followed by a great number of Gentlemen of that Honorable Society of the best Quality, from the Shakespears Head Tavern in the Piazza in Covent Garden and decently interr’d in Covent-Garden church.’

There may be several reasons why Sayer’s lineage cannot be traced, not least of which is that records of the era have not all survived, therefore forcing researchers to come to a dead end. However, it has been deduced that the family name ‘Sayer’ was quite common in southern England at the time, but the Christian name ‘Anthony’ was less so, and might be considered more continental in flavour.

It could well be that Sayer was not born in this country. Many people of the time were immigrants who upon settling here changed their names. Notably two people, who are also buried in St. Paul’s Church, come into this category: Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) and Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680). Gibbons, a famous sculptor in wood, was born and educated in Holland while Sir Peter Lely was born in Holland and was originally named Pieter van der Faes. He was portrait painter to the court of King Charles II. Both became naturalised citizens of England and both were consummate craftsmen, with Gibbons shown in a portrait painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723) holding a pair of compasses and contemplating the proportions of a classical bust depicted in death mode.

There may yet be facts that can still be discovered about Sayer. Perhaps researchers might look at the wider course of European history for this, rather than stay within the confines of English masonic history. Perhaps we need to start again with the facts we have and look at them with an open mind and in a new light; to tread paths of research that have not yet
been taken. This approach may eventually unearth the real ‘Mr Anthony Sayer, Gentleman’, which, with the 300th year of Grand Lodge fast approaching, is perhaps long overdue. Most importantly, we ought not to forget the values we seek to uphold as part of our Craft and remember what the true reasons for being a Freemason are.


Steven Smith is a member of the West Essex Round Table Lodge, No. 9310



Published in Features
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:57

MAKING exaltation RELEVANT

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes explains the importance of the Royal Arch in the completion of pure ancient masonry


Since the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons was launched last November, close to £200,000 has been donated. As we move towards the bicentenary in 2013, I encourage you in your fundraising endeavours to continue to request presentations from a Royal College team. These presentations could be at your annual Provincial meetings, for example, so that the companions in your Province can fully understand the important work that the research fellows can undertake as a result of our continued support.

The First Grand Principal summed up the importance of the appeal with great clarity when he wrote, ‘This campaign gives us an excellent opportunity to contribute further towards something that is helping to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and grandchildren.’

While the appeal is a highly visible external contribution from the Royal Arch, there are other areas that we all ought, as members of the order, to be looking at to give the Royal Arch a higher profile. For example, it is critical that we encourage new members towards exaltation as this will be the completion of the pure ancient masonry that they have discovered during the ceremonies of initiation, passing and raising in the Craft – most particularly the latter. I like to use the analogy of a four-part TV drama: what is the point of watching the first three episodes and then ignoring the fourth when all is revealed?

ENSURING maximum involvement
This is not just about keeping member numbers up, it is also about making sure there is enough work at each meeting to keep the members’ skills honed. Remember, of course, to share the work out as much as possible so as to achieve the maximum involvement of the companions in your chapter. That way companions will become far more interested in the beauty of the ceremonies as well as keeping up their interest.

We have two important weapons in our communication armoury: our house magazine, Freemasonry Today, and the new members’ website launched in September. The strap line refers to the magazine as The Official Journal of the United Grand Lodge of England but the editorial policy is predominantly to cover stories and news about both the Craft and the Royal Arch. This is also the case with the website, which will be timely in getting news to you. The editor of Freemasonry Today is keen to receive more stories on the Royal Arch for consideration and possible inclusion. The Provincial Information Officers also have a key role to play here and are well briefed on the process for submission for both the magazine and the website.

We are now starting to work on the new website for the Royal Arch to bring it both up-to-date and in line with all the other communications initiatives that have been recently launched. Grand Scribe Ezra, as Grand Secretary, is chairing a working party on mentoring in the Craft with the aim of seeing what elements of this are relevant to import to the Royal Arch.

Royal Arch representatives are already in many of our lodges and one of the key decisions is in determining when it is the right time to brief the newly joined mason on the Royal Arch – to have him understand the importance of the Royal Arch in the completion of pure ancient masonry. But is this best done after they have been raised and how does their mentor brief them? And how does the mentor or Royal Arch representative gain the right level of knowledge to correctly brief them in the first place? These are some of the conundrums that the working party are grappling with. Fundamental is establishing the relevance to prospective candidates of the order that all who have already been exalted enjoy.

Published in SGC
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:54

charity gets a big lift

Red Balloon Learner Centre Group in Cambridge has received a major grant of £25,000 from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity to fund training for staff at its centres for severely bullied children.

Rodney Wolverson, Provincial Grand Master for Cambridgeshire, presented the cheque to Dr Carrie Herbert, chief executive of Red Balloon Learner Centres. Red Balloon centres are currently found in Cambridge, Merseyside, Norwich, Preston, London and Warwick. In addition, Red Balloon of the Air – a virtual balloon – is available for those children who cannot reach a centre.

Each of these centres provides intensive education and care for severely bullied children who are unable to attend mainstream secondary school. The centres help restore a young person’s confidence as well as helping them cope academically and socially. They are supported in their return to mainstream school, entry to further education or employment. At the centres, the students learn how to protect themselves from bullying, recognise when it happens to others and know ways of dealing with this kind of behaviour.

Dr Herbert said, ‘We are absolutely delighted to receive this generous donation. As we grow, it is important that the teachers and staff at each of our centres and the virtual Red Balloon are trained to the highest level to ensure we provide the best recovery programme for these severely bullied children. This grant enables us to do this.’
Published in The Grand Charity
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:54

ARMY OF 1

Single-handedly rescuing his squadron after they were pinned down by heavy gunfire, Paddy Mayne’s life reads like a wartime page-turner. Matthew Scanlan tells the remarkable story of this SAS legend, wartime hero and Freemason


The dark days of the Second World War saw many a hero come to the fore, but none quite as remarkable as Paddy Mayne. Rugby international, commando and a founding father of the Special Air Service (SAS), Mayne was one of the most decorated Allied soldiers of the war, winning the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) four times, as well as the Croix de Guerre and Légion d’Honneur. But while his warrior exploits are comparatively well known, few people are aware that this extraordinary man was also a Freemason.

Robert Blair ‘Paddy’ Mayne was born on 11 January 1915 in Newtownards in County Down, Ireland, and showed an early love and aptitude for sport. Excelling in many areas, Mayne not only became the Irish Universities Heavyweight Champion in August 1936, but was also capped playing rugby for Ireland six times, and in 1938 was selected to play for the British Isles Touring Party of South Africa.

Mayne was already a member of the Territorial Army when the Second World War broke out in September 1939 and he soon received a commission in the Royal Artillery. In April 1940 he transferred to the Royal Ulster Rifles before volunteering for the newly formed No. 11 (Scottish) Commando, with whom he saw his first action, attacking Vichy French forces in Lebanon. For his courageous and clear-minded leadership, Mayne was mentioned in despatches. However, he soon lost interest in the Commando and in August 1941 joined a revolutionary new outfit that was being formed in North Africa by former Scots Guards officer David Stirling.

STUFF OF SCHOOLBOY LEGEND
The aim of this unit, known as L Detachment Special Air Service Brigade, was to operate behind enemy lines, obtain intelligence, disrupt Axis communication routes and attack enemy airfields. After some initial setbacks, Stirling struck upon the idea of utilising the well-established Long Range Desert Group to transport his force into action with heavily armed vehicles. It was an idea that would establish the new unit’s credibility, and later render them the stuff of schoolboy legend.

On 5 December 1941, Mayne helped to lead a successful attack on Tamet airfield near Sirte in Libya. The raiders destroyed fourteen enemy aircraft and damaged a further ten, and for his part in this audacious attack Mayne received his first DSO. But he did not rest on his laurels, and just three weeks later, as General Claude Auchinleck pushed Erwin Rommel’s forces back past Benghazi to Agedabia, Mayne and his men returned to the same airfield where they then destroyed a further twenty-seven planes.

Over the next fourteen months, as the North Africa campaign ebbed and flowed across the Egyptian, Libyan and Tunisian deserts, the SAS mercilessly harried German and Italian airfields, and it is estimated that they either destroyed or immobilised upwards of four hundred enemy aircraft. Mayne reportedly destroyed around one hundred aircraft himself – more than any fighter ace during the entire war – and, on occasion, even resorted to ripping out some of the cockpit controls with his bare hands.

CLIMBING THE RANKS
In January 1943, Stirling was captured by Axis forces in southern Tunisia and soon thereafter the 1st SAS Regiment was renamed the Special Raiding Squadron (SRS), with Mayne, now a major, in command. As the North Africa campaign drew to a close, the SRS went on to play a significant role in the Allied invasion of Sicily and on 9 July 1943, in an action somewhat reminiscent of the Hollywood film The Guns of Navarone, it attacked and destroyed two Italian coastal batteries at Capo Murro di Porco to help ease a path for the landing of General Montgomery’s Eighth Army. Two days later, the SRS also spearheaded the amphibious landings mounted at the ancient Sicilian port of Augusta, forty-seven kilometres north of the cliff-top battery they had just disabled, and for his part in this action Mayne received a first bar to his DSO.

In early September 1943, the SRS pushed on and mounted an attack at Bagnara Calabra in Calabria, helping to establish a bridgehead on the Italian mainland for the Allied advance. A month later they also helped to capture the town of Termoli, although at a terrible cost to the regiment.

This capture signalled an end to Mayne’s Italian campaign, and on his return to England the SRS was subsumed into a larger SAS Brigade, with Mayne as its lieutenant colonel. The main focus of the brigade was to support the Normandy landings, what we now know as ‘D-Day’, which eventually took place on 6 June 1944. In August 1944, Mayne was dropped by parachute into occupied France where, deep behind the lines, he harassed the enemy in his inimitable way and for his actions he was awarded a second bar to his DSO.

LIFE AFTER WAR
As the Allies pushed into Germany in the spring of 1945, Mayne and the SAS worked in conjunction with the 4th Canadian Armoured Division in the capture of Kiel and Wilhelmshaven. It was during these closing days of the war that Mayne single-handedly rescued a squadron of his men after they became pinned down by heavy gunfire. The incident occurred near the German town of Oldenburg and, according to several sources, Mayne rescued his men by lifting them one by one into his jeep before despatching the German gunners in a nearby farmhouse. He was recommended for the Victoria Cross, which was personally endorsed by Field Marshal Montgomery, but it was controversially downgraded and instead Mayne received a third bar to his DSO – an act seen as a grave injustice by many.

On 27 March 1945, Eklektikos Lodge, No. 542 (IC), held a ballot for Mayne to be initiated as a Freemason. Accordingly, Mayne was initiated on 25 September 1945; the lodge records modestly give his vocation as ‘Army’. After bailing out of an expedition to the South Atlantic due to serious back problems, Mayne returned to Newtownards in 1946 where he received the second and third degrees on 28 May and 24 September, respectively. An enthusiastic Freemason, two years later he joined a second Newtownards lodge, Friendship Lodge, No. 447, and served as Worshipful Master of his mother lodge in 1954.

With his war years now firmly behind him and the SAS officially disbanded, Mayne tried to settle back into the routine of domestic life but with some difficulty. Physically, he was not the man he once was, and he suffered terribly with his back. However, an intelligent and sensitive man, Mayne took up gardening, found solace in books and he greatly loved Irish culture. He regularly propped up the local bars to enjoy singing, storytelling and poetry recitals, just as he had done with his men under the desert stars in wartime, but herein also lay his Achilles heel: he loved to party, often excessively.

On the night of Tuesday 13 December 1955, after attending a regular meeting of the Friendship Lodge, Mayne continued drinking with a masonic friend in the nearby town of Bangor, before finally making his way home in the small hours. However, he never reached his destination. At about 4am he was found dead in his wrecked red Riley Roadster in Mill Street, Newtownards, having reportedly collided with a farmer’s vehicle. News of his death reverberated across Northern Ireland and, at his funeral, hundreds of mourners turned out to pay their respects and to see him interred in a family plot in the town’s old Movilla cemetery.

Following his passing, his masonic jewel was preserved for many years by an old school friend, before it was eventually presented to Newtownards Borough Council where it can now be seen preserved in the Mayoral Chamber of the Council Offices.


We would like to thank the Mayne family, the SAS Regimental Association and all who helped in the preparation of this article

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