It was horses for courses when Cambridgeshire masons attended a banquet to mark the bicentenary of the Holy Royal Arch in the Millennium Suite overlooking the Rowley Mile at Newmarket racecourse
The climax of the evening was when Grand Superintendent Rodney Wolverson presented a £40,000 cheque to Helen Fernandes, consultant neurosurgeon at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, representing the Royal College of Surgeons.
Fernandes talked of the work of the Royal College of Surgeons, specifically the support for the young surgeons with ideas for research that had the potential to lead to major advances in medicine. She expressed her delight and thanks for the magnificent sum raised by Cambridgeshire Royal Arch Masons.
Royal College support from Northumberland
At the annual meeting of the Northumberland Provincial Grand Chapter, Grand Superintendent Peter Magnay welcomed representatives from the Royal College of Surgeons and presented them with a cheque for £50,000 towards financing their research in Newcastle. Professor Robert Pickard and two of his research fellows, Peter Kullar and Raveen Sander, all based at Newcastle hospitals, outlined the nature of their various research projects.
At the Annual Convocation of the Provincial Grand Chapter of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire, the ME Grand Superintendent, E Comp Wayne Williams, had a surprise up his sleeve for the eldest companion present
This was 92 years old E Comp Frederick (Vic) Bashford, a member of St Ivo Chapter No. 2684, Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire Chapter of First Principals No. 3422 and Ailwyn Chapter No. 3535, who is one of the few surviving WWII veterans who were recently awarded the Arctic Star campaign medal.
During the Second World Cpl Vic Bashford, as a young Royal Air Force Electrical Fitter, was involved in Force Benedict, a secret mission to protect the northern Russia port of Murmansk, that was a crucial lifeline to the Soviets. The aircraft, the first 39 of nearly 3,000 Hurricanes supplied, were transported in August 1941 by the Aircraft Carrier HMS Argos and SS Llanstephen Castle in the first Arctic convoy between the UK and Russia.
Throughout the War 104 merchant ships and 20 Royal Navy ships were lost in the Arctic Convoy duties but fortunately, E Comp Bashford survived this ordeal and was able to be present at the meeting and enjoy the presentation by the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent of his Certificate of Meritorious Service for unstinting service over many years to the Holy Royal Arch.
Cherwell Chapter, No. 599, has celebrated its 125th anniversary at Banbury in Oxfordshire, in the presence of Grand Superintendent Stephen Dunning. Provincial Officers were also in attendance for a demonstration of the history and meaning of the various offices and artefacts of a Royal Arch Chapter. Companions received a copy of a 110-page commemorative book, which contained the history of the chapter and the text of the anniversary ceremony.
The special Bicentennial Convocation of the Chapter of St John, No. 327, which meets at Wigton, Province of Cumberland and Westmorland, was attended by the Second Grand Principal, George Francis, and a deputation from the Supreme Grand Chapter in celebration of its 200th year.
Bob Aird gave a brief history of the chapter’s origins in the town as well as a flavour of the local industry and notable people of the time, John Hamill read the bicentenary charter, and Third Provincial Grand Principal, the Reverend Robert Roeschlaub, gave an oration.
At the Festive Board, George Francis had special gifts for Grand Superintendent Norman Thompson and the Principals of the Chapter. The Second Grand Principal is renowned for wearing red socks to chapter convocations and so presented the Grand Superintendent and Principals with their own stylish pairs.
Wiltshire Grand Superintendent David Blanchard has received strong backing for the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal in support of the Royal College of Surgeons, improved by a further £500 donated at the First Principals Chapter.
There were presentations by a number of college representatives, including head of research Martyn Coomer; Priyan Landham, who specialises in orthopaedic (trauma) surgery; and Nishith Patel, a heart surgeon who is researching kidney failure after cardiac surgery.
Today the formation of a Grand Chapter would be widely reported. As John Hamill explains, such was not the case for the Excellent Grand and Royal Arch Chapter of England
As I wrote in the last issue of Freemasonry Today, the Royal Arch was brought into being by the signing of the document now know as the Charter of Compact on 22 July 1766, although the date was later tampered with. Strangely, there is no mention of that charter within the minutes of the chapter, which turned itself into the Grand Chapter. So exactly how did events pan out?
1765: The signing of a manifesto
On 12 June 1765, a group of twenty-nine companions met at the Turk’s Head Tavern in Gerrard Street, Soho and signed a manifesto by which they constituted themselves into an independent Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. The manifesto – a set of rules to govern the operation of the chapter – was copied into the minute book in an illuminated style and was signed by those present and then by every brother on his exaltation within the chapter.
1766: Grand Chapter catalyst
Among those who joined were many of the major figures then involved in the running of the premier Grand Lodge. Exactly a year after its formation, the success of the chapter was crowned by the candidate at the meeting on 11 June 1766 being the then Grand Master – Cadwallader, Lord Blayney. It would appear that this event was the catalyst for the formation of a Grand Chapter, although the minutes are silent on this matter, any discussion of the Charter of Compact, or even to its signing. The only reference in the minute book is in the accounts where it is noted that a Mr Parkinson was paid two guineas for engrossing the charter.
1769: Just a private chapter?
The chapter continued to work as a private chapter, regularly exalting new members and it is not until 1769 that the minutes begin to show evidence of it acting as a Grand Chapter. In that year it began to issue charters to form new chapters. Of these foundations five are still in existence today. It would appear from the minute books that the chapter continued a dual role as both a private chapter and a Grand Chapter until it evolved into Supreme Grand Chapter in 1817. From 1795 it began to function on a regular basis as we would expect today.
1778: Spreading the message
In 1778, the chapter began to organise Provinces with the appointment of Grand Superintendents, whose main function appears to have been to stimulate the formation of new chapters. Thomas Dunckerley, who did so much to promote the Royal Arch in the late eighteenth century between 1778 and his death in 1795, was appointed Grand Superintendent in no less than eighteen counties.
1795: Grand Lodge softening
Despite many of its leaders being involved in the Grand Chapter, the premier Grand Lodge consistently refused to acknowledge the Royal Arch as part of its system. By 1795 that attitude had softened and the premier Grand Lodge announced, rather condescendingly, that it had no objections to the Royal Arch as a separately organised society.
1809: Royal Arch an integral part
With HRH The Duke of Sussex becoming both Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge and First Grand Principal of the Grand Chapter, the latter body gave him full powers to negotiate on their behalf whatever settlement could be achieved as to the position of the Royal Arch, once the of the two Grand Lodges had been carried through. It was as a result of that, and his position as Grand Master, that a compromise was achieved and the Royal Arch was accepted as an integral part of pure antient masonry.
1817: Birth of the Supreme Grand Chapter
The Grand Chapter continued to exist until 1817 when, with the Craft arrangements being almost completed, The Duke of Sussex turned his mind to the Royal Arch. The Grand and Royal Chapter merged with the former members of the Antients Royal Arch, with the Supreme Grand Chapter coming into being. Surprisingly after 1817, the dual nature of the original Grand Chapter – acting both as a regulatory body and a private chapter – continued with men of eminence being exalted within the Grand Chapter itself.
1832: Last exaltations
The last occasion the Grand Chapter acted as both regulator and private chapter was in May 1832 when the Marquis of Salisbury, the Marquis of Abercorn and Lord Monson were exalted at an emergency meeting of Grand Chapter.
As the lark was still slumbering and dreaming of catching flies during the forthcoming daylight, 27 companions of the Provincial Stewards’ Chapter No 8516 of West Lancashire, Demonstration Team were already on the road and heading for Shrewsbury, in Shropshire.
They had been invited to the Masonic Hall in Crewe Street to perform ‘The Re-building of a Chapter’, by the Shropshire First Principals’ Chapter No 6262 after correspondence between their secretary Eric Booth and the head of the demonstration team Bill Smith.
After a long journey the team was thankful for a hearty breakfast which was served soon after arriving at the hall at 7.30 am, but a fully organized chef and his team were more than able to match even the most voracious of appetites.
The name of the host chapter is self-explanatory and was consecrated in 1987 and since permission was granted by Supreme Grand Chapter, has like many, chosen to dispense with the wearing of gloves. It meets in what is now the Shrewsbury Masonic Hall, which was the former parish church of St Michael and it was pleasing to see the war memorial within the grounds fully renovated and adorned with flowers.
The church was consecrated on 24 August 1830, being designed by John Carlisle in the Grecian style and includes an octagonal tower. The church was built in brick and the chancel was added later in 1873, the church served the local community until it was closed in 1976.
It was within this fine building that the demonstration team spent their early morning in setting out the room and having the necessary practice to assimilate with the unfamiliar surroundings. When all were satisfied that everything was ready there was just enough time to change into regalia before the Shropshire companions arrived and the chapter opened. Present on the day were the Grand Superintendent of Shropshire Peter Taylor, accompanied by Roger Pemberton, (Second Provincial Grand Principal) and John Williamson (Deputy Grand Superintendent).
The past first principals of the chapter were introduced and escorted to their places, this was followed by the First Principals of Shropshire Royal Arch Chapters being individually announced and escorted to their respective place by a Provincial Steward from West Lancashire. The chapter was then placed in a state of darkness and a synopsis of the historical events and of the proclamation of Cyrus King of Persia leading up to the ‘re-building’ was delivered by David Harrison.
The chapter resumed its illumination as Barry Elman described the purpose and cause of the individual pieces of furniture which were brought in by the members of Provincial Stewards’ Chapter. When this was complete the chapter was opened by its three Principals and after two matters of chapter business had been dealt with the demonstration was resumed. The chapter was also at this time re-dedicated by Reverend Graham Halsall.
There then followed a reminder to the companions of what the six lights within the chapter represent. This was delivered by Bill Smith and his conclusion of the form of a triangle which represented the Supreme Being and/or an aide memoire, as the triangle could be reconstructed by using one piece of material or matter that was totally portable. Furthermore as it was a geometrical figure, was geometry itself the powerful superior knowledge that set aside the intelligent being, man? Robin Andrews Morris then presented the acting candidate to the first principal and proceeded to inform him on what the floor furniture represented.
Bill then introduced David Harrison, who had with him an extremely special gavel which may be described as a true Masonic gavel for a number of reasons, which David explained most eloquently. It is made of three differing woods; elm, ash, and oak.
On conclusion of the talk, David and Bill presented the gavel to the chapter on behalf of the Provincial Stewards’ Chapter, suitably inscribed onto an adorning plaque. First Principal, David Joyce assured them both that it would be treasured by all of the members of the Shropshire First Principals’ Chapter and become a respected artifact within the chapter.
On conclusion of the meeting, all descended to the ground floor for a very agreeable festive board at which twocheques were made out from the alms collection at the ceremony, for an equal three figure amount, one for the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, the other was returned to David Joyce to be used for the benefit of the Midland Air Ambulance Service.
In the next available post, Bill Smith received a letter of thanks and appreciation from David Joyce, part of which said: “It has been a lovely experience and it is clear that the companions of our chapter and our Province were deeply impressed with the choreography, the detail and the ethos of your presentation. Would you please pass on to your team our enormous appreciation of the efforts they made, each and everyone? Thank you, again.”
It had obviously been a successful day for all concerned and it must be remembered that the demonstration team carry out their work voluntary and in their spare time, but such dedication brings its own reward at the satisfaction gained spreading knowledge to those that attend a chapter to see the team at work.
Royal Arch Investiture
28 April 2011
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, this is a special day for those of you who have been appointed to Grand Rank or have been promoted. Grand rank is sparingly awarded and I congratulate you on your achievement. In recognising that the Royal Arch is the completion of pure ancient masonry, exaltation into the Order should neither be hurried nor obligatory, as not all Craft Brethren will wish to take this final step immediately upon being raised. However, it is hoped that you as Grand Officers will be able to communicate something of the colour, enjoyment and essence of the Royal Arch to committed members of the Craft.
As we move towards the bi-centenary of the Order in 2013 we have taken the opportunity to further ensure the long term future of the Royal Arch. In raising the profile to achieve this, it is important to make sure we are seen as appealing, inspiring and relevant.
To that end, a strategic working party, under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal, reported their nine recommendations to me in March. The first of these recommendations in their Report was that the strap line ‘initiation to exaltation’ be adopted to promote the Order.
The working party looked at mentoring and how it should align to the work being done on this in the Craft. Here it was suggested that the Craft Personal Mentor and the Royal Arch Representative actively guide a new Master Mason towards membership of the Royal Arch at an appropriate point in his Masonic journey. Also that once exalted the new Companion has a knowledgeable Royal Arch Mason to help him better understand the ceremony and meaning of the Royal Arch and how best to become involved in the Chapter.
The role of the Lodge Royal Arch Representative is fundamental to the promotion of the Order and it is recommended that Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges continue to encourage Craft Lodges to make this appointment and to develop the role. It is also considered important that the adoption of the permitted ritual variations, introduced by the 2004 Royal Arch Strategic Working Party be encouraged in Chapters.
I am aware that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and several Provinces and Districts are already presenting a letter to the newly made Master Mason on the merits of the Royal Arch. This practice is highly recommended by the Working Party. Efforts to improve the profile of the Order in all website contexts is underway and will help the potential exaltee to have a better understanding of the Order he is about to join.
Two clear outward ways to promote the Order are emphasised. First, the taking of wine with Royal Arch members at selected Craft Festive Boards and secondly, that the wearing of the official Royal Arch tie be further encouraged. The final recommendation is that Chapters be encouraged to re-engage with Lodges from which they have traditionally derived members.
In order to encourage a greater participation amongst all Companions, as well as lending clarity to the Royal Arch teachings, the Working Party looked at the layout of the ritual books so that the Revised and Permitted Alternative variations adopted in 2004 be encouraged as the standard. I emphasise that nothing is now being suggested which in any way enforces or changes what was introduced by Supreme Grand Chapter in 2004.
A wider participation in the ritual is clearly beneficial in encouraging a deeper understanding of the teaching and by giving the permitted variations of 2004 a greater prominence in the various printed and authorised rituals – for example, Aldersgate, Domatic, Perfect and Metropolitan – I trust more Chapters will be encouraged to adopt them and benefit accordingly. For your interest, all these are likely to be reprinted in the next eighteen months.
The celebration of the bi-centenary next year will be held on Wednesday 16 October. This earlier date will replace the November Convocation – for that year only. The planned events of the day will begin with a demonstration by the Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Chapter Demonstration Team – in the Grand Temple – to encourage the use of the Permitted Alternative Variation that I have just referred to. This will be followed by lunch in the Grand Connaught Rooms. The main celebration will take place in the afternoon - again in the Grand Temple, followed by a dinner at the Savoy. You will appreciate that these events will be restricted by numbers. The Grand Scribe Ezra will be briefing Grand Superintendents and Provincial Scribes Ezra on the detail in good time.
The 2013 Royal Arch Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons is progressing well – with over half a million recorded so far. This means that we are well on our way to exceeding our target, so that we can then further help the research fellowship scheme, run by the College, by financially supporting additional fellowships. I encourage you to keep up your efforts.
Finally Companions, on your behalf I congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the excellent way in which today’s meeting has been conducted and the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for their hard work in ensuring a successful Investiture.
Geoffrey Dearing has been installed as both Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent of the Royal Arch in the Province of East Kent by Jonathan Spence, Deputy Grand Master and Past Second Grand Principal.
The two ceremonies took place at the Winter Gardens theatre and functions building in Margate. Jonathan Spence reminded the companions and brethren that East Kent is his home Province, being a member of Pentangle Chapter and Sir Joseph Williamson Lodge, both meeting at Rochester.