From the Grand Secretary
We are delighted at the response to the first Membership Focus Group survey with 5,265 of you taking part. Please do read the very interesting results in this issue on page 16, as they reveal how members cherish mutual respect and moral values while still embracing fun and enjoyment.
The Membership Focus Group survey is a classic example of involving members in the future of Freemasonry – not least members at lodge and chapter level. Our ability to communicate with individuals in order to seek their views is increasingly important to ensure the success of our organisation going forward.
It is therefore crucial that we recognise that it is right and proper to talk openly about our membership and to feel proud of that membership. To that end, we must meet the challenge to find a simple manner of communicating our unique offering to new members, as well as to family, friends and acquaintances. Actions speak louder than words and we are increasingly convinced that the challenge of communicating what Freemasonry means will be met by members at lodge and chapter level.
In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we talk to masons who are sharing the message at a local level. Our profile of Somerset’s Adair Club reveals how combining a modern outlook with traditional values can ensure new recruits to Freemasonry feel part of their Province. Meanwhile, we look at the masonic contributions to sports charity Street League that are giving unemployed young people career direction by encouraging them to use the team-building skills found in football.
Our feature on the pioneering work being carried out in RMBI care homes shows how residents can be made to feel more secure. The charity is finding that, whether it’s memories of flying with Franklin D Roosevelt or pretending to be Father Christmas over the phone, life stories can be used to better understand and care for its residents.
Looking further back, the spirit of Freemasonry is revealed in a fascinating document held by the Library and Museum. We learn about the hundreds of Freemasons held at Ruhleben internment camp in Germany during World War I and the launch of a campaign to send food parcels to their aid. It is just one of the many stories in this issue of Freemasonry Today that show why we should be proud to be members of this fraternal organisation.
‘Actions speak louder than words and we are increasingly convinced that the challenge of communicating what Freemasonry means will be met by members at lodge and chapter level.’
10 December 2014
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, a lot goes on during a period of 12 months in Freemasonry. Much of this all our members see in their lodges, as well at Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges and Grand Lodge. However what is not seen is all the work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that all runs smoothly and, even more importantly, that the Craft is fit for purpose for the future.
Over the last 40 odd years we have fought hard to ensure that our public image is continually improving. It would be ridiculous to claim that we have won all these battles or that we have convincingly won the war, but we have undoubtedly made significant progress in many areas. We will not be giving up on any of these battles, but in addition we are very much concentrating our efforts on making sure that we know as much as possible about our membership and what we can do to stabilise membership numbers and increasingly attract natural leaders and high quality members.
The Membership Focus Group under the chairmanship of the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, RW Bro Ray Reed, has made great strides in gathering essential information and assessing membership trends. We are presently considering governance, leadership, image and branding needs, as well as recruitment and retrieval, all vital to the success of any organisation. The MFG is keen to have the views of members on a number of subjects essential to the future of the Craft and is setting up a series of surveys to be conducted over the coming months which will allow all members to express their views. So far, I understand that over 5,500 members have signed up and I encourage more to do so.
Some ideas put forward may appear trivial, but it so often that which appears trivial that introduces a debate which widens and becomes, dare I say, a cornerstone. One such idea has been put to me by Bro Reed and came from a chance conversation that he had with a certain Deputy PGM, who shall remain nameless but his Province has a county town called Lincoln! Amongst several very useful points that he made was that the word “recruitment” has connotations of press ganging into the services and that, rather than talking about “recruiting” new members, why not think about “attracting” them. This may appear to be just semantics, but I believe it is rather more than that and could be very relevant.
The point I am making is that nobody should consider any idea too small to put forward. The worst that can happen is that it is not implemented – you won’t be demoted! A word of warning on this – I will be hugely unpopular with the Grand Secretary if his department is flooded out with emails so please express your ideas by using the free text boxes that will be incorporated into future surveys.
There have also been a number of changes within the secretariat and those working in this building. As most of you will have noticed by now, we are leading up to a very major event in 2017 and this is going to take a huge amount of organisation. For this reason it was decided to ask the Grand Secretary to concentrate his time and efforts on the purely masonic side of his current role and to separate away the operational side of the building, along with the finance and IT departments, which will be run by a Chief Operating Officer, Nicola Graham-Adriani who has been working for us here for over 13 years, latterly as Deputy Chief Executive.
Brethren, this meeting of Grand Lodge marks a watershed by having the Paper of Business circulated electronically. This was not as easy as it may sound, as, amongst other things, it required changes to the Book of Constitution. A team led by VW Bro James Long and including the current Grand Pursuivant have spent many hours ensuring that the circulation went smoothly and I congratulate all of them on doing so.
Another area where there has been much activity is the organisation of our four main Charities. In 2008 several PGMs made representations to the Rulers about how they would like to see the Charities modernised. A Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee was set up under the chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master, which at that time was myself, but was soon to become RW Bro Jonathan Spence who has overseen the vast majority of the Committee’s work. The Charities themselves had already made an important start by agreeing to come together under one roof and they are, of course, now all in this building.
The Committee has been working extremely hard, together with the Charity Presidents and their Chief Executives, to come forward with a formula that will suit the Charities for many years to come.
I am pleased to announce that the MW The Grand Master has now received a comprehensive briefing on the review that has taken place, as have the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters. This is the first major review to have taken place since the Bagnell Report of 41 years ago.
The Grand Master and all those who have been briefed have given their full support to the proposal to consolidate the four existing main Charities into a new overarching charity managed by a single board of Trustees under a single Chief Executive Officer with a single staff team.
Further details will be made available via the individual Charities, Provincial and District Grand Masters, and through future editions of Freemasonry Today.
At the Annual General Meeting of The Grand Charity, to be held in conjunction with the September 2015 Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, members, after a period of consultation, will be invited to endorse the proposals in respect of the changes required to the constitution of The Grand Charity. Similar activity will be required at appropriately convened members meetings for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
The review sets out to ensure that the provision of charitable support remains central to the future of Freemasonry, but is enhanced by moving to a demand-led, whole family, cradle-to-grave model, which will be far more appropriate for the 21st century. I congratulate all those involved in this review and commend their recommendations to you.
Brethren, I have spoken for rather longer than usual, but I trust that you will agree that some important issues have been covered and I believe that it is right for Grand Lodge to be kept up to date on such matters.
Last year I mentioned that I was expecting a tiring Christmas with my grandchildren. It wasn’t just them who were exhausting. My three sons, who are all in their thirties, passed my two grandsons on the stairs. One set were on their way to bed, the other on their way to open their stockings. I leave it to you, brethren, as to which lot was going in which direction!
Whoever you spend your holiday period with, may I wish you all a very happy and relaxing time.
From the Grand Secretary
Gathering the views and opinions of our members has never been more important. We are determined to continue to work closely with Metropolitan London, the Provinces and the Districts throughout the English Constitution. This is demonstrated by an inclusive approach when deciding new initiatives.
Let me give you some examples from this year. The Pro Grand Master has met with all Provincial Grand Masters, the Second Grand Principal has met with the Grand Superintendents, and we have paid attention to our District Grand Masters, attending the regional Conference of Caribbean District Grand Masters in Bermuda. We were also present at the Freemasons’ Conference, organised by the District of East Africa and held in Dar es Salaam. More recently, we attended the second Asia Pacific Conference in Hong Kong with District Grand Masters from the Eastern Archipelago, India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand South Island.
It is not just the senior members of the organisation, however, who we invite views from. The Membership Focus Group is still seeking assistance from members by way of short surveys. This is a great opportunity to have your say and I encourage you to register to take part at www.ugle.org.uk/mfg
In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we look at how the future of our organisation is in the hands of a new generation. We profile three young men who have joined the Craft: Mat Tindall is a stonemason working on Castle Drogo; Anthony Hall is a choreographer in London; and John Henry Phillips is a student archaeologist in Leicester. Carving out careers in three very different trades, these masons all feel that they have much to learn, but also something important to contribute.
Our feature on Ruspini House explores a unique masonic building that is enabling young people to learn and work in London. Masonic support is also crucial to Lifelites, a charity that helps disabled children to explore the world in new ways thanks to cutting-edge technology; we talk to Chief Executive Simone Enefer-Doy about its work. Further afield, we report on how Freemasons helped to rebuild the Philippines’ shattered infrastructure after the cyclone that tore across the islands in 2013.
As a new generation joins the Craft and we continue to support those around us, this issue of Freemasonry Today shows an organisation with a strong future. I hope that you and your families have a wonderful festive season.
‘Gathering the views and opinions of our members has never been more important.’
These boots are made for walking
A team of Nottinghamshire masons, led by Provincial Grand Master Robin Wilson, assembled at Freemasons’ Hall in London to begin a sponsored walk to their headquarters in Nottingham. The 175-mile route between the two cities followed the towpaths of the Grand Union Canal and took the walkers 11 days to complete.
After setting off from Great Queen Street in the presence of Grand Secretary Nigel Brown and members of the Board of General Purposes, they passed through several Provinces, allowing other walkers to join them. The unique walk was one of Nottinghamshire’s major fundraising events in support of the 2018 Festival for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.
From the Grand Secretary
We have recently completed another readership survey about Freemasonry Today, which shows encouraging results supporting its editorial approach and philosophy. Let me give you some examples of those interesting results. Three quarters of readers think the magazine is excellent, with seventy-five per cent believing that Freemasonry Today is a forward-looking publication, and seventy-three per cent agreeing that it helps change perceptions about Freemasons for the better. Eighty-four per cent say the magazine shows us in a modern light and portrays the openness of the United Grand Lodge of England.
More than half our readers have encouraged friends and family to read the magazine, while three quarters have discussed an article with them. Forty-four per cent of readers say their wives and partners read Freemasonry Today with eighty-nine per cent being more positive about the Craft after doing so.
We have had fantastic feedback from our new DVD, What’s It All About? The film has been shown successfully at county shows and received more than 30,000 views on YouTube.
In this issue of the magazine, you will find myriad examples of what our members enjoy about the Craft – for some it’s supporting charity, while others are looking to find a greater understanding of themselves.
We follow a group of Welsh lodges as they trek around the coastline to support a local charity. While the money raised will help fund a state-of-the-art children’s hospital in Cardiff, one of the masons on the walk admits that the reward of making lifelong friendships is what drives him to take part in these activities.
For Frank Lee, a volunteer at a local RMBI care home, his Freemasonry is about looking after the elderly and doing what he can to help them. Our report on the Association of Friends scheme explains why Frank counts many of the James Terry Court residents as friends, as they see him as one of the family.
Our feature on Ian Mcilquham profiles a Freemason who received crucial assistance when he needed it most. His local lodge and the MSF were on hand to give financial and pastoral support following Ian’s diagnosis with prostate cancer. His story is not unique. Since 2005, local masonic lodges have raised £476,000 for Prostate Cancer UK in a bid not only to raise awareness, but also to improve ways of treating the condition.
The fact that Freemasonry can encompass all these things (and more) reveals an organisation that has a great deal to offer to both existing members and potential recruits.
‘Eighty-four per cent of readers say the magazine shows Freemasons in a modern light and portrays the openness of the United Grand Lodge of England.’
Following the announcement in March that the Provincial Grand Master, Peter Hosker, was to retire on 19 May, a great deal of planning and hard work has taken place in London by UGLE and the Provincial team in Hope Street to prepare for the investiture meetings
In the last few days the all the planning by the Provincial Grand Directors of Ceremonies came together as the acting officers met in Leyland for two nights of rehearsals.
The job of moving the regalia, chapter and lodge furniture from Liverpool and Blackpool Masonic Hall to the Winter Gardens, Blackpool was also undertaken the day before the investiture meeting so that the temple could be prepared for the investiture in the morning of James Anthony Harrison as Provincial Grand Master of the Province of West Lancashire by the Grand Secretary, Nigel Brown.
On the day of the investiture final rehearsals started at 8am as the Grand Director of Ceremonies, Oliver Lodge and his team took the acting officers through their perambulations for the final time.
When the doors were opened to the ballroom in the Winter Gardens, Blackpool more than 1,800 brethren took their seats before the first procession commenced. The procession was led by the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Keith Kemp who proceeded Howard Jones, Deputy Provincial Grand Master in Charge and the senior officers and acting Provincial Offcers of the Provincial Grand Lodge of West Lancashire along with representatives from the seven oldest lodges in the Province into the packed ball room in the Winter Gardens
Howard then opened Provincial Grand Lodge in due form.
The Grand Director of Ceremonies was then admitted into the lodge – He informed the Provincial Grand Master in Charge that the Grand Secretary stood outside and demanded admission, Howard said he would be pleased to receive him.
The Grand Director of Ceremonies, Oliver Lodge accompanied by his three Deputy Grand Directors of Ceremonies led the Grand Secretary, Nigel Brown, who was accompanied by Assistant Grand Secretary, Tony Rayner and three Provincial Grand Masters: Keith Dalrymple (Isle of Man), Steven Adcott (Cheshire) and Sir David Trippier (East Lancashire) along with other visiting grand officers in what was a very colourful procession into the ballroom.
After being welcomed to the meeting Nigel was offered the gavel by Howard. Nigel accepted the gavel and took his seat. Nigel appointed his wardens Steven Adcott (senior warden) and Keith Dalrymple (junior warden), with Rev Graham Halsall acting as Grand Chaplain, he proceeded to open Grand Lodge.
Nigel addressed the brethren, informing them that the object of the meeting was to invest Tony Harrison as the Provincial Grand Master for the Province of West Lancashire.
The Grand Director of Ceremonies then submitted the Provincial Grand Master designate’s Patent of Appointment to Nigel for inspection. After inspecting the Patent Nigel asked the Grand Director of Ceremonies to form a deputation to introduce the Provincial Grand Master designate.
On the return of the delegation the Assistant Grand Secretary read the Patent of Appointment.
At this point Nigel asked Tony if he could conscientiously undertake the duties of the office, to which he gave his consent.
A prayer was then read by the acting Grand Chaplain. After the prayer Tony took his obligation, after which he was invested and placed in the chair of King Solomon. Nigel congratulated Tony on behalf of the Grand Master, he was then conducted to a chair on the right of the Provincial Grand Master and the deputation resumed the positions in the lodge.
The acting Grand Wardens and Chaplain were replaced by the Provincial wardens and chaplain.
The Grand Director of Ceremonies proclaimed Tony as the Provincial Grand Master and called on the brethren to salute him. To which Tony gave a suitable reply.
Tony addressed Howard Jones, saying: 'You have been Deputy Provincial Grand Master since 2012, previous to which you were an AsstProvGM for four years. Throughout this time, you have clearly demonstrated your enthusiasm and commitment to Freemasonry and to this Province, and I had absolutely no hesitation in asking you to be Deputy Provincial Grand Master, which you have thankfully accepted.
Tony obligated and Invested Howard as the Deputy Provincial Grand Master and he was conducted to his Chair.
A Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies proclaimed Howard as Deputy Provincial Grand Master and called on the brethren of the Province to salute him. To which Howard gave a suitable reply.
Tony named the brethren he was reappointing as Assistant Provincial Grand Masters: 'I am pleased to report that the nine Assistant Provincial Grand Masters have all indicated that they wish to continue in their important roles. I thank them individually and collectively for their support. They are: Raymond Martland, Philip Gunning, Anthony Bent, Mark Dimelow, Harry Cox, David Winder, John Hutton, Derek Parkinson and David Grainger. Thank you very much indeed.
Tony continued: 'As you have all previously filled the office of APrGM, it is not necessary for you to repeat, in full, the obligation which you took when you were first appointed. I will read it and you must, re-affirm the undertakings you made then with regard to the performance of the duties of the office, and that you made when you were first appointed.' Which they did and Tony then said: 'I have much pleasure in appointing each of you as AsstProvGM’s'.
A Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies proclaimed the reappointed Assistant Provincial Grand Masters and called on the brethren of the Province to salute them.
Tony said: 'In addition to the re-appointment of those nine AsstProvGM’s, I intend to appoint as AsstProvGM, Kevin Poynton, who will succeed the late Ian Boswell who passed away very recently.
Kevin, you have been a mason for over 34 years, during which time you have held the office of Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies for three years in the Craft and then three years in the Royal Arch. You have been Assistant to ProvGMs for just over 12 months and had already started to make a positive impact within the groups under your care. You are a highly experienced mason and I am looking forward immensely to working with you.
Kevin gave a solemn obligation with regard to the performance of the duties of his office. After giving his obligation Tony appointed him as Assistant Provincial Grand Master.
A Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies then proclaimed Kevin an Assistant Provincial Grand Masters and called on the brethren of the Province to salute them. To which Kevin gave a suitable reply.
Tony addressed Provincial Grand Lodge:
'Brethren, can I begin my address by thanking the Grand Secretary, Nigel Brown for his attendance here today and for literally stepping in at the last minute, and to the Assistant Grand Secretary for today, Tony Rayner and the Grand Director of Ceremonies Oliver Lodge who, together with their deputies and assistants, have brought so much to what has been a splendid occasion.
'I am sure I speak for everyone in the Province when I say how delighted we are to see you here for both investitures and I hope your stay in West Lancashire will be remembered as a happy and memorable one.
'The Installation of a new ProvGM is an important milestone in the life of any Province and today has been no exception and it is only right and proper that firstly, I pay tribute to my predecessor, Peter Hosker. Whilst much of Peter’s time in office was spent attending installations, amalgamations, centenaries and even re-dedication ceremonies, behind the scenes he put an unbelievable amount of time and effort into making sure that this Province adopted procedures that would allow it to run in a much more business-like fashion.
'Yes we are doing much the same as before, but I can assure you brethren, because of what Peter put in place, we are doing everything a whole lot smarter and certainly a lot more efficiently.
'I am sure you will all join with me in wishing both Peter and his wife Julie, a long and happy retirement together.
'Brethren, you will all be aware of the tremendous amount of change that has been brought upon us in the past 12 months. I would now hope for a period of stability within the Province so that we can get on with what we are good at ‘enjoying our Freemasonry and making sure that everyone else enjoys it too’.
'To Howard Jones, who has agreed to continue as my deputy, I would say a huge thank you, as well as to my assistants who I have had the greatest of pleasure in reappointing this afternoon and would like to offer the thanks of the Province to Howard for all the work that he has undertaken as the Deputy Provincial Grand Master in Charge.
'It is indeed extremely sad that Ian Boswell only very recently lost his brave battle against his cancer but I would like to say how grateful we are to him for all the work that he did as AsstProvGM.
'I have been please to appoint Kevin Poynton as AsstProvGM with particular responsibilities for the Warrington, Widnes and Woolton groups and I welcome him to our new team.
'In a Province of this size, one that is still the largest under the UGLE, I cannot be everywhere, all the time, so I place an great amount of trust and responsibility in my deputy and assistants who I know work so hard at doing what they do so well. Brethren you have my unreserved thanks and appreciation and I look forward to us working closely together in the months and years to come.
'In West Lancashire our group system continues to serve the Province and membership well and our group chairman and their executive are, without doubt some of the most dedicated brethren we have and in recognition of, and in support of their office, I will be looking closely at the group system, with a view to devolving greater ownership, but for now, I would like to thank you all for your support, encouragement and commitment.
'The society in which we live and work continues to change at an alarming rate and Grand Lodge has changed to meet the myriad of challenges that those changes bring. Here in West Lancashire we have made those same changes and have met those same challenges. We continue to embrace the advantages that come with new technology and we make full use of the latest means of social media to reach out to the public at large and to communicate within our own membership. Technology does not stand still and neither should we. We are fortunate that within our membership we have brethren with the necessary skillsets in place to make sure we remain ready to adopt the very latest in communication and social media and we will continue to invest in appropriate technology where and when necessary.
'Through our Mentoring and Membership schemes we are tackling head on recruitment, retention and retrieval and already we are beginning to see the benefits. I would suggest to you all that there is nothing better than hearing of brethren talking about Freemasonry openly among their family, friends and colleagues. We are all membership officers and mentors and none of us should feel the need to have any separate designation. From this day forward you certainly have my permission to talk about Freemasonry and if someone asks you why you are, you can tell them Tony Harrison said so, and I am sure our Grand Secretary will confirm. And I would like to inform you all that there is now a new video on our Provincial website that explains the key elements of Freemasonry. Please take every opportunity to share it with your non-masonic friends as this may interest them in joining our fraternity.
'Brethren, as a Province we continue to be at the forefront of charitable giving. In the past year alone we gave just under £260,000 to non-masonic charities and donations to our West Lancashire Freemasons' Charity from our lodges, chapters and individuals, including Gift Aid on those donations, amounted to over £370,000 and we have every intention on not only maintaining that level of disbursement, but by your tremendous efforts, continuing to increase it year on year.
'In a little over two years-time, we will begin to celebrate our tercentenary. 2017 will be a year that will see great masonic events and ceremonial and centrally plans are already well underway. In West Lancashire we will be joining in those celebrations and separately, but complementary to, we will be organising our own events and in the near future I will be making a number of announcements concerning what we have in mind and if you feel that you have any ideas and wish to contribute in any way please let me know.
'Looking round this room now and the many lodge rooms I will look round in the future, serves as a constant reminder of the obligations and responsibilities that are placed upon me. Yes, in the months and years that lie ahead things will alter, nothing ever stays the same, In fact I can't begin to tell you just how much my life has changed already, but you know brethren I am enjoying every single minute of it and it really is my biggest wish that we can all share in that same enjoyment and fun.
'Every single brother of this Province has his own part to play in our future and I would like to encourage a greater transparency in what we do, so that everyone feels that he is part of the whole process and that his views and opinions are just as important as anyone else. But above all I would like to engender a feeling of being happy and having fun, which to me, is fundamental to the success and enjoyment of our entire organisation.
'Brethren, we are inheritors of a past so carefully laid down by some pretty formidable predecessors and we are dealing with a present that continues to change for the better. We now have the opportunity to build on our inheritance so that West Lancashire can continue to prosper and future generations in turn will inherit a Province with an exceptional past, an outstanding present and a wonderful future.
'In closing I would like to give a very big thank you to all the brethren from the Furness and South Lakeland Group and the Lancaster and District Group who together with their respective vice chairmen Peter Schofield and Martin Baxendale are stewarding this special day so well.
'Finally brethren, can I thank each and every one of you for your attendance here today and to those brethren from our neighbouring Provinces and to those from further afield, I trust that you have had a pleasant and enjoyable day here in Blackpool and we hope you all have a safe journey home. God Bless you all.'
Tony then closed Provincial Grand Lodge.
The Grand Director of Ceremonies then led the recession of grand officers out of the lodge.
From the Grand Secretary
Many readers will know of the Royal Arch 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons.
The final result has just been announced as £2.5 million. This is a fantastic sum and a great example of our philanthropy. As Secretary of the appeal, I know how much was done to achieve this impressive figure and that much of the praise is justly attributed to the Second Grand Principal as Chairman of the appeal.
You will all be receiving a DVD copy of our latest short film with this issue of Freemasonry Today. It has been greeted with great acclaim and we hope you will show it to your family.
It is different and exciting, designed specifically for family members to show them about our friendships, the importance of family and the good we do in our communities. In other words, Freemasonry is a great organisation of which to be a member, and one of which we should all be proud. Indeed, as we move towards our Tercentenary we should show our pride in being a member and look for people of quality who can join us to share in that pride.
Interestingly, two of the Senior Insights in this issue of the magazine discuss recruitment and retention. HRH The Duke of Kent, our Grand Master, explains that these tasks are more important than ever and emphasises the role of the mentoring scheme in retaining members. The Pro Grand Master asks why so few members recruit and urges us to become more active in this area. We encourage you to read both of these excellent articles.
In this issue, we believe you will find a great deal to inspire you about Freemasonry.
We profile Pete Bray, who, having survived two hurricanes and a sinking ship, is now embarking on a new journey as a Freemason. Paul Calderwood traces the Craft’s faltering relationship with the press throughout the twentieth century and provides some useful insight into how things have started to improve. Meanwhile, four members of a Salvation Army brass band explain why playing together is the perfect complement to being members of a lodge.
For some, the community of Freemasons across England and Wales is a fantastic way of sharing a common interest or raising much-needed money for good causes. For others, it provides a unique opportunity to bring people together. We find out how fighter pilot Len Thorne saw one of his squadron shot down during World War II; and how forty-five years later, at a Masonic Widows Friendship Club, Len discovered his colleague was still alive and living just eight miles down the road. Len is a fantastic example of the breadth of people who make up the Craft. I hope you enjoy reading his story and the many others in this issue.
‘In this issue of the magazine, we believe you will find a great deal to inspire you about Freemasonry.’
Forget the box office. There’s a movie exclusive on the front cover of this issue of Freemasonry Today. Sarah Holmes goes behind the scenes of a new film about the Craft, and meets the cast and crew bringing it all to life
A film crew is recording Sam Colling as he tears a Subaru Impreza around a muddy racetrack in Oxfordshire. Attempting a hairpin bend, Sam is in his element. While others might consider this a nightmarish experience, for thrill-seeking Sam – one of three Freemasons chosen to appear in the United Grand Lodge of England’s (UGLE’s) latest film – it’s a great way of unwinding. The short film, to be found on the front cover of this issue of Freemasonry Today, aims to convey to people outside of the Craft exactly what Freemasonry is all about by showcasing the diverse mix of people who enjoy it as a hobby.
With his love of extreme sports, and a Navy career that sees him regularly navigating the stormy North Atlantic Sea, Sam isn’t what people may typically expect of a Freemason. Fortunately, London-based director Lee Cheney had no intention of playing to preconceptions when it came to casting the film.
Part of visual communications specialist VisMedia, Cheney was commissioned by UGLE in May 2013 to create a modern portrayal of the masonic world, as told by the members themselves.
‘This film is very different from anything I’ve seen on Freemasonry before, and that is the real merit of it.’ Nigel Brown
A change of scene
It’s a step in a new direction for UGLE, which was eager to investigate the potential of rich media for expanding awareness of Freemasonry. As a non-mason, Cheney brought a fresh perspective that fitted perfectly with UGLE’s aim to nurture a more relevant, outward-facing perception of the Craft.
‘This film is very different from anything I’ve seen on Freemasonry before, and that is the real merit of it,’ says Grand Secretary Nigel Brown. ‘Lee immediately understood it should be angled from the perspective of the non-mason, and particularly that of the families.’
Nigel was keen that the film – funded by UGLE at a cost of just 20p per member – supported the families of masons. ‘It needed to give them an understanding of what Freemasonry is and show them that their nearest and dearest are part of a fine community.’
Cheney’s brief was to demonstrate Freemasonry’s compatibility with a modern, balanced lifestyle – one that prioritises family and work over lodge meetings and dinners. So it’s no coincidence that Sam, Alastair Chambers and Anthony Henderson were chosen to provide a glimpse into the life of a Freemason.
‘We were concerned about presenting Freemasonry in an honest way, so it was paramount that we cast real, everyday people,’ explains Cheney. ‘Sam, Alastair and Anthony were ideal examples. They are just three interesting, friendly guys from completely different backgrounds who share a great set of values.’
The national response to the casting note was overwhelming, and a UGLE panel was tasked with the job of whittling down the one hundred and fifty applicants to a shortlist of thirty. After interviewing candidates on camera, the panel finally decided on these three. So began a busy winter of filming, which saw the crew trailing the length of the country to capture the starring masons and their families at home, at work, and even in the local pub.
The sets ranged from a living room in Bedfordshire to a windy rugby field in Gloucester. And although the project was storyboarded, Cheney reveals that ‘it was completely unscripted; our masons provided all of the content, which was then brought to life by the fantastic crew’. The improvised dynamic was something that Anthony, a Freemason of thirty-one years, found particularly challenging: ‘I was apprehensive,’ g he recalls, ‘but Freemasonry has given me so much over the years, I’m just glad I could finally give something back.’
‘We were concerned about presenting Freemasonry in an honest way, so it was paramount that we cast real, everyday people.’ Lee Cheney
Giving back is a key feature of masonic life. With The Freemasons’ Grand Charity donating more than £100 million to a wide range of causes since 1981, the film shines a light on the Craft’s enduring history of charitable initiatives. We meet Ian Simpson, the founder of one such venture, Teddies for Loving Care – a charity that gives teddy bears to children visiting A&E. And we hear from nurses and families who explain the therapeutic effect a teddy bear can have.
While it’s unsurprising that charity is important to a society where kindness, honesty, tolerance and fairness are core values, myths continue to abound about Freemasonry. ‘The truth is, it’s open to everyone,’ says Sam. ‘It’s not a closed door society – anyone can visit the lodges.’ As the film shows, even Freemasons’ Hall in London plays host to a wealth of external events, including the catwalks of London Fashion Week.
In its quest to challenge preconceptions, the film shows masonic life to be more multifaceted than many could have imagined. It presents a community that is all at once passionate and accommodating, modern yet historical – and always welcoming.
Meet the stars
Twenty-three, joined Portus Felix Lodge, No. 6712, in Yorkshire three years ago. When he’s not away at sea working as a Merchant Naval Officer he counts snowboarding and scuba diving among his many hobbies.
‘Freemasonry is relevant to anyone who wants to become a better person and be able to help others. It’s that simple.’
Thirty-two, joined Via Lucis Lodge, No. 9443, in Gloucester two years ago. He is a father of five, runs a construction company, is partner of a recruitment firm and manages a prison rehabilitation scheme.
‘Although we might all come from different walks of life and have different interests, we all share the understanding that everyone in the lodge is equal. No matter who you are, you will fit in.’
Fifty-seven, joined Russell Lodge, No. 4413, in Bedfordshire thirty-one years ago. As official babysitter for his grandson Finley, Anthony is a master Scalextric racer, although he intersperses track time with a career as a European business manager in the healthcare sector.
‘In the eighties, Freemasonry was surrounded by taboo. Now, thanks to films like this, I hope people will realise it’s nothing more than a social club that’s open to everyone, regardless of age or background.’
Letters to the Editor - No. 27 Autumn 2014
Masons on film
I have just finished viewing your UGLE video. Very nice! It was good to see and hear a young person give his opinions on Freemasonry, instead of ‘old folks’. It was something that we all can relate to – not too long, not too short – just a good, fresh look at an old institution. Well done.
Charles Cameron, Orange Grove Lodge, No. 293, Orange, Grand Lodge of California, USA
I am the Provincial Mentoring Coordinator for West Lancashire, and I’m being contacted by groups wanting to produce extra copies of the excellent DVD included in your last issue. They (and I) see it as a great recruiting tool, and would like to include it in their strategy to further advance membership.
Giles Berkley, Peace and Unity Lodge, No. 3966, Thornton-Cleveleys, West Lancashire
From the Grand Secretary
For any of our members to celebrate fifty years in the Craft is a great achievement, and one that is usually commemorated with fellow lodge members and the acknowledgement of the Province or District. However, when our Grand Master celebrated his fifty years in Freemasonry in December 2013, it was an occasion marked by the whole English Constitution. You will, I am sure, be interested to read more about this important event further on in this issue of Freemasonry Today.
Many of you will know that, at the March Quarterly Communication, Sir David Wootton succeeds David Williamson as Assistant Grand Master. We all thank David Williamson for his tremendous contribution during the thirteen years that he has held the role, and wish David Wootton every success in his new appointment. David Williamson’s address at the December 2013 Quarterly Communication is well worth reading.
Now that 2014 is underway and with only three clear years to our tercentenary, I take this opportunity to remind us all of our values of integrity, kindness, honesty, fairness and tolerance. These values apply internally as well as externally. Remember too, above all, that Freemasonry is to be enjoyed.
In this issue, you will read about how Freemasonry enables its members to explore their hobbies and interests while also making new friends. Our profile of Connaught Lodge reveals a community that has been uniting dog lovers, Freemasonry and The Kennel Club for more than one hundred years. We also report on the University Lodges’ Ball, which saw one thousand Freemasons and members of the public come together for a fantastic night that recalled the grand balls of yesteryear.
A feature on Freemasonry Cares shows another side to membership. For David Blunt, accepting that he needed support, after illness left him severely disabled, was a challenge. Encouraged by his lodge Almoner to call the Freemasonry Cares hotline, David now has a new scooter that has given him the freedom to live his life. At the other end of the age spectrum, we look at the work of pregnancy and birth charity Tommy’s and how the masonic charities are supporting its research.
I believe that the breadth and depth of stories in this issue shows an organisation that can hold its head high as we count down to our three hundredth anniversary.
‘In this issue, you will read about how Freemasonry enables its members to explore their hobbies and interests while also making new friends.’
I am delighted to report that the bicentenary celebrations of the Royal Arch in October were a major success. His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent, in his capacity as First Grand Principal, announced that the donated and pledged amount to the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons had reached £2 million.
The members were congratulated by His Royal Highness for this superb effort and the president of the College, Professor Norman Williams, was also present to add his profuse thanks. I believe this milestone event in the history of the Royal Arch has been a wonderful boost to the Order.
At the beginning of the appeal I wrote that we were justly proud to be the major benefactor to the Royal College of Surgeons. The Royal Arch Masons Appeal will further help the College’s successful research fellowship scheme, which supports surgeons in undertaking a research project. The reality is that our contributions will help to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and our grandchildren.
Freemasonry maintains strong relationships across the medical profession. In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we explore how the Masonic Samaritan Fund has been funding groundbreaking research into the genetics of MELAS syndrome, a devastating hereditary condition. And on a more personal note, we chart the life of Dr George Penn, a regimental captain, much-loved country doctor and committed lodge member who was educated at the Royal Masonic School for Boys.
Elsewhere, we report on how Freemasonry and karate are coming together at the Shotokan Karate Lodge, with the humility and respect needed in Freemasonry equally at home in the dojo. David Williamson reflects on a career as an airline pilot and his role in driving the Universities Scheme as he approaches retirement from the position of Assistant Grand Master. And we find out how the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution is helping the older generation cross the digital divide by giving them access to online technology.
I wish you and your family an enjoyable festive season as we look forward to 2014.
‘The reality is that our contributions will help to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and our grandchildren.’