Celebrating 300 years

Change of name for surgical research fund

Since being established with the capital sum of £587,629 in 1967 the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund did not receive any additional capital donations - until 2014. The fund was created as a registered charity with the aim of supporting the work of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Prudent investment and making grants of an amount in keeping with available income meant that by the end of 2013 the fund’s capital was £3.7m despite having given over £4.3m in grants to the college during the previous 45 years. However with lower returns and the ever rising cost of funding fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons to undertake surgical research, the ability to fulfil the aspirations of the fund was becoming very difficult.

In these circumstances the trustees were delighted when the Supreme Grand Chapter resolved to launch an appeal to support the work of the college in recognition of the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Arch.

The generosity of the Royal Arch masons and Freemasons generally, resulted in the sum of £2.5m being raised, greatly exceeding expectations. It was decided that the funds raised by the appeal should be invested and administered together with the Grand Lodge 250th Fund. It is intended that from 2015, four, or possibly 5 fellows will be supported.

It has been agreed that the fellowships will be allocated to the Craft and the Royal Arch in proportion to the contribution of funds, so that there will be two Royal Arch Fellows in every five fellowships supported. The fellows who are to be supported are selected by the fund’s trustees in discussion with the President and other senior members of the college. These fellows are some of the brightest and best surgeons in the land and the funding enables them to spend a year working on innovative treatments for medical conditions which affect us all.

In order to reflect these important changes, it has been decided that the name of the fund be changed to 'the Freemasons Fund for Surgical Research' with effect from the 1st January 2015.

Published in SGC

Taking the right approach

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes emphasises the importance of making ritual enjoyable and marks the Royal Arch’s achievements

Grand Rank does come with responsibilities. For example, you have a duty to be mindful of both recruitment and retention in the Order. On recruitment, I would first ask who among you does in fact recruit and, to those of you who do recruit new members, are you sensitive to the right time to approach each potential exaltee? This sensitivity is also a challenge to Royal Arch representatives in Craft lodges and emphasises the reason why this is such an important appointment. 

Those of you who do not recruit, why not? Recruiting to the Royal Arch is, after all, simply a matter of persuading someone to extend their knowledge about a subject of which they are already partly aware and enjoy. It is not introducing them to something completely alien.

On retention, you can help by actively showing your enthusiasm for and enjoyment of the Order. Also, by guiding the new Companion through the various stages of his progression, making sure that, wherever possible, the work is shared, so that the ritual is enjoyed by him and does not become a burden to him.

‘Those of you who do not recruit, why not? Recruiting to the Royal Arch is, after all, simply a matter of persuading someone to extend their knowledge…’

In October last year we celebrated the Bicentenary of the Holy Royal Arch. The First Grand Principal announced then that the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons had exceeded £2 million and that the appeal would remain open until the end of 2013. Companions, as you have already heard from the President of the Committee of General Purposes, the figure is now £2.5 million. This is a wonderful achievement and a great credit to the Royal Arch. 

I turn now to the Grand Temple organ restoration project, which is a Royal Arch initiative using existing funds. Designed and built by Henry Willis and Sons, the organ has been in place since Freemasons’ Hall was opened in 1933. It is possibly the largest complete, unaltered Willis instrument in full working order after eighty years. It is, however, in need of substantial restoration. 

English Heritage and Camden Council have agreed to the restoration plans with full completion in early 2015 – in good time for the Craft’s Tercentenary in 2017. Not only will this fine organ be restored, the Royal College of Organists will also be approached to investigate the possibility of encouraging young organists to use the Grand Temple Organ, as well as conducting organ recitals that are open to the public.

Published in SGC
Thursday, 05 June 2014 01:00

Grand Secretary's column - Summer 2014

 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.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘In this issue of the magazine, we believe you will find a great deal to inspire you about Freemasonry.’

Published in UGLE

Annual Investiture 

1 May 2014 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Master Peter Lowndes 

Companions, this is a very special day for those that I have had the pleasure in investing and I congratulate you all. 

Grand Rank does come with responsibilities. For example, you have a duty to be mindful of both recruitment and retention in the Order. On recruitment, I would first ask – who among you does in fact recruit and, to those of you who do recruit new members - are you sensitive to the right time to approach each potential exaltee? This sensitivity is also a challenge to Royal Arch representatives in Craft Lodges and emphasises the reason why this is such an important appointment. Those of you who do not recruit, why not? Recruiting to the Royal Arch is, after all, simply a matter of persuading someone to extend their knowledge about a subject of which they are already partly aware and enjoy, not introducing them to something completely alien.

On retention, you can help by actively showing your enthusiasm for and enjoyment of the Order. Also, by guiding the new Companion through the various stages of his progression, making sure that, wherever possible, the work is shared, so that the ritual is enjoyed by him and does not become a burden to him.

As many of you will know, in October last year we celebrated the Bicentenary of the Holy Royal Arch. The First Grand Principal announced then that the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons had exceeded £2m and that the Appeal would remain open until the end of 2013. Companions, as you have already heard from the President of the Committee of General Purposes, the figure is now £2.5m. This is a wonderful achievement and a great credit to the Royal Arch. Well done to those of you who have given so generously.

The First Grand Principal also took the opportunity to announce his intention to make additional appointments this year to past Grand Rank to Companions who have carried out significant work for the Appeal or had made a significant contribution in some other way to last year’s Bicentenary celebration. Grand Superintendents were responsible for making the recommendations based on this criteria and I again congratulate those of you who received these special appointments which celebrate the success of the Bicentenary.

I turn now to the Grand Temple organ restoration project, already briefly mentioned by the President, which is a Royal Arch initiative using existing funds. Designed and built by Henry Willis and Sons the Organ has been in place since this building was opened by the then Grand Master, the Duke of Connaught in 1933. It is possibly the largest complete unaltered Willis instrument in full working order after eighty years. It was, however, in need of substantial restoration. English Heritage and Camden Council have agreed to the restoration plans with full completion in early 2015 – in good time for the Craft’s tercentenary in 2017. Not only will this fine Organ be restored but the Royal College of Organists will be approached to investigate the possibility of encouraging young organists to use the Grand Temple Organ, as well as conducting organ recitals that are open to the public.

Finally Companions, great ceremonial events such as this take an enormous amount of planning for and direction on the day. I thank the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for all their planning and the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the smooth running of this memorable event.

Published in Speeches

Firm voice

An accountant by profession, Anthony Wilson explains why he brought modern business practice to Freemasonry when he became President of the Board of General Purposes ten years ago

How did you come into Freemasonry?

I’d been married to my wife for about a year and was spending a weekend down at my father-in-law’s. 

I noticed after lunch that he was walking around the garden with his brother. I knew he was a Freemason but I didn’t know that his brother was. They were deep in conversation and later he sidled up to me and asked if I’d ever thought of becoming a Freemason. I said I hadn’t, I knew about it but not in detail, so he told me what was necessary and proposed me for the Tuscan Lodge, No. 14. I was about twenty-six when I joined.

What drew you to the Craft?

Initially, what attracted me was the intrigue of finding out what Freemasonry was about, but once I’d been through the ceremonies my whole view of it changed. It was relaxed but there was also a formality – it wasn’t an easy ride. Don’t just expect to get things out of it; put things into it and you’ll get enjoyment. I realised that there was a lot of knowledge, that it was telling you a story linked to your values and that it gelled with what I stood for in life. The other aspect I was grateful for was that it brought me into contact with a large number of people I wouldn’t otherwise have met. 

How did you become President of the Board of General Purposes?

One thing I’ve learned from Freemasonry is that although you don’t expect things to come along, somehow people notice you. I was asked to sit on a committee to look at the future of London, which brought me into contact with the Rulers and the Grand Secretary. From that I was asked to become a member of the old Board of General Purposes. 

When the old Board was restructured I came off it but was subsequently asked if I would become President of the Committee of General Purposes, which is the equivalent to the Board of General Purposes for the Royal Arch. Having been President of that for about three years, I was asked if I would like to become President of the Board, which I had already rejoined on becoming President of the Committee. This is my tenth anniversary in the position.

What does the Board do?

We’re responsible for the governance of the Craft; the relationship between individual lodges and the Grand Lodge; the relations between Grand Lodge and the Provincial Grand Masters; the relations with recognised foreign Grand Lodges; the finances of the Craft and its assets – of which Freemasons’ Hall is one. We set the membership dues to run the services at the centre of the Craft and we manage the PR with the outside world. Very largely, we do everything apart from the ceremonial side. What I do as President would not be possible without the Deputy President, the Grand Treasurer, the Grand Secretary and the whole team at Freemasons’ Hall. It’s very much a collegiate affair – we’re a team and I’m very fortunate with the support and counsel I get. 

What drew you to the business of Freemasonry?

My background is in chartered accountancy and I’ve always been interested in business and how you can improve it. Working on the Board was a way of helping the running of Freemasonry that wasn’t purely ceremonial but rather administrative. When I was in the profession, one of the first audits I did was for the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund, which is a charity that sponsors research fellowships with the Royal College of Surgeons. I didn’t think that some twenty years later I’d be approached to become a trustee for that – it’s funny the way the world moves.

How did the old Board function?

Pre-1999, the Board of General Purposes met eight times a year. It consisted of nearly fifty people and all its business was done through a number of committees in the morning which reported to the full Board in the afternoon – it wasn’t an environment in which discussion ever took place. It had the hangover from thirty to forty years ago when Freemasonry wasn’t so much run by the Rulers, who were more titular and ceremonial, but by the then Grand Secretary and the President of the Board. They would basically decide what they wanted and the Board was there to serve that way of doing business. 

How is the Board different now?

It’s much more transparent. Gavin Purser spent a lot of time working on a new structure when he was President to create a Board of about twelve people who meet six times a year. It really is a better way of conducting business. We have proper discussions and I don’t think over my ten years that we’ve had to vote on anything because consensus has come from discussion. It’s a much better forum where each member is now an active contributor. We also sit in a boardroom where everyone can hear each other; the old boardroom had a wonderful dais at the top and the rest of the tables were set in a horseshoe shape, so if you were in the south of the room you couldn’t hear what someone was saying in the north – you could just about hear the podium. The Rulers have also become more involved, which is a great advancement, and I work with them closely. 

How have things changed during your presidency?

Change is slow because you’ve got to take the members with you. One of the things I’m very proud of is advancing professionalism in the way in which the Craft is run. The organisation that supports the Grand Secretary has been streamlined; it’s more efficient than ten years ago because we’ve brought in standards you’d expect to find in business. There’s also much greater willingness to accept the culture of change in this building. The staff see the benefits and I would like to think the whole working environment has improved. 

Is the Board structured differently?

We’ve increased our focus on the outside world. In the old days, dealing with the foreign Grand Lodges was handled by the Grand Secretary who also dealt with internal affairs and our members. Together with the Rulers, we saw the need for someone who would just focus on external relations and so created the role of Grand Chancellor. 

Is managing Freemasons’ Hall a challenge? 

By far the largest asset we have is Freemasons’ Hall and a lot has happened here over the past ten years – we had to strip out asbestos, which was a nightmare because it was everywhere. When the Hall was built, asbestos was what you used for safety and it took three or four years to strip it out while still allowing the building to be used for purpose. The new maintenance challenge is what’s called Regent Street Disease, which is named after buildings in that street that were built around a steel frame – a very popular method in the 1920s. Unfortunately, the steel and what surrounded it weren’t always fully airtight so the steel was capable of rusting. Freemasons’ Hall is one of the first all-steel-frame buildings so has the disease, but we’re tackling it – we’re very proud of this building. 

What is modern Freemasonry? 

When I took the role on, what worried me was Freemasonry no longer being relevant to the society we lived in. If you look over the years of our membership, numbers peak and trough. Membership has always been high when we filled a much-needed role in society but that changes because society changes. So that’s something we’re looking at more and more, to find that relevance. One of the things I feel very strongly about is that Freemasonry has to fit in with your family life – we’ve got to keep an eye on that, to make sure that members don’t focus too much on their Freemasonry to the detriment of their family. 

What’s being planned for 2017?

The tercentenary will increasingly take up our focus and we have a working party looking at key elements. We believe very strongly that this will be a time for our members to celebrate – as the premier Grand Lodge of the world we will involve the foreign Grand Lodges, but we won’t lose sight of the fact that it’s a celebration by our members, of our members. 

Published in UGLE
Thursday, 06 March 2014 00:00

A University Lodges' Ball to remember

Social highlights

Held at the end of 2013, the University Lodges’ Ball not only harks back to a bygone era of masonic tradition but also shows the modern face of Freemasonry 

Recalling a time when the masonic lodges of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge staged lavish social events, the University Lodges’ Ball, sponsored by Aerice, was held on 23 November in the glamorous surroundings of the Honourable Artillery Company’s Armoury House. Hosted by the university lodges in conjunction with Freemasons from across London, the night proved to be a glittering celebration of masonic social tradition. 

In the autumn of 2012, the Secretaries of Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, and Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859, Chris Noon and Alistair Townsend, both – independently – had the idea of reviving the ball tradition. ‘We used to hold balls every year or two in the nineteenth century and we realised that 2013 would be the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the greatest ball that we ever held: the Grand Ball, which was in commemoration of the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark, both of whom attended the event,’ explains Chris. 

Held by Apollo in 1863 at Christ Church, attendance at the Grand Ball was large and the catering was lavish. After World War II, however, Freemasonry followed the rest of the country into austerity and the balls fell into abeyance. Chris and Alistair decided to plan a grand event so that the masonic ball might regain its rightful place as the highlight of the social calendar.

With five hundred and fifty guests attending, the ball featured the best of British music, entertainment and hospitality, and also raised money for military charity Combat Stress and the Royal College of Surgeons. ‘We are delighted to be able to benefit from this amazing event,’ says Uta Hope, director of fundraising and communications at Combat Stress.

Surgeon support from Devon Royal Arch

At the Riviera International Centre in Torquay, Second Grand Principal George Francis attended the Holy Royal Arch Masons of Devonshire Annual Provincial Grand Chapter. To a packed auditorium including more than 100 distinguished guests from the Provinces, Grand Superintendent Simon Rowe announced that Provincial Grand Chapter had contributed more than £75,000 to the Supreme Grand Chapter Royal College of Surgeons 2013 Appeal.

Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2013

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. 

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘The reality is that our contributions will help to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and our grandchildren.’

Published in UGLE

HRH The Duke of Kent reflects on the bicentenary of the Royal Arch as it raises more than £2 million for the Royal College of Surgeons

This October we marked a major milestone in the distinguished history of the Holy Royal Arch. While celebrating this landmark I particularly wish to mention the success of the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons. I am impressed to hear of the tremendous support the companions have given to the appeal.

In my speech at the Supreme Grand Chapter meeting in April this year I mentioned that the appeal would remain open until the end of the year. However, I am pleased to announce that the amount donated and pledged so far is £2 million. This exceeds expectations and I congratulate you.

I also know that the College president, Professor Norman Williams, is extremely grateful to companions for helping to fund the College’s successful Research Fellowship scheme at the same time as maintaining their clinical leadership.

To mark this special celebration I intend to make additional first appointments to past Grand Rank on the scale of one for every Province or District. It is my hope that Grand Superintendents, upon whom I shall rely for advice in the selection of suitable companions, will ensure that so far as is possible the companions so honoured will be those who have carried out significant work for the Royal Arch Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons or have made a significant contribution in some other way to this year’s celebrations. I know we all wish the Order continued success for the next two hundred years!

The First Grand Principal, HRH The Duke of Kent presided over the Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter on 16 October 2013 in the Grand Temple to mark the bicentenary of the formal recognition of the Holy Royal Arch as part of pure ancient masonry. With lunch held at the Grand Connaught Rooms, the day included a Convocation of Metropolitan Grand Stewards Chapter, No. 9812, in which a demonstration of the Ceremony of Exaltation using the changes authorised in 2004 was given. 

Published in SGC

Supreme support for 2013 appeal

Devonshire Provincial Grand Chapter members attended an annual summer dinner in Dawlish, featuring a raffle in aid of the 2013 Supreme Grand Chapter Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons.

The top prize was a huge bear dressed in Royal Arch regalia, with three other main prizes of silver jewels from the Order dating from the early 1900s. The event raised £2,500. 

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