Celebrating 300 years
Wednesday, 09 March 2016 11:39

Deputy Grand Master's address - March 2016

Quarterly Communication

9 March 2016 
An address by the RW Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence

Brethren, you will all have received a copy of the UGLE strategy with your last copy of Freemasonry Today. I hope you feel that the summary presented a clear outline of some of the steps we wish to take to ensure the long term future of the Craft as Grand Lodge enters its fourth century. The clear articulation of our values, in language appropriate for the 21st century, reflects that we are true to our history and traditions while adapting to the world as it continues to change. The work of the Membership Focus Group, which informed much of the document you received, is now moving from researching facts, surveying members and developing ideas to implementation of those ideas.

Brethren, it is often the case in many organisations when a revised strategy or change programme is introduced the initial expectations of those involved are overly optimistic and that may well be the case with our own members. It is very important we remind ourselves that we have taken nearly 300 years to reach where the Craft is today. It is, therefore, vital that, while we retain our important traditions, we also test and prove any new initiative to ensure it is appropriate and effective for the needs of the Craft before consideration is given to implementation across the English Constitution. Such an approach will allow us to move forward, confident that an individual idea will be successful. It has to be said clearly that it will take time and effort, rather than instant solutions, to ensure the Craft will be as attractive to, and well received by, future generations as it has been by the current and past generations.

There are a number of areas highlighted in the summary of the strategy you received and I would like to tell you of some of the recent progress that has been made.

Firstly, following three membership surveys undertaken by the Membership Focus Group, working with Provincial Grand Masters, it has created an Education Group. This group is considering how best we can assist all our members to have a better understanding and knowledge of Freemasonry which is the core of the initiative. Having a good understanding and knowledge will enable our members to explain Freemasonry confidently to a non-mason. Members from seventeen Provinces are assisting in the development of these ideas.

Secondly, we have identified the need to ensure the facilities provided by our masonic halls are of a standard to meet the expectations and needs of our members. A meeting involving 30 members from a number of Provinces, all with expertise in the successful management and improvement of masonic halls, has recently taken place. I think we all appreciate that the task is both enormous and delicate in nature and much time and effort will be needed to ensure their considerations and findings are appropriate for the needs of the future and to allow time for the management of masonic halls to gain confidence in the support and assistance we are collectively seeking to provide.

None of this, nor indeed the other initiatives which are being progressed, would be possible without a significant amount of time, detailed consideration and hard work being devoted to this by the members of the Membership Focus Group. I would like to express my gratitude to all of them for what they have achieved so far and for what I very much hope will be achieved in the future. In particular, I should like to thank, on behalf of the Rulers, the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, RW Bro Ray Reed, for his outstanding leadership of, and contribution to, the Membership Focus Group since its creation.

Brethren, the Tercentenary is almost upon us and it gives us, to my mind, an unrivalled opportunity to articulate clearly our values and the positive impact of the Craft on both individuals and the communities in which we live. You may be interested to know that in 2015, the media statistics show 90% of the coverage in local media was positive, a significantly higher level than that achieved in the previous year. You have just heard about the filming to produce a television documentary, which is an important part of the commencement of the Tercentenary celebrations both as a continuation of our policy of openness in communicating with the general public and as a means of encouraging those interested in becoming members. Much work also continues in Provinces, Districts and in Grand Lodge in preparation for this major landmark.

I am certain we are taking the right steps to ensure we will commence our fourth century confident of the future for the Craft and I very much hope all our members will be enthusiastic in support of these endeavours.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 12:17

Pro Grand Master's address - December 2015

Quarterly Communication

9 December 2015 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, I am so pleased to see the excellent turnout today and I would like to extend a very special welcome to those of you attending a Quarterly Communication for the first time. It was four years ago that we decided to admit Master masons to our Quarterly Communications meetings and the number who attend indicate that it has been a popular decision. Whilst you cannot vote, I hope it is still a worthwhile visit and that you will continue to come and encourage others to join you.

Since the last Quarterly Communication in September, the Grand Master celebrated his eightieth birthday on 9th October. On behalf of all of the members of the United Grand Lodge of England, a message of congratulations was sent.

2015 has been a very busy year. The particular emphasis has been on honing the initiatives to keep us in line with the overall mission to build a positive reputation for Freemasonry and assure its long term future.

Fundamental to ensuring that long term future has been the development of a clear strategy. The Membership Focus Group, supported by 18,000 responses from members to the recent surveys, has shaped this strategy which, in turn, has been approved by the Rulers and by the Provincial Grand Masters. The strategy concentrates on our vision and our values. Our 2020 strategic objectives are attached to the front cover of the latest edition of Freemasonry Today. 

This enables all our members to read the strategy, it also asks members to help in supporting both the strategy and the objectives. To be clear, this strategy can only be achieved with the support of the vast majority of the members.

Concurrently the Tercentenary Planning Committee has been making great progress whilst liaising with Provincial Grand Masters, Provincial Grand Secretaries and Provincial 2017 Representatives. The majority of Provinces have advised the Planning Committee of the main events that are being planned locally – sometimes with neighbouring Provinces. I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm which is being shown as we approach the United Grand Lodge of England’s 300th milestone celebration. 

I am delighted to confirm that the Charity Commission has formally approved the establishment of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. This has taken a long time to achieve and was a complicated operation overseen by the Deputy Grand Master and with most able help from the Charity Presidents, Chief Executives and Boards of Trustees We should all be most grateful to them for their hard work.

Preparations for the launch of the Masonic Charitable Foundation in April 2016 are continuing. A shadow board and various committees have been formed and during the past few weeks the first senior staff appointments have been made. David Innes of the RMBI has been selected as the Foundation’s first Chief Executive and Les Hutchinson of the RMTGB has been appointed Chief Operating Officer. They have a wealth of experience and knowledge about masonic charity and are well placed to lead the Foundation. I believe it is important to note that they faced strong competition for these jobs from outside the masonic charities.

In advance of April’s launch, publicity about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be increased throughout the Craft and beyond. As you leave today you will be handed a simple leaflet which introduces you to the identity and approach of the new charity.

Brethren, I am delighted to announce that the Most Worshipful The Grand Master in his capacity as First Grand Principal has appointed Excellent Companion Gareth Jones, Past Deputy Grand Sword Bearer, who is better known in the Craft as Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, to succeed Most Excellent Companion David Williamson as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter, with effect from the Annual Royal Arch Investiture on 28 April 2016. On that day I hope to have the pleasure of installing him. The contribution made by ME Comp Williamson in his capacity as Third Grand Principal for five years has been colossal, as, indeed, his contribution has been throughout masonry, but more about that on another occasion. 

Brethren, it only remains for me to wish you and your families a very happy Christmas. In recent times, brethren, we have tended to refer to Christmas as the Festive Season. In Paris last weekend at the GLNF we were wished a Happy Christmas by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel during his speech in GLNF and afterwards I was wished the same by several brethren from other religious backgrounds. They all consider us to be grossly over sensitive on the subject. So, Happy Christmas, everyone!

 

Published in Speeches

Regular Convocation

11 November 2015
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes

Companions, I am very pleased to see so many of you present today to witness the Installation of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race as Second Grand Principal. On behalf of all of you I wish him a long and happy tenure in this important role.

It is to the future that we should now look, but I would like to repeat my thanks to Most Excellent Companion George Francis for his many achievements and tireless work in raising the profile of the Holy Royal Arch since his own Installation in November 2005.

Companions, today, apart from celebrating the Installation of a new Second Grand Principal you will all be aware that it is also Armistice Day when we commemorate those who gave their lives in two World Wars. The observant amongst you will have noticed that a poppy wreath has been laid at the memorial shrine in the first vestibule to this Grand Temple, in front of the casket which holds the roll listing over 3,000 of our members who gave their lives on active service in the First World War.

I think it is worth reminding ourselves, however, that it is not just the shrine which is the memorial but the whole of Freemasons’ Hall itself. Indeed, during the planning stages in the 1920s and the first years of its existence, the building was known as the Masonic Peace Memorial.

As a memorial it was originally intended that the building should be reserved solely for masonic purposes but time and economics and the fact that the building is now Grade 2* listed both internally and externally have gradually led to the building being opened for non-masonic events and filming.

I would assure you however, companions, that our excellent and hard-working in-house events team take great care to ensure that outside events, especially filming, are consistent with the building’s origins and core purpose. We have a building of which we can be justifiably proud which is recognised as one of the landmark buildings of London.

Today we remember not only those in whose name the building was raised but also the many other thousands of our members who gave their lives during the Second World War and the other conflicts that have taken place since then. Although we have already stood in memory of recently departed members, in particular Most Excellent Companion Iain Bryce, Past Second Grand Principal, I believe that on this special day we should stand again to remember those who gave their lives to preserve those ideals which allow Freemasonry to flourish.

Companions, on September 30th this year, a packed Grand Temple enjoyed a magnificent Inaugural Concert to celebrate the refurbishment of our organ and when Supreme Grand Chapter is closed I am sure you will enjoy the talk by Ian Bell, Organ Consultant entitled ‘Achieved is the Glorious Work or Proof of the Pudding’, with musical illustrations played by Excellent Companion David Cresswell, Grand Organist.

Thank you, companions.  

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 09 September 2015 01:00

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2015

Quarterly Communication

9 September 2015 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

I am pleased to see such a good attendance at this important meeting and on a day that Her Majesty the Queen becomes the longest reigning British Monarch.

Brethren, I would like to thank those members who have participated in the Membership Focus Group’s first two surveys. These survey results have been a great help in deciding the best way ahead for Freemasonry and have provoked much constructive thinking. You will be able to see the results of the most recent survey in the latest issue of Freemasonry Today, which has just been published.

The results of that second survey highlight the importance to members of being valued and included, while developing knowledge and friendships at the same time. The Membership Focus Group is next planning to survey new initiates to assess how their expectations match their experience and whether this experience changes over time.

In December 2014, I announced that the Grand Master’s Council and the Provincial Grand Masters’ Forum had endorsed proposals from the Charities to consolidate the activities of the four central Masonic Charities. Subsequently, the proposals were endorsed by the Grand Master. Over the last nine months, all four Charities have launched consultations with their members about the proposals. Having just formally finished the AGM of the Grand Charity, their consultation is now complete and the same process with the other Charities is due to conclude by the end of October. Should the members of each of the other Charities follow the lead of the Grand Charity and endorse the proposals, it is anticipated that a new charity will be legally established as soon as possible and become operational on 1 April 2016. This new charity, subject to legal approvals, will be called The Masonic Charitable Foundation.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation will continue to offer the same support and services to those Freemasons and family members who need help, as well as providing support for the non-Masonic charitable causes that the Craft wishes to assist. Thus continuity of our charitable giving will be achieved.

The new charity will continue to rely on the generosity of Freemasons for its funds. The Festival system will therefore transition in favour of the new charity over the next few years.

A shadow board, comprised of trustees from the existing Charities has met and will, with the existing charities, oversee the creation of the new charity and transition from the existing four charities into a single one. The Board has elected Very Worshipful Brother James Newman as interim Chairman and Worshipful Brother Michael Heenan as interim Treasurer.

These changes will require amendments to the Book of Constitutions with formal notice of those amendments being brought to the December meeting of Grand Lodge. In the meantime, further details about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be made available over the next few months via a new website and general communications to the Craft.

Bringing the existing central Masonic Charities together means that the Trustees will be responsible for one of the largest charitable foundations in the country – a tremendous achievement and something of which we can all feel proud, particularly as we look towards the tercentenary celebrations in 2017.

When talking about our Charities, I am inevitably reminded of RW Bro Iain Bryce who so sadly died in July. Apart from his dedication to our Masonic Charities, he was also a long serving Treasurer of the RNLI.

I first met him at his Installation as PGM of Yorkshire N&E Ridings in 1984 and in the 30 years that I knew him, I can’t recall a cross word. He could upset people, can’t we all, but it was normally for a valid reason. When Bro Bryce became involved in something, he gave it his full attention. Masonically he was fully involved from Lodge level, through his Province to Grand Lodge and would take on any task asked of him.

I am sure that all the Charity Presidents who were in office during his time as Deputy Grand Master will have benefited enormously from his wise counsel. He was passionate about them all and held strong views on their management. His views were given in a forthright manner and were usually right. However, he would be first to admit he had got something wrong if that turned out to be the case.

Brethren, I shall miss him greatly and I know that I am far from alone in that.

Published in Speeches

Annual General Meeting of The Freemasons' Grand Charity

9 September 2015 
An address by Richard Hone, QC, President of The Freemasons' Grand Charity

The main change is to reduce the membership from the present 180,000 members to a single charitable company whose own 124 members – comprising the trustees of the new charity, plus members appointed by the 47 Provinces and the Metropolitan Grand Lodge. Experience has shown that 180,000 members are too many and the vast majority do not even know that they are members! Good governance is better achieved by a smaller number. The present members of the Grand Charity will become Supporters of the new charity and, in the rare case of dissent, can either contact their Provincial or London representatives, alternatively they can attend a general meeting and make their views known.

I want to inject a note of enthusiasm here because I am delighted to report that we have made significant progress in our overall aim to have the new, fifth, overarching charity up and running by 1 April 2016. As you will all know by now, over the past five years the four Presidents and Chief Executives of the central masonic charities have been meeting regularly with a view to making masonic charity a more coherent operation.

The present division between the four charities has become illogical and inefficient in the sense that there is now considerable overlap and duplication of function. Over the five year period of the review much has already been achieved.

There is unanimous agreement between the Presidents, the Chief Executives and all four trustee boards that the best way forward for masonic charity is to incorporate a new overarching charity with the widest charitable objects. This will optimise the resources of the four existing charities and ensure an improved service to our masonic and non-masonic beneficiaries.

This has been the most detailed review of masonic charity since the Bagnall Report in 1973 and builds on recommendations endorsed by the Provincial Grand Masters’ Forum in 2008. We have consulted widely.

At a meeting in October 2014 the PGMs supported the changes. My letters to members in March and July 2015 explaining the changes to Grand Charity have been distributed through Provincial and Lodge Secretaries. I have had half-a-dozen letters from individuals and lodges raising questions which I hope I have answered to their satisfaction. In general the response has been overwhelmingly supportive.

At the General Meeting in Norfolk on 15 November I was able to seek the views of those attending, and they indicated approval. In July 2015 there was a large meeting of Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Charity Stewards in Manchester with almost every Province represented and they were positive and enthusiastic. These proposals have been accepted by the Grand Master’s Council, the Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee and the Grand Master himself, in his capacity as Grand President of the four central masonic charities.

Although significant, this change is neither rocket science nor revolutionary. The four existing charities will remain in name and will hold their restricted funds, but their functions will be assumed by the new charity administered by a single Trustee Board of 20 members with a single Chief Executive, rather than the four existing Trustee Boards with their separate committees and administrations. Masonic charity is an extraordinary, but largely untold, story and truly is a terrific force for good. The four charities collectively distribute over £25 million each year and we are expecting to improve on that.

I am delighted to announce that the new charity has now been incorporated with agreed Articles of Association. This has been quite a complicated task and we are all extremely grateful to the Grand Registrar who has mediated differences of views with consummate forensic skill and tact. There is now in place a shadow Board of Trustees for the new charity, drawn from the existing trustees of the four charities and working alongside the existing trustee boards. It is a most impressive group and I have no doubt that it will be ensure a smooth transition and a first rate administration from its operational date which is 1 April 2016.

All that remains is for the new charity to be registered with the Charity Commission and for an agreed Memorandum of Understanding between the existing charities and the new charity.

But we do need you, the members, to support this exciting work and vote in favour of this resolution. I now have great pleasure in proposing that the amendments to the Trust Deed and the Regulations of Grand Charity, subject to meeting the conditions specified, be ratified and that the Report of the Council be approved.

[The amendments were approved]

Thank you. As this is the last AGM of Grand Charity, I would like to pay tribute to the 139 trustees who have served over the 35 years of Grand Charity’s existence. I am delighted to see over 20 Council members present today. Also present are three former Presidents, Sir John Welch, Raymond Lye and Grahame Elliott, who have done so much to bring about the changes you have just approved. I mention the late Iain Ross Bryce who as Deputy Grand Master started this whole process moving and was a driving force. He is greatly missed. 

Published in Speeches

Annual General Meeting of The Freemasons' Grand Charity 

9 September 2015 
An address by Laura Chapman, Chief Executive of The Freemasons' Grand Charity

Deputy Grand President and members. Those of you who attend Quarterly Communications and the AGM of the Grand Charity will know that typically I speak about the Charity’s non-masonic grant making. Today’s AGM is, however, not a typical one and if members approve the resolutions set out in agenda item 5, these will pave the way for a total restructuring of the management and administration of all four of the central masonic charities. The Grand Charity will cease to operate as it has in the past, although the vital support it gives will continue.

I hope I may, therefore, take this opportunity to comment outside the normal script of an AGM as there will not be another opportunity to remind you of the critical role that the Grand Charity has played in the development and organization of the Craft’s charitable activities and of the excellence of its work. 

As a non-mason, an outsider to the Craft, I believe that I can speak more dispassionately and objectively about the Grand Charity than others. It is indisputable that the Grand Charity has made a vital contribution across a wide range of charitable activity – support for masons, for non-masons and for masonic charity overall, through grants to other masonic charities and the services of the Relief Chest Scheme which has done so much to encourage charitable giving throughout the Craft. The Grand Charity has donated approximately £70m to masonic causes and approximately £60m to non-masonic charities since it was established in 1981. Significantly, the Grand Charity has filled the gap identified by the Bagnall Report, to contribute to the wider community in a manner befitting the importance and scale of English Freemasonry. It has made groundbreaking and extensive contributions to wider society, demonstrating that Freemasonry is both a philanthropic leader and an outward facing, inclusive organization and it has received national public acclaim for its work.

I have been enormously privileged to work with you, who have supported the Grand Charity so generously, and to assist the trustees as they have honed the Grand Charity to achieve the tremendous positive impact that it has. I regularly debated with one of the past presidents of the charity as to which were the best jobs in Freemasonry, and we were both convinced that we were amongst those who held them.

Change is, however, inevitable and the planning for the new world of one central masonic charity is well advanced. As the president will emphasize in a few moments, the creation of the proposed overarching charity will deliver a greatly enhanced level of service to our beneficiaries, more efficiently and more cost-effectively. This new central charity will embody the very best principles of Freemasonry and will be one of which the Craft will be extremely proud. The success of the future depends very much on the strength of the past, and the new charity will build on the firm and carefully crafted foundations laid by the Grand Charity, and the legacies brought by the other central masonic charities, in some cases over many more years, as Freemasonry moves to the next era in its very long and proud tradition of charitable support.

Deputy Grand President and members of the Grand Charity, thank you for allowing me to say these few words – and thank you for all the support that the Charity’s staff and I have received from you over the years.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

10 June 2015 
An announcement by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, I have to announce that the MW The Grand Master has made the following appointments:

In his capacity as First Grand Principal, he has appointed E Comp Russell Race, Metropolitan Grand Superintendent in and over London, to succeed ME Comp George Francis, who will retire as Second Grand Principal on 10 November. Comp Race will be installed at the Convocation of Grand Chapter the following day.

In consequence, Bro Race will retire as Metropolitan Grand Master and Metropolitan Grand Superintendent on 20 October. To succeed him as Metropolitan Grand Master, the Grand Master has appointed RW Bro Sir Michael Snyder, who was last year's Junior Grand Warden. Bro Snyder will be installed on 21 October.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 10 June 2015 10:42

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2015

Quarterly Communication

10 June 2015 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, in the middle of May I was at the Grand Charity Festival in West Wales and, as you have heard, what a great success it was. It exemplified how good we, as masons, are at raising money and, dare I say, also at celebrating the achievement at the end of the road. A wonderful evening was had by all. However, I have said many times in the past that charity is not our raison d'être, but it is certainly a most important by product of how we are all taught to live our lives.

In this regard I have always thought that the Charge after Initiation is the best possible rule to guide us through life. It lays out quite clearly the duties that we owe to God, our neighbours and ourselves, how we should respect the laws of the country in which we live, whether the country of our birth or the country where we currently reside, how we should behave as individuals and then points out the other excellencies of character that we should adhere to.

Whenever I deliver this Charge it never fails to strike home to me the important message that it contains. At a personal level, I find the piece 'by paying due obedience to the laws of any State which may for a time become the place of your residence or afford you its protection' extremely pertinent. This is as a result of having delivered this Charge on the evening of 9/11 and I have to admit to having stumbled a bit when I got to that section and I am still always reminded of those dreadful events every time I hear this Charge delivered.

Brethren, as we all know, any member of the public can acquire a copy of our ritual simply by going into a shop and making the purchase. We have no concerns in that regard, as there is nothing therein that we are not happy for them to know about. I would go further. I believe there are certain passages that we should be proud to show to non-members, most particularly members of our families, and top of my list would be the Charge to the Initiate, with a close second being the Charity Charge, although that, perhaps, needs a bit of explanation.

Brethren, 2017 is fast approaching and the run up to it, as well as the celebrations during the year, are surely the right time to show our pride in being a member of our wonderful Order. We have improved our public image immeasurably over the last 20 years and now is the time to really push this aspect hard. We have so much to shout about – our history, our charity, our enjoyment and our code of conduct being just a few. Of course any organisation with 200,000 members is going to have a few rotten apples, but we most certainly have no more than our fair share and I suspect we have a great many fewer than most equivalent sized organisations.

Brethren let’s approach our tercentenary with both pride and confidence.

Letters to the Editor - No. 33 Spring 2016

Increased perceptions

Sir,

Further to Bob Needham’s letter in the last issue, I too read the recent article by the Pro Grand Master with great interest as I have thought for many years that the Charge to the Initiate is one of the best pieces of our ritual, so much so that during my year as Master I asked for Provincial approval to give each new member a copy on their first night. My reasons were firstly, I was aware that on going home after initiation candidates get asked what went on and can find it difficult to properly convey, whereas if we give them the Charge to take home specifically for this purpose, they feel much happier. Also, as most of us remember very little about our initiation, it gives each new member a chance to read and reflect on our principles. 

So, I had the Charge printed on vellum-type paper and from then on each new mason was presented with one, duly signed by the Master and the two Wardens. This practice proved to be a great success and I commend it to other lodges.

Roger Foulds, Lodge of Agriculture, No. 1199, Yatton, Somerset

Sir,

I read with great interest the letters headed ‘Changing Perceptions’ in the winter edition of the magazine. It led me to reflect on how many readers appreciate the enormous breadth of the Craft.

Three weeks after being initiated into Rhyddings Lodge, No. 5205, in East Lancashire I arrived in Aden to join my first operational squadron as a co-pilot on Beverley transport aircraft. I there quickly discovered the existence of Lodge Light in Arabia, No. 3870. There was also a Scottish lodge on the other side of the harbour in Little Aden. 

Arrangements were eventually made for me to be Passed and Raised there, as a visitor, in Light in Arabia. The regular membership was made up of both European and local brethren who lived and worked in Aden. There were also a number of transitory service people like me. 

But it was the range of religions and cultures that made Light in Arabia truly remarkable. Sitting down in the lodge, besides we Christians, there would be Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and Parsee Indians. 

To witness all these brethren enjoying the masonic ritual together and afterwards sitting down together at the Festive Board was really quite something and made plain the true universality of Freemasonry: something I will never forget.

Bryan Lamb, Old Blackburnian Lodge, No. 7933, Blackburn, East Lancashire


Letters to the Editor - No. 32 Winter 2015

Changing perceptions

Sir,

I have always enjoyed reading Freemasonry Today and I found the latest edition aligns to my views on how we should depict Freemasonry. I read the comments by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, where he comments that any member of the public can purchase a copy of the Charge after Initiation, adding that ‘there is nothing therein that we are not happy for them to know about’. 

I hold a view that we as Freemasons are far too modest about our society. 

As we approach the celebration of 300 years of modern Freemasonry, shouldn’t we make a point of removing the doubts and speculation at large with regard to Freemasonry by taking it upon ourselves to replace them with knowledge and truth?

Bob Needham, Colne Lodge, No. 2477, Wivenhoe, Essex

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

10 June 2015 
An address on The Freemasons' Fund for Surgical Research by RW Bro JAH West, PJGW

MW Pro Grand Master and brethren, thank you MW Pro Grand Master for allowing me to speak about the history and achievements of the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research, of which I am the Chairman of Trustees.

I have some hesitancy in speaking of the fund under its new title as it was formerly known as the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund and this is where its origins lie.

In 1967, in partial commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the foundation of Grand Lodge, every Freemason in England and Wales was invited to contribute at least £1 to create an endowment for the fund. The members of all bar four lodges did contribute and a sum in excess of £580,000 was raised. This money was used to create the first masonic charity, with exclusively non-masonic objectives. The objects of the charity were (and remain) 'to further, in conjunction with the Royal College of Surgeons, research in the science of surgery.'

The MW Grand Master is the Patron of the fund and has the power of appointing the trustees. 

The longer serving brethren amongst you may be interested to know that the first trustees, all eminent Freemasons of their day, were Sir Arthur Porritt (as he then was), Sir Reginald Goff, Alexander Frere, Frank Douglas, Jeremy Pemberton, Peter Studd and Alan Hunt, two of whom were surgeons and it is this balance of medical expertise that we try to preserve today.

I was appointed a trustee in 1984 (over 30 years ago), by which time Jeremy Pemberton was Chairman and Lord Porritt was still a trustee. 

The fund’s trust deed stipulates that there shall be no more than seven trustees, the majority of whom must be Freemasons. In practice no non-mason has ever been appointed a trustee

In the first years, 1967/8, the fund contributed £25,000 to the Royal College of Surgeons and this funded the first three Freemasons’ surgical research fellowships, one dental research fellowship and a grant towards the library, to assist in the research process. Annual grants were made in all subsequent years and, by last year, total grants of over £4.4m had been made, that for 2014 being in the sum of £135,000, which was credited to 3 Freemasons’ fellowships. Year in, year out, the fund is the largest contributor towards fellowships, although, occasionally, the college receives a larger one off donation.

Again, by 2014, the capital value of the fund had grown to around £3.5m but, as the original trust deed had specifically excluded the spending of capital, and as income had not grown at the same rate as capital appreciation, the trustees requested the Charity Commission to authorise the adoption of a total return policy, thus allowing present research fellows to enjoy the benefit of increased grants. The total return policy now allows the trustees to augment the income but subject to strict limits, permitting no more than 5% per annum, of the capital value of the fund to be distributed, whether by way of income or capital appreciation. In practice, over the past two years, no more than 3.5% has been distributed and this is well within the permitted figure. In all these matters, the trustees are advised by Cazenoves, as investment managers and by Dixon Wilson, as accountants.

Since the formation of the fund, it has been tacitly understood that the trustees would not engage in fundraising, as this was seen to conflict with the fundraising efforts of the four major masonic charities and the festival system.

However, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the formation of Supreme Grand Chapter in 2013, an appeal had been launched by the Royal Arch, with the object of 'helping to fund the Royal College of Surgeons research fellowship scheme.' The appeal literature specified a target of raising a minimum of £10 plus gift aid from every Royal Arch companion of whom there are 86,000 in England and Wales, thus anticipating a minimum of around £1m to be raised.

In support of the Royal Arch appeal, the college mounted a road show, visiting many Provinces and individual chapters, where one or more research fellows would speak in support of the appeal, in general, and of their individual research projects in particular.

This involved a huge amount of work by the college and I must express my thanks, in particular, to Martyn Coomer, whose task it is to ensure that the highly qualified research fellows can deliver a talk in non-medical English, sufficient to be understood by the layman. He achieves this feat with consummate skill. To illustrate his expertise, a presentation was made to a meeting of Freemasons, under the heading of 'Delineating the role of integrins in the repair and regeneration of the human vestibular system'. Apart from any medics present, I defy most of you to recognize that this was research into dizziness!

More about the Fellowship Scheme, shortly, except to say that Freemasonry has been the beneficiary of the road shows, in that at least two research fellows have been initiated into the Craft, having previously had no knowledge of it, but, having met with members, had formed 'a favourable opinion preconceived of the institution.'

When the appeal concluded, the staggering amount of £2.5m had been raised and I had previously suggested that, as the objects of the appeal were identical to those of the 1967 fund, it would be sensible for the appeal monies to be transferred to the fund and to be managed as one. I am delighted to say that Supreme Grand Chapter agreed to this course and, in future, the fund trustees will award fellowships on behalf of Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter in the proportion of 3:2.

During the appeal, the Province of Northumberland raised about £50,000 which they donated directly to the college and this, together with other direct donations from individual chapters, has funded the first Royal Arch Fellowship. This was awarded to a research fellow at the Medical School, in Newcastle, to undertake a urology project, in connection with the narrowing of the urinary channel and looking at corrective treatments.

At the conclusion of the appeal, it was decided to change the name of the fund from 'the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund' to 'The Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research' as this more accurately reflected the nature of the fund, going forward.

At a very recent meeting of the trustees, it was noted that the investment portfolio of the enlarged fund was valued at £6.5m (up from £6.25m, when the new money was introduced in January 2014) and the estimated annual income would be £186,000, a yield of 2.9%. It was agreed that the current year’s grant to the college should be £220,000 (a total return yield of under 3.5%), sufficient to be allocated four fellowships to be attributed equally between Grand Lodge and the Royal Arch. 

So much for history and finance. What is the process for selecting Freemason Research Fellows.

Prior to 1993, the college had a number of basic science departments, onsite, at their headquarter building in Lincoln's Inn Fields and, whilst research grants were awarded, there was no formal scheme in place. Our annual grant would be applied not only towards fellowships, but also in the purchase of essential pieces of medical equipment and the library.

In 1993 the college established its formal Surgical Research Fellowship Scheme, to which our fund has been contributing annually. Currently, the college receives applications from some 120 prospective, one-year, research fellows. The applicants are all qualified doctors who have elected to become surgeons. They will be members of the college, having passed the membership exams, for which the current pass rate is only 36%.

Ultimately the research fellows will hope to become consultants and their fellowship will be especially helpful for those who wish to become academic surgeons. Typically, academic surgeons will become professors or senior lecturers in medical schools, attached to National Health Service hospitals, where they will operate and run clinics, whilst teaching and continuing their research.

The amount of fellowships awarded depends on the funds available from all the supporters of the scheme (of whom there are about 15) but, typically about 20 are awarded each year. The process for the applicants is rigorous, consisting of a written application, setting out details of the proposed project and justifying, in medical terms, the reason for the research to be undertaken.

In particular, patient benefit is a key criteria. This aims to ensure that the research is not light years away from having a translational application for the benefit of patients.

Note is also taken of the potential of each applicant and the environment in which the research will take place. All applications are considered by a committee of the college, which reduces the number of possible researchers to be funded by about two thirds. The remaining one third (typically between 40 and 50) are called to attend a poster viva, at which each is asked to show that he or she is fully conversant with their project, work on which they may well have already been engaged in their overall medical training.

At the end of the assessment process, the college matches potential awards within the funds available. At this stage about 20 research projects will certainly be funded and the sponsors are then invited to choose those projects which particularly resonate with them. In the case of the Freemasons fund, our trustees have an annual meeting with representatives of the college, at which we are presented with a choice of about six projects, from which to select three (or, going forward, four). The trustees seek to select projects in different specialties, but it has to be said that male dominant conditions usually receive favourable consideration.

The following gives a flavour of the research projects funded, by Freemasons, in recent years:

Neurosurgery

Cancer, whether pancreatic, prostate, colorectal or oral and laryngeal, selecting viruses to infect and destroy tumour cells, using fiber optics to detect precancerous lesions in the oesophagus, developing a novel visualisation technique using magnetic resonance imaging to detect brain tumours

Kidney failure in patients undergoing heart surgery, looking to improve the long term outcomes of transplanted organs and, although in early stages, to build a kidney for transplantation in a laboratory, using stem cells.

Improving the outcomes of extremely premature babies who suffer brain hemorrhages.

From the above sample, you will understand that it is essential to have medical expertise amongst the trustees. Currently we have RW Bro Lord Ribeiro, PJGW, a Past President of the College and, subject to approval by the Grand Master, we are hoping, very shortly, to appoint another former member of the Council of the College, to replace W Bro David Rosin, who is now permanently based abroad.

At the annual meeting with the college the trustees not only decide on the prospective fellows, but also receive oral reports from those of the previous year, outlining, in plain English(!), the stage which has been reached by their research and whether it is ongoing, with funding outside the college. 

The 2013 Royal Arch Appeal has highlighted the work of the fund and it is hoped shortly to create a website, further to educate both Freemasons and others as to what the fund has, and hopes to, achieve.

I hope, MW Pro Grand Master and brethren, that this has given you some insight into the valuable research facilitated by the college and the significant role played by Freemasonry. In a very recent letter to me, from the President of the College, thanking for the current year’s grant, she says: 'This significantly increased grant is very much appreciated and can only enhance the very real friendship and bonds that exist between our respective organisations.'

Published in Speeches

Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter

30 April 2015 
An address by the ME The First Grand Principal HRH The Duke of Kent, KG

Companions, I know that you would want me to congratulate the Grand Officers whom I have appointed to or promoted in Grand Rank. Whilst thanking them for their efforts which have earned them recognition, I remind them, and other Grand officers, that with advancement comes added responsibility and wider opportunities for service to Royal Arch Masonry.

You will remember the generous £2.4 million raised for the two hundredth anniversary appeal to support the research work of the Royal College of Surgeons. A fundamental decision was needed as to how this sum should be invested and administered. It was decided that this would best be done together with the existing Grand Lodge Fund, launched for the Royal College in 1967, to celebrate the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Grand Lodge.

It has been agreed that the fellowships will be allocated to both the Craft and the Royal Arch in proportion to the contribution of funds. So, this will mean that there will be two Royal Arch Fellows in every five fellowships supported. 

As Patron of the Fund, I confirm that in order to reflect these important changes – notably that the funding for these fellowships has come from both the Craft and the Royal Arch – the name of the Fund has been changed from January 2015 to, ‘the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research’.

Companions, you will see behind me on the east wall the new case for the fine Willis organ, which has been renovated and greatly improved during the past year. You will be aware that Supreme Grand Chapter has funded this initiative from their reserves as the Royal Arch’s contribution towards the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England. In recognition of this contribution, the new case bears a triple tau at its top as well as on the front of the renovated console.

I am sure you would want me to congratulate all concerned with this project, which not only enhances this magnificent room, both audibly and visually, but also adds to the heritage of this building and the memory of those many Freemasons who died in the First World War.

I also thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for the excellence of the ceremony and the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for the detailed planning and organisation that has gone into ensuring today’s success.

Finally, Companions, I again congratulate those of you that I have invested and promoted on this memorable occasion and I wish you all well.

Published in Speeches
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