Celebrating 300 years
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 01:00

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2014

Quarterly Communication 

11 June 2014 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes 

Brethren, over the last year or two there has been a certain amount of correspondence in the various masonic magazines regarding the pros and cons of reading rather than reciting our ritual.

One correspondent suggested that as ritual was read throughout European Grand Lodges, we should follow. I am not sure all our politicians would agree with that! Certainly it is true that reading ritual is prevalent in many European Grand Lodges, however it is not universally so, and, in any event, there surely is no good reason for us to follow their example. Indeed, I have many friends in European Lodges who envy the way we deliver our ritual.

You will note, brethren, that I said that they are envious of the way we 'deliver' our ritual and, in my experience, ritual that is recited has much greater meaning to the candidate than ritual that is read, although I am pleased to say I have not been present on many occasions that it has been read.

I entirely accept that learning ritual is time consuming and time is at a premium in today’s hectic schedule of life. But how often is it true that the busiest people are those who find the time to learn it. I am not going to pretend that I have ever found ritual learning easy, and, as time goes by, dare I say, I find learning new ritual more difficult, but, nonetheless, I shall never forget the satisfaction of carrying out a second degree ceremony at the first meeting that I was in the chair of my mother lodge. To be told by an extremely demanding DC that it had been adequate was as good as it gets! I should add that this was a great deal more complimentary than anything he ever said to me during the year that he taught me classics.

By definition reading means looking at the book and, if the deliverer is looking at the book, he is not looking at the candidate or the brethren to whom he is speaking. To read a text well is in itself a skill that not everyone has. Good reading needs preparation and unless our ritual is understood by the deliverer, what chance is there that it will be understood by the recipient. For the reader to have a good understanding of what he is saying he will have had to have read through the text on several occasions and it is most certainly not a case of turning up, opening a book and reading.

Our ritual is to be treasured and there are few better experiences than seeing and hearing a really well conducted masonic ceremony. 

One of the prime reasons that lodges are being encouraged to share the workload is so that members should spend time really learning and understanding what they are delivering and not just reciting ritual parrot fashion. It is inevitable that some members will find ritual easier than others and it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that as much help as possible is given to those who need it, thus giving everyone the opportunity to take pride in their delivery, however short a piece it may be.

I don’t expect what I have said today to be universally accepted, but I would be surprised if the majority do not agree with at least part of it.

Letters to the Editor - No. 28 Winter 2014

All in the delivery

Sir,

With regard to the June address by our Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, there is no doubt that the candidate deserves to experience the ritual without the deliverer needing to read the text from a book. I was greatly impressed by the sincerity and meaning thus offered. At one time I could comfortably deliver the Second Degree Tracing Board as well as preside over a lodge or chapter with similar confidence, but now, with the years advancing and being into my seventies, such standards of delivery are now virtually impossible. The reluctant answer, where appropriate, is to delegate, but sometimes reading the ritual is just unavoidable. I do try to impart appropriate emotion with my delivery.

Barry Mitchell, Zetland Lodge, No. 511, London

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

11 June 2014
Order of Service of Masonry citation for W Bro Richard Leonard Ellis

Bro Len Ellis was made a mason in March, 1962, at the age of 30, in Old Castles Lodge, No. 5773, in Hawarden, North Wales, serving as its Master in 1978. In 1982 he joined Clwyd Lodge of lnstalled Masters, No. 8676 and in 1987 he joined Pen-y-Ddraig Lodge, No. 8163, serving as its Secretary from then until 2008. He was exalted into the Royal Arch in Pen-ar-lag Chapter, No. 3273 in 1964, becoming its First Principal in 1981.

After a year as Provincial Assistant Grand Secretary of North Wales in 1977, Bro Ellis became, in short order, Provincial Senior Grand Deacon, Provincial Grand Sword Bearer and, in 1985, Provincial Senior Grand Warden. In 1987 he was appointed Provincial Grand Secretary (and Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra), and received the rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in the Craft, receiving that of Past Grand Standard Bearer in the Royal Arch the following year. In due course he was promoted to his present ranks of Past Junior Grand Deacon and Past Assistant Grand Sojourner. 

Bro Ellis was one of the last long-serving Provincial Grand Secretaries, a breed that is all but extinct in an age when that office is perceived as a burden that should only rarely be shouldered by any individual for much more than five years. He held that office with distinction under four Provincial Grand Masters, from 1987 until 2008, one of whom, the late Bro Ian Mackeson-Sandbach, knew he had one of the best Provincial Grand Secretaries in the Constitution and treated him accordingly. The wealth of knowledge and experience which he accumulated during his period in office stood him, his successive Provincial Grand Masters and, above all, his Province in good stead. His later years in office were marred by severe arthritis, but he never lost his sense of humour and remained unfailingly courteous as well as a great source of advice and information to his neighbouring Provincial Grand Secretaries and even senior staff at Freemasons' Hall.

Published in Speeches

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
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 17:57

Grand Master's address - April 2014

Craft Annual Investiture 

30 April 2014 
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG 

Brethren, I want to start by saying a very warm welcome to you all, and to thank you for re-electing me as Grand Master at the last meeting in March. I particularly congratulate all those that I have had the pleasure of investing today.

Whether you have been appointed to or promoted in Grand Rank, I want to emphasise that two of your key tasks are recruitment and retention. It has become clear from the research carried out by the Membership Focus Group chaired by the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes that these tasks are more important than ever before. I am particularly concerned to hear that very few members recruit at all, and that there is an unacceptably high loss rate after each of the three degrees and indeed during the first ten years of membership.

The Membership Focus Group has been formed to analyse the statistics and to make proposals to stem the loss of members. It is already clear that the Mentoring Scheme will play a vital role going forward. It is therefore important that Lodge Mentors appoint appropriate personal mentors to look after each new candidate, rather than trying to do all the mentoring themselves. I look to you all, as Grand Officers, supporting the Mentoring Scheme.

Naturally, I expect you will also be good examples to others whatever their rank – not only in your good conduct and supportive approach but also by demonstrating your enjoyment of Freemasonry.

Yesterday evening I hosted a dinner for Provincial and District Grand Masters. The support of and direction from your respective Provincial and District Grand Masters is paramount and I am pleased to hear how closely they, in turn, are working with the Centre, here at Freemasons’ Hall. This inclusive approach is core to the future of the English Constitution.

I continue to hear of the good work done by the Provinces in their local communities and no better example has been the help given to the victims of the recent floods, especially in the West Country. This good work was supported when I recently had the opportunity to visit two Provinces. In Gloucestershire where I also attended their annual service in Gloucester Cathedral and also in Cornwall. I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the members I met in both Provinces.

Finally Brethren, I want to express our thanks to the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the smooth running of the impressive ceremony that you have just witnessed, as well as to the Grand Secretary and his staff for all their hard work leading up to today’s investiture.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication 

12 March 2014 
A Statement by The President of the Board of General Purposes, RW Bro Anthony Wilson, concerning Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF) 

MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, in September last the Grand Chancellor made a short statement on our position with regard to the GLNF. The Board has continued to monitor the situation and I believe it would be useful for Grand Lodge to receive an update on the subject. The Board has been encouraged by the progress being made in restoring peace and harmony within the GLNF. A special meeting will be held in April at which the members of the GLNF will be invited to approve significant changes to their Constitution and Rules, which will return power to the Grand Lodge and its members. If those changes go through, the Board believes that it would be possible to consider restoring recognition to the GLNF in the near future. The Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland are of the same opinion.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 12:00

Pro Grand Master's address - March 2014

Quarterly Communication 

12 March 2014 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes 

Brethren, it has been a pleasure to install Right Worshipful Brother Sir David Wootton as Assistant Grand Master. In offering him our congratulations I know that you would want me to wish him well in his important task at this exciting time for Freemasonry. 

I also take this opportunity to thank RW Bro David Williamson for his thirteen years as Assistant Grand Master serving the English Constitution admirably in that role. I can think of few people who have done more for Freemasonry in general and the Craft in particular. I also know that I speak for Lord Northampton when I say that there could not have been a more loyal and supportive AGM.

It is, in fact, the unity of the English Constitution that I wish to talk about today. That unity is crucial to our survival as a relevant organisation in society for men of quality to join. In particular I want to emphasise the importance of all the component parts of our organisation working together. Enormous progress has been made in the liaison between the centre, here, and London, the Provinces and Districts.

The consistent approach from the centre is now very much a consultative one, working directly to seek views before making proposals for consensus approval. This is typically through the Grand Secretary, on behalf of the Rulers and Board of General Purposes by direct contact, online surveys or by Provincial Grand Masters championing or being members of committees looking into and ensuring the future of Freemasonry. This inclusive approach is working well. I am keen that it continues.

I will illustrate this inclusive approach with some examples to support this starting with the Board of General Purposes whose nine members include the Metropolitan Grand Master, two current and two past Provincial Grand Masters. They not only bring a wealth of experience but also an understanding of the issues directly facing the Provinces. For your information the latest issue of Freemasonry Today, which has just come out, has an article in which the President of the Board explains how the Board is fully transparent, where every member is an active contributor. He also mentions the increasing professionalism in the way the Craft is run with standards you would expect to find in successful businesses.

I mentioned that this is an exciting time for Freemasonry with several initiatives dealing with both future recruitment and retention as well as business effectiveness in running a large membership organisation. For example the newly formed Membership Focus Group which includes eight Provincial Grand Masters. Their brief is to advise the Board of General Purposes on how best Freemasonry can concentrate the minds of members, lodges, Provinces and Rulers to work in a collaborative and focused manner in stemming the decline in membership and meeting the long term needs of the Craft. Interestingly, they have already identified the high loss of members throughout the first ten years of membership. It is also already clear that the majority of recruitment is carried out by a relatively small number of members. 

The Tercentenary Planning Committee is working closely with the Board of General Purposes looking at the overall plans for celebrations in 2017. Although there will be a final event in London towards the end of the year, I am determined that the Provinces and Districts run their own celebratory events throughout the year at times convenient to them. With this in mind two Provincial Grand Masters sit on the Committee with the aim of supporting and coordinating the planning with other Provincial and District Grand Masters. This way, many more members, throughout the English Constitution, will be able to participate in celebrating this milestone in our great history.

I have talked about Provincial Grand Masters being involved with helping to set the strategy as members of committees. But, brethren, wider views are also sought with online surveys which are quick and informative. For example, we have run a survey seeking opinions on communication strategies for the English Constitution. More recently, we have had a survey on potential new branding as we move towards 2017. 

There are, of course, many other examples of how well we are all working together. I hold a business meeting for all Provincial Grand Masters the day before the annual Craft Investitures in April each year, and later this year I will be holding my next round of regional meetings with Provincial Grand Masters. These meetings have proved invaluable in the past, openly exchanging views and opinions.

Let us not forget the Districts who form an important part of the English Constitution. Last year, accompanied by the Grand Secretary, I attended business meetings with groups of District Grand Masters in Trinidad, Harare and Lagos whilst the Deputy Grand Master attended the inaugural Asia Oceanic Conference of District Grand Lodges in Kuala Lumpur. In addition I hold a dedicated meeting for all District Grand Masters who attend the Investitures in April to discuss issues that particularly affect them.

So, brethren, we are, as a united English Constitution, working more closely together than at any other time in our history. At a strategic level, I believe that continuing to work together will not only stem the decline in membership but start to increase it to ensure the future of Freemasonry. At an individual level, consider the fact that the more members there are, the better chance Grand Lodge has of keeping the dues down. 

Changing tack, brethren, you will all be more than well aware of the appalling conditions being experienced by thousands of people as a result of the winter floods. Whilst the south west has been worst hit, Kent, Sussex and Berkshire as well as parts of Wales are not far behind, in fact there is barely a part of the south that does not have its tales of woe.

It will not surprise you to know that Freemasonry has been to the fore with providing relief funding. The Somerset Community Fund has received £750,000 in all, of which £125,000 has been from various masonic sources. The Provincial Grand Master of Somerset set a target of £50,000 and so, brethren, you can imagine how overwhelmed he is by the support  the Province has received, from the Grand Charity, other Provinces (Essex alone donating £40,000) and many Lodges from all over the country, as well as those in his own Province.

The Grand Charity can and does react quickly in these situations and as well as its support of Somerset, it has donated to the Red Cross, Berkshire, Devonshire and West Wales. In all, so far, it has made donations of nearly £60,000.

We should all be immensely proud of the way in which our members respond to emergencies and how well we are able to coordinate our giving. Thank you to all those concerned.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:00

Assistant Grand Master's address - December 2013

Quarterly Communication 
11 December 2013 
An address by the RW Assistant Grand Master David Williamson

Brethren, the more observant among you may have noticed that I acted as Deputy Grand Master at the last two Quarterly Communications, in September and June. However, you should not infer from the fact that you see me in this chair today, that this is a portent of what the future holds for me!

You will remember that at the June Quarterly Communication, the Pro Grand Master announced that the Grand Master had appointed VW Bro Sir David Wootton to succeed me as Assistant Grand Master. He is a man of great quality, and I wish him every success in his new role; he will be installed on 12th March next year. Thus today is my last appearance as Assistant Grand Master at Grand Lodge, and the Pro Grand Master, with the collusion of the Deputy Grand Master, has contrived to be otherwise engaged today, to permit me the extraordinary privilege of presiding over Grand Lodge, for the first and last time, for which I am deeply grateful.

By the time I retire next March, I will have served thirteen years as Assistant Grand Master, during which time I have visited every continent, for a variety of purposes; to Install District Grand Masters and Grand Inspectors, to attend landmark meetings of private lodges, and to represent the Grand Master at other Grand Lodges. Here at home, I have installed Provincial Grand Masters, attended Charity Festivals and lodges in their Provinces, and in Metropolitan London; I have always received a warm and generous welcome, for which I thank them all.

There are many other people to whom I owe personal debts of gratitude for the support and encouragement they have given me during my term of office, not least the several Rulers I have been privileged to serve under, two of whom, I am delighted to see here today, MW Bro Lord Northampton, and RW Bro Iain Bryce. I am also very grateful to so many people here at Freemasons' Hall, who have helped smooth my path with their advice and support.

Over the years I have witnessed many changes and exciting initiatives, not least the formation of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, in which I was privileged to play a part. Nine years ago, with Lord Northampton’s encouragement, I started the Universities Scheme, which now has fifty nine lodges around the country, many of which I have visited. I am proud of what those lodges are achieving, and very grateful to successive members of my organising committee for the time and effort they have devoted to promoting the Scheme.

Parallel with the growth of the Scheme, I have seen the mentoring initiative take an increasingly positive effect in making masonry meaningful to new masons and aiding overall retention. One of the biggest changes has been in the development of the way we portray ourselves to the outside world, through websites, social media, and our publications, all of which contribute to what we know as 'openness', and in helping us regain, what the Grand Master has called, 'our enviable reputation in society.' 

Finally, brethren, as I reflect on the last thirteen years, it is with all humility I can say that it has been a great honour to have had the opportunity to contribute to English Freemasonry; I have enjoyed every moment. My grateful thanks to all of you who may have made a special effort to be here today; it is wonderful to see the Grand Temple so full!

My sincere thanks too to the many masons it has been my pleasure and privilege to meet, in London, in the Provinces, and overseas. I will always remember the collective and individual encouragement you have given me over the years. Brethren, thank you all.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:00

'Our Yesterdays' - Graham Redman and John Hamill

Quarterly Communication 
11 December 2013 
A Speech By VW Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary, And VW Bro John Hamill, Assistant Grand Chancellor 

GFR: RW Assistant Grand Master and Brethren, a year ago we left the Moderns Grand Lodge resolving unanimously to give a dinner to The Earl of Moira, Acting Grand Master and to present him with a Masonic Jewel of a value not less than 500 Guineas in token of the Craft’s esteem for his most valuable services from 1790 to 1812.

At a Special Grand Lodge held on Wednesday the 27th January 1813:

The Grand Lodge was opened in due Form by His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, Deputy Grand Master and the Minutes of the last Grand Lodge relating to the Masonic Dinner… and the Jewel… were read. The Grand Lodge was then adjourned and the Grand Officers went in procession into the Hall…………..

After Dinner His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, … in the Name and on behalf of the Grand Lodge and the Masons of England invested The Earl of Moira with a most superb Past Grand Master’s Jewel, richly set with Brilliants and suspended from a Collar composed of seven Rows of Gold Maltese Chain intersected by five gold parallelograms with Brilliant Centres, on the reverse of which Jewel [an] inscription was engraven……..

JMH: Special is hardly a strong enough word to describe this meeting. Six Royal Dukes, foreign visitors, the present and 19 Past Grand Wardens and almost all of the Provincial Grand Masters attended. Those who were present here last year might remember that in modern money the jewel and chain cost £22,500. The jewel can be seen in the Museum here.

GFR: At the Quarterly Communication held on Wednesday the 7th of April 1813

A letter from Brother Colonel McMahon, Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent addressed to Brother Bayford, Grand Treasurer was read communicating the Pleasure of His Royal Highness to decline on the present Election the Situation of Grand Master as he should be unable under his present circumstances to attend to and discharge its important Duties.

After voting a humble and dutiful Address to The Prince Regent, praying His Royal Highness to allow himself to be designated Patron and Protector of the Craft, a little later in the meeting

Brother J. Joyce, R.W.M. of the Bank of England Lodge, No. 435 proposed His Royal Highness Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex etc etc etc to be elected Grand Master for the present year which was seconded by Brother Bayford G[rand] T[reasurer] and on the Question being put it passed unanimously in the Affirmative and was accompanied with the most animated demonstrations of Joy, Affection and Respect.

JMH: The reason given to Lord Moira for the Prince of Wales’s resignation was that it was believed that 'the monarch, or his Regent,  should not be the subject of an annual election in which there was a possibility he might lose'! The Prince had been a popular Grand Master regularly attending the premier Grand Lodge and its Committees and the Lodges of which he had been elected permanent Master. He had also appeared as Grand Master in public on a number of occasions, laying foundation stones with Masonic ceremonies.  He was not, however, too keen on paying his lodge subscriptions. The letter still survives in the Royal Archives in which the Grand Secretary gently reminds the Prince’s Treasurer that he is more than five years in arrears with his subscriptions to the three lodges of which he was permanent Master.

The election of the Duke of Sussex as his successor was to prove a masterstroke. Not only did he ensure the Union taking place but as Grand Master for thirty years did much to ensure that it would be permanent and laid the ground plan for Freemasonry as we practise it today.

GFR: At the Quarterly Communication held on Wednesday the 23rd June 1813, the new Grand Master reported that he had duly presented the address to the Prince Regent by whom it was most graciously received.  

Then, in accordance with the Grand Master’s expressed wish it was 

Resolved that His Royal Highness the M.W. Grand Master be fully empower[e]d to take such measures as to him may seem most expedient for arranging an Union between this Grand Lodge and the Society of Masons under His Grace the Duke of Athol and if necessary to agree and conclude the same: with power to His Royal Highness if he find occasion to convene such Members of the Grand Lodge as he may think fit to be a Committee to assist in effecting this object and to give such Instructions and Orders to the Committee as the circumstances may in his opinion require. 

JMH: Negotiations towards the Union had virtually stalled, largely because of the continuing insistence by the Antients of re-debating every point of agreement at one of their Quarterly Communications. The premier Grand Lodge in giving Sussex full power to decide obviously wished to see matters brought to a head. Sussex had been given similar carte blanche by the Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter, of which he had just become First Grand Principal, to settle the place of the Royal Arch in whatever relationship he thought best with the new Craft arrangements. 

GFR: At an Especial Grand Lodge held on Wednesday the 1st December 1813

The Most Worshipful the Grand Master … announced that by virtue of the power delegated to him by the Grand Lodge on the 23rd June last he had selected [three senior Brethren] to assist him in the negotiation for an Union with the other Fraternity of Masons in England. That they had several conferences with His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent assisted by three Grand Officers…, the happy result of which was that Articles of Union between the two Grand Lodges of Masons of England had been signed and sealed in duplicate at Kensington Palace on the 25th November. H[is] R[oyal] H[ighness] The Grand Master then laid the same before Grand Lodge. The announcement of this great event was received with Masonic acclamations and the said Articles were read by the Grand Secretary.

After which [ten] resolutions were passed to put into effect a Union between the two Grand Lodges, and a vote of most sincere and grateful thanks to His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex was moved for all his work towards this end

thereby erecting the Edifice of the Masonic Union on a Basis constituted of such materials as must be rendered more firm and compact by revolving years and on which the Hand of Time can work only to prove that Masons possess the art of raising a Structure which Storms cannot destroy.

………..

All business being ended the Grand Lodge was closed in solemn and ample form and adjourned to Monday the 27th Instant at eleven O’Clock in the Forenoon.

JMH: The Minutes just quoted take us a little ahead of ourselves. The observant will have noticed that a change had occurred within the Antients Grand Lodge and that Sussex’s brother,  the Duke of Kent has entered the story with powers to arrange matters for the Antients. It says a great deal for the power and authority of Princes at that time that in a short period of weeks Sussex and Kent had knocked heads together, drafted the Articles of Union between the two Grand Lodges and had them agreed by both parties. Sadly for historians most of the meetings between the Dukes and their aides took place in private and no Minutes were taken. 

GFR: The other half of the story is to be found in the Minutes of the Atholl or Antients Grand Lodge.  

At a Special Grand Lodge on Wednesday 4th August 1813 the following letter from the Grand Secretary of the Moderns Grand Lodge was read:

Sir,

I am commanded by His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, Grand Master of the Society of Free and accepted Masons, under the Patronage of the Prince Regent, to acquaint you that the Grand Lodge of that Society, feeling with its Royal Grand Master the fullest conviction that the Union so long contemplated of the two Societies of Masons in England would be of the greatest advantage to the Craft in general, has requested and empowered His Royal Highness the Grand Master to take such steps as may appear most proper for arranging and concluding so desirable an object upon terms that may be equal and honorable [sic] to both parties trusting that a correspondent disposition continues on the part of the Society, acting under his Grace the Duke of Atholl.

I am further commanded to request you will make this communication known to the proper authorities of your Grand Lodge, and state the wish of His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, to have a meeting as early as possible on the Subject, should the proposal accord with the sentiments of your Society.

The Duke of Atholl, being unable at that time to give his personal attention to the matter, had suggested that His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent might be prevailed on to act in his stead, and that course of action was approved by the Grand Lodge

JMH: HRH Edward, Duke of Kent was one of the most prominent of the brethren who had a foot in both Grand Lodges. He had been initiated in Switzerland, joined Lodges under the premier Grand Lodge and been appointed a Past Grand Master of that Grand Lodge. In 1790 he had been appointed their Provincial Grand Master for Gibraltar when on military duties there. When he took up command of the forces in Canada the Antients appointed him their Provincial Grand Master and he did much to revive Freemasonry in Canada and strengthen the position of the Antients there. A special meeting of the Antients was held on 18 May 1813, ostensibly to celebrate the anniversary of their Boy’s Charity but also an opportunity for the Duke of Atholl to present the Duke of Kent to them and thank him for all his work in Canada. In responding to their welcome the Duke of  Kent promised his full support to the Antients in the negotiations with the premier Grand Lodge so that it could be 'accomplished on the basis of the Antient Institutions, and with the maintenance of all the rights of the Ancient Craft'.

GFR: At another Especial Grand Lodge held on Monday 8th November, a letter from The Duke of Atholl was read intimating his desire of resigning the office of Grand Master in favour of His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent.  Resolutions were moved accepting the Duke of Atholl’s resignation, tendering a vote of thanks to him for his services as Grand Master, requesting that the Duke 'permit his portrait to be taken by an artist of celebrity that it may be placed conspicuously in the Grand Lodge as a perpetual memorial of their love and reverence of his virtues and of their gratitude for his services to the Craft.'  The Duke of Kent was unanimously elected Grand Master and, he having already signified his acceptance of the said office, his 'solemn installation as Grand Master with all the ancient forms and ceremonies' was fixed for high noon on Wednesday the first day of December next, with the details for the ceremonial delegated to a Committee of Present and Past Grand Officers

JMH: Kent’s installation as Grand Master on 1st December was quite a day! It began with a meeting of the Grand Master’s Lodge at which the Duke of Sussex and other senior members of the premier Grand Lodge were made Antient Masons to enable them to attend the installation. The Duke of Kent entered in procession and was duly installed by the Duke of Atholl with 'ceremonials which cannot be written or printed' after which the new Grand Officers were invested. Then a special Ode was sung followed by an 'exhortation  on the Principles of Antient Masonry '. The Grand Lodge was then closed and those present moved to the next room where 'a sumptuous dinner' had been prepared and the afternoon was 'spent with high masonic conviviality'. But that was not the end of the day…

GFR: After the afternoon 'spent with high masonic conviviality', a Quarterly Communication was held with the newly installed Grand Master in the Chair. The Duke of Kent announced that after several conferences with His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, Grand Master of the other Fraternity, who was also assisted by three of his Grand Officers…. articles of Union had been signed and sealed in duplicate in Kensington Palace, on the 25th November last, and His Royal Highness laid the same before the Grand Lodge. The announcement of this Great Event was received with masonic acclamation, and the said articles were read.

Resolutions were carried, providing amongst other things:

That the articles of union now read be Ratified and Confirmed.

That brotherly application be made to the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland, enclosing them a copy of the above articles, when ratified, and entreating them to delegate two or more enlightened members of their respective bodies to be present at the Assembly of Union on Monday, the 27th December instant, pursuant to Article IV.

That a special dispensation, under the great seal, be issued to … [nine Brothers, and their Secretary], to hold a Lodge of Reconciliation, in conjunction with an equal number to be appointed and empowered by His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, to fulfil the duties set forth and enjoined in the said Articles of Union.

JMH: The Articles of Union required the Lodge of Reconciliation to meet with the Masters, Wardens and Past Masters of Lodges under both Grand Lodges to obligate, certify and register them as being entitled to attend the great celebration to be held on 27th December 1813 to ratify the Union and bring the United Grand Lodge into being. If we are allowed to continue our duologue in future years, we will see that the Lodge of Reconciliation was to take on a much greater role and was to establish the basic ritual to be adopted by all lodges under the United Grand Lodge. A further special meeting of the Antients Grand Lodge was held on 23rd December at which the Minutes of the various meetings on 1st December were confirmed, allowing the Union to go ahead. The Duke of Sussex was again present and thanks were given to him and the Duke of Kent for their work in ensuring the Union. Thanks were also given to Thomas Harper, the Deputy Grand Master and to Robert Leslie, accompanied by a medal valued at £10, for his thirty years of loyal service, including twenty as Grand Secretary of the Antients.

GFR: The Grand Assembly of Freemasons for the Union of the two Grand Lodges of England was duly held on Saint John’s Day, 27th Dec[ember] 1813

An order of proceedings which had been previously settled, was strictly observed.

The platform on the East was reserved for the Grand Masters, Grand Officers and visitors.….

The Masters, Wardens and Past Masters of the several Lodges to the number of six hundred…  were arranged on the two sides [of the Hall], … and the Lodges were ranked so that the two Fraternities were completely intermixed….

The Grand Masters, Past Grand Masters, Deputy Grand Masters, Grand Officers, and distinguished Visitors of the two Fraternities, assembled in two adjoining Rooms in which they opened two Grand Lodges each according to its peculiar solemnities and the Grand Procession moved towards the Hall of Assembly……

On entering the Hall, the procession advanced to the Throne, and opened and faced each other, the Music playing a March composed for the occasion by Brother Kelly.

The two Grand Masters then proceeded up the centre [and]….. seated themselves, in two equal chairs, on each side [of]the Throne. ….

The Director of the Ceremonies, Sir George Nayler having proclaimed silence.

The Reverend Dr. Barry, Grand Chaplain [of the Antients] delivered a prayer.

The Act of Union was then read by the Director of Ceremonies….

The Reverend Dr. Coghlan, Grand Chaplain to the [Moderns] proclaimed aloud, after sound of trumpet 

‘Hear Ye This is the Act of Union, engrossed in confirmation of Articles solemnly concluded between the two Grand Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons of England, signed, sealed and ratified by the two Grand Lodges respectively by which they are to be hereafter and for ever known and acknowledged by the Style and Title of The United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England. How say you, Brothers, representatives of the two Fraternities ‘Do you accept of, ratify and confirm the same?’ To which the Assembly answered ‘We do accept, ratify and confirm the same’. The Grand Chaplain then said ‘And may the Great Architect of the Universe make the Union perpetual!’ To which all the assembly replied, ‘So mote it be’.

JMH: The Articles of Union were then signed by the two Grand Masters and their Commissioners after which the Grand Chaplain, Dr. Barry proclaimed the United Grand Lodge of England and Brother Wesley performed a symphony on the organ. The Grand Masters then moved to the floor of the Lodge and were, in sequence, provided with square, level, plumb and mallet to try and approve the Ark of the Masonic Covenant a wonderful edifice in mahogany designed by Sir John Soane, only recently made a Mason in the Grand Master’s Lodge, which was to be the repository for the Articles of Union whenever the United Grand Lodge of England was to be opened. Sadly the Ark and the many portraits of Past Grand Masters which adorned the old Grand Temple were destroyed in a fire which destroyed the Grand Temple on 3rd May 1883. Fortunately the Articles of Union had been placed in a safe and are still with us today. 

GFR: After the Grand Officers had resumed their places a prayer was offered by The Revd. Dr. Coghlan.

Letters were read from Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of Ireland, neither of which was able to send a deputation.

The distinguished visiting Grand Masters pronounced that the forms settled and agreed on by the Lodge of Reconciliation were pure and correct.

This being declared, the same was recognized [sic] as the forms to be alone observed and practised in the United Grand Lodge and all the Lodges dependent thereon until time shall be no more. 

The Holy Bible spread open with the square and compass thereon the ark of the covenant and the two Grand Chaplains approached the same.

The recognized [sic] obligation was then pronounced aloud by the Revd. Dr. Hemming one of the Masters of the Lodge of Reconciliation, the whole Fraternity repeating the same, with joined hands and declaring ‘By this solemn obligation we vow to abide, and the regulations of ancient freemasonry now recognized [sic] strictly to observe’.

The assembly then proceeded to constitute one Grand Lodge, in order to which the Grand Masters, Deputy Grand Masters, Grand Wardens and other Acting Grand Officers of both Fraternities divested themselves of their insignia and Past Grand Officers took the chairs……

His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent after an eloquent address proposed His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex to be Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England for the year ensuing. This was seconded and was unanimously carried in the affirmative with Masonic honours.

His Royal Highness was placed on the throne and solemnly obligated. The Grand Installation was fixed for St. George’s Day.  After being proclaimed the Grand Master nominated his Grand Officers.

It was then solemnly proclaimed that the two Grand Lodges were incorporated and consolidated into one and the Grand Master declared it to be open in due form according to ancient usage.

The Grand Lodge was then called to refreshment and the cup of brotherly love was delivered by the Junior Grand Warden to the Past Deputy Grand Master who presented the same to the Grand Master; he drank to the Brethren ‘Peace, goodwill and brotherly love all over the world’ and he passed it. During its going round the vocal band performed a song and glee.

After the Grand Lodge was recalled to labour various addresses were moved and administrative matters dealt with, such as the appointment of various Boards.

The United Grand Lodge was then closed in ample and solemn prayer. 

The Grand Officers and the brotherhood then repaired to the Crown and Anchor tavern where a grand banquet was provided. His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex in the chair supported on the right by His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent and on the left by His Excellency Count de Lagardje and other distinguished foreigners. The auspicious day was concluded with the most festive harmony and brotherly love.         

JMH: And so after more than four years of tough negotiation the great event had been accomplished   and the United Grand Lodge of England brought into being. As I hope we will be able to show over the next few years, the foundations laid on 27th December 1813 were built upon by the Duke of Sussex and his aides and the Craft in England as we know it today became firmly established as the sole Craft authority for England, Wales and our lodges overseas. So well laid were the foundations that, with the exception of a brief rebellion in Liverpool in the 1820s, the authority of the United Grand Lodge of England has never been seriously challenged.

At this point we would normally look at the events in Grand Lodge one hundred years ago. After the tumultuous events two hundred years ago one can only say that 1913 was possibly the dullest year in Grand Lodge’s long history. So rather than waste Grand Lodge’s time, may we simply suggest that, like two hundred years ago, we raise a cup and drink to 'Peace, Good Will and Brotherly Love all over the world'. 

Published in Speeches

Bicentenary Celebration Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter 
16 October 2013 
An address by the ME The First Grand Principal HRH The Duke of Kent, KG 

Companions, today marks a major milestone in the distinguished history of the Holy Royal Arch.

Whilst celebrating this landmark I particularly wished to mention the success of the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons. I am impressed to hear about the tremendous support that 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 £2m. 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 who have made a significant contribution in some other way to this year's celebrations.

Companions, I am aware of the effort that has been put into organising the events of today's memorable celebration. I thank the Committee of General Purposes, the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for their detailed planning and preparation for today. I also thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for the excellence of this special ceremony. I know we all wish the Order continued success for the next two hundred years!

Published in Speeches

Bicentenary Celebration Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter 
16 October 2013 
An address by E Comp the Rev Dr John Railton, PGSwdB

Most Excellent First Grand Principal and Companions, a couple of months ago, a much-loved and highly respected member of our Order asked me what would be the theme of my Oration this afternoon. At that stage, to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t given it much thought, but I muttered something about the inexorable march of time. I won’t tell you exactly what he said, but he clearly wasn’t over-impressed! I’m most grateful to him, though, because it was his question which prompted me to recognise that, in reflecting on the significance of this occasion, my task is to navigate a careful course between the rocks of controversy on the one hand and the sandbanks of platitude on the other. So my aim this afternoon is to be just mildly provocative – in the best sense, that of being gently thought-provoking! No doubt he’ll tell me later whether I succeed!

If I were to suggest that many, possibly most, Freemasons are ‘traditionalist’ by nature, I suspect that there are many here who would have no difficulty in agreeing with me. But there are those, I’m sure, who would take issue with me – for very good reasons. So let me try to put some flesh on the bare bones of that statement. By ‘traditionalist’ I don’t mean in any sense old-fashioned, stick-in-the-mud, living in the past, reactionary – although most of us could probably name a few of our brethren to whom those terms may well apply! No, by ‘traditionalist’ I mean having the ability to appreciate and value the traditions of our masonic Orders; to understand the worth of the experience of our predecessors and the actions they took to keep alive the fundamental principles of Pure Antient Freemasonry while maintaining their relevance for daily life in each and every age.

If life for us is in equilibrium, constant, reliable, predictable and comfortable – then change is a challenge, often an unwelcome challenge. And I’m very much one of those who subscribe to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ school of thought. But I believe we need to bear in mind that Freemasonry is a living organism. I was trying to remember from grammar school biology classes the characteristics of living things: I can remember some of them – nutrition, respiration, growth, movement, response to stimuli. Well, all of those apply to the Royal Arch – and, indeed, to Freemasonry generally. Our belief in and our commitment to all we do as masons needs nourishment and nurture; it needs to breathe and be refreshed; it needs to reproduce itself through recruitment; and it needs continually to assess just HOW it relates to everyday life – for us as masons, and for our families and communities; and how it responds to external stimuli, most obviously in the way masonry is seen by the wider world and the impact of the image Freemasonry has on the recruitment which is our life-blood.

Well, all of that has been going on from the very earliest beginnings of Freemasonry. Just as Royal Arch Masonry has breathed the oxygen of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, so it must breathe the oxygen of the twenty-first. The context of today’s celebration is the passage of two hundred years of growth and evolution. If we could be transported back across those two hundred years, I wonder how much we would recognise in the practice of Royal Arch Masonry? But the Royal Arch as we know it today is the result of something like three hundred years of evolution. An understanding and appreciation of the story of the Royal Arch over those years informs and illuminates our understanding and appreciation of the Order as it is today.

After all, when you think about it, for each one of us as an individual, what we are today is the result of our personal history, our life story, our journey, our experience, our relationships, our joys and sorrows. We find our individual identity in that story, and our understanding of ourselves now is informed by a deeper understanding of that story. So it is with the Royal Arch – the better we understand how it has evolved the greater is our appreciation of what it is today.

If any one of us were to reflect on major events in our lives, it may be that we could identify two significant milestones: first, reaching a conclusion and making a decision; and second, acting on that decision. That might apply to deciding to buy a house or a car – and later completing the purchase. It might apply to deciding to seek a change of job or career – and later implementing that change. It might apply to proposing marriage and being accepted – and later entering into that marriage. In the final analysis, I wonder what YOU feel was the most significant, the most life-changing of those stages? In my case I’m quite clear – without in any way diminishing the celebration or the completion, in terms of my own growth and development it was the moment of decision which was of greatest significance.

If we translate that perception into our Masonic lives, we can acknowledge that the key to change is not the implementation of structural change, but rather the inner conviction and the decision that change is needed.

Well, we all know that the bicentenary of Supreme Grand Chapter, the celebration of structural change, is still a few years away. What we are celebrating today is the fulfillment of discussion and debate which led ultimately to the change of heart which opened the way for the later merger of the two Grand Chapters and the formation of this Supreme Grand Chapter – the final acceptance by both Grand Lodges that the Royal Arch is indeed an integral part of ‘Pure Antient Masonry’.

So let me invite you to reflect on the notion that outward change is the visible and tangible consequence of inner change; but that it is the inner change which represents true growth and progress, and it is inner change which has lasting impact.

Our predecessors in this Order did what they believed to be right in enabling the Order to flourish and take its rightful place in the structure of Freemasonry. One perspective of our celebration today is to look back with gratitude to all they achieved. We don’t live in the past, but it is the past which has given us the present. A second perspective is to value what our Order is today, and to continue to nurture what we have inherited. And the third perspective concerns our task and our duty to make sure that what we do today honours the heritage of our predecessors, because what we do will impact future generations of Royal Arch masons. May we prove equal to that challenge. In another two hundred years, I wonder what Royal Arch masons will be saying about us and about our contribution to the on-going growth of the Order we love.

I can do no better than to end with the prayer with which every Royal Arch meeting begins, the prayer which is known to many church congregations as the Collect for Purity and is used at the beginning of every Communion service. ‘Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee and worthily magnify Thy Holy Name. So Mote It Be.’

Published in Speeches
Page 5 of 16

ugle logo          SGC logo