Together with co-drivers Richard Barrett and Dimas Pestana, Larry travelled the 2,000km journey over 10 days in support of the two charities. During the final leg of the epic journey, the 1914 Model T passed through central London and stopped at Freemasons’ Hall where the trio were greeted by Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, the presidents of the four central masonic charities, and Lincolnshire Deputy PGM John Hockin.
The route was selected as Larry is a member of lodges in Portugal and the Province of Lincolnshire – the latter of which has supported the RMTGB for the past six years and is due to end its Festival appeal this November.
The Association of Medical, University and Legal Lodges (AMULL) celebrated its 12th annual festival at Lincoln’s Inn in London, in the presence of Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, his wife Almudena and Metropolitan Grand Master Russell Race.
This year’s host was the Chancery Bar Lodge, No. 2456, whose meetings are held in Lincoln’s Inn. The day included a lecture: ‘For Valour – The Victoria Cross’, by Mark Smith. An ecumenical service was held in Lincoln’s Inn Chapel, led by the Reverend Alan Gyle, with the address by the Venerable Peter Delaney. This year’s AMULL bursaries went to Michael Mather (Universities Lodge, No. 2352, Durham) and Daniel Glover (University Lodge of Liverpool, No. 4274).
Freemasonry has given Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes the confidence to stand up in front of people and make himself heard. He talks to Freemasonry Today about responsibility and his hopes for the Craft
How were you introduced to Freemasonry?
The first place was in the Rising Sun pub on Ebury Bridge Road as it’s where I found out about Freemasonry. A friend there was wearing an Old Etonian tie and I asked why he was wearing it, he said he was ‘off to the lodge’. I said, ‘What happens there?’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you come to find out sometime?’ So I did and it was as simple as that.
Did you ever have any doubts?
If I’d gone into a much bigger lodge I think I might have dropped it, but the fact that the lodge was smaller meant that it pushed you out of your comfort zone. I’d never been someone who liked doing things in front of people but suddenly pride takes over – you decide that if you’re going to do it you’re going to do it well. Then I discovered I enjoyed it.
What did you learn from Freemasonry?
During my work, I did property auctioneering and I remember being terrified of the first one I did. But the fact that I was getting up in Freemasonry and talking in front of people was beneficial. I hope I was a good property auctioneer, but if I was it was down to the confidence I got from Freemasonry. And vice versa. It’s the confidence of hearing your own voice, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. I believe that Freemasonry inevitably leads you to being absolutely clear about your principles; it concentrates the mind.
How did you become Pro Grand Master?
Like many things in life, becoming Pro Grand Master was about being in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in Grand Lodge because I’d been recommended. Once you have achieved a senior position, you get pushed in whichever direction you have the most use. I became Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995 and was delighted when Lord Northampton asked me to be Deputy Grand Master in 2004 as I felt that was way above my rank. When he then told me he was giving up and that I was taking over in 2009, I asked him if I could have 24 hours to think it over. I remember asking my wife for her thoughts and she said, ‘I don’t know why you’re talking to me because you’re going to do it anyway.’
Did your life change?
As Deputy Grand Master I could work full-time but I couldn’t as Pro Grand Master. Everybody is coming to you with everything and while you can delegate, it still all needs to come through you first. But I knew what to expect when I took the position and I think I’m the first commoner to do it, which is a good thing. Since I’ve become Pro Grand Master, the position has become so much more visible. Compared to 10 years ago, the questions I’m asked tend to be about finding answers to something, rather than somebody having a go. When you’re junior, you can clam up about Freemasonry, but I’m confident now and love talking about it to non-masons.
Has the role of Pro Grand Master changed?
Going back to the 1970s and 1980s, Freemasonry was run by the Grand Secretary, who would probably keep the Pro Grand Master, Deputy and Assistant informed. That’s now completely changed and it was Lord Farnham who started the process. He was a big man in the city and probably thought that if he was going to be head of something, he ought to take control of it. Farnham said that it must be the three rulers who dictate, through the Board of General Purposes, and that more people should be consulted about what is going on. Therefore, the three of us are involved in everything that happens in Freemasonry.
What would you change about Freemasonry?
I would love to leave behind the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when we didn’t communicate with the outside world. That all stems from Freemasons in Germany being treated the same way as the Jews. The local papers between the wars had pictures of new Provincial Grand Masters parading the streets but with everyone in 1940 assuming Hitler would invade the UK, everything went underground and didn’t really come up again for 30 years.
What is Freemasonry’s biggest challenge?
It’s not a numbers game, but that’s always fairly high on the agenda. If we never lost anyone until they died, our numbers would be going up. The problem is losing them in the first five years of joining. If I could click my fingers and do one thing, it would be finding a way of keeping all the people we’re bringing in. We’re losing them for reasons we can control because they might join the wrong lodge – they get there and find there aren’t many kindred spirits. We now have exit interviews and are recovering members by putting them in a lodge that suits them better.
Geoffrey Dearing has been installed as both Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent of the Royal Arch in the Province of East Kent by Jonathan Spence, Deputy Grand Master and Past Second Grand Principal.
The two ceremonies took place at the Winter Gardens theatre and functions building in Margate. Jonathan Spence reminded the companions and brethren that East Kent is his home Province, being a member of Pentangle Chapter and Sir Joseph Williamson Lodge, both meeting at Rochester.
Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence believes that it is vital to show the rest of the world why Freemasonry is enjoyable
I would like to share with you some thoughts on some essential aspects of ‘pure antient masonry’. I am prompted to do this after listening to an interview given by the Grand Chaplain to the BBC in May in which it became clear there are still substantial misunderstandings about the Craft, when frankly there ought not to be.
We need to be absolutely clear when we discuss our pure ancient masonry that we belong to a secular organisation, that is to say a non-religious organisation. This was a point made very eloquently by the Grand Chaplain in his interview. It is, however, a secular organisation that is supportive of religion: it is an absolute requirement for all our members to believe in a supreme being. As the late and sadly missed Dean Neil Collings so eloquently put it, this gives ‘a context and background to the individual’s way of life as they seek to live it’.
Freemasonry itself, as we all know, is neither a substitute for nor an alternative to religion. It certainly does not deal in spirituality – it does not have any sacraments or, indeed, offer or claim to offer any type of salvation. Freemasonry, in fact, absolutely fails to meet any of the tests of what it is to be a religion. The fact that men from different faiths can meet easily in harmony and friendship, without compromising their particular religious beliefs, demonstrates that one of the greatest strengths of the Craft, dating from its earliest beginnings, is that of tolerance. Therefore, to ensure this tolerance remains untroubled, discussions of religion, like discussions of politics, are strictly prohibited.
Encouraging our ideals
Organised Freemasonry, from its beginnings in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries – which was a time of religious intolerance – was always concerned with teaching and encouraging morality. Our forefathers were very aware of human nature and its flaws, particularly those of self-absorption and selfishness. The Craft sought to encourage men to be loyal to their country, to obey the law, to try to be better behaved, to consider their relations with others and to make themselves more extensively serviceable to their fellow men – that is to say their wider communities. In other words, to pursue a moral life. The ceremonies were used as the main means of teaching and illustrating the principles of the Craft: they were, and still very much are, a dramatic and effective set of morality plays.
The Craft, as a secular organisation, remains just as concerned today to encourage these ideals. In today’s language, we can articulate the fundamental principles to which our members subscribe as integrity, honesty, fairness, kindness and tolerance. These are principles that we should be very proud of and we should not hesitate to articulate them, when appropriate opportunities present themselves, to our family, friends and, indeed, the wider community in which we live. We should also make it very clear that we very much enjoy ourselves and what we do. I have no doubt that our principles will appeal to those who are not masons if they are aware of them.
The future of the Craft is dependent on attracting and retaining good quality candidates. Our principles should be attractive to many men of good reputation and integrity. The other side of this coin is that we should therefore be careful in our choice of candidates. This is something every new Freemason is told in the charge after initiation and for a very good reason – unsuitable candidates are likely to damage the Craft in general as well as their own lodges in particular.
Every one of us has an important part to play in articulating clearly what the Craft is and encouraging appropriately qualified candidates to be members. To support this, our strategic communications direction, together with the results from the working party on mentoring, will go a long way to help us to speak openly and in an informed way about Freemasonry. Our success will help to ensure Freemasonry’s long-term future.
Letters to the editor - No. 26 Summer 2014
A word of warning for younger Freemasons: be careful what you wish for! Eighteen months ago as part of the annual visit made by the masons of the southern area of the Province of East Lancashire, one of the younger visitors, Steve Stanley, was making his first visit. He was the Junior Warden of the Lodge of Union, No. 268, from Ashton-under-Lyne.
During luncheon, the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence, spent some time chatting to every brother who was present. When Steve took his turn to have a few words with such an eminent guest, he didn’t miss the chance to ask, ‘Would you like to attend my installation on 16 January?’ There was a pause before the Deputy Grand Master responded, ‘We’ll have to see what is possible.’ And that was that.
The Deputy Grand Master must get similar requests all the time and the other members of the lodge had to work on Steve to convince him that there was little, if any, chance of his actually receiving a visit from such an august Freemason.
However, some sixteen months later it became clear to one or two members of the Lodge of Union that there was a distinct possibility that something special might just be about to happen. On the evening of 16 January, after Steve was presented, it was announced that the Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies sought entry into our lodge! When he announced that Jonathan Spence, the Deputy Grand Master, demanded to be admitted you could have heard a pin drop. Steve looked up and I saw him mouth a few syllables that demonstrated that he understood what was about to happen.
The Deputy Grand Master entered with a small retinue, and as he walked past, he gave the Master Elect a clear and definite wink. Nor did the surprise end there. Right Worshipful Brother Spence accepted the gavel, took the Chair and performed the whole ceremony in a brisk, exact and perfect way that demonstrated to seventy-eight other masons just how it could be done. Steve was well and truly installed. The rest of us saw a ceremony that will not soon be forgotten.
Kevin Hall, Lodge of Union, No. 268, Ashton-under-Lyne, East Lancashire
Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence surprised a young Freemason at his installation
The group visited St George’s Hospital to see the work of the Think Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation supported by the District Grand Lodge of Bombay. The foundation coordinates and collects more blood than any other non-governmental organisation in Mumbai. It also runs the only structured programme for prevention of thalassaemia major, a serious genetic blood disorder where survival is dependent on lifelong blood transfusions. Vinay Shetty, vice president at the foundation, gave an address at the hospital to the English visitors, who then toured the hospital with Bombay District Grand Master Percy Driver.
The calling notices for the Investiture meeting on Thursday 20th October were termed 'Special' and how right that proved to be. Many attending would be used to the pomp and ceremony of the annual Provincial Craft and Royal Arch Festivals, but few would have experienced the spectacle served up in the Winter Gardens at Margate that day under the ecellent direction of RWBro Jonathan Spence, Deputy Grand Master, and the careful control of VWBro Oliver Lodge, Grand Director of Ceremonies, and his team. Such a treat has not been served up since 2004 when Michael Robin Bailey was invested, and another is unlikely to be witnessed this decade.
The comment 'that's another one done' was pronounced by one of the distinguished guests on retiring to the East Room after the morning ceremony. He hadn't appreciated that he was passing a secondary staircase which was open to the Kings Hall and his remark was clearly audible to all those assembled within, to their combined amusement. It wasn't just 'another one done' as far as the members of the Province were concerned, it was their Geoffrey Gordon Dearing who had just been invested as Grand Superintendent in and over the Province of East Kent that morning and later after the lunch interval, Provincial Grand Master of East Kent.
The day was very much a Kent affair, as Jonathan Spence reminded the companions and brethren that East Kent is his home Province, he being a member of Pentangle Chapter No. 1174 and Sir Joseph Williamson Lodge No. 4605, both meeting at Gundolph Square, Rochester.
In his addresses Geoffrey Dearing gave tribute to those who had worked to make the day such a success. He acknowledged that he was not yet well known in every Centre in the Province and intended to put that right, but not all at once, so requested all to exercise patience. He remarked that he would never have believed how rapidly one could advance in Freemasonry in just six months!
The evening, held at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, marked the conclusion of a five-year Festival Appeal that included many successful initiatives – from a Provincial lottery, which raised £36,500, to the sale of a range of masonic-themed merchandise.
‘The brethren of Worcestershire, and their wives and partners, have dug so deeply and, through their tremendous support, made a real difference to the lives of so many children,’ said RMTGB president Mike Woodcock.
Those present at the event included the Provincial Grand Master for Worcestershire, Richard Goddard, and the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence. Guests were treated to a range of musical entertainment before the result was announced.
Claire Cassidy, the British Heart Foundation fund-raising manager for Hereford and Worcester, said that the machine ‘places Hereford at the forefront of cardiac screening’.
The region has a higher-than-average incidence of heart disease, and the demand for cardiac screenings is on the rise. At the Heartbeat Appeal presentation, Herefordshire Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the Reverend David Bowen, expressed his pleasure at local masons’ input.
As Letchworth marks its one-hundredth year, John Hamill reports on the centenary of a very special lodge
On 28 March 2011 in Lodge Room No. 10 at Freemasons’ Hall in London, almost 150 brethren gathered for an emergency meeting. Nothing unusual in that – until you look at the signature book and discover that those present included the Pro, Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters, the Metropolitan Grand Master for London, the President and Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, the Grand Chaplain, Grand Secretary, Grand Director of Ceremonies, Presidents of the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund, and other senior brethren.
What, you might wonder, other than a Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, would bring such illustrious company together in one tyled meeting? The reason is a joyous one – to take part in the centenary celebrations of Letchworth Lodge, No. 3505. But why such eminent brethren for a Hertfordshire lodge? The answer, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is all in a name. The ‘Letchworth’ after which the lodge was called is not the delightful Hertfordshire town, but Sir Edward Letchworth who was Grand Secretary from 1892 to 1917. As for why the celebrations were in London, when the membership of the lodge was formed in 1911, it was restricted to the permanent clerks in the Grand Secretary’s Office. And even today is limited to those employed in the capital’s masonic headquarters.
Although a Secretary to the Grand Lodge was appointed in 1723 (becoming Grand Secretary in 1734) and the premier Grand Lodge had a permanent building in Great Queen Street from 1775, it was not until 1838 that the Grand Secretary’s Office came into being. From the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813 until 1838, the Grand Secretaryship was a joint office shared by William White, who had held the same office in the premier Grand Lodge, and Edward Harper, who had been Deputy Grand Secretary of the Antients.
In 1838, Harper ‘retired’ and White was asked to take on the role of Grand Secretary. He agreed but on one condition: that Grand Lodge employed two full-time clerks to assist with paperwork. As a result of the expansion in members and lodges in the Victorian period, by the time Letchworth became Grand Secretary in 1892 the office had grown to seven clerks. As they had to be Master Masons it was suggested they should have a lodge. There was one problem: nine was the minimum number of petitioners and there were only seven clerks.
By 1911, there had been an expansion of the Craft and clerk numbers grew to 15. They approached Letchworth to petition for a lodge, and the consecration took place on 28 March 1911. Sir Edward himself was the Consecrating Officer, assisted by the President of the Board of General Purposes, the President of the Board of Benevolence (now the Grand Charity), the Grand Chaplain and Grand Director of Ceremonies and the Chairman of the Board’s Officers and Clerks Committee.
Sir Edward stated that the lodge’s purpose was ‘to meld the clerks into greater harmony’. It would also assist Grand Lodge by bringing into Freemasonry suitable candidates that might become clerks in the office; and get brethren through the Chair in a reasonable time for additional duties. The latter was important, as many lodges had more than 100 members and it could take 15 or more years to reach the Chair.
The lodge’s first year was a busy one with two candidates and three installations. The Master designate had been installed at the consecration and at the July and November meetings two of the senior clerks were installed. In 1913, the lodge began a practice that was to continue until the 1970s – that of initiating as serving brethren members of the portering and maintenance staff of the Hall. They were to assist the Grand Tyler by laying up the lodge rooms and acting as Assistant Tylers whenever Grand Lodge met.
The First World War halted progress of the lodge and office, as half the staff were on active service. Only one did not return, Ponsonby Cox, and another, Guy Mercer, was awarded the Military Cross. Those too old for military service kept the lodge and office going. To help in the office, the rule requiring clerks to be Master Masons was put into abeyance and three lady clerks and two ‘lady typewriters’ were taken on. The latter, Miss Haigh and Miss Winter, proved far from temporary, spending the rest of their working lives as private secretaries to Grand and Deputy Grand Secretaries.
The huge increase in the Craft four years after the war, and the plan to rebuild Freemasons’ Hall as a permanent war memorial, led to an increase in office size. Between 1925 and 1927, five boy clerks were taken on as ‘temporary’ staff ; each of them eventually becoming members of the lodge. There were similar problems during the Second World War, when again the rule on clerks being Master Masons was set aside and women were taken on. They proved so popular and useful that in 1949 the rule (No. 33 in the current Book of Constitutions) was put into abeyance. The lodge had difficulties meeting and reduced its wartime gatherings to two per year. The only ceremonial work was the annual installation of the Master.
The immediate post-war years saw an enormous growth in the Craft. This led to expansion of the office and an increase in the membership of the lodge. Much of the work was in making serving brethren, as the portering and maintenance staff had also grown, and many took on additional work as Tylers for lodges meeting at Freemasons’ Hall.
By the late 1960s, however, things were slowing down and doubts were expressed about the future of Letchworth Lodge. Membership had been limited to Permanent Clerks, but in 1977, Grand Secretary James Stubbs was approached about opening the lodge to the full office, to which he agreed. In the early 1980s, under Grand Secretary Michael Higham, the lodge was opened to the whole of the male staff at Freemasons’ Hall and the staff of other masonic headquarters in London. This has resulted in a vibrant lodge with a steady stream of candidates. The changes have also brought the staff of the various masonic offices in London closer together. Sir Edward Letchworth’s hopes at the consecration can truly be said to have been achieved.
As the Grand Secretary’s lodge, Letchworth has had great support from Sir Edward and his successors. Sir Philip Colville Smith became an honorary member when he became Grand Secretary in 1917. (Sir) Sydney White joined the lodge when he was appointed Chief Clerk in 1918, was its Master in 1920, and was a regular attendee even after election as an Honorary Member when he became Grand Secretary in 1937. (Sir) James Stubbs was elected an Honorary Member when he was appointed Assistant Grand Secretary in 1948, while Michael Higham became a joining member when appointed Deputy Grand Secretary in 1978, and is still active. Nigel Brown joined when he was appointed Grand Secretary in 2007 and members are delighted to have him as their Centenary Master. He was thrilled to have been installed by Michael Higham.
Being involved in central masonic administration, the members of the lodge were only too aware of the privilege extended to them to have the Pro Grand Master present the Centenary Warrant. The happy occasion was followed by a reception and banquet in the Grand Temple vestibules.