Past editor of Freemasonry Today, Michael Baigent was a successful author and influential mason whose writing sparked debate and created a loyal following. John Hamill looks back at his career
It is with real regret that we have to announce the death of Michael Baigent who was editor of Freemasonry Today from the spring of 2001 until the summer of 2011, when increasing ill health forced him into partial retirement. He continued as consultant editor until his untimely death from a brain haemorrhage on 17 June 2013 at a Brighton hospital.
Born in Nelson, New Zealand, in 1948, he was educated at Nelson College and the University of Canterbury, at Christchurch, reading comparative religion and psychology and graduating in 1972 with a BA. In later life he earned an MA in the Study of Mysticism and Religious Experience from the University of Kent.
After graduating, Michael spent four years as a photographer in India, Laos, Bolivia and Spain. Coming to London in 1976, he worked for a time in the photographic department at the BBC, which brought him into contact with Henry Lincoln and Richard Leigh, who were filming a documentary about the medieval Knights Templar. Their mutual interests and enthusiasm ultimately led to the publication in 1982 of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, a controversial bestseller and still in print after more than thirty years.
Embracing the craft
The success of the book enabled Michael to concentrate on research, writing and lecturing. Writing with Leigh, he produced works on such diverse topics as Freemasonry, the Dead Sea Scrolls, magic and alchemy, the Stauffenberg plot to kill Hitler and the Inquisition. His solo works covered the ancient mysteries, the early Christian church and the influence of religion in modern life.
Michael’s interest in the history of ideas and the esoteric tradition led him to the Craft, becoming a Freemason in the Lodge of Economy, No. 76, Winchester, near his then home. He later joined the Prince of Wales’s Lodge, No. 259, London, and was nominated by them as a Grand Steward and appointed a Grand Officer in 2005.
Freemasonry brought Michael to the notice of Lord Northampton, who invited him to become a trustee of the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre, which he was setting up as a focus for research into the more esoteric aspects of Freemasonry. Equally, Michael became involved in and greatly shaped the early years of the Cornerstone Society, which Lord Northampton had established as a forum for those interested in exploring the deeper meanings of the ritual. When the Orator Scheme was being discussed in 2006, Michael was the obvious candidate to draft the early Orations.
Leading from the front
When Michael became editor of Freemasonry Today it was still ‘the independent voice of Freemasonry’. He greatly extended its coverage beyond the Craft and Royal Arch and attracted a new audience to the magazine, including a growing number of non-masons. He not only sought out contributors and edited their pieces but was responsible for the page design and seeing the magazine through the presses. He employed his old talents and provided many of the photographs that illustrated the content. It was something of a departure for him when in 2007 the magazine merged with Grand Lodge’s then house organ, MQ Magazine, to become the Craft’s official journal. Yet he rose to the occasion and continued to produce a magazine that combined news with interesting, and sometimes challenging, articles.
Michael would have been the first to acknowledge that his work fell outside the normal run of academic historical research, but he believed completely in what he did. He was not writing for other academics but for the general reader, and he had a loyal following. Whether he worked on his own or with Lincoln and Leigh, Michael’s writing was never ignored and always provoked discussion – which is all any writer seeks.
His last years were, sadly, marked by increasing ill health, including an initially successful liver transplant, and financial problems caused by the unsuccessful case he and Leigh took against the novelist Dan Brown’s publisher, claiming that Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code was both a plagiarism and infringed the copyright of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. A gentle, courteous man, Michael was always a pleasure to meet and talk to and will be greatly missed by many. Our thoughts go out to his wife, daughters and stepson and stepdaughter.
The merger of MQ and Freemasonry Today and the development of external relations is discussed by Nigel Brown, Grand Secretary
It is always good to hear exciting news. The announcement, by the Pro Grand Master in his speech at the September Quarterly Communication, that MQ and Freemasonry Today are to merge, is indeed exciting. The merger has been planned for some time and further underpins the positive initiatives of the Pro Grand Master to communicate with you, your families and non-masons.
You might wonder why we are using the title ‘Freemasonry Today’ for the new magazine, especially as this is a merger and will be the magazine of the United Grand Lodge of England. The answer is simply that it is a good title.
You will also be interested to know that the Grand Secretary, on behalf of the Board of General Purposes, will act as ‘compliance officer’. That means that all editorial, now to cover a wider range of topics, will be approved before publication.
This then, is the last issue of MQ. The first issue of the new magazine will be published in January 2008 with your free copy being distributed in the same way as MQ was.
At the Tripartite meeting held at Freemasons’ Hall in June I had the opportunity to meet my opposite numbers in the Grand Lodge of Ireland and Scotland, Barry Lyons and David Begg respectively. We liaise very well and it was a pleasure to meet them.
In July the Assistant Grand Master traveled to Sri Lanka to celebrate their centenary and to install the new District Grand Master and Grand Superintendent. As part of my remit to look after the Districts under our jurisdiction, I had the privilege of accompanying him.
We met many of the brethren and their wives. The Assistant Grand Master was also interviewed for the District magazine called The Banner. The interviewer was pleasantly surprised about our openness and the clear direction our Rulers have set.
I accompanied the Pro Grand Master on the third of his four Provincial meetings. These continue to be extremely successful. I cannot put enough emphasis on how important are our Provinces and Districts.
On that point, the Grand Chancellor gave an excellent talk at the last Quarterly Communication clearly confirming how successfully our respective roles were working out.
In particular, re-emphasing how his role allows the Grand Secretary to now concentrate on the Provinces and Districts, whilst he can concentrate on matters regarding Grand Lodges not under our jurisdiction.
Any thoughts that I may have had that August was a quiet month at Freemasons’ Hall London were soon dispelled. Clearly, from a ceremonial aspect, things do go quiet.
However, in all other respects it is as busy as ever. On top of this, the building works continue and we all look forward to their completion and to welcoming the Charities into Freemasons’ Hall. I am happy to report that our discussions on their move have already given us the opportunity to establish a very good relationship.
This is a wonderful and inspiring time for Freemasonry and we look forward to keeping you up-to-date with all the initiatives in the new Freemasonry Today.
The man believed to have been the first Freemason to have set foot in Australia and who helped arrange the ill-fated expedition of Captain William Bligh which led to the famous mutiny on the Bounty, has had a Lincolnshire Lodge named after him.
Sir Joseph Banks Daylight Lodge No. 9828, which meets at Horncastle, is named after a remarkable man with his family roots in Lincolnshire, who became a famous explorer and naturalist, sailing in 1768 with Captain James Cook on the famous Endeavour, exploring the uncharted south Pacific, circumnavigating the globe and visiting South America, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia and Java.
Banks was born at Westminster on 13 February 1743, a wealthy young squire of Revesby in Lincolnshire, and his link with Horncastle is that he helped set up a local hospital in the town. He was also an active Mason in the Province.
In Gould’s History of Freemasonry, Banks is mentioned as being a member of Old Horne Lodge No. 4 – now Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No. 4, a time immemorial Lodge.
Although the date of his initiation cannot be verified, it has been confirmed that it was prior to 1769. He was a member of Witham Lodge No. 297, which today is the oldest Lodge in Lincolnshire, and remained on its register until his death on 19 June 1820.
It is fitting, therefore, that Witham Lodge should have been the sponsor of the new Lodge, which is actively seeking to link up with Sir Joseph Banks Lodge No. 300 in New South Wales, consecrated in September 1915, and which meets in Banks Town – another honour conferred on him.
His passion for botany began at school, and from 1760 to 1763 he studied at Christ Church, Oxford, inheriting a considerable fortune from his father at this time. In 1766 he travelled to Newfoundland and Labrador, collecting plants and other specimens. He became a member of the Royal Society in the same year, later becoming its longest-serving President in its 347-year history – holding the office consecutively for 42 years.
He was successful in obtaining a place on what was to become Cook’s first great voyage of discovery between 1768 and 1771, during which time the Endeavour proceeded up the east coast of Australia and through the Torres Strait, charting the area in the process.
Banks was interested in plants that could be used for practical purposes and that could be introduced commercially into other countries. On his return from the Cook expedition, he brought with him an enormous number of specimens and his scientific account of that voyage and its discoveries aroused considerable interest across Europe.
It was Banks who proposed that William Bligh should command two voyages for the transportation of bread fruit and plants – including the voyage of the Bounty – which led to the mutiny in April 1789 involving 12 crew members led by Christian Fletcher.
Banks became an influential figure in New South Wales, founded in 1788 with the arrival of the first fleet, choosing the governors. He was to recommend Bligh for the governorship, which ended in the latter’s deposition from the post following what became known as the Rum Rebellion in 1808.
Banks’s eminence as a leading botanist was honoured by having the genus banksias, comprising about 75 species in the protea family to be found in Australia, named after him. A distinguished scholar, he promoted the Linnaeus system of Latin classification of botanical specimens.
In 1793 his name was given to a group of volcanic islands near Vanuatu in the Pacific, which were explored and named after him by Captain Bligh in gratitude for the earlier help he had given him.
The inventor Robert Stevenson also honoured Banks by naming a schooner after him which accommodated the artificers during the building of the Bellrock lighthouse in the Firth of Forth off Scotland’s east coast, when Banks was vice-president of the Board of Trade during the passage of the Bill for the lighthouse through parliament.
He was further honoured when the city of Lincoln provided a tropical plant house themed with plants reminiscent of his voyages.
He was knighted in 1781, was appointed to the Order of the Bath in 1795 and became a Privy Counsellor in 1797. George III appointed Banks as honorary director to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Banks promoted the careers of many scientists, sending many of them abroad to find new plants and extend the collection at Kew Gardens. A truly remarkable man, it is fitting that he should be remembered by having a Lodge named after him in his home county.
The story of Joseph Brant, the Mohawk American Indian who fought for the Loyalists during the American War of Independence has been retold by the Iroquois peoples of the Six Nations and American Freemasons for centuries, and today Brant is featured in many Masonic Histories and is the topic of many websites.
The story that is the most endearing is how Brant, a Mohawk chief, witnessed an American prisoner give a Masonic sign and spared the life of his fellow Mason.
This action went down in history, and Brant became the embodiment of the ‘noble savage’ to Victorian England.
This article will explain the events leading up to this event, and how Brant, in death, created even more controversy as the legends of his life grew and expanded.
Brant was born in 1742 in the area around the banks of the Ohio River. His Indian name was Thayendanegea, meaning ‘he places two bets’ and as a child he was educated at Moor’s Charity School for Indians in Lebanon, Connecticut, where he learned English and European History. He became a favourite of Sir William Johnson, who had taken Brant’s sister Molly as a mistress, although they were married later after Johnson’s wife died. Johnson was the British Superintendent for Northern Indian Affairs, and became close to the Mohawk people, and enlisted their allegiance in the French and Indian War of 1754-1763, with a young Brant taking up arms for the British.
After the war, Brant found himself working as an interpreter for Johnson. He had worked as an interpreter before the war and converted to Christianity, a religion which he embraced. He translated the Prayer Book and the Gospel of Mark into the Mohawk language, other translations included the Acts of the Apostles and a short history of the Bible.
Around 1775, after being appointed secretary to Sir William’s successor, Guy Johnson, Brant received a Captain’s commission in the British Army and set off for England, where he became a Freemason and confirmed his attachment to the British Crown.
Brant was raised in Hiram’s Cliftonian Lodge No. 814 in London, early in 1776, although his association with the Johnson family may have been an influence in his links to Freemasonry. Guy Johnson, whose family had Masonic links, had accompanied Brant on his visit to England. Hiram’s Cliftonian Lodge had been founded in 1771, and during Brant’s visit to the Lodge, it had met at the Falcon in Princes Street, Soho. The Lodge was erased in 1782. Brant’s Masonic apron was, according to legend, personally presented to him by George III.
On his return to America, Brant became a key figure in securing the loyalty of other Iroquois tribes in fighting for the British against the ‘rebels’, and it was during the war that Joseph Brant entered into Masonic legend. After the surrender of the ‘rebel’ forces at the Battle of the Cedars on the St. Lawrence River in 1776, Brant famously saved the life of a certain Captain John McKinstry, a member of Hudson Lodge No.13 of New York, who was about to be burned at the stake.
McKinstry, remembering that Brant was a Freemason, gave to him the Masonic sign of appeal which Brant recognized, an action which secured McKinstry’s release and subsequent good treatment. McKinstry and Brant remained friends for life, and in 1805 he and Brant together visited the Masonic Lodge in Hudson, New York, where Brant was given an excellent reception. Brant’s portrait now hangs in the Lodge.
Another story relating to Brant during the war has another ‘rebel’ captive named Lieutenant Boyd giving Brant a Masonic sign, which secured him a reprieve from execution. However, on this occasion, Brant left his Masonic captive in the care of the British, who subsequently had Boyd tortured and executed.
After the war, Brant removed himself with his tribe to Canada, establishing the Grand River Reservation for the Mohawk Indians. He became affiliated with Lodge No. 11 at the Mohawk village at Grand River of which he was the first Master and he later affiliated with Barton Lodge No.10 at Hamilton, Ontario. Brant returned to England in 1785 in an attempt to settle legal disputes on the Reservation lands, were he was again well received by George III and the Prince of Wales.
After Brant’s death in 1807, his legend continued to develop, with numerous accounts of his life and his death being written. One such account lengthily entitled The Life of Captain Joseph Brant with An Account of his Re-interment at Mohawk, 1850, and of the Corner Stone Ceremony in the Erection of the Brant Memorial, 1886, celebrated Brant’s achievements and detailed that a certain Jonathan Maynard had also been saved by Brant during the war.
Like McKinstry, Maynard, who later became a member of the Senate of Massachusetts, had been saved at the last minute by Brant, who had recognised him giving a Masonic sign. Brant’s remains were re-interred in 1850 with an Indian relay, where a number of warriors took turn in carrying his remains to the chapel of the Mohawks, located in Brant’s Mohawk village, which is now part of the city of Brantford. Many local Freemasons were present, and his tomb was restored with an inscription paid for by them.
The legend of Brant saving his fellow Masons was examined by Albert C. Mackey in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry in which he referred to a book entitled Indian Masonry by a certain Brother Robert C. Wright. In the book, Wright states that ‘signs given by the Indians could easily be mistaken for Masonic signs by an enthusiastic Freemason’.
Using Wright’s claims that the Indians used similar Masonic signs or gestures within their culture, and these were mistaken by over enthusiastic Freemasons, Mackey was putting forward an argument that the stories of encounters with ‘Masonic’ Indians were perhaps in doubt.
Mackey then put forward the question ‘is the Indian a Freemason’ before examining a number of historically Native American Indians who were Freemasons, including Joseph Brant and General Eli S. Parker, the Seneca Chief who fought in the American Civil War. Mackey concluded:
‘Thus from primitive and ancient rites akin to Freemasonry, which had their origin in the shadows of the distant past, the American Indian is graduating into Free and Accepted Masonry as it has been taught to us. It is an instructive example of the universality of human belief in fraternity, morality and immortality’.
Mackey presented that the Indians, in recognising the universal ethos of Freemasonry within their own culture, were drawn to the Craft. Thus an understanding into Brant’s moralistic approach to fellow Freemasons who were prisoners during the war was being sought, his actions fascinating Masonic historians well into the twentieth century.
Brant became a symbol for Freemasonry, his story being used as a metaphor for the Masonic bond, a bond which became greater than the bond of serving one’s country during wartime. Brant also came to represent a respect for the Native American Indian during a time when the US was promoting the ‘manifest destiny’, an ethos which the United States government saw as God’s right for them to settle the Indian lands of the west.
Brant’s myth even exceeded the traditional Victorian image of the ‘noble savage’, his meeting of other Freemasons while visiting London such as the writer James Boswell and Masonic members of the Hanoverian Household such as the Prince of Wales compounded this. Brant once said:
‘My principle is founded on justice, and justice is all I wish for’, a statement which certainly conveyed his moralistic and Masonic ethos.
Classic car runs have become major fund-raising events for Masons, bringing out families and friends in a community day out which involves vehicles and their owners from many parts of the country.
During the summer, the Leicestershire & Rutland Freemasons’ Classic Car Run took place, when 30 pre and post-war classics assembled for the event. The older cars included a 1934 Rolls Royce, a 1933 Aston Martin and a Lanchester.
For the second year, the wartime Willys Jeep, together with driver and passenger in wartime uniform, took part. The post-war classics ranged from a 1948 Allard and included Rolls Royces, Jaguars and a Ferrari.
The run was started by entertainer Engelbert Humberdinck and Lady Gretton, the Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire. After being waved off, the cars took a circuitous route to Grimsthorpe Castle, 40 miles away near Bourne in Lincolnshire, quite an onerous run for some of the more elderly vehicles!
This year the runners were raising money for LOROS and the Ruby Rainbow Appeal by sponsorship for the journey. Over the past four years, classic car events held by Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons have raised more than £17,000 for local and national charities.
This year they were hoping to raise more than £5,000, and one participant has already raised more than £1,000 for sponsorship of his classic car in this event.
Researching Thomas Telford, who had been such a well-known member of a Lodge in Shropshire, I was surprised that virtually nothing had been written about his Masonic activities.
In A History of Craft Freemasonry in Shropshire, by Harold Templeton, there was just one paragraph, and no mention of him in the History of Salopian Lodge No. 262 by George Franklin. In Alexander Graham’s 1892 history of Shropshire Freemasonry he is only recorded in the list of members.
Thomas Telford was born at Glendinning, near Dumfries in Scotland on 9 August 1757, in a shepherd’s cottage beside the Megget Water. His father John was a shepherd, but died aged 33 only two months after Thomas was born. It was to his mother, Janet that the responsibility fell to bring up Thomas on her own.
As she was living in a tied cottage, six months after the death of her husband, Janet was forced to move with her infant son to a small cottage at the Crooks, situated in the Megget Valley, a mile below Glendinning. They occupied only one of the cottage’s two rooms, another family living in the other half.
Life must have been extremely hard. Her brother and neighbours helped out financially, which allowed Thomas to attend the local parish school at Westerkirk. At a very early age, Thomas was required to work on neighbouring farms, herding cattle and sheep, living for weeks on end with shepherds in their lonely shelters on the hills, which shaped his character and built up his self-confidence.
On leaving school, Thomas took up an apprenticeship to be a stonemason at Lochmaben, but his new master ill-treated him, so after a few months he was back living with his mother at the Crooks. Janet’s nephew Thomas Jackson came to the rescue and persuaded a Master Mason he knew in Langholm, Andrew Thomson, to take the boy as an apprentice. Telford gained great experience both as apprentice and a fellow of the Craft under Thomson’s guidance and tuition.
The young Duke of Buccleuch succeeded to the family estates in the area and put in hand an extensive programme of improvements. Tracks were paved, bridges constructed to ford rivers and stone construction farm houses began to replace the older ones, which were made from thatch and mud. This was a time when even the town houses had mud walls and again this made work for the team of Thomson and Telford to reconstruct in stone.
In Langholm, it was Andrew Thomson, with his fellow craft assistant, who built the bridge over the river Esk to connect the new town with the old. Telford’s Mason mark can be found on the bridge on the blocks in the western abutment. At this time he became a firm friend with a fellow Mason, Matthew Davidson, who was to play an important part in his life.
Telford left his native Dumfriesshire at 23 and made his way to Edinburgh, where his talents had greater scope with the building of the noble Georgian streets and squares around Princes Street in the new town. Eighteen months later he travelled to London to find both fame and fortune.
Armed with letters of introduction from friends back in Langholm, he was introduced to two of the greatest architects of the day – Robert Adam and Sir William Chambers.
Telford was set to work on the new Somerset House, squaring and levelling the great blocks of the rusticated Portland stone. It was during this time that he qualified as a Master Mason – in the operative sense.
Through his contacts he became acquainted with William Pulteney, who through marriage had succeeded to great estates in Somerset, Shropshire and Northamptonshire.
They became firm friends and many commissions resulted from this friendship, such as alterations at the vicarage of Sudborough in Northamptonshire, followed by building at Portsmouth dockyard.
By 1786 Pultney had become MP for Shrewsbury, so Telford found himself ordered to the town to superintend a thorough renovation of the castle, where living quarters were found for him. Within six months, and probably due to the influence of the local MP, he was appointed the Surveyor of Public Works for the County of Shropshire. Soon after his appointment he was to supervise the construction of the county gaol and the alterations to the old Salop Infirmary.
The prison is still in use at the Dana, and the front entrance particularly has been little altered from Telford’s original design. The bust of John Howard, the prison reformer, who was instrumental in getting Telford the commission, is in prominent position directly above the main entrance. Telford also designed and supervised the building of the Laura Tower at Shrewsbury Castle and the excavation of the Roman City of Uricronium near Wroxeter was another of his undertakings.
It was around this time that he was consulted by the churchwardens of St. Chad’s Church about the repairs to the church roof. After an inspection of the premises he told them that it was pointless thinking of repairing the roof until emergency measures were taken to secure the walls due to poor foundations.
He was scoffed at and dismissed out of hand, the churchwardens making pointed remarks about professional men making jobs for themselves and saying that the cracks he had pointed out had been there for hundreds of years.
He walked out of the meeting and his parting shot was if they were going to continue their deliberations much longer it would be safer to do so outside just in case the church fell down around them.
His words were prophetic, because just three days later in the early morning as the clock began to strike four, the entire tower collapsed with a tremendous roar and crashed through the roof of the nave, completely demolishing the northern arcade. This did Telford’s credibility in the town no harm at all! Although not involved in the restoration of St. Chad’s, he did later go on to design and build a church elsewhere in the county – St. Mary’s in the High Town of Bridgnorth.
Sir John Soane (1753–1837) symbolises Britain’s architectural heritage of the late Georgian period at its best – the end of which coincided with his death in 1837. It is a period that gave England some of the nation’s most beautiful buildings and Soane’s unique style in some of them is still in evidence today.
John Soane, during his long and distinguished career, became involved with Freemasonry before his initiation. When invited to join, he was put through the three Degrees in one single afternoon and he remained dedicated to the Craft and enthusiastic for the remainder of his life.
He was born on 10 September 1753 near Reading in Berkshire and immediately after primary school his education was directed toward architecture. At 15 he joined George Dance the Younger (1741–1825), from the distinguished family of architects. Soane continued his training from 1772 under the equally celebrated architect Henry Holland (1745–1806), whose fame, among many other buildings, rests with the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and the Royal Opera House.
The young John Soane’s talents were soon to manifest themselves. In 1771 he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Art aged just 18 and within a year one of the drawings he submitted to the Academy’s competition won him the Silver Medal award. Four years later he received the prestigious Gold Medal, as a result of which he was introduced to George III by Sir William Chambers (1723–1796), the influential architect who was Soane’s patron.
There were several ramifications, some Masonic, following this encounter. Soane’s extraordinary achievements induced the King to sponsor and fund him, through the Academy, on a three-year travel scholarship to Italy, from which Soane profited to the fullest. This was also the start to a Royal connection – later enhanced by Soane’s appointments as Clerk of the Works to St. James’s Palace and the Houses of Parliament (1791) and Deputy Surveyor to His Majesty’s Woods and Forests (1797) – which Prince Augustus Frederick, later the Duke of Sussex, the King’s penultimate surviving son and future Grand Master, would have noted.
Intellectually armed with vast knowledge of fine ancient and renaissance buildings, in addition to well placed contacts in Europe, Soane returned to England in 1780 to set up his own business. His career took on a most positive turn when he followed in the footsteps of Sir Robert Taylor (1714–1788) as the newly appointed Architect to the Bank of England, in which capacity he continued until 1833.
His vision and execution of the new greatly enlarged Bank of England building – of which today only the surrounding outer wall commonly referred to as ‘the curtain’ survives – is still considered a masterpiece of architecture. Sir Herbert Baker’s Bank of England, completed in 1928, which demolished most of Sir John Soane’s earlier building, has been described as “the greatest architectural crime, in the City of London, of the twentieth century” (Pevsner).
In 1802 he became a full Royal Academician and was made the third Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in 1806, a post that he held until his death.
In his long and illustrious career John Soane was responsible for many remarkable works. Among some of the notable ones are the dining rooms of both numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street, some buildings in Westminster and Whitehall, the Royal Hospital in Chelsea and Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street, London, which had originally been built by Thomas Sandby (1721–1798), a Freemason and the first Professor of Architecture at the Academy, in 1775–76.
As the agreement for a Union of the two Grand Lodges (achieved on 27 December 1813) was reaching its final stages in October 1812, Grand Lodge, under the supervision of the Deputy Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex, decided on the acquisition of properties next to the existing Freemasons’ Hall.
The first step was for a survey and valuation of the property involved and the Grand Treasurer at the time, John Bayford, was instructed to approach John Soane for that purpose. Prior to March 1813, when Bayford finally made contact with Soane, there is no evidence at all to suggest that the architect had any interest in becoming a Freemason.
He would have certainly had a passing knowledge of some of his eminent colleagues and predecessors having been members of the Craft. However, considering this was a time when Soane was at the peak of his professional career, the chances of his finding time for Freemasonry were clearly very limited.
Nonetheless, on 19 November 1813, James Perry, Past Deputy Grand Master (1787–90) and a radical journalist and friend of Soane and Thomas Harper, Deputy Grand Master of the Antient, or Atholl Grand Lodge, proposed and seconded John Soane into Freemasonry in the Grand Master’s Lodge No. 1.
At an emergency meeting held on 25 November 1813 at Freemasons’ Hall, London, Soane was Initiated, Passed and Raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason during the course of the same evening. Two other candidates, Jonathan Parker and Hymen Cohen Junior, were also bestowed the three Degrees at that meeting.
The first Masonic meeting that Soane attended as a new member, was a rather important one. On 1 December 1813, in anticipation of the election of the new Grand Master of the Antients Grand Lodge, the Duke of Sussex became an "Antient" Mason, thus allowing him to attend the installation of his brother, the Duke of Kent. The ceremony included several members of the Duke’s entourage of Grand Officers, which was later to facilitate the ceremony of the Union that took place later in the month.
His meteoric rise in the ranks of Freemasonry continued. It was undoubtedly induced by the Duke, who involved himself in all aspects of the running of Grand Lodge. The Grand Master-elect met Soane personally in August of the same year when the latter’s Initiation, Passing and Raising, as well as his Grand Rank may well have been discussed and agreed upon.
Having followed in the footsteps of his teacher and mentor, Thomas Sandby, as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy, Soane would have been attracted by the invitation to follow in Sandby’s footsteps as a highranking Freemason.
Some time in December, Soane was appointed Grand Superintendent of Works and declared as such by the Duke of Sussex, (1773–1843), the first Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), on 27 December. He was reappointed in 1816 and held the same rank to his dying day. He was made President of the Board of Works in 1814, to enable him to supervise the building of the new Freemasons’ Hall.
On 4 June 1823 Soane was elected to the UGLE Board of Finance for a four-year period and exactly five years later, in 1828, he was nominated to the Board of General Purposes, where he served for the next seven years.
At the ceremony on 27 December an Ark of the Masonic Covenant was centrally placed in the temple and played a focal point in the proceedings when the two Grand Masters and their respective deputies advanced toward it to perform the symbolic act of Union of the two Grand Lodges. The Ark, an idea conceived by the Duke of Sussex, had been built by John Soane and presented to newly formed United Grand Lodge, at his own expense.
The first Minutes record: “…the ark of the Masonic Covenant, prepared, under the direction of W. Brother John Soane, Grand Superintendent of the Works, for the Edifice of the Union and in all time to come to be placed before the Throne.” Sadly, the Ark was burnt and destroyed in the disastrous fire of 5 May 1883.
His initial association with the Craft may have been on a purely business basis, which he had almost neglected. It took several letters from one of the joint Grand Secretaries, William Henry White, following on the Grand Treasurer’s initial approach, for Soane to submit finally his valuations, which were gratefully received and faithfully applied.
Existing correspondence shows that in all transactions with Grand Lodge, there were delays in execution of the contracts and the final payments to Soane were delayed because of a shortage of funds in Grand Lodge. This caused considerable embarrassment to Grand Lodge and some concern to Soane, as recorded in his diaries.
His involvement with the valuation and acquisition of the adjacent properties at 62 and 63 Great Queen Street extended to negotiations of price and counselling Grand Lodge on the excessive cost required by the vendors. On his advice alone, Grand Lodge refused to pay the price demanded.
The two properties were placed in auction on 23 June 1814 and bid for and purchased on behalf of Grand Lodge by Soane, for less than one-third of the original price.
Furthermore, the payment for the acquisition was made by Soane personally, who began to finance Grand Lodge.
At one stage Soane was convinced that he would not be paid at all for the work. These were no mean sums of money and it took until 1820 for Grand Lodge to disburse their debts to him in full – far longer than it should have done.
In 1833, John Soane bequeathed to the nation, by a private Act of Parliament, his house at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields in central London which contained his museum and library. He had made extensions to his home during a period of 30 years since 1794, having purchased the two adjoining properties.
This allowed him to fulfil, in practice, architectural concepts with which he wanted to experiment, whilst allowing for the housing of his vast and growing collection of classical antiquities and architectural paraphernalia salvaged from historical sites, all objects worthy of the British Museum.
They are on view today at his museum: a sarcophagus of Seti I, Pharaoh of Egypt of c.1294 BC, dramatically situated beneath the dome; Roman bronzes from Pompeii from 79 AD; several Canalettos and a collection of paintings by Hogarth, including An Election which came directly from Hogarth’s family through the estate of David Garrick, among many other fascinating objects and paintings.
The culmination of his achievements are reflected in the knighthood he received in 1831 and the special gold medal presentation made to him, three years after his retirement in 1835, by his colleagues in the newly founded Royal Institute of British Architects. Grand Lodge presented him with a Certificate of Thanks in March 1832, signed by the two Grand Secretaries. In the same year, he commissioned John Jackson to paint a full length portrait of himself in full Masonic regalia as Grand Superintendent of Works. The painting hangs prominently today in the Picture Room of the John Soane Museum.
On 20 January 1837 Sir John Soane, now 84 years old, died, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Pancras Old Church in the vault which he himself had designed for his wife and himself in anticipation of their inevitable mortality.
The design of the vault was a direct influence on Giles Gilbert Scott’s (1880–1960) design for the red telephone box of 1926 – a permanent and visual tribute to a long and distinguished professional and Masonic career.
Credits and Bibliography
My sincerest thanks to Bruce Hogg for his kind skilled improvements to my written words. Also John Bhone, whose unpublished article submitted to QC’s London Education Initiative in June 2002 has been of assistance.
Burford, Douglas, The Ark of the Masonic Covenant, AQC 105 (1992).
Stroud, Dorothy, Sir John Soane, Architect, De la Mare, 1996.
Taylor, John E., Sir John Soane: Architect and Freemason, AQC 95 (1982).
Thornton, Peter and Dorey, Helen, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Laurence King, 1992.
Now living quietly at Brighton in Sussex, Reg Moores has led a varied life – inventor, entertainer, ice skater and theatrical agent in ‘theatreland’ in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue. But his main claim to fame is to have invented the radio microphone in 1947
A member of Adur Lodge No. 2187, which meets in Brighton, his Masonic career was constantly interrupted by being on tour in different parts of the world, but he has been in the Craft for 52 years.
The history of radio microphones predates the Second World War. As Reg, a life-long amateur radio enthusiast, explains: “One of the greatest thrills was with a simple one-valve unit, and high resistance headphones, listening to police cars in New York and Philadelphia, and only using about a three-feet long piece of wire – and indoors at that!”
It was in his role as entertainer, particularly at charity ice shows and exhibitions that the idea came to him to put ‘voices’ to what were ‘dumb’ shows using wireless microphones – to get the spoken word over to the public announcement system.
“I then set about designing what were to be super-small transmitters, with what materials and components could be obtained, mostly from ex-government surplus equipment. Many problems presented themselves, such as the frequency to be used, modulation and battery life, remembering that at the time only valves were available, being long before the advent of the transistor.”
The final model was the ‘frame’ type, with the microphone suspended from the corners of a square metal frame, which can be seen on old films such as Pathé newsreels, but in this case the frame was the actual aerial, with a socket in which could be placed a ‘whip’ for longer range.
Shortly after the war, Reg contacted the impresario Tom Arnold’s organisation and their producer, Gerald Palmer, who thought that the invention would be a wonderful idea for musicals on ice, but was concerned that skaters might have problems using it.
Reg redesigned the unit as a belt in a demonstration for Palmer at the Brighton Ice Rink, with television producer Richard Afton present. Each costume had its own microphone attached to a specially designed ‘voice’ funnel sewn into the underside of the costume. A small split was cut into the costume so that the semi-circular funnel could catch the voice and direct it to the microphone.
The musical which was chosen to try out the new device was Aladdin on Ice, at the Sports Stadium Ice Rink for its Christmas show in 1949, an ideal venue to test out the capabilities and reliability of the system. The microphones worked perfectly during the entire run of the pantomime, with no loss of signals or interference. The radio microphone was born.
Tom Arnold decided to try out the microphones again, this time on a major production of Rose Marie on Ice, with world skating champion Barbara Anne Scott, Michael Kirby – partner to the legendary skater Sonja Henie – and a large supporting cast and chorus. Reg had to produce and operate at least six radio microphones for this show.
However could these wonderful skaters put over their voices as required while skating? Tom Arnold decided it was too risky, so the ‘mikes’ were dropped and professional ‘dubbers’ employed, including Shaw Taylor.
However, Reg was still active in his other roles as a unicyclist, stilt skater, fire eater, barrel jumper and ice comedian – he had already made his appearance as a star in Ice Fantasia for the BBC, the world’s first televised studio ice show on 8 April 1949.
The radio microphones were presented to the Science Museum, London in 1972.
These devices are now an accepted part of entertainment as well as serious programmes including interviews. In 1959, Bruce Forsyth adopted one of these devices for his popular London Palladium Sunday night programmes. It is difficult to imagine modern television without them.
But, indefatigable as ever, Reg went on to the field of molecular spectroscopy, and one of his nuclear quadrupole resonance spectrometers was on continuous working display for many years in the physics section of the Science Museum.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has handed down a landmark judgment under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights – prohibition of discrimination – in an application involving public appointments brought by the Grand Orient of Italy
The decision was taken by six votes to one. Under Article 41 of the Convention, the court held, unanimously, that the finding of a violation constituted sufficient just satisfaction for non-pecuniary damage.
They awarded the Grand Orient of Italy 5,000 euros (£3,400) costs and expenses.
The Grand Orient of Italy, which is not recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England, had complained about a law laid down by the Region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia regarding rules to be followed for nominations to public offices for which the Region was the appointing authority.
In particular, this law, enacted in February 2000, required candidates for such posts to declare whether they were members of a Masonic or, in any event, a secret association.
The absence of a declaration constituted a ground for refusing appointment. In a note of 15 September 2005, the regional council showed that only one of the 237 candidates for a post on the executive board of a company in which the Region was a stakeholder, had declared they were a Mason. This individual eventually got the job.
Regarding the negative effects that the obligation to declare one’s membership of a Masonic Lodge might have on the image and associative life of the Grand Orient of Italy, the court held that it could claim to be a ‘victim’ of a breach of Article 11 of the Convention.
The ECHR added: “That conclusion meant that there had been an interference with its rights to freedom of association. It followed that the facts in question fell within the ambit of Article 11. Article 14 of the Convention was therefore applicable.”
Furthermore, the court observed that the provision in question distinguished between secret and Masonic associations, membership of which had to be declared, and all other associations.
Members of the latter were exempted from any obligation to make such a declaration when seeking nomination for public office. They could not, therefore, incur the statutory penalty for an omission.
Accordingly, there was a difference of treatment between members of the Grand Orient of Italy and the members of any other non-secret association.
Regarding whether there was an objective and reasonable justification for such a difference, the court reiterated that it had already held that the prohibition on nominating Freemasons to public office, introduced to ‘reassure’ the public at a time when there had been controversy surrounding their role in the life of the country, had pursued the legitimate aims of protecting national security and preventing disorder. The court considered those requirements remained valid.
On Article 11, the ECHR found that the prohibition on nominating Masons to certain public offices for which the Region was the appointing authority was not “necessary in a democratic society.”
Penalising someone for their membership of an association was unjustified, since that fact was not in itself legally reprehensible.
The Grand Orient of Italy had previously complained about another Region, in which the court had delivered a judgment in August 2001. In the present case, being a Freemason did not automatically bar a person from nomination for a public office, because the only candidate for a particular job, declaring himself to be a Mason, had nevertheless been appointed to the post.
However, the ECHR found that those considerations, which might be relevant under Article 11, were not so important where the case was examined – as in this case – from the standpoint of the nondiscrimination clause.
In Friuli-Venezia Giulia, only Masons were under an obligation to declare their membership when they sought nomination to certain public offices for which the Region was the appointing authority.
As such “no objective and reasonable justification for this difference in treatment between non-secret associations had been advanced by the government.”
Accordingly, the court held that there had been a violation of Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 11 of the Convention.
Chamber judgment: Grande Oriente D’Italia di Palazzo Giustiniani v Italy (No. 2) (Application No. 26740/02)
Over two hundred academics and Masonic researchers attended the first International Conference on the History of Freemasonry held at Freemasons’ Hall, Edinburgh, over the last weekend in May
The conference patrons were the Grand Master Mason of Scotland (Sir Archibald Orr Ewing, Bt), the Pro Grand Master of England (Lord Northampton) and the Grand Master of Ireland (George Dunlop), who jointly opened the conference and attended many of the lectures.
Seventy-two speakers from around the world gave presentations covering an enormous range of Masonic topics from early Scottish Lodges to historical surveys of Freemasonry in Europe, the Middle and Far East, North, Central and South America. More specialist presentations covered Freemasonry and the Enlightenment, fraternalism, religious and ethical connections, symbolism, secularism, architecture, leisure, music, journalism, publishing, women and sociability.
There were five plenary lectures given by major academics. Professor Jan Snoek from Germany opened the conference with a stimulating lecture Researching Freemasonry; where are we? Professor Margaret Jacobs from California, whose writings on Freemasonry in the 1980s brought the subject back to academic respectability, spoke on Benjamin Franklin and Freemasonry.
Professor J. A. Ferrer Benimelli, President of the Centre for Historical Studies of Spanish Freemasonry presented a survey of relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Freemasonry. Professor David Stevenson of St Andrew’s University spoke on Working class Freemasonry in Scotland and Professor James Stevens Curl ended the conference with a lecture on Freemasonry and garden history: ideas, allusions, fabriques and the Enlightenment.
There was a great diversity of subjects, but there was a certain frustration that with three sessions running in parallel each day, choosing which to attend was difficult and Murphy’s law often operated – two speakers or subjects you wanted to hear being presented at the same time!
To be fair, however, the conference organisers, Supersonic Events Limited, did a tremendous job of organising over 200 people within the limited confines of Freemasons’ Hall, running sessions to time and ensuring that coffee and lunch breaks kept the body going whilst the mind was being feasted.
As with all conferences, equally important to the formal sessions was the opportunity of meeting old and making new friends and having the opportunity to sit down, or more often stand with a drink in hand, to discuss pet theories, new insights and new information provided in many of the formal presentations. It was certainly to the benefit of both the academics and the Masonic researchers to have this great opportunity of meeting together and comparing notes.
The social side was as well planned as the formal sessions, including a gala dinner followed by a traditional ceilidh at the stunning Royal Museum of Scotland.
The Conference had been preceded on the Thursday evening at the Freemasons’ Hall by the final of the Scottish Youth Orchestra’s Young Musician of the Year Competition.
Three very talented young musicians – two violinists and a clarinettist – played two pieces each and quite how the adjudicators were able to sort them out into first, second and third places, so well had each played, remains a mystery to the delighted audience. The three Patrons of the conference presented the prizes.
The Grand Lodge of Scotland is to be congratulated on promoting and supporting this first major conference. The organisers and the Local Organising Committee (Robert Cooper, Curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, James Daniel, former Grand Secretary of England, and Professor Andrew Prescott, formerly of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry, Sheffield University), learned a great deal about running such a major event and are not daunted by the prospect of future Conferences. Indeed, thought is already being given to having a second conference in 2009 to tie in with the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns!