Celebrating 300 years

Annual General Meeting of The Freemasons' Grand Charity 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

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

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

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

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

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 10 June 2015 10:42

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2015

Quarterly Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letters to the Editor - No. 33 Spring 2016

Increased perceptions

Sir,

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

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

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

Sir,

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

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

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

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

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

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


Letters to the Editor - No. 32 Winter 2015

Changing perceptions

Sir,

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

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

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

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

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neurosurgery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Speeches

Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 29 April 2015 01:00

Pro Grand Master's address - April 2015

Craft Annual Investiture

29 April 2015 
An address by the MW Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, I welcome you all to this Annual Investiture and I congratulate those of you I have had the pleasure of investing with their various ranks. Grand Rank has been awarded for your contribution to English Freemasonry, here and in our Districts. I take this opportunity to remind you that further great things are expected of you and you will be required to shoulder greater responsibilities, particularly with helping to implement initiatives for improving our freemasonry which may be brought in by the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters.

At my Annual Briefing meeting yesterday, the Metropolitan Grand Master, Provincial Grand Masters, District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents were brought up to date on the various initiatives that have been taken to make Freemasonry fit to celebrate its Tercentenary with confidence in its future. This confidence will show that Freemasonry is as relevant today as it has been over all of the last 300 years.

To achieve this, we will continue to work closely with Provincial and District hierarchy to develop a clear strategy on sound leadership, the involvement of the membership with clear focus on future needs, all backed up by sufficient factual information. I am determined that this level of involvement and cooperation, which is already showing great benefit, continues to succeed.

As I have indicated earlier, it is essential that Grand Officers set good examples in their Lodges and help with the training of the next generation. They should be expected to carry out any duties for which they may be called upon to support the strategy.

I am sure we would all like to thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the usual immaculate way this memorable ceremony has been conducted and the Grand Secretary and his Staff, all of whom have devoted an enormous amount of time and experience to organising this happy occasion.

Finally, I again congratulate those that I have invested and also say how pleased I am to see so many of you here today to witness your friends receiving Masonic honours.

Thank you brethren.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 11 March 2015 12:45

Pro Grand Master's address - March 2015

Quarterly Communication

11 March 2015 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, the March issue of Freemasonry Today covers the results of the latest Membership Focus Group survey seeking members’ views on many aspects of Freemasonry including friendship, masonic ceremony and charity work.

5,265 members took part in the survey.

I will let you read the full results but I wanted to highlight the following four areas that scored highly. Having respect for others came first, closely followed by being with people who respected others, then meeting people with integrity followed by the ethical and moral ethos of Freemasonry. I have said often in the past that it is no surprise that Freemasonry is such a remarkable fundraiser for charity, because of our code of conduct. I suggest, brethren, that these responses simply endorse that view.

This and future surveys support the Group’s aim of ensuring that any decision about Freemasonry draws upon the views, talents and ideas of members at all levels – not least at lodge level. Talking of lodge level leads me to remind you that the next annual Mentoring Conference is to be held next week and I take this opportunity to stress the continued importance of the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Mentors’ role.

I know that the majority of lodges have now appointed a Mentoring Coordinator but I still remain concerned that, in many cases, no personal mentors have been selected. Here there is a skill in matching the right personal mentor – that is to say, with the best personality characteristics and appropriate knowledge - with each candidate. This relationship will be ever changing as the candidate develops his understanding.

There can be no doubt that the early days of a candidate’s membership are the most impressionable and so it is important that the right personal mentor is assigned as early as possible after the interview stage and, at any rate, from initiation onwards. Pastoral care will always be a vital part of this relationship and it is at this early stage that the candidate should be told that it is perfectly acceptable to talk about Freemasonry and, indeed, be encouraged to do so, particularly as he becomes more experienced. In addition they should demonstrate pride in their membership to their family, friends and acquaintances.

The Metropolitan, Provincial and District Mentors have played a significant role in the running the Mentoring Scheme and I look to the lodges to support them in their important task of helping develop and retain membership at lodge level.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

11 March 2015 
Order of Service to Masonry citation for VW Bro Charles Raymond Grace, PGSwdB

Bro Charles Grace was made a mason in October, 1966, at the age of 27, in his old school lodge, Old Marlburian Lodge, No. 3533, in London and became its Master in 1983. In the meantime he had joined, and in 1981 served in the Chair of, St. George's Lodge of Harmony, No. 32 in Liverpool, where he was at the time working in shipping. He is a member and Past Master of three other lodges in London. He was exalted into the Royal Arch in Jerusalem Chapter, No. 32 in 1978, and ten years later joined Old Union Chapter, No. 46 in London, becoming its First Principal in 1997. He is a member of two other London chapters.

Bro Grace was appointed to the office of Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in the Craft in 1997 and that of Grand Standard Bearer in the Royal Arch in 2000. With the evolving reorganisation of London masonry he was promoted, as one of over twenty Group Chairmen under "London Management", to Junior Grand Deacon in 2000. On the formation of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge (and Chapter) of London in October 2003, he became the Metropolitan Group Chairman for the Ripon Group, and following a further reorganisation of London he was appointed as one of the first batch of Assistant Metropolitan Grand Masters and Assistant Metropolitan Grand Superintendents in 2007 until his appointment as Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent from 2009 to 2011. He currently holds the rank of Past Grand Sword Bearer in the Craft and Past Grand Scribe Nehemiah in the Royal Arch.

Bro Grace's service to Freemasonry, however, has by no means been confined to London. He served from 1995 to 2003 as Deputy Chairman of the Public School Lodges' Council and for a further year as its Chairman. He has also been a member of the Committee of General Purposes of Grand Chapter since 2005, and in that capacity has been a strong contributor to the Committee's deliberations, including those in relation to the arrangements for the Royal Arch bicentenary, which took place in October 2013. Most notably, however, he has acted as the unpaid project manager for the refurbishment and extension of the Henry Willis Organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons' Hall, which has been in progress since the beginning of 2014 and is due to be finished later in the spring. Although the Organ cannot be heard in all its glory today, much – but not yet all – of its glistening pipework is already enhancing the visual impact of the Grand Temple.

It is gratifying to know that, at the age of seventy-five, he is active enough to continue to be able to give us the benefit of his counsel and experience for many years to come.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

11 March 2015 
An address by W Bro Martin Clarke PSGD

MW Pro Grand Master and brethren, I am here today to give a brief presentation on one of the Masonic success stories of the last 40 years. It gives practical assistance to both those with Masonic connections and those without, and therefore combines our undertaking to help Freemasons in need and to make a contribution to the good of freemasonry in general, demonstrating again that Freemasons’ generosity extends outside immediate self interest. I refer to the work of the Masonic Housing Association where tangible results can be seen in the happy faces of those living in its properties.

Its beginnings were charitable in nature. When the 1974 Housing Act provided grants towards the construction of social housing schemes the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution saw an opportunity to extend its provision of services to encompass what became known as sheltered housing. However the rules prevented RMBI from participation in grants because of its charitable status. It was necessary to create a separate entity. This was done in 1975, alongside the RMBI, but as an independent body and was then called Masonic Charitable Housing. Technically it is not a charity but is registered under the Industrial and Provident Society legislation. However it is also an exempt charity and able to receive and dispense charitable donations. So in one sense it is our fifth – or soon to become our second –charity, but it is financially self supporting and apart from initial donations, has had no call on central charitable funds.

Masonic donations were made – some in cash and some in land – and grants were raised to build 5 properties. Under the Chairmanship of Lord Burnham the first property was built in 1980 in Aylesbury, in the Province of Buckinghamshire, and thereafter 4 more were built between then and 1992 in South Woodham Ferrers in the Province of Essex, Wellingborough in Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire, Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire, and Rugeley in Staffordshire, being located in those Provinces which had agreed to be party to the initial objectives. Last year we enlarged the property in Wellingborough with additional accommodation, spending £1 million from accumulated reserves.

I have stressed the Provinces in which the properties are located because the involvement of the Provinces is perhaps the most important aspect of this whole initiative, as I shall describe later.

In round figures the investment in the 5 schemes amounted to £6m in land and buildings financed by Masonic donations of £600k, £4.5m in grants and £900,000 in loans from the Housing Corporation, since repaid. Although we have no formal valuation of the estate, to give a sense of proportion of the investment in today’s money, the properties are worth between £15 and £20 million. We have only £300,000 of borrowings.

What is sheltered housing?

You must forgive me if you already know a lot about Housing Associations and Sheltered Housing in particular, but some may be less familiar.

A Housing Association is a non profit making organisation which provides and manages homes for people who cannot afford to buy a suitable home on the open market. Any surplus is ploughed back into the organisation to maintain existing homes and build new ones. Renting from a housing association remains a cheaper option than renting an equivalent standard of accommodation in the private sector – at least 20% less – and tenants can still receive housing and other benefits if they qualify.

Sheltered housing provides independent living in a smaller and easier to manage home with the opportunity to call on a warden or a call service if there is an emergency, and the provision of facilities for social interaction.

Rents are regulated by Government and are set according to a valuation of each property increased annually by a formula of RPI plus one half of one percent. The weekly rent including a service charge for management of the property, heating and lighting, and the warden, currently ranges from £129 to £164.

This is what Masonic Housing Association is – a housing association providing sheltered accommodation for over 240 people at a modest cost.

What do we provide by way of accommodation?

All accommodation is in self-contained one- or two-person flats under one roof, with a protected main entrance for security. Each tenant has their own front door to their flat. All units have a bedroom, a living room, bathroom and kitchen.

Personal safety and security is of paramount importance to elderly people. It is our policy to provide a warden, in contrast to many sheltered housing schemes that only provide an emergency call system. We provide both.

There is a residents’ lounge and adjoining kitchen, used extensively by the tenants and the local house committees for social functions, well equipped laundries, and guest rooms where friends or relatives can stay for a nominal charge.

We are emphatically not a care home. Care, when needed, is provided by various agencies within each home. We have an understanding with the next of kin that where care cannot be provided satisfactorily in the home, for example with Alzheimer’s, then the tenant needs to go to a care home. In many cases we can use our good connections with RMBI to make a practical transfer but it depends on the geographical location of the next of kin.

Where do our tenants come from?

Grants came with certain obligations which require a proportion of the lettings to nominees of the local housing authority, so we are prevented from letting solely to those with Masonic connections. Broadly speaking the nominations are split 50/50, half from the local authority and half from an open waiting list from direct applications. Those with Masonic connections form a large part of this waiting list.

Local authorities cannot impose nominations as selection of tenants includes an interview to ensure, as far as possible, compatibility within what is quite a close community, with the final decision remaining with local committee. The local authorities understand this and so more often than not we can fill the vacancy from our waiting list.

Currently our tenants range in age from 53 to 103. Their average age on entry is 77 and their average length of tenure is about 7 years.

How it is managed?

As you would expect, MHA has a Board with a range of useful skills drawn from Masons and includes the widow of a Mason. The Board selects new members itself, but the Chief Executive of the Grand Charity keeps an occasional eye on us as an Observer. Members tend to be senior Masons and in recent times we have had 2RW and 2VW Brethren, a number of Grand Officers from both Grand Lodge and MetGL and 4 Past Grand Stewards.

There are two parts to our business model which makes MHA unique.

First, at the local level, apart from one employed warden at each property, the schemes are managed by voluntary house committees of local Freemasons assisted by their wives. The Provincial Grand Master appoints the local chairman, usually a Grand Officer or Provincial Grand Officer, who then appoints other committee members with the approval of the PGM. The Chairmen are ex officio members of the MHA Board.

Each scheme has a surveyor or architect on the committee, usually a Mason, who is responsible for refurbishment, maintenance and long term repairs. We take every opportunity when tenants move out or on to redecorate accommodation. We keep abreast of technological developments in energy supplies, insulation or television, and we build up reserves for long term repair to roofs and boilers.

Secondly, we manage the overall organisation centrally. We have outsourced routine administration to another Housing Association, based in Croydon, which runs its own schemes and performs administrative work for other housing associations. This means we do not have to reinvent the wheel when dealing with regulation, can gain the benefit of scale from common systems, and have up to date expertise. The cost is less than half what it was when we had our own administration here in Great Queen Street and gives us the peace of mind that is required when confronted with regulations, particularly for the elderly like those on disability, health and safety, legionnaires disease, fire risk and evacuation procedures and so on.

The result is a very lean operation financially. As I said earlier rents are regulated, but they are set for housing associations that have to employ a number of people. We get huge financial benefit from the local Masonic volunteers who carry out functions that would otherwise require paid hands.

We have a healthy free cash flow of £450,000 per annum out of which we can replace time expired assets and keep the properties to a high standard. Additionally close contact with local lodges produces donations which are used to enhance the lifestyle of the residents, ranging from social functions to the provision of additional amenities and services.

But of course it is not just financial. The Provinces in which our schemes are based regard them as a jewel in their crown and I know how much enjoyment and satisfaction is derived by the volunteers. And, of course, this transfers itself to the community they serve.

What are our risks and priorities?

1. We need to keep the properties full

Generally we have been very successful in achieving 95% occupancy, the 5% in voids being the time required to refurbish vacated properties for new tenants. There are a number of factors to which we pay attention. Applicants are coming to us later in life. There is an increasing demand from married couples. Increased longevity, better facilities for care in the home, depressed house prices causing a delay in downsizing - they all contribute to this shift in demand. However much we are all likely to live longer, anno domini does have its effect on health, particularly in disease like Alzheimer’s, so as we cannot provide care in such cases, the average length of a tenancy is also likely to be shorter.

Competition is apparent. There are many newer properties built to the higher standard of accommodation now required. We are also looking to see where we can make alterations to the properties to accommodate more couples.

On the plus side the elderly population is growing and the accommodation for them is not growing that fast. Secondly, because of our business model, there is a useful cushion between what we can earn and what we need to earn to keep the properties paying their way.

But this is where you can all help through your communications officers and lodge almoners becoming familiar with what we offer. The Board feels that we have been “under the radar”, except in the Provinces where the properties are located. Hence my gratitude for being given the opportunity to speak to you today. Details of all our properties are on the websites of the Provinces concerned and on Porchway. Shortly we shall be launching our own website. It would be very useful if you could link us to your own Provincial website. This way all Masons can be kept up to date with any developments.

2. Keeping our properties fit for purpose

All of our properties were built to standards applicable at the time. In the older ones the flats are smaller than the current standard ; not that that in itself has deterred applicants, but those flats are not suitable for people with disabilities requiring, for example, the use of a wheelchair. Wherever possible we are refurbishing the flats to make better use of the space available but there are limitations. Currently we are half way through a complete refurbishment of the Wellingborough property.

We are considering building a new property to replace our oldest which is now becoming less suitable for the older tenant and cannot be modified. This would be a very complex transaction possibly requiring us effectively to swap our existing property to avoid repayment of grant and to secure new grants and loans for the new build to the latest standards. We are in early discussions.

3. Donations

We always welcome donations from Lodges. Lodges have supported their local property and we have received donations from unconnected lodges in the past, particularly Grand Stewards’ Lodge, which were put to good use and for which we are grateful.

4. Volunteers for the Board

We need to refresh the Board from time to time. So if you would like to help please get in touch. The address is in the Year Book. These are the matters presently occupying the Board. Other thoughts for the future are;

5. New developments in the Provinces

We are always interested in discussing the possibility of building additional properties in other Masonic Provinces but this is dependent on local interest and land, whether by gift or purchase. Provincial support is essential as our model requires substantial cooperation and enthusiasm from local Masons. The financing would have to be by donations, grant and loans as rents alone are insufficient to finance a project. At present the supply of government finance is limited but our cover for loans is excellent

6. Merger with another Housing Association

Rather than develop afresh there may be possibilities for merger at minimal cost. Again we would look for Provincial support. But above all, we wish to retain our independence.

Conclusion

In its 40 years of life Masonic Housing Association has operated successfully and has sheltered housing of which we can all be very proud. That is a good thing in its own right. It has also shown in practical terms how Freemasons are involved in their local communities providing security, comfort and independence for the elderly. It is a splendid way also in which the Craft reaches out to provide benefits for non-Masons. We face the future with confidence. I am grateful for the opportunity to present to you.

 

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 00:00

'Our Yesterdays' - Graham Redman and John Hamill

Quarterly Communication

10 December 2014 
A speech by WV Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill, Assistant Grand Chancellor 

GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, a year ago we left the United Grand Lodge of England duly constituted on 27 December 1813 with elaborate ceremonial, and the Brethren recruiting themselves at the Crown and Anchor tavern where a grand banquet was provided.

As might be expected, 1814 was a year of consolidation in which many of the details of the Union fell to be worked through.  At the Quarterly Communication of 2 March the Board of General Purposes in its report set out the “Duty of the Board”:

1st To propose for the sanction and adoption of the Grand Lodge such Laws and regulations as may appear necessary or expedient for the Government of the Craft and to draw up and arrange the same….

2dly To propose for the consideration and adoption of the other Masonic Boards such measures as appear to this Board to require their consideration.

3dly To hear and determine all subjects of Masonic Complaint or irregularity respecting Lodges or Individual Masons, To proceed to admonition or suspension if judged necessary, and where the case shall appear of so flagrant a nature as to require the Erasure of a Lodge or expulsion of a Member from the Fraternity to make a special report to the Grand Lodge with their Opinion thereon.

That all the other powers and duties heretofore exercised and belonging to the former Stewards Lodge or Committee of Charity now belong to this Board, except only such powers and duties as are specially vested in or properly belong to the several other Boards now constituted

The Board then promulgated the Rules and Regulations proposed for its Government

JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and brethren, the Duke of Sussex was keen that there should be no slacking once the festivities were over and the Union achieved. He had round him a close circle of advisers to push forward his aims. The new Boards were immediately set to their tasks. The Board of General Purposes was a combination of the former Committee of Charity of the premier Grand Lodge and the Stewards Lodge of the Antients. Both had originally been set up to manage the central charitable affairs of their respective Grand Lodges but had gradually accrued both policy making and disciplinary powers and were more like general committees. In the twenty years after the Union the Board of General Purposes slowly absorbed the other Boards set up in 1814, except for the Board of Benevolence which continued until 1980 when its duties were taken over by the Grand Charity.

GFR:  The Board went on to represent 

that various irregularities having been communicated to this Board in the practice of initiating of Members as well as in that of granting Certificates and other Matters, It is recommended that in the Conferences which are to take place between this Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland a general understanding be established on every point of communion between them that perfect unity may be established.......

JMH:  Because the Union had, in the end, been so hastily arranged neither the Grand Lodge of Ireland nor that for Scotland had been able to send delegates to the great meeting on 27th December 1813. The Grand Master, however, was keen to have their support and to try and achieve unanimity of purpose between the three Grand Lodges. Although not referred to in the Grand Lodge Minutes the Grand Masters of Ireland and Scotland and other of their senior brethren met with the Duke of Sussex in the early summer of 1814 and agreed and signed what became known as the International Compact which has governed relations between the three Home Grand Lodges ever since and brought into being what is now an annual tripartite meeting where the three get together to discuss common problems.

GFR: The Board also reported on Charges preferred before them by the Officers of the Lodge of Antiquity, No. 2 against Brother Charles Bonner … for having printed part of the Proceedings of the Lodge of Antiquity, and its Permanent Committee, without the consent of the Grand Master or his Deputy. Grand Lodge Resolved unanimously that the report be confirmed and the paper printed by Brother Bonner be referred to the consideration of the Board of General Purposes and that in the meantime Bro Bonner be suspended from all Masonic Rights and Privileges.

Reports were also delivered by the Board of Works (which had been considering jewels and aprons), the Board of Finance and the Board of Schools.

JMH: Brother Bonner we will return to a little later. The Board of Works had been given the remit of looking after the real property, furniture and regalia of Grand Lodge. They immediately set to designing standard regalia and it is to them that we owe the design of the aprons, collars and jewels we still wear today. The only differences since 1814 are the addition of emblems for new officers as they have been introduced at Lodge, Metropolitan, Provincial, District and Grand Lodge levels and the wearing of chains by active Grand Officers. Until 1836 active Grand Officers wore their jewels pendent to embroidered collars, as Past Grand Officers do today. Amazingly the Minutes of the Board of Works still survive. Infuriatingly,  whilst they list the designs chosen they give no indication as to why they were chosen – which has left the field wide open to Masonic symbologists to give more and more abstruse meaning to the various symbols used!  Having presented their ideas to the Grand Lodge in March, they were formally approved at the Installation of the Grand Master on 2nd May.

GFR: At the Quarterly Communication held on 1 June, the Board of General Purposes reported that Bro Bonner had been summoned to answer 

“for having printed and circulated amongst some Members of the Craft a certain paper purporting to be the Copy of an address proposed in the Lodge of Antiquity to be presented to His Royal Highness The Grand Master together with remarks and observations thereon, in which said printed Paper the conduct of the M.W. Grand Master and others was spoken of and animadverted on and that in a way highly improper unmasonic and unjust and to bring with him to the Board such witnesses and evidence as he might think necessary in his behalf”

JMH: Charles Bonner was the Acting Master of the Lodge of Antiquity, of which the Grand Master was the permanent Master. Claiming to act with the agreement of the Past Masters and other members of the Lodge, Bonner had issued a printed letter in which, like his mentor in ritual matters William Preston almost forty years earlier, he claimed that the immemorial rights of the Lodge of Antiquity were being set aside by the Act of Union. In particular he referred to the Lodge having lost its No. 1 status on the Register, lost its right to carry the Book of Constitutions on a cushion immediately in front of the Grand Master in all Masonic processions and the right of its Master or Acting Master to sit at the right hand of the Deputy Grand Master at feasts after Grand Lodge meetings. His case might have been listened to had he simply made these claims, but he was guilty of two major errors. First, admittedly in the most carefully polite language, he chided His Royal Highness the Grand Master as Master of the Lodge of Antiquity for not having done more to safeguard the rights of the Lodge and, secondly, despite claiming to speak on their behalf had not gained the agreement of the Lodge to his complaint before having it printed and circulated. At its meeting the Lodge formally rejected the letter and informed both the Grand Master and the Grand Secretary that it did not represent the views of the Lodge.  

GFR: The Quarterly Communication of 7 September saw the reappearance of a character we have previously met in these historical presentations.  The Board of General Purposes reported

that Brother Francis C. Daniel a Member of the Lodge of Felicity No. 75 late No. 54 having attended on the 22d Decr last at one of the Meetings of the Lodge of Reconciliation previous to the day of Union….. it was stated by some of the Brethren present that he had been expelled from that part of the Fraternity of which His Grace the Duke of Athol was formerly Grand Master and as the Rules Orders Regulations and Acts of the two Grand Lodges previous to the Union ought to be maintained subject to the reconsideration of the United Grand Lodge Brother Daniel must be taken and considered to stand expelled the United Fraternity.

JMH: Those who have been attending this Quarterly Communication for the last few years will remember that Francis Columbine Daniel was the Brother who, joining a queue at a garden party at Buckingham Palace was surprised when asked to kneel and had a sword tapped on his shoulder, thus gaining a knighthood by default! He had indeed been expelled by the former Antients Grand Lodge and, as a tit for tat, had engineered the expulsion of Thomas Harper from the premier Grand Lodge, which actions delayed any discussion of the Union for nearly seven years. 

GFR: There were a few fireworks at the December Communication.  After the Grand Lodge had been opened in ample Form and the Laws relating to the Behaviour of Masons in Grand Lodge had been read, the Minutes of the previous Communication were put for confirmation, whereupon:

Robert Leslie Junr Master of the Lodge No. 9, rose and addressing himself in the most disrespectful, disorderly and unmasonic manner to the Grand Master then presiding over the Grand Lodge which had been opened in ample form, demanded to know whether he had been regularly initiated and passed the several Degrees of Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft.  This outrageous act of indecorum committed in the Grand Lodge towards the Fraternity at large in the person of the Grand Master by Bro. Leslie Junr excited a general indignation in the breast of all the Brethren present; who had most of them witnessed the joint and solemn Obligation taken by the two Grand Masters of the respective Fraternities on the day of Union.……

Eventually a motion was carried

“That the said Robert Leslie Junr should lay aside his Masonic Insignia and Quit the Grand Lodge” 

which upon his refusal he was compelled to do.

JMH: Robert Leslie Jnr was the son of Robert Leslie who since 1790 had been Grand Secretary of the Antients Grand Lodge. Father Leslie had been wholly against any idea of a Union of the two Grand Lodges and did all he could to hinder matters. He continued to rail against the event and refused to hand over the books and papers of the Antients Grand Lodge until he was guaranteed a pension of £100 p.a., which had been his salary from the Antients Grand Lodge. It would appear that the son was even more abrasive than the father! 

GFR: Later in the meeting a Letter addressed to the Most Worshipful Grand Master by Bro Charles Bonner was by His Royal Highness laid before the Grand Lodge and read ……..  After which on a Motion duly made it was Resolved that Bror. Charles Bonner be restored to his functions as a Mason and a Member of the Grand Lodge.

JMH: Bonner’s letter was suitably abject and apologetic and he was enabled to return to the fold and continued his interest in ritual matters. He had been Secretary of the Lodge of Promulgation, which had paved the way towards the Union and gave much advice to the Lodge of Reconciliation in its attempts to bring about a standard form of ritual after the Union.

GFR: It was “Ordered that a Special Grand Lodge be holden on Wednesday the 1st of February next”…  The purpose of the meeting was to consider the new Code of Laws and Regulations for the Government of the Grand Lodge, and of the Craft in general, which had been deliberated on by the Board of General Purposes.

The Board’s report had also dealt with the case of Bro Francis Columbine Daniel, and he

being in attendance two Stewards conducted him into the Grand Lodge without his Masonic Clothing when His Royal Highness the Most Worshipful Grand Master addressed him on the circumstance of his Restoration to his Masonic Privileges and on the conduct which it was the duty of every Mason to observe after which he was reinstated with his Apron and directed to take his Seat as a Member of the Grand Lodge.

JMH: Daniel, you may be pleased to hear, caused no further problems, was never referred to again in Grand Lodge and will not appear again in these talks, should we be asked to continue them! The new Code of Laws was issued as unbound sheets for anyone to make comment on their content. Comments there were aplenty and it was not until 1819 that the final text was agreed and published. 

GFR: The Quarterly Communication of 4 March 1914 was held at Central Hall, Westminster, in order to accommodate the large numbers attending, and opened on an amicable note with a unanimous vote in favour of a contributory pension scheme for the clerks in the Grand Secretary’s office in receipt of salaries of under £400 per annum.  Alas, controversy set in immediately afterwards with the Motions Pursuant to Notice.  In December 1913 Grand Lodge had directed that a special report of the Board of General Purposes putting forward significant constitutional proposals for the reorganisation of the Grand Lodge and London be circulated to Lodges in order that all Brethren might vote on the proposals.  This provoked a flurry of Motions for March 1914.

A preliminary skirmish was launched by W Bro Samuel Green, who objected to the order in which the various motions were set out in the paper of business.  He quoted the then Rule 55:

“Notices of motion shall be set down for consideration in the order in which they were given, and.... shall stand on the paper of business in precedence of all subsequent notices.........”

He went on to submit that it was 

a matter of extreme importance that the resolutions shall come on in the order in which the notices were given, because it may be a matter of considerable interest to the Brethren that certain resolutions should be dealt with before others.  I have little doubt about that.  Many Brethren sent in their resolutions earlier in order that they might be dealt with in accordance with the Book of Constitutions, and the point I make is, that if whoever is responsible for altering the Agenda Paper now does so on a future occasion it may create considerable difficulty. I submit that the Book of Constitutions binds, not merely the Initiate, not merely the Master Mason, but also the Board of General Purposes. Therefore, Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master, I ask your ruling as to whether the notices of motion shall be taken in the order in which they are on the Agenda Paper to-day, or whether they shall be taken in the order in which they were given, and comply with the Book of Constitutions?

The Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, after consultation with the Grand Secretary replied:

Brethren, I hold myself most particularly bound by the Book of Constitutions, but this matter is capable of a very natural and simple explanation, which, I am sure, will give satisfaction to all and cause offence to nobody. ….  It is this. The Grand Secretary showed the motions of which notice had been given to the President of the Board and asked him what would be the best order in which to take them? The President did not recollect for the moment that there was Rule 55 – any of us may forget the existence of a Rule – and, as it was put to him in that way, he naturally only regarded it from the point of view of the convenience of Grand Lodge and suggested a particular order.  It was only after that had happened and the notice had been printed, that he was reminded of the Rule. That is the explanation, and I hope you regard it as a sufficient one….

Nevertheless, Bro Green’s resolution “That the original order of the motions, as they stood on the Agenda on the 18th February of this year, be adhered to” was put to the meeting and declared carried.

After passing an amendment to the Book of Constitutions to allow Honorary Members an unfettered right to attend the Lodges that had elected them to honorary membership, the first Motion relating to the reorganisation of Grand Lodge was called.  Its proposer, VW Bro R.A. McCall, KC, PDepGReg, was detained in Court, so it was put back in the agenda and W Bro Norman Armitage rose to propose on behalf of W Bro Keogh Murphy (who was absent through illness)

That this Grand Lodge expresses its regret at the action of the Board of General Purposes in circulating two letters dated the 18th December, 1913, and the 24th January, 1914, respectively, inaccurately stating the effect of the Resolution passed in Grand Lodge on the 3rd December, 1913, which authorised the reception and circulation of the Report of the Board of General Purposes containing nineteen proposals.

JMH: The Board had a very paternalistic attitude towards the Grand Secretary’s Staff and the new pension scheme was a generous one, which, it was admitted in introducing it to Grand Lodge, would in the long run save Grand Lodge money, which the then existing ad hoc provisions would not!

The rest of the meeting was one of those rare occasions when the management of Grand Lodge was caught on the wrong foot! The rather acrimonious debate which followed, and went on for most of the evening, was on technicalities: who had said what and if they had been correctly reported in the official published records, whether or not the procedural rules for debate in Grand Lodge had  been followed to the letter (they had not), complete with statements implying that the Pro Grand Master, President of the Board and Grand Secretary did not appear to be as well acquainted  with the Book of Constitutions as persons of their eminence should be. The evening was taken up with motions, counter motions and amendments that make reading the Proceedings of the event something of a towel round the head task. 

GFR: VW Bro McCall, now released from Court, spoke to his motion “That this Grand Lodge do now proceed to discuss and consider the Report of the Board of General Purposes relating to the Reconstruction of Grand Lodge.”  The debate became heated and eventually boiled over when another PDepGReg, VW Bro. J.V. Vesey Fitzgerald, KC, weighed in with

except from Bro. McCall, I have never heard anyone suggest it is beyond the power of Grand Lodge to accept a scheme for devolving some of its powers… and Brethren, although Bro. McCall asserted that with great emphasis, he has given no reasons why we should accept his statement on that point as a sound one….. I do not know whether the members of Grand Lodge wish to be addressed as common jurymen or Judges.  Brother McCall's speech struck me as very much like what we hear from him in the Law Courts when addressing a Common Jury. (Cries of “Withdraw.”)  I am very sorry if my opinion is not that of others. I am quite sure that anyone who is used to the Courts as Bro. McCall is, will not take objection to what I say, If he does I am sorry. (Cries of “Withdraw.”)  If Bro. McCall feels I have said anything to hurt him, and he objects, I will do so.

From the Pro Grand Master: Bro. Fitzgerald has said that if Bro. McCall feels hurt he apologises. Is not that sufficient?

From VW Bro Fitzgerald: If Grand Lodge feels aggrieved I apologise to Grand Lodge.

JMH: Tempers were evidently fraying and the tenor of the debate was certainly descending. To the possible relief of the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, Brother Samuel Green suggested the setting up of a Committee to go into all the matters, which was agreed to and the meeting closed. Lord Ampthill had obviously been affected by the ferocity of the debate and that some of the attacks had come from senior Grand Officers. When he addressed the assembly after he had invested the new Grand Officers in April 1914 he quoted the first paragraphs of the Address to the Brethren given at the installation of every Master of a Lodge, modifying it to refer to Grand Lodge and stated his hope that if in the future Grand Officers disapproved of the agenda or any other matter they would approach him or some other senior officer to discuss them rather than to launch them on Grand Lodge without notice. He reminded Grand Lodge that its meeting were not a Parliament or a political meeting but a meeting of Freemasons and that there should not be factions or an opposition party but that they should be able to have informed debate and respect each other’s views as Freemasons were taught to do.  

GFR: In June, again at Central Hall, Westminster, Grand Lodge gave its unanimous approval to two resolutions: “That there be appointed by Grand Lodge a Special Committee of seven Members, to consider the question of making a further grant to the Royal National Life-Boat Institution, and report to Grand Lodge;” and “That the sum of three hundred guineas (£315) be granted to the fund now being raised in Newfoundland, and assisted by the District Grand Lodge, for the relief of the widows and orphans of the 250 sealers who recently lost their lives in the ice-fields.”

The Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill then spoke:

Brethren, I beg to move, “That the Board of General Purposes be requested to prepare a scheme for the fitting celebration in 1917 of the Bi-centenary of the foundation of Grand Lodge, with due regard to the fact that genuine Freemasons in every part of the world are looking forward to the occasion with deep interest and with the hope that it may be the means of strengthening the bonds of the fraternity and conforming the true principles of our Order.” It is high time that we should commence preparations for the celebration of our Bi-centenary, an occasion when English Freemasonry will be expected to prove its worth to all the world. .….  For some time past letters have reached me from different parts of the world asking me what the Grand Lodge of England is going to do, and whether other Grand Lodges will be invited to participate in the celebrations or allowed to co-operate by simultaneous celebrations in their own territories. I regret to say that I have not yet been made aware of any similar interest or intelligent anticipation of the event among Brethren in England…… You cannot do better than test the ability of the Board which you have just elected by calling upon them for proposals….  I daresay that a special Committee of a more representative character may be suggested, but it will be time enough to set up Special Committees when there is special work to be done. For the present, all that is necessary is to draw up a general scheme and to promulgate it for discussion in the Craft, so that there may be general approval of anything that is eventually decided   I beg to move.

The Deputy Grand Master seconded the proposal, which was declared carried unanimously.

Grand Lodge then moved on to the business of debating at almost interminable length the composition and mode of selection of a special or representative Committee to consider the proposals for constitutional change.

JMH:  Grand Lodge support for the Royal National Life-Boat Institution had begun in 1871 and it was a cause dear to many members of the Craft. Those who wish to know more can read about the long association between the Craft and the RNLI in the new issue of Freemasonry Today. Support for Newfoundland was because the majority of the Lodges there were under our Grand Lodge, there being no local Grand Lodge. Interminable the discussions on the proposed Committee certainly were and sight appears to have been lost of what the Committee’s purpose was to be. The proposal to start planning a major celebration to mark the bi-centenary of the formation of the premier Grand Lodge and the interest being shown in it by Grand Lodges overseas certainly resonates today when plans are being hatched to celebrate our tercentenary in 2017 and those same sister Grand Lodges are showing great interest in what might be being planned. Although it is ahead of the time we are talking about today, it should be noted that despite the War over 7,000 brethren, many of them in uniform, gathered in the Royal Albert Hall in June 1917 to celebrate our bi-centenary.

GFR: When Grand Lodge next met, on 2 September, the country was at war. MW Pro Grand Master, in your Presiding Officer’s Remarks this September you quoted the words used by the then Deputy Grand Master, Bro Halsey, and we do not propose to repeat them now. The Grand Secretary read a letter, expressing deep fraternal concern, from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, which described itself as our eldest child in the Western Hemisphere, and similar sentiments were echoed by a Past Grand Master of South Carolina and two Past Grand Masters of New Zealand who were present as Visitors at the Quarterly Communication.

JMH:  Support from the Grand Lodges in Australia, Canada and the United States of America was to be a constant throughout the War, which in a very real sense brought those Grand Lodges closer to us, particularly when troops from those areas began to go through London, the Brethren amongst them taking an opportunity of visiting Lodges. The Board showed its paternalistic side once again by announcing that those of its Clerks who responded to the “call to the Colours” would continue to have their salaries paid throughout the hostilities and would be guaranteed to resume their labours at Grand Lodge once hostilities ceased. More than half of the clerks answered the call and happily only one of them did not return.

GFR: The following resolution marked an early casualty of the conflict:

That further proceedings in regard to the election of the Representative Committee on the question of the re-organization of Grand Lodge, under the resolution of Grand Lodge of June 3rd, be postponed.

JMH:  Mercifully the war put an end to the endless argument over the re-organisation of the administration of the Craft. The intention had been a good one of bringing the Provinces more actively into the central administration of the Craft but the scheme that had been produced was an unwieldy one of multiple layers of Committees at both local and central levels, the division of London into ten Provinces and so much would have been devolved to committees before coming to a central Council and then the Board that it would have been almost impossible to get any policy or changes through in less than eighteen months! Some changes were made during the War, the most important of which was elected Provincial representation on the Board of General Purposes to give the Provinces a voice in central administration.

GFR: In December an amendment was made to the Book of Constitutions to prevent the automatic exclusion of Brethren from their Lodges if the arrears of subscription arose while they were serving their country.

JMH:  The amendment was an example of Grand Lodge at its pragmatic best, almost making policy and change “on the hoof” amending a recommendation within Grand Lodge to bring into effect a rule change recognising the difficulties that members on active service would face during what was being slowly realised was not going to be a short war. The year, however, ended as it had begun with a very lengthy and somewhat nit picking debate on the actual wording of the proposition. There was also an attempt to persuade Grand Lodge to make a donation of 1,000 guineas towards the funding of a Masonic Nursing Home to care for members of the services injured on active service. There was a certain amount of support but two major figures questioned whether this was a good use of Grand Lodge’s limited finances as experience had shown that running a private hospital was an enormous economic undertaking. The proposition was negative but in 1917 the Freemasons’ War Hospital and Nursing Home was opened in London, eventually becoming the Royal Masonic Hospital. As time was to show the comments made in 1914 proved correct and the Hospital eventually had to go. But that, as they say, is a story for another day.

Published in Speeches
Page 4 of 16

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