Celebrating 300 years
Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2013

I am delighted to report that the bicentenary celebrations of the Royal Arch in October were a major success. His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent, in his capacity as First Grand Principal, announced that the donated and pledged amount to the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons had reached £2 million. 

The members were congratulated by His Royal Highness for this superb effort and the president of the College, Professor Norman Williams, was also present to add his profuse thanks. I believe this milestone event in the history of the Royal Arch has been a wonderful boost to the Order.

At the beginning of the appeal I wrote that we were justly proud to be the major benefactor to the Royal College of Surgeons. The Royal Arch Masons Appeal will further help the College’s successful research fellowship scheme, which supports surgeons in undertaking a research project. The reality is that our contributions will help to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and our grandchildren.

Freemasonry maintains strong relationships across the medical profession. In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we explore how the Masonic Samaritan Fund has been funding groundbreaking research into the genetics of MELAS syndrome, a devastating hereditary condition. And on a more personal note, we chart the life of Dr George Penn, a regimental captain, much-loved country doctor and committed lodge member who was educated at the Royal Masonic School for Boys.

Elsewhere, we report on how Freemasonry and karate are coming together at the Shotokan Karate Lodge, with the humility and respect needed in Freemasonry equally at home in the dojo. David Williamson reflects on a career as an airline pilot and his role in driving the Universities Scheme as he approaches retirement from the position of Assistant Grand Master. And we find out how the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution is helping the older generation cross the digital divide by giving them access to online technology.

I wish you and your family an enjoyable festive season as we look forward to 2014. 

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘The reality is that our contributions will help to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and our grandchildren.’

Published in UGLE

HRH The Duke of Kent reflects on the bicentenary of the Royal Arch as it raises more than £2 million for the Royal College of Surgeons

This October we marked a major milestone in the distinguished history of the Holy Royal Arch. While celebrating this landmark I particularly wish to mention the success of the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons. I am impressed to hear of the tremendous support the companions have given to the appeal.

In my speech at the Supreme Grand Chapter meeting in April this year I mentioned that the appeal would remain open until the end of the year. However, I am pleased to announce that the amount donated and pledged so far is £2 million. This exceeds expectations and I congratulate you.

I also know that the College president, Professor Norman Williams, is extremely grateful to companions for helping to fund the College’s successful Research Fellowship scheme at the same time as maintaining their clinical leadership.

To mark this special celebration I intend to make additional first appointments to past Grand Rank on the scale of one for every Province or District. It is my hope that Grand Superintendents, upon whom I shall rely for advice in the selection of suitable companions, will ensure that so far as is possible the companions so honoured will be those who have carried out significant work for the Royal Arch Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons or have made a significant contribution in some other way to this year’s celebrations. I know we all wish the Order continued success for the next two hundred years!

The First Grand Principal, HRH The Duke of Kent presided over the Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter on 16 October 2013 in the Grand Temple to mark the bicentenary of the formal recognition of the Holy Royal Arch as part of pure ancient masonry. With lunch held at the Grand Connaught Rooms, the day included a Convocation of Metropolitan Grand Stewards Chapter, No. 9812, in which a demonstration of the Ceremony of Exaltation using the changes authorised in 2004 was given. 

Published in SGC

The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, has opened the RMBI’s fully refurbished, state-of-the-art care home at James Terry Court in Croydon

Also at the ceremony were the Mayor, Cllr Yvette Hopley, residents of the home, and guests and volunteers from the masonic community.

The Duke toured the home, joined by Surrey Provincial Grand Master Eric Stuart-Bamford and Deputy PGM Derek Barr. Also present were RMBI President James Newman, former President Willie Shackell, who presided during the rebuild, and Chief Executive David Innes. 

Following the £10 million refurbishment, James Terry Court can now house 76 residents and has 13 apartments for independent living. Surrey masons have generously supported the redevelopment: Springfield Lodge, No. 6052, donated £75,000; a local ‘Buy a Brick’ campaign raised more than £25,000; and The Grand Stewards’ Lodge donated £20,000. The Association of Friends of James Terry Court also provides substantial support each year. 

Published in RMBI

ME Comp HRH The Duke of Kent, First Grand Principal, presided over the Celebratory Bicentenary Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter and the dinner later that evening at the Savoy.

Published in SGC

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

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

Whilst celebrating this landmark I particularly wished to mention the success of the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons. I am impressed to hear about the tremendous support that the companions have given to the Appeal.

In my speech at the Supreme Grand Chapter meeting in April this year I mentioned that the Appeal would remain open until the end of the year. However, I am pleased to announce that the amount donated and pledged so far is £2m. This exceeds expectations and I congratulate you.

I also know that the College President, Professor Norman Williams, is extremely grateful to companions for helping to fund the College's successful research fellowship scheme at the same time as maintaining their clinical leadership.

To mark this special celebration I intend to make additional first appointments to past Grand Rank on the scale of one for every Province or District. It is my hope that Grand Superintendents, upon whom I shall rely for advice in the selection of suitable companions, will ensure that so far as is possible the Companions so honoured will be those who have carried out significant work for the Royal Arch Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons or who have made a significant contribution in some other way to this year's celebrations.

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

Published in Speeches

Duke opens rebuilt croydon care home

HRH The Duke of Kent, Grand President of the RMBI, has opened the charity’s state-of-the-art new care home at James Terry Court, Croydon

Following more than three years of rebuilding and overcoming a variety of unique challenges, the major redevelopment of the site has resulted in a stunning home fit for the twenty-first century and beyond. It combines the attractive traditional features of the original house with first-class contemporary design and all the facilities, equipment and carefully planned spaces of a modern, purpose-built property.

The new home now boasts seventy-six spacious bed-sitting rooms with fully equipped en suite wet rooms, light and airy communal spaces – including a library, dedicated activities room, communal dining rooms and lounges – and a unique rooftop garden, accessible for all residents.

Pat Burchell, a seventy-three-year-old resident of James Terry Court, said: ‘We couldn’t imagine the new home at the beginning and it was noisy and disruptive at times, but we knew it was necessary and it has definitely been worth it – my new room with views of the street, houses and people below is perfect for me.’

Published in RMBI

All aboard the Trincomalee

Built in 1817, HMS Trincomalee is a wooden sailing frigate constructed shortly after the Napoleonic Wars. Following the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, visiting the oldest Royal Navy warship still afloat in 2012, it was fitting that Grand Secretary Nigel Brown would start his visit to Durham Province with a dinner aboard this world-famous vessel in Hartlepool. The Durham masonic group, headed by Provincial Grand Master Eric Heaviside, was greeted at the entrance to the interactive museum by HMS Trincomalee Trust members, and given an insight into the upkeep and restoration of the ship.

Troop leader

Fellowship, harmony and shared moral values – the parallels between Freemasonry and Scouting have been explored by Tony Harvey in his Prestonian Lecture. He speaks to Andrew Gimson about what the two organisations can learn from each other

Few speakers can have prepared themselves so thoroughly, or over so many years, as Tony Harvey did for his Prestonian Lecture, ‘Scouting & Freemasonry: two parallel organisations?’ It was through talking to a fellow Scouter in the 1980s that Tony’s interest in the Craft was awoken: ‘That conversation led to my initiation as a Freemason – while in Scout uniform – into Pioneer Lodge, the Scout lodge of Derbyshire, at the age of thirty-one.’ Now fifty-three, the lectureship has given him a chance to explore ideas that have been germinating since he was a boy. He takes the opportunity not only to explore the close historical links between Scouting and Freemasonry, but to stimulate a wider debate about how they can inspire and assist each other in the future.

Between February 2012 and June 2013, Tony delivered his lecture no fewer than forty-eight times to lodges in many different parts of England and Wales, as well as the Isle of Man, Iceland, South Africa and the US. He has ten more appearances booked, stretching out to September 2014, and is ‘very optimistic’ that people are already ‘taking up the challenge’ of what he has to say. He would like to take the lecture to all the Provinces in England and Wales.

Learn by example

In particular, Tony hopes Freemasonry will learn from the recent revival in Scouting, with which he has been closely involved: ‘Freemasonry’s numbers are in decline. It is experiencing what Scouting went through fifteen to twenty years ago. What Scouting did in the late 1990s was first to conduct a widespread consultation exercise (every member had the opportunity to contribute) and then to act on the feedback. It decided that the core of Scouting – its principles, values and purpose – should not change. But in order to make it more relevant and attractive to people in the twenty-first century, there was a need to simplify the way the organisation operates.’

The modernisation of Scouting saw it modify its youth programme and change its age ranges – an approach that has led to a growth in membership of between four and five per cent each year for the past seven years. ‘Scouting is still about citizenship and the outdoors, offering everybody everyday adventure, but it now has a structure and a programme much more attuned to today’s young people. We involve more volunteers to do smaller things, rather than a few volunteers to do a lot of things.’

The promise of change

The challenge for Freemasonry, Tony believes, is likewise to protect its core – its landmarks and its ritual – while making itself more flexible to suit the needs of someone still in their working life. ‘Meetings that start in mid-afternoon are not very accessible to the man in his forties who is still making his career.’

For the past four years, informal lunch meetings have been held at a national level between senior members of both organisations. Tony hopes to see such co-operation at local level, with lodges fostering links with local Scout groups, including those formed with start-up money from the Grand Charity: ‘What if every Freemason who ever took the Scout Promise gave a couple of hours back to Scouting?’

The Prestonian Lecture, the only official lecture given under the authority of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), is held in memory of William Preston (1742-1818), the greatest masonic educator of his day, and is intended to ‘instruct and entertain a general lodge audience’. Tony dispels the misconception that he had applied to deliver it: he was nominated without his knowledge.

Service to others

Tony is well qualified to be the Prestonian Lecturer. Within Scouting he has held roles at national and local level for thirty years and is a national volunteer with The Scout Association. Masonically, he has been Master of three Scouting lodges and is the Provincial Grand Mentor for Derbyshire. In May 2011, after his appointment, he began by writing his lecture in book form. It is published by Carrfields Publications and begins with the parallels between the organisations: ‘The first and foremost membership requirement of each organisation is that those who join must profess a belief in a Supreme Being. Freemasonry was originally specifically Christian, but de-Christianised over the hundred years following the formation of the first Grand Lodge. Scouting has never been specifically Christian. By not requiring the Supreme Being to be specifically the Christian understanding of God, both Freemasonry and Scouting became attractive to people from around the World. Each also became a place where people of different faiths could meet in fellowship and harmony, with shared moral values, despite their religious, social, cultural and national differences.’

The second moral principle the organisations share is service to others. Both confer awards for valued service, keep out of politics and are voluntary. In the UK, both have, in a senior position, HRH The Duke of Kent, who is Grand Master of the UGLE and president of The Scout Association. He follows other royal Freemasons who have also held senior positions in Scouting.

Tony recognises that there are key differences between the two organisations. Scouting is a youth movement, open to both boys and girls, while Freemasonry under the UGLE requires its members to be of mature age, and is open only to males. But it would be a mistake to give the impression that either the book or the lecture are unduly theoretical. Both are full of fascinating historical material, including a number of illustrations.

The largest audience for one of Tony’s lectures, just over two hundred people, was during his visit to South Africa. More typically he draws an audience of one hundred to one hundred and twenty. He speaks for about forty minutes and then takes questions, so that the whole event takes no more than an hour. Tony describes the reception he has received as ‘warm, engaged, enthusiastic, with good questions’, and was gratified when one member of the audience said to him: ‘I was absolutely fascinated and I sat through all two hours of it.’

Was Baden-Powell a Freemason?

The front cover of Scouting & Freemasonry: two parallel organisations? is adorned by a fine portrait of Robert Baden-Powell, the hero of Mafeking (the town that under his leadership withstood a siege of two hundred and seventeen days in 1899-1900), who founded the Scouting movement in the years from 1907. 

Tony examines in detail whether Baden-Powell was a Freemason. 

It is certainly the case that many of Baden-Powell’s friends and collaborators were. Rudyard Kipling, for example, whom he met in Lahore in the early 1880s, was initiated as a Freemason into Hope and Perseverance Lodge, No. 782, in India in 1886. As Tony points out, ‘Baden-Powell used Kipling’s Jungle Book as the basis for the Wolf Cubs when he and Percy Everett created Scouting’s junior section in 1916. Kipling also created the Grand Howl and defined how it should sound. He held an appointment as a commissioner for Wolf Cubs and was a member of the Scout Council.’

In a letter appealing to masons for funds, Baden-Powell said of Scouting: ‘Our principles are closely allied with those of the Freemason, being those of Brotherhood and Service.’ But Tony demonstrates that Baden-Powell never himself became a Freemason, partly for fear of offending Roman Catholic Scouts. He also shows that, despite this, Baden-Powell thought well of the Craft.

More than £30,000 has so far been raised from sales of the book, proceeds from which are being divided between two charities, the Masonic Samaritan Fund and The Scout Association’s archive development project. 

The book can be purchased via www.prestonian2012.org.uk

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 12 June 2013 01:00

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2013

Quarterly Communication 
12 June 2013 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes 

Brethren,

our June meeting always has a full agenda with the meeting of the Grand Charity and I am sure you would like me to thank the President of the Grand Charity and all whose hard work has made their work so effective over so many years. What is not required now is a long address from the chair and I will be brief.

Brethren, you will recollect that last year, in recognition of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we sent a loyal message to Her Majesty on the occasion of the sixtieth Anniversary of her accession to the Throne.

Last Tuesday a service was held in Westminster Abbey to celebrate the sixtieth year since her Coronation. Her actual Coronation was on the second of June 1953 and the ceremony was conducted by Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury. Interestingly, Archbishop Fisher was a committed Freemason serving as Grand Chaplain in 1937 whilst being Bishop of Chester. He was re-appointed Grand Chaplain in 1939 just at the time he was made Bishop of London.

At the Quarterly Communication the day after the Coronation, on the third of June 1953, the Earl of Scarbrough, Grand Master, gave a loyal address to Her Majesty on the occasion of her Coronation and I quote, “Brethren, we meet in Grand Lodge this afternoon on the day following the Coronation of our Gracious Queen. This is an event which stirs the hearts of us all – in these Islands, in every part of the Commonwealth and, indeed, throughout the world. We Freemasons, remembering in particular the many greatly-prized links which we have had, and those which we still have, with the Royal House, have our hearts full of loyalty and prayer towards Her Majesty”.

Brethren, we often joke that nothing in Freemasonry ever changes or that, if it does, it takes a good many years to do so. In this case I know that it is true and that as we celebrate the Coronation – sixty years later – those sentiments expressed by Lord Scarbrough are as true today as they were then. Long may that be the case.

We celebrate another royal sixtieth anniversary this year, that of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh’s sixty years as a subscribing member of the Craft. The Grand Master sent him a message of congratulations to mark the occasion and, in reply, Prince Philip asked for his thanks and best wishes to be expressed to all members.

Brethren I have to announce that the MW The Grand Master has appointed VWBro Sir David Wootton Past Grand Sword Bearer and, of course last year’s Lord Mayor, to succeed RWBro David Williamson as Assistant Grand Master with effect from 12 March 2014. On that day either the MW The Grand Master or I will have the pleasure of investing him.  I must add that Bro Williamson will be continuing as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter.

Published in Speeches

Realising your potential

First Grand Principal HRH The Duke of Kent welcomes new investees and reminds them of their duties as he looks forward to celebrating the Royal Arch bicentenary in 2013

Companions, I congratulate all of you who were invested with Grand Rank on Thursday, 25 April 2013. This accolade is not awarded solely for what you have achieved in Royal Arch masonry, but it also looks ahead to the potential of your future contribution. That contribution should include helping to look after the smooth running of your chapters and the happiness of your fellow members.

Recruitment into the Order is a further important task for you. However, it takes sound judgement to know when a member of the Craft is ready to complete his pure ancient masonry. As you will appreciate, this judgement applies most particularly to the Royal Arch representative in Craft lodges.

Successful appeal

As we look forward to celebrating the bicentenary in October this year, I am pleased that the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons has already passed the £1.3 million mark. This is a commendable effort and I thank those who have contributed so generously to this worthwhile appeal. For members who are intending to donate, I am informed that the appeal will continue until the end of 2013.

‘it takes sound judgement to know when a member of the Craft is ready to complete his pure ancient masonry’

Published in SGC
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