60 seconds with Anthony Howlett-Bolton OBE

Monday, 06 December 2021

With a distinguished background in law enforcement, Anthony Howlett-Bolton’s career culminated in being awarded an OBE in 2016 for his work with ex-offenders

He worked in two police forces and retired as a deputy chief constable. ‘Following this, I spent several years as an international senior strategic security and justice advisor with the UK Government.’ Anthony was born and still lives in Buckinghamshire with his two dogs, and dotes on his family. ‘I have been blessed with two sons, two fabulous daughters-in-law and five grandchildren.’ Here, he gives us an insight into his Freemasonry journey and his hopes for the future.

What inspires you most about being a Freemason? It is an organisation based on social interaction. I am inspired by the camaraderie, the welcoming approach, the building of existing and new friendships and the common desire of Freemasons to make a real contribution to wider society. I am humbled when I see so many quiet acts of generosity that go on behind the scenes.

Has Freemasonry improved your life? The enriching aspects of Freemasonry seem to me to be about self-development, and learning to be a better and more rounded person. The Charge after Initiation encompasses it all and I try hard to live my life by those principles. It is still very much a work in progress and always will be.

What do you enjoy about being PGM? The simple answer is our members. I can’t begin to tell you how much I value and enjoy their company. The talent within Freemasonry is simply breathtaking and we are only just scratching the surface. The thought of being a Provincial Grand Master never featured in my mind and so I was totally wrong-footed when asked to lead the Province of Berkshire. It is an incredible honour, a huge responsibility and time-consuming to be asked to take on the role. But what makes it worthwhile is the support and encouragement one receives from literally everybody. We are part of one organisation. My role is to steward my Province as we continue to build Freemasonry together as a team.

What challenges has the pandemic presented? The pandemic has interrupted the normal cycle of events and caused people in all walks of life to reflect on their priorities. It seems to me that our members fall into one of three camps. Some are eager to return, others are wary and the third group have reflected on their level of engagement. We need to be skilful in how we steadily re-engage so as to satisfy the needs of the eager, address the concerns of the wary and reinvigorate the distracted. We will rebuild together and reshape our lives.

And what of your work with Solomon?Like most things in life, my work with the Solomon team, initially led by Stuart Hadler, was a chance event. I have been involved since day one and not missed a meeting yet. I was proud to take over from Stuart upon his retirement and I lead an extraordinarily talented and committed team; I simply conduct the orchestra. For me, the UGLE Learning & Development Programme is mission critical if we as an organisation and our members are to flourish. Fostering curiosity and developing understanding is at the heart of Freemasonry if we are to be a force for good.

What are your hopes for Freemasonry? The future is bright. Freemasonry brings hope and meaning to many in a way that is difficult to find elsewhere. While we will always compete with other spheres, I believe that, if we get our messaging right, there has rarely been a better opportunity for Freemasonry to thrive as part of normalised and valued society. As part of my work with UGLE, I am hugely impressed and encouraged with the drive, commitment and fresh talent evident within UGLE from both paid staff and volunteers. It is awe-inspiring to play a part. If we don’t succeed it won’t be through a lack of trying.

Do you have a hero figure you aspire to? I dread this question because as soon as one mentions a name there is polarisation. I would rather say that I have never yet met the perfect person. We are all a work in progress but my heroes are those people who are genuinely compassionate about others, exude integrity, selflessly lead by example and make a real positive difference to society. These are true Freemasons in my book.

What is the best advice you’ve received? The three best pieces of advice I have been given are these. Don’t believe your own propaganda, don’t delude yourself by self-aggrandisement and ensure that when you look at yourself in the mirror, you see a person of absolute integrity looking back at you.

What’s your favourite way to relax? I am a reasonable, technical photographer, a green-fingered gardener and, in more recent times, a dreadful piano player. I maintain a keen interest in the law, both criminal and civil, as well as international security and justice reform.

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