Where freedom exists, Freemasonry can flourish. Director of Special Projects John Hamill explains why the Craft thrives in democratic societies
In January, National Holocaust Memorial Day passed almost unnoticed in the media, and where it was commented on there was no mention of Freemasonry. It still appears largely unknown outside the Craft that a significant number of Freemasons in Europe disappeared into Nazi labour and concentration camps never to be seen again. Nor had the attacks been confined to the Nazis. Freemasons had been persecuted in Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain and Stalinist Russia.
Freemasonry under England, Ireland and Scotland has been remarkably free from persecution at home. The closest it came to being closed down by government was in the aftermath of the French Revolution, when the 1799 Unlawful Societies Act was passing through Parliament.
In its original form the Act would have made masonic meetings illegal. Fortunately, the Earl of Moira, Acting Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge, and the Duke of Athol, Grand Master of the Antients Grand Lodge, were able to persuade the Prime Minister, William Pitt, of the moral basis of Freemasonry, its support for lawfully constituted authority and its benevolent activities. As a result, clauses were introduced into the Act specifically exempting Freemasonry from its provisions, provided that each year every lodge secretary supplied a full list of the members of his lodge together with their ages, occupations and addresses.
It is not difficult to see why totalitarian regimes hate Freemasonry. Our insistence that candidates believe in a supreme being; our basis in morality; our striving for high standards; our practice of tolerance and respect for others; our belief in equality and freedom of thought; and our caring for others in the community are all anathema to a dictatorship, and things we should jealously guard.
After the Second World War and a short period of freedom, an ‘Iron Curtain’ descended dividing western and eastern Europe. In countries in the Eastern Bloc, Freemasonry had a brief revival but was driven underground when Communism prevailed. It says a great deal about our principles that there were individuals in Eastern Europe who had come into Freemasonry, either in the 1930s or in the brief period after the war, who were willing to put themselves into real danger to keep the spirit of Freemasonry alive in their countries.
The road to freedom
It was because of their courage that when the Iron Curtain finally crumbled in 1989, Freemasonry was brought back into the open. Their road back has not always been easy but Freemasonry is flourishing. A simple statistic shows how much has been achieved: in 1990 England recognised nineteen regular Grand Lodges in Europe, today it recognises forty-three.
Those who were present at the two hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary of the Grand Lodge at Earls Court in 1992 will remember the rather diminutive, elderly figure of the Grand Master of the recently revived Grand Lodge of Hungary. He explained how from the opening of the first lodge in Hungary in 1749, Freemasonry had been regularly persecuted but now ‘in a democratic country, Freemasonry can continue its work’. As one American masonic writer wrote: ‘Where freedom exists Freemasonry can flourish and nurture that freedom.’
We, who in our long masonic history have never suffered persecution, should remember with pride those who so believed in Freemasonry’s importance that they, like that great character in our ritual, were willing to face death rather than betray their principles or the trust reposed in them.
Letters to the editor - No. 24 Winter 2013
On Saturday 5 October over twenty thousand bikers from across the country made their annual pilgrimage to the National Memorial Arboretum near Burton upon Trent to pay their respects to members of the armed forces who have lost their lives in the service of their country. Amongst these were more than sixty brethren, most being members of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association, all from lodges across the country.
They travelled from the north, south, east and west and at 1pm gathered in the Freemasons’ Garden to stand together for a few moments to remember lost friends, relations and brothers who have been lost in the various armed conflicts since the Second World War. The Freemasons’ Garden, which forms an important part of the National Memorial Arboretum, was conceived and established in 2002. It is now in line for a makeover and upgrade during the coming months as part of the multi-million-pound redesign of the Arboretum Visitor Centre.
John Perridge, Compass Lodge, No. 8765, Syston, Leicestershire and Rutland
I read with interest the letter of Denis Baker (Autumn 2013) regarding the dilapidated state of the Freemasons’ memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. I am a Warwickshire Freemason residing in Staffordshire and have visited the Arboretum on several occasions since it was first formed, including a visit just recently.
I concur entirely with the comments made by Denis Baker and consider that the state of the Freemasons’ memorial reflects badly on Freemasonry in general and it needs improvement work carried out immediately.
A notice board at the Freemasons’ memorial plot informs visitors that work is ongoing but this information is over five years old and there is no sign of any such work being carried out. The whole area occupied by the Freemasons’ memorial, together with the information notices, give it an abandoned and uncared for appearance.
John Wileman, Goldieslie Lodge, No. 6174, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire
May I assure all your readers that the concerns expressed about the Masonic Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum are shared by every member of the Staffordshire Province. For the past ten years we have not been allowed to do anything because it was expected that the new Visitor Centre would be extended over our garden and we would be relocated. The plans for the new Centre have now been agreed and we can now make some progress.
Our first plan was accepted this summer by the Arboretum but the cost of the project, £170,000, was too great and we are now finding out whether our second proposal is affordable. It is all complicated by the ground conditions: the site is a former sand and gravel quarry on a river flood plain with a high water table, and it is essential to build a concrete raft supported by piles. That alone will cost about £18,000.
Plans are already in hand to replace the yew trees with a field maple hedge. When we have an affordable plan we hope that the United Grand Lodge of England will lead our fundraising efforts, supported by all the Provinces in the country, for a National Masonic Memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum to those Freemasons who have died in the service of their country.
It would also be fortuitous if we can celebrate its completion and opening early in 2017 as part of our national celebration of three hundred years of Freemasonry in England. We are working hard to make this project a success and a credit to all concerned.
Sandy Stewart, Provincial Grand Master, Staffordshire
Letters to the editor - No. 23 Autumn 2013
On the theme of Service Remembered (summer 2013 issue), my father James Carroll was in the Royal Navy during World War II aboard the Captain Class Frigates, which carried out convoy duties not only across the Atlantic but to the Arctic on the Russian convoys. After sixty-eight years the government finally recognised the extreme conditions and sacrifices made by those who carried out what Churchill called ‘the worst journey in the world’.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Russia’s President Putin held a ceremony at Number 10 Downing Street, presenting my father with the Arctic Star and one of the highest naval decorations in Russia, the Ushakov Medal. Some thirty veterans were invited along for tea and the award was made prior to the Prime Minister and President Putin leaving for the G8 conference in Northern Ireland.
At nearly ninety, my father was very proud, as were we, at being able to receive this long overdue recognition. He was initiated into Freemasonry ten years ago, in May 2003 at the age of eighty.
Alan Carroll, Vicar’s Oak Lodge, No. 4822, London
Having visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire at the weekend I was greatly impressed with the many memorials located on the site.
The memorial to Freemasons who gave their lives in defence of the nation comprises two stone blocks representing the rough and smooth ashlar standing on a chequered pavement surrounded by a yew tree hedge to indicate eternity. I was surprised to see that this memorial is in a dilapidated state, with part of the yew tree hedge having died off leaving an untidy gap.
I felt that this dilapidated memorial creates a poor image of Freemasonry, particularly when compared to those of other organisations, and believe that Grand Lodge should take a lead and ensure that the memorial is repaired as a matter of urgency. The costs involved are likely to be very minor compared to the very large sums that Freemasonry gives to other causes.
I am sure that many of the brethren will agree that in this case charity should begin at home, and I look forward to hearing and seeing that Grand Lodge takes this on board and carries out the remedial work.
I understand that Staffordshire Province has undertaken work in the past but as this forms part of a national memorial, I consider that it falls more appropriately in the province of Grand Lodge.
Denis J Baker, Ravenshead Lodge, No. 8176, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire
Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013
I read with interest John Hamill’s article entitled ‘Free from Persecution’ in the spring 2013 edition of Freemasonry Today. Although the number of Freemasons who perished in the Holocaust is unknown, it is believed to be between eighty thousand and two hundred thousand.
I had been privileged to give a reading on behalf of the Freemasons at a well-attended Holocaust Remembrance Day Service in Portsmouth last year when later the same day my wife and I attended the reception preceding the masonic province of Hampshire’s Thanksgiving Service. At that reception I was approached by the Mayor of Havant. Among the guests were many dignitaries from local authorities within the Province but I had known the mayor for many years and he asked whether the Province would like to send representatives to attend the Havant Holocaust Remembrance Service. He is not a Freemason, but he is Jewish, like myself.
It was a cold January afternoon when the Provincial Grand Master, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, an Assistant Provincial Grand Master (who had been invited to wear their chains of office), our Provincial Information Officer, our wives and I attended the sombre and fitting service. About a hundred people attended and wreaths were laid. There were readings by civic dignitaries, school children and a member of the travelling community.
At the reception that followed we were invited to give a reading and lay a wreath on behalf of Freemasons within the Province at future Holocaust Remembrance Day Services. I hope other local authorities will follow the example of Havant Borough Council and Portsmouth City Council. Both these services were extremely moving and a fitting tribute to those who perished under Nazi persecution.
Philip Alan Berman, Old Portmuthian Lodge, No. 8285, Portsmouth, Hampshire and Isle of Wight
I enjoyed John Hamill’s article ‘Free from Persecution’ in the recent edition of Freemasonry Today. However, there is always an exception to the rule. I was rather surprised on a visit to Cuba two years ago, to find that Freemasonry was well in the public domain. Our tour guide organised for me a visit to one of the temples to meet up with a few Freemasons – but alas time did not permit attendance at their meeting.
Garth Ezekiel, Richmond Hill Lodge, No. 6698, Twickenham, Middlesex
14 December 2011
A speech by VW Bro Graham Redman, Assistant Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill
GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, the Minutes of the Premier or Moderns Grand Lodge for February 1811, record that
The Most Worshipful Acting Grand Master the Earl of Moira having expressed his intention of being installed previous to the Business of the Quarterly Communication this day and having signified his directions to the R.W. Master and Officers of the Lodge of Promulgation for that purpose they assembled at Free Masons’ Hall, at half past seven o’clock and required the attendance of all the Members of the Grand Lodge in the Committee Room to assist in the ceremony of installing the Acting Grand Master. The Lodge was then opened in the First Degree … The Earl of Moira was thereupon introduced … to receive the benefit of installation when the Ancient Charges and Regulations were read … to which His Lordship was pleased to give his unqualified approbation and assent. Such members of the Grand Lodge as were not actual installed Masters were then desired to withdraw and the Lodge was opened in the Third Degree and the Right Hon. The Earl of Moira was installed according to Ancient Custom Acting Grand Master of Mason[s] and duly invested and saluted on the occasion: after which the Lodge was closed in the Third Degree and subsequently in the First Degree and the usual procession being then formed the Acting Grand Master was conducted into the Hall where the Grand Lodge was opened in due form and the Laws relating to the behaviour of Masons in Grand Lodge were read.
JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, it might seem odd to us today that the Acting (or as we would say Pro) Grand Master had not been properly installed. One of the ritual differences between the Moderns and Antients Grand Lodges was that in the Lodges of the former the installation was simply the ceremonial placing of the Master in the chair with no additional signs, tokens or words. Possibly due to their Irish origins, Lodges under the Antients Grand Lodge did have an inner working limited to Installed Masters. The Lodge of Promulgation, which had been set up by the Premier Grand Lodge in 1809 to bring its rituals into line with those of other Grand Lodges, recognised the Installation Ceremony as one of the true landmarks of the Order. Lord Moira’s very public installation was in a sense pour encourager les autres, for the Lodge of Promulgation continued to meet over the next few months to enable Masters and Past Masters of Lodges under the Premier Grand Lodge to receive the benefit of Installation.
GFR: As the final item of business that evening:
The Grand Treasurer moved That the Tickets for the Grand Feast be in future delivered by the Stewards at One Guinea each instead of half a Guinea, which being seconded, an amendment was duly moved that the Tickets should be fifteen shillings: and the Question being put on the said amendment. It passed in the affirmative.
JMH: It says much for the economic stability of the last half of the 18th century that the cost of tickets for the annual Grand Feast had been set at half a guinea (52½ pence in our terms) for more than forty years! Then, as now, the Grand Stewards had the privilege of making up the short fall between monies received from ticket sales and the actual cost of the Grand Feast. Clearly the difference had become onerous by 1811 and this motion by the Grand Treasurer John Bayford, himself a Past Grand Steward, sought to redress the situation. Grand Lodge, as was to often happen in the 19th century, agreed the rise but only at half of the rate requested!
GFR: The only other matter of interest that year was at the April Communication, when
The Grand Lodge proceeded to take into consideration the following motion which was duly made and seconded at the last Grand Lodge, vizt: “That the Thanks of the Grand Lodge be given to Brothers James Earnshaw, James Deans, William Henry White and Charles Bonnor the Officers and to the several other members of the Lodge of Promulgation for their labors respectively; and that a Blue Apron be presented to Brothers Deans and Bonnor, Officers of that Lodge who do not at present possess the same and that they be requested to wear such Apron in all future meetings of the Society. And also that they be considered Members of the Hall Committee.
And the Question being put thereon it duly passed in the Affirmative.
JMH: The work of the Lodge of Promulgation brought the ceremonies of the Premier Grand Lodge into line with those of Ireland and Scotland and thereby with the Antients Grand Lodge, removing a number of potential obstacles to the proposed . Blue lined and edged aprons were restricted to the actual Grand Officers and those who had served in those high offices. As there was no concept of appointing Brethren to past ranks, with the exception of Princes of the Blood Royal who were usually appointed Past Grand Masters within a short time of their being initiated, James Deans and Charles Bonner were singularly honoured by this motion. Deans became the actual Junior Grand Warden in 1812.
GFR: Rather more was going on – though perhaps not much more being achieved – in the Antients or Atholl Grand Lodge. To remind you, in May 1810 that Grand Lodge had passed a threefold resolution setting out its requirements for a with the Moderns: first uniformity of Obligation and Rules; secondly, the Grand Lodge to consist of the Masters, Wardens and all Past Masters of the respective Lodges; thirdly, a monthly disbursement of Masonic benevolence. At its meeting in March 1811, the report of the Committee appointed to meet the Moderns’ Committee was received, setting out the Moderns’ responses to the threefold resolution:
To the First resolution ... That the [Moderns] Grand Lodge had resolved to return to the Ancient Land Marks of Masonry and in order to a perfect of the two Grand Lodges they will consent to the same Obligations and continue to abide by the Ancient Land Marks of Masonry when it should be ascertained what those Ancient Land Marks and Obligations were.
To the Second resolution the Committee of the [Moderns] Grand Lodge submitted .... That a true representation of all the warranted Lodges in and adjacent to London and Westminster should consist of the Master and Wardens with one Past Master from each Lodge that to admit all Past Masters would be inconvenient and if admitted could not be said to be a true and prefect representation of all the Lodges …
To the Third resolution, ... The Committee of the [Moderns] Grand Lodge agreed with the resolutions of the Antients Grand Lodge, the whole of this and all other minor concerns to be nevertheless discussed by a joint Committee of Masters to be chosen and appointed by the two Grand Lodges respectively to meet thereon and finally to conclude and arrange all matters relating to an of the two Grand Lodges.
A resolution that the Antients’ Committee be empowered to accede to such modification or alteration of the second resolution, respecting Past Masters, as might appear to them expedient and necessary for fully accomplishing a between the two Grand Lodges was, after a long and protracted discussion, defeated by a very large majority.
JMH: As I remarked last year when the three resolutions were first proposed in the Antients Grand Lodge, the second resolution regarding the composition of the United Grand Lodge was to cause problems leading to an almost childish reaction on the part of the Premier Grand Lodge. Membership of the Premier Grand Lodge was limited to the present and former Grand Officers, the Master and Wardens of each Lodge and representatives from the Grand Stewards’ Lodge. Membership of the Antients Grand Lodge encompassed present and former Grand Officers, Masters and Wardens of Lodges and all subscribing Past Masters. Not surprisingly, the Antients were not willing to deprive Past Masters of their Lodges of a privilege they had held from the start of that Grand Lodge. When asking the Premier Grand Lodge to explain their stance, the only response they got was that if all Past Masters were included there would not be a room large enough in which to hold meetings of the proposed United Grand Lodge!
At the meeting of the Antients in May a compromise was suggested, whereby those who were Past Masters at 24 June 1811 would continue to have the right to be members of the proposed United Grand Lodge, but after 24 June 1811 only the actual – or as we would say Immediate – Past Masters of Lodges would qualify as members of the new body. As the Minutes record, however, “After some discussion and long debate thereon and the question being put passed in the negative by a large majority”. Back to square one!
GFR: At the September Communication of the Grand Lodge a letter dated 5 June from the Grand Secretary of the Moderns was read, which reported that he had laid before the Earl of Moira and the Moderns’ Committee a letter reporting the decision of the Antients Grand Lodge and continued:
I am directed by his Lordship and the Committee to acquaint you for the information of the Grand Lodge under His Grace the Duke of Atholl that it appears to them wholly unnecessary and nugatory, that any further Meeting between the two Committees should take place at present in as much as the Committee of the Grand Lodge under the Duke of Atholl is not furnished with any sufficient powers to enter into the discussion or arrangements of the various subjects necessary to the proposed as is sufficiently manifest from the circumstance of the Grand Lodge under His Grace the Duke of Atholl having at different times negatived propositions which its Committee had acceded to thereby annulling and frustrating concessions which the Grand Lodge under the Prince Regent had professed itself upon certain points willing to make. I am further directed by his Lordship and the Committee to acquaint you that whenever the Committee from your Grand Lodge shall be invested with the powers specified in my letter of 26th January last the Committee of the Grand Lodge under His Royal Highness the Prince Regent will be most ready to meet and confer with them in the hope and expectation of finding a cordial and sincere desire correspondent with their own, for effecting a of the two Societies upon terms honorable and equal to both.
The matter was then deferred to a meeting of the Grand Lodge held on 9 October, when a Committee was at last appointed – and by a large majority – with full powers to carry into effect the measure of a Masonic , subject to a specific Instruction on the entitlement of Past Masters to attend Grand Lodge.
JMH: Correspondence between Lord Moira and Grand Secretary White shows that his Lordship was becoming increasingly angry at the delays caused by the Antients Commissioners for not having full power to decide matters but having to report back to a quarterly meeting of their Grand Lodge on every small decision. He was conscious that his time was limited as in 1812 he was being posted to India as Governor and Commander-in-Chief at Bengal and wanted matters settled before he departed. It took all of White’s diplomatic skills to dissuade Moira, writing direct to the Duke of Atholl demanding action or a complete cessation of the negotiations. Instead, White wrote the letter we have just heard and in October the Antients agreed a compromise and allowed their Commissioners full powers.
It was perhaps as a result of this, and to limit the number of future Past Masters, that at its meeting on 4th December 1811 the Antients Grand Lodge adopted two regulations which still stand today: that no one could be elected to the Master’s Chair until he had served for twelve months as a Warden, and that no Brother would be entitled to the privileges of a Past Master unless he had served a full twelve months as Master of his Lodge. Previously to this it had been the custom in both Grand Lodges for the installation of the Master to take place twice each year, on the two feasts of St John, and the Warden qualification did not exist. Indeed, under both Grand Lodges it was constitutionally possible for a Fellowcraft to be elected Master, the reasons why today we still say the Master is elected by “his brethren and fellows in open lodge assembled” and why he takes the obligation as to his duties as Master in the second degree.
GFR: 1911 was a relatively uneventful year. In March the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, announced that he was
Commanded by the Most Worshipful Grand Master to inform you that he intends to preside over the Festival of Grand Lodge on the 26th April. I believe that the opportunity which will be afforded by His Royal Highness’s gracious intention is one that anticipates the heartfelt desire of all Freemasons.
JMH: The reason was that at the request of His Majesty the King, the Duke of Connaught had accepted the Governor Generalship of Canada, which would lead to his protracted absence abroad. To meet the expected demand from those wishing to attend, the Investiture was moved to the Royal Albert Hall. A huge amount of work went into the preparation of the meeting, attended by over 6,000 Brethren. Disaster struck! The Grand Master was struck down by bronchitis and held prisoner by his doctors! A loyal address was moved expressing disappointment, wishing him a speedy relief and a safe journey to his onerous duties in Canada. At the June Quarterly Communication a further message was received from the Grand Master in which, inter alia, he said: “It has been a source of deep gratification to me to have held for eleven years that post of Grand Master of English Freemasons, in which my dear brother King Edward VII took such pride, and while I have considered it a solemn duty to carry on his work I have not been forgetful of the great advantage to myself of my association with the Craft. Wherever I have been I have felt that proud assurance that I had you watchful sympathy and interest in my welfare. I know that scarcely a day has passed on which bodies of Freemasons, all over the Empire, have not wished me well at their Festive assemblies and listened with sympathetic attention to kind words which have been said about me. I can assure you Brethren, that I have not regarded all this as mere formality and that I have attached the highest value to your personal and fraternal goodwill.”
GFR: In June the Board of General Purposes reported that, acting on the recommendation of the Officers and Clerks Committee, it had resolved
to recommend to Grand Lodge that the salary of the Grand Secretary be increased to £2,000 a year, as from the 1st January last, on the understanding that such increase shall not be considered as a permanent endowment of the office of Grand Secretary but solely as a personal recognition of the services which have been rendered to Freemasonry by the present Grand Secretary.
The Report of the Board was taken as read and confirmed, the recommendations contained therein adopted, and the Report entered on the Minutes.
JMH: Until 1909 the appointment of staff from the Grand Secretary downwards, their terms, conditions and salaries had all been debated in Grand Lodge. The setting up of the Officers and Clerks Committee of the Board in that year removed much of the debate, except for additional finance, out of Grand Lodge. The Grand Secretary, Sir Edward Letchworth was indefatigable and much liked, hence the ready agreement to the motion. The present Grand Secretary might be interested to know that the purchasing power of £2,000 in 1911 equates to over £150,000 today!
GFR: The year ended with some sad news: the death of W Bro Henry Sadler, first the Grand Tyler and then the Librarian and Curator of the Grand Lodge, and therefore in the latter capacity one of the predecessors of my co-presenter, who can pay a far more eloquent tribute to him than I could hope to do.
JMH: My co-presenter is, as always, correct! (Laughter) Henry Sadler is one of my Masonic heroes. Indeed it could be argued that had he not worked at Freemasons’ Hall I might well not be standing before you today. Sadler joined the staff in 1865 as an assistant to the Grand Tyler, being appointed to that office in 1879. As Grand Tyler, in addition to ceremonial work, he was responsible for the running and letting of Freemasons’ Hall and was provided with an apartment in the building. Fascinated by history he spent most of his spare time searching cupboards and cellars locating all the archives of the two previous Grand Lodges, the United Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter. When in 1887 the Board revived the moribund Library and Museum with the Grand Secretary as nominal Librarian, Sadler was appointed sub-Librarian and quickly set to, expanding the collections. He quickly became known to the growing group of Masonic historians both at home and abroad, all of whom acknowledged his help and knowledge. When the house next door to Freemasons’ Hall was acquired in 1904 for additional office space, such had been Sadler’s work that the main rooms were set aside as a Library and Museum. His work was crowned in 1910 when he was appointed the first Librarian and Curator of Grand Lodge and was elected Master of the renowned Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076. The many tributes to his memory praised his kindness, helpfulness and great willingness to share with others what he had learned from the treasures under his care. He was certainly one who “lived respected and died regretted” and, one hundred years later, Masonic historians still revere his memory.