Freemasonry  on the march

John Hamill, Deputy Grand Chancellor, on how the shared values and camaraderie found in Freemasonry have appealed to members of the British armed forces through history

Retirement has enabled me to spend more time at my home in the Fens. I have been surprised by how often the peace and tranquillity have been disturbed by aeroplanes from the Royal Air Force and American air bases that still exist in East Anglia flying over the area. Given the recent celebrations marking the centenary of the formation of the Royal Air Force and the commemorative events to honour the closing months of the First World War, I began to reflect on the enormous contribution that members of the services have made to the development and spread of Freemasonry over the last 300 years.

It was the Grand Lodge of Ireland that, in the early 1730s, introduced the practice of issuing travelling warrants to form lodges in regiments of the British Army, enabling the lodge to meet wherever the regiment might be stationed. The idea was quickly taken up by the Premier and Antients Grand Lodges in England and the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The travelling military lodges of the Home Grand Lodges took Freemasonry around the globe; its development mirrored that of the development of the British Empire. 

The travelling lodges did a great deal to help establish Freemasonry in the North American colonies, Canada, the West Indies and Caribbean, and India.

COSMOPOLITAN MEMBERSHIP

Constitutionally, the English Grand Lodges would only issue travelling military warrants in regiments in which the commanding officer agreed to there being a lodge. Equally, they were only supposed to take in members of the particular regiment and not initiate civilians. Inevitably, when a travelling lodge was stationed overseas in an area where there were no lodges, they would take in locals. When the regiment moved on, those civilians would usually apply to a Home Grand Lodge for a warrant to meet as a stationary lodge to enable them to carry on their Freemasonry.

Although there are anecdotes of lodge meetings held on board ships, there is no evidence that the Home Grand Lodges issued travelling warrants for lodges to be held on ships. There is, however, a great deal of evidence in the membership registers, from the earliest registers, of many members of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and merchant navy being involved in Freemasonry and helping to spread it overseas. 

Indeed, lodges in the ports around the English coast in the 18th and 19th centuries became cosmopolitan in their membership, holding meetings when foreign ships were in port and taking in officers and crew members, often putting them through all three degrees on the same day. Equally, lodges in the colonies would hold meetings or social events when ships came into port. Admiral Nelson himself recorded being entertained at a masonic ball in the West Indies.

COMMON IDEALS

One of the problems for seafaring brethren was that being at sea for long periods meant that their masonic progress could be rather slow, as it would be dependent on being on shore at a time when their lodge met. Many naval officers had to wait until they retired before they could fully participate, but others appear to have taken full advantage of every opportunity to do so. 

One such officer was Admiral Sir Albert Hastings Markham, KCB (1841–1918), who appears to have joined a lodge in every port he spent any time in or visited regularly. Being stationed in the Mediterranean, he rose to the rank of District Grand Master of Malta. In today’s slimmed-down navy, it is even more difficult for serving members to become fully involved in Freemasonry unless they receive a shore-based appointment.

The attraction of Freemasonry to members of the services appears to be a combination of shared values; the ideals of service and tradition; and the continuation of the camaraderie they have experienced within the armed forces. It was certainly the latter that led to the huge expansion of Freemasonry in the English-speaking world at the end of both World Wars. Long may the connection continue.

‘The travelling military lodges took Freemasonry around the globe’

Published in Features

On 15 February 2018, more than 200 guests gathered in London’s Freemasons’ Hall to hear four speakers at a symposium hosted by Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, called ‘1717 & All That’. Questioning the accuracy of historical records from that time, the debate centred around whether the first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717, with two speaking against, and two supporting, the historical consensus

AGAINST

Andrew Prescott, Professor of Digital Humanities, University of Glasgow

Andrew Prescott was first to take the lectern, arguing against the historical consensus that Grand Lodge was formed in 1717. 

His argument centred around the reliability of historical sources as well as the honesty, or otherwise, of some of those masons who chronicled the early history. In particular, Prescott drew attention to the ‘unscrupulous’ James Anderson, who wrote The Constitutions of the Free-Masons in 1723, which was contentiously updated in 1738. 

Acknowledging that historical sources are complex things that historians have to continually revisit, Prescott focussed on the earliest written record on the founding of Grand Lodge. This included the announcement that describes the installation of the Duke of Montagu as Grand Master in June 1721, when other lodges gave up their separate rights to create a Grand Lodge. He contended that if this occurred in June 1721, then, logically, Grand Lodge could not have existed before. 

Prescott argued that, given that Grand Master George Payne’s regulations dated to 1721, three of the most important elements of Grand Lodge Freemasonry – the surrender of powers by other lodges; the approval of Payne’s regulations; and the installation of Montagu – all took place in 1721. While Prescott accepted that Grand Lodge Freemasonry must have grown from somewhere, he noted that it wasn’t unheard of for 18th-century clubs to spring up almost overnight. 

Prescott went on to question the traditional narrative. He noted that many references that support the 1717 origin story were written in the 1730s or later and are now believed to be unreliable and arguably invented. 

The issue of honesty was highlighted, with Prescott suggesting that Anderson was inspired to create a fictitious history of Freemasonry in 1738 for his own gain and that he altered some of the early minutes to support the story. Prescott also noted that the story of 1717 was a minor feature of Anderson’s grand redrawing of the masonic narrative.

‘Historical sources are complex things that historians have to continually revisit’

Susan Sommers, Professor of History, Saint Vincent College

Susan Sommers focussed on the specific historical, social and political context of James Anderson’s background. 

Her central thesis stressed the importance of undertaking a comparative study of Anderson’s theological and masonic writings to understand his character and how Constitutions came into being. 

Sommers introduced Anderson as a ‘complex and conflicted character’. She then explored his early life and his education in Scotland and discussed some of the wider historical events of this tumultuous era, including the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Detail was then given on the specific nature of Anderson’s religious beliefs against this political-religious backdrop, exploring and explaining the meaning behind some of the particular phrases he later came to employ in the expanded 1738 edition of Constitutions.

With Anderson slipping into debt and then losing his position as minister of the Presbyterian church in Swallow Street, he undertook the 1738 rewrite of Constitutions ‘primarily for financial reasons’, Sommers noted. He was paid by the page, which may explain the great length of the book, but he never escaped his debts, dying in Fleet Prison in 1739.

Sommers explored the religious language used by Anderson in Constitutions, while also looking in detail at the differences between the 1723 and 1738 editions, which included the decision to anoint 1717 as the founding date of Grand Lodge for the very first time. 

Noting the importance of recognising and understanding Anderson’s religious background to see why he used some of the language that can be read in Constitutions, Sommers argued that it was necessary to compare Constitutions with Anderson’s theological writing, specifically Unity In Trinity. 

Constitutions, she suggested, cannot be seen as a reliable historical study of the origins of Freemasonry as much as a rather over-lengthy continuation of Anderson’s theological arguments, written for profit and without a sole or even primary masonic meaning.

FOR

Richard Berman, Visiting Research Fellow, Oxford Brookes University

Richard Berman’s talk in support of 1717 as the founding date for Grand Lodge began with the admittance that he felt ‘sorry for Mr Anderson, as the chap’s not here to defend himself’. 

Berman went on to offer a wider perspective on the surrounding religious and political context in which early Freemasonry developed, exploring how and why masonry took the form it did. 

Berman explained that he was interested in looking at the drivers that led to the creation of a Grand Lodge. Masonry sprang from the need for Protestantism to defend itself against the threat of Catholicism following the Glorious Revolution. This was a danger that confronted England on many fronts. The Duke of Montagu and other leading masons were very concerned by the Catholic onslaught, as were the Protestants and Huguenots, and diplomats and politicians. Many of these individuals met at the Horn Tavern, the most important and socially connected lodge of the four founding lodges. 

The Horn Tavern lodge had over 70 members, more than the other three put together, and these included members of the aristocracy, as well as leading military and judicial figures. These men used the other three lodges ‘as a veil’ with the explicit intention of creating an organisation that could be used as an instrument to promote Whig and Huguenot interests.  

Berman also touched on the conundrum of the Apple Tree Tavern in Charles Street, Covent Garden, one of the founding lodges and the stated location of an early meeting of the four lodges in 1716. Although it is now accepted that the Apple Tree Tavern was not located on Charles Street, Berman points out there was an inn with this name only 40 yards away at White Hart Lane. Anderson, he suggests, might have made a simple error, but in so doing inserted the sort of small mistake that allows people to question an entire narrative.

John Hamill, Director of Special Projects, UGLE

John Hamill, the final presenter, agreed that historical researchers should not be afraid to challenge preconceived evidence regarding the origins of Freemasonry. 

Hamill contested Andrew Prescott’s central claim that Grand Lodge must have post-dated 1717, as there was no evidence for this date other than Anderson’s work, written 20 years after said event.

While Hamill accepted that the date of 24 June 1717 appears to be Anderson’s alone, he pointed out that when Anderson wrote the 1738 Constitutions there were many leading masons who would have been able to prevent such a simple error. Moreover, there was simply ‘no convincing reason’ for him to lie. Hamill said that it was no great surprise that no press reports from 1717 mentioned Freemasonry, as there was no interest in the Craft until the arrival of the Duke of Montagu as Grand Master.

Hamill looked at reports that named the three Grand Masters who preceded Montagu. Chief among these was a letter written by the Duke of Richmond, Grand Master in 1724, in which he spoke unequivocally about the three Grand Masters who came before Montagu. The letter, Hamill suggested, shows that Grand Lodge existed before Montagu, but it was only the politically motivated appointment of Montagu that enabled Freemasonry to grow into something far bigger.

Hamill stated that Sommers’ and Prescott’s arguments relied upon a ‘major conspiracy involving many people’. He questioned why evidence that dated to later in the 1700s should be considered suspect simply because of when it was written, and posited that this was essentially ‘a semantic argument about what constitutes a Grand Lodge’. 

The concept and some of the traditions of a Grand Lodge were clearly already in place, even if it had not yet embraced George Payne’s regulatory principles. In that sense, said Hamill, 1717 was the beginning of something that, even now, continues to evolve.

‘There was simply no convincing reason for James Anderson to lie’

The speeches can be watched in full on YouTube via www.quatuorcoronati.com/meetings/past-events

The end of mythology

John Hamill looks back to the pivotal moment in 1984 when Freemasonry had to confront its negative image with a policy of openness

Reviewing the many events that took place in our Provinces and Districts during the Tercentenary celebrations, I was struck by the number that included families, friends and members of the public. As the Pro Grand Master said in his review of the year, those events exemplified our membership’s renewed spirit of confidence and its pride in the Craft. It also reveals members’ wish to share that pride with their communities.

To most of the current members, being so visible in their communities last year was something new. However, like many things in Freemasonry, it was a welcome return to the past. Up to the outbreak of the Second World War, Freemasonry was a very visible part of the community. Meetings at national and local levels were freely reported in the national and local press: two weekly masonic newspapers and a monthly magazine were on public sale. Freemasons regularly appeared in public ‘clothed in the badges of the order’ either laying foundation stones of new structures or taking part in civic processions or those celebrating national events. As a result, Freemasons were both known and respected in their local communities.

A MUCH-NEEDED WAKE-UP CALL

During the war, Freemasonry turned in on itself and, with a shortage of newsprint, much social reporting disappeared from the media. After the war, introversion continued and Freemasonry gradually disappeared from the public consciousness. An unwillingness by Grand Lodge to engage with the media when they misreported Freemasonry allowed a mythology to grow. This was greatly helped by the less scrupulous in the world of journalism who knew they could write what they wished about Freemasonry without any fear of an official comeback from Grand Lodge. 

The mythology and its effect on Freemasonry came to a head in 1984 with the publication of the late Stephen Knight’s anti-masonic rant, The Brotherhood: The Secret World of the Freemasons, which, for the first time in English Freemasonry, brought together the strands of anti-masonry in one volume. 

In effect, the book was a wake-up call to English Freemasonry. The lead was taken by the Grand Master, who asked the Board of General Purposes to seek ways of better informing the public as to what Freemasonry is – and its place in society – so that they had good solid information against which they could weigh the nonsense appearing in the media on an almost daily basis. That gave birth to what has become known as the Openness Policy, which the Grand Master has greatly supported since its inception.

AND A CONTINUING EVOLUTION

It has been a long process – a perfect example of the old adage that it takes years to build a good reputation, seconds to lose it and years to rebuild it. I think that future historians will see the events of 1984 and what followed as a watershed moment. Since then, Freemasonry has evolved, and taken a long look at what it is and how it should fit with modern society. Today, it is a relevant and contributing part of our communities, without having changed its basic principles and tenets. 

After all the positive media coverage that we received during last year’s celebrations, it was more than sad that a reputable newspaper such as The Guardian should put on the front page a story about Freemasonry that contained three major untruths, which a call to Freemasons’ Hall could have corrected. The story, as we know, led to ‘Enough is Enough’, which is reported on in this issue. As you will see, it was not a one-off project to meet an immediate need, but will be a continuing process led from the centre, with the Provinces, Districts and Metropolitan area all having a crucial role to play.

Plans are in place to provide the tools from the centre to bolster and maintain that pride and confidence that was so evident during the celebrations. Having been involved in ‘openness’ since its inception, I am convinced that what is already in place and what is being developed for the future will change attitudes and the public’s perception of Freemasonry. There will always be a minority that will believe the myths and are not open to their minds being changed, but with time they will become an insignificant minority.

‘Freemasonry has evolved, and taken a long look at what it is and how it should fit with modern society’

Published in Features
Tuesday, 12 June 2018 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Summer 2018

From the Grand Secretary

The first words in this new Grand Secretary’s column pay tribute to my predecessor, Brigadier Willie Shackell, whose steadying hand, gentle humour and humility have steered the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) through the tumultuously successful Tercentenary year.

Our handover period has unusually been a full six months, and I have thoroughly enjoyed his company, wise words and kind introduction to a very different world to the one I had left. I wish him a happy retirement and will miss him. Freemasonry owes him a great debt for stepping into, but more importantly filling, a vacancy in such a professional manner.

My appointment signals a change in direction by the Board – a move to a more outward-looking and proactive organisation. One that is not content to be misrepresented by the popular press, or tolerate the slurs of the uninformed, but will stand up for itself, its members and the principles that guide it.  

Similarly, I am charged with developing a professional, fit for purpose and efficient central headquarters, which is held in high esteem by you, our members; which engenders pride and a desire to perform to an excellent standard in its staff; and which communicates an appealing, confident, relevant and consistent message to the outside world. That’s quite a mouthful, and quite a task, but one I very much look forward to taking on.

One of the most important tasks we face is to turn around the tide of public perception and negativity about who we are and what we do. Communication has become ever more important; it is the lifeblood of any membership organisation – whether that be listening to our members, keeping them in touch with the latest developments in and around the masonic world, or addressing the concerns of our critics and detractors head on.

You will have noticed a more robust approach to the one we have traditionally taken, and we will be continuing in this vein. We are holding meetings up and down the country to let people know that we are a proud part of the communities from which we are drawn, that we have nothing to be ashamed of, and that we are confident enough to tell people who we are, what we do, why we enjoy Freemasonry and why we are proud to be part of it.

In this issue we meet Freemason Mark Ormrod, who defied medical opinion to walk again after losing both his legs and one arm while serving in Afghanistan; discover whether the world’s first Grand Lodge did in fact originate in 1717; and bid a fond farewell to John Hamill as he retires from UGLE as Director of Special Projects.

David Staples
Grand Secretary

‘Communication is the lifeblood of any membership organisation’

Published in UGLE

Speaking volumes

When John Hamill joined Grand Lodge as a librarian  in 1971, he had no idea that  he would go on to create a communications department, driving a policy of openness that has shaped modern  Freemasonry

Can you remember a life before Grand Lodge?

I went off to university to read history and then went into librarianship before very quickly realising that the public library service was not what it used to be. At that time, if you had any sort of ambition, you went into administration, which is the last thing I wanted to do. Fortunately, when I was just about to start my postgraduate training, I saw an advert for a job at Grand Lodge. I came down and was interviewed, and despite the fact that I wasn’t going to be available for another nine months, they decided to appoint me. 

That was in 1971, and I thought that I would probably have an interest for five or six years before moving off to some other sort of research library. But the interest never flagged, and I got hooked. Having said that, I thought I would have a quiet, academic life at the Library and Museum. If anybody had told me then about some of the things that I would be involved in over the next 45-odd years, I would have probably ordered the men in white coats. 

I was the library assistant when I joined. In those days, we had a much smaller staff in the Library and Museum, but I hadn’t realised at the time that it was a very dynastic set-up. The then-librarian and curator was retiring 15 months after I joined, the assistant librarian would be taking over, and they were looking for somebody who was a potential successor to him. I had a wonderful 12 years where I could just open cupboards and drawers, look at files and read up on subjects. Then, in 1983, my mentor retired and I was appointed as the librarian and curator. 

 How did your job evolve in the 1980s?

As things began to change in Freemasonry, particularly changing public attitudes and growing interest by the press, we quickly realised that if we were going to better inform the public about Freemasonry, then the Library and Museum needed to have a key role. We opened up to the public in 1985 and held an exhibition in 1986. We went from being a very small group that maybe saw 7,000 or 8,000 visitors a year to managing about 28,000 to 30,000 visitors a year. 

We are now regarded as a major cultural asset, as we have been roughly on this same site since 1776 – and there has been a reluctance to throw things out. We have probably got the best continuous archive in the country, and that is a huge resource for people who are interested in the history of ideas, social history and cultural history.

‘I’ve been lucky. As a retiree, I can say now that I have been one of those very fortunate people who has been paid a salary for doing a hobby’

Why did the Library and Museum decide to open up to the public?

The publication of The Brotherhood by Stephen Knight in 1984 was a real watershed moment for us. Up to that point, from the start of the Second World War, we had gradually withdrawn from society and didn’t engage with the media. In a sense, we shot ourselves in the foot; we allowed a mythology to grow, which hadn’t really been an issue before in this country. We had a pretty heavy time in the 1980s and right into the 1990s, when we were oftentimes a general whipping boy for the ills of society. 

Because of the fact that I had gone out to communicate on behalf of the library, I suddenly found I was being drawn more into what is now called the Openness Policy, and I was made Grand Lodge spokesman, along with the Grand Secretary, in 1985. My introduction into the world of communication was an interview with John Humphrys, who wanted to interview somebody from Freemasonry on the Today programme. I remember it was at 7:05 in the morning, which is not my best time. I think it was something to do with the police, and I was really pushed into the deep end – there was so much going on at that time. 

Does communicating with the press require a different skill set to that of a historian? 

Yes and no. I was able to communicate as a result of things that happened to me during my life. I attended choir school, where we were taught how to use the voice and how to get as much out of the voice as possible. When I got involved in communications at Grand Lodge, I started to go out talking. It’s not exactly a skill – you can’t learn it. It’s something that you have inside you and that is brought out. When dealing with the media and being a spokesman, I just regarded it as being another way of telling people what we are doing.

In the late 1990s, we had a change of Grand Secretary, and it was an opportunity to do something that hadn’t been done for a couple of generations, which was to look at how the office was structured. I was doing more and more of what I would now call the communications side, and I didn’t want the Library and Museum to suffer. When I was asked if I would formally set up a communications department I said yes, but added that I couldn’t run the Library and Museum as well. 

We advertised for somebody to come in for the position at the Library and Museum, with the title changed to ‘director’. We were fortunate to get Diane Clements, who did a fantastic job establishing the systems as they are now. I set up the communications department and was its director for 10 years from 1999. 

By 2008, we had changed Grand Secretary and I was getting a bit stale in the role. Nigel Brown, who came in as Grand Secretary, had some expertise in communications and took it back into the private office, which I was very happy about.

‘The Pro Grand Master said at the end of 2017 that we have rebuilt confidence and pride in masonry at the grass-roots level over the past 30 years. That is a huge transformation’

What came after the communications department?

I think it was realised that I was an asset, so it was determined that I should have a job that would keep me around for when they needed to tap into my brain. In 2008, I became Director of Special Projects. I basically was the corporate memory at Grand Lodge. It is one of those roles that myself and the Deputy Grand Secretary Graham Redman do. We complement each other – there are areas I don’t know much about and he does, and vice versa. I formally dropped off the paid staff at the end of April, and Graham is continuing, but they’re still going to be benefiting from what’s in my brain after I cease formal employment.

As well as getting involved in whatever projects happen to turn up from time to time, I have been running the Grand Chancellor’s office. I had been involved with the External Relations Committee since the late 1980s and have done a lot of travelling abroad. People very kindly invited me over to talk about masonic groups, so I built up a network of contacts. The Grand Chancellor needed a staff member, so they introduced the office of Assistant Grand Chancellor, of which I was the first. Two years ago, I was promoted to Deputy Grand Chancellor, which I will continue to be, although I won’t be in the office.

As you retire, what state do you feel you’ve left Freemasonry in?

One of the most difficult parts of the Openness Policy, from back in its early days in 1984, was firstly persuading members that they could talk about Freemasonry, and secondly giving them the tools to talk about it. We had been quiet for so long, people had lost the habit of talking about it. There was a huge educational process that had to go on within the organisation to say, ‘yes, it is all right to talk about Freemasonry, but make sure you are sending out the right messages.’

I think the dividends of that approach came through last year in the Tercentenary celebrations – local media and local people were very positive about Freemasonry because members were very happy to talk about it. The Pro Grand Master said at the end of 2017 that we have rebuilt confidence and pride in masonry at the grass-roots level over the past 30 years. That is a huge transformation, and it has been fascinating to be involved in the process. Freemasonry has a far more positive future now than in, say, 1999 or 2000. If you’d asked me then, I would have been fairly pessimistic, but the things that have been done since then have really made a difference.

What is your proudest achievement?

As well as being part of the Openness Policy, I’m most proud of transforming the Library and Museum into a charitable trust, combined with working with academia to rebuild our connections there. I’ve been lucky. As a retiree, I can say now that I have been one of those very fortunate people who has been paid a salary for doing a hobby. I’ve had the most extraordinary opportunities to meet people who I couldn’t imagine meeting in other circumstances. I’ve been able to travel. I’ve made some very good friendships around the world. It’s just been fun.

Published in UGLE

With 2018 marking the 150th anniversary of the initiation of Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, into Freemasonry, John Hamill reflects on why the ceremony happened in Sweden

In late 1868, HRH Prince Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, had a very busy two days while on a private visit to Sweden, where King Charles XV was Grand Master of the Swedish Order of Freemasons, a progressive system of eleven degrees. 

The eldest son of Queen Victoria and future King Edward VII received the first six degrees of the Swedish Rite on 20 December. He received the remaining four degrees on 21 December, after which he was received into the eleventh and highest degree of Knight Commander of the Red Cross, which is also a civil honour, making him a Knight Commander of the Order of King Charles XIII. The prince was to always wear the collarette and jewel of that dual honour with his masonic regalia.

The question has been asked as to why the Prince of Wales entered Freemasonry abroad. The wits of the day suggested it was because he was in awe of his mother, Queen Victoria, who, they claimed, was not well disposed towards Freemasonry. However, this does not square with the fact that she was royal patron of the then-three national masonic charities. 

More likely, it would have been a question of protocol, as well as a wish not to have to make the decision as to which lodge and which senior brother should have the honour of initiating the heir to the throne. Those problems were solved in Sweden, where the ceremonies were conducted by that country’s king and crown prince.

FOLLOWING PROTOCOL

News of the event was sent to England, and it was unanimously agreed that the prince should be appointed a Past Grand Master, which resolved any protocol problems and was in line with what had happened since 1767 to members of the royal family who joined the Craft. As a precaution, as few of the then-senior members of Grand Lodge were conversant with the Swedish degrees, a request was made to Sweden for English translations of the first three degrees of their system, which was quickly answered and showed that they had the same basic import as the English equivalents.

At the Quarterly Communication held on 1 December 1869, the Prince of Wales was received, proclaimed and welcomed as Past Grand Master. In his response to his welcome from the Grand Master, the Earl of Zetland, the prince said that he felt it ‘a deep honour to be there that day and to be admitted into the Grand Lodge of England’. He had already intimated that he intended to join lodges in England and was to be Master of four lodges and a founder and first Master of three new lodges. 

‘The presence of the prince at the head of Freemasonry gave it a newfound respectability and social cachet’

AN ENTHUSIASTIC MASON

In 1874, the Grand Master, Lord Ripon, suddenly announced his resignation, as he had converted to Roman Catholicism. While Ripon had no doubts as to the compatibility of Freemasonry and his faith, the pope had recently issued an encyclical against Freemasonry, so Ripon felt he could not continue as an active Freemason. 

What could have been a crisis for Grand Lodge was quickly averted by the Deputy Grand Master, Lord Carnarvon, who suggested that the Prince of Wales be approached to stand for election. With the prince readily agreeing, the Annual Investiture was held at the Royal Albert Hall on 28 April 1875 to enable as many brethren as possible (over 7,000) to see the Prince of Wales installed as Grand Master. It was an office he was to be annually re-elected to until he came to the throne in 1901.

The prince was an enthusiastic mason. As Grand Master, he was ex officio First Grand Principal in the Royal Arch. He was Grand Master of the Mark Degree 1886–1901; Grand Master of the Knights Templar 1873–1901; and became 33rd Degree and Grand Patron of the Ancient and Accepted Rite. He was also Grand Patron of the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland.

The prince also helped to bring two of his brothers, and his son, into the Craft. The prince was also a great publicist for Freemasonry. When asked to lay the foundation stones of new buildings and other public structures, he would usually insist that it be done with masonic ceremonies in full view of the public. As Prince of Wales he undertook a number of major overseas tours – notably to India and North America – and wherever he went he ensured that he had contact with the local Freemasons. 

If it was not possible to attend a formal meeting, the prince ensured that he met groups of local brethren in a social setting, particularly in those areas where English lodges were meeting. As a result of his visits, there was a significant increase in the number of lodges in what were then parts of the British Empire.

At home, the presence of the prince at the head of Freemasonry gave it a newfound respectability and social cachet. During the prince’s 26 years as Grand Master, the number of lodges almost doubled, and membership was seen as a mark of the brethren’s standing in their local communities.

On coming to the throne in 1901, Albert Edward ceased active participation in Freemasonry and took the title of Protector of the Craft, maintaining an interest in its activities until his death in 1910.

Letters to the Editor - NO. 42 SUMMER 2018

Under the English Constitution

Sir,

Although Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, had been initiated into the Swedish Order of Freemasons in 1868 (John Hamill, summer 2018 edition of Freemasonry Today), it was not until 1871 that he attended an English lodge – Jerusalem Lodge, No. 197 – at the centenary celebrations presided over by the Master Sir Charles Hutton Gregory, Past President of the Institute of Civil Engineers.

This was reported in the Daily News of 1 March: ‘Friday, the 24 February, will be henceforth a memorable day in the annals of Modern Freemasonry, for it marks the introduction of the Heir to the English Crown to one of those private “Lodges”, which are so numerous as to form a not unimportant item in the social life of the country… 

‘His Royal Highness wisely selected a Centenary Festival as the occasion of his first visit to a private Masonic gathering, and, quite as wisely, chose a Lodge which has the reputation of picking out men of scientific attainment or versatile accomplishments as its Members.’

A Centenary Jewel was designed to mark the occasion when the Prince was present as an Honorary Member of the Lodge, but, to the chagrin of the lodge, this did not conform to the design regulations for Centenary Jewels, and it was not until 1884 that these constraints were circumnavigated by designating the Jewel as ‘Distinctive’ rather than ‘Centenary’.

Following this diplomatic breakthrough, a Warrant dated 28 April 1884, signed by the Prince of Wales, then Grand Master, authorised present and future Master Masons of Jerusalem Lodge to wear a Distinctive Jewel to mark ‘our first visit to a Lodge under the English Constitution…’ and ‘as a further and especial mark of our favour we permit and authorise the said Jewel to be surmounted by a representation of our Royal Coronet in Gold’.

Dr Jonathan Dowson, Jerusalem Lodge, No. 197, London

Published in Features

A renewal  of pride

For Director of Special Projects John Hamill, the Tercentenary celebrations have been an opportunity to reflect on the past, enjoy the present and plan for the future

One thing that I hope will come through to readers of this special souvenir edition of Freemasonry Today is that not only were the celebrations successful, but also that the brethren, their families and friends who attended them had a great deal of enjoyment in taking part – whether it was at the dramatic performance and ceremonial at the Royal Albert Hall or one of the many smaller local events.

The activities that took place around the country and in our Districts overseas were worthy of such a notable anniversary. But the celebrations were not limited to our own members. Many of our sister Grand Lodges around the world regarded the anniversary not just as being the Tercentenary of the Grand Lodge of England, but also the Tercentenary of the start of the organised, regular Freemasonry of which they now form a part.

Throughout the year there was a steady stream of visitors from other Grand Lodges who came to Freemasons’ Hall in London, simply to be here during a very special year and to say thank you to the ‘Mother Grand Lodge’.

PLACE FOR HUMOUR

Sometimes we take ourselves a little too seriously and forget that Freemasonry is to be enjoyed. We take great pride in our work and carry it out with dignity and decorum, but even within the confines of a lodge meeting there are times when humour and gentle banter has its place.

We should keep in mind that part of the Address to the Brethren, given at each Installation meeting, in which we are reminded that we should ‘unite in the Grand Design of being happy and communicating happiness’. A great deal of happiness was communicated during the Tercentenary celebrations. That is something we should preserve and build on in the future.

When attending major celebrations as Pro Grand Master, the late Lord Farnham would often say that there were three things we should do at special anniversaries: reflect on the past, celebrate the present and plan for the future. Were he still with us, I think he would agree that we have followed his wish list during the Tercentenary year.

A RICH HISTORY

During the lead-up to the celebrations, we certainly reflected on the past. The history conference in Cambridge organised by Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, in September 2016; the new exhibition gallery at the Library and Museum in London; the splendid celebratory book The Treasures of English Freemasonry 1717 – 2017 and the amazing performance at the Royal Albert Hall will all be permanent records of that reflection. To this we should add the exhibitions that were mounted in masonic premises and public museums around the country, and the many talks given by masonic historians.

We celebrated in style, as the events recorded in this issue show. Our grateful thanks should go to everyone at both national and local levels who put so much work into making the celebrations a success. It was hard and, at times, exhausting work, but not without its moments and well worth the effort given the obvious enjoyment of those who attended.

As we reflected on our past, so we looked forward, too. The Membership Focus Group and its successor the Improvement Delivery Group, the University Lodges Scheme and the growing network of young masons groups across the country are all focused on the future.

As the Pro Grand Master said in his review of the year in December, we can now move forward from here with enormous self-belief. One of the intangibles that the Tercentenary celebrations has produced is a renewal of pride in Freemasonry among the members. These are all things that we should foster and build on so future generations can enjoy Freemasonry, as we and our predecessors have done.

‘The activities that took place around the country were worthy of such a notable anniversary’

Published in Features
Tuesday, 23 January 2018 12:13

1717 and all that

Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the world’s premier Masonic research lodge, is hosting an exciting and historic event at Freemasons’ Hall on Thursday 15 February 2018 to discuss differing perspectives on the foundation of the world’s first Grand Lodge

A debate, chaired by Professor Aubrey Newman, will commence at 2pm between UGLE’s Deputy Grand Chancellor John Hamill and Dr Ric Berman on the one hand, and Professors Andrew Prescott and Susan Sommers on the other.

The former will argue that the first Grand Lodge came into formal existence on 24 June 1717, while the latter will challenge the established view by arguing that recently examined evidence puts that date four years later on 24 June 1721 and that further professional research needs to be carried out.

The members of each team will have defined time slots during which to present their respective arguments, followed by an open discussion for the fielding of questions from the audience.

This unique event is expected to attract an exciting mix of attendees from around the world to enjoy the historic revelations on both sides.

Attendance at the Symposium is free and to register your interest, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – stating your name, number of seats, constitution, lodge name and number or 'none'.

Quarterly Communication

13 December 2017 
A speech by VW Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill, Deputy Grand Chancellor

GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, after a two-year break, I propose to jump-start this presentation by harking back to the Act of Union between the Antients’ and the Moderns’ Grand Lodges, Article III of which provided:

There shall be the most perfect unity of obligation, of discipline, of working the Lodges, of making, passing and raising, instructing and clothing Brothers; so that but one pure unsullied system, according to the genuine landmarks, laws and traditions of the Craft, shall be maintained, upheld and practised, throughout the Masonic World, from the day and date of the said union until time shall be no more.

In order to effect this, the Act provided for the setting up of a Lodge of Reconciliation, consisting of nine worthy Brethren from each of the former Grand Lodges, who were charged initially with settling obligations and subsequently with settling the forms of the openings and closings and the ceremonies, of the three Degrees of Craft Masonry.

At a Special Communication of the Grand Lodge at Freemasons’ Hall on Monday 20 June 1816,

The MW Grand Master stated that he had convened this special Grand Lodge that the Lodge of Reconciliation might exhibit and explain to the Brethren the result of their arrangement. That it was not His Royal Highness’s intention that any discussion should this day take place as to those arrangements; but that at the Quarterly Communication on the 5th of next month he should submit them for the opinion and sanction of the Grand Lodge, so that the Brethren might in the interim have an opportunity of giving them due consideration.

The Officers and Members of the Lodge of Reconciliation then opened a lodge in the first, second and third degrees successively and exhibited the ceremonies of initiating, passing and raising a Mason as proposed by them for general adoption and practice in the Craft.

At the June Quarterly Communication just over two weeks later,

The minutes of the Grand Lodge on the 20th of May last, when the ceremonies and practices recommended by the Lodge of Reconciliation were exhibited and explained, were read, and alterations on two points, the third degree, having been resolved upon. The several ceremonies recommended were approved and confirmed.

I have to admit that I am much taken by the opening words of the Report of the Board of General Purposes:

The Board of General Purposes have to report that during the present quarter there has scarcely arisen anything of importance for them to report upon to the Grand Lodge. (Happy days)

JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, like many special Masonic Committees before and after it, the Lodge of Reconciliation went a great deal further than its original brief of settling the form of the obligations and openings and closings. Before the Union, in both Grand Lodges, the actual ceremonies were very brief: in essence the candidate was introduced, took an obligation and had the signs, words and token of the degree conferred upon him. The manner of instructing him in the principles, tenets, history and symbolism of the Craft was by means of catechetical lectures, normally worked at table. The Lodge of Reconciliation greatly extended the simple ceremonies by including material from the catechetical lectures which, sadly, gradually dropped out of use excerpt in the Emulation Lodge of Improvement where sections of them are worked every Friday evening during the Masonic season. I say sadly because the lectures contain a wealth of information which provides answers to many of the questions that brethren regularly raise about our ritual and practices.

The original aim of establishing perfect unanimity of working was never achieved, for the simple reason that Grand Lodge would not allow the revised ritual to be written down or printed in any form. The Lodge of Reconciliation, once its work was agreed, was continued in being to provide weekly demonstrations of the new system, to which lodges were invited to send representatives. You can imagine, brethren, what happened. The only means of transport to London in those days was by foot, horse, carriage or water. Brethren from the North, the West and Wales would travel for days to get to London, see the ceremonies demonstrated perhaps twice and then irritated the heck out of their companions in the coach travelling home muttering under their breaths to try and remember what they had seen and heard! Arriving home they would call together their brethren and demonstrate to them what they thought they had seen in London. This method of promulgation combined with an unwillingness to give up cherished local traditions has resulted in the richness and variety of working under our constitution, which makes visiting all the more interesting for us.     

GFR: At the September Quarterly Communication, RW Bro William Williams, the Provincial Grand Master for Dorset addressed the Grand Lodge and stated that he had been informed that at the meeting of the General Committee held on the 21st of August last (at which he was not present) a Brother whom he now saw in the Grand Lodge had there made against him a charge of the most grave and serious nature, and of which charge if he were guilty he declared that he felt himself unworthy of the name of a Mason and that he ought never to be permitted again to enter within the walls of a Lodge, but feeling himself properly innocent of the crime charged against him, he called upon that Brother now to state it, and he implored the Grand Lodge to allow a Special Committee to be immediately appointed for the purpose of enquiring into its truth or falsehood. 

W Bro Charles Bonner then rose and stated that he had at the General Committee mentioned his intention of preferring a charge against the Provincial Grand Master for Dorset for violating his obligation as a Master Mason and which charge he was ready to prove before any Committee the Grand Lodge might think proper to appoint; Whereupon after much discussion as to the necessity and propriety of appointing a Special Committee,

It was resolved that a Special Committee consisting of the actual Masters of the 15 senior lodges now present be nominated to investigate such charge to be preferred by Brother Bonner against Brother Williams.

JMH: William Williams was one of the leading members of the small group of Masonic advisers working with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Sussex, to ensure that the Union of the two Grand Lodges succeeded and to manage the necessary changes it brought about. A man of integrity in response to Bonner’s call for an enquiry he “solicited a Special Committee, because being himself a member of the Board of General Purposes he was unwilling that they should investigate the charge lest it might be imagined from his being a  member there should exist even the slightest tendency to look partially towards him; he knew there could not be any fair ground for such an opinion, but he was still anxious to  avoid any thing that could give even a colour for such a thought”. Those with long memories will remember our having referred to Brother Bonner on a previous occasion when he fomented unnecessary problems within Grand Lodge!     

GFR: At a Special meeting in October the Committee reported to Grand Lodge. It gave Bro Williams a clean bill of health, feeling it appropriate not to let the matter go “without subjoining to their report a few observations.” The observations start:

When your Committee assert that not a shadow of proof was adduced in support of one of the most serious charges that was ever preferred by one mason against another and that the proceedings which they had the pain of witnessing exhibited so far as Brother Bonnor was concerned in them nothing short of a disgusting mockery of the forms of justice the Grand Lodge will judge with what mixed feelings of astonishment, regret and indignation your Committee were impressed when they found themselves compelled by a general conviction of the futility of the charge to impute it solely to a base attempt of the part of Brother Bonnor to assail in the tenderist point the fair character of a Brother mason.

They didn’t mince their words in those days – and it would be greedy of me not to leave to my colleague the opportunity to regale you with some more of their remarks.

JMH: Plain speaking it certainly was! The Committee went on to question the sanity of Bonner adding “unfortunately, however, for Brother Bonner his poisoned shafts have recoiled upon himself” adding that “the only effect of his charge has been to manifest in his own conduct clear and abundant proof of the commission of the very crime which he has in vain imputed to another”. They then drew Grand Lodge’s attention to Bonner’s previous behaviour stating that “They should have hoped that Brother Bonner’s recollection of his own prior and recorded delinquencies and a grateful sense of the indulgence of the Grand Lodge in restoring him to the participation of those privileges which he had so justly forfeited  by his misconduct would have operated as a salutary check upon the un-masonic feelings the indulgence of which has a second time led to his disgrace …”.      

GFR: At the December Quarterly Communication, Bro Bonner was “introduced between two Grand Stewards”, made a long statement disclaiming any intention to injure the character of Bro William Williams, coupled with an apology to the Grand Master and Grand Lodge, and withdrew while the matter was debated.  Nevertheless, it was resolved

That the original offence of Brother Bonner remains unanswered, but that in consideration of his having publicly acknowledged his error, and made an ample apology to the MW Grand Master to the Provincial GM for Dorset and to the Brethren at large, the Grand Lodge do not feel inclined to visit his misconduct with the sentence of expulsion; in order however to mark their displeasure and also their solicitude for the dignity and tranquillity of the Craft do deprive him of his insignia as a Grand Officer, and of all rights derived therefrom, allowing him to remain in possession of his masonic privileges.

and

That the preceding resolution respecting Brother Bonner be communicated to the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland.

JMH: When the Minutes of the December meeting were put for confirmation on 5th March 1817 they were passed with the exception of the sentences passed on Bonner. It was agreed not to report the matter to Ireland and Scotland but his being deprived of his Grand Rank, after a paper from him had been read out, was again put to the vote and “passed in the affirmative by a very large majority”.

 ______

GFR: At the Quarterly Communication of 1 March 1916, after the re-election of the Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master announced three special appointments to Grand Rank. One was the representative of another Grand Lodge at the United Grand Lodge of England, but the other two were Brethren at that time interned respectively in Holland and Germany.

The full justification for the latter two appointments was made clear in the Report of the Board of General Purposes.  W Bro Commodore Wilfred Henderson, RN, appointed a Past Senior Grand Deacon, had been instrumental in the formation of a Lodge under the Grand East of the Netherlands for naval officers and men interned at Gröningen. W Bro Percy Hull, appointed Past Deputy Grand Organist, had rendered great service to the English Brethren interned in the civilian camp at Rühleben, Spandau.

JMH: Despite its horrors, the First World War has sometimes been characterised as the last “gentleman’s war” because of the way in which it was conducted and the honourable treatment accorded to prisoners of war, be they service personnel or civilians. As we reported on a previous occasion 112 Masonic civilian prisoners of war interned at Ruheleben had sent Christmas greetings to Grand Lodge in 1914. They were suffering privations in 1916 and 1917 due to food rationing in Germany and were sustained by parcels funded by brethren in England and delivered through diplomatic channels and by the Red Cross. As we shall hear in a moment despite those privations they did not forget the bi-centenary celebrations of Grand Lodge in 1917. The Lodge for whose formation Commodore Henderson was honoured was the Gastvrijheid Lodge consecrated in May 1915 by the  Grand East of the Netherlands amongst members of the Royal Naval Division interned at Groningen. It was to be joined in 1918 by a second Lodge, the Willem van Oranje Lodge, again consecrated amongst interned British service personnel by the Grand East of the Netherlands. After the end of the war both lodges transferred to England and became Nos. 3970 and 3976 on the register of Grand Lodge.        

GFR: The violent anti-German sentiments expressed in December 1915, by W Bro Col. Charles Cassal, PDepGSwdB, resurfaced at this meeting. The Board of General Purposes had considered Col. Cassal’s proposals put forward at the previous Communication, and had produced a more moderate form of words to deal with the relationship between English Masons and those under Grand Lodges in Germany and its allies, both during and after the War. The Colonel, however, took exception to a part of the Board’s statement and – such was the feeling in Grand Lodge – succeeded in having that part referred back to the Board.  Nevertheless the Board substantially got its way over the resolution that arose from its report.

After the rather ill-natured atmosphere and debate in March, the June Communication was altogether more amicable. After the adoption of the Minutes, the Deputy Grand Master delivered a statement:

I am desired by the MW Grand Master to state that, having regard to the unprecedented character of the present War and the intense feelings it has aroused, which show no sign of abatement, the Grand Master has decided that, during its progress and until such time after the treaty of peace has been signed as in the future he may determine, there shall be no intercourse or exchange of representatives between the United Grand Lodge of England and Grand Lodges in enemy Countries. and that such Grand Lodges shall be omitted during that period from the list of bodies in the "Masonic Year Book" recognised as in association with this Grand Lodge.

This appears to have spiked the guns of Bro Cassal, because after the adoption of the Board’s Report had been moved a few minutes later, but before the vote had been taken, he rose to address Grand Lodge – at his usual length – to say, among other things:

I came here… intending, and I informed the General Committee of Grand Lodge of my intention, to move an amendment in the shape of a refere; but, having heard the gracious message of the MW Grand Master, I consider that the position of affairs is entirely altered, and… it is not necessary for me to take up the time of Grand Lodge in criticising the Report of the Board of General Purposes as I had intended to do with a good deal of severity.

JMH: Despite his promise, Brother Cassal, like Brother Bonner one hundred years before him, did take up Grand Lodge’s time with another windy speech which, happily made no difference when the resolution was put. The atmosphere at the March Communication, in which the debate was not only ill-natured but at times un-masonic, was symptomatic of the great wave of anti – German feeling then sweeping the nation at that time, which ultimately led even to HM King George V, in 1917, changing his dynasty’s name to Windsor and other members of the family dropping their German titles and accepting English peerages.

One possible reason for the more subdued meeting in June was the fact that news had reached England that Field Marshal Earl Kitchener, KG, on a mission to Russia, had perished with his staff officers and the Captain and crew of HMS Hampshire when it was torpedoed by the Germans two days before the Quarterly Communication. Kitchener had been a very active Freemason holding office successively as District Grand Master for Egypt and the Sudan and for the Punjab.

GFR: It was at this meeting that amendments to the Book of Constitutions were brought forward to ensure the representation of Provincial Brethren on the Board of General Purposes.

JMH: The lack of Provincial representation “in the counsels of the Craft” had become a very sore point. Whilst there might have been some justification in the past for selecting only London Past Masters, because of their ability to attend Board meetings, the coming of the railway network had made London much more accessible to Provincial Brethren. The new Board was to consist of ex officio members, 8 members appointed by the Grand Master, 12 elected by London and 12 elected by the Provinces.

GFR: In September much of the time of Grand Lodge was taken up with discussion of the new Entertainments tax, which had come like “a bolt from the blue” in the Finance (New Duties) Act 1916.  The Board’s Report states:

The Commissioners [of Customs] hold that the duty can be claimed in all cases where musical or other entertainments, other than the making of speeches, follow Masonic dinners, though no specific or separate charge is made for admission, and no fee paid to the entertainers. Concerning the basis on which the duty would be assessed with the least inconvenience, the Commissioners have not yet communicated their intentions; and the Board expresses the hope that they will draw up a form of return to enable Secretaries of Lodges to give the information required for the assessment of the duty.

and the President by way of amplification said:

I was strongly in the belief, and even more strongly in the hope, that the claim would prove unsubstantial, and would break down when fairly examined. I think I have at least as intimate an acquaintance with the ordinary everyday opinion of Parliament as any Brother present, and I knew, and I am still of the same opinion, that not a single Member of the House of Commons dreamed that this enactment could possibly apply to such gatherings as ours. I think, moreover, that….  the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and even the Commissioners of Customs themselves, had no idea when this clause was originally drafted that it would have so wide a sweep. But the Commissioners of Customs – and Brethren, the way of the tax-gatherer is hard, especially for those who have to pay him – the Commissioners discovered in the Act something that went far beyond what Parliament intended, but which it is submitted went no farther than Parliament enacted….

I regret to say that the opinion of … distinguished Counsel upon the case laid before them, and after considering the Act of Parliament, was directly adverse to our hope that we did not come within the tax. One point they suggested… that we should have an interview on the matter with the Commissioners of Customs before taking any further steps. That interview was held with the Commissioners, who were extremely polite, but all the same they made it perfectly clear that they intended to have the money.

JMH: In December the President of the Board of General Purposes was able to report that further discussions had been had with the Commissioners of Customs and Excise and agreement had been reached that provided any entertainment at a festive board was impromptu and not pre-arranged it would not be taxable. The Entertainment Tax remained operable until it was withdrawn in 1960 and Grand Lodge had from time to time to remind brethren of its existence.

GFR: The Quarterly Communication in December was notable for a visit, after Grand Lodge had opened, from the Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Connaught, newly returned from the Dominion of Canada.  After he had delivered a short speech and invested the President of the Board of Benevolence, the first verse of the National Anthem was sung and the Grand Master retired in procession.

The Board’s Report contained a paragraph about the introduction of musical items into the ceremonies. And after the Report had been adopted the President moved the following resolution:

That Grand Lodge is of opinion that the introduction of instrumental or vocal music during Masonic Ceremonies is not per se objectionable, but that, in regard to the latter, it is essential that the words are strictly in accord with Masonic principles, practices and procedure; that they are not identified with an exclusive form of religious worship; and that they are submitted before use to the Grand Secretary for approval by the Grand Master…. in order to secure that these conditions, preventing an innovation in the Body of Masonry, are strictly adhered to.

Before the resolution could be seconded, Bro George Rankin, PAGDC, rose to propose an amendment

That Grand Lodge is of opinion that the introduction of instrumental music during Masonic ceremonies is not per se objectionable, but it still adheres to its historic desire for more rather than less uniformity in the ritual of Freemasonry. Grand Lodge cannot therefore consent to the insertion of hymns or anthems or other foreign matter into the body of the ceremonies.

As I have a remote connection with Bro Rankin, I will leave it to my colleague to add his comment on this matter.

JMH: Brother Rankin as well as being a member of the Board of General Purposes was also the Senior Member of the Committee of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement. In addition to ambushing the President of the Board by proposing an amendment without notice, he appears to have got the wrong end of the stick! The motion before Grand Lodge was to control the type of hymns and anthems used during ceremonies so that the universality of the Craft would not be endangered. Rankin seems to have believed that the Board was innovating in matters of ritual and trying to introduce new matters into the ceremonies. His amendment was put to the vote and lost.

GFR: The same meeting was also notable for a motion to transfer the hearing of appeals in disciplinary matters from Grand Lodge to a “Judicial Committee of Grand Lodge”; and for a motion by W Bro Freke Palmer (a Metropolitan magistrate) to amend the Book of Constitutions to limit the number of candidates for any one degree to two on any one occasion.

JMH: Both propositions were held over for future discussions resulting in much of Grand Lodge’s time being consumed with the hearing in great details of appeals against decisions by higher authority. In the debate on limiting the number of candidates for any one degree the Provincial Grand Master for Devonshire gave some incredible statistics, stating of one Lodge in his Province “at one meeting there were 2 initiations, 11 passings and 8 raisings; at the next meeting there were 3 initiations, 11 passings and 8 raisings; and at the next meeting 4 initiations,  9 passings and 9 raisings.” 

GFR: In March 1917 Bro Freke Palmer returned to the adjourned motion.  Much debate ensued, in the course of which amendments were proposed by several Brethren, including our old friend Col. Cassal, but in the end Bro Palmer’s motion was successful and the Book of Constitutions was amended. the Rule surviving, except for its final sentence, to the present day in the form of Rule 168.

JMH: No doubt the passing of the motion was assisted by comments from the President of the Board who stated that one Lodge which he described as having an ordinary membership of 120 in 1916 performed 83 initiations, 86 passings and 82 raisings.

The motion to remove the appeals procedure from Grand Lodge to a Committee was effectively kicked into touch and was not finally achieved until 1963. 

GFR: In June, the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, making his first appearance in Grand Lodge for several years, was received with cheers, when he rose at the beginning of the meeting to address the Brethren:

Brethren,

I am extremely fortunate in having this opportunity of visiting Grand Lodge, and I feel that I am doubly and trebly fortunate in being able to carry away with me as I shall, the recollection of your more than kind and generous greeting. Believe me, it is not without considerable diffidence that I have come here….  But I want to thank you with all my heart for having continued to me that friendship and goodwill and kindness to which I owe so much. My resignation was in the hands of the MW Grand Master after the first few months of the war, and I fully expected that the Grand Master would accept it. But he has been pleased to re-appoint me now on three occasions, and that he has done so can only be due to the fact that it is believed to be your wish that I should continue. (Cheers).

Before the Report of the Board of General Purposes was taken, Lord Ampthill congratulated its President on the knighthood he had recently received.

The Board’s Report itself may fairly be said to be packed full of goodies:

After a general exhortation to the Craft to exercise due economy and even abstinence in those troubled times, there was a tribute to the Grand Secretary, Sir Edward Letchworth – the first of the great Grand Secretaries – who had just completed a quarter of a century’s service in that office.

The Report also signalled several changes to the Book of Constitutions which still survive today: the placing of a positive duty on the Master of a Lodge to exercise a casting vote on any equality of voting in a Lodge; the introduction of a Rule prohibiting a Lodge from passing or raising a Brother from another Lodge except at the written request of that Lodge; and the conferment on the Grand Master of the power to form Lodges abroad not under Districts into Groups under what are now known as Grand Inspectors.

JMH: The President of the Board of General Purposes, Brother Alfred Robins, was a major figure in the world of journalism and had received his knighthood for services to the press. As a young Past Master he had regularly raised questions in Grand Lodge, leading to his being elected to the Board of General Purposes. He worked untiringly for Grand Lodge both at home and overseas and did much to publicise the Craft and to build good relations with the press. It was due to his persistence that we are meeting here today as he skilfully managed both the financing and the construction of the present Freemasons’ Hall.

My co-presenter rightly characterises Sir Edward Letchworth as the first of the great Grand Secretaries. A solicitor by profession, though he practised only for a short time having private means, he had been very involved in the growing militia movement, which brought him to the attention of the then Prince of Wales and other courtiers. He also encountered the Prince of Wales in Freemasonry and it was on the latter’s suggestion that he was offered the Grand Secretaryship in 1892 when Col Shadwell Clerke unexpectedly died. Although approaching 60 when appointed he took to the office with relish and quickly established a reputation for his Masonic knowledge and his diplomatic skills. As Grand Secretary he was responsible for the administration of London Freemasonry, then expanding greatly. Were there a Guinness Book of Masonic records he would have earned a place as during his 25 years in office he consecrated nearly 500 lodges and chapters. Much respected and held in affection by the many he came into contact with, he died a few short months after his retirement in 1917 to universal regret.

GFR: Grand Lodge assembled for an Especial Meeting at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 23 June to celebrate the Bi-Centenary of the first Grand Lodge.  After Grand Lodge had been opened in due form by the Deputy Grand Master, the Grand Master was received, and after he had been saluted he announced an exchange of telegrams with his Majesty King George V:

Eight thousand Masons are assembling in the Albert Hall this day to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of British Freemasonry in England. I desire on their behalf to take this opportunity of renewing our expressions of loyalty and devotion to your Throne and Person, and to wish you long life and happiness. We pray that victory may crown your arms, and that a just and lasting peace may be the result (Signed) Arthur, Grand Master.

The King had replied:

I have received with much satisfaction the message which you, as Grand Master, have conveyed to me from 8,000 Freemasons, who to day celebrate the 200th Anniversary of British Freemasonry in England. Please thank them most heartily in my name. The traditional loyalty of British Freemasons is a force upon which the Sovereign of this country has ever reckoned, and has been to me a proud memory during the anxious years through which we are passing. (Signed) George, R. & I.

The following morning a service was held in the same venue, with the Lessons being read by the Deputy Grand Master and the Grand Secretary, and an Address by the Bishop of Birmingham, Grand Chaplain. At the conclusion the National Anthem was sung in full.

JMH: With no fire regulations and  no health and safety committees over 8,000 Brethren were able to attend the celebration of the Bi-centenary of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall, how different from modern times! In addition to representatives from the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland the attendance included senior representatives from Grand Lodges in the Empire and the United States of America, many of them being serving officers passing through London on their way to the front. Fortunately the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Connaught, who was serving as Commander in Chief in Canada was in London for an Imperial Council and was able to preside at both the special Grand Lodge and the service on the following day.

To mark the anniversary and the part played by the remaining three of the four Lodges who came together to form the Grand Lodge in 1717 the Grand Master announced that in future the collars of their officers would be distinguished by the addition of a central Garter blue stripe. The three Masters were called up and were invested by the Grand Master with their new collars.

Amongst the many greetings and congratulations which had been received was a beautifully illuminated address from the Brethren still held in the prisoner of war camp in Ruhleben, now preserved in the Grand Lodge archives, which the Grand Secretary read out and was met with cheers from the assembled brethren.

Had war not broken out in 1914 it had been the intention to have what the Grand Master described as “a great imperial celebration in London” to mark the bi-centenary of Grand Lodge. Many of those who spoke at the Royal Albert Hall lamented the fact that the war had prevented representatives from overseas, from both our own lodges and from sister Grand Lodges, from taking part in what should have been the largest representative gathering of Freemasons from around the world. It was to be another hundred years before that dream was achieved with our recent celebration of the tercentenary of the formation of Grand Lodge at which almost 150 sister Grand Lodges were represented. But that, as they say, is a story to be told on a future occasion, no doubt by Graham’s and my successors in December 2117!

Published in Speeches

We make a  difference

While the names may be forgotten, the contributions made by individual Freemasons to local communities live on. Director of Special Projects John Hamill celebrates their efforts

During the Tercentenary celebrations, both here and overseas, there have been many references in speeches, books and exhibitions to the famous individuals who have graced our fraternity over the last 300 years – monarchs, statesmen, senior members of the armed forces, musicians, artists, writers, actors, philosophers, great philanthropists and those who have distinguished themselves in the fields of science, invention, industry and commerce.

Some of these luminaries have made major contributions to the development of Freemasonry. Others have simply enjoyed the fellowship with their fellow members, seeing their lodge as a haven of peace in an often turbulent and stressful world. We rightly remember them and give them due praise.

What we often forget and rarely praise, however, is the central core of our membership, memories of whom fade within a generation. They may not have set the world alight but in their own quiet way they have kept Freemasonry alive; preserved its principles and tenets; and selflessly passed them over to the next generation. They have, almost unconsciously, followed these principles in their private and public lives, in the process making a difference to their communities.

SERVING THE COMMUNITY

One of the American Grand Masters speaking at the 275th anniversary of Grand Lodge in 1992 characterised Freemasons as ‘doers’ in society. With a strong sense of service, they tend also to be involved in other voluntary organisations, community groups and civic life. Their activities run the gamut of community life, and these groups would be all the poorer without them.

Easy claims to make, a critic might say, but can you prove them? One source of proof is those items in lodge rooms that we all see but rarely read: the honours boards listing Past Masters of lodges, particularly those dating back to Victorian times. On a number of occasions, I have been present in a Provincial masonic hall when the editor of the local paper was being entertained. While looking at the honours boards, they often said that the Past Masters listed represented the history of the town as they were also the civic leaders and those who had developed its economy – and these people were often represented in the names of the town’s streets, buildings and recreational spaces.

We are often asked by outsiders if Freemasonry is still relevant in today’s society. Our answer has always been that we certainly are. We live in an increasingly self-orientated society in which the individual appears more important than the community, and where public and private morality is in decline.

The principles and tenets of Freemasonry and our strong tradition of community service, therefore, have a real part to play in the future of society. Freemasonry as a body has no power to change, but we as individual Freemasons can make a difference in our communities, just as our forebears did in the past.

We have been celebrating the Tercentenary of an institution, but should not forget that this institution is made up of people. We should remember with pride what our forebears have done. Their names may be forgotten, but their service, and its results, survive. We have inherited a proud tradition and should now look to the future to ensure that those principles and tenets are carried forward.

‘The principles and tenets of Freemasonry and our strong tradition of community service have a real part to play in the future of society’

Published in Features
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