TalentAid celebrates first Olympian

 Earlier this year, the impact of the RMTGB’s TalentAid scheme was demonstrated when Lloyd Jones – a former beneficiary – took part in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games mixed ice dancing with his partner Pernelle Carron. 

Lloyd has been ice skating since the age of five. During the first few years he had weekly coaching sessions, and by age nine he was skating six days a week and competing – and winning – nationwide. 

At junior level, it became clear that Lloyd could develop his talent into a successful career; indeed, he was compared to Christopher Dean and received praise from leading figures in skating such as Robin Cousins, now a judge on ITV’s Dancing on Ice. At the age of sixteen, Lloyd took the decision to leave school and concentrate on his ice-dancing career. 

His family were keen to support him, but the costs of training, equipment and travel began to increase. His grandfather, a Freemason, provided some assistance and Lloyd received limited funding from various sports and skating organisations, but it was not enough to cover his essential costs. 

Lloyd began receiving support from the RMTGB in 2006, and for four years he received assistance towards coaching, skates, clothing and travel to ensure he could attend competitions and continue his career development. Once an established professional, Lloyd moved to France to partner with Pernelle and within a few years realised one of his ambitions by participating in Sochi. Lloyd said, 

‘I want to thank the Trust for the support I received when I was younger. It really helped me achieve my dream of competing at the Olympic Games.’

About TalentAid

During the past twelve years, the financial support the RMTGB has provided to young people with career ambitions in sport, music or the performing arts has enabled many to realise their potential. 

All applicants enter a competitive process and undergo a financial test, with around fifty receiving support each year. Successful applicants can expect to receive contributions towards the cost of equipment, travel or coaching expenses. 

For more details, go to www.rmtgb.org/talentaid

Published in RMTGB

In 1986 I was invited to join my brother to become a Freemason and a member of Grove Park Kent Lodge. During my tenure I have been fortunate and humbled to have been Master of the Lodge twice (1994 and 2001) as well as various other offices of which I am currently Lodge Secretary. As a mason I have been involved in much charitable work both masonic and non-masonic, as many of us are, however in 2012 my involvement in the charity sector took on a new meaning to me when I was elected to become the chair of the Jimmy Mizen Foundation. I would like to share a little of how this charity was formed and why it has had such an impact on my life.

Barry and Margaret Mizen lost their son Jimmy five years ago. He was only 16 when he was murdered by a 19-year-old during an unprovoked attack in a bakery in Lee, southeast London. It was a senseless crime that shocked the nation.

But the horrific nature of the attack is not the only reason that the crime is remembered. Almost the whole country, it seemed, was moved by the quiet dignity of Jimmy’s parents. In the immediate aftermath they spoke eloquently of their grief and love for their son, and about how their faith allowed them to feel empathy for the family of Jake Fahri, who was convicted of Jimmy’s murder.

They called for peace and forgiveness, not retaliation, and then they asked a listening Britain to make society more safe, courteous and fair. These seemingly instinctive remarks - and the courage the Mizens showed at a time of great pain - meant that the horrific crime has had a positive legacy.

Barry and Margaret, devout Catholics and parents to eight other children, have since become high-profile campaigners, called upon for their unique view of the criminal justice system as they set out to change young lives. The couple, who still live in southeast London, have visited more than 200 schools and pupil referral units throughout England in the years since their son’s death, speaking to thousands of children about violence and the consequences of crime.

Their close working relationship with the nation’s schools started just a few months after Jimmy’s death, when a friend who worked as a school chaplain at St Michael’s Catholic College in Bermondsey, southeast London, asked them to come in and tell their story. Neither had done anything like it before, but both admit that they have since ‘grown’ into their new role.

‘We are so fired-up to want to do things for Jimmy. We want to do it; we feel like we have something to say,’ Barry says. They are determined to get their message across: ‘A peaceful response will bring about change.’

When they are with pupils, Barry and Margaret first explain what happened to Jimmy and share pictures of their son. They stress the importance of caring for one another. Children respond to the Mizens’ message, often listening in rapt silence. But pupils can and do ask questions. Among the most frequent are how the couple managed to forgive, if they cry much and how their eight other children are coping. Sometimes pupils want to hug the couple, and many come up to them afterwards to try to express their sadness about Jimmy’s death.

After the sessions, teachers often comment that some of the children had initially complained about having to sit through ‘another’ talk on knife crime.

‘When they came in for the first time to speak to Year 11, they were phenomenal,’ says Grainne Grabowski, head of St Michael’s. ‘They spoke calmly and quietly, but you could hear a pin drop because the impact of their story was so strong. They had a completely different approach and children were very touched by what they had to say.’

Barry and Margaret have since returned to St Michael’s several times; pupils recently made them a picture of Jimmy composed of individually decorated tiles. Speaking to the couple, it soon becomes clear that endlessly reliving the horrific events of May 2008 is not easy for them or their family, but they are determined to create something good in Jimmy’s name.

Before Jimmy’s death, neither of his parents ‘had spoken to half a dozen people’ publicly. Now they have made speeches to thousands. The response to Jimmy’s case, Margaret says, has helped them to do this. ‘If you share something personal, it provides a safe place for another person to do the same; it allows them to open up.’

The Mizens’ campaign is not complicated. Nor is it revolutionary. They simply want children and teenagers to contribute to their community, to make it a safer, better place.

The Jimmy Mizen Foundation

Through the Jimmy Mizen Foundation, the charity created for their work, they have encouraged teenagers to organise ‘100 days of peaceful events’ to coincide with the Olympic and Paralympic Games. At the end of these 100 days, on 28 October 2012, they held a concert in London, with tickets given as a reward to children.

‘We want to encourage young people to do something for their schools and local communities,’ says Barry, who still works in the family shoe repair business. ‘We find when they are given responsibility, they grab it with both hands and are excited by it. All of us have a responsibility towards our communities.’

Such work has made the Mizens household names and brought celebrity backers for their campaign. London Mayor Boris Johnson, broadcaster Dermot O’Leary, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Saracens rugby team have signed a ‘Release the Peace’ car, which is currently travelling around schools, spreading the message.

‘For some children, the only stability they have in life is at school,’ says Barry.

The couple are insistent that discipline in schools should not be confrontational, and should instead be about firm guidelines. One of the most striking aspects of their involvement in schools is their grasp of the day-to-day details. They explain how early intervention, including ‘managed moves’ of children to different schools, can benefit them.

‘It is so important to catch children early on. If you speak to teachers, they are able to look at their class and make accurate judgements about which children have particular problems,’ Barry adds.

The Mizens feel Jake Fahri’s problems should have been spotted sooner. Instead they built up ‘little by little’ and he ended up taking their son’s life. For this reason, the Mizens also visit adult jails and young offender institutions.

‘So many people stay locked up for life. We say we should prevent them from getting there. Society should be ashamed by the number of young people who get to that situation and have ended up committing horrendous crimes,’ Margaret says.

Rather astonishingly, Barry adds that ‘children in these situations (often) have a lot of natural leadership. We should help them use their skills for something positive rather than negative.’ It is this kind of extraordinary observation - and their determination to see the best in some of society’s worst - that makes the Mizens remarkable and has, most recently, seen them team up with St John Ambulance, through Youth United, to start to provide joint workshops that benefit from their testimony and the practical first aid skills of St John to increase the number of leaders participating within uniformed youth organisations. They have optimistically targeted 500 new leaders.

Following Jimmy’s death, his parents made a pact not to cry in public because they ‘don’t want people’s pity’.

‘We can scream and shout but it won’t bring anybody back,’ says Margaret, quietly. But in their work, they make a very real difference to those who are still alive.

Barry and Margaret Mizens actions, I feel, are closely linked to the values of Freemasonry. However, I do not know whether I could have responded in the same way if I had lost one of my children or grandchildren in such tragic circumstances. Additionally, I am in awe of how they found the strength to act upon those values every day over the last five years through the Jimmy Mizen Foundation. What I do know is that being a mason has allowed me to be in a position to help them. Being a mason have given me the skills to manage a culturally diverse team of people with a shared aim. I am thankful to the members of Grove Park Kent Lodge for supporting The Foundation in various fundraising activities.

I take my membership in Freemasonry as seriously as I will take my role as chair of the Foundation, not only because of the responsibilities these jobs include but also because Margaret Mizen is my cousin and the death of her son has had an impact not only on myself but also on my family as a whole.

If you wish to find out more information on the Jimmy Mizen Foundation then please visit www.jimmymizen.org

A year to remember

With the help of Freemasons around the country, the Grand Charity provides an invaluable service to those in need

For many people 2012 will be a year to remember, from visions of bunting and the Queen’s Jubilee to the sporting excellence of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Yet many people struggled due to financial problems, illness or other difficult circumstances. The Grand Charity exists to help these people in need – Freemasons, their families or the wider community – and 2012 was no exception.

Masonic relief

The Freemasons’ Grand Charity received over two thousand applications for financial assistance and approved support of more than £5 million. The charity noted a continued increase in applications from younger members facing redundancy and business difficulties due to the economic crisis.

Support for the wider community

The charity provided £2.5 million in funding for non-masonic charitable causes. This included continued support for research into age-related deafness; support for ex-Armed Service personnel with grants for Help for Heroes and Combat Stress; and support for projects that tackle youth unemployment, which grew to 20.5 per cent in 2012.

Air Ambulances

2012 saw the Grand Charity celebrate more than £1 million in grants to the Air Ambulances and equivalent services since 2007. These grants provide funding for what is considered to be the country’s busiest voluntary emergency service. In 2012, each Provincial and Metropolitan Grand Lodge presented a share of £192,000 to its local service.

Hospice services

In 2012, £600,000 was distributed amongst two hundred and thirty-nine hospice services, bringing the total given since 1984 to £9.9 million.

We hope it is clear how valuable the work of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity is. The impact achieved through its funding might be difficult to measure, but it is immense. It is only thanks to the support of the Freemasons and their families that the charity is able to make such a contribution to people’s lives.

The grants listed above are only a small selection of charitable causes that have been assisted by Freemasons through the Grand Charity in 2012; a full list is available to view at www.grandcharity.org

Enclosed within this issue of Freemasonry Today you will find the Grand Charity’s Annual Review 2012 – we hope you enjoy reading it.

Published in The Grand Charity

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains why 2017 will be a unique opportunity to share masonic pride across the nation

As the masonic fraternity is a single, indivisible fellowship that is neither divided nor affected by local or national boundaries within our constitution, the word ‘united’ is extremely appropriate as we move forward to our three hundredth anniversary celebrations in 2017. Hence, Metropolitan Grand Lodge, the Provinces and Districts are united as part of one fellowship – that of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Celebration for all

So how should we be working together to plan the 2017 celebrations, remembering that this is just over four and a half years away? From the very outset, I want to make it clear that this is a celebration for every one of us – for the members throughout the English constitution, both here and in the Districts.

Celebrating three hundred years is a once in a lifetime event for us all, as is appropriately marking this wonderful achievement and, of course, being the first Grand Lodge to do so. We have seen two great events this summer – that of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games. Both these events proved highly successful and raised the morale and spirit of our nation. That is exactly what I want the members’ 2017 celebration to achieve for our united fraternity.

Planning ahead 

I am convinced that by working through the Metropolitan Grand Master and the Provincial and District Grand Masters we will encourage a large participation in this great occasion. Although there is much detail to be planned and to be communicated to you for your own planning, the main event will certainly include partners.

We are proud to be Freemasons and 2017 is a great opportunity to show that pride not only to our families and friends, but to the non-masonic community as well. To this end it will also be the natural culmination of the open public relations strategy we have embraced.

Published in UGLE
Saturday, 22 September 2012 12:18

Colin plays a part in the London 2012 Olympics

Sometime last year whilst browsing online newspapers, Colin Shannon of Bootle Pilgrim Lodge No. 1473 read an article about the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony and how the organisers were looking for volunteers.

Colin’s application was accepted and he was invited to 3 Mills TV studio in London for an audition where he performed various pieces of choreography and other routines.

The following day, he received an email calling him back for a second audition where the choreography was more complex. Six weeks later whilst on holiday in India with his wife Vilma, the email came through confirming he had been successful. It was champagne all around that night.

He was to have 26 rehearsals and due to the timings of them, would mean about 40 nights in London. It was a huge commitment to make and meant he would have to make some adjustments. Fortunately, he did not have to miss too many lodge meetings and, being a once in a life time opportunity, he accepted.

His first rehearsals were at 3 Mills. That was where he first met Danny Boyle as he explained his vision and what he hoped to achieved. Danny was hands on all the time and Colin saw him at most of the rehearsals. He was very approachable and spent a lot of time 'chatting' in general to people. It was whilst he was at 3 Mills that he had his costume fit.

His next rehearsal site was on a piece of ground at the old Ford plant in Dagenham. The area was set up with a big top to have talks, leave bags etc. Outside there were two areas set up each the size of the area of the stadium enabling two segments of the show to be rehearsed at the same time.

Eventually, rehearsals were moved to the stadium itself. Walking into the stadium for the first time and seeing his segment set out in the centre of it brought it home as to what they were doing. Colin says that when he was in the centre, just looking around at all the stands and seats it sent a shiver down him knowing that there would be 80,000 people sitting there watching them in addition to the 1,000,000,000 or so people around the world on TV.

After a few rehearsals there, the time came for his first dress rehearsal in front of an invited audience of 40,000. Lined up in the vomitory waiting the cue to go out, Colin says he could see the stands on the opposite side of the stadium full of people. That, the general music, lighting effects and then the sudden beating of the drums was a sure way of getting the adrenalin flowing. After receiving his cue, they went out fully focused on their roles. Colin said he could not describe the feelings he, and others, had when the audience applauded them.

The following dress rehearsal was even more intense as the participants had been given tickets for their families to attend. That was to an audience of 60,000.

The big day of the opening ceremony came. When they were called to go to the stadium, he recalls it was very impressive to see thousands of people in the various costumes walking to the stadium en mass. His section, which was the industrial revolution, had a thousand people involved all dressed in old style working clothes, then there was the NHS section all dressed in old nurses’ uniforms. Following them was a variety of costumes from the different eras of music.

Before entering the stadium they were held in another area of the Olympic Park. As they walked through the park and approached the stadium, the world’s media was lined up alongside the route filming and photographing them. Some of were stopped for a quick interview. Colin gave a quick interview to an Australian TV company. Closer to the stadium, there were volunteer workers lining the route, applauding and wishing them good luck.

Lined up ready to go on, the atmosphere was electric. As his group reached the end of their segment after performing their choreography, the choreographer Steve Boyd spoke through their in-ear monitors and said how amazing they looked and pointed out that they were the closest people on the entire planet to the Olympic rings. All too soon it was over and after their bow, they left the stage

Colin says “The entire journey from getting invited to the first audition, to final bow has been an incredible experience, it is one I will never forget and one that I felt honoured to have been part of.”

A few weeks later Colin also took part in the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games.

Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00

Grand Secretary's column - Autumn 2012

With both Her Majesty The Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, it has certainly been a memorable summer.

Since the last issue we have successfully released a new core leaflet. The title, What's It All About?, was inspired by our most frequently asked - and probably hardest to answer - question from non-masons. This is another milestone in our strategy for making people understand the relevance of Freemasonry in modern society which, in turn, will help both recruitment and retention. Do please look at the leaflet on our website. I think it is important to note that the leaflet is written in plain English for both the potential candidate as well as for all our families and friends.

It is a great 'myth buster'; showing that our values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. Additionally, it talks about friendship, openness, giving, our purpose and how we all grow by our membership. Very different to anything we have done before, the leaflet has some outstanding black and white photography. Indeed, the initial distribution to London, the Provinces and Districts has proved so popular that we have already had to order another print run.

We have another thought-provoking issue of Freemasonry Today for you all, including a fascinating interview with the Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes. He talks openly about what he has got out of Freemasonry as well as the responsibility of this key leadership role and his hopes for the Craft. Dr Roman Hovorka goes on the record to discuss the creation of an artificial pancreas - the result of medical research that has been funded by the Freemasons and which could transform the way children with Type 1 diabetes manage this chronic condition. We spend a day on the lake with the Masonic Fishing Charity in Northamptonshire to see how young people are finding new ways of interacting with the world. Finally, ex-soldiers and Freemasons Michael Allen and Sandy Sanders reveal the camaraderie they have found in becoming Chelsea Pensioners.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

Letters to the editor - No. 20 Winter 2012


Valuing care 




In reading the Grand Secretary’s column and hearing about the new Core Leaflet it occurred to me that Freemasonry is not just a charitable institution – a view held by the mundane world and many brethren alike. We all know that charity is the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason’s heart and most apply this virtue without vaunting it. It is natural that the Craft should defend itself against the many unfair accusations made against it, but in doing so in public our charitable virtues should not be overstated. The Craft is far more than a charity.

Herbert Ewings, Septem Lodge, No. 5887 Surbiton, Surrey


Letters to the editor - No. 21 Spring 2013


Keeping up standards




I read with great interest and agreement the correspondence from Herbert Ewings and Tom Carr in the winter 2012 edition and felt somehow that the two letters were intrinsically linked.

The view shared by brother Ewings that Freemasonry is more than just a charitable institution is perfectly true. There are several fundraising organisations available to join if that is your preference, with little or no application of character building, philosophy, discipline and order or quite the camaraderie and fellowship that we all enjoy. As brother Ewings states, charity in its true context is evidently practised in Freemasonry, but neither this – and certainly not mere fundraising – are its sole objectives.

Similarly, as brother Carr observes concerning the lowering of standards at some masonic gatherings, I too have been disappointed whilst attending lodges (fortunately in the minority) where less than gentlemanly behaviour has been exhibited by some members. Without wishing to be regarded as pompous or priggish, surely we can enjoy hearty good fun at our Festive Boards without compromising our ideals as men of honour. No, brother Carr, you are not alone in objecting to such behaviour.

Surely it is possible to keep our time-honoured traditions of gentlemanly behaviour within and without the lodge (which we are charged with in the First Degree ceremony), which provide such a pleasant oasis in our troubled world.

Philip Hamer, Lodge Semper Fidelis, No. 1254, Exeter, Devonshire





Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 19:00

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2012

12 September 2012
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes


It has been an exciting, if somewhat wet, summer throughout the country and I trust you have all come back refreshed for the new Masonic season.

I have just started the first of four regional business meetings with Provincial Grand Masters. Clearly this is an ideal opportunity to talk about the current initiatives we are all involved in and to share thoughts and ideas. Importantly, we are all united in our mutual commitment to recruit and retain the best people – men of quality.

As the Masonic fraternity is a single, indivisible fellowship which is neither divided nor affected by local or national boundaries within our Constitution, the word united is extremely appropriate – not only for what we are all doing together today – but especially as we move forward to our three hundredth anniversary celebrations in 2017. Hence Metropolitan Grand Lodge, the Provinces and Districts are united as part of one fellowship – that of the United Grand Lodge of England.

With this in mind, one of the agenda items on my regional business meetings covers how we want to be working together to plan the 2017 celebrations, remembering that this is just over four and a half years away. From the very outset, I want to make it clear that this is a celebration for every one of us – for the members throughout the English Constitution, both here and in the Districts.

Celebrating three hundred years is a once in a lifetime event for us all, as well as appropriately marking this wonderful achievement of reaching this significant milestone, and, of course, being the first Grand Lodge to do so.
We have seen two great events this summer – that of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games. Both these events proved highly successful and raised the morale and spirit of our Nation. That is exactly what I want the members’ 2017 celebration to achieve for our united fraternity.

I am convinced that by working through the Metropolitan Grand Master and the Provincial and District Grand Masters we will encourage a large participation in this great occasion. Although there is much detail to be planned and to be communicated to you for your own planning, the main event will certainly include partners.

Brethren, we are proud to be Freemasons and 2017 is a great opportunity to show that pride not only to our families and friends, but to the non-Masonic community as well. To this end it will also be the natural culmination of the open public relations strategy we have embraced.

I can tell you, even at this early stage, that the main event in June 2017 will be at the Excel Centre, near the Olympic Stadium. This is one of the few locations in the Country that has the necessary capacity and infrastructure to properly enable us to celebrate this once in a lifetime momentous event.

Published in Speeches
Friday, 15 June 2012 01:00

Grand Secretary's column - Summer 2012

Her Majesty The Queen received from His Royal Highness The Grand Master, on our behalf, a message of loyal greetings and congratulations on the occasion of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. Sixty years is a fantastic achievement, equalling Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897 when His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was Grand Master. Let us not forget that Her Majesty is the daughter of a famous Freemason and Past Grand Master, the late King George VI.

Freemasons have consistently remained devoted and loyal to her Majesty throughout her reign. A great example of this, for any one of you who has attended meetings in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, is when up to seventeen hundred members sing the National Anthem with gusto. You cannot fail to be deeply moved.

The Grand Master, in his speech at the Annual Investiture at the end of April, explained why transparency is critical for Freemasonry and urges an active spirit of openness. You can read the full speech in this issue and see where The Grand Master picks up the theme of our two recent firsts. One was the commissioning of the first ever report by an independent third party on the future of Freemasonry, which was the catalyst for the second of our two firsts, namely the first ever media tour that I was given the privilege of conducting.

The theme is continued in two more articles where our public relations adviser explains how we have gone about changing the minds of the mass of people who have deep-rooted misconceptions about the myths that still surround us. If we want our families to be proud of us being members and if we want to show we are a relevant organisation to join, every effort must be made for these misconceptions to be got rid of.

This is followed by an article on what it was like to be on the ‘front line’ with the media – the Grand Secretary being interviewed around the country. Interestingly, I was hugely encouraged by the positive reception I received.

These examples are a true reflection of our respected magazine being the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England. Apart from the clear benefit of reading what our leaders are thinking and the initiatives we are undertaking to ensure our long-term survival, be assured that all editorial is selected by senior and experienced Freemasons, who are renowned experts in masonic matters and news editing. The only non-masons involved deal in the commissioning of articles – after they have been selected by the editorial panel – or involved in design, printing and distribution. They too have been chosen for their recognised expertise.

I hope you enjoy this issue of Freemasonry Today. With the London Olympic Games just around the corner, we look at how Spencer Park Lodge is carrying the torch for masons who have an interest in sport and enjoy the camaraderie that Freemasonry brings. We also look back at the role that Freemasons played in the 1908 London Olympics, not just on the track but also in helping run the event behind the scenes. And for anyone not totally fixated on athletics, we find out whether Christopher Wren really was part of the Craft and how we let a hundred young people loose on Freemasons’ Hall.

I wish you and your family happy reading and an enjoyable summer.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Picking up the pace

Commonwealth Games medallist Mike Winch explains the history of Spencer Park Lodge and how it has managed to draw Olympic hopefuls like James Ellington into its fold

At first glance, Spencer Park Lodge is indistinguishable from any other post-war London lodge. It was formed in the wake of devastation, and founded on the camaraderie instilled by years of shared hardships. However, over the past sixty-six years, the lodge has counted runners, cyclists, football referees and sports coaches among its members.

One of its newest members is James Ellington. Under the watchful eye of another Spencer Park member, John Powell, James has forged his way into the Olympic relay squad as well as looking a good bet for an individual two hundred metres place. He finds Freemasonry an enjoyable release from life as an increasingly high-profile international athlete: ‘It’s a great way to switch off from a pretty high pressure life right now, and I’ve met some terrific people. The lodge is an ideal opportunity to do good while having a bit of fun with the other members.’

James is a great believer in giving something back, coaching disadvantaged youngsters in the Met-Track scheme in London, as well as doing as much work as he can within the lodge. Spencer Park can be proud of the fact that its members have supported James in his efforts and can look forward to watching him grace the Olympic stage. So what is it about the lodge that tempts world-class athletes?

Like most lodges over the years, Spencer Park has experienced several incarnations. It was formed in the 1940s and during the early years it was the founders and their candidates who kept the lodge solid and functional. In the late 1980s, the nature of the membership changed with an influx of prison officers from the local Wandsworth and Brixton jails.

The future looked rosy, but the light rapidly faded as the leader departed for northern shores. Fortunately, south London businessman, Mehmet Gursel-Cimen, a high-level weightlifter, joined Spencer Park at a crucial time. He encouraged me to look into masonry, and I joined in 1994. We formed the nucleus of the new direction that the lodge was to take, and indeed is continuing to take to this day.

Soon after my initiation, Russell Hart, karate player, and top-notch cyclist Simon McCarthy joined, giving us a firm foundation for a strong sporting future. My own success in international athletics included a couple of Commonwealth silver medals in the shot put, before moving into coaching.

In Freemasonry, I found men with competitive but also caring and loyal instincts. I was at home in the organisation and motivated to spread that word among friends and colleagues. By 2003, having occupied the Master’s Chair for two years, I slotted in as secretary, feeling this to be an ideal chance to work on expanding the sporting membership.

The first new member at this time was John Powell, an international coach with a squad of south London youngsters who were making waves in the sprinting world. John was a superintendent in the Metropolitan Police and a highly motivated man. Once on board he showed a strong commitment to the lodge. His influence extended into the younger generation, whom he encouraged to look at masonry in a new light. This started the lodge’s revival.

For many years, our organisation has been viewed with suspicion by the general public, and Spencer Park saw it as part of its raison d’être to spread a positive word. Although we are only a small part of the whole, it was felt that we could make a contribution towards helping masonry flourish by enlisting sporting youngsters in our activities.


The pressures of life for the younger generation are immense so the lodge instituted a commitment to a Lodge of Instruction with built-in flexibility to account for the difficult hours now worked by younger members. We also looked at bringing more sports coaches in to balance the younger intake. Two very important sportsmen became members at this time. Donovan Reid was an Olympic finalist in 1984 in Los Angeles. He moved from competing to coaching and has had many successes to his name in track and field over the past twenty-plus years. A close friend and coaching colleague of his, Clarence Callender, ex-army man and now Olympic team coach in the relays, also joined Spencer Park’s ranks.

The core of the membership continued to support this new direction. Terry Cover-White, who had joined from Rhetoric Lodge, became a central pillar and, along with John Hardy, formed the heart of the lodge. At this point, Mark Chapman joined our ranks. An international coach, he has been a major asset to Spencer Park, setting a superb example of how masonry and work can fit together harmoniously.

From the spark of an idea, Spencer Park has come a long way. Doubtless in the future it will take on other guises and strong membership groups, but in 2012, it is very much a sporting lodge.


Olympic Celebration
In 2007, Spencer Park Lodge’s senior members decided to promote the idea of a masonic celebration for the 2012 London Olympics. As part of this process, a study was conducted on how many masons had sporting connections. The results revealed strong links between Freemasonry and sport up to the highest level. Historically, that connection has influenced the development of sport worldwide and led to the setting up of many lodge and Provincial sporting groups. In the light of these findings, Spencer Park linked with the Royal York Lodge of Perseverance to organise a gala dinner at the Grand Connaught Rooms on 21 July this year to celebrate Freemasonry and sport. On 10 August, the two lodges are also hosting a joint meeting.





Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Freemasonry and the Olympics

Gold doesn't tarnish

Susan Snell, Archivist and Records Manager for the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, reveals connections between the Craft and the Olympics

The London 2012 organisers revealed in 2011 that they received applications for more than 20 million tickets from 1.8 million people for the Olympic Games – more than three times the 6.6 million tickets available to UK sports fans. Compared with this mad scramble for tickets, attendances at the first London Games were low according to The Times on 18 July 1908. Expensive ticket prices, ranging from five shillings to a Guinea (£45 to £60 in today’s money) were blamed for poor sales. 

Thankfully, visits by the Royal Family boosted gate returns to the 1908 Games, with over 20,000 people attending the White City Stadium, constructed by the entrepreneur and Freemason, Imre Kiralfy. The masonic connections do not stop there. A keen sportsman and Freemason, Lord Desborough fenced at the unofficial Athens Games of 1906 and served as a member of the International Olympic Committee until 1913. Desborough was initiated in Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, Oxford, on 23 February 1875, the same day as Oscar Wilde.

The games begin

The 500 British athletes at the opening of the Olympic Games wore caps and blazer badges manufactured by the masonic regalia company, George Kenning & Son. Britons achieved sporting success in real tennis (jeu de paume), athletics, swimming, boxing, tug of war and cycling, with several masonic participants, including Richard Wheldon Barnett of St Alban’s Lodge, No. 29, London, who represented Great Britain in the rifle, military pistol class competition.

This was just the beginning of the 1908 success stories. A Great Britain team won the gold medal in the Olympic football competition, with Vivian John Woodward, an amateur player at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur football clubs, scoring the second of two goals. Woodward, from Clacton, Essex, worked as an architect with his father and later designed the Antwerp stadium for the 1920 Olympics. Four years after his Olympic triumph, he was initiated in Kent Lodge No. 15, London.

Sir John Edward Kynaston Studd carried the British team flag and most track and field events were organised by the Regent Street Polytechnic, founded by Quintin Hogg. Studd became honorary secretary of the Polytechnic from 1885 and after Hogg’s death, president. Many sportsmen, including Studd, joined Polytechnic Lodge, No. 2847, after it was consecrated in 1901.

Studd and others formed Athlon Lodge, No. 4674, in 1924, the year Harold Abrahams won an Olympic gold medal in the 100 metres, as featured in the film Chariots Of Fire, beating an American, Charley Paddock, and another British athlete, the New Zealand-born Freemason, Sir Arthur Espie Porritt. Bronze medal winner Porritt, who later served as Governor-General of New Zealand, became a consultant surgeon and then chairman at the Royal Masonic Hospital from 1974 to 1982. Athlon Lodge member Abrahams and Porritt dined together on 7 July at 7pm every year to celebrate the anniversary of their double medal success in 1924, until the former died in 1978.

British sporting success

With the 1908 Games encouraging participation in competitive sports, Britons excelled at subsequent Olympic competitions. The Thames-based rower, Jack Beresford, won a silver medal in the single sculls at the 1920 Olympics and then won medals for rowing at each of the four subsequent Games. He carried the British flag at the opening and closing ceremonies of the controversial 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he won a gold medal in the double sculls. He was initiated as a Freemason in Argonauts Lodge, No. 2243, London, in 1944.

Forty years after its first visit to UK shores, the Olympics came to London again. Ernest James Henry ‘Billy’ Holt, who was initiated in Black Horse of Lombard Street Lodge, No. 4155, in 1922, served as director of organisation for the 1948 London Games. Holt, Master of Athlon Lodge in 1938, had coached the long-distance athlete, Gordon Pirie.

Cycling Freemasons, Gordon ‘Tiny’ Thomas, formerly of Lodge of Equity, No. 6119, Yorkshire West Riding, won a silver medal in the team road race and Tommy Godwin, formerly of Lodge of St Oswald, No. 5094, Worcestershire, won bronzes in the 1km time trial and in the team pursuit. Godwin coached the British cycling squad at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and will be an Olympic torchbearer in Solihull in July, aged 91. This blend of local and national interests, where Olympic and masonic aspirations combine, points to a time when members and non-members can enjoy the pleasure of a game well played, and a race well run.

 Sport by all
The Paralympic Games, which began at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1948 also have masonic ties. Professor Guttman, director of the National Spinal Injuries Centre at the hospital, encouraged WW2 veterans to play sport for rehabilitation. The Middlesex Masonic Sports Association has supported Paralympians, including Tracy Lewis, basketball, and Anthony Peddle, weightlifting, at the 1992 Barcelona Games, while the Grand Charity contributes to WheelPower (formerly the British Wheelchair Sports Foundation).
Game, Set and Lodge: Freemasons and Sport exhibition at the Library and Museum on Great Queen Street runs from 2 July-21 December 2012
Published in Features
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