14 March 2018
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, it is always a pleasure to see this magnificent temple as full as it is today, although it is hardly surprising bearing in mind the special nature of today’s meeting. Our Provinces and Districts, as well as those involved here at the centre, have taken a great deal of trouble in identifying those brethren most deserving of the honour that they have received today. I hope it has been a very special day for them and I really do congratulate and thank them. As always brethren, whilst congratulations are very much in order for all that you have done, particularly during the Tercentenary year, it also raises great expectations for your endeavours in the future.
We also have the Soane Ark back with us today. As those of you who were at the Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, (or those of you who read Freemasonry Today) will know, the original of this beautiful mahogany piece, the “Ark of the Masonic Covenant”, was made by Bro Sir John Soane in 1813. It was dedicated at the great celebration marking the Union of the Ancient and Modern Grand Lodges in 1813 and the Articles of Union were deposited inside.
It was tragically destroyed by fire in 1883, but UGLE commissioned an exact replica for our Tercentenary, which was dedicated at the Royal Albert Hall in October. Then, as in 1813, we placed a facsimile of the Articles of Union inside it, as well as the “Three Great Lights”.
It was on public display at the Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the months after the Royal Albert Hall celebration, but now it has returned to its intended place in Grand Lodge. Triangular in form, it has at each corner a column of the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian order representing Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, the three great pillars on which our lodges, including this Grand Lodge, are said to stand.
I am sure that it will grace our Grand Lodge meetings for centuries to come.
We have become only too well aware of the term 'fake news' in recent times and we began this year with our own encounter with 'fake news'. Many of you will have seen the coverage generated by the outgoing Chairman of the Police Federation and the Guardian newspaper and I trust you will have also seen our responses. Let me assure you that UGLE will always stand up for its members, their integrity and their care for the communities from which they are drawn. It is my firm belief that policemen are better policemen for their membership of our proud organisation. However, it is not just policemen who can benefit from membership – lawyers, public servants and indeed all men benefit from the teaching our ceremonies have to offer, and the time has come for the organisation to stand up and make these points loudly and clearly. Enough, brethren is enough.
I have said it before and I say again I strongly believe that the future is bright for Freemasonry. We created a bow wave of optimism last year which produced a surge of interest in the Craft. We must now ensure that we maintain the momentum created and build on that legacy, and we will.
This year is very much a year of change, particular of key personalities both here and in the Provinces and Districts. On your behalf I welcome Geoffrey Dearing to his first Quarterly Communication as President of the Board of General Purposes and, in April, David Staples, our CEO will become our new youthful and dynamic Grand Secretary, bringing together all the activities here in Freemasons’ Hall. Already this year we have installed two new PGMs as well as new DGMs in New Zealand South Island and SA Western Division. Both John Clark from Buckinghamshire and Anthony Howlett-Bolton from Berkshire are able to be present and I welcome them to their first Quarterly Communication as Provincial Grand Masters. We now start a steady stream of installations: nine Provincial Grand Masters and ten District Grand Masters, plus many Grand Superintendents in the Royal Arch. This will keep the Rulers in both the Craft and Royal Arch busy this year as we catch up on the backlog.
Although we have plenty of ceremonial work to do, I am also keen that we continue to visit Provinces and Districts in a less formal way. We are here to provide help and support and we must show it.
This year, as you know, is the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War – 'The Great War'. I have no doubt that many of you will be commemorating this, as appropriate in your area. This building was built to commemorate those masons who lost their lives in that war. It was called the Masonic Peace Memorial Building, but changed its name at the outbreak of the Second World War to Freemasons’ Hall. We shall commemorate the end of the First World War on 10th November 2018 under the auspices of Victoria Rifles Lodge and I am sure it will be an impressive occasion.
Brethren, I hope that today has been a memorable event for those I have invested. Many congratulations, once again, and remember there is no resting on your laurels.
From the Grand Secretary
Welcome to this Tercentenary souvenir edition of Freemasonry Today, which celebrates the achievements of 2017 while looking to the future with a quiet confidence. I say that in the knowledge that I will retire at the April Investiture and hand over to David Staples, our current dynamic CEO, which will bring back together all of the departments within Freemasons’ Hall under one head.
Clearly the Sky TV programme and the many events organised across the Provinces and Districts last year, which are commemorated in this special edition, considerably raised the profile of Freemasonry. It is now important that we maintain that momentum by promoting our values and relevance to society at every appropriate opportunity.
In this unique issue, we feature the events that helped make the Tercentenary so remarkable – from the especial meeting at the Royal Albert Hall to the teddy bears’ picnics, cathedral services and masonic parades held. These celebrations not only show what Freemasonry has achieved in its long history, but also demonstrate its ongoing commitment to communities and causes, both at home and overseas.
With this in mind, we draw from the masons we’ve interviewed in Freemasonry Today whom we feel represent the core values of Freemasonry. From Wayne Ingram, the mason who has been raising money in order to fund facial reconstructive surgery for a child he met in Bosnia, through to Sean Gaffney, who lost his leg in an accident only to win gold at the Invictus Games – these are the type of individuals taking Freemasonry forward for the next 300 years.
FATHERS OF FREEMASONRY
We also feature inspirational masons from history who have helped make the Tercentenary an anniversary worth celebrating. These are masons who worked tirelessly in their local communities, broke down social barriers and challenged the status quo in order to improve the lives of those about them – from the Duke of Sussex, who helped shape modern Freemasonry, through to Augustus John Smith, who brought education and hope to the residents of the Isles of Scilly. Reflecting the spirit of the Tercentenary as an ongoing journey, we call this issue Past, Present & Future.
Brethren, it has been a great privilege and pleasure to have been your Grand Secretary for the last two years, and I wish you well for what I know will be a bright future.
‘It is important that we maintain momentum by promoting our values and relevance to society’
The United Grand Lodge of England is grateful to The Guardian for amending the article originally titled “Two Freemasons’ Lodges Operating Secretly at Westminster” on their website ‘to remove a misleading impression conveyed by the original headline’
This follows a letter to The Guardian highlighting several inaccuracies and to clarify that the lodges mentioned do not operate in Westminster, their existence is not secret and that no MPs are members of New Welcome Lodge. As a result of an investigation, The Guardian concluded that the article's headline, standfirst and lede conveyed a misleading impression and corrected the inaccuracies.
The Guardian has also placed a correction notice at the bottom of the online article which states: ‘This article was the subject of a public complaint by the UGLE and an investigation by the Guardian readers’ editor.
‘On 20 February 2018, consistent with the readers’ editor’s conclusions, the article was amended to remove a misleading impression conveyed by the original headline, standfirst and lede to the effect that the existence of the three named lodges was secret or covert, that they met secretly at the Palace of Westminster, and that New Welcome Lodge had MPs among its membership currently.’
The Mirror also removed an article published on their website which contained inaccurate and misleading information about Freemasonry, as a result of an Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) complaint.
A personal letter by Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of UGLE, titled ‘Enough is Enough’, first appeared as a full page advert in national newspapers on 7th February 2018 calling for an end to the discrimination and misrepresentation against Freemasonry in the media, leading to a series of public TV, radio and press interviews.
Oscar Lynch, a reporter with the North West Evening Mail, has been welcomed to Barrow-in-Furness Masonic Hall by West Lancashire Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger
Following the recent advert containing the letter ‘Enough is Enough’ issued by Dr David Staples in defence of the Craft, Oscar made contact and explained that he wanted to add a local perspective to the story.
The Province of West Lancashire was more than happy to oblige, and so David gave Oscar a guided tour of Barrow Lodge No. 3928. He gave an insight into the signification of some of the fixtures, fittings and symbols including the all-seeing eye.
The paper later published a full, four page feature article about Freemasonry and also took camcorder footage for inclusion. The article and video footage can be viewed here.
As Oscar commented: ‘Although the original aim of my coming here was to learn more about Freemasonry, I have now realised that the lodges and the artefacts they contain, are in fact a significant part of local history.’
No questions were out of bounds as David was interviewed by Oscar. It was also a source of pride to be able to dispel a number of myths including that only men of advanced years were Freemasons, with many younger men now joining the lodges in the Furness and South Lakeland group.
David later remarked: ‘The visit confirms that we are open about who we are and what we do. This will, in time, help dispel the discrimination and prejudice that exists in certain quarters.
'In the 19th and early part of the 20th century, the many local newspapers which were in circulation then carried full details of lodge installations and other important meetings. As we try to emulate those former days, let us hope that the day is not far off when all brethren can mention their membership of the Craft in any company safe from ill-informed criticism.’
Following a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), an investigation confirmed that the article was provided by the Press Association and published on the Mirror website in good faith.
The Press Association’s copy was derived from the recent article in The Guardian headlined “Two Freemasons’ Lodges Operating Secretly at Westminster”, which contained significant inaccuracies. The main points being that the lodges are not secret, they don’t operate at Westminster and contrary to what was written, they don’t have MPs or journalists as members.
This follows a personal letter by Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of UGLE, on 8th February 2018, titled ‘Enough is Enough’, to address misleading articles published in The Guardian – this was also placed as a full page advert in The Times and Daily Telegraph.
A separate complaint has also been submitted to the IPSO regarding The Guardian article.
Enough is Enough
A personal letter by Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of the United Grand Lodge of England. This has also been placed as a full page advert in The Times, Daily Telegraph and Guardian
At the United Grand Lodge of England, we value honesty, integrity and service to the community above all else. Last year we raised over £33 million for good causes.
As an organisation we welcome individuals from all walks of life, of any faith, age, class or political persuasion. Throughout our 300 year history, when people have suffered discrimination Freemasonry has embraced them into our lodges as equals.
The United Grand Lodge of England believes that the ongoing gross misrepresentation of its 200,000 plus members is discrimination. Pure and simple.
We owe it to our membership to take this stance, they shouldn’t have to feel undeservedly stigmatised. No other organisation would stand for this and nor shall we.
I have written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to make this case.
I appreciate that you may have questions about who we are and what we do, so over the next six months our members will be running a series of open evenings and Q&A events up and down the country. These will be promoted in the local media and on our website.
I am also happy to answer any queries directly. Please feel free to write to me here at Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AZ and I will come back to you.
Dr David Staples
United Grand Lodge of England
Letters to the Editor - NO. 42 SUMMER 2018
Enough is Enough
I note with dismay the recent attacks on Freemasonry by some newspapers, including The Guardian. These attacks included remarks by the outgoing chair of the Police Federation, in short, accusing Craft members of restricting the progress of women and ethnic minorities within the force.
Yet another example of press sensationalism [claimed] the existence of secret lodges in Westminster. The ramifications of such adverse publicity are obvious, given that it is instigated by non-masons and often falls upon the ears of the ill-informed.
However, I also note, with delight, that the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has, and is, conducting a spirited, factual and well-reasoned defence of the iniquitous allegations. For decades UGLE has not responded to such criticism, but in this age of political correctness, such a response is not only commendable, but necessary.
The actions of our governing body cannot, and must not, be seen in isolation. Freemasonry has, it can be strongly argued, a serious problem with its image. This is an opportunity to change this image for the better. Many brethren, as myself, care passionately in what we believe and try to practise on a daily basis. We are the ambassadors of the Craft, so let us help Grand Lodge change our public image by expressing pride in our fraternity and spreading its teachings of universal brotherhood.
By so doing, we will not only change the Craft’s public image for the better, we will ensure success for the next 300 years.
J S ‘Brig’ Youngs, Frenni Lodge, No. 8427, Ceredigion, West Wales
I want to pay tribute to Dr Staples and the superb communications team at UGLE who have handled this situation professionally and with dignity, expertise and even a little bit of humour. You have done, and continue to do, the Craft a huge service.
Stuart Wilson, Lodge Sir Michael, No. 989, Kilmacolm, Scotland
Freemasonry has given me confidence, transferable skills, a great deal of enjoyment and so many genuine friends. I’m therefore extremely proud to be a Freemason.
Dr Andy Green, Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448, Leicester, Leicestershire
I’m not a mason, but I wanted to show my support for you and your members and for standing up for yourselves in front of the media witch-hunt. It seems any organisation that is seen as different is fair game for criticism. Well done for sticking to your aims and ambitions and for maintaining the right level of confidentiality.
I just wanted to pass on that I saw the piece on BBC Breakfast regarding Freemasonry. I thought your representative did a terrific job with his answers to the verbal attack by the BBC. My husband has been a mason since 1971 and installed our son as Master of their lodge a few years ago. My family have enjoyed many, many masonic social events over the years.
I find it so incredible that you still face this type of ignorant media attack after so much work has been done and is still being done in trying to make Freemasonry as open as possible.Congratulations on the response to the piece.
Complaint – Article published on Sunday 4 February
This is a complaint pursuant to your Editorial Code about an article published on Sunday 4 February on your website and in print on Monday 5 February. The article was headlined "Two Freemasons' Lodges Operating Secretly at Westminster" and Ian Cobain was credited with the byline. lt contained significant inaccuracies which created a substantially misleading article. The existence of the two lodges in question is not secret, they don't operate at Westminster and they don't have MPs or journalists in their respective memberships.
- The article claimed that "Two Freemasons' lodges set up for members of parliament and political journalists are continuing to operate secretly at Westminster". This is inaccurate. The Lodges do not operate at Westminster and only meet in Camden at Freemasons' Hall.
- The article stated "Exclusive: Lodges for MPs and journalists are so covert even lobby reporters do not know members". The Lodges in the article do not have any MPs or journalists as members.
- The Lodges are not secret. Their meeting place is open to the public all year and their meeting dates are published in the United Grand Lodge of England directory of Lodges and Chapters available for the public to buy from most Masonic retailers. Details of the founding of the New Welcome Lodge were published in the press including in the Daily Telegraph. The New Welcome Lodge and Gallery Lodge are referred to in Hansard and have had Wikipedia pages for 12 years. Both Lodges feature in publicly available academic articles (on Researchgate, among other resources) and press. A detailed history of Gallery Lodge, together with its past and present members, was published in 1968. lt is wilfully misleading for the Guardian to state that the Lodges operate secretly or to imply that their existence is "secret" or "covert".
- The article claimed that "The New Welcome Lodge has about 30 to 40 members ... only about four of the current members are MPs". This is fictitious, as anybody connected with the Lodge would know. New Welcome Lodge only has 22 members. There are no current MPs who are members of New Welcome Lodge.
We provided extensive information and quotes to Ian Cobain in answer to his questions about Freemasonry and he used this information in other contemporaneous articles about Freemasonry. He chose not to ask us about New Welcome Lodge and appears to have ignored all of the widely published and available information about it and Gallery Lodge. He did not provide us with any opportunity to correct the errors in his article. Instead, inaccurate information has been published to create a misleading impression of Freemasonry. The reader is deliberately left to infer that journalists and MPs meet in secret at Westminster as Freemasons, which is untrue and which the author must have known or suspected to be untrue. There is no evidence for, or truth in, these inferences in the article about Freemasonry.
By publishing inaccuracies which foster and promote popular prejudices against Freemasonry concerning corruption, power and control, the article damaged the reputation of the United Grand Lodge of England as a membership organisation and encouraged further discrimination against individual Freemasons.
We request that you publish a retraction of the article in an agreed form which confirms that journalists and MPs don't meet in secret at Westminster as Freemasons. We also request that you publish an apology to Freemasons for misleading the public about the nature of Freemasonry.
Dr David Staples
For and on behalf of
The United Grand Lodge of England
Further to the recent news coverage in the national newspapers relating to Freemasonry and Police Federation Reforms, Dr David Staples, Chief Executive Officer of the United Grand Lodge of England, has been interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme
You can listen to the interview here, which starts at 02:46:21.
Following the news coverage in The Guardian, Times, Sun, Mail Online and Independent Online relating to Freemasonry and Police Federation reforms, Dr David Staples, Chief Executive Officer of the United Grand Lodge of England, has sent this letter (tailored) to each of these national newspapers
I write in response to your articles Freemasons are blocking reform, says police chair and Why the secret handshake between police and Freemasons should worry us in The Guardian on 1st and 2nd January.
The articles show a complete and disappointing misrepresentation of Freemasonry. Furthermore, we understand, having spoken to the outgoing Chairman of the Police Federation, that recent media coverage does not accurately reflect his views.
We are quietly proud that, throughout history, when people have suffered discrimination both in public and social life, Freemasonry has welcomed them into our Lodges as equals. It is a shame that Freemasons are now quite openly discriminated against and that too many of our members, therefore, feel the need to keep their membership to themselves.
The idea that reform within the Police Federation or anywhere else is being actively thwarted by an organised body of Freemasons is laughable and suggests an unbelievable element of will and influence from an organisation which is non-political, non-religious, values integrity and upholds the law.
In 2001 and again in 2007 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Freemasonry was not a secret or unlawful organisation.
There is absolutely no reason why police officers, or anyone from any other walk of life, should not be a Freemason and we highlight our shared organisational values of integrity and service to the community.
Dr David Staples
Chief Executive Officer
United Grand Lodge of England
13 September 2017
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, before I welcome our overseas guests, may I first welcome our new Chief Executive Officer, David Staples, currently masquerading as a Deputy GDC but who, all being well, will become Grand Secretary in due course.
Brethren, welcome back from the summer break which I hope you have been able to enjoy. The Tercentenary celebrations have continued unabated and it has been an extremely busy period since our last meeting.
In June, the Grand Master unveiled a plaque on the outside of this building, erected by the Time Immemorial Lodges, and he was then declared their Worshipful Master at a splendid ceremony at Mansion House. This was particularly appropriate as, one hundred years before, his great uncle and godfather, the Duke of Connaught, had received a similar honour.
The other Rulers and Past Rulers have covered cathedral services commemorating our Tercentenary from St David’s in West Wales to Norwich in the East and from Salisbury and Exeter in the South to Durham in the North and many in between. You have then arranged dinners, a race meeting, car rallies, choral events and concerts, family fun days and digging for fossils – all splendidly organised. Thank you so much.
I was privileged to visit our Districts in the Eastern Archipelago and Sri Lanka and witness at first hand the charitable work that they have been involved with. In Kuala Lumpur I visited the site of, what I believe will be a splendid new home for the elderly and in Sri Lanka the District have raised funding to bring drinking water to an outlying village and three schools in that area. Together with the MCF they are also supporting the relief efforts following the flooding caused by the unprecendented May monsoon.
These, however, felt like short trips compared to our Assistant Grand Master who I feared was in danger of meeting himself coming back as he flew to Buenos Aires on 4 August for a meeting of our District of South America, Southern Division, and then on to Chile for talks with their Grand Master before flying back to Heathrow on 8 August for onward travel to our District of Madras (Chennai). He tells me it was a training run for his November visit to our Districts of New Zealand, North and South Islands, and including our Inspectorate in Fiji and Vanuatu. And finally, just to round it all off, a dinner in Blackpool. This makes it sound as though the Deputy Grand Master has been sitting at home doing little. This is far from the truth and he made many District visits earlier in the year that you have heard about before, and he has added many miles to his car travelling around this country.
I, brethren, am greatly looking forward to visiting our District of Ghana later this month followed by Cyprus next month, and our Inspectorate in Portugal in November. It really is very humbling to witness your splendid efforts in support of Freemasonry. I have mentioned the Districts specifically, but there has also been extraordinary work carried out in all the Provinces. Well done everyone.
Brethren, in June I mentioned the phenomenal response you made to the Manchester bombing and the Grenfell Tower fire. I can confirm that East Lancashire gave the Red Cross in Manchester over £226,000 for the victims and that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge gave £100,000 to the Grenfell Tower Appeal – thank you for your generosity. Well done too, to North Wales, whose Festival with the RMGTB raised £3.1 million at £899 per member. An exceptional result. Brethren, as you would expect, our thoughts are very much with our brethren in the Caribbean and we are in touch with them.
Thank you, also, for all your efforts with the MCF Tercentenary grants and public vote. The public vote closed on 31 July and I can report that over 150,000 votes were cast across UGLE for the 300 charities to be awarded grants and most of these votes – over 80% – were from the general public. I know that the MCF has scrutinized these votes and has announced its award recipients. Congratulations to all involved in the MCF for this splendid initiative.
This project would not have been as successful without the exhaustive use of all social media outlets but I must here issue a caution on its use. Last year we issued a very comprehensive instruction on the use, values and dangers of social media. One of the key points made was that you should ensure that anyone who you post on one of these sites should have agreed to be shown. We recently had an unfortunate incident when this did not happen. Brethren, this is an invasion of privacy and it could have resulted in the person losing his job or any other position. Yes, we need to be open and we want to promote our activities, but we must protect our members’ wishes. A little bit of common sense goes a long way.
Our main event in the next two months is at the Royal Albert Hall where we shall be welcoming over 140 Sovereign Grand Masters from overseas and which, I am advised, will be “edutainment” – you will leave, having been educated and entertained and feeling proud to be a Freemason and proud of what Freemasons have achieved in the last 300 years.
Shortly after that, on 8 November, we shall be celebrating 50 years of our Grand Master also being our First Grand Principal when he will preside at the meeting and invest those awarded Grand Rank in celebration of his achievement.
Brethren, there is still a lot to this year left. Let’s give it a final push to ensure that it is a year to remember, with pride, and a year to use as a springboard for the future.