John Broster’s early life was to have a profound effect on his life: at the age of three he caught diphtheria and has been deaf ever since.
John managed to adjust to his disability and attended Hutton Grammar School and Liverpool University. He then trained as a chartered accountant and after qualifying worked for a firm of accountants in Preston. In 1968 he married Mary, who was a teacher, and they have lived in the same house in Preston ever since. Soon after they married, John started his own accountancy business.
John was initiated into Freemasonry in 1970 in the Lodge of Unanimity No.113 in the Province of West Lancashire. He served as Worshipful Master in 1982 and Treasurer from 1987 to 1992, and received his first Provincial appointment of Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon in 1992. In 2001 he was promoted to Past Provincial Deputy Grand Superintendent of Works and in November he will receive a further promotion to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden.
He is also a member of Uter Pendragon Lodge No.3481 in the Province of Cumberland and Westmoreland, which is close to their holiday home.
In the Royal Arch, he was exalted into Unanimity Chapter No.113 in 1983, becaming First Principal in 1992, and appointed Treasurer in 1994 - a post he still holds today. In 1996 he was appointed to Past Provincial Assistant Grand Sojourner, and was promoted to Past Provincial Grand Scribe N in 2003.
In 1996 whilst on holiday in Devon, Mary noticed a market stall which was selling goods for the charity, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, and exchanged addresses with Mrs Guymer who was running the stall.
A few months later their pet dog Robbie sadly died. Having taken some details about the charity John applied for a dog. Following an interview he was accepted and in January 1997 John spent a week with ‘Coppers’ at the charity's northern training centre.
Whilst John was training, Mary researched the charity and was surprised to discover that Hearing Dogs for Deaf People had benefited considerably from a grant from United Grand Lodge of England, which had provided funding to buy and build their first training centre plus a working balance for the first 18 months of being formed.
Coppers had already had intensive sound training and been ‘puppy socialised’ at weekends by Ian Frinthian Franks, who was coincidentally at that time preparing to go into the chair of Lodge of St Germain No.566 in the Province of Yorkshire North and East Riding. Coppers had become increasingly familiar with masonic ritual during long walks with Ian!
The charity said they were delighted they were able to place Coppers with John, as Coppers was the first ‘Hearing dog’ to be placed with a Freemason. Having spoken to staff at Freemasons Hall in London the charity asked John “to go out and reach as many Freemasons as possible to thank them and show them how well the money donated by UGLE had been spent.” John and Mary were pleased to do this and they immediately started to tell people how they had been given Coppers who quickly carved out a Masonic role for himself!
Coppers quickly became John’s most valuable hearing aid and constant companion. Since he was already a Master Mason it was only natural that Coppers should accompany John to the Lodge of Unanimity, and the first time Coppers attended the lodge it was recorded in the minutes. Coppers quickly became familiar with the ritual, enjoyed walking in procession, knew when to sit and stand and was known to give a prompt to others in the lodge!
In February 1997 Coppers had his first studio photograph taken, which appeared in Freemasonry Today and is also displayed at Preston Masonic Hall. His television debut came in December 1999 when John was interviewed about Freemasonry for the deaf by BBC2 ‘See hear’.
In July 2000 when John went to London to receive a certificate from another masonic order, Coppers also received his own certificate, proclaiming him ‘Illustrious Bro Coppers 30th Degree’. John later that day visited Freemasons Hall and was photographed with Coppers in Grand Lodge.
In August 2001, Coppers was featured by Grand Lodge on their website and he was awarded the 'rank' of 'Masonic Hearing Dog of United Grand Lodge'.
The idea of Coppers wearing a coat had been that of John Hamill (UGLE's Director of Special Projects). UGLE enlisted the help of Mary, who was sworn to secrecy and asked to obtain permission from the charity, supply the paper pattern and liaise with the Craft and Regalia Department at Freemasons Hall. John Hamill had the coat designed and arranged for it to be crafted to the template Mary had supplied. When it arrived by post it was a complete surprise for John and Coppers.
In September 2001, Coppers was photographed in full regalia with John in the George Bath Suite at Preston Masonic Hall. The photographs were displayed in Preston Masonic Hall, Freemasons Hall and the Hearing Dogs Centre in Buckinghamshire. Coppers was also featured in the first issue of ‘The West Lancashire Freemason’.
Coppers accompanied John to Provincial Grand Lodge in 2001 when he was promoted to the rank of Past Provincial Deputy Grand Superintendent of Works and again in April 2003 when John was promoted to the rank of Past Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah in Provincial Grand Chapter.
Coppers continued to work hard in the home, with his sound work. He was also an ambassador of the Hearing Dogs charity and accompanied John and Mary when she gave many talks about Coppers and the charitable side of Freemasonry. Their talks and PR work have reached a wide cross section of the public in an area of a 100 miles or so radius of Preston and considerably large sums of money have been sent to Hearing Dogs as a result of their work.
In 2004 Coppers was given an award for working over and above the call of duty. He alerted John when Mary needed help one night as she had collapsed and thus saved her life. He gradually worked for both John and Mary when Mary developed mobility and health problems.
The extraordinary and unique Masonic life of Coppers came to an end in July 2008. The end was quick and unexpected. At 13 years old Coppers had refused to retire. John said he was a perfectionist and most professional in all his work. In partnership with John he achieved a great deal for Freemasonry in the wide community portraying the charitable aspect.
In November 2009 a new hearing dog ‘Hayden’ was placed with John. Hayden was a beautiful six years old black Labrador who is very lovable, friendly and always wags his tail when spoken to and praised.
John says Hayden has had a difficult act to follow. As it was impossible to replace Coppers, a dog with a completely different disposition was requested, bearing in mind the role he would be expected to follow.
Hayden like Coppers before him alerts John to the door bell, telephone and wakes him up in the morning when the alarm goes off. Mary say’s the most valuable job he does is to find John wherever he is in the house and tell him Mary wants him!
John says Hayden has different strengths and so he is being allowed to carve out his own role and not emulate Coppers.
In order to mark the Bi-centenary of the Lodge of Unanimity a new Masonic coat was made for Hayden by Denise Croasdale at DMC Regalia in Preston who crafted it personally for him. Hayden is proud to wear it and grows in stature when on parade in the lodge.
'A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma'
This was how Winston Churchill described Russia in 1939. Seventy three years later his words were repeated in introducing ‘less well known groups’ at a recent meeting of the Hull and East Riding Interfaith Group at the Guildhall in Hull.
Jeffrey Gillyon, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Province of Yorkshire North and East Ridings, spoke about freemasonry, which he described as: ‘Not a religion but an approach to life’. Others spoke on different topics including 'The Greens and Paganism', 'The Bahai in Principle and Practice', and 'The Russian Orthodox Community in Hull'.
Those attending questioned Jeff on the issues of secrecy and Freemasonry and on the origins of the Craft. The evening proved interesting and thought provoking, with the basic tenets of Freemasonry being openly discussed.
The co chairs for the evening, Professor John Friend and Reverend James Hargreaves, encouraged open interactive discussion between the representatives of different faiths and groups. The consensus at the conclusion of the evening suggested that Churchill’s aphorism, whilst not inappropriate, was not entirely applicable: the riddle was being unwrapped, the mystery reduced, and the enigma addressed.
It is hoped further opportunities will arise across the Province enabling similar interaction with different faiths and community groups.
Dr Cliff Jones, resident at RMBI care home Connaught Court in York, has celebrated 60 years in Freemasonry. His home held a sherry morning to celebrate the event, which was attended by Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, Jeffrey Gillyon, and members of Humber Lodge No 57.
Jeffrey presented Cliff with a certificate and jewel to commemorate his masonic career. Cliff started his career in Freemasonry in 1951, aged 22, after being inspired by the headmaster of his school. He became Third Provincial Grand Principal in the Royal Arch and was a founding member of Mitre Chapter of York No.7321.
The Deputy Provincial Grand Master concluded, ‘Cliff is a true gentleman.’
The Province of Yorkshire, North & East Ridings welcomed over fifty guests to an ‘Interfaith Luncheon’ at the Masonic Hall Beverley Road recently. Faith Groups represented included Anglican-Quaker, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Roman Catholic, Church of England and both Reform and Orthodox Jewish. The presence of Reverend Michael Mewis, Provincial Grand Chaplain and Reverend Tim Boynes a member of St Cuthberts Lodge No 630 were examples of the ecumenical tolerance that was integral to the talks which followed.
The aim of this initiative was to disseminate information about the nature of Freemasonry. It is hoped that any misconceptions about the Craft may have been dispelled. It has been suggested that Freemasonry’s poor press in the past might dissuade men of different religious persuasions from becoming involved and may likewise alienate their wives, partners and families. A further aim of this pilot event was to address this issue which was raised by one of the guests Mrs Mary Munroe-Hill, Chaplain to The University of Hull.
Jeffrey Gillyon, The Deputy Provincial Grand Master, gave an erudite presentation titled ‘Freemasonry: not a religion but an Approach to Life’ explaining how the Craft does not possess a theological doctrine and forbids the discussion of religion and politics. He stressed the nondenominational concept of The Great Architect of The Universe embracing all religions and compromising none. The Deputy Provincial Grand Master described Freemasonry as ‘an approach to life’ which reinforces concern for others, kindness and care for the less fortunate, honesty in business, courtesy in society and fairness in all things.
Philip Daniels spoke about the history of Freemasonry and the links with the operative stonemasons in the middle ages. He referred to the documentary evidence of the seventeenth century and described features of the Lodge Room, relating how they had evolved with time.
There were many questions, skilfully fielded by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Philip and Sam Judah from the Provincial Grand stewards Lodge. Visitors were then invited to luncheon, where a wide range of interesting questions followed, to which the Deputy Provincial Grand Master responded.
Ms Jackie Loukes, Secretary of The Hull and East Riding Interfaith Group, gave a vote of thanks on behalf of the guests, applauding the presentation team and the hospitality of the Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge who had hosted the event.
Burlington Lodge, No. 3975, hosted a momentous event at Bridlington in the Province of Yorkshire North & East Ridings in November, when Past Deputy Grand Master Iain Ross Bryce celebrated his 50 years as a mason. Joining him for the event were Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, Assistant Grand Master David Williamson and Past Pro Grand Master Lord Northampton.
The most obvious way that this was done was by it being open, free of charge, every weekday, including to people joining the regular guided tours. In the past four years, visitor numbers had increased by 40 per cent thanks to the existing staff of guides working with others, especially security and maintenance.
To mark the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society staff worked with North Yorkshire Province to produce a list of more than 350 masons who were also Fellows of the Society. The list is available on the Library and Museum website and include Sir George Everest of mountain fame, psychologist Charles Myers, generally credited with the first use of the term ‘shell-shock’, and zoologist Edward Hindle who, as part of his distinguished scientific career, introduced the golden hamster as a domestic pet.
Cataloguing of the collections continued and information was available on the electronic catalogue on the website. Staff had catalogued all the sheet music – over 1,500 items – and archive material including the records of erased lodges and thousands of prints and photographs of individuals.
They had also undertaken a detailed analysis of what is required to catalogue and photograph all the items in the museum collection – 40,000 objects.
They will be starting a two-year project to digitise English eighteenth and nineteenth-century masonic periodicals this autumn, which will become available in comprehensive indexes and searchable. There are also more than 2,000 readers registered to use the archive collections.
Library and Museum staff also answer more than 3,000 queries a year and had given presentations at conferences and presented papers to professional and specialist groups. Material from the collections had been lent to other museums at home and abroad.
Work with provinces and districts has focused on the Historical Records Survey, which aimed to discover the extent and condition of all lodge and chapter records in England and Wales. The 60 per cent or so response rate, which was a fantastic achievement by local co-ordinators and thousands of lodge secretaries and chapter scribes, would ensure that local masonic history made a considerable contribution to Freemasonry’s tercentenary.
The Masonic Libraries and Museums Group is run by representatives of provincial libraries and museums and which Library and Museum staff support. Over the past ten years this group has helped to foster new museums and libraries in several provinces so that the heritage of Freemasonry could be preserved at a local level.
The Library and Museum has been awarded grants from external sources. One recent grant enabled them to establish a properly racked paintings store, another contributed towards the conservation of the world-class collection of Old Charges. Profits from the shop at Freemasons’ Hall are gift-aided to the Library and Museum. Since 2003, the shop had sold nearly 120,000 books, more than 90,000 Craft ties and 1,247 miniature masonic teddy bears.
The Library and Museum was looking forward to making a major contribution to the Royal Arch bicentenary celebrations in 2013 with an exhibition and to the tercentenary in 2017.
They would also be marking the 2012 Olympics in London. Plans include an exhibition on Freemasonry and Sport which will cover the important role played by leading masons in the first London Olympics in 1908 as well as the masonic involvement of sportsmen generally.
Venue: The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5AZ
Exhibition dates: Thursday 1 July – Thursday 23 December 2010
Exhibition free of charge to all visitors
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm. Museum closed at weekends
Visitor information: www.freemasonry.london.museum or 020 7395 9257
RW Bro Richard Anderson, Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire (North & East Ridings) recognised the important role played by Lodge Mentors when he addressed them at the meeting of his Provincial Grand Lodge on Saturday, 16th May.
He pointed out to them that,
“In appointing you as Lodge Mentor, your Lodge has not only recognised the importance of the initiative, but has also recognised in you the requisite skills to guide, teach and support our new members as they are introduced to the wonderful, yet often confusing, world of Freemasonry.
Whilst in many Lodges there are several Mentors, the Lodge Mentor is the brother in overall charge of the Lodge’s Mentoring programme.
He will not necessarily mentor anyone himself, but will certainly have the responsibility for selecting the most appropriate Mentor for each individual.
In effect, he is the brother that I expect to deliver a successful and sustainable mentoring programme for his Lodge.”
Lodge Mentor is not yet a recognised Office within Lodges and there is no collar. However, the Provincial Grand Master formally invested the Lodge Mentor of Humber Lodge No 57 with his Mentor Badge designed by the Provincial Grand Mentor for use in the Province and then took the opportunity of shaking the hands of all the other Lodge Mentors present.
Julian Rees on the Story of Iain Ross Bryce
Iain Ross Bryce, one of the most instantly recognisable figures in English Freemasonry, retired last year after fifteen years as Deputy Grand Master. It is probably fair to say that most Freemasons in England have either met him or heard him speak, but without doubt his lasting legacy to the United Grand Lodge is the way in which he has re-modelled and vitalised the charity system, turning it into a far sleeker, more productive organism than it was.He was born in Bridlington Yorkshire in 1936 of parents who originated from the Argyll area. He went to school locally, afterwards doing articles to become a Chartered Accountant. In 1958, prior to National Service in 1959, he enrolled in the Territorial Army in a Royal Engineers airborne unit ‘so that I wouldn’t have to go in the Pay Corps or RAF admin.’ and qualified as a parachutist. He stayed on for another twenty years in the Territorial Army.
In 1960 he was initiated in Burlington Lodge, No. 3975, in Bridlington. This Lodge, founded in 1919, is distinguished by its founders’ jewel being worn with a black ribbon to commemorate the fallen. He was then only twenty-four years old at a time when his father thought he was far too young, and he became Master of the Lodge at the age of thirty-three in 1969. In the same year he became a partner in his firm of Chartered Accountants. The firm was little more than a small town firm, but in time Iain became a Partner in the huge international accounting firm of Ernst and Young.
Iain had met his future wife, Jan, some years before. They weren’t always close however, and it was only the night before he was commissioned in the army, in 1960, that they became engaged, and married in 1962. His father in law was a Freemason, so there was a great deal of masonic influence on both sides of the family. Jan has had to cope with masonic and military activities throughout their married life. ‘Wives,’ says Iain, ‘have an important part to play in bringing us down to earth.’
A Masonic Career
His rise in Freemasonry began when he was made Master of his mother Lodge at its fiftieth anniversary, and Brigadier Claude Fairweather, Deputy Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire North and East Ridings, was present. Years later Iain got a phone call. It was Claude Fairweather. ‘I want you to do a job,’ he said. What is it? Iain asked. ‘I’ll decide,’ was the reply, ‘will you do it?’ As a result, Iain was duly appointed Provincial Senior Grand Warden at the age of forty-one and appointed Deputy Lieutenant in Yorkshire the same year.
From Provincial Senior Grand Warden, he became Assistant Provincial Grand Master, and then Deputy Provincial Grand Master. ‘I had only been Deputy for a quarter of an hour, when the then Provincial Grand Master, the Marquess of Zetland, announced that he wanted to retire, and wanted me to take over.’
Appointed Provincial Grand Master in 1984 he found the Provincial finances in a shambles, so he appointed a working qualified accountant as Treasurer. He introduced ‘open days’ for lodges, against huge opposition. For this to happen, a lot of work had to be done. Many of the lodge buildings were in a terrible state, dirty, with facilities that didn’t work.
Many had to be re-decorated. ‘There wasn’t a shortage of money: it was a shortage of attitude. We had huge opposition from those who said “we’ve never done it”. It was easier to say no than yes. Saying yes meant that somebody had to do it.’
‘At this time,’ he said, ‘I introduced an eight minute limit on after dinner speeches.’ There was a pause. ‘I later wished I had made it four.’ He also introduced Master Masons conferences and the first one was a sell-out – a huge number attended.
The idea for these conferences came when Iain and John Hamill were present at one that had been held in Northern Ireland. ‘I’m going to do that,’ he thought. ‘I was frightfully brash – I was a very young Provincial Grand Master.’
Royal Masonic Hospital
The then Pro Grand Master, Lord Cornwallis, asked him to chair a committee to look into the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and Sick, and to split the Royal Masonic Hospital from the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution. He was given six months to settle it, but achieved it in three. ‘If we don’t get the thing done quickly, we’ll be into the summer, and then nothing will get done,’ he remembers thinking.
On the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and Sick, there had been a lack of balance. Iain decided on a committee of one each from the Hospital and the RMBI plus a few others, and he got the Chairmen of both the RMBI and the Hospital on his side in this decision. After a few weeks, he told the Grand Master what they were doing, and he was very supportive. The Grand Master said, ‘Will you think about what more we can do for the sick?’
The committee concluded, in March 1988, that the RMBI and the Royal Masonic Hospital should each raise its own funds. The Masonic Foundation for the Aged and Sick had to suspend its fund-raising, and the RMBI would have an annual festival. But in order to do more for the sick, Iain, with the then Grand Secretary Michael Higham, set about formalising the haphazard Festival System into a matrix, which now forms the base programme for the Provincial Festivals.
Deputy Grand Master
In April of that year, Lord Cornwallis, then Pro Grand Master, took him on one side and said ‘You’re going to be Deputy Grand Master’. There was no discussion – the decision had been made, and that was that, although the actual appointment was three years away.
Lord Cornwallis was very grateful for what the committee had done. They had been swift, but now in addition they had to decide what could be done for the sick. One problem was that the Hospital was a totally commercial enterprise, with its own Samaritan Fund under its wing. The two had to be separated, but by then the Hospital had appointed independent management consultants, so the commmittee had to stand back and wait to see what happened.
Their conclusions therefore were that the gap between the RMBI and the MTGB had to be filled, that a new Samaritan Fund should be created, the viability of the Hospital should be considered, and the Grand Charity should be asked to review its objectives to help those not supported by the other charities. This second report was thus the embryo of the New Masonic Samaritan Fund, which was founded in 1990.
Iain was appointed Deputy Grand Master in 1991 and later, when Lord Farnham became ill, Iain deputised for him at home and abroad. After the death of Lord Farnham, Lord Northampton became Pro Grand Master. ‘With his appointment,’ he says, ‘we went down a generation – went down ten years.’
Bringing Charities Together
The most tangible result of the second report is bringing all the Charities into Freemasons’ Hall – the administrative costs of the Charities in their present fractured configuration costs several million per year. Iain encouraged the Presidents of the Charities to meet together under his chairmanship. It is a testament to Iain’s skills that they got to know each other better, and when they went back to their council meetings they all knew what the other Charities were doing. Now, for the first time, they share a common responsibility.
But the paramount benefit of the Bryce committees’ reports was the setting up of the New Masonic Samaritan Fund, with the benefits that flowed to those needing medical treatment. The ground for the setting up of the NMSF was laid on the demise of the Royal Masonic Hospital.
Iain was also involved, with the other Rulers in Grand Lodge, in the reorganisation of the Board of General Purposes, reducing its number from sixtyplus to twelve. ‘It was,’ he recalls, ‘a little like turkeys voting for Christmas’ but it has led, under its present Chairman Anthony Wilson, to a leaner, more efficient Board
Freemasonry in his Life
‘I feel very inadequate when trying to explain my personal feelings about Freemasonry.’ It has meant different things to him in each stage of his life, and the meaning behind the words did not at first play a great part. A knowledge of the true secrets of masonry has only come slowly over the years. All the time, without realising it, the experience improved his social skills, awareness of the problems of others and taught him to speak in public. He began to listen to what he was saying and reciting, and absorbed more of the often hidden meanings. This is a common experience.
‘Representing United Grand Lodge of England all over the world has been a privilege, at times a heavy burden.’ He has, he thinks, that great intangible asset of Freemasonry and its life blood that is fraternity and brotherhood. ‘The phrase from the Ancient Charges “the means of conciliating true friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance” cannot better express one of the meanings of Freemasonry.’
He also strongly believes that Freemasonry is just as relevant today as it always was, especially as it is not a religion but multi-faith. Its relevance is more enhanced as society is becoming more violent and with few moral limitations. It is time, he believes, to engage the minds of academics and the educated to show that Freemasonry does have a purpose and an important part to play in modern society.