Moment of opportunity
In his new role as Metropolitan Grand Master, Sir Michael Snyder explains how his appetite for change has steered a distinguished career in accountancy and the City
How did you become the managing partner at Kingston Smith?
I took articles at Kingston Smith when it was a small accountancy firm, as most were in 1968. I was asked to look after our Hayes office in 1973 for a couple of weeks, as the manager they’d put in wasn’t working out. Two weeks became a month and by late 1973 I was running the office, becoming one of five partners in 1974. In 1979 the then senior partner became ill and I took over running the firm. We were seven partners at the time, then merged with another firm and became 11. It’s been pretty successful: we’re client focused, have a good niche in the market and are in the top 20 firms in the UK.
Are you proud of your career?
I never use the word ‘pride’. I always think that’s a bit pompous, a bit self-satisfied, and tends to come before a fall. I’m happy with the way we’ve grown the firm. Of course, I could have done some things better but we’ve avoided major pitfalls. I think we’re respected and we’ve always focused on our clients.
How did you come to Freemasonry?
I was a member of The Worshipful Company of Needlemakers, which has an associated lodge, so I joined because a good number of my friends were members. I was a bit apprehensive beforehand but I thought, why not? When you join Freemasonry, you go through the degrees and it all slowly unfolds. However, it didn’t really mean an enormous amount to me until I went into the chair some years later – then it all started to come together and I began to really understand. I like the symmetry of it, I like the ritual, and however busy I am in business and public life, I always attend some meetings.
Are you ambitious?
I’ve been dedicated but I haven’t been on a mission. When most of we baby boomers were born after the war it didn’t matter what strata of society you were from, there wasn’t a lot to go around. We grew up understanding that we had to make our way, work hard and dedicate ourselves to our careers. I guess that’s where my motivation comes from.
Has the City changed?
It used to be like a big club, but since the Big Bang [in 1986] there are more international players, more regulations. But it’s always been a level playing field.
I believe that perhaps the reason the City has been so successful over the centuries is because anyone in the world can come here to trade and expect the same treatment. I think that’s important.
Could you work anywhere else?
I love the City of London – I think it’s a wonderful place. I like its cosmopolitan nature, the diversity and the fact that it’s the centre of the international business world. I started doing things for the City 30 years ago because I wanted to give something back, and I was asked to stand for election to the City of London’s Court of Common Council.
‘As a baby boomer, I grew up understanding that we had to make our way, work hard and dedicate ourselves to our careers. I guess that’s where my motivation comes from.’
Are you a reformist?
Before I led the City of London Corporation it ran like a sort of federation of states, with each department reporting only to its committee, not to the CEO, so we changed that and brought it together as one organisation. When I became policy and resources chairman, I didn’t have an office, didn’t have a meeting room, no staff – it was impossible to run, so I put the necessary support in place.
I felt that we couldn’t just be insular in London, so we opened an office in Brussels to engage with the EU, as well as opening offices in Mumbai, Shanghai and Beijing to connect with two of the powerhouses of the future. We also engaged with the surrounding and deprived areas of London and were at the forefront of the Academy schools initiative.
There was considerable change but I wasn’t trying to kill tradition; I was introducing direction and modernity to how things worked. We decided the City needed buildings fit to house the world’s leading financial businesses, rather than the City becoming a museum, so we changed the planning policy and some of London’s best buildings are now here.
Do you seize opportunities?
Yes, I have always tried to make the best of opportunities that come my way. I like to get things running properly and I’m driven by fairness. If I see something unjust I can’t stand it and I have to try to resolve the situation. It’s been an exciting journey. My wife’s bugbear is about me learning to say no.
I’m trying, and I think I’m a good delegator.
What keeps you in the Craft?
I do like the Craft, not only its good spirit but also the charity side. It’s incredible what masons do in terms of giving. Take the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys’ support of Lifelites, which contributes to all of the children’s hospices in the country, or the London Freemasons who are raising £2 million for an Air Ambulance. The London members of the Craft and Royal Arch add up to something like 45,000, which is a significant proportion of Freemasonry in England, but it’s not an enormous number of people when you look at the amounts of money they raise.
How do you feel about becoming Metropolitan Grand Master?
When I was approached I was flattered and somewhat apprehensive. I admire [the outgoing Metropolitan Grand Master] Russell Race, he’s done a fantastic job and has steered London rather astutely from an embryonic concept into a strong, viable organisation. Russell’s had an excellent team, but you’ve also got to recognise the contribution made by the hundreds of Freemasons in London who have been involved in Metropolitan’s activities.
What are your aims for the role?
I like to get things working smoothly and I see my appointment as an opportunity. We have nearly 1,870 lodges and chapters in the Metropolitan area, so considerable organisation is needed to lead and support them. I want every volunteer in every role to be able to undertake their masonic duties while still being fully involved in their family and professional lives. Some masons who are retired may wish to start meetings early and finish early, whereas those who are working in their careers will need meetings to start later; we need to accommodate both.
Freemasonry is an interesting hobby that needn’t take over from family life or earning a living. It can help develop the skills and confidence that serve us well in our careers, as well as provide fellowship and a network of friends.
Demonstration teams are popular attractions at lodge and chapter meetings and in recent years a plethora of teams have performed with demonstrations of 18th century degree ceremonies, Scottish degree ceremonies, modern chapter exaltations, ‘Talking Heads’ presentations and many more; not forgetting the Fylde Group Lodge of Instruction Festival.
For this purpose, a gathering of 29 West Lancashire brethren from the Fylde Coast, Southport and Wigan Groups met at Preston station. They were preparing to travel to Freemason’s Hall, Queen’s Street, London as a team with a difference; they were going to the home of United Grand Lodge to demonstrate a West Lancashire installation, for real!
The organiser of the trip was Chris Sage, holder of London Grand Rank and a member of Broadwater Lodge No 9027 that meets at Fleetwood. Chris was also the master elect of the Lodge of St Mary Balham No 3661 that meets at Freemason’s Hall. The team consisted of friends that Chris has made since his move to Blackpool in 2000. The team was going to install one of its own, ‘an honorary northerner’ as one brother put it. As many will know, there are no two lodges that work exactly the same. The team therefore choreographed an eclectic ceremony combining a number of the ‘quirks’ seen in their respective lodges. There were also reserves in the team ready to cover if necessary. Peter Bawden of Broadwater Lodge was one such member who assisted the lodge by acting as their opening inner guard while Mark Allen of Mount Lodge No 6654 was organist throughout the whole event.
The lodge was opened by its master Marios Alexandrou, in the Buckinghamshire Temple. There were six distinguished brethren present. They included Metropolitan Grand Inspector Jeremy Beech who is a Past Senior Grand Deacon; senior visiting officer Jonathan Hillman, accompanied by other grand officers Ronald Worby, George Cody and Barry Payne, with the lodge’s visiting officer Peter Walker, holder of Senior London Grand Rank, present in his official capacity.
The secretary Keith Waddy transacted the business of the lodge with alacrity and the scene was set for the installation ceremony. WM Marios Alexandrou then invited John Deal of the Southport Emulation Lodge No 3675 to occupy the master’s chair. Brian Dicks of Mereside Lodge No 6360 was asked to act as director of ceremonies while Tony Hind and Provincial grand steward of the Province of West Lancashire Jim Finnegan, both also of Mereside Lodge, took over as installing senior and junior wardens respectively. With Ben Clarkson of Blackpool Lodge of Fellowship No 7692 acting as installing inner guard and Darren Shillito of Thornton and Cleveleys Lodge No 3854 becoming chaplain, the team was in place and ready.
The lodge was opened in the second degree and Darren Shillito presented Chris Sage as master elect, after which Chris advanced and recited his obligation. In customary fashion, the lodge was opened in the third degree and the installing officers assumed control. Chris was duly installed according to ancient custom in fine style. Thus installed, Chris invested his predecessor Marios Alexandrou as immediate past master and Marios was presented with a past master’s jewel, with an explanation thereof delivered by Ron Fenton of Hesketh Lodge No 950.
Brethren were admitted in their order of precedence and they saluted and greeted the newly installed master in the appropriate degrees. The working tools in the third degree were explained by Carl Gittins of Blackpool Lodge of Fellowship, those in the second degree by John Brumfield, master of Mereside Lodge and finally Steve Cullen of Southport Emulation Lodge explained the first degree tools.
Glenn O'Brien of Landmark Lodge No 7273 presented the Hall Stone Jewel. This golden jewel on a sky blue collarette was presented to the lodge on 1 December 1926. It serves as recognition that former members of the lodge contributed worthily to the building of, the then new, Freemason’s Hall.
The appointment and investiture of officers of the lodge then followed. The senior warden Andy West and junior warden Jason Reid were placed in their chairs by the installing wardens who explained their gavels, columns, duties and pillars. The remainder of the lodge officers were then invested. The address to the deacons was by Graham Suthers of Blackpool Lodge of Fellowship. The address to the inner guard was by Ben Clarkson, with the address to the stewards given by Jim Finnegan. The principal addresses were then delivered by Walter Daubney of Mereside Lodge, who delivered addresses to both the newly installed master and to the brethren, with Clive Gitsham of Tithebarn Lodge No 8446 delivering the address to the wardens.
A notice of motion in the name of Robert Harvey, the lodge almoner, then proved in favour of £300 being donated to Prostate Cancer and £300 going to the Metropolitan Masonic Charity. Following this a collection of alms raised a very generous sum of £179.
Salutations, which in this lodge occur just before the risings, were extended to the grand officers, receiving a suitable response from Jeremy Beech and to the officers of Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges, receiving an informative response by Peter Walker.
The lodge was then closed and the brethren retired to the Dorset Suite at the Grand Connaught Rooms for a fine banquet, during which the toasts appropriate to a London lodge were observed. In response to the toast to holders of Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges, Peter Walker observed that the hub of conversation during the meal was a clear indication of the friendly and vibrant effect of this wonderful event. He praised the installation team for an interesting and fascinating ceremony which was so well done, adding that there were pieces of ritual that he had never witnessed before. He concluded by saying that he hoped that the brethren from West Lancashire would return on future occasions.
The toast to the WM was delivered by Marios Alexandrou, He stated that the Lodge of St Mary Balham had installed a great master and added that Chris had done a fine job during the evening and the lodge was looking forward to a successful year in his capable hands. He noted that it was nice to see so many guests present from the north, who added so much to this meeting. He urged Chris to bring his many friends as often as possible. Following this toast the ‘master’s song’ was performed by Arthur Caldicott, to the delight of all.
Chris responded with special thanks for the support of his visiting team. He spoke of the work done to make sure that the ceremony ran smoothly and said that he knew how ‘nervous’ St Mary Balham director of ceremonies Arthur Lewer had been about what the team were going to do, but knew the meeting would go well. Chris advised his audience that 12 West Lancashire lodges had been involved in the team and hoped that everyone had enjoyed the ceremony. He closed by expressing his pleasure to be at a banquet with so many people in attendance.
The toast to the visitors was delivered by Andy West, saying that it had been a splendid night with a brilliant ceremony. He added that it was a treat to see how things are done in West Lancashire and concluded by urging all the visitors to return whenever they could. In response, Mike Fishwick of Sincerity Lodge No 3677 expressed his pleasure at being asked to respond on behalf of the visitors, having been present on a previous occasion that Chris went into the chair. He thanked the members of the lodge for the way they had received the visitors and for providing such a magnificent meal.
In keeping with the West Lancashire theme, the raffle was conducted in the ‘Westhoughton’ fashion by Mark Tomlinson of Thornton and Cleveleys Lodge. With an excellent table of prizes, the numbers were flying. With that extra prize for claiming the last number up for grabs, there was some interesting and amusing bidding in the later stages. The raffle raised the excellent total of £420 which will be donated to Masonic and non-Masonic charities.
After starting the following morning with hearty breakfasts, the team met with Mike Baker, the Director of Communications at Grand Lodge, who treated the team members to a special tour of Freemason’s Hall, including rooms that the general public don’t get to see. The day continued with a boat trip down the Thames to Greenwich. After a fish and chips lunch they removed to the Tower of London where they had a brief walk before moving onto the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub in Fleet Street, which was rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of London. There has been a hostelry there since 1538. It was in such a historic setting that the team enjoyed a final sojourn before collecting their luggage and catching the train home.
10 June 2015
An announcement by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, I have to announce that the MW The Grand Master has made the following appointments:
In his capacity as First Grand Principal, he has appointed E Comp Russell Race, Metropolitan Grand Superintendent in and over London, to succeed ME Comp George Francis, who will retire as Second Grand Principal on 10 November. Comp Race will be installed at the Convocation of Grand Chapter the following day.
In consequence, Bro Race will retire as Metropolitan Grand Master and Metropolitan Grand Superintendent on 20 October. To succeed him as Metropolitan Grand Master, the Grand Master has appointed RW Bro Sir Michael Snyder, who was last year's Junior Grand Warden. Bro Snyder will be installed on 21 October.
Elliot Mason’s father, Robert James Mason is a London Freemason from Perfect Ashlar Lodge No. 1178.
Elliot said: 'I came to support the MSF through my dad, who is incredibly passionate about the work the charity does. I wanted to raise awareness and money for the fund because people with a health and care need require immediate treatment and support. The charity also provides grants to medical research charities which can help improve healthcare around the world, helping groups of people whose complex needs are often overlooked and underfunded.'
At the 19th mile, Elliot took a short break to get down on one knee and propose to his longterm girlfriend. After celebrating together, Elliot raced the remaining seven miles to complete the course in three hours fifty minutes. So far he has raised over £300 for the charity and donations are still accumulating on his online fundraising page.
The Paris Marathon starts on the Champs Elysees, and runners pass historic sites such as Notre Dame Cathedral, the Bastille and the Eiffel Tower before finishing in sight of the Arc de Triomphe.
England may have lost their touch at the World Cup, but the Metropolitan Grand Lodge Clay Shooting Association have retained theirs, despite the best efforts of sixteen Provinces!
London scaled the heights at the Inter-Provincial Clay Shooting Championships on Saturday June 21st, with the MetGLCSA team retaining the Championship Challenge Cup. More details of the team and its victory will appear in the Autumn edition of ARENA, but in the interim, here is a photo of the Hon Team Captain, Brian Saidman receiving the Cup from RW Bro Alan Vaughan, ProvGM of the Province of Bristol.
Well done to Metropolitan Grand Lodge for braving the rain and appearing at the Lord Mayor's Show!
You can see the footage of them on the BBC's website from 1:02:32 onwards here. It is online until 16th November.
Brethren will be delighted to see that there was some time laid aside from the very serious work being done at a recent MetGC/MetGL strategic update meeting at Freemasons' Hall, London, on Friday 15th March. This was of course also Red Nose Day, the fundraising day for the Comic Relief campaign.
Pictured with the Metropolitan Inspectors are the Metropolitan Grand Master, RW Bro Russell Race, DL, and a sprinkling of Assistant Metropolitan Grand Masters, together with the active Metropolitan Officers who had been giving presentations during the day. Thanks are due to Ben Jennings of the Metropolitan Office who took the photographs and stitched them together in time to be sent out as part of the first 'tweet' of the Metropolitan Grand Master, thus fulfilling his promise to those assembled at the recent SLGR Investiture and Annual Meeting of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge! A splendid photograph for a splendid cause!
Three years of planning – following a suggestion by Jim Morris of St Clair Lodge, No. 24, in Belleville, Illinois – resulted in a trip by English masons to St Louis, Missouri, that involved four degree demonstrations in 10 days. Members of ﬁve London lodges, three from Essex, and one each from West Kent and Cambridgeshire, formed the nine-strong demonstration team. One demonstration was held in St Louis and three in Belleville.
Teaching the ritual
The Taylor’s Ritual Association (TRA) is mounting a campaign to improve ceremonies. It has refreshed its website and is introducing new ways to teach ritual, contacting all London lodges during the process. TRA chairman Keith Alexander said, ‘One of the big attractions of Freemasonry is that when ritual is done well, it is a moving, meaningful and memorable experience for all those involved.’
The TRA will seek to identify a number of high quality Lodges of Instruction that may be accredited by the association to teach the ritual according to approved practice.
The Taylor’s Ritual Association plans to publish a lodge directory, consisting of a database of registered lodges that are happy to share the dates of their meetings online.
Go to www.taylorsritual.org for more information
It’s an acknowledged fact that Freemasonry is facing a challenge in recruiting young masons in the UK. But what is the Craft doing to address the issue? Adrian Foster goes in search of answers
For some, the term ‘young Freemason’ is an oxymoron on a par with ‘clear as mud’ or ‘honest broker’. However, a quick search on the internet for ‘young Freemasons’ reveals dedicated Facebook and Twitter sites that point to a new generation who are looking to discover the fraternity and relevance of the Craft.
The Connaught Club’s website proclaims that it has been founded to give young Freemasons in London a means to meet and socialise with like-minded people of similar ages who might otherwise be dispersed over London’s many lodges and large geographic area. Chris Hirst, chairman of the club, explains how it was established: ‘The vast majority of young Freemasons I meet tell me that they are the youngest member of their lodge by twenty, thirty, even forty or more years and, that although they enjoy the company and friendship of the other members, they sometimes feel left on the periphery. This in turn can lead to disillusionment with the Craft and this is exactly what the activities of the Connaught Club are meant to counteract.’
Chris explains that the club was formed to address a gap identified by the Metropolitan Grand Lodge over the lack of a focus for young brethren. ‘It was felt that although our fraternity transcends differences in men, including age, there is still a particular affinity between brethren of a young age. Our non-masonic events are social occasions offering young Freemasons the chance to meet with each other. At open receptions at Freemasons’ Hall, we congregate in and around the Grand Temple. Non-masons are welcome at these events and they have proved to be useful for introducing potential members to the Craft and for showing wives, girlfriends and partners a little about Freemasonry.’
With membership open to any Freemason under thirty-five, the club has an annual picnic on Lincoln’s Inn Fields for friends and family too. It also meets more informally on the first Friday of every month at a pub local to the Freemasons’ Hall for after-work drinks. ‘We do not have recruitment of new Freemasons as a principal objective of the club, but this has occurred quite often as a result of our activities,’ concludes Chris.
Jayson Brinkler, of The Campbell Lodge, No. 1415, offers an insight into what his lodge is doing to connect with young people: ‘Our meetings, which take place at Cole Court, Twickenham, are renowned within the Province for their social events, encouraging brethren to invite non-masons along to join in the fun. These events raise money for charity as well as encouraging our non-masonic friends to ask us questions about Freemasonry in a relaxed and friendly environment. The sort of events include an annual barbecue, golf, clay pigeon shooting, a ladies’ festival – and we recently hosted a discussion meeting about English Freemasonry where twenty-two non-masonic guests attended, nineteen of them ladies. If other lodges followed our example, the Craft would certainly become a lot more vibrant,’ suggests Jayson.
In 2010, Jayson helped to establish The Kent Club – named after Grand Master the Duke of Kent – and became its secretary. Like the Connaught Club, The Kent Club is a social hub that enables young Freemasons between the ages of thirty-five and forty-nine to mix and socialise with brethren of their own age. This initiative, which is supported by Metropolitan Grand Lodge, has a committee that includes an events secretary who organises social events such as masonic talks, an annual dinner and monthly informal drinks. With partners and non-masonic friends encouraged to attend, The Kent Club has gained a membership of around ninety in its first year, clearly showing that it is meeting a need among the younger fraternity.
‘English Freemasonry is doing what it can, but it is the responsibility of individual lodges to find new and inventive ways to attract younger people into the Craft,’ says Jayson. ‘Not enough is being done to reverse a trend which, if not addressed, will result in many more lodges closing and members leaving the Craft. All too often we see lodges holding their standard four meetings a year – and that’s all. Social activities are vital in Freemasonry because they not only provide a means of introducing potential new members to a lodge, but they also prevent young, and new, brethren losing interest between meetings. So it is as much about retention as it is about recruitment.’
adapt to survive
Keith Mitchell runs new masons’ receptions at Freemasons’ Hall and is forthright in his views. ‘Many of us probably believe that Freemasonry is largely populated by men aged sixty to ninety, with a few lively centenarians. However, there are now more than fifty lodges specifically for undergraduates, postgraduates, senior members of a university and their alumni, ranging in age from eighteen upwards,’ he says, pointing to the growing level of interest in Freemasonry shown by enquiries through the UGLE, Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Provincial websites.
‘Should we worry if the average age of a London Freemason is sixty? I believe we should,’ says Keith. ‘We can shrug and ignore our ageing membership, or we can look critically at Freemasonry and ask what we can do to appeal to a broader swathe of society while maintaining our traditions. I believe it’s time to jettison timidity in masonry. London masons have a float in the Lord Mayor’s Parade and wear their regalia. Many Provinces organise open days and there are frequent social events which are open to non-masons across the country.’
Keith accepts that his views might not be popular: ‘I can already hear some senior brethren groaning loudly, but I do think we need to reflect on what changes would help us to maintain a healthy flow of new members and which lodges would be best placed to make those changes. With 1,400 lodges in London alone, there is flexibility for experimentation and trial. I encourage masonic brethren to reflect on the inevitability of decline if we do not adapt, innovate and move with the changing times.’