Despite its small size, the Province of Shropshire knows how to punch well above its weight. Back in 2014 when the then Provincial Grand Master Peter Taylor launched a Festival for the Province (the fifth smallest of the 48 Provinces) its 1,200 members found themselves facing the challenge of raising no less than £1 million over the following five years
Undaunted, the then 34, although now 36, Lodges inspired their members to rise to that challenge magnificently.
Under the chairmanship of the provincial grand charity steward, Simon Aucott, a Festival Fundraising Committee organised, co-ordinated and supported the work of the lodge charity stewards throughout the Province in finding ever more inventive ways by which they, their families and friends might go about raising the vital contribution to the work of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF).
Members of the Province jumped out of aircraft, held promise auctions, went on a group cycle ride from Telford to Rotterdam, held dinners, garden parties and wine tastings. There were christmas fairs and a spectacular concert. The Provincial Director of Ceremonies organised a competition for members to guess his annual mileage on masonic business during a single year; the answer was tens of thousands!
And just to prove that the having wheels is not the only way of fundraising, international walking champion Roger Michell walked between all the lodges of the Province to present a travelling Maul which then accompanied him and his wife Linda on a walk from Freemasons' Hall in Shrewsbury to Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street for quarterly communication in June 2019, where Roger's achievement of walking over 1,000 miles was recogised by the Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes. UGLE donated £1,000 to the appeal.
Eventually, the appeal came to a close and at a spectacular gala celebration event at the Telford International Centre, organised by the festval celebration committee chaired by Melvin Gough, the final total was revealed: an astonishing £1,217,094! This is the second highest per capita contribution ever made to the MCF. The Provincial Grand Master went on to praise the efforts of everyone who had worked so hard over the period of the Festival, singling out in particular the committee chairman and the festival treasurer, Dennis Hill.
The Gala was a brilliant celebration of all the efforts of the many Freemasons, families and friends and was attended by 580 people, including HM Lord Lieutenant in Shropshire, Anna Turner, and civic dignitaries as well as other guests including the Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, and the President of the MCF, Richard Hone, and Chief Operating Officer, Les Hutchinson. Shropshire Freemasons were proud to welcome them all and to showcase who they are and what they do in the community. In addition to the sumptuous dinner, guests were entertained by magicians and singing waiters to add to the special evening.
Shropshire won't be required to hold another Festival until 2030, but the fundraising efforts won't stop any time soon: the Province, Lodges and indivdual Freemasons will build on the experience gained over the period of the Festival to continue to raise funds for many local charities, as they have over many years. Although there may be fewer parachute jumps by the Provincial Grand Master!
11 December 2019
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren. If you look up, you will see one of the finest mosaics in London. It took Italian craftsmen 10 man-years to create and, like so much of our Craft, it is laden with symbols, allegory and meaning. But look more closely, especially in the South-West and you will see that all is not quite as it should be. Cracks have been appearing over the last few years. Tesserae have fallen, and the Grand Superintendent of Work’s brow has furrowed, but he informs me that you are not in immediate danger!
After extensive research, chemical analysis, ultrasounds, X-Rays, thermal studies, endoscopies, not to mention all manner of expert opinion, we are now able to confidently conclude that we have no idea why. We do know the many things that are not responsible for these cracks, and contrary to scurrilous rumour, hot air from this chair has nothing whatsoever to do with it, but pinning down the exact cause has proved elusive. Take a good look Brethren because in a few weeks’ time, it will be shrouded in scaffolding, and for the first time in nearly a hundred years, men, and probably women, will begin work on restoring it to its former splendour.
We recently heard from the Grand Superintendent of Works about his role within the organisation and some of the work being done by his team to ensure that not only this building, but all of our masonic halls up and down the country are up to scratch. A huge amount of work has been put into producing the Masonic Halls Guide, available in the members’ section of the UGLE website, to provide a ‘Best Practice’ guide to help Lodges and Provinces improve their Halls and meeting places, and how they are managed.
I was recently told of a Lodge in Cambridgeshire (Stone Cross) which has transformed its own hall from a rather dingy affair to something the whole community can be proud of. Members, under the guidance of more expert Craftsmen – also members of that Lodge – have spent weekends, and time over consecutive summers to transform it into a venue that they can all look forward to using – and it has made a huge difference to the first impressions and attendance of new members.
As we actively seek out new members to join us, we should ensure that we are examining what it is that we would expect them to find – not just in the physical spaces we occupy, but in our Lodges too.
Many of us find a great deal of fulfilment in volunteering and giving of our time for the benefit of the community at large. We will shortly be sending out a survey to estimate just how great an impact we, as Freemasons have within our local communities – our last estimate was that our members contribute over 5 million hours volunteering for worthy causes.
We must be unique as an organisation in that we have premises embedded in almost every community in the Country. Just as we draw our members from all walks of life and all backgrounds, so our halls are found in village and cities, in areas rich and poor. Over the next few months, the Communications Working Party of the Board, made up of Provincial Grand Masters from each region of the country, will be looking at what we might do to raise our profile by putting these to better use – not only for ourselves, but also for those communities from which we are drawn. What does your Hall say about you, and the wider organisation, to a person seeing it for the first time and, indeed, to that potential new member, or that member of public giving blood, being screened, or just looking around?
Many of our Halls are both precious and beautiful; some, cracking a little around the edges and in need of loving care. But I’m sure, Brethren, we all feel like that at times. Let us remember that we are custodians not just of the Craft and its heritage and traditions, but also those meeting places which have, for generations, inspired our members.
I wish you and your families a very Happy Christmas period and I look forward to seeing you again in the New Year.
Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
13 November 2019
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, for a long time we have been trying to come up with good reasons why all Brethren should join the Royal Arch and I think between us we have had some success and the percentage of brethren who are members has increased almost everywhere over the last few years.
Today I want to turn the question round and ask, 'Why don’t all our Brethren join the Royal Arch'.
It seems to me that there are five main reasons (but I am sure others will come up with many more).
Firstly, they don’t know anything about it. If this were to be the main reason, I would be very depressed, which I am not. However, I am sure that there will be some who fall into this category and that is a real condemnation of those who appoint the Royal Arch Representatives in Lodges. They must clearly be failing in their duties. Where there are no Royal Arch representatives then senior Brethren and particularly Mentors as well as Proposers and Seconders must step up.
Secondly, they have heard about it, but have been put off by some aspect. Frequently I have heard people talking about how difficult the ritual is to learn. Surely our Brethren should be able to make up their own minds about that and not have seeds of doubt sewn in their minds without having tried it. Let them find out for themselves and if they are reluctant to join the ladder they can watch from the side until they feel ready. The exaltation ceremony is one of the best to sit and watch.
Personally, I don’t consider it any more difficult than any other ritual and the main long sector delivered by the Principal Sojourner is a good story which I have always found sticks in the mind reasonably well. Also, Companions, the Principal Sojourner has two assistants. Why should they not live up to their names and assist in the ceremony. The work splits naturally and gives the Assistant Sojourners good reason to attend.
With the fairly recent changes to the ritual the 1st Principal’s task has been considerably eased by sharing much of it with the other Principals.
Thirdly, cost. This is clearly relevant, and it is imperative that any candidates are fully briefed on this just as they should have been when joining the Craft. In part this can be considered in the same way as my fourth reason, time. Again, extremely relevant. Many Chapters only meet three times a year, but that is still an added burden for working people to manage. Do our Lodges, perhaps meet too often. Many meet 10+ times a year and along with Lodges of Instruction and rehearsals this is an enormous time burden on the young working brother. I know I shall be unpopular with many, but if Lodges that meet that often considered reducing the number of their meetings, it could possibly invigorate their Chapters, by saving the Brethren both time and money.
Fifthly, they have joined other orders already and have reached the limit of the involvement in Freemasonry that they want. If this is the case, we have again failed in our duties as Craft Masons. There can be no logical masonic reason for a craft mason to join any other order before joining the Royal Arch, unless they don’t know about the Royal Arch or the reasons for joining have been poorly explained.
I must add that I am all for our craft brethren joining whatever other legitimate order that they want, but strongly believe that the Royal Arch should come first.
Companions, the Royal Arch is a wonderful order as everyone here this morning knows, I am extremely proud of being the Pro First Grand Principal and look forward to the day when we can boast that more than 50% of Craft masons have joined the Order and we can then move upwards from there.
11 September 2019
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren I have been a Freemason for nearly 50 years and there have been so many changes during that time that one might think it has been all change. However, that is not the case and the principles emphasised at that time are still very much at the centre of what we all do and strive to pass on today.
What has changed, and I hope very much for the better is our ability to discuss our membership and what we do, with non members, as well as a greatly improved internal communications system.
Since my first involvement at Grand Lodge there have been four Pro Grand Masters, Lords Cornwallis, Farnham and Northampton and myself. Those three predecessors were acutely aware of the need for change, as, indeed, were their senior advisers. They, with the tremendous and very much continuing support of the Grand Master, started and continued the process. Where I have been lucky is that so much of it seems to have come to fruition on my watch. It would be very easy for me to claim credit for this. However, I hope that those of you who know me well enough, appreciate that it is not my style, but, much more importantly, it would be totally untrue.
Very little gets done in the world in general and certainly not in Freemasonry unless it is overseen by a strong team and I have been fortunate in having had excellent support from exceptional people throughout my period of office.
It is, perhaps, now a rather hackneyed expression, but Mark McCormack’s saying that there is no 'I' in team still rings true. Everything works better when there is collective responsibility and everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
In Freemasonry we should look at the whole membership as one team. Provinces and Districts are teams in their own right, as are individual Lodges and I would go further and say that the executives at the head of all these bodies should consider themselves teams. We must all pull in the same direction and support each other.
Reverting to the team theme, there will, inevitably, be some decisions made with which not all in the team agree, but again there should be collective responsibility and support should be given.
If this is not the case, we run the risk of being 'picked off' by ill wishers both externally and, dare I say, internally as well.
Of course, we won’t all agree on everything, but mutual support and respect goes a long way to finding the right answers, even if there has to be tinkering along the way.
I really do believe that during the last 10 years we have made giant strides in the right direction, but I do stress again that this was enormously helped by the building blocks that had started to be put in place earlier. We have a long way to go, but I can’t remember a time when I have seen so much enthusiasm around the world and I am primarily, but by no means solely, referring to UGLE members because they are the ones that I meet most. We have a large number of visitors from other Constitutions with us today and I hope that they would concur with what I have said.
Wherever I go in the world I find our Brethren openly talking to non masons about their membership. There is no embarrassment and no secrecy involved. I even had a most convivial conversation with the Passport Control Officer in Kingston, Jamaica. I didn’t manage to sign him up, but he showed great interest in our visit to the Jamaica Cancer Charity.
Brethren we should all consider ourselves lucky to be members of our Order at this exciting time, but I make no apology for repeating that the current positive situation is very largely down to team work in every aspect of what we do, most certainly not forgetting the incredible teams who raise money for and manage our Charities. Please don’t forget Brethren that when anything has gone well, none of us should say 'I have done such and such' we should say 'we have done such and such'. I feel certain that I have just made a rod for my own back and, no doubt, I shall fall into my own trap perhaps even later today, and I can think of a few people sitting not far from me who will delight in picking me up on it.
Brethren, please forgive me if I finish by saying I know that I have spoken for quite long enough and WE must go to lunch.
Thank you, Brethren.
After six years of fundraising, Richard Hone, President of the masonic Charitable Foundation, announced at the Province of Bristol's Festival Ball that they had achieved a total in excess of one million pounds
With over 600 people in attendance at Ashton Gate, which included UGLE’s Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, it was a hugely successful, enjoyable extravaganza and celebrated the completion of the appeal in true Bristol fashion.
Richard Hone said: ‘This is an outstanding result which equates to an average per head of £829 – the seventh highest across all Provinces. This could only have been achieved by the support, sheer hard work and endeavour of so many members in every lodge.’
The intention at the start of the festival was to raise enough money to put back into the charities an amount equal to that received in the Bristol Province by members and their dependants since the last festival – this figure does that and exceeds the target by over £200,000.
Steve Bennett, Festival Chairman, said: ‘Most of the lodges and all chapters exceeded expectations by raising amounts well beyond that asked of them and in some instances achieved incredibly higher totals.
‘The Province-wide support was critical to achieving a seven-figure total and the magnificent donations received from our own Provincial Charity, the Bristol Masonic Benevolent Institute, was amazing. The Mark Degree, Bristol Masonic Charitable Trust and the many associations and clubs were unstinting in their support.
‘The personal endeavours of many members to make a difference have been humbling – Bill Doody running seven marathons in seven consecutive days; Tony Griffiths and Brian Yeatman cycling from John O’Groats to Lands’ End; Alin Achim competing in the Iron Man Competition are just a few of the hundreds of events – large and small – which have raised money in support of The Festival Masonic Samaritan Fund.’
Steve said it was impossible for him to conclude his time as Festival Chairman without a ‘massive thank you to the members of the Festival Committee who had worked so hard and tirelessly during the six years of the appeal, and the year prior.'
Dwight St. George Reece was installed as the new District Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for the District Grand Lodge of Jamaica & the Cayman Islands on 20 July 2019, with UGLE’s Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, conducting the ceremony
Alongside the other Caribbean District Grand Masters, those from Bahamas & Turks, Bermuda, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia, as well as Suffolk’s Provincial Grand Master Ian Yeldham, they joined UGLE’s Grand Secretary, Dr David Staples, and Grand Director of Ceremonies, Charles Hopkinson-Woolley, in participating in the ceremony held at the AC Hotel Kingston in St Andrew, Jamaica.
After being installed, Dwight thanked his predecessor Walter Scott who served 10 years as District Grand Master.
The ceremony was then followed by a celebratory banquet at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
Last year, Cheshire’s Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank set a challenge to members to organise an event promoting awareness and building support for the Cheshire Freemasons Charity
John Miller was first to step forward and so developed the idea of organising a sponsored bike ride from Chester to London, utilising only the intricate canal network and towpaths that weave between Cheshire’s’ county town and capital city.
The route was agreed from the Masonic Hall in Queen Street, Chester, to Freemasons’ Hall at Great Queen Street following the Shropshire Union Canal to Wolverhampton, then the routes through Birmingham, picking up the Grand Union Canal near Solihull and following that into the heart of London, some 230 miles and crossing several masonic Provinces.
The team consisted of 16 riders with a support team of two and given the rough terrain and general riding conditions it was agreed to limit each day to between 40 and 50 miles allowing the challenge to be completed within five or six days. Riders were tasked with raising sponsorship and several Cheshire businesses sponsored the exclusive team shirts produced in order to support logistical costs such as travel, accommodation and food.
A black tie benefit event was also held within the Province which greatly contributed to the costs of the task ahead. To make the most of the fine English weather, the departure date was set for 6th June and the Deputy Provincial Grand Master David Dyson was present to see the team off safely from the Chester start point, and the Provincial Grand Master put a date in his diary to meet the exhausted riders outside the doors of Great Queen Street on the 11th June, what could possibly go wrong? The answer is Storm Miguel – which for three days of the journey tested each and every rider for their tenacity, and for how waterproof their kit truly was.
In the main the team discovered that waterproofs aren’t that effective in the face of a tropical storm, and indeed for two of the riders who managed to fall in to the canal, and are now affectionately referred to as the ‘Cheshire Splash Masters’. Cheshire’s Provincial Office reached out to Provinces that the riders would pass through en route.
Shropshire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire were all kind enough to offer a warm welcome and kind words of encouragement, as well as contributions, a true reflection of communication, commitment and teamwork by Freemasons. It is noteworthy that during the ride, many conversations with members of the public took place, lifting the profile of Freemasonry in general, and additional contributions were made by many of these non-Masons met along the way in support of the rider’s objectives.
A joint effort between the riders and HQ meant the Communications team were able to promote the event on social media platforms, using the dynamic mapping of GPS, daily blogs and great pictures sent by the riders each day.
Followers loved watching the daily progress made by the cyclists. The event organiser, John Miller, was keen to ensure the fundraising aims were kept clearly in the spotlight throughout the event via the online donation link and ‘interviewed’ members of the team at each overnight stay so this could be broadcast. The ride ended with the entire team completing the journey.
The total fundraising was then announced that over £22,000, which this was increased at Quarterly Communications the following day when the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes made a donation to the Cheshire Freemasons Charity of a further £1,000.
12 June 2019
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren we have a number of firsts today. It is June and, therefore, the first meeting of Grand Lodge since the investiture of the new team of Acting Grand Officers. Some old hands, some new, including, of course, the Grand Director of Ceremonies. We wish them all well and hope they enjoy their term of office how ever long that may be.
Another first is the luncheon arrangements. This is not the place to go into the whys and wherefores of the action that the Grand Secretary has taken. Many of you will be aware of the reasoning. What I will say is that the Grand Secretary deserves our support and, whilst I know how reluctant you all are ever to comment on such issues, I am sure that he would welcome constructive comments.
Changing the subject: I was in Stockholm three weekends ago at the Installation of the new Grand Master of the Swedish Order of Freemasons. In his address the new Grand Master laid out his vision for the future which included ensuring that all new candidates who wished to join their Order were properly interviewed and briefed prior to their initiation so that they knew what was expected of them as Freemasons and what they, as Freemasons, should and should not expect from their membership. This struck a slight chord with me, Brethren. Are we, perhaps, ahead of the game with Pathway which is now being so widely used within our Constitution?
I am quite certain that Pathway is a 'game changer' for many of our Lodges and I am so pleased that so many of you have embraced it, as it makes attracting new Brethren much more effective and we are far more likely to effectively engage our new members if they have been introduced to Freemasonry in this way.
I have also been delighted to have seen the use of Solomon in a number of Lodges not least on my visit to Cyprus in April. Many of the excerpts are ideal for filling in idle moments in Lodge, when there is a natural gap in proceedings, without extending the overall time of the meeting.
I have said before, but it bears repeating. Time is a precious commodity in most people’s lives and becomes more so as time goes on. The time that we meet and the time we spend in Lodge are very relevant. Personally it might suit me very well to meet at 5 o’clock or even earlier, spend two hours in the meeting and then be finished by 9 to 9.30, but that would be a pretty selfish attitude when it comes to the younger brethren and in the case of most Lodges, a sure way of reducing its popularity for new members.
Brethren, let’s all be flexible and listen to each others’ requirements. If suitable, the meeting times can be varied from meeting to meeting as many Lodges already do, and we should not be afraid to consecrate new lodges that meet the needs of those we hope to attract rather than blindly supporting lodges that don’t. Every Lodge has a natural life span.
Brethren that is enough lecturing for one day. The gap between now and our meeting in September has the natural summer break from which I am sure we will all emerge with renewed vigour.
Seeing the light
Freemasons’ Hall welcomed more than 100 guests for a special event on 16 May, with renowned war artist Arabella Dorman the guest speaker for the Anthony Wilson Memorial Lecture
The event was opened by Dr David Staples, the United Grand Lodge of England’s Grand Secretary and CEO, as he introduced Arabella to the stage and announced the two charities it was in aid of – Beyond Conflict and Age Unlimited.
The lecture was in honour of Anthony Wilson, who served as the President of the Board of General Purposes at UGLE from 2004 to 2017. Anthony’s widow, Vicky, was also in attendance, as well as Peter Lowndes, Pro Grand Master, and Geoffrey Dearing, the current President of the Board of General Purposes.
Dorman opened by paying tribute to the great man that Anthony was and telling the audience what a pleasure it had been to paint his portrait, which was placed at the front of the stage throughout the event. She has also been commissioned to paint a scene from UGLE’s Tercentenary celebrations in 2017, and this will soon be displayed in Freemasons’ Hall.
Dorman gave a vivid and insightful talk, opening with a poem and asking the audience to ‘think about our one life’, as she spoke in detail about her journeys across a number of war-torn countries.
Displayed behind her were images both harrowing and beautiful, including a bombed mosque in Syria, as Dorman argued that the destruction of ancient sites had only added to the tragedy that has befallen that country. The artist also explained how her belief in the idea of permanence was changed by her visit, telling the audience that history can be rebuilt, but that the past is lost to this present.
Dorman said the voices she had heard in Syria were not broken, but full of defiance and longing. This was even more inspiring when she recalled how one woman had told her that she had lost her car and carried on; she had lost her house and carried on; and she’d then lost her family and thought that she couldn’t carry on, but still did.
This was one of many real-life examples Dorman detailed throughout the night, as she shared her hope that even though art couldn’t change the world, it might help people feel a calling to resist corruption and war. In conclusion, she asked that her own work be seen as a salute to the power of peace, courage, faith and hope – as well as a call to reach out to others with compassion.
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) welcomed members from across the globe to join the Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent, and Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, for this year’s Craft and Royal Arch Annual Investitures at Freemasons' Hall
Investiture week saw the District Support Team of Lister Park and Louise Watts taking the opportunity to organise a number of District-centric events. On 24th April 2019, new District Grand Masters and Provincial Grand Masters were given a guided tour of Freemasons’ Hall, followed by a presentation and luncheon with the Chief Operating Officer of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, Les Hutchinson, and Senior Grant Officers.
A Workshop for District Grand Secretaries filled the afternoon before the day was concluded by a Fellowship Gathering for all District members, with their wives and significant others, in the Vestibules area outside the Grand Temple. It was a relaxed and informal evening hosted by Dr Jim Daniel, UGLE’s Past Grand Secretary, who gave a short and amusing welcome speech, alongside Willie Shackell CBE, another Past Grand Secretary, the Rt Hon Lord Wigram, Past Senior Grand Warden, and Bruce Clitherow, Past Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies.
Following the Royal Arch festivities on 25th April 2019, District Grand Masters and their guests were then invited to join the Grand Secretary, Dr David Staples, for a relaxed drinks evening.
As a result of an organisational restructure at UGLE in January 2019, the department for Member Services, under the Directorship of Prity Lad, has a renewed focus on attracting new members and engaging with its existing membership.
Comprised of three key functions, the Registration Department, District Support and External Relations, they are committed to a common goal of making UGLE an organisation that is fit for purpose and an efficient headquarters for its members.
Prity Lad, UGLE’s Director of Member Services, said: ‘Being our first opportunity this year to welcome and entertain our District guests, these events were hugely important to us. It is our commitment to work in partnership with the Districts more closely than ever by creating a function of expertise, training and events and to support and raise the profile of the charitable work which our Districts are engaged in.
‘It was a huge honour for me to meet with many of those who attended and I look forward to working together over the next coming months. I would also like to give grateful thanks to Jim, Willie, Lord Wigram and Bruce for supporting this inaugural event, which we intend to be the first of many.’