Celebrating 300 years
Tuesday, 15 May 2018 14:05

RW Bro Anthony Wilson 1950-2018

RW Bro Anthony Wilson died peacefully on Monday 14 May, after a long battle with cancer fought with great dignity

He was President of the Board of General Purposes for 13 years, retiring from the role at the end of December 2017, and had been President of the Committee of General Purposes for three years before that.

Anthony was born in 1950, educated at Eton, and subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant. One of the first audits he conducted was for The Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund, which sponsors research fellowships at the Royal College of Surgeons. Some 20 years later he became a Trustee of the charity, which is now known as The Freemasons' Fund for Surgical Research.

Initiated into Tuscan Lodge No. 14 in March 1976, Anthony was appointed Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1997, and served as President of the Committee of General Purposes from 2001 to 2004. 

He was appointed President of the Board of General Purposes in March 2004 and was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for purpose. He was promoted to Past Senior Grand Warden in April 2012.

He also played a prominent role in many events throughout our Tercentenary celebrations including the unveiling of the memorial stones to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during World War I, through to the Especial meeting of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall where he was seated in the Royal Box with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.

UGLE has sent condolences on behalf of all members of Grand Lodge to his widow Vicky and family.

Read Anthony Wilson’s interview in Freemasonry Today in 2014, where he revealed that modernising the business of Freemasonry was one of his proudest achievements.

Published in UGLE

Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter

26 April 2018 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes

Companions, this meeting is always a very happy occasion and I do congratulate all those of you whom I have invested today. It both recognises your past endeavours but is also a clear indicator that we expect more from you in the future. Grand Rank in the Royal Arch is both a senior, and in many cases, a public position within the organisation, and I would hope that you all feel willing to communicate the pride you now feel to those you meet, and to act as ambassadors for the Royal Arch not only to those within your lodges and chapters, but also to the general public at large. However, I do appreciate that the general public would not understand the relevance of the Royal Arch, but it clearly demonstrates your seniority within Freemasonry as a whole.

I have heard it said that the Royal Arch might have been somewhat eclipsed by the Tercentenary celebrations this year in the Craft, but far from it. The Royal Arch completes the craft degrees and increased interest and membership for the Craft can only be to the good for our Order. A new injection of pride and confidence in Freemasonry – in what we do, and in our relevance to the wider community from which we herald can only result in a strong, confident and successful future.

We must be careful to maximise the momentum, energy and enthusiasm that surrounds Freemasonry at the moment and ensure that it is neither wasted nor neglected. We must make the effort, and spare the time to explain who we are and what we do, and also ask ourselves why some of those brethren in our lodges have not taken that extra step to become our companions. We must listen to, and think hard on the answers they give. I believe we are winning. If we turn the clock back 10 years we were experiencing a 30% conversion rate from Craft to Royal Arch, now there are very few Provinces or Districts where the ratio is under 40% and some are considerably higher.

May I take this opportunity to bid a fond farewell to Excellent Companion Willie Shackell, Grand Scribe Ezra, who has served in a number of senior appointments over the last 11 years. We all wish him well in his fourth, and what I am sure he hopes will be his final retirement.

Companions, events like this do not just happen and I would like, on your behalf, to congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for once again arranging such an impressive ceremony and the Grand Scribe Ezra and his team for ensuring all the other arrangements have gone so smoothly.

Companions, I look forward to hearing of, and reading about your exploits over the summer, and also to welcoming you back in the autumn.

Published in Speeches

Freemasons' Hall in Manchester held its official open evening on 15th January 2018 to celebrate its multi million-pound refurbishment

The grand evening included a drinks reception, tour of the centre, speeches from key personnel and the unveiling of the new Masonic plaque to commemorate the opening evening.

Guests in attendance included the Provincial Grand Master for East Lancashire Sir David Trippier, accompanied by his wife Lady Trippier, and the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, who officially opened the new Masonic Centre.

The majority of the building now hosts spectacular weddings, events and business meetings. However, the Freemasons have retained dedicated accommodation located on the 3rd floor.

A memorial dedicated to the Freemasons that made the supreme sacrifice and lost their lives in World War II has also been re-homed within the centre. The memorial was moved from the ground floor hall of the building and features an eternal light above as a standing tribute and focal area within the establishment.

The United Grand Lodge of England celebrated its Tercentenary in October 2017 and the official opening is a reflection on how Freemasons have adapted throughout the years, taking on a much more contemporary direction.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018 10:19

Pro Grand Master's address - March 2018

Quarterly Communication

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.

Published in Speeches
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 13:30

Modern masons: Dave Stubbs

With a bit of ritual, special outfits and a strong sense of camaraderie, northern soul is a music and dance passion that perfectly complements Dave Stubbs’ Freemasonry

Like so many, he first came to the genre as a teenager in his local youth club, drawn to the soul music and its athletic dance style.

Northern soul fashion is dictated by the need for practicality, with loose-fitting clothes such as baggy Oxford trousers, Ben Sherman-style shirts and sports vests the accepted uniform of devotees. Dave looks every inch the genuine article in Wrangler Blue Bell jeans, a check shirt and a flat cap. The only incongruity in his outfit is the masonic ring on his right hand.

As a member of Salopian Lodge of Charity, No. 117, Dave balances his time between northern soul and Freemasonry. ‘My great grandfather was a Freemason, so it has always interested me,’ he explains.

Dave soon introduced his brethren to the belting world of northern soul. Every month, he organises a northern soul night at the masonic hall on Crewe Street, Shrewsbury, the proceeds of which go towards maintaining a World War I memorial.

It’s not just members who benefit from Dave’s musical interest. ‘My wife Polly is a Freemason and a northern soul fan too, so it’s close to both of our hearts,’ says Dave. ‘It’s not surprising that so many people who enjoy northern soul are Freemasons too. I find the two interests very complementary.’

Such is the adrenaline rush of the northern soul all-nighter that often, Dave returns home at 7.30 am only to head back out to an all-dayer by noon. ‘It becomes a lifestyle,’ says Dave. ‘Just like Freemasonry, it’s not about money, and it’s not about connections. It’s about camaraderie, and living in a way that makes you feel good.’

What does the Tercentenary mean to you?

‘The Tercentenary has been well celebrated in the Province of Shropshire. Crucially, it has really put Freemasonry in the public eye and raised awareness of our enduring support for local charities.’

Published in Features
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 13:30

The rebuilding of the Soane Ark

To bring the union of the Grand Lodges into being, Articles of Union were agreed that laid the foundations of the United Grand Lodge of England. As such an important document, it was to be carried into each Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge by the Grand Registrar. Sir John Soane (1753-1837) offered to produce an ‘ark’ to stand in front of the Grand Master’s throne into which the document could be safely placed while the meeting was in progress

Soane was one of England’s greatest architects. He became a Freemason and, after the union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, was the first person to hold the new office of Grand Superintendent of Works. As such, he was the professional adviser overseeing the maintenance and development of Freemasons’ Hall in London.

The first work Soane produced for Grand Lodge was what became known as the Ark of the Masonic Covenant. It was an impressive piece of furniture, triangular in shape with an Ionic, Corinthian or Doric column at each corner and surmounted with a dome topped by Soane’s signature lantern.

The ark stood in front of the Grand Master’s throne from 1814 until 1883, when disaster struck. A fire broke out in the old Grand Temple, gutting its interior and destroying the portraits of former Grand Masters, as well as most of the furniture and Soane’s ark. Much was done to reconstruct the interior of the room and reinstate the paintings and furniture, but the ark was not replaced.

One of Soane’s 20th-century successors as Grand Superintendent of Works was architect Douglas Burford, who hoped one day to persuade Grand Lodge to have a replica constructed. It took 30 years for that dream to finally become a reality, and Burford was delighted to learn that, as part of the Tercentenary celebrations, Soane’s ark was to be reconstructed.

The project was one of cooperation between The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation and master wood carvers Houghtons of York. Their combined efforts produced a superb and accurate reconstruction of one of the lost treasures of Grand Lodge.

After appearing in an exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum, the ark was transported to the Royal Albert Hall for the great Tercentenary celebration, where it was dedicated by the Grand Master. Afterwards, like the original, it took its place in the Grand Temple as a permanent memorial.

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Spring 2018

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.

Willie Shackell
Grand Secretary

‘It is important that we maintain momentum by promoting our values and relevance to society’

Published in UGLE

A renewal  of pride

For Director of Special Projects John Hamill, the Tercentenary celebrations have been an opportunity to reflect on the past, enjoy the present and plan for the future

One thing that I hope will come through to readers of this special souvenir edition of Freemasonry Today is that not only were the celebrations successful, but also that the brethren, their families and friends who attended them had a great deal of enjoyment in taking part – whether it was at the dramatic performance and ceremonial at the Royal Albert Hall or one of the many smaller local events.

The activities that took place around the country and in our Districts overseas were worthy of such a notable anniversary. But the celebrations were not limited to our own members. Many of our sister Grand Lodges around the world regarded the anniversary not just as being the Tercentenary of the Grand Lodge of England, but also the Tercentenary of the start of the organised, regular Freemasonry of which they now form a part.

Throughout the year there was a steady stream of visitors from other Grand Lodges who came to Freemasons’ Hall in London, simply to be here during a very special year and to say thank you to the ‘Mother Grand Lodge’.

PLACE FOR HUMOUR

Sometimes we take ourselves a little too seriously and forget that Freemasonry is to be enjoyed. We take great pride in our work and carry it out with dignity and decorum, but even within the confines of a lodge meeting there are times when humour and gentle banter has its place.

We should keep in mind that part of the Address to the Brethren, given at each Installation meeting, in which we are reminded that we should ‘unite in the Grand Design of being happy and communicating happiness’. A great deal of happiness was communicated during the Tercentenary celebrations. That is something we should preserve and build on in the future.

When attending major celebrations as Pro Grand Master, the late Lord Farnham would often say that there were three things we should do at special anniversaries: reflect on the past, celebrate the present and plan for the future. Were he still with us, I think he would agree that we have followed his wish list during the Tercentenary year.

A RICH HISTORY

During the lead-up to the celebrations, we certainly reflected on the past. The history conference in Cambridge organised by Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, in September 2016; the new exhibition gallery at the Library and Museum in London; the splendid celebratory book The Treasures of English Freemasonry 1717 – 2017 and the amazing performance at the Royal Albert Hall will all be permanent records of that reflection. To this we should add the exhibitions that were mounted in masonic premises and public museums around the country, and the many talks given by masonic historians.

We celebrated in style, as the events recorded in this issue show. Our grateful thanks should go to everyone at both national and local levels who put so much work into making the celebrations a success. It was hard and, at times, exhausting work, but not without its moments and well worth the effort given the obvious enjoyment of those who attended.

As we reflected on our past, so we looked forward, too. The Membership Focus Group and its successor the Improvement Delivery Group, the University Lodges Scheme and the growing network of young masons groups across the country are all focused on the future.

As the Pro Grand Master said in his review of the year in December, we can now move forward from here with enormous self-belief. One of the intangibles that the Tercentenary celebrations has produced is a renewal of pride in Freemasonry among the members. These are all things that we should foster and build on so future generations can enjoy Freemasonry, as we and our predecessors have done.

‘The activities that took place around the country were worthy of such a notable anniversary’

Published in Features

Three hundred years ago, in a room in a pub, history was made. Were it possible to travel in time, it would be fascinating to bring back the brethren who came together at the Goose and Gridiron alehouse in London on 24 June 1717, when they elected the first Grand Master and brought into being the first Grand Lodge in the world, writes John Hamill

According to James Anderson in the 1738 Constitutions of the Free-Masons, four lodges met at the alehouse in St Paul’s Churchyard. Named after the public houses where they usually met, the lodges were Goose and Gridiron Ale-house in St Paul’s Church-yard; the Crown Ale-house in Parker’s Lane off Drury Lane; the Apple-Tree Tavern in Charles Street, Covent Garden; and the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel Row, Westminster.

The Goose and Gridiron survived until the 1890s, and just before it was demolished, a masonic historian drew sketches of its exterior and measured the room in which the Grand Lodge was formed. The room would have held fewer than 100 people, who would have had to stand very close to each other to fit inside.

‘In their wildest imaginings, these brethren could not have envisaged what their simple and small meeting would give birth to’

FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

In their wildest imaginings, these brethren could not have envisaged what their simple and small meeting would give birth to: a fraternity of Freemasonry spread over the whole world. They would find some things they would recognise from their practice of Freemasonry, but would also find much that was very different.

Over the last 300 years Freemasonry has developed and expanded. What English Freemasonry has demonstrated is that it is a living organisation capable of changing its outward forms and adapting itself to the society in which it currently exists.

Of the four lodges that came together on that summer’s day in 1717 to elect a Grand Master, three are still working today – the Crown Ale House ceased meeting circa 1736. From Anderson’s account, in its first years the Grand Lodge met only for the Annual Assembly and Grand Feast to elect the Grand Master and Grand Wardens. From two other sources, we can deduce that the Grand Lodge began to act as a regulatory body in 1720.

LONDON SOCIETY

Some have questioned why there were no press reports of the event in 1717, but they have been looking at the past with the eyes of the present. In 1717 Freemasonry was largely unknown. The late 17th and 18th centuries were a great age of societies and clubs, many of them meeting in taverns and the growing network of fashionable coffee houses in the cities of London and Westminster.

If noticed at all, the formation of Grand Lodge would have been seen as just another society or club of the time. As no one of social consequence of the day appears to have been involved, it is not surprising that the event was not recorded in the primitive press that existed back then.

It was not until the early 1720s, when Past Grand Masters George Payne and Dr Desaguliers began to attract members of the nobility and the Royal Society into Freemasonry, that the press of the day began to notice it, reporting on the initiations of prominent men and the annual Grand Feasts of the Grand Lodge.

The more I study our ancient Craft, the more I am convinced that whatever problems we may face, provided we maintain that delicate balance between managed change and not altering our basic principles and tenets, Freemasonry will meet those challenges. Future generations will be able to enjoy its fellowship and privileges as we have done since that happy day at the Goose and Gridiron where Grand Lodge was born.

Published in UGLE

Just getting started

With the Tercentenary celebrations raising awareness and improving perceptions, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes believes there has never been a better time to be a Freemason

It has been an enormous privilege to have been Pro Grand Master during the Tercentenary year. At the outset, Provinces and Districts were asked to concentrate on coming up with events in their own jurisdiction that their brethren could join in and enjoy. Dare I say, they all did this in spades, and I include our groups of lodges in that.

Quite rightly, there was often a significant charitable aspect to these events. I should add here that this was greatly enhanced by the imaginative input from the Masonic Charitable Foundation with its multitude of grants across the Provinces. The Rulers and past Rulers have endeavoured to meet your requests and wherever we have been, brethren have looked after us with incredible kindness and generosity. Thank you all so much.

Since our last communication, we have had the Grand Ball and our major celebratory event at the Royal Albert Hall. The events of 29 to 31 October were a resounding success, and I must single out Keith Gilbert and his team for the superb administrative arrangements throughout. Diane Clements and the museum staff managed to collect, catalogue and display the many gifts brought by the 133 Grand Masters from around the world amazingly quickly. These are now all displayed in the museum.

A JOB WELL DONE

Finally, thanks to James Long and his team, who took us all by surprise at the Royal Albert Hall with an amazing and uplifting performance of masonry across the three centuries. The whole London experience was beyond my expectations, and from the comments we have had since, it astounded all our hundreds of visitors from overseas. Well done indeed.

Brethren, has there ever been a better time to be a Freemason? I really believe that during the year we have learned so much about how to talk about our Freemasonry with non-members, helped enormously by the Sky documentary, which has opened our eyes and made the general public more receptive. I would love us to have had more editorial control over the end product, but that would, perhaps, have defeated the object. Nonetheless, I think we can go forward from here with enormous self-belief and pride.

We head now into 2018, continuing the work of the Improvement Delivery Group and capitalising on the great successes of 2017, rewarding those who have worked so hard throughout the year. We will also be remembering the fact that it is 100 years since the end of World War I, after which Freemasons’ Hall was built as the Masonic Peace Memorial to recognise the sacrifice of more than 3,000 English Freemasons who fell in that conflict.

‘I think we can go forward from here with enormous self-belief and pride’

Published in UGLE
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