We make a difference
While the names may be forgotten, the contributions made by individual Freemasons to local communities live on. Director of Special Projects John Hamill celebrates their efforts
During the Tercentenary celebrations, both here and overseas, there have been many references in speeches, books and exhibitions to the famous individuals who have graced our fraternity over the last 300 years – monarchs, statesmen, senior members of the armed forces, musicians, artists, writers, actors, philosophers, great philanthropists and those who have distinguished themselves in the fields of science, invention, industry and commerce.
Some of these luminaries have made major contributions to the development of Freemasonry. Others have simply enjoyed the fellowship with their fellow members, seeing their lodge as a haven of peace in an often turbulent and stressful world. We rightly remember them and give them due praise.
What we often forget and rarely praise, however, is the central core of our membership, memories of whom fade within a generation. They may not have set the world alight but in their own quiet way they have kept Freemasonry alive; preserved its principles and tenets; and selflessly passed them over to the next generation. They have, almost unconsciously, followed these principles in their private and public lives, in the process making a difference to their communities.
SERVING THE COMMUNITY
One of the American Grand Masters speaking at the 275th anniversary of Grand Lodge in 1992 characterised Freemasons as ‘doers’ in society. With a strong sense of service, they tend also to be involved in other voluntary organisations, community groups and civic life. Their activities run the gamut of community life, and these groups would be all the poorer without them.
Easy claims to make, a critic might say, but can you prove them? One source of proof is those items in lodge rooms that we all see but rarely read: the honours boards listing Past Masters of lodges, particularly those dating back to Victorian times. On a number of occasions, I have been present in a Provincial masonic hall when the editor of the local paper was being entertained. While looking at the honours boards, they often said that the Past Masters listed represented the history of the town as they were also the civic leaders and those who had developed its economy – and these people were often represented in the names of the town’s streets, buildings and recreational spaces.
We are often asked by outsiders if Freemasonry is still relevant in today’s society. Our answer has always been that we certainly are. We live in an increasingly self-orientated society in which the individual appears more important than the community, and where public and private morality is in decline.
The principles and tenets of Freemasonry and our strong tradition of community service, therefore, have a real part to play in the future of society. Freemasonry as a body has no power to change, but we as individual Freemasons can make a difference in our communities, just as our forebears did in the past.
We have been celebrating the Tercentenary of an institution, but should not forget that this institution is made up of people. We should remember with pride what our forebears have done. Their names may be forgotten, but their service, and its results, survive. We have inherited a proud tradition and should now look to the future to ensure that those principles and tenets are carried forward.
‘The principles and tenets of Freemasonry and our strong tradition of community service have a real part to play in the future of society’
A special invitation
From flapper girls and casinos through to big band orchestras and silent discos, The Grand Ball was a night to remember for the guests coming to Freemasons’ Hall
On the evening of Saturday, 30 September 2017, more than 2,000 Freemasons, their families and guests braved the autumnal weather to attend The Grand Ball at Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street.
A highlight of the Tercentenary social calendar, The Grand Ball was an opportunity for brethren of all ranks to enjoy a night of entertainment at UGLE’s headquarters. Lodge rooms were transformed into music venues, bars and even a tea room. The Grand Temple was unrecognisable following the installation of the largest raised dance floor in the capital.
Guests visiting from as far away as the US, Brazil, South Africa and Australia were treated to wine tasting, minigolf, arcade games, a giant Scalextric track and virtual-reality installations. The more active had a chance to dance to a jazz orchestra in the Grand Temple and a ceilidh in the Old Boardroom. Those heading up to Lodge Room 9, which had been transformed into a ‘rockaoke’ venue, had the opportunity to sing along with a live rock band.
Speciality gin, whisky and cognac bars, along with The Goose & Gridiron ale house, offered guests their favourite tipple, with more than 1,000 bottles of Champagne consumed by the end of the evening. Luckily, there was plentiful food available, including a seafood bar, world food stalls and an upmarket barbecue – all of which culminated in a breakfast served in time for the survivors’ photograph at 2.30am.
With an estimated 1,300 guests still partying the night away at 3am, the hardest part of the evening proved to be persuading them that it really was time to go as the doors were closing.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes salutes the generosity of Freemasons who have helped to support good causes all across the world
In June, the Grand Master unveiled a plaque on the outside of Freemasons’ Hall, erected by the time immemorial lodges, and he was then declared their Worshipful Master at a splendid ceremony at Mansion House. This was particularly appropriate as, 100 years ago, his great uncle and godfather, the Duke of Connaught, had received a similar honour.
The other Rulers and Past Rulers have covered cathedral services commemorating our Tercentenary from St David’s in West Wales to Norwich in the east, and from Salisbury and Exeter in the south to Durham in the north, with many in between. You have then arranged dinners, a race meeting, car rallies, choral events and concerts, family fun days and fossil digs – all of which were splendidly organised.
I was privileged to visit our Districts in the Eastern Archipelago and Sri Lanka, witnessing first-hand the charitable work that they have been involved with. In Kuala Lumpur I visited the site of what I believe will be a splendid new home for the elderly. In Sri Lanka, the District has raised funds to bring drinking water to an outlying village and three schools in that area. Together with the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), they are also supporting the relief efforts following the flooding caused by the unprecedented May monsoon.
These felt like short trips compared with those of our Assistant Grand Master, whom I feared was in danger of meeting himself coming back as he flew to Buenos Aires on 4 August for a meeting of our District of South America, Southern Division, and then on to Chile for talks with their Grand Master, before flying back to Heathrow on 8 August for onward travel to our District of Madras in Chennai.
It is humbling to witness your splendid efforts in support of Freemasonry. I have mentioned the Districts, but there has also been extraordinary work carried out in all the Provinces.
In June, I mentioned the phenomenal response you made to the Manchester bombing and Grenfell Tower fire in London. I can confirm that East Lancashire gave the Red Cross in Manchester more than £226,000 for the victims and that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge gave £100,000 to the Grenfell Tower Appeal – thank you for your generosity. And well done, North Wales, whose Festival with the RMGTB raised £3.1 million at £899 per member.
Thank you for your efforts with the MCF grants and public vote. I can report that more than 150,000 votes were cast across UGLE for the 300 charities to be awarded grants, and most of these votes – more than 80% – were from the general public. I know that the MCF has scrutinised these votes and has announced its award recipients. Congratulations to all involved in the MCF for this splendid initiative.
The project would not have been as successful without the exhaustive use of all social-media outlets, but I must here issue a caution on its use. Last year, we issued a very comprehensive instruction on the use, values and dangers of social media. One of the key points made was that you should ensure that anyone who you post images of on one of these sites should have agreed to be pictured. Yes, we need to be open and we want to promote our activities, but we must protect our members’ wishes. A little bit of common sense goes a long way.
From the Grand Secretary
What a year that was – a year to look back on with a great sense of achievement and pride. The sheer number and variety of events held across Provinces and Districts is a testament to the vitality and relevance of Freemasonry today, and to your hard work.
It has been a year when we have opened up Freemasons’ Hall to a number of major events, including the unveiling of our VC Memorial, our Artist in Residence, Sky TV, two Open Days and two organ concerts. Not forgetting a Grand Ball, at which 2,000 or so revellers marvelled at the transformation of the Grand Temple and many other art deco rooms for a splendid night.
It was also a year when other Sovereign Grand Lodges from around the globe celebrated with us the 300th anniversary of the formation of the world’s first organised Grand Lodge, which was established in London in 1717. Indeed, we were greatly honoured that more than 130 Grand Masters from these Sovereign Grand Lodges travelled great distances, many with their wives, to be with us at the various events taking place from 29-31 October. All of which culminated in the spectacular celebration at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 31 October.
A TIME TO REMEMBER
How privileged we have been as Freemasons in the United Grand Lodge of England to have been part of such an important and influential organisation at this time; 2017 will long be remembered, and we must now capitalise on this success as we move forward into the next 300 years.
In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we feature the spectacle and fanfare at the Royal Albert Hall when the Grand Master was joined by more than 4,400 brethren for a very special meeting. A testimony to the enduring strength of Freemasonry, the event was a remarkable feat of organisation that saw members transported to a banquet held in Battersea, south London – all of which required some meticulous preparation and planning.
Yet amid the grand celebrations, the everyday business of Freemasonry continued. We report on this year’s New and Young Masons Clubs Conference at the Severn Street Masonic Hall in Birmingham, which welcomed 100 new and young Freemasons from across the country. With attendees discussing ways to ensure the Craft’s relevance in the 21st century, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales Gareth Jones emphasised the need for masonry to become more intertwined with everyday communities.
As John Hamill explains in his ‘Reflection’ column this issue, it is our contribution to communities that will stand the test of time. While the central core of our membership may not make the headlines, they do keep Freemasonry alive by following its principles and tenets. In the process, they make a difference to their communities and ensure our legacy. I hope that you and your families have a wonderful festive season.
‘It is our contribution to communities that will stand the test of time’
The people, families and communities supported by the MCF have been its highest priority in 2017. Chief Executive David Innes explains how they will remain at the heart of what the MCF does in 2018
Another year has gone by, and what an incredible year it has been. The highlight of our 2017 was undoubtedly the success of the MCF Community Awards – Tercentenary Fund. You can read about the awards in more detail elsewhere in this issue of Freemasonry Today, but I would like to take the opportunity to thank those of you who voted; you were one of more than 177,000 people that helped us decide which local charities received the largest grants from our £3 million fund.
Between promoting the Community Awards and taking part in Tercentenary celebrations across the country, we have continued to help around 5,000 Freemasons and their family members who have a financial, health, family or care-related need. We have also supported some fantastic local and national charities through our Charity Grants programme.
If you would like to find out more about the difference your donations are making to Freemasons, their families and the wider community, I would encourage you to read a copy of our first Impact Report, which is available to download and order via our website.
‘With the festive season approaching, many of you will be thinking about resolutions for the New Year. At the Masonic Charitable Foundation, we too are planning for the future’
With the festive season approaching, many of you will be thinking about resolutions for the New Year. At the Masonic Charitable Foundation, we too are planning for the future. Since our launch, we have worked hard to establish ourselves as a charity that the masonic community can both rely on and proudly support. In the spring of 2018, we will be launching our new strategy that will guide our work for the next five years.
December is a time of celebration – but for some families, it can be a difficult time when financial struggles come to a head. If you need support, or know of somebody else who does, please do not hesitate to contact us. Even if we are unable to assist you ourselves, we can direct you towards other organisations that may be able to help.
Guidance and top tips
When memories are made
With the masonic world coming to London in October to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry, John Hamill reports on a very special meeting to honour the creation of the first Grand Lodge
The Tercentenary celebrations reached their peak on 31 October, when more than 4,400 brethren attended an especial meeting of the Grand Lodge at London’s Royal Albert Hall. In addition to brethren from overseas Districts, there were more than 130 Grand Masters from all parts of the world – the largest gathering of Grand Masters ever to have been held.
These visitors and guests from other Grand Lodges met at Freemasons’ Hall on 30 October, where they were welcomed by and introduced to HRH The Duke of Kent, with many presenting gifts to mark the Tercentenary. These were displayed in the Library and Museum. Later that evening, guests attended a reception at Mansion House, official residence of The Lord Mayor of London, Dr Andrew Parmley.
Those able to get tickets for the Royal Albert Hall will long remember this special event. Proceedings began when Grand Lodge was opened and called off in a side room. Following the fanfare, the Grand Master entered the Queen’s Box to huge applause, accompanied by HRH Prince Michael of Kent. The visiting Grand Masters were then introduced, while their location and Grand Lodge seals were gradually added to a map of the world projected on two large screens.
As it was an especial meeting, there was no formal business, and entertainment was provided by actors Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar, with screen projections exemplifying the principles, tenets and values of Freemasonry. The performance gave insight into Freemasonry’s history over the last 300 years with reference to the famous men who have graced it with their presence. Those who organised this memorable performance deserve great thanks.
At the end of the evening, the Grand Master was processed onto the stage. The Deputy Grand Master read out a message of loyal greeting sent to Her Majesty The Queen, and the response received. With the assistance of the Grand Chaplain, the replica of Sir John Soane’s Ark of the Masonic Covenant was dedicated. The Pro Grand Master congratulated the Grand Master on his 50th anniversary in that role and thanked him for his service. In response, the brethren rose and gave the Grand Master a prolonged standing ovation. He was clearly touched. The Grand Master was then processed out of Royal Albert Hall with his Grand Officers.
Afterwards, nearly 2,000 attendees were bussed through London’s rush-hour traffic to Battersea Evolution for a reception and banquet, which will be long remembered. The activity at the Royal Albert Hall was streamed online to the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, where nearly 1,000 brethren and ladies (including the wives of our official guests) were able to watch the ceremonies. They then attended a special dinner in the Grand Connaught Rooms chaired by Earl Cadogan, who was assisted by senior members of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London.
It was a remarkable occasion, and all who were involved in organising it are due our grateful thanks for such a fitting celebration of the Tercentenary of the first Grand Lodge in the world.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 41 SPRING 2018
Inside the Albert Hall
There were many highlights for me in 2017, notwithstanding the Royal Albert Hall event followed by dinner at Battersea Evolution.
In my own Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight, we held a family fun day at Marwell Zoo, and to quote a famous brand catch line, ‘It did exactly what it said on the tin.’ We had a fabulous masonic family day with 2,500 tickets sold, including a number of lodges sponsoring local charities to bring worthy groups of youngsters to the event. We then closed our celebrations with a Provincial Grand Tercentenary Ball in November 2017, which was well attended and the perfect way to cap the year in style.
Paul Davis, Bishop’s Waltham Lodge, No. 8190, Southampton, Hampshire & Isle of Wight
Attending the Tercentenary celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall, it was lovely to be part of it all in my first year in Freemasonry as an Entered Apprentice. This was my first visit to the venue. It made it special to have such a grand ceremony to show me all the history of Freemasonry and how it is spread across the world.
A few months later I then had my second degree in January 2018, which was especially memorable as it was our lodge’s Past Masters night. I was duly passed to the rank of Fellow Craft and now look forward to the next step on my journey of Freemasonry.
Mark Daniels, Loyal Travellers Lodge, No. 2733, Birmingham, Warwickshire
I was so proud to have been present at the Royal Albert Hall. It was a superb experience, telling such a wonderful story.It was an honour to be part of a living, breathing performance of our 300 years of existence, which was worthy of the West End. I felt included and a part of the production. The singing at the end, and to hear and be part of a large choir, was something I will never forget. After 40 years as a Freemason, I have never felt prouder to be part of our wonderful fellowship.
Ian Hockney, Loyalty Lodge, No. 7154, Farnborough, Hampshire & Isle of Wight
I was thoroughly impressed by the whole event at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It was an incredible day, which was entertaining, informative, educational and moving. I was also particularly pleased by the historical elements and the very professional and suitably entertaining manner in which it was all delivered.
The cast was brilliant too. I haven’t met anyone who wasn’t inspired by the complete presentation – congratulations to everyone involved.
Paul Settle, Romney Marsh Lodge, No. 4743, Dymchurch, East Kent
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes was present in September when the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) in Accra, Ghana, received a $42,000 X-ray machine from the District Grand Lodge of the country as part of Freemasonry’s Tercentenary celebrations
The equipment will help in the effective treatment of all forms of kidney stones. Along with the Pro Grand Master, Ghana District Grand Master Isaac O Hood led a delegation in order to present the machine’s documents to KBTH chief executive Dr Felix Anyah.
More than 500 Freemasons, friends and family members attended a service in September celebrating the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England at Manchester Cathedral
The old medieval parish church of Manchester was a fitting venue for such a historic event.
The service encompassed everything that Freemasonry is about – openness, multi-faith and multiculturalism – all bound together by a common interest. The congregation received readings in both Hebrew and English, and heartfelt prayers were delivered by brethren of the Province.
During the service, there was a collection for the mission and aims of the cathedral, which was subsequently blessed by a Cathedral Canon.
South Wales Freemasons held a Teddy Bears’ Picnic at St Lythans, near Wenvoe, to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry and raise money for the Teddies for Loving Care (TLC) Appeal
More than 3,000 distressed children and their families will be helped by the £4,000 raised at the event.
The picnic will help to provide TLC Teddies to A&E hospitals in South Wales, including Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital.
Eight Devonshire charities benefited from a series of special MCF Community Awards from Devonshire Freemasons after an unprecedented public vote, with 178,801 people in England and Wales participating
The MCF Community Awards are a major part of UGLE’s 300th anniversary celebrations. The Masonic Charitable Foundation is distributing £3 million to 300 charities across the country, with the public vote deciding on the level of awards, which range from £4,000 to £25,000.
Presentations to the charities were made in September at a special ceremony in Plymouth by Provincial Grand Master Ian Kingsbury on behalf of the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
Find out more about the thinking behind the MCF Community Awards here.