The social circuit
‘Motorcycling is about friendship and it engenders a spirit of. There is a similar fraternal bond between Freemasons’
When king of speed Charlie Collier won the first Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) race in 1907, he wore a three-piece tweed suit and was almost disqualified for having pedals on his bike. In the early days of TT, it wasn’t uncommon to have to get off and push, and the Mountain Circuit was basically a horse-and-cart track; it was the duty of the first rider around in the morning to open the gates along the way, and the last rider was responsible for shutting them.
Collier’s average speed of 38.21mph may seem painfully slow by today’s standards but the race was groundbreaking. From these rudimentary beginnings, the event has developed into a world-famous annual spectacle, and remains one of the most exciting road races on the motorcycle racing calendar. Now, 105 years since TT’s birth, a lodge on the island has been consecrated to celebrate this illustrious history.
With many arriving by bike, 171 people came from all over the UK to take part in the consecration ceremony on 14 July. ‘The Provincial Grand Master of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight rode up here with his wife on pillion, and the next day we took him for a guided spin around the TT track. It was a fantastic day,’ enthuses Nigel Bowrey, Director of Ceremonies at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Lodge. ‘After the formal ceremony and the festive board that followed, we sat around until midnight exchanging motorcycling tales.’
A past racer who has owned 37 bikes, Nigel has toured North Africa down to the Sahara, as well as undertaking a two-month tour in Australia covering nearly 8,000 miles. ‘I think my most epic journey was a 10,000-mile trip across America and back.’
Brotherhood of the road
The connection between motorcycling and Freemasonry might seem a stretch, but there are striking similarities in their code of conduct and behaviour. ‘When you pass a motorcyclist on the road you wave at one another. It is totally normal to engage in conversation with someone on a bike that you meet at a stop, because motorcycling is about friendship and it engenders a spirit of ,’ explains Nigel.
‘And there is a similar fraternal bond between Freemasons where you have a huge network of people you can rely on, even though you don’t necessarily know one another at the outset.’
The Isle of Man link between Freemasonry and motorcycling reaches back to the turn of the century. In 1912, Lieutenant Governor Lord Raglan, one of the men responsible for initiating road races, became Provincial Grand Master of the Isle of Man, perhaps forging the first connection. Today, the members of the TT Lodge are all motorcycle enthusiasts, many of whom are still heavily involved in the TT race and other motorcycle events that take place annually.
With several other UK lodges sharing a passion for biking, the TT Lodge is in good company. The surge started in 2000 with the consecration of the Lodge of the Chevaliers de Fer, No. 9732, in Basingstoke. There is also the Sussex Motorcycling Lodge, No. 9871, consecrated in August 2012. Some lodges are named after TT alumni, including the Mike Hailwood Lodge, No. 9839, the Graham Milton Lodge, No. 9796, and the Joey Dunlop Lodge of Mark Master Masons, No. 1881. Freemasonry in the UK often has to work hard to retain, let alone increase, membership, but the motorbike lodges are thriving.
‘We want to broaden our appeal, particularly to younger people. It’s been the success of the other biking lodges that encouraged us to set up the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Lodge,’ says Nigel. ‘We want to say to people, “We’re not a bunch of tired old masons, we’re a bunch of active motorcycle enthusiasts with an associated interest in Freemasonry.’”
Need for speed
The Motor Car Act of 1903 set the speed limit in the UK at 20 miles per hour. Of course, most cars couldn’t go this fast, and most people didn’t have cars, but for the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, it was a severe dampener. How were they to test their new, ever-more powerful machines, if they were limited to crawling around country lanes?
So the club plotted. Secretary Sir Julian Orde had a bright idea: his cousin Lord Raglan was the Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man. The Manx Government was autonomous and not bound by the same laws, so with some gentle persuasion from Lord Raglan, they were encouraged to permit public roads to be closed so ‘high speed reliability trials’ could take place.
In 1904 the International Car Trials were held there, with motorbike trials added a year later. The first 125-mile race was won by JS Campbell in four hours, nine minutes and 26 seconds, with an average speed of 30.04mph, despite a fire in the pit stop.
Letters to the editor - No. 21 Spring 2013
I was interested to read the article on motorcycling lodges in the winter 2012 edition. I had always understood that Harry Rembrandt (Rem) Fowler won the first Isle of Man TT race in 1907 as I was distantly related to him. I was therefore surprised to see Charlie Collier credited with that distinction.
After a little research, I discovered that in 1907 two races were held on the TT short course, with Harry Rem Fowler winning the twin cylinder class on a Peugeot-engined Norton at 36.22mph and Charlie Collier the single cylinder class on a Matchless at 38.22mph. They each set the fastest lap in their respective classes, Fowler at 42.91mph and Collier at 41.81mph. The TT short course was used for only four years, and in 1911 the TT race moved to the mountain course, which is still used today.
John Hayward, Lodge of Faith and Hope, No. 4772, Edgbaston, Warwickshire
The national and the London chairmen of the Universities Scheme, Edward Lord and Julian Soper, give some advice on how to recruit and retain younger members
Of our members across the English constitution, only nine per cent are aged under forty. To put that percentage in perspective, it is three thousand less than the number of members we have aged over eighty. Indeed, the vast bulk of our members are aged between fifty and eighty. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these figures, it does set a generational challenge with fifty-five per cent of our members in, or reaching, retirement. If the average age of reaching the chair is sixty-three, one can assume that most lodge decision makers are near to, or in retirement, which leads one to question the degree of representation younger members have. So how do we attract younger men to join masonry?
Research we conducted found that masonry is in increasing competition with many other calls on the leisure time of prospective members. It is also clear that it is less easy for those in employment to leave their workplace early in order to get to a lodge meeting. Nor for that matter do younger brethren want to stay late all the time – something that is equally true of more senior members.
Many successful lodges don’t start their work until 6 or 6.30pm in the evening and they still finish in good time to get home at a reasonable hour. They do this by taking a number of simple steps. Some, for example, don’t process in and out of the lodge. Most circulate rather than read their minutes, and do the same for the Almoner’s and Charity Steward’s reports.
All of the above not only cuts down the time taken by the formal proceedings, but also increases the pace of a meeting. However, it is not as simple as saying that time commitments should be reduced. Regular meetings, often informal, and involving members’ partners, can be important in fostering a feeling of membership. A good mentor should greatly assist in helping a new member to feel he belongs, and the formal creation of lodge mentor as a lodge office should help ensure that this happens.
The language we use to describe Freemasonry is key to it having a broader appeal, as is dispelling many of the myths that still surround us as an organisation. Being able to describe in simple laymen’s terms what Freemasonry is about is crucial; emphasising the social side of our activities as well as the contributions we make to society, both through our charitable activities and by helping each individual mason to become the best person he can be.
Much to offer
Experience has shown that, approached correctly, young men – indeed men of all ages – find considerable appeal in joining an organisation that is secular, multi-faith, cross denominational and shares their values. Indeed, in explaining Freemasonry to new and potential members, a lodge should consider emphasising the lifetime friendships, development possibilities and new experiences that are on offer.
So where exactly do we get these new younger members from? Of course, the basic approach of ‘member-get-member’ remains the best. But some lodges, particularly those that are affiliated to a school or university, find that discreet advertisements letting people know they exist often attract initial enquiries. And in some cases, the adverts are less discreet. The Province of West Lancashire took the back page of last year’s Freshers’ Handbook, which went out to over twenty-thousand students in Liverpool. That resulted in a bumper crop of candidates for the University Lodge of Liverpool.
Many enquiries are now coming through the internet. Every day we receive hundreds of hits on the Grand Lodge, Provincial and lodge specific sites, which then translate into expressions of interest from prospective members. This is rapidly becoming one of the most important marketing methods for the Craft. So if your lodge doesn’t yet have a website, then it should consider investing in one.
Communication is crucial but lodges that have successfully spanned the generations have other attributes as well, not least in making new members feel welcome. Involvement in ceremonies is also important, but involve them at a pace that is right for them – don’t force them up the ladder.
And if you find you have a masonic star in waiting, let him move forward quickly as the chances are he could help ensure the future of your lodge.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 23 Autumn 2013
As a young Freemason (thirty years old), I felt compelled to respond to the letter by Harry Sykes in the recent edition of Freemasonry Today. I was initiated into my lodge (Lodge of Asaph, No. 1319) in 2008 and am currently the installed Master of the lodge.
Whilst brother Sykes makes an extremely valid point that no-one wishes to be suffering through ceremonies where the ritual is poor, I don’t subscribe to the view that this is a result of younger masons being fast-tracked to the chair. Yes, there may well be an element of this occurring, but this is surely a more widespread problem of lodges being unable to keep up to date and attract new, higher calibre brethren.
In fact, brother Harris-Cooksley makes a fine point on the same letters page that his lodge has been adapting to the times and people are being promoted based on merit and ability. I know of many young Freemasons, who are superb ritualists and do put in the time and effort to learn, perfect and polish their performance in lodge. I certainly take pride in my ability to perform the ritual and to understand the meaning behind it.
Equally, I have seen many masons who have been in lodges far longer than ten years whose ritual is poor. Instead of a ten-year barrier to entry, surely a progression to the chair should be based on ability, young or old?
Dan Roback, Lodge of Asaph, No. 1319, London
I read with interest Harry Sykes’s letter in the summer 2013 edition regarding falling standards. He seems to be blaming it on new brethren getting to the chair too quickly and suggests a new rule that you have to be in Freemasonry for ten years before being allowed to take the chair.
I feel in this regard the last thing we need is more rules. I was installed in under five years from my initiation. I’m sure I can hear ‘tut tut, shouldn’t be allowed’, but with the encouragement of my proposer, I visited at least as often as attending my own lodge, I joined chapter, I read and most importantly, I hardly missed a lodge of instruction.
I was one of three initiates who joined in consecutive years; there was a tiny bit of competitiveness between us when performing at lodge of instruction and also lots of support. We were all inspired by our preceptor who earned our respect by using a carrot NOT a stick; each of us conducted a first, second and third ceremony before taking the chair and we even held our own lodge of instruction in the summer. Since becoming a Past Master, I have been Director of Ceremonies for eight years; the other two have served as Secretary.
How to inspire brethren: by Past Masters setting an example with their ritual; by holding regular lodges of instruction with a good number of Past Masters present to support the brethren; not forcing junior brethren to rise up through the offices just to prevent another Past Master from taking the chair; and not being afraid to hold them back if you feel they need a bit more experience.
Remember we are all different. I felt very ready for the chair and holding me back for some arbitrary period may well have had an adverse effect.
Paul Gosling, William de Warenne Lodge, No. 6139, Uckfield, Sussex
Letters to the editor - No. 21 Spring 2013
The future of Freemasonry
This year the Master, Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Inner Guard and Stewards of our lodge are all in their twenties. I joke that I feel the years – at my ripe old age of twenty-eight.
I read with great enthusiasm the article entitled ‘No Time To Be Retiring’ in the winter 2012 publication. Of particular interest and surprise was the startling fact that maybe ‘only nine per cent [of Freemasons] are aged under forty’.
Being part of the Universities Scheme has undoubtedly helped attract young men to our lodge, but this by no means tells the whole story. The traditional approach of ‘member-get-member’ is strongly encouraged and utilised. It has been remarked by our visitors over the years that our lodge has a very special atmosphere and feeling. Indeed, the presence of young men in the lodge allows our numerous and distinguished past masters to impart their knowledge and experience. They teach, and our lodge is the richer for it – Lodges of Instruction really are an education in masonic knowledge.
Candidates, young or old, who approach and join our lodge form part of a close circle of friends. Our newer brethren are encouraged to progress at their own pace, and to attend our social events whenever possible. Whether it be open lodge or the Festive Board, age really isn’t an issue. We have Freemasons who are knowledgeable and those with much to learn. We move forward as one, and are reminded of our lodge motto, which is translated from the original Latin: ‘The one light brings us together in comradeship’.
We have embraced the web and social media and look forward to our eightieth anniversary in 2014, as well as Grand Lodge’s three-hundredth anniversary celebrations in 2017. We are fortunate, and the future promises to be bright.
Ben Gait, Universities Lodge, Cardiff, No. 5461, Cardiff, South Wales
Keeping up standards
I read with interest the article ‘No Time To Be Retiring’ in the winter 2012 edition. While the I concur with the sentiments expressed by Edward Lord and Julian Soper, I take issue with the suggestion that lodges should consider dispensing with the processions in and out of the temple in order to save time, as is apparently the way forward of some lodges. Indeed, most past master lodges do not process in, but in my experience mostly process out. If we go down the road of continually reducing the time spent in the temple we will lose the traditions and the history of lodges. Cutting down the time taken by ceremonial proceedings will deprive the new masons of the solemnity of the Craft.
Barry A Fennings, Merchant Navy Lodge, No. 781, London
I have read with interest the recent letters regarding ‘keeping up standards’.
I wonder if falling standards in some lodges is a contributory factor in the reduction in their membership. Young Freemasons to whom I have spoken clearly did not join Freemasonry to participate in slipshod lodge workings and noisy conduct at the Social Board. Equally, older brethren do not want to see a lodge taken over by brethren to whom learning the ritual is a bore or who find the social side of Freemasonry is not what they or their partners expect.
When young men are installed in the Chair after a few years, as opposed to the fourteen to fifteen years it took yesteryear, their approach to Freemasonry can be somewhat limited and they may see promotion to higher rank as theirs by right, as their masonic education has been neglected. Perhaps ten years of membership should be a minimum for Masters of a lodge?
I consider we rank and file Freemasons fortunate to have a platform like Freemasonry Today in which we can express our views for consideration by the brethren.
Harry Sykes, Ben Brierley Lodge, No. 3317, Middleton, East Lancashire
Members of Dean Waterfield Lodge give welcome support to Hereford Contact Centre.
The centre provides facilities for estranged parents and wider family to meet with their children in a neutral and safe environment. The facility, based at the Riverside Community Centre in St James, is staffed purely by volunteers, with parents contributing £25 for the service for a period of six months.
Stuart Powell, Worshipful Master of Dean Waterfield Lodge, and Brother Keith Farmer, a volunteer at the centre, decided to assist with a donation to purchase books, toys and equipment to be used by the visiting children.
The presentation was made at a recent fund-raising event at Hereford Welsh Social Club organised by centre manager Gill Terry, and chairperson Karina Baldwin. Entertainment was provided by the Helen Vereker Singers, with 'compulsory' audience participation. It is hoped that with increased funding, charity status will be achieved.
Worshipful Brother Stuart Powell emphasised that 'this is the first occasion on which we have directly supported the Hereford Contact Centre, and we intend to continue to support such worthy and increasingly necessary local services.'
A grant of £5,000 from the Freemasons’ Grand Charity has been allocated to support HRH The Prince of Wales forestry scheme for unemployed youths in Herefordshire, representing part of a grand total of £250,000 made this year to The Prince’s Trust for England and Wales.
The donation was presented to Lisa Barea, The Prince’s Trust Fundraiser for the West Midlands, by Rodney Smallwood, Provincial Grand Master for Herefordshire.
The grant will specifically support the Get into Woodlands course proposed to take place during March-April 2013 on the Duchy of Cornwall’s Herefordshire estate. The aim of the course is to give young people who are work-ready, but lacking vocational skills, a mixture of practical training and hands-on experience, that will enable them to get qualifications and employment in the woodland forestry sector.
The course, to be run by a range of local partners including Duchy of Cornwall, Forestry Commission, and Herefordshire College of Technology jointly with Holme Lacy, will support twelve young people between the ages 16 to 25, developing their confidence, motivation and skills in forestry.
Lisa Barea sincerely thanked Rodney Smallwood for the generous support given by Freemasons, and invited local masons to the 2013 presentation to be held at the completion of the Get into Woodlands course.
Every Province looks for ways to raise money for their festivals. Dorset has decided to do it from a great height, by challenging their brethren to take a 10,000 feet tandem skydive. Little did they know that the first volunteer to take up the challenge would be Mrs Mary Rousell, wife of W Bro John Rousell of Brownsea Island Lodge No. 9689, to celebrate her 70th birthday. A mother of two grown up children and with three grandchildren, Mary has always been an active fund-raiser for Action for Children, and is currently chairman of Friends for Guiding Brownsea Island. Her husband John said, 'as soon as she heard about it she signed up'.
W Bro Ray White, of Portland Lodge No. 1037, who is organising the event did his first jump this year, was so enthusiastic about it he decided that if he could challenge all the lodges in Dorset to send a volunteer to represent their lodge, it would make a great day out as well as raise funds for Dorset’s RMBI 2014 Festival. Jumpers must pay a deposit of £50, and then raise sponsorship to a minimum of £325.
Set for May 2013 at Old Sarum Airfield, Salisbury, Ray is hoping he can attract not only Dorset masons, but also brethren or their families from neighbouring Provinces. He said that there is no upper age limit, and the oldest person to jump at Salisbury was 93.
A truly entertaining and successful fund raising event was recently held at the Courtyard, Herefordshire’s centre of the arts
Ten amateur choirs competed in Hereford’s The Last Choir Standing in aid of the Mayor’s chosen charities: the Haven, which provides support for sufferers of breast cancer, and Robocap, which will provide robot-assisted surgery in the treatment of prostate cancer.
Following the performance the Right Worshipful the Mayor of Hereford, Councillor Brian Wilcox, welcomed members of one of the successful choirs – the newly created Herefordshire Masonic Choir – to the Mayor’s Parlour at the Town Hall.
During the visit the Masonic Choir entertained the Mayor and invited guests with a delightful musical evening.
Roger Tomlinson, conductor and choir master, emphasised that the Masonic Choir had an unusual choir format of 1st and 2nd tenors and basses. The choir was formed with two aims in mind: to promote the enjoyment of singing, and to add support to masonic and local charities.
Herefordshire Freemasons have officially acknowledged their support of this year’s identified Mayoral Charities.
With both Her Majesty The Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, it has certainly been a memorable summer.
Since the last issue we have successfully released a new core leaflet. The title, What's It All About?, was inspired by our most frequently asked - and probably hardest to answer - question from non-masons. This is another milestone in our strategy for making people understand the relevance of Freemasonry in modern society which, in turn, will help both recruitment and retention. Do please look at the leaflet on our website. I think it is important to note that the leaflet is written in plain English for both the potential candidate as well as for all our families and friends.
It is a great 'myth buster'; showing that our values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. Additionally, it talks about friendship, openness, giving, our purpose and how we all grow by our membership. Very different to anything we have done before, the leaflet has some outstanding black and white photography. Indeed, the initial distribution to London, the Provinces and Districts has proved so popular that we have already had to order another print run.
We have another thought-provoking issue of Freemasonry Today for you all, including a fascinating interview with the Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes. He talks openly about what he has got out of Freemasonry as well as the responsibility of this key leadership role and his hopes for the Craft. Dr Roman Hovorka goes on the record to discuss the creation of an artificial pancreas - the result of medical research that has been funded by the Freemasons and which could transform the way children with Type 1 diabetes manage this chronic condition. We spend a day on the lake with the Masonic Fishing Charity in Northamptonshire to see how young people are finding new ways of interacting with the world. Finally, ex-soldiers and Freemasons Michael Allen and Sandy Sanders reveal the camaraderie they have found in becoming Chelsea Pensioners.
Letters to the editor - No. 20 Winter 2012
In reading the Grand Secretary’s column and hearing about the new Core Leaflet it occurred to me that Freemasonry is not just a charitable institution – a view held by the mundane world and many brethren alike. We all know that charity is the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason’s heart and most apply this virtue without vaunting it. It is natural that the Craft should defend itself against the many unfair accusations made against it, but in doing so in public our charitable virtues should not be overstated. The Craft is far more than a charity.
Letters to the editor - No. 21 Spring 2013
Keeping up standards
I read with great interest and agreement the correspondence from Herbert Ewings and Tom Carr in the winter 2012 edition and felt somehow that the two letters were intrinsically linked.