Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2013

I am delighted to report that the bicentenary celebrations of the Royal Arch in October were a major success. His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent, in his capacity as First Grand Principal, announced that the donated and pledged amount to the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons had reached £2 million. 

The members were congratulated by His Royal Highness for this superb effort and the president of the College, Professor Norman Williams, was also present to add his profuse thanks. I believe this milestone event in the history of the Royal Arch has been a wonderful boost to the Order.

At the beginning of the appeal I wrote that we were justly proud to be the major benefactor to the Royal College of Surgeons. The Royal Arch Masons Appeal will further help the College’s successful research fellowship scheme, which supports surgeons in undertaking a research project. The reality is that our contributions will help to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and our grandchildren.

Freemasonry maintains strong relationships across the medical profession. In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we explore how the Masonic Samaritan Fund has been funding groundbreaking research into the genetics of MELAS syndrome, a devastating hereditary condition. And on a more personal note, we chart the life of Dr George Penn, a regimental captain, much-loved country doctor and committed lodge member who was educated at the Royal Masonic School for Boys.

Elsewhere, we report on how Freemasonry and karate are coming together at the Shotokan Karate Lodge, with the humility and respect needed in Freemasonry equally at home in the dojo. David Williamson reflects on a career as an airline pilot and his role in driving the Universities Scheme as he approaches retirement from the position of Assistant Grand Master. And we find out how the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution is helping the older generation cross the digital divide by giving them access to online technology.

I wish you and your family an enjoyable festive season as we look forward to 2014. 

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘The reality is that our contributions will help to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and our grandchildren.’

Published in UGLE

HRH The Duke of Kent reflects on the bicentenary of the Royal Arch as it raises more than £2 million for the Royal College of Surgeons

This October we marked a major milestone in the distinguished history of the Holy Royal Arch. While celebrating this landmark I particularly wish to mention the success of the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons. I am impressed to hear of the tremendous support the companions have given to the appeal.

In my speech at the Supreme Grand Chapter meeting in April this year I mentioned that the appeal would remain open until the end of the year. However, I am pleased to announce that the amount donated and pledged so far is £2 million. This exceeds expectations and I congratulate you.

I also know that the College president, Professor Norman Williams, is extremely grateful to companions for helping to fund the College’s successful Research Fellowship scheme at the same time as maintaining their clinical leadership.

To mark this special celebration I intend to make additional first appointments to past Grand Rank on the scale of one for every Province or District. It is my hope that Grand Superintendents, upon whom I shall rely for advice in the selection of suitable companions, will ensure that so far as is possible the companions so honoured will be those who have carried out significant work for the Royal Arch Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons or have made a significant contribution in some other way to this year’s celebrations. I know we all wish the Order continued success for the next two hundred years!

The First Grand Principal, HRH The Duke of Kent presided over the Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter on 16 October 2013 in the Grand Temple to mark the bicentenary of the formal recognition of the Holy Royal Arch as part of pure ancient masonry. With lunch held at the Grand Connaught Rooms, the day included a Convocation of Metropolitan Grand Stewards Chapter, No. 9812, in which a demonstration of the Ceremony of Exaltation using the changes authorised in 2004 was given. 

Published in SGC

Strong constitution

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains how UGLE has been supporting Districts across the world and looks closer to home at the recommendations of the Universities Scheme Committee

One of my pleasurable duties is, along with the other Rulers, visiting our Districts. In June I was in Trinidad and Tobago and, more recently, I visited Zimbabwe to install our new District Grand Master. We were given a very warm welcome and I was somewhat surprised that the last visit there from Grand Lodge was in 1989. I was even more surprised to find that two of our lodges are in Malawi, where seventy members ensure masonry thrives.

Apart from meeting many of the local brethren and their wives, we were driven to a school in a township seventeen miles west of Harare, where we were entertained by some very moving African dancing and singing. The education support programme that started here in 1992 now has four hundred and seven orphaned children. A trust fund has been set up for these children to provide school fees, books, uniforms, a daily hot meal, healthcare and sports activities. It was most impressive and exactly the type of charity the District should support. 

On a different theme, following the presentation at the Quarterly Communication last year on assuring the future of Freemasonry, I challenged the Universities Scheme Committee to consider how the principles expressed in the address could be implemented across the whole Craft.

I have now had first sight of their report, which covers a series of recommendations and examples of good practice from lodges around the English Constitution. This is an excellent document and I will be discussing the proposals through the Provinces and Districts to lodge level. Brethren, how often do we hear that changes and progress in masonry take an eternity? This report has been put together with admirable speed and it is incumbent on the Rulers to ensure that there is no delay in passing them on.

We are united in recognising the importance of recruiting and retaining younger Freemasons and these recommendations will give a better chance of strengthening all lodges, however successful, while not alienating established brethren.

‘We are united in recognising the importance of recruiting and retaining younger Freemasons.’

Published in UGLE

Kidderminster masons have built their new lodge rooms attached to the Chester Road Sports and Social Club

The arrangement is proving a success, with goodwill and mutual support that sees the cricketers busy in summer and the masons fully occupied in winter. Strengthening this relationship, Robert Vaughan, Worcestershire Provincial Grand Master (shown above, left, with club chairman Norman Broadfield), presented a cheque for £3,000 towards a new electronic cricket scoreboard.

Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00

Putting a roof over their heads

More than a shelter

While the number of homeless young people in the UK is on the rise, their predicament remains a hidden problem. A grant from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity is helping to give young people a roof over their heads as well as the strength to find a better future.

Emily Phillips’s vivid pink hair adds some colour to the white walls and worn black sofas of the night shelter in Blackburn she once called home. It would be easy to mistake the boldness of the colour as an indicator of a brash personality, but she has a quiet confidence that has allowed her to overcome becoming homeless at the age of eighteen.

More than seventy-five thousand people aged sixteen to twenty-four in the UK will experience homelessness this year, and, like Emily, struggle to find a place to sleep each night. They will do this while trying to hold down a job or keep studying at college. Emily was beginning a qualification in childcare when she split up with her boyfriend, whom she had been living with. 

A family breakdown at a young age meant that without relatives to turn to, she spent the next three months sleeping on couches.

‘People don’t think that sleeping on sofas is as serious as sleeping rough, but it’s scary. You’ve got a roof over your head for that night but you have no idea where you’ll be tomorrow,’ recalls Emily. Eventually she sought the help of her college liaison officer who put her in touch with Chris Egan, a support worker at Nightsafe. ‘It was a huge burden off my shoulders knowing that there was someone out there who wanted me to be safe.’

Nightsafe runs a shelter in Blackburn, housing homeless young  people for up to nine nights before they are moved to longer term accommodation at one of its housing projects (Cornfield Cliffe, where Emily has lived for more than a year, and the Witton Project), helped into social housing or given emergency support. 

Five other young people live alongside Emily in Cornfield, where they will stay for up to two years, provided they continue with work, training or education. The stability has enabled Emily to finish her childcare qualification and she has been offered a job as a nursery nurse, which she will start after she returns from a trip to Uganda, where she is volunteering at a school. 

Excited by the opportunities ahead, Emily has been raising money for the Ugandan trip for the past six months. ‘If it wasn’t for Nightsafe I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have now. I don’t know what I would have done. I would have been stuck.’

‘We try and build up the self-esteem of people who come through our doors. It’s easy to feel rejected when you’re made homeless aged sixteen.’ Linda Sharratt

National reach

Thousands of young people across the country find themselves ‘stuck’ every day without a stable home address, hoping that it will be a temporary predicament and that they can avoid the lasting stigma of homelessness. These young adults are the new face of a national population, one that poverty experts and case workers say is growing. Yet the problem is mostly invisible.  

Centrepoint is a leading charity providing a safe place to live for more than one thousand young people each year in London and the North East. It is now reaching out to help regional shelters, and grants totalling £220,000 from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity have funded its national Partnering Project. 

By providing a free consultancy to voluntary organisations, it enables them to build their capacity to support more youngsters. 

Laura Chapman, Chief Executive of the Grand Charity, recognises the importance of pooled resources and a collective effort: ‘The project enables Centrepoint to help many more young people than would otherwise be possible. Having been closely involved from the pilot stage, we are delighted the programme has been successful and is being rolled out further.’

Part of Centrepoint’s offering to Nightsafe is LifeWise, a scheme developed to offer the young people living at the shelter the opportunity to gain an AQA-accredited qualification in life skills. Jim Sexton, development manager for Centrepoint, trains managers, carers and volunteers to deliver the qualification. ‘Most of the young people have missed out on the basic skills that the rest of us take for granted. We aim to get them to a point where they can re-enter education, find work, and live independently.’ 

‘People don’t think that sleeping on sofas is as serious as sleeping rough, but it’s scary. You’ve a roof over your head for a night but no idea where you’ll be tomorrow.’ Emily Phillips

Laying foundations

Simple things like teaching people how to open a bank account, write a CV or cook a healthy meal are all included in the qualification. ‘Even if the content isn’t life-changing for some people, for many it will be the first time in their lives they’ve become qualified in anything,’ says Sexton. ‘It’s about getting people interested in learning and used to having a goal in mind.’

The need to focus on the long-term future of homeless people is a sentiment echoed by the chief executive of Nightsafe, Linda Sharratt: ‘One of our goals is to try and build up the confidence and self-esteem of the people who come through our doors. It’s easy to feel rejected when you’re made homeless aged sixteen.’ 

Sharratt and her team helped two hundred and fifty-three young people last year, about half of whom had slept rough during that time. When it comes to judging success, Sharratt does so on a case-by-case basis: ‘Emily’s done amazingly well, but for others, just making small steps forward is a huge deal.’

The LifeWise programme is just one facet of support that Centrepoint is able to provide to Nightsafe and thirty-seven other charities, located everywhere from Kent to Carlisle, thanks to the Grand Charity’s grant. ‘We bring these small organisations a level of support that allows them to continue to provide their services locally,’ says Sexton. ‘Our partners are a diverse group – some provide accommodation, others provide guidance – but what they all have in common is the aspiration to support homeless and vulnerable young people, just like Centrepoint.’ 

The partnerships also benefit Centrepoint, which can tap into local expertise in order to align its national strategy with changing government policy. ‘It’s not just about putting a roof over someone’s head, we need to think longer term about how to support young people so they can go on to live independently,’ says Sexton. ‘If it wasn’t for the funding from Freemasons, Centrepoint partnering wouldn’t exist, and these partnerships have the power to provide a route out of homelessness.’

Helping the homeless

Freemasons have a long tradition of trying to help people affected by homelessness, through support given by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity. National charity Crisis, for example, has received £705,000 in total – including a significant donation in 2000, which assisted almost four hundred people out of homelessness. Emmaus, Shelter, Depaul UK and Centrepoint have also received donations (together totalling almost £740,000), all of which have aimed to help people find accommodation and also to provide them with opportunities to rebuild their lives in safe and secure environments. In total, the Grand Charity has donated nearly £1.5 million towards supporting homeless people since it was established more than thirty years ago. 

Published in The Grand Charity

World wide friends

Proud to be a Lily, one of the Ladies of Internet Lodge, Jaqui Porter explains how a group of masonic partners and friends came together from across the world to build a website, organise events and forge lifelong relationships.

A unique lodge was consecrated in the Province of East Lancashire in 1998. Internet Lodge, No. 9659, was founded with the aim of using the internet to bring brethren together from all over the world. With fifty-two founding members, the lodge has evolved over the past fifteen years into a thriving, global community of Freemasons.

Meetings are not held in an internet chat room or on a Facebook page, but in person in the UK. However, not everyone in this international lodge can afford the time or money to travel halfway across the world to attend. A tradition has therefore developed whereby, if we have an overseas master, a fraternal visit is organised to his home country, the brethren being accompanied by their female partners and guests. 

So far there have been nine foreign excursions. We have visited the US, Portugal, Slovenia, Canada, Holland, Romania and, last year, Malta, where I hosted eighty-six Freemasons and their partners for a week of historical exploration and masonry. 

Most masonic meetings take place in an evening or afternoon, local to a brother’s home. However, the distances travelled for Internet Lodge meetings, even in the UK, make it more reasonable to overnight – which is where the Lilies come in. 

Shared experiences

The Lilies are the ‘Ladies of Internet Lodge’. From travelling around the UK and the world with our partners, we came to realise that we had an opportunity to explore the wonderful areas, both British and foreign, in which we found ourselves. 

In the first few years we got together in groups and took part in a range of activities, coming together in the evening to discuss our experiences. Then, on our Canadian trip to Niagara, we decided that this would no longer suffice. Our group had grown, so we decided to get organised and created the Lilypond – our own website and internet mailing list. We research venues and activities, plan programmes and book guides, transport and restaurants. While the lodge members are participating in masonic meetings, we are off finding out about the local culture, customs and cuisine. The group has a membership symbol, a trillium lily pin, which was chosen in our founding year. 

Every new Lily has to apply to us independently of her partner’s membership of the lodge, and our ladies include doctors, florists, magistrates, mums, artists, teachers, a carriage driver, voluntary workers, grandmothers, nursing officers… the list goes on. What we all share is a sense of belonging, which is founded in the commonality of the lodge. When I asked our members what they would like me to stress in this article, everyone I approached said the same thing: they wanted me to emphasise how glad they are to have met each other.

The group uses the mailing list as a source of social interaction, particularly for the organisation of future events, but in times of trouble, the comfort and sympathy afforded by our members to one in need is extraordinary. In the case of bereavements, the Lily who has lost her partner continues to belong to the group and will always be welcome at future lodge events, should she choose to go. She will know that she will be met by friends and perhaps take that first scary step out on her own in a safe environment. It’s different from being a lodge widow as she maintains her own role in our group, in her own right. 

I have never belonged to an organisation where so many women with such strong personalities and diverse interests have become such firm friends in so short a time. 

Joining up

Application to become a member of Internet Lodge is open to master masons of UGLE and other recognised Grand Lodges. Applicants must provide the usual certificates and proof of good standing. The lodge boasts more than three hundred and thirty members, who come from thirty-five countries of residence and no fewer than seventy-two Grand Lodges, with every continent represented. The average age is fifty-seven, with the youngest member being twenty-nine and the oldest, eighty-seven. Only one hundred and forty-one are from the UK. The lodge is held in high esteem abroad and there is no shortage of masons wishing to join. As one member commented: ‘You get more Freemasonry here in a week than you get in a year anywhere else.’ To find out more, visit 

Open sesame

We live in a technology-driven society that takes instant access and interaction with the rest of the world for granted. Tabby Kinder finds out how the RMBI is helping the older generation cross the digital divide

Late one morning in a sleepy cul-de-sac in Chislehurst, the residents of the RMBI Prince George Duke of Kent Court care home relax in armchairs and sip from mugs of tea. It seems a typical state of affairs that you might find in any UK care home – until you see that the residents are also selecting their favourite songs from a touch-screen computer. 

The new Dementia Life computer provides interactive games and entertainment, with photos, TV shows, music and film clips from the 1930s onwards. The touch-screen device is just one of a collection of digital machines installed in all RMBI care homes this year to help get elderly residents interacting with new technologies. 

Research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the number of people over the age of sixty-five using the internet is on the up. And with more older people getting used to new technologies, the RMBI is welcoming the opportunity to make sure its care home residents are seeing both the social and mental benefits of using computers.

‘Some of the residents are scared of the computer at first because they’ve never used one before,’ says Sue Goodrich, Activity Coordinator at the Prince George care home. ‘It’s a generational thing. But when I show them how to play their favourite song or look up photos of the place they grew up in, suddenly they’re fascinated.’

A paper presented at the International Conference for Universal Design claimed that using a computer can help older people live a fuller life, as it allows them to engage, communicate and create. Scientific journal Plos One suggests that using a computer, smartphone or tablet and regularly using the internet can even decrease the risk of cognitive impairments such as dementia.

While technology has revolutionised communication, entertainment and shopping, until recently it has remained almost exclusively the preserve of the young. In the UK, while ninety-nine per cent of adults aged sixteen to twenty-four have used the internet, according to the ONS, just thirty-three per cent of people over seventy-five have ever spent time online. 

But computer use by the older generation is growing and the benefits of online access for older people are being recognised as a necessity, rather than a luxury. 

The RMBI offers computer facilities and informal support with IT tasks at all of its care homes in England and Wales, often accompanied by scanners, projection screens, games consoles, and enlarged keyboards and computer mice for improved accessibility. In addition, a few homes are now leading the way with the launch of regular IT training sessions and internet cafes.

Every week, Diane Vowles, a volunteer from Age UK, gathers up a folder of printouts and heads to the Chislehurst care home where she holds workshops to demonstrate the use of personal computers (PCs) using the Dementia Life machine and a shared PC in the home’s dedicated computer room. ‘The residents who are interested surf the net with me and enjoy researching and investigating various subjects. We chat about our personal histories and experiences while searching for images and information on the web.’ 

‘Some residents can be a bit resistant to new technology but others are relishing it. The ones who get into it are amazed by what they can do.’ Diane Vowles

Vowles’s workshops are part of a national campaign by Age UK to promote digital inclusion among elderly people. ‘Some residents can be a bit resistant to new technology but others are relishing it,’ Vowles says. ‘The ones who get into it are amazed by what they can do.’

One such resident is David Giles, a ninety-one-year-old former lodge Secretary of St Mary’s, Gillingham Green Lodge, No. 6499, and Rainham Lodge, No. 3079, at which he is now an honorary member. ‘When I first met David he was one of the only residents here to have his own computer,’ says Vowles. ‘It was filled with a lifetime of documents – minutes from lodge meetings, agendas, letters, banking – plus he had begun putting together his father’s memoirs.’ Vowles and David now sit down together twice a week at David’s computer and type up pages of memories from his father’s life spent in the steam, seaplane and tractor industries. 

‘Hopefully it will make an interesting book for the enthusiasts,’ David says. Although using the computer is a challenge in his advanced years, David puts his ease around the technology down to his daughter and his career spent working as an engineer in the aircraft industry. ‘I started using computers in the 1970s and then I started to get better at using them when my daughter Mary was doing an Open University degree.’

At Prince George, other residents are beginning to follow David’s lead and some have brought their own computers to use in their rooms. ‘One resident wanted to be able to look online to see if she had won on the Premium Bonds and to see where the larger winners lived,’ says Vowles. ‘Another wanted to see images of his previously owned, now vintage, cars and motorcycles. We even checked if an old Birmingham Small Arms Company motorbike was still in circulation – it was!’ 

Google Earth and Skype software, which allows residents to communicate with relatives around the world, are also proving popular. ‘One resident was able to look up the new home of her daughter in Perth, Australia – the swimming pool was a big surprise,’ laughs Vowles. ‘One former resident used his PC extensively to keep in contact with his wide circle of friends via email and Skype. He had led a very interesting life and I learned a great deal from him, all about his career in everything from wartime flight navigation to optical lenses.’

Susan Barnes, eighty, has been a resident of RMBI Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court in Mid Glamorgan for ten months and uses the library computer for sending emails, writing letters and research. ‘When I first arrived here I was quite lonely and missed my bungalow,’ she says. ‘The computer provided a welcome distraction and allowed me to keep in touch with friends and family. I now have my own laptop and internet in my room. I’m delighted to have learned a new skill and all the staff are great if I have a problem doing something on the laptop.’ 

‘It’s essential that older people are supported to learn and access the internet if they want to,’ says Charles Knowles, who has been a resident at James Terry Court in Croydon for almost two years. Charles uses a digital camera to send photos of him and his friends during outings to his family, uses the internet to read and listen to the news, and will soon be installing a webcam so he can see his grandchildren. ‘The internet can take you back down memory lane as well as let you see new places and meet new people. It can also make managing day-to-day tasks much easier.’

‘When I show [residents] how to play their favourite song or look up photos of the place they grew up in, suddenly they’re fascinated.’ Sue Goodrich

A new computer cafe, currently in planning stage at the home, will encourage more residents to get online. ‘We are very lucky here at James Terry Court to have access to computers and the internet whenever we like and to have helpful staff around every day who can help with computing tasks,’ adds Charles.

‘It’s all about independence,’ says Rosie Bower, Marketing Manager for the RMBI. ‘We’re committed to offering person-centred care across all of our care homes, allowing our residents to remain in control of their own lives, long after they have moved into one of our homes. Internet and computer access is integral to maintaining a person’s independence in the modern world. The more external interaction our residents have, the more able they are to keep making their own choices.’

Published in RMBI
Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00

North Harrow Lodge sails the Solent

It was a fair wind for the four-day sailing extravaganza of North Harrow Lodge, No. 6557, which has taken place around the Isle of Wight after the chartering of Reunion, a 46-foot Bavaria class yacht

The crew who sailed around the Solent comprised seven members of North Harrow Lodge and one member of Gradation Lodge, No. 6368, from London. 

The boat hoisted two flags: the Household Division ensign (one of the crew is a former Guardsman) and the newly obtained and designed Middlesex Provincial flag. 

Special thanks went to skipper Vaughan Coleridge-Matthews for getting the crew back to port safely, and to Ian Ferguson for designing and sourcing the Middlesex Provincial flag.  

Servant of the community

Educated at the Royal Masonic School for Boys, George Penn became a regimental captain, much-loved country doctor, tireless local campaigner and committed lodge member. His son, Roger Penn, considers how Freemasonry complemented his father’s unique life

‘Dr Penn, why do you like stitching so much?’ asked Samantha Rosie of the BBC while filming the family practitioner as he carried out a routine operation at his country surgery in Whitland, south-west Wales. Dolycwrt surgery is where Dr George Penn served his patients dutifully and lovingly for forty-two years. He had no wish to retire until it became necessary the day before his seventieth birthday in 1997. By then he had led the people of his community in a successful victory campaign to keep open his beloved practice at a time when purpose-built health centres were appearing nationwide. 

Rosie and her team were capturing a precious moment in the history of the one-hundred-year-old surgery before turning her footage into an award-winning documentary. She was also giving George the retirement send-off he richly deserved, not only for the excellence of his patient care but also for devoting his life to the needs of others. 

Unmistakably identified by his fleet of Morris Minor cars, George served all manner of local committees for the good of the parish council, rugby club, town hall, carnival events, and was even chairman of the local Farmers’ Union of Wales. But none of these non-medical pursuits compared with his resolute crusade in keeping rural railways running during a twenty-year term following the network cutbacks of the early 1960s. Dr Malcolm Holding, a partner at Dolycwrt, says of his former colleague: ‘He tried to fit so many things into one day. He was on call from all sorts of places – and, if he had a few minutes, he’d be dipping into his masonic book to read a few more lines. He was heavily involved in so many committees. I’m sure George attended more meetings per week than there were nights in the week.’

There is a perfectly good reason for the little masonic book to which Dr Holding refers – and it is best explained in the 1974 Fiftieth Anniversary Booklet of Teifi Lodge, Cardigan: ‘Worshipful Brother Penn is singularly proud of the fact that he is a product of the Royal Masonic School for Boys.’

Life was no picnic for the young George when he was separated from his village friends, aged eight, and relocated to ‘H House’ alongside the stately corridors of the masonic school buildings. Despite the magnificent premises and open green fields, this could be a tough and lonely early existence for boys missing their families. But the Freemasonry movement instilled a sense of leadership and individualism in this young man, and George overcame all ordeals to present himself ready and determined to make a difference with his life. And indeed he did, going on to have a medical career spanning almost fifty years, including national service in Nigeria in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

‘As a servant of the community, George left his mark. And although he was gentle and unassuming in manner and speech, he was strong, resolute and ambitious.’

A spirited education

George’s individualism was recognised early on by his housemaster, Mr Riches. Disregarding school rules one evening, George gave the boys of his house a late party to bid farewell to a friend who was leaving the school. ‘Dear Penn, I am severely annoyed,’ began a letter from Riches, who, while reprimanding him, could not conceal his respect: ‘I treasure you too high, Penn, to quarrel with you unreasonably.’

Stephen Thomas, editor of the Old Masonians Gazette, enjoyed reading about this ‘unique philosophical exchange’, describing George as ‘a pillar of Welsh society’, who delivered ‘the very best his profession brought to Whitland’ during times of significant social change. Brother Jestyn Edwards recalls this commitment to his profession, citing an instance when George travelled up for a lodge meeting in Cardigan – a round trip of about sixty miles. After dining with his lodge, George got up to go. When asked why he was off a bit early, he said: ‘On the way I called with an old lady, who was quite frail. I promised I would pop in on the way home.’

Brother Cecil Williams was impressed by the efforts George made to attend meetings. ‘No one tried harder to put in an appearance. And how can I forget George bringing buckets of coal for the fire. Nothing pleased him more than the sight of flames in our open hearth. George was a one-off.’

As a doctor, husband, father and servant of the community, George left his unique mark. And although he was gentle and unassuming in manner and speech, he was strong, resolute and ambitious. A free spirit and a Freemason, he is best remembered by the words of a devoted patient: ‘There was never anyone like him. He was uniquely different from anyone else; he was a gem of a man.’ 

Beyond the Call of Duty: A Biography of Whitland’s Dr Penn, published by Gomer Press, is available online, in bookshops and direct from the publisher on 01559 363092.

Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00

200 years of grand union

Working as one

With December marking the bicentenary of the union of the Grand Lodges, John Hamill explores the people and planning behind the creation of the United Grand Lodge of England.

The formation of the Antients Grand Lodge in 1751 – instigated mainly by Irish brethren in London who had been unable to gain entry to lodges under the premier Grand Lodge – marked the start of a period in which two Grand Lodges existed side by side. Initially there was great enmity between the two, and both sides threatened dire consequences against any members who became involved with their rival. But as time went on, except at the centre, relations relaxed, particularly in the Provinces where the beady eyes of the respective Grand Secretaries did not extend. Even in London, a number of prominent brethren had a foot in both camps. 

Indeed, it was because of two such brethren that the first serious attempt, in 1801, to start negotiations towards a union foundered. When it was announced that talks might begin, there were groups within both Grand Lodges who did not wish to see it happen and sought to wreck it. Charges were brought in the Antients Grand Lodge against Francis Columbine Daniel for being active in both Grand Lodges, resulting in his expulsion. Daniel was a doctor and apothecary, best remembered today as having invented the inflatable life vest and for receiving an ‘accidental knighthood’. Daniel believed that the new Deputy Grand Master of the Antients, Thomas Harper, had engineered his expulsion and sought his revenge.

Rooted in rivalry

Harper had been very active in both Grand Lodges, being a Grand Steward in the premier Grand Lodge in 1796 when he was also Deputy Grand Secretary of the Antients. He was a jeweller and printer, making masonic jewels that are now highly prized and collected. Quite how someone so prominent had got away with being so publicly active in both Grand Lodges is the subject of another article, but Daniel forced the premier Grand lodge to recognise the fact and they expelled Harper in 1803, bringing any talk of a union to a halt.

In 1806, the Prince of Wales (later King George IV), Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge since 1791, was elected Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. As he had done in England, he appointed the Earl of Moira as his Acting Grand Master. Moira seems to have seen the Prince’s election as an opportunity to bring the premier Grand Lodge and Scotland closer together. However, the Scots saw the election as simply allowing for a closer relationship between the two Grand Lodges, rather than an actual joining together.

‘Even in London, a number of prominent brethren had a foot in both camps.’

Nevertheless, talk of union seems to have turned the minds of the Prince and Moira to the situation in England. In 1809 they approached the Antients with the idea of setting up a joint committee to explore a possible ‘equable union’. A stumbling block was the fact that Harper was still Deputy Grand Master of the Antients and was very much in charge in the extended absences of the Grand Master John Murray, 4th Duke of Atholl. The negotiators were appointed and in 1810 Harper was welcomed back into the premier Grand Lodge.

Apart from the formal Grand Lodge Minutes and odd bits of correspondence, little evidence survives about the negotiations, which dragged on for nearly four years. Part of the problem was that while the premier Grand Lodge team had been given authority to make decisions, those representing the Antients had to have any decisions agreed within a quarterly meeting of their Grand Lodge. 

A grand achievement

Matters were not helped by the fact that the Antients’ Grand Secretary, Robert Leslie, was firmly against the project. A somewhat prickly character, he had been Grand Secretary since 1790 and, unlike his counterparts in the premier Grand Lodge, was a salaried official, earning £100 a year. Indeed, so much was he against the union that even when it was accomplished he refused to hand over the records of the Antients Grand Lodge.

Proceedings might have ground to a halt in 1813 had it not been for major changes at the head of both Grand Lodges. The Prince of Wales resigned as Grand Master and was succeeded by his younger brother the Duke of Sussex. In November 1813 the Duke of Atholl resigned as Grand Master of the Antients, who elected another royal brother, the Duke of Kent, as their Grand Master. 

It says a great deal about the authority of princes in those days that within six weeks they had knocked heads together, and agreed and drawn up Articles of Union. They also planned the great ceremony, which took place at Freemasons’ Hall on 27 December 1813, when the union was declared and the Duke of Sussex was installed as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Published in Features
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