A battle of will
Inspired by a stint on TV’s DIY SOS, Freemason Paul Matson set up Hull 4 Heroes, an organisation providing houses for homeless veterans. Edwin Smith talks to him about his plans to build a ‘Veterans Village’ in Hull and how Freemasonry spurs him on to do more good works
When the TV programme DIY SOS came to Hull in 2015, Paul Matson received an email. As the owner of a company that builds conservatories in the local area, he gladly accepted the producers’ invitation to help out with the project: modifying the home of a family who’d been living with the effects of motor neurone disease.
Through the show, Paul met Jason Liversidge, and played a part in helping Jason become the first virtually paralysed man to be initiated into a lodge, a story featured in the autumn 2018 issue of FMT. However, Paul was soon in front of the DIY SOS cameras again.
This time he was working on a project to build Veteran Street – a row of houses in Manchester that would be renovated to serve as accommodation for former members of the armed forces struggling to adapt to civilian life. As a veteran himself, and someone who also knew what it was like to fall on hard times, it was a cause close to Paul’s heart. ‘It inspired me,’ he says.
‘On the way home, I pulled up at some traffic lights and noticed some derelict houses. I thought to myself: ‘What if I could get a few friends together and renovate just one house for a veteran in Hull?’
He got home and wrote a post on Facebook setting out his plan, and asking whether anyone could pitch in or contribute materials. ‘As soon as I put my mobile down, it nearly set alight. It was vibrating and pinging like mad: 100 likes, 200 likes, 300, 400… and loads of comments.’ And so a new charity, Hull 4 Heroes, began.
GROWING UP FAST
Paul was born in Hull and grew up in the city. He joined the army after school and served in the Royal Artillery from 1980 to 1984, rising to lance bombardier. ‘I got myself a special job,’ he says. ‘I saw the world.’ He also boxed, skied and represented the army as a long-distance runner. But it was the friendships he made that meant the most to him. ‘It’s the camaraderie. You’re surrounded by special people; people that you’d hope would be your friends for life. You knew your back was covered.’
But the job brought hardship, too. Paul served in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. ‘That was something we had to endure,’ he says. ‘It was a difficult time and a lot of us don’t talk about it. You see things that you shouldn’t see as a young man: the loss of friends. As a young kid, you feel like you’ll live forever, and that just isn’t the way.’
After leaving the army, Paul went through a rough patch. ‘I got myself into a bit of a state with drink and drugs and those sorts of things,’ he says. ‘I ended up homeless and on the streets for a year and a bit.’ But, thanks to the help of a family member, he got a place to stay, started working in the building trade and was soon back on his own two feet. ‘I learnt my craft and, through a lot of hard work, eventually set up on my own.’ Freemasonry was one of the things that helped along the way. ‘You become surrounded with nice, like-minded people,’ he says. ‘It enriches your life and spurs you on to do more.’
‘I’d thought I was the only veteran who’d fallen down, so I’ve gone through much of my life feeling ashamed, but everybody seemed to have a similar story’
However, it wasn’t until Paul’s appearance on DIY SOS, and his work on the Veteran Street project in Manchester, that he realised how many other people had faced the same sort of difficulties he had after leaving the army. ‘I’d always thought I was the only veteran who had fallen down after leaving the forces,’ he says. ‘That I was some sort of weakling or that there was something wrong with me. I’ve probably gone through much of my life feeling ashamed of myself. But going on DIY SOS utterly changed that, because I spoke to everybody we were helping on the site – and everybody seemed to have a similar story.’
That realisation was a doubled-edged sword, says Paul, being both comforting and concerning. ‘I thought: “Thank god I’m not the only one,” but also: “Isn’t it horrible that there’s so many more out there?” It inspired me to do something.’
The plan – first hatched at those traffic lights – quickly evolved. Within weeks, Paul and other Hull 4 Heroes volunteers had renovated a house for a local veteran. Other projects followed, and donations came flooding in from the local community. ‘There are people running, jumping out of planes, climbing mountains, doing every sponsored thing you can do,’ says Paul. ‘I had an old lady posting £300 through my door every month. And people just stop us in the street. I can’t go to a café now without someone tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Put that in your coffers, son.”’
The support from the local community hasn’t just been monetary. Crucially, Paul has been able to assemble a core team of people to share the load and push Hull 4 Heroes on. He also kept in touch with Nick Knowles, meeting the presenter of DIY SOS to discuss ideas for Hull 4 Heroes over coffee. ‘Every now and then I’d come up with a bright idea,’ says Knowles. ‘It was all taking up a lot of his time, so, after a while, I think his family thought it was better if we didn’t go for coffee!’
Nevertheless, the ideas kept on coming thick and fast. After several meetings over coffee, a new plan began to take shape – not just for Hull’s answer to Manchester’s Veteran Street, but for an entire ‘Veterans Village’, the first of its kind anywhere in the UK.
‘It’s a transitional village, really,’ says Paul. ‘We don’t necessarily want veterans to live together in the same place permanently. The idea is that when you come out of the forces, you move here and we teach you the skills to become a civilian again, help you on your way and then move you on to houses that we’ll also build.’
A 22-acre site on Priory Road in Hull has been identified. It will feature 54 log-cabin properties of various sizes, ‘a little bit like Center Parcs,’ says Paul. It will all be approved for disabled access, and there are plans for a horticultural facility, a visitors centre, a shop and a café, all of which will be open to the public.
Paul and his team are awaiting planning permission for the project. Architects and ecologists are already on board and, in many cases, people have contributed time or materials for free. But fundraising will become a major priority, with the budget for the entire project estimated at £8 million.
If anyone is able to drive the project to completion, says Knowles, it’s Paul, who recently received a Points of Light award from the Prime Minister. ‘He is absolutely determined to make a difference and he’s working very hard to make it happen. For him to have suffered from many of the difficulties we see affecting so many members of the military – and then come back from them to do this – it’s an extraordinary story, it really is.’
‘Hull should be very proud of him,’ says Knowles. Then, a little less seriously, he adds: ‘They should either put up a statue to him, or when he passes away, have him stuffed! You can tell him I said that: he’ll laugh.’
From the Grand Secretary
Having been privileged to have participated in the Installation of its new District Grand Master, I am fortunate enough to be writing this from our sun-soaked District of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
As a doctor, I was always on the lookout for medical conferences in exotic places that happened to coincide with local lodge meetings. Escaping the ‘conference dinner’ in favour of meeting local brethren was never a difficult choice, and in the space of an evening I would find out, from those that knew, what was really worth doing and visiting for the remainder of my stay.
Our Districts are, and always have been, an integral and important part of the United Grand Lodge of England. For hundreds of years, they have represented and practised the finest values of English Freemasonry in far-flung corners of the globe. They count amongst their members those with power and influence, and those with little, and often bring together people who traditionally might not be easy bedfellows – much more so than we do in England. It is my stated intention to ensure that UGLE works ever more closely with our Districts and that we are able to recognise and support them in tackling not only the problems common to us all, but also those unique problems pertinent to their countries and environments.
Our Districts, of course, have many things to teach us. I have noticed that whilst it is always dangerous to generalise, the Districts I have visited differ from our Provinces in two respects. Firstly, I am struck by how important ‘family’ is to their success – and bear in mind that they are growing an average of 10 per cent year on year. Events which routinely include wives, partners and ‘significant others’ increase the sense of community and normality of their day-to-day business.
Secondly, they are much more visible in the communities they are drawn from. In terms of the time they give to serve those around them, they seem proportionally much more engaged with local events and issues than we are back in England.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ method for success – our lodges, Districts, Provinces and indeed members are not, cannot and should not all be the same. Climates of political and religious hostility or tolerance exist to varying degrees across the globe. I am minded of a certain District where religious leaders are openly calling for ‘a coffin for each Freemason’ as a way to deal with the ‘problem’. Such obvious persecution rather puts our own press in perspective, but one thing I feel it illustrates is that we must become known for who we really are, what we stand for and what we do in our communities in order to counter such abject prejudice and nonsense.
There are those members who feel that we should go about our business quietly with as little publicity or fuss as possible. Whilst respecting those of that opinion, they are wrong. Freemasonry must be associated in people’s minds with who we are, what we value and what we do if we are to have any chance of rehabilitating our reputation, and recent polling data shows that it is, indeed, in need of rehabilitation. In today’s age, burying our heads in the sand with a ‘who cares what they think’ attitude will, plainly and simply, seriously damage us further.
We must do everything we can, individually and as lodges and Provinces, to counter some of the unhelpful stereotypes we have picked up. How can we be viewed as secret if we are seen and known in our communities? How so sinister if those whose lives we touch think of us with fondness and gratitude? In an uncertain world, the masonic principles of integrity, respect and charity ring as true today as they ever have before. As W Bro the Right Reverend Albert Lewis, the District Grand Chaplain of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, said in his sermon yesterday at St John’s Cathedral, Antigua – ‘Get out there and do something worthwhile’.
So brethren, if you are travelling this summer, or are abroad with work, and have a few evenings spare, be sure to contact your Provincial Secretary. Broaden your visiting horizons, do your part to bring our masonic family closer together and be sure to make the acquaintance of your brethren in our Districts overseas. And if you are reading this from a far-flung corner of a forgotten empire, and your curiosity has been piqued, you can be assured of a warm welcome should you be visiting London or our home Provinces.
Dr David Staples
‘I’m struck by how important ‘family’ is to our Districts’ success… events which routinely include wives and ‘significant others’ increase the sense of normality of their day-to-day business’
Presenting our past
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s Director, Vicky Carroll, tells Edwin Smith about some of the most important – and suprising – objects in UGLE’s collection, and explains how she’s taking them to a wider audience
Having worked at some of the best-known museums in the country, Vicky Carroll took up the role of Director of the Library & Museum of Freemasonry in November 2017. She admits that her target – of doubling the Museum’s audience within five years – is ‘ambitious’, but Carroll’s credentials suggest that she’s the right person for the job. Having studied natural sciences at Jesus College, Cambridge, she stayed on to complete a Masters and then a PhD in cultural history before beginning her career at the prestigious V&A Museum in London. She went on to work at the Science Museum, the William Morris Gallery, Keats House in Hampstead and the Guildhall Art Gallery. Her passion, she says, is to give impressive collections the audience they deserve. ‘It’s seizing those opportunities to make stories and heritage more widely accessible, so that more people can benefit from them and enjoy them in a richer, deeper way.’
What was it about the role at The Library and Museum of Freemasonry that appealed to you?
When I first found out about the job, I didn’t actually know a huge amount about Freemasonry or the Museum itself. But the subject was intriguing and I wanted to find out more. I think that’s typical of a lot of people: they might not really know much about Freemasonry, but there’s a mystery there which makes it appealing. I think having that public curiosity is always a great starting place for a museum.
What did you make of the Museum on your first visit?
I was really struck by the quality of the collections; not just the Museum collection, but the Library and the archive as well. The richness and beauty of the objects was compelling. You can see why it’s been named as one of just 149 ‘designated collections’ by the Arts Council of England. [These are exceptional collections that ‘deepen our understanding of the world and what it means to be human’.] The combination of the public interest in the topic and the strength of the collection meant that there was a huge opportunity to engage a much wider audience – with the collection, with the stories, with the history of Freemasonry.
‘A lot of people don’t know much about Freemasonry, but it has a mystery which makes it appealing. I think that having that public curiosity is a great starting place’
Can you talk about the standout objects in the Museum?
We have documents showing the foundations of Freemasonry. They’re very important from a historical perspective. On display is a first edition of Anderson’s Constitutions from 1723. It’s the first time that what it meant to be a Freemason was officially recorded. Even older are the Old Charges. These are rule books for stonemasonry and go back to the 1500s. There is also the Articles of Union, the deed marking the unification of the Antients and the Moderns Grand Lodges in 1813.
We’ve got Winston Churchill’s apron, along with objects associated with royalty – as there have been so many royal Freemasons. An exhibit you can’t miss on entering the Museum is the huge gilded Grand Master’s throne made for the Prince Regent, who later became George IV. But just as important are the humbler objects with stories to tell. We have masonic jewels made from scrap materials by prisoners of war. And our ‘Suitcase Stories’ display explores how Freemasonry has shaped the lives of individuals from different walks of life.
Have you discovered anything about Freemasonry that has surprised you since you started the role?
I didn’t realise that there were – and are – female Freemasons. I was particularly struck by a display of mid-20th-century jewels from the Women’s Grand Lodge of Germany. They’re decorated with New Age symbolism and the craftsmanship is stunning.
What do you want visitors to take away when they leave?
There are a lot of misconceptions about Freemasonry. Many people simply don’t know what it is. We want to help our visitors gain a clearer understanding of Freemasonry’s origins, traditions and values, and an insight into what Freemasonry has meant for individuals and our society up to the present day. For members, the Museum is a great way to show family and friends what Freemasonry is all about.
What attracted you to a career in museums in the first place?
It was something I became interested in whilst I was doing my PhD, when I was volunteering in various museums in Cambridge. One of the things that attracted me to it was the ability to reach a broad and diverse public audience and engage them with arts and heritage. Academic research is immensely valuable, but it has more of a niche audience. Whereas I was interested in creating things that had a wider public appeal.
‘For our special exhibitions, we’ve been very proactive in engaging with the press – in line with what UGLE is doing more broadly’
How do you give exhibitions as wide an appeal as possible?
It’s often just thinking about the subject from the audience’s point of view. What reference points might that audience have that are relevant? How does the topic relate to something they already know about? Even if someone doesn’t know a lot about Freemasonry, they might know about a particular period in time, or there might be someone they’ve heard of. Also, people like to hear stories about people. More traditional museum displays might tell you about an object: what it’s made of, when it was made and so on. But often what people find engaging is who might have used it and what it might have meant to that person. And Freemasonry is great for that. It’s all about personal experience and relationships – not just physical, tangible things.
How do you plan to double the audience in five years?
Our exhibitions and permanent displays must meet the needs of the audience, while raising our public profile. For one of our current special exhibitions, Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, we’ve been very proactive in engaging with the press – in line with what UGLE is doing more broadly. We’ve expanded our social media and have an e-newsletter, which people can sign up to on our website. We’re developing a new visual identity and, later this year, will launch a new website.
What’s next for the Museum?
Our exhibition programme is obviously key in attracting more Freemasons as well as members of the public to come and visit. Our newest exhibition is called Decoded: Freemasonry’s Illustrated Rulebooks. It unlocks the early history of Freemasonry through the illustrations at the front of the Constitutions. These ‘frontispieces’ tried to sum up what Freemasonry meant and its place in the world. You can see how, at various times in its early history, Freemasonry was being adapted to the local and historical situations.
Anything else to look out for?
We’re a museum, but it’s important to remember that we also have a library and an archive, so we’re an amazing resource for members who are writing lodge histories, doing preparation for a visit overseas, or researching their own family history. We’re also encouraging more students and academics to use our collection, hosting more public events, and soon we will be expanding our educational work and collaborating with artists to interpret the collection. It’s a really exciting time.
For more details, visit www.freemasonry.london.museum
The success of the Classic 300, a nationwide series of classic car runs supporting UGLE’s Tercentenary celebrations in 2017, has given rise to Square Wheels Lodge, No. 9966, consecrated in the British Motor Museum in Warwickshire. Edwin Smith meets the lodge that’s making a lot of noise
You have to be a certain sort of person to have a love for classic cars,’ says Peter Manning, Primus Master of Square Wheels Lodge. ‘And there’s an affinity between classic cars and Freemasonry.’
If the early days of the lodge are anything to go by, he’s not wrong. The lodge was only consecrated a few months ago, but already it has 90 members and a calendar brimming with events.
The genesis of the lodge, Peter explains, can be traced back to the Classic 300 – a series of 17 classic car rallies that took place across the country during the Tercentenary year, under the auspices of what was then the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club. When chairman John Cole chose to retire, the decision was taken to move the club from its base in Reading. ‘We settled on Warwick,’ says founding Secretary, now Senior Warden Peter Hughes, ‘because it’s at the centre of the country, it’s close to a lot of motor production, and it’s got a lovely masonic hall.’
The name of the classic car club was also changed to Square Wheels. It’s not necessary to be a Freemason in order to be a member of the car club but, Peter says, ‘the consensus was that the club could easily give birth to a lodge. We created a petition and David Macey, the Warwickshire Provincial Grand Master, who’s a petrolhead himself, supported it wholeheartedly.’
With the two Peters on the case, along with Lodge Secretary Bernard Foad tinkering under the bonnet, preparations accelerated. The warrant was secured in July last year and the consecration took place in October at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon – a ‘brilliant venue, full of classic cars,’ says Peter Manning. Some 253 people attended, including three Provincial Grand Masters: David Macey was the Consecrating Officer, Mike Wilkes of Hampshire & the Isle of Wight was the Consecrating Senior Warden, and Bob Vaughan of Worcestershire was the Consecrating Junior Warden.
The oil used during the ceremony was, appropriately, ‘Castrol R’ motor oil. ‘I wanted to burn it by putting a few drops in the censer,’ says Peter. ‘You really get the smell when it’s burning, but our Provincial Grand Chaplain suffers from asthma, so it wasn’t a good idea.’
'We'll take our wives and partners with us. They'll have the morning off while we have our meeting and then we'll go for a run around the Cotswolds and head home.’
The lodge has 75 founding members, 20 honorary members and welcomed a further 15 members early this year. It will primarily be based at Alderson House, a handsome Grade-II-listed Georgian building on the High Street in Warwick. Some of the lodge’s meetings in 2019, however, will take place elsewhere.
‘We’ll have four meetings a year,’ says Peter Manning. ‘Two in Warwick and the other two will be peripatetic – we’re taking the lodge to the members around the country.’ On 4 May, the lodge will meet in Bristol. ‘We will be taking wives and partners down with us. They can have the morning off while we have our meeting. After lunch, we will go for a run around the Cotswolds, have afternoon tea, and then head home.’
Another meeting is planned for Burton-on-Trent in July. ‘We want to spread the word around the country,’ says Peter Manning. ‘That’s one of the principal aims: for the lodge to visit its members rather than waiting for them to come to us.
‘I hope it’s going to be an extremely active lodge,’ he adds, ‘both masonically and socially. We want to make sure that partners get involved. At a lot of lodges, I think a problem can be that wives occasionally feel alienated, or at least not a part of it. But, clearly, we don’t want that to be the case.’ To that end, Peter Manning and others have also planned to organise an informal picnic every six weeks at a beauty spot or a National Trust venue.
There’s a need to keep ‘clear water’ between the car club and the lodge itself, but it is hoped that by touring around the country and remaining open to non-Freemasons, the club will fuel the future of the lodge. ‘The idea is to promote Freemasonry to the public through the club,’ he says. ‘We’re hoping it will be a feeder for initiates into the lodge.’
The cars themselves may prove to be a draw as well, with a huge range of vehicles in the club, from legendary marques to cute vintage runabouts. ‘There are some fairly heavy motors in the club,’ says Peter Hughes, but it’s his 1970 Fiat 500 that he describes as his ‘pride and joy’. ‘The biggest problem with my Fiat is keeping it away from my daughters,’ he says. It’s a far cry from the challenges he came up against in his early motoring life. He raced in Formula 3, and even shared a grid with the late, great Ayrton Senna. ‘I emphasise “shared a grid with”,’ he says, laughing. ‘It wasn’t “racing”. He went one way while I seemed to go backwards by comparison.’
Peter Manning is also very keen to emphasise that the club isn’t all about luxury or high-powered sports cars. On the contrary, ‘there’s a huge cross-section of vehicles,’ he says. ‘We’ve got loads of members who have MGBs and Austin 7s and goodness knows what. We’ve also got some beautiful pre-war Bentleys, but the nice thing is that it’s reflective of Freemasonry.’ What does he mean by that? ‘It might sound a bit poetic,’ Peter says, ‘but I mean it in the sense that everybody here has got the same passions: motoring and Freemasonry. It doesn’t really matter what you drive – we all enjoy it for what it is. It’s a great atmosphere we’ve created.’
Looking to the future, Peter Hughes is adamant that Square Wheels Lodge has the pulling power needed for further growth. Some of his back-of-the-envelope calculations based on research carried out by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs suggest that there might be as many as 10,000 Freemasons who own classic cars. ‘It’s predominantly a hobby for males over the age of 40,’ he says. ‘Which sounds a bit like Freemasonry.’
Other specialist motoring lodges are also beginning to spring up. ‘There’s a new one at the Mini factory in Oxfordshire, as well as Derbyshire, Cheshire and West Wales. I think a lot of Provinces are looking at this.’ He points to the Widows Sons, the association of Freemason motorcyclists, as an example of a community that can be built around a special interest. ‘They are huge on the charity side of things and everybody knows them – they have done very well. I think it’s a pattern we could follow.’
In fact, Peter Hughes sees no reason why there couldn’t be a national Freemasons’ association for classic vehicle enthusiasts. ‘I’d quite like us to take a lead; it would encourage people to visit other Provinces and build ties through meetings and cross-visiting. That’s got to be the next project.’
Bond of brothers
Featuring Freemasons who led and served on land, sea and air from the Second Boer War to the end of the Second World War, a new exhibition at Freemasons’ Hall showcases a photographic history of extraordinary spirit, humanity and comradeship, both in war and peace
While showing visitors around the Brothers in Alms exhibition of war photographs he’s curated at Freemasons’ Hall, curator Brian Deutsch was stopped in front of an image of No. 1 Squadron by a Freemason. ‘That’s my uncle!’ the man said, pointing to a figure in a group photograph. This is the sort of reaction Deutsch hopes to inspire. ‘You might see relatives or people who were in your lodge.’
The exhibition features more than 200 images covering the war and the home front. The masonic element comes through the presence of prominent military masons such as Haig, French, Kitchener, Jellicoe and Churchill, as well as lesser-known war heroes such as Bernard Freyberg VC. There are also female Freemasons, such as Dame Florence Leach, who founded the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and was a member of Golden Rule Lodge, No 1. Many American participants in World War I were Freemasons, including future generals Patton and MacArthur and a young Franklin D Roosevelt. The Duke of Connaught, who was Grand Master of UGLE during the war, is also featured. But the theme of Freemasonry goes beyond the personalities involved.‘
A lot of them have connections to Freemasonry, but the theme of the exhibition is humanity and caring, which is a banner of Freemasonry,’ explains Deutsch. ‘I wanted to show how the spirit of life will ultimately triumph. A lot of that is because the comradeship during the war carried on afterwards. A lot of soldiers actually became Freemasons following the war after seeing what it meant for their officers.’
'Lots of soldiers joined Freemasonry following the war after seeing what it meant for their officers'
The exhibition highlights the charitable work of Freemasons, as well as the importance of Freemasonry to leading wartime figures. Lord Haig espoused the principals of Freemasonry throughout his career, devoting his post-war life to improving the welfare of ex-servicemen.
While the connections to Freemasonry of the war’s leading soldiers are well known, others are more obscure. There are three airmen who were the first to down a German airship on British soil. ‘They had the gavel for their RAF lodge, Ad Astra Lodge, No. 3808, made from metal taken from the airship,’ says Deutsch. Another photo shows soldiers home from the front being treated to tea at the Connaught Rooms by the Freemasons.
Photographs were selected for a variety of reasons. Many are simply excellent pictures, either in terms of composition or because they capture something particularly interesting or unusual. There are photos of elephants ploughing the Surrey fields in place of the horses being used to serve the military; there are 18,000 US soldiers replicating the Statue of Liberty on a field in Iowa to promote the sale of war bonds; there’s a homesick soldier in his trench, painting street signs for King’s Cross, Love Lane and Devil’s Dyke on Scraps of wood; there are four members of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps enjoying a day at the beach. There are also cameos from Sir Ernest Shackleton, Douglas Fairbanks and TE Lawrence.
The royals are a significant presence. George V is seen visiting the front, while The Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII, is shown on a postcard used to raise money for the war effort. As the heir, he was not allowed to serve at the front, whereas his brother Albert – the future George VI – served at the Battle of Jutland. He was the last king to take part in a battle. All three were Freemasons. As Deutsch explains, ‘the Royal Family’s role was transformed by the war.’
The exhibition runs until November 2019 and is on the second-floor corridor of Freemasons’ Hall. It’s open to the public from 10am to 1.30pm, Monday to Friday. Those unable to get to London can visit www.brothersinalms.org.uk to see the entire exhibition online.
Masonic Centres & the law
The Masonic Halls Best Practice Guidance Manual has a vital role to play in modern Freemasonry, says Grand Superintendent of Works John Pagella
We’re living in an age where standards, particularly in the delivery of public services, are governed by both law and regulation. This carries the implication that unchecked, the quality and reliability of services would decline.
Meeting standards required by law is an obligation which cannot be ignored. Regulation, however, can range from a legal requirement to meet mandatory standards to ‘best practice guidance’. The decision over which approach is appropriate will depend on many factors, of which the consequence of a fall in standards will be one of the more important.
What has this to do with Freemasonry? The answer lies in the status of the Masonic Halls Best Practice Guidance Manual, which offers advice and guidance, but does not require that either must be followed.
Does this mean the manual can be ignored? It certainly does not, and there are several reasons why. As long as a masonic hall or centre is well run, is financially viable and serves the needs of those who meet there, it might not be thought necessary to consider whether it is operating within ‘best practice guidelines’. Indeed, there may well be lessons which should be shared with others and that is why so much time is being spent reviewing the manual to make sure that it reflects current experience. On the other hand, if things start to go wrong and pitfalls clearly signposted in best practice guidance are not avoided, those involved will need to explain why they failed to follow advice based on the experience of others.
There is an even more important reason for recognising that even well-run masonic centres should acknowledge and be aware of the manual. Some of its advice draws attention to obligations imposed by law. Examples include health and safety, and meeting the needs of those who are disabled. In these areas, best practice guidance has to be followed.
Keeping the manual up to date is therefore an important responsibility. Recent updates have covered project management, advice on assessing the future financial viability of masonic centres and halls, and insurance.
Insurance is easily overlooked until a claim needs to be made. When that occurs, a policy of ‘hoping for the best’ is foolhardy at best. Some aspects of insurance cover, such as employers’ liability, are required by law. In other areas, such as third-party liability or loss of or damage to lodge regalia and furniture, having the right cover is a matter of prudent management.
In both cases the manual recommends that you contact the Masonic Mutual in advance of when your insurance is due to be renewed. In addition to providing competitively priced cover for masonic centres, the Masonic Mutual is owned by its members – ie the policyholders – and is directed by a board of senior Freemasons who give their time voluntarily. Who better than Freemasons to understand the insurance needs of their brethren? Additionally, the Masonic Mutual serves members directly, avoiding commission to brokers, and retains any surplus for the benefit of its members rather than the shareholders of brokers or insurers.
If things start to go wrong and pitfalls signposted in best practice guidance are not avoided, those involved will need to explain why they failed to follow advice'
Could you be the star of UGLE’s next video campaign?
We want to know:
- What do you love about Freemasonry?
- Why did you join?
- What does Freemasonry mean to you?
The best videos will be shortlisted and you could be featured in UGLE’s future online campaigns as well as being treated to lunch with the Grand Secretary.
A feast for eyes and mind
From the homemade to the exquisite, this is the history of Freemasonry made vividly alive
Nothing draws together the many facets of Freemasonry as well as the masonic jewel. The current exhibition at the Library and Museum at Great Queen Street illustrates three centuries of the Craft through its outstanding collection of jewels and reminds us how much lies behind each one of them, with their fascinating stories being told in detail.
There is everything from simple jewels handmade by prisoners of war to glorious pieces crafted in gold for Grand Masters. It exemplifies every aspect of masonic history and how Freemasonry became – and remains – crucial to the countries which formed the British Empire.
As well as lodge jewels from around the world, there are charity and consecration jewels, as well as those made for Past Masters and founders and many other artefacts. Some are exquisitely hand-painted or enamelled and are complemented by excellent accompanying notes.
The exhibition has rare items of masonic history, from Elias Ashmole, through the merger of the Antients and Moderns, to modern jewels. It is astonishing to see the initiate’s apron worn by the Prince of Wales in 1919, an improvised apron worn at the Siege of Ladysmith and Sir Winston Churchill’s apron.
For Freemasons, this exhibition illustrates the remarkable depth and range of the Craft, while for the non-mason it helps to connect three centuries of British history and explains the significance of Freemasonry with remarkable clarity. It would, if it were possible, make for a wonderful permanent exhibition.
Review by Richard Jaffa
Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, until 24 August 2019, free admission
Seeing the light
The Anthony Wilson Memorial Lecture ‘The Possibility of Light’ is being given by renowned portrait and war artist Arabella Dorman at Freemasons' Hall on 16th May 2019, in aid of the charities Beyond Conflict and Age Unlimited
Tickets are £60 per person, which includes a drinks reception and private curated tour of the photographic exhibition Brothers in Alms.
Arabella will speak about the journey that led her from Iraq and Afghanistan as a war artist, to her work with refugees in Lesvos, Calais, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. The lecture will explore universal themes of childhood, loss, exile and hope as she takes us on her search for light in the darkest corners of existence.
Her work for the United Grand Lodge of England includes a portrait of Anthony Wilson, past President of the Board of General Purposes, and a commission to paint a scene from the 2017 Tercentenary celebrations.
Tickets can be booked by visiting the Age Unlimited website, sending a cheque made out to ‘Age Unlimited’ to 28 Westmoreland Place, London, SW1V 4AE, or by calling 07774 164243.
The Anthony Wilson Memorial Lecture is at 7pm on Thursday 16th May at Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5AZ.
With their own distinctive terminology, structures and practices, each masonic Order is different from the others. Here Brian Price breaks down the origins, requirements and organisation of Royal and Select Masters.
When was it constituted?
The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of England and Wales and its Districts and Councils Overseas was constituted on 29 July 1873 by four councils chartered two years earlier by the Grand Council of New York. They organised themselves into a sovereign body under the patronage of Canon Portal, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, who was installed as the Grand Master of the Order. After World War II, the Order grew rapidly and there are now over 250 councils and nearly 5,000 members.
Where is it based?
The original councils met in Red Lion Square in London, but moved to Great Queen Street (to today’s Connaught Rooms). The Order is now administered from Mark Masons’ Hall at 86 St James’s Street, London.
Who can join the Order?
It welcomes Master Masons in good standing who are also Companions of the Royal Arch, and Mark Master Masons. Members are called Companions.
What is the emblem of the Order?
It is a stylised depiction of the Ark of the Covenant surrounded by a triangle and the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Beneath is a scroll bearing the motto ‘Ego Alpha et Omega Sum’ - meaning ‘I am alpha and omega’.
What is the relationship between the Craft and Royal and Select Masters?
Although UGLE’s position is that ‘pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more’, during an address in 2007 the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, acknowledged the existence of many masonic Orders and accepted their sovereignty. He included Royal and Select Masters as one of those which had a role in providing Freemasons with additional scope for extending their research in interesting and enjoyable ways.
Is the country divided into Provinces in the same way as the Craft?
Yes, although in this Order they are called Districts. Each is headed by a District Grand Master and a team of District Grand Officers. And individual units are referred to as councils rather than lodges.
Does the Order have distinctive regalia?
It has crimson and gold regalia with a triangular apron. The Grand Officers collar and apron bear the emblem of the Order of the Silver Trowel. The Order also features some distinctive jewels.
Who runs it?
The Order is controlled by a Grand Council headed by the Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master and a Principal Conductor of the Work. The current Grand Master is Most Illustrious Companion Kessick Jones.
Isn’t it sometimes called the ‘Cryptic Order’?
The four core degrees (with ceremonies based on the Old Testament Solomonic legends) are Select Master, Royal Master, Most Excellent Master and Super Excellent Master. They are sometimes referred to as the ‘Cryptic Degrees’, and the Order as ‘Cryptic’, as the traditional history of the Degree of Select Master references the underground ‘crypt’ of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, which also features in Royal Arch and other masonic ceremonies.
I have a friend who’s a member overseas. Is he allowed to visit here?
So long as he’s taken the four core degrees of the Order in a recognised jurisdiction – subject to invitation, of course. However, in many jurisdictions, the degree of Most Excellent Master is not a ‘Cryptic Degree’ but part of the Royal Arch.