Historic Charterhouse hosts festival

The 14th annual festival of the Association of Medical, University and Legal Lodges was held at London’s Charterhouse, founded in 1371, and hosted by medical and Universities Scheme lodge Æsculapius, No. 2410. 

The coffee reception was held in the Great Hall, which has been the Charterhouse Brothers’ dining room for the past 400 years, and the ecumenical service took place in the chapel (pictured right), conducted by the Preacher of Charterhouse, the Rev Robin Isherwood. Back in the Great Hall, the audience was given an insight into the work of David Battie, one of the experts from the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. The 2015 festival will be held in Chester, hosted by the local university lodge.

Top marks for Universities Scheme

It was a special occasion when six students at the University of Buckingham joined Grenville Lodge, No. 1787, which meets on the campus, at the same time. Among the guests at the initiation were Past Assistant Grand Master and President of the Universities Scheme David Williamson and Buckinghamshire PGM Gordon Robertson. Lodge Secretary Andrew Hough said, ‘I am pleased that increasing numbers of people are recognising the advantages of joining Freemasonry, which stresses friendship, decency and charity. It’s also great fun.’

Not to be outdone, Castle of Leicester Lodge, No. 7767, has also undertaken a sextuple initiation ceremony. It was a fitting day for Master Bryan Weston in his final meeting, having initiated 13 brethren in 2014. The lodge has seen a steady influx of candidates since joining the Universities Scheme in January 2013. Indeed, the ceremony came just days after the lodge conducted a quintuple passing in the Leicestershire and Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 7896.

Published in Universities Scheme

The Wyggeston Lodge No. 3448, which is the Universities’ Scheme lodge for the University of Leicester, welcomed another five new members at their Christmas meeting on 19th December 2014 held at Freemasons' Hall, Leicester

These five new members take a very special place in the history of Wyggeston Lodge, being part of an ever growing number of young Freemasons to have joined since 2011 when the lodge joined the Universities’ Scheme

Three of the members are either undergraduate or postgraduate students at the University of Leicester whilst the others work and live locally. The Lodge now has 47 members in total, with an age range between 21 and 90 and an average age of 45.

The festivities continued at the festive board where the lodge members and visitors, including the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club, enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner with an interjection of rousing christmas carols and songs including 12 Days of Christmas and Good King Wenceslas.

Through the generosity of those at the meeting, over £240 was raised for LOROS Hospice, a local charity that cares for over 2,500 people across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, and the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance.

On Tuesday 11th November 2014, the Castle of Leicester Lodge No. 7767 undertook an historic sextuple initiation ceremony at Freemason’s Hall, Leicester

This was the first time in the lodge’s history that six candidates were initiated in the same ceremony.

In his final meeting as master, W Bro Bryan Weston was in the Chair for the third initiation ceremony of his year in office, having now initiated 13 men into Freemasonry since February 2014.

A multiple ceremony was once again order of the day as Castle of Leicester Lodge has seen a steady influx of candidates since becoming the Universities' Scheme lodge for De Montfort University (DMU) in January 2013. Indeed, this ceremony came just 11 days after the lodge conducted a quintuple passing in the Leicestershire and Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters No. 7896.

The Lodge continues to attract candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds, and on this unique occasion the initiates included students, businessmen, and the retired, all having been attracted to join the Craft either via existing friends in the lodge or after learning more via its social media presence.

The meeting was well supported with 48 in attendance, a dozen of which were guests, including a student member from the Grand Orient of Brazil, who having arrived to study at DMU in September, completed his application on the very same evening in order that he may become a joining member and continue his masonic journey with the United Grand Lodge of England.

Published in Universities Scheme
Friday, 05 December 2014 00:00

Heritage in the building

The new experience

Freemasonry has a refreshingly open-minded attitude when it comes to age. The routes to the Craft for engaged young people are now more accessible than ever. The emergence of the Connaught Club, a social club for Freemasons under thirty-five, and the hugely successful Universities Scheme prove as much

But while there’s plenty for this younger generation to take from Freemasonry, what can these new brethren bring to the Craft? From a choreographer with all the right moves and a stonemason preserving the nation’s heritage, to an archaeology student unearthing our past, Sarah Holmes meets three young Freemasons with fresh perspectives, experiences and knowledge just waiting to be shared.

Mat Tindall, stonemason, King Egbert Lodge, No. 4288, Province of Derbyshire

Mat Tindall rarely has a typical day at the office. He is currently rebuilding the roof of Castle Drogo on Dartmoor – the last ‘castle’ to be built in Britain in 1911. It’s a painstaking process that involves re-fixing 3,000 granite blocks back into their original positions. ‘It’s like piecing together a giant jigsaw puzzle,’ Mat reveals, adding that the puzzle is made all the more difficult by the fact that some of the pieces weigh as much as one-and-a-half tonnes. 

The whipping autumnal winds blowing in from the exposed Dartmoor landscape certainly don’t make it any easier. Fortunately, Mat isn’t deterred. ‘If I didn’t enjoy my job, I wouldn’t be here,’ he admits. ‘I’m lucky I get to experience some of the country’s most incredible heritage first hand.’

Just last year, Mat ventured below the floors of Sheffield Cathedral into the sixteenth-century crypt of George Talbot, the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury. 

‘It was amazing being able to explore this archaic space by lamplight, to stand beside these huge coffins and read the eulogies chiselled into their lids in lead. It’s not something everybody gets to do.’ 

It was Mat’s love of the historical aspects of his job that first inspired his interest in Freemasonry. Working in great halls, cathedrals and castles, Mat became fascinated with the masonic symbols that he regularly encountered. ‘But it wasn’t until I was working on a farmhouse conversion next to King Egbert Lodge in Derbyshire that I finally got in touch with the Worshipful Master,’ he says. 

In September 2014 Sheffield-born Mat was initiated into the Craft. ‘I loved the camaraderie of it all,’ he recalls. ‘The history, the tradition – it’s exactly what 

I’m interested in, but my partner felt unsure. I think she worried that the lodge would take time away from our three-year-old daughter, Willow. But she knows now it won’t come to that. There’s never been a pressure to prioritise the lodge over family.’

Despite having only just started his journey into Freemasonry, Mat is already feeling confident in this new undertaking. ‘It’s definitely broadened my horizons,’ he says. ‘As the youngest person in my lodge I feel I bring a fresh perspective, too. Young people do have a different way of thinking about things, and when everybody brings their own stories and insights to their lodges it can benefit Freemasonry as a whole.’

‘Freemasonry has definitely broadened my horizons. As the youngest person in my lodge I feel I bring a fresh perspective, too.’

John Henry Phillips, archaeology student, Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448, Province of Leicestershire and Rutland

Unlike many students, partying was the last thing on John Henry Phillips’ mind when he headed to the University of Leicester in 2013. Having spent the past four years of his life touring Europe as part of a burgeoning rock band, John was eager to immerse himself in his archaeological passions. 

It was the discovery of a World War I grenade during his first visit to the fields at Flanders in Belgium that inspired John to apply to study archaeology. He was just ten minutes into his visit when he and his dad happened upon the small explosive shell.

‘One hundred and sixty tonnes of ammunition are ploughed up from under the fields each year, so people often find artefacts,’ says John. ‘Even so, it’s astonishing to find yourself face to face with a soldier’s boot after over a century. I’m now in talks with various projects in France about excavating the trenches in the future.’

It was after being accepted to study in Leicester (with the same university department that discovered Richard III’s remains in a local car park in 2013) that John became interested in the Universities Scheme, which forges links between lodges and young people who are seeking to become involved in Freemasonry. 

‘Student living can be quite intense,’ recalls John, ‘so Freemasonry was a great opportunity to step away from it all, to do something positive and unselfish rather than just going on a pub crawl.’ In December 2013, John was officially initiated into Wyggeston Lodge. 

The overlap between the history of Freemasonry and the world wars had a strong appeal for him. 

‘As a historical fraternity, it ties in with my interests. I particularly like masonic traditions that originate from those eras – such as raising a glass to absent brethren at lodge dinners, which stems from World War I,’ he says.

It is this sense of tradition, combined with the support of the fraternity, that John believes young people could benefit from most. ‘It’s an uncertain time for young people. We’ve more debt than ever – the old guarantees of a steady job and a mortgage are gradually disappearing. I think Freemasonry could be a welcome constant for many,’ he says.

‘But ultimately it’s a two-way street. Young people today have more diverse experiences and perspectives than they did fifty years ago. We’re better travelled than before and education is more accessible, so I think we have just as much to offer in the way of new ideas.’

‘Student living can be quite intense, so Freemasonry was a great opportunity to step away from it all and do something positive.’

Anthony King, Choreographer, Howard Lodge of Brotherly Love, No. 56, Province of Sussex

After balancing his entire frame on tiptoes, Anthony King bursts across the Pineapple dance studio in a fit of energy and excitement. A Michael Jackson song booms from the speakers above as he moonwalks his way across the white floors. 

By day, Anthony is a born performer, specialising in the trademark routines of the King of Pop. His Michael Jackson-style dance classes are a firm favourite on the London fitness scene, and this October he performed two sell-out tribute shows at the Shaw Theatre. But outside the dance studio, he is a dedicated Freemason of Howard Lodge of Brotherly Love, where he was initiated in May 2014. 

‘As a performer, I live in quite a superficial daily environment, so Freemasonry gives me insight into another world,’ explains Anthony. ‘It appeals to my philosophical and historical side.’

In particular, it was the idea of being part of a centuries-old brotherhood that drew Anthony to the Craft. ‘I loved the idea of being part of something bigger, of the continuity of the past through the ritual and tradition,’ he explains. 

On entering the lodge, Anthony was inspired by the honesty and warmth of his fellow brethren towards him. ‘They made me feel valued and respected from the moment I arrived,’ he says. ‘That really impressed me.’

Anthony became interested in Freemasonry through his friend Simon, whose father, Richard, is a Freemason. ‘But I never thought I’d be able to join until we were discussing it over dinner one night. Richard saw how passionate I was about it, so the next day he gave me the forms and we got the process underway.’

While the prospect of balancing the commitments of Freemasonry with rehearsing for sell-out shows and preparing for dance classes might seem a challenge, for Anthony it’s not an issue. ‘I’ll always be able to make time for it,’ he says. ‘When Simon and I joined, we both agreed this was a turning point in our lives. We were committing ourselves to improvement through Freemasonry.’

Despite being the youngest person in his lodge, Anthony doesn’t pay much heed to the age difference between himself and his brethren. ‘The Craft attracts a certain type of person, regardless of age. Perhaps young people bring a little more vibrancy, but over three hundred years what difference does a generation make? The important thing is that we all value one another.’ 

‘I loved the idea of being part of something bigger, of the continuity of the past through the ritual and tradition.’

Published in Features

The traditionally peaceful masonic month of August has been enlivened by the announcement that the Most Worshipful Grand Master has agreed to the Petition for a new lodge for Shropshire, to be called the Iron Bridge Lodge No. 9897

This lodge, named after Shropshire's iconic Iron Bridge near to Telford, will be the 34th on Shropshire's list, and the first to be consecrated since the West Mercia Lodge No. 9719 in 2000.

The Petition includes the names of 42 aspiring Founder members, including the Worshipful Master Designate, W Bro Andy Delamere. It was presented in open lodge at the regular meeting of Forester Lodge No. 7211 in April, in the presence of RW Provincial Grand Master, Peter Allan Taylor, and signed by Forester Lodge's Worshipful Master Jim Brown and his Wardens, Peter Smith and Andrew Gordon.

The Petition now having been sanctioned by Grand Lodge, Shropshire hopes to see the Consecration late in 2014 or early in 2015. It is also hoped that the new lodge will be accredited under the Universities' Scheme, so that it may become the first – or one of the first – to be founded as a member of that scheme. Members of other university lodges are to be invited to the Consecration.

The Provincial Grand Master congratulated the Founding Committee, including W Bro Delamere and the Secretary W Bro Ray Dickson, for the huge amount of energy and time they had devoted to the project. The Worshipful Master of the intended Mother Lodge, Forester 7211, presented the Founding Committee with a set of silver square and compasses to mark the event.

The Gladstone Club was formed by Barry Hopton for the younger members of University Lodge No. 4274 and other lodges in Liverpool to have regular opportunities to get to know one another better outside of the six lodge meetings a year

The younger masons have welcomed the idea of a friendship society and the club was founded in early 2013. They have had several informal ‘pub nights' with varying success and most recently a black tie dinner at the Artists Club.

The event organiser by Barry Hopton welcomed the members and their guests to the Artists Club, after pre-dinner drinks they took their places at the table. After grace was said in Latin as is traditional in University Lodge, the meal was served, it began with a stuffed mushroom starter, salmon main course followed by cheesecake and was accompanied by a healthy amount of wine!

After the loyal toast, Barry Hopton welcomed everyone and thanked David Goddard who had kindly stepped in as treasurer for the event, as well as being WM of Imperial Sefton Lodge No. 680 which regularly meets at the Artists Club. The club secretary Seb Jones, concluded the toasts by thanking the staff for their hard work and toasting to the future success of the Gladstone Club. Following that coffee was served along with snuff (as a substitute for cigars) which was well-received.

After the dinner Seb, said: 'We hope to have two informal events throughout the summer months including a brewery tour and another formal event at the start of the next Masonic and academic year to which all brethren and friends and partners are most welcome.'

Seb also thanked Mike Jones who had helped a lot in setting the club up. He concluded by saying: 'A number of young brethren from across Liverpool along with their partners and also non-Masonic friends attended, three of whom have indicated that they would like to become Freemasons!'

For more information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Derbyshire lodge initiates first student

One year after Assistant Grand Master David Williamson accepted it into the Universities Scheme, Derbyshire’s Hartington Lodge, No. 1085, has initiated its first student candidate, 18-year-old Philip Tomlinson.  

The meeting was attended by more than 80 brethren, including Provincial Grand Master Graham Rudd; Assistant Provincial Grand Master Steven Varley; and 12 Entered Apprentices, as well as two Fellowcrafts from other lodges. 

The lodge has already secured six further candidates, having run a stand at the University of Derby’s freshers’ fair, followed by an open evening at Derby Masonic Hall.  

Published in Universities Scheme
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:00

Assistant Grand Master's address - December 2013

Quarterly Communication 
11 December 2013 
An address by the RW Assistant Grand Master David Williamson

Brethren, the more observant among you may have noticed that I acted as Deputy Grand Master at the last two Quarterly Communications, in September and June. However, you should not infer from the fact that you see me in this chair today, that this is a portent of what the future holds for me!

You will remember that at the June Quarterly Communication, the Pro Grand Master announced that the Grand Master had appointed VW Bro Sir David Wootton to succeed me as Assistant Grand Master. He is a man of great quality, and I wish him every success in his new role; he will be installed on 12th March next year. Thus today is my last appearance as Assistant Grand Master at Grand Lodge, and the Pro Grand Master, with the collusion of the Deputy Grand Master, has contrived to be otherwise engaged today, to permit me the extraordinary privilege of presiding over Grand Lodge, for the first and last time, for which I am deeply grateful.

By the time I retire next March, I will have served thirteen years as Assistant Grand Master, during which time I have visited every continent, for a variety of purposes; to Install District Grand Masters and Grand Inspectors, to attend landmark meetings of private lodges, and to represent the Grand Master at other Grand Lodges. Here at home, I have installed Provincial Grand Masters, attended Charity Festivals and lodges in their Provinces, and in Metropolitan London; I have always received a warm and generous welcome, for which I thank them all.

There are many other people to whom I owe personal debts of gratitude for the support and encouragement they have given me during my term of office, not least the several Rulers I have been privileged to serve under, two of whom, I am delighted to see here today, MW Bro Lord Northampton, and RW Bro Iain Bryce. I am also very grateful to so many people here at Freemasons' Hall, who have helped smooth my path with their advice and support.

Over the years I have witnessed many changes and exciting initiatives, not least the formation of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, in which I was privileged to play a part. Nine years ago, with Lord Northampton’s encouragement, I started the Universities Scheme, which now has fifty nine lodges around the country, many of which I have visited. I am proud of what those lodges are achieving, and very grateful to successive members of my organising committee for the time and effort they have devoted to promoting the Scheme.

Parallel with the growth of the Scheme, I have seen the mentoring initiative take an increasingly positive effect in making masonry meaningful to new masons and aiding overall retention. One of the biggest changes has been in the development of the way we portray ourselves to the outside world, through websites, social media, and our publications, all of which contribute to what we know as 'openness', and in helping us regain, what the Grand Master has called, 'our enviable reputation in society.' 

Finally, brethren, as I reflect on the last thirteen years, it is with all humility I can say that it has been a great honour to have had the opportunity to contribute to English Freemasonry; I have enjoyed every moment. My grateful thanks to all of you who may have made a special effort to be here today; it is wonderful to see the Grand Temple so full!

My sincere thanks too to the many masons it has been my pleasure and privilege to meet, in London, in the Provinces, and overseas. I will always remember the collective and individual encouragement you have given me over the years. Brethren, thank you all.

Published in Speeches

Aircraft control

As he approaches retirement from the position of Assistant Grand Master, David Williamson reflects on a career as an airline pilot, becoming President of the Universities Scheme and why Freemasonry is not about a ‘blinding light’

When did you become interested in flying?

I’ve had a fascination with aeroplanes since I was a boy. I won a flying scholarship when I was seventeen and my first passenger was my wife –my girlfriend at the time. It was one of my biggest disappointments; there I was thinking she’d be impressed, but she hated every minute of it! 

I joined British Overseas Airways Corporation in 1968, and eventually became assistant flight training manager on the 737 at Heathrow. Later, I worked as assistant flight training manager on the 747-400 fleet until I retired in 1998.

How did you come to Freemasonry?

It was the early 1970s and I was approaching thirty. I knew that my father was a Freemason, but I had little idea what it was about. After my mother died I would go and spend time with him and it was then that he spoke to me about Freemasonry. He was Junior Warden and his lodge wanted him to become Master the next year. He asked me what I thought, so I asked him what was involved and whether he thought it was something that would interest me. He said it might. 

What attracted you to join?

I did a lot of reading. There was no internet then but I found out that notable people such as Mozart had been Freemasons. It struck me that there was something special about Freemasonry. On the night I was going to be initiated I was excited because I felt there was going to be some kind of revelation. And it wasn’t like that at all. The night was amazing, the atmosphere incredible and I can’t remember if the ritual was good or bad. I read the Book of Constitutions I had been given later that night. In retrospect, I was a little disappointed, but it taught me a valuable lesson: Freemasonry is a journey – not a blinding light but a series of learning events. 

How did you become Assistant Grand Master?

I became the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, both in the Craft and the Royal Arch in Middlesex, before becoming Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1998. In March 2001, Lord Northampton took over from Lord Farnham as Pro Grand Master. The chatter within Grand Lodge was about who the next Assistant Grand Master was going to be. I certainly didn’t think it would be me as I had been appointed to take over as Pro Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex, so it came as a bolt out of the blue. But I took on the role in March 2001. 

‘Freemasonry has an appeal for young people... It has a set of values, it has structure and it combines many aspects of life that you don’t always get elsewhere.’

What was your first duty?

London Freemasonry was not like it is now – it didn’t have a Metropolitan Grand Master and the Assistant Grand Master would carry out most of the ceremonial functions. But around the same time as I was appointed, there was a push for London to be self-governing, as it is now. Lord Northampton asked me to chair the committee to make this happen. It was a very exciting time.  

What kicked off the Universities Scheme?

Around nine years ago I visited Apollo University Lodge in Oxford. I had been extremely impressed; the members were very young and the ritual was excellent. I spoke about it to Lord Northampton, saying it was fantastic and that we should have lodges like this all around the country. He said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ From that was born the Universities Scheme. I formed a committee with Oliver Lodge, now the Grand Director of Ceremonies, as Chairman and we used Apollo University Lodge and Isaac Newton University Lodge, Cambridge, as a pattern. We now have fifty-nine lodges. 

What do you feel appeals to young people?

Freemasonry has an appeal for young people, which we’ve perhaps overlooked. It has a set of values, it has structure and it combines many aspects of life that you don’t always get elsewhere. The motivation for me is that these are bright people who are going to make their way in society with a knowledge of Freemasonry. Even if they were to leave, hopefully they will have a positive view of Freemasonry that they can take out into the world, although of course we hope they will stay. While the goal of the scheme is to ‘attract undergraduates and other university members to join and enjoy Freemasonry’, we also want to keep them; retention is our biggest challenge.

What about recruiting masons from elsewhere?

The principles of recruitment and retention in the scheme don’t just apply to universities. It’s about approaching membership in a different way. You’ve got to think about how things are different now from fifty years ago. The scheme is a good way of saying 

‘if it works here, why can’t it work there?’ It certainly does not address the membership issue but it points to how things could be done elsewhere. 

Is Freemasonry changing?

Rulers used to come from the nobility, with Provincial Grand Masters often local landowners, whom you might see once or twice a year. That has all changed. I am the first Assistant Grand Master for several years without a title and Peter Lowndes is the first ever Pro Grand Master not to have one. We have learned to communicate at a different level. You can stand on a stage or you can stand on the floor and we appreciate that we need to put ourselves about. We’ve got to sell our message at a personal level and lead by example. That’s a big change.

‘We have learned to communicate at a different level... We’ve got to sell our message at a personal level and lead by example.’

Published in UGLE
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