Bringing it to bear
With Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes as its patron, Teddies For Loving Care is about to give out its millionth teddy bear. Anneke Hak charts its ten-year evolution
Back in October 1999, Freemason Ian Simpson took his wife, Angela, to Southend Hospital’s A&E unit after she had an allergic reaction causing her windpipe to swell and block. Anxious and frightened, the couple decided to do something to say thank you to the A&E staff and, with the help of Ian’s lodge, the Teddies For Loving Care appeal was born.
Teddies For Loving Care (TLC) is a simple idea. Freemasons donate money to their lodge’s TLC appeal, and the appeal (organised by each individual Province) donates teddy bears to the local A&E to be given to distressed children receiving treatment.
Ten years later, and Ian, now the TLC chairman, is about to see the millionth teddy bear donated to an A&E unit. Where that will happen, he’s not entirely sure, but TLC has been so successful that it could be anywhere from Essex to America, as the cause has gone global.
The appeal had much more humble beginnings, however. Firstly, Ian brainstormed the Thames Mouth Lodge in Southend, and along with Neil Beverley, Brian Procter and others, set a plan in motion. ‘When we started we were planning on only doing it here in Southend. Then we thought, “Hang on a moment, it’s probably something we could do over the whole of Essex,”’ Ian reveals. ‘We then got together to promote the concept and raise money to launch it.’
The first TLC bears arrived in A&E units in March 2001 and, as it was self-promoting, raising money for the appeal wasn’t too much hard work. ‘It wasn’t too long before somebody knew someone who had been given a teddy bear,’ explains Ian, ‘and so it was self-perpetuating, because people’s own children and grandchildren got help through the campaign.’
Before long the appeal had moved beyond the Provincial boundaries of Essex, much to the organising mason’s delight, and slowly over the past ten years nearly all the Provinces have joined in. The appeal has even moved abroad, catching on in Cyprus, Gibraltar and the United States.
From emergency staff’s testimonies, it’s clear how helpful TLC is to the practitioners working in A&E departments up and down the country. ‘They think it’s wonderful,’ says Ian. ‘An A&E consultant said publicly that TLC teddies were one of the attributable benefits that had given rise to a reduction in treatment times for children.’
Sarah Lewis, Emergency Matron Practitioner at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, has been using the teddies for a number of years and agrees about the benefits they bring. ‘It means so much to the nurses,’ she says. ‘It makes our lives easier and the children feel safer and it’s not so traumatic for them. The teddy system works so well because it’s such a simple idea. It’s something the children love and makes them feel special. The parents see that you really value their child, they’re not just another number and they’re being seen as an individual.’
creating a diversion
And the teddy bears aren’t just employed to comfort the child either; the nurses will quite often use them as a diversion technique in order to get their jobs done quickly and efficiently. ‘Often we use the teddy to mimic the injuries that the child’s got,’ explains Sarah. ‘We’ll put a sticky plaster on the teddy’s arm if the child has hurt theirs, so we can use it as a diversion technique.’
Sometimes, however, the child is too young to notice the presence of a new soft toy. It’s during these times that the parents draw comfort from knowing that they’re not alone in their ordeal. Louis Joslin was born 29 weeks prematurely in 2001, and he was the first child to receive a TLC bear after Ian Simpson met his grandfather while giving a presentation about the appeal. ‘Afterwards, one of the masons approached me and told me the story of his grandson, who was in an incubator and weighed less than two pounds,’ recalls Ian. ‘His chances of survival weren’t good. I was standing in the bar holding a prototype teddy bear, and I handed it over. I couldn’t just stand there holding the bear while I was being told about this poor baby.’
showing care and generosity
Thanks to the care he received, Louis survived. His father Steve is now a Freemason and he still remembers how thankful he was to receive the bear. ‘It helped to know that other people have an appreciation of the fact that you’re going through a tough time,’ he says. ‘You take things for granted so often, but not care and generosity.’
Steve also can’t believe how successful the project has become. ‘It’s quite stunning when you know that it’s come from such humble origins, from a few people having a chat one day and thinking it might be a good idea.’
While TLC isn’t intended to promote Freemasonry in the community, one of its side effects is that it makes people aware of the good work that the Freemasons continue to do. ‘Everybody has their own theories,’ says Sarah Lewis, ‘but I’ve found the Freemasons so warm and welcoming, and TLC shows how generous they are.’
Ian Simpson is also aware that generosity from individual Freemasons has secured the appeal’s success. ‘Whenever I talk about TLC, I tell them about the thanks we receive, the million teddy bears, but more than that I tell them that they did it,’ he says. ‘Without their raising over a million pounds we would never have gotten where we are today.’
Looking towards the future, Steve, who has helped with the appeal since becoming a Freemason, thinks things can only get better. ‘It’ll still be there just so long as Freemasons are willing to put a tiny bit of effort in. If we can spread a little bit of happiness then that’s what it’s all about.’
For more information or to donate to the TLC appeal please visit www.tlcappeal.org.uk
14 March 2012
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
In December I mentioned that one of the many important aspects of mentoring was to give guidance to our members about how to talk about their involvement in Freemasonry, and Freemasonry generally, to those not involved, particularly their family and friends.
Very often one will be asked how one came to join Freemasonry. We will all have different stories to tell, no doubt, but in most cases it will have been knowing people who are masons and showing an interest in and asking questions about the subject, which naturally leads to the answer, "if you are interested why not come and see".
The next stage then should have been to meet other members of the Lodge and for both sides to ensure that the various ramifications and responsibilities of being a member are out in the open. We must make it clear to everyone that when a new member joins us, there should be no surprises in respect of either his time or financial involvement that will come with his membership
I believe that it is important to let people know that we are not an organisation that goes hunting for members for the sake of numbers, but that we do encourage strongly those who show a genuine interest in finding out more about the subject. We should stress that Freemasonry is about the quality of the person who joins and not the number of people who are members.
We must not forget that anyone can go into Letchworths or other such shops and buy a copy of our ritual. If they read it, they will find very few aspects that are not fully explained as well as, of course, the vast majority of the words we use in our ceremonies. It is important to explain to people that there are very few thing we keep private in Masonry and these are restricted to a few words and signs.
Brethren, some people still try to ridicule us about such things as "funny handshakes". There is no Masonic handshake. We know that they are confusing it with the modes of recognition in the three main ceremonies. I would suggest that the majority of Freemasons do restrict their use of these signs to the ceremonies rather than using them in everyday life and I would encourage that to be the case.
We must also acknowledge that the language used in our rituals is somewhat archaic, but we become used to it and enjoy it. However, some of the wording is not appropriate to explaining ourselves to outsiders. One of the obvious examples of this is that we would never explain to an outsider our relationship with another Brother as "doing unto him as we would that he would do unto us", we would say something like "we try to treat others as we hope that they would treat us".
Similarly we should not explain our objects as "Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth", but would be rather more coherent perhaps saying "Respecting everyone, looking after others and being honest".
In modern parlance this isn't rocket science.
I am also often asked what benefits can be derived from being a mason. My first response is always to say what someone must most certainly not expect is an improvement in his business fortunes or any preferential treatment in any walk of life. There is no doubt that there is still a body of opinion that feels that a lot of business is conducted between Freemasons that is to the detriment of others.
I have done a lot of business with and for Freemasons, often without finding out until later that we were both members. Personally I have never seen a case where it has been to the detriment of others. It would be wrong for us to categorically deny that this has never occurred, as I have little doubt such things have happened in the past, but, dare I say, I am confident that this would be considerably less so among Freemasons than members of many other organisations.
We then move on to what benefits a member can expect and I think it is important to stress that people will find many different benefits the more involved and experienced they become. At the outset it is reasonable to expect that, if they join a Lodge, they will be amongst men who they will find to behave in a way in which they, themselves, would approve, share many of the same interests and enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow man. In short, to be among like minded men.
As their membership develops they are very likely to find enjoyment in the more detailed aspects like the meaning of the ritual as well as the delivery of it, the ceremonial or, perhaps, the dinners, although I hope the enjoyment would not be limited to just the dinners.
You will be thinking to yourselves, very probably, that I have left out an important aspect – our Charities. Brethren we are not the only organisation that supports charities and people can easily be extremely generous in this regard without becoming a Freemason. It is all too easy, when asked what we do, to simply say "we do a vast amount of charitable work and raise a huge amount of money every year". This is true but, as I have said before in Grand Lodge, Charity is not our reason for being. Having said that, Brethren, of course we should blow our own trumpets in this respect and, whilst Charity may not be our raison d'etre, it is certainly a most important part of Masonic life of which we should be and are hugely proud. Indeed, it is a very natural result of leading our lives according to the Masonic line and rule.
Our four main Charities are all something of which we should be hugely proud, but our overall charitable giving goes way beyond even that.
Brethren, I most certainly am not saying don't talk about our Charities, quite the reverse, but what I am saying is don't use our Charities to avoid answering more fully what we are all about. Above all stress that we are all in masonry for the immense amount of fun and enjoyment that we derive from our membership.
Now that Freemasonry Today has settled into its stride I think it important to confirm our editorial policy. For news, we cover stories about our members in both the Craft and the Royal Arch. We are keen to see news about the end product of our giving – from our time helping others through to our charitable donations. Editorial needs to be of interest to both our members and their families, consistently supporting our communications philosophy.
A good example of this can be found on page ten of the news section, where we report on the Red Balloon Learner Centre Group in Cambridge, which has received a major grant of £25,000 from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity to fund training for staff at its centres for severely bullied children. The centres help restore a young person’s confidence as well as helping them cope academically and socially. With a survey from Red Balloon finding sixteen thousand children absent from school due to severe bullying, such stories not only point to the work of one of our four charities but are also of interest to everyone, mason and non-mason.
One of the many benefits of our new members’ website is that it can carry – among many other things – the latest, and particularly time sensitive, news. This allows us to concentrate on the thinking and direction of our most senior leaders in the magazine, with our section named Senior Insights. These are not time sensitive messages but are hugely important for us all to know about. On page twenty-two, Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes considers how best to explain the importance of the Royal Arch in the completion of pure ancient masonry. Is this best done after they have been raised? How does their mentor brief them? And how does the mentor or Royal Arch representative gain the right level of knowledge to correctly brief them in the first place?
Freemasonry Today is not a lifestyle magazine. It will, however, concentrate on stories and achievements of our members – showing how relevant Freemasonry is in today’s society. A young, up-and-coming dancer called Blaze Porter is profiled on page sixteen and you can find out how Freemason Humphrey Ball is helping Blaze fulfil his dreams. History that depicts the work of Freemasons is also very popular among our readers and we look at the life and times of Anthony Sayer on page forty-one. Chosen as the first Grand Master of Grand Lodge in 1717, little is known about his life and we ask whether historians have deliberately ignored him out of snobbery.
For information that members need to know quickly, or when action needs to be taken, these can be transmitted via Metropolitan, the Provinces and Districts through their grand secretaries, information officers and mentors.
We are constantly updating our mailing lists and if you have any problems, or know of a fellow member who is having problems receiving their copy, please do let us know.
14 December 2011
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Mentoring has been high on the agenda for some time and I want to take this opportunity to give clarity and perspective to what we mean by mentoring.
You have heard today the President of the Board of General Purposes give notice of motion enabling a Master to appoint as an additional officer a Mentor, with a view to voting on this proposition at the March Quarterly Communication. I want to stress that this is an optional office and it is up to individual Lodges as to whether or not they use it.
You have all heard previously that the mentoring scheme is designed to eventually mentor members at all stages of their Masonic progress. Initially this is especially for candidates – the next generation – during the three degrees and then to encourage them to continue their progress into the Royal Arch. London and all Provinces now have a Metropolitan or Provincial Grand Mentor who currently is responsible for liaising with the Lodge Mentor. For the avoidance of doubt the Lodge Mentor is responsible for coordinating and selecting suitable Brethren to be the personal mentors. It is most certainly not the intention that the Lodge Mentor should carry out the task himself. The personal mentor is best described as a friend and guide.
We all have our ideas about what mentoring is and, for that matter, what mentoring is not. Indeed, some believe there is no need for mentoring and some believe they are already mentoring perfectly satisfactorily and so on. These sentiments are perfectly understandable without an explanation of what we actually mean by mentoring and what we are trying to achieve. In an ideal world, mentoring would happen naturally anyway and that everyone would be looked after as a matter of course, and that this, in turn, would take care of issues such as recruitment, retention and retrieval – the three ‘Rs’. Whatever your idea of mentoring might be, one of the aims we should all keep in mind is the promotion of an environment of belonging, understanding, involvement and enjoyment within the Lodge. The skill will be to achieve this with a “light touch”.
But first, Brethren, the word mentoring itself is translated in so many ways – rather like our Masonry! Let me be quite clear – mentoring is not just about the Lodge of Instruction – valuable though that is for advancement in Masonic ritual. Rather it is mostly about pastoral care – seeing the candidate is looked after, kept informed and that that support and care remains throughout each member’s Masonic life.
In terms of the mentoring scheme I see pastoral care – at the very least – being eighty per cent of what mentoring is all about. Put simply, the real test is how you would like to have been welcomed when you first joined and how you would like to have been supported from then onwards. I do not want, nor I am sure do any of us, to have a complicated or onerous scheme – rather one that is as natural as possible yet, at the same time, allowing consistency of advice and support.
Mentoring has essentially three stages. The first two are in many ways obvious as they cover logistics, basic ritual meaning and developing a sense of belonging and the third – how to talk about our Freemasonry to the non Mason – needs more explanation as it links in with our overall communications strategy. A strategy that supports an external facing organisation and underpins our new ambassadors’ scheme.
The first stage is for each candidate to understand the basic logistics that are involved in becoming a Freemason. It is really about a proper welcome. I am not going into that detail today – other than to say that a candidate should never feel under briefed and should be made aware of his financial and time commitment. During this stage the personal mentor answers any questions the candidate may have for him to gain a sense of belonging. In other words, there should never be any surprises.
The second stage is to understand the basics of the ritual, especially after initiation and then passing and raising. But this understanding should be about the ability to answer questions about the myths that non Masons have – so that right from the start, members can counter the questions about the so-called funny hand shakes and then the nooses and trouser leg being rolled up – all these classics. The questions on the myths need to be answered accurately and without embarrassment. I am not talking about an in depth knowledge, but more a common understanding. The Mentor can, of course, point them in the right direction for this additional and important information as they require it. It is not, however, part of the new mentoring scheme.
We all understand the need to look after candidates, but it is the third stage of giving the confidence – from the very outset – in order that you can speak to, in particular, family and friends about Freemasonry. That, Brethren, is vital to ensuring the future. A candidate – and this applies equally to the rest of us – needs to understand how to talk to the non Mason about what Freemasonry means. The aim is to have as many members as possible as ambassadors to Freemasonry.
Brethren let me say straightaway that an ambassador is not a rank or office - it is a mode of behaviour. On the fundamental understanding that we recruit only people who live up to our principles – an ambassador will not only understand the basics of ritual but also, importantly will be able and willing, with our support and guidance, to talk to family and friends about their Freemasonry as and when appropriate. We need to have confidence in them to do so appropriately. To quote the Grand Master, “Talking openly about Freemasonry, as appropriate, is core to my philosophy, central to our communications strategy and essential to the survival of Freemasonry as a respected and relevant membership organisation”.
It is with these three stages in mind that the Grand Secretary’s working party is producing brief and succinct guidelines for the Mentor to give, in turn, to the personal mentors.
So Brethren the mentoring scheme is in place and evolving. In March you will vote on whether you wish the appointment of Mentor to be an optional additional office. In essence I see mentoring as a “light touch” resulting in everyone enjoying their Freemasonry even more and feeling comfortable and confident talking to their family and friends in an informed and relaxed way.
Mentoring is progressing well in our Districts. Since the last Quarterly Communication I have travelled to Auckland, North Island New Zealand to install the new District Grand Master. It was good to see that they were in excellent spirits. We should however continue to keep in mind the hardship of our Brethren in the South Island after the earthquakes and the severe damage that was caused, whilst remembering the continuing after shocks that they are still experiencing on a regular basis.
I also travelled to Georgetown, Guyana, with a brief visit to our Brethren in Port of Spain in Trinidad ‘en route’, where we ended up singing Christmas Carols on a November evening!
In Georgetown I attended the 9th Regional Conference of the District Grand Masters in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic before installing the new District Grand Master for Guyana. I have mentioned before how uplifting it is to see the enjoyment with which our brethren in the Caribbean go about their masonry and the pride they show in being members of the English fraternity. I should add that this is not only true in the Caribbean, but can be seen in all our Districts that I have visited.
Finally I wish you all a very enjoyable Christmas and a happy New Year.
Since the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons was launched last November, close to £200,000 has been donated. As we move towards the bicentenary in 2013, I encourage you in your fundraising endeavours to continue to request presentations from a Royal College team. These presentations could be at your annual Provincial meetings, for example, so that the companions in your Province can fully understand the important work that the research fellows can undertake as a result of our continued support.
The First Grand Principal summed up the importance of the appeal with great clarity when he wrote, ‘This campaign gives us an excellent opportunity to contribute further towards something that is helping to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and grandchildren.’
While the appeal is a highly visible external contribution from the Royal Arch, there are other areas that we all ought, as members of the order, to be looking at to give the Royal Arch a higher profile. For example, it is critical that we encourage new members towards exaltation as this will be the completion of the pure ancient masonry that they have discovered during the ceremonies of initiation, passing and raising in the Craft – most particularly the latter. I like to use the analogy of a four-part TV drama: what is the point of watching the first three episodes and then ignoring the fourth when all is revealed?
ENSURING maximum involvement
This is not just about keeping member numbers up, it is also about making sure there is enough work at each meeting to keep the members’ skills honed. Remember, of course, to share the work out as much as possible so as to achieve the maximum involvement of the companions in your chapter. That way companions will become far more interested in the beauty of the ceremonies as well as keeping up their interest.
We have two important weapons in our communication armoury: our house magazine, Freemasonry Today, and the new members’ website launched in September. The strap line refers to the magazine as The Official Journal of the United Grand Lodge of England but the editorial policy is predominantly to cover stories and news about both the Craft and the Royal Arch. This is also the case with the website, which will be timely in getting news to you. The editor of Freemasonry Today is keen to receive more stories on the Royal Arch for consideration and possible inclusion. The Provincial Information Officers also have a key role to play here and are well briefed on the process for submission for both the magazine and the website.
We are now starting to work on the new website for the Royal Arch to bring it both up-to-date and in line with all the other communications initiatives that have been recently launched. Grand Scribe Ezra, as Grand Secretary, is chairing a working party on mentoring in the Craft with the aim of seeing what elements of this are relevant to import to the Royal Arch.
Royal Arch representatives are already in many of our lodges and one of the key decisions is in determining when it is the right time to brief the newly joined mason on the Royal Arch – to have him understand the importance of the Royal Arch in the completion of pure ancient masonry. But is this best done after they have been raised and how does their mentor brief them? And how does the mentor or Royal Arch representative gain the right level of knowledge to correctly brief them in the first place? These are some of the conundrums that the working party are grappling with. Fundamental is establishing the relevance to prospective candidates of the order that all who have already been exalted enjoy.
9 NOVEMBER 2011
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
I am delighted to report that the Royal Arch Masons Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons, launched last November, is progressing well. I am informed that very nearly two hundred thousand pounds has been donated to date. Thank you to those who have generously donated. As we move towards the bicentenary in 2013, I encourage you, in your fund raising endeavours, to continue to request presentations from a Royal College team for example, at your annual Provincial meetings so that the Companions in your Province can fully understand the important research work that the Research Fellows can undertake as a result of our continued support.
The First Grand Principal summed this up with great clarity when he wrote, “This campaign gives us an excellent opportunity to contribute further towards something that is helping to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and grandchildren”.
Your Provincial Appeal co-ordinators know the procedure for requesting these presentations and for ordering donation leaflets for distribution when those presentations take place. I also remind you that the information for donating to the Appeal is on the Grand Charity website. As a minimum target we are aiming for one million pounds and as I said a moment ago, we are well on our way.
The Appeal is a highly visible external contribution from the Royal Arch. However, there are other internal areas that we all ought, as members of the Order, to be looking at to give the Royal Arch a higher profile.
The first is encouragement by you, to bring in new members for exaltation, understanding that this will be for them the completion of their pure ancient Masonry that they have discovered during the ceremonies of initiation, passing and raising in the craft – most particularly the latter. Companions, I like to use the analogy of a four part TV drama. What is the point of watching the first three episodes and then ignoring the fourth when all is revealed.
This is not just about keeping member numbers up, it is also about making sure you have enough work at each meeting to keep the members’ skills honed. Remember, of course, to share the work out as much as possible so as to achieve the maximum involvement of the Companions in your Chapter. That way Companions will become far more interested in the beauty of the ceremonies as well as keeping up their interest. I note that we had three thousand nine hundred and thirty exaltations last year.
Companions, I have mentioned before that I, along with many other companions, find the lay out of the current ritual books to be confusing and difficult to follow. A new lay out with the new version, currently known as the “permissive” version, as the main text and the former version printed separately at the back. The ritual organisations are updating the books and it is likely that all the major rituals will be reprinted in the next eighteen months to two years.
Secondly, we have two important weapons in our ‘communication armoury’. Our house magazine, Freemasonry Today and the new members’ website launched in September. The strap line refers to the magazine as the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England but Companions, the editorial policy is predominantly to cover stories and news about both the Craft and the Royal Arch. This is also the case with the website which will be timely in getting news to you. I know the Editor of Freemasonry Today is keen to receive more stories for consideration and possible inclusion on the Royal Arch. The Provincial Information Officers have a key role to play here and are well briefed on the process for submission for both the magazine and the website.
For your interest, we are now starting to work on the new website for the Royal Arch, to bring the current one both up-to-date and in line with all the other communications initiatives we have recently launched.
Many of you will know that Grand Scribe Ezra, as Grand Secretary, is chairing a working party on mentoring in the Craft with the aim of seeing what elements of this are relevant to import to the Royal Arch. We already have Royal Arch representatives in many of our Lodges and one of the key decisions, as I am sure you can all appreciate from your experience, is when is the right time to brief the newly joined Mason on the Royal Arch – to have him understand the importance of the Royal Arch in the completion of pure ancient Masonry. For example there are questions such as, is it best after they have been raised, how does their mentor brief them, and how does the mentor or Royal Arch representative gain the right level of knowledge to correctly brief them in the first place? These are some of the conundrums that the working party are grappling with and I look forward to briefing you on their suggestions early next year. I am sure, however, that many of you have been debating these issues for some time! Fundamental is establishing the relevance, to prospective candidates, of the Order all of us who have been exalted so enjoy.
Since the beginning of the year we have installed six new Grand Superintendants in our Provinces and I have also installed the new Grand Superintendant for North Island New Zealand. This is, together, of course, with the South Island, the furthest of our Districts and our visit was seen as both supportive and a real sign of our commitment. We also met the Grand Superintendent from South Island who explained the continued havoc in Christchurch. Much of the damage from the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and the multitude of aftershocks had come from liquefaction, when the soils are shaken and turn into a liquid form, undermining buildings and other structures. There is little chance of buildings being replaced in Christchurch as a result. What brought it home for us was when we learnt that the Hotel we stayed in for District’s 150th Anniversary, at the end of 2010 had crashed to the ground, not that long after we had left. Aftershocks continue to this day, illustrated by the fact that Christchurch was rocked by a 5.5 aftershock last Friday – the biggest they had had since June. Our continued sympathy and support goes out to our Companions in these tough conditions.
It is good top see so many of you here today and it is also appropriate that I take this opportunity to remind you that all Companions are eligible to attend this Supreme Grand Chapter meeting.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes examines the strategic plans for the Craft and its charitable endeavours
The past year has been a busy time for the Craft. I have selected one or two examples to give you a flavour of what I mean. On the ceremonial side, the Rulers have installed five new Provincial Grand Masters and a Grand Inspector. In addition there have been six installations of Grand Superintendents in the Royal Arch. I had the pleasure of presenting two medals for the Grand Master’s Order of Service to Freemasonry to both brothers Sir John Welch and Simon Waley. And with the Grand Lodge team, of consecrating the new Grand Lodge of Monaco. It was a marvellous success and was extremely good for international relations.
On the business side, I met all the Provincial Grand Masters at my Regional Business meetings and attended the eighth regional conference of District Grand Masters of the Caribbean and Western Atlantic. Additionally, we successfully ran, for the second year, a business meeting specifically for District Grand Masters and Grand Inspectors before the annual investitures.
Regarding communication, I spoke about this at the September Quarterly Communication explaining how the strategic plans supported our open approach. I took the opportunity to encourage members to talk about their masonry as appropriate and I have recently set up a working party to look closely at how best to mentor at lodge level. You also now have the newly designed issue of Freemasonry Today. The magazine will continue to evolve and the key reason for this is to encourage you and your families to enjoy it and to talk more about Freemasonry. You have heard from the President about the timing for the publication of future issues.
On the charitable side, we had a very timely talk from the head of the Disaster Management at the British Red Cross at the March Quarterly Communication. Timely because of the plight of our brethren in Christchurch: New Zealand with the earthquakes, and in Rio de Janeiro, with the devastation after the mud slides. We gave generously through the Red Cross.
I am sure that Father Jonathan Baker’s resignation from his Lodges and Chapters was read with great sadness by all masons and many non-masons. This was as a result of tremendous outside pressures brought on him after his appointment as Bishop of Ebbsffeet. For the time being I shall just say that our feelings on this subject have been made. With the exception of the last item that I have mentioned, we have had a good year and the Craft is in good heart.
This is an excerpt from the MW Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes' Quarterly Communication address, given on 8 June 2011. To read the speech in full, click here.
It’s probably fair to say that Freemasonry in Monaco has been low-key for a number of years, following its conditional acceptance by the Monégasque authorities in the first half of the twentieth century.
The Port of Hercules Lodge was formed in 1924 under the English Constitution, and many Monégasques who wished to become Freemasons sought membership outside the principality. In more recent years, three lodges were formed under the German Constitution, but it became apparent that the Monégasques who had joined lodges in France would like one of their own. Accordingly, the first steps were taken three years ago to establish a Grand Lodge in Monaco, and this meticulous planning came to fruition on 19 February in Monte Carlo.
The Grande Loge Nationale Regulière de la Principauté de Monaco was formed by seven lodges, one formerly meeting under the English Constitution and three each under the German and French.
The consecrating officer was Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, assisted by the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Germany, Rüdiger Templin, as Senior Warden; and the Past Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of France, Jean-Charles Foellner, as Junior Warden. The ceremony was directed by Oliver Lodge (Grand Director of Ceremonies) with the help of Nick Bosanquet and Sebastian Madden (Deputy Grand Directors of Ceremonies) and Malcolm Brooks (Grand Tyler). The team from UGLE also included Nigel Brown (Grand Secretary), Alan Englefield (Grand Chancellor), Reverend Dr John Railton (Grand Chaplain) and Ron Cayless (Grand Organist).
The consecration ceremony proceeded without a hitch, and included the unveiling of the lodge boards, the familiar scriptural readings from the Bible, the symbolic use of corn, wine and oil, and the censing of the lodge and its officers. It was conducted almost entirely in English, but the Rulers-designate took their obligations in their own languages. Jean-Pierre Pastor was installed as the first Grand Master, and he then appointed and installed Claude Boisson as Deputy Grand Master, and Rex Thorne, Knut Schwieger, Renato Boeri and John Lonczynski as Assistant Grand Masters.
Other Grand Lodges were represented by more than a hundred delegates and many presented gifts to the newly installed Grand Master, including a magnificent ceremonial sword from the United Grand Lodge of England. The new Grand Master appointed and installed his officers, before the UGLE team withdrew, leaving the Grand Master and his new team to complete essential business. Monaco’s Grand Lodge had been launched in splendid style.
Falling for fishing, hook, line and sinker: youngsters got a fantastic introduction to the delights of fishing at a private event organised by the Masonic Trout and Salmon Fishing Club (MTSFC), in the magnificent setting of Lord Dashwood’s West Wycombe estate
Home of the once-infamous Hellfire Club, the Buckinghamshire estate played host to budding fishermen from Penn School and the Community Team for Adults With a Learning Disability in Milton Keynes. On hand to offer expert advice was the MTSFC’s new patron, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes. He enthusiastically encouraged everyone involved, handing out certificates and medals at presentation time.
MTSFC president Gordon Bourne, former Pro Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex, was also present, along with some of the trustees and the CEO – altogether making it a memorable day.
As Letchworth marks its one-hundredth year, John Hamill reports on the centenary of a very special lodge
On 28 March 2011 in Lodge Room No. 10 at Freemasons’ Hall in London, almost 150 brethren gathered for an emergency meeting. Nothing unusual in that – until you look at the signature book and discover that those present included the Pro, Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters, the Metropolitan Grand Master for London, the President and Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, the Grand Chaplain, Grand Secretary, Grand Director of Ceremonies, Presidents of the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund, and other senior brethren.
What, you might wonder, other than a Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, would bring such illustrious company together in one tyled meeting? The reason is a joyous one – to take part in the centenary celebrations of Letchworth Lodge, No. 3505. But why such eminent brethren for a Hertfordshire lodge? The answer, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is all in a name. The ‘Letchworth’ after which the lodge was called is not the delightful Hertfordshire town, but Sir Edward Letchworth who was Grand Secretary from 1892 to 1917. As for why the celebrations were in London, when the membership of the lodge was formed in 1911, it was restricted to the permanent clerks in the Grand Secretary’s Office. And even today is limited to those employed in the capital’s masonic headquarters.
Although a Secretary to the Grand Lodge was appointed in 1723 (becoming Grand Secretary in 1734) and the premier Grand Lodge had a permanent building in Great Queen Street from 1775, it was not until 1838 that the Grand Secretary’s Office came into being. From the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813 until 1838, the Grand Secretaryship was a joint office shared by William White, who had held the same office in the premier Grand Lodge, and Edward Harper, who had been Deputy Grand Secretary of the Antients.
In 1838, Harper ‘retired’ and White was asked to take on the role of Grand Secretary. He agreed but on one condition: that Grand Lodge employed two full-time clerks to assist with paperwork. As a result of the expansion in members and lodges in the Victorian period, by the time Letchworth became Grand Secretary in 1892 the office had grown to seven clerks. As they had to be Master Masons it was suggested they should have a lodge. There was one problem: nine was the minimum number of petitioners and there were only seven clerks.
By 1911, there had been an expansion of the Craft and clerk numbers grew to 15. They approached Letchworth to petition for a lodge, and the consecration took place on 28 March 1911. Sir Edward himself was the Consecrating Officer, assisted by the President of the Board of General Purposes, the President of the Board of Benevolence (now the Grand Charity), the Grand Chaplain and Grand Director of Ceremonies and the Chairman of the Board’s Officers and Clerks Committee.
Sir Edward stated that the lodge’s purpose was ‘to meld the clerks into greater harmony’. It would also assist Grand Lodge by bringing into Freemasonry suitable candidates that might become clerks in the office; and get brethren through the Chair in a reasonable time for additional duties. The latter was important, as many lodges had more than 100 members and it could take 15 or more years to reach the Chair.
The lodge’s first year was a busy one with two candidates and three installations. The Master designate had been installed at the consecration and at the July and November meetings two of the senior clerks were installed. In 1913, the lodge began a practice that was to continue until the 1970s – that of initiating as serving brethren members of the portering and maintenance staff of the Hall. They were to assist the Grand Tyler by laying up the lodge rooms and acting as Assistant Tylers whenever Grand Lodge met.
The First World War halted progress of the lodge and office, as half the staff were on active service. Only one did not return, Ponsonby Cox, and another, Guy Mercer, was awarded the Military Cross. Those too old for military service kept the lodge and office going. To help in the office, the rule requiring clerks to be Master Masons was put into abeyance and three lady clerks and two ‘lady typewriters’ were taken on. The latter, Miss Haigh and Miss Winter, proved far from temporary, spending the rest of their working lives as private secretaries to Grand and Deputy Grand Secretaries.
The huge increase in the Craft four years after the war, and the plan to rebuild Freemasons’ Hall as a permanent war memorial, led to an increase in office size. Between 1925 and 1927, five boy clerks were taken on as ‘temporary’ staff ; each of them eventually becoming members of the lodge. There were similar problems during the Second World War, when again the rule on clerks being Master Masons was set aside and women were taken on. They proved so popular and useful that in 1949 the rule (No. 33 in the current Book of Constitutions) was put into abeyance. The lodge had difficulties meeting and reduced its wartime gatherings to two per year. The only ceremonial work was the annual installation of the Master.
The immediate post-war years saw an enormous growth in the Craft. This led to expansion of the office and an increase in the membership of the lodge. Much of the work was in making serving brethren, as the portering and maintenance staff had also grown, and many took on additional work as Tylers for lodges meeting at Freemasons’ Hall.
By the late 1960s, however, things were slowing down and doubts were expressed about the future of Letchworth Lodge. Membership had been limited to Permanent Clerks, but in 1977, Grand Secretary James Stubbs was approached about opening the lodge to the full office, to which he agreed. In the early 1980s, under Grand Secretary Michael Higham, the lodge was opened to the whole of the male staff at Freemasons’ Hall and the staff of other masonic headquarters in London. This has resulted in a vibrant lodge with a steady stream of candidates. The changes have also brought the staff of the various masonic offices in London closer together. Sir Edward Letchworth’s hopes at the consecration can truly be said to have been achieved.
As the Grand Secretary’s lodge, Letchworth has had great support from Sir Edward and his successors. Sir Philip Colville Smith became an honorary member when he became Grand Secretary in 1917. (Sir) Sydney White joined the lodge when he was appointed Chief Clerk in 1918, was its Master in 1920, and was a regular attendee even after election as an Honorary Member when he became Grand Secretary in 1937. (Sir) James Stubbs was elected an Honorary Member when he was appointed Assistant Grand Secretary in 1948, while Michael Higham became a joining member when appointed Deputy Grand Secretary in 1978, and is still active. Nigel Brown joined when he was appointed Grand Secretary in 2007 and members are delighted to have him as their Centenary Master. He was thrilled to have been installed by Michael Higham.
Being involved in central masonic administration, the members of the lodge were only too aware of the privilege extended to them to have the Pro Grand Master present the Centenary Warrant. The happy occasion was followed by a reception and banquet in the Grand Temple vestibules.