Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton attended a meeting of the Worcestershire Installed Masters’ Lodge, No. 6889, where a talk was given on delivering the 2020 strategy for Freemasonry
Sir David was present to support the launch of the Worcestershire 2022 Festival Appeal. Masonic Charitable Foundation President Richard Hone emphasised the significant contribution from local and lodge-organised events, along with regular charitable giving.
Jasmine Elcock, a finalist in 2016’s Britain’s Got Talent show, provided the evening’s entertainment, and the Provincial Grand Lodge of Worcestershire's PGM Robert Vaughan announced the Festival target was to raise £2,022,000.
The Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum was dedicated by the Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England Peter Lowndes on Tuesday 18th April
He was assisted by the Provincial Grand Chaplain, the Reverend Bernard Buttery, in the presence of over 200 invited guests, who included the Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire Ian Dudson, the Mayor of the Borough of East Staffordshire Beryl Toon and the Mayor of Tamworth Ken Norchi, as well as the Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton and the Provincial Grand Master of Staffordshire John Lockley.
The garden in Staffordshire commemorates Freemasons who have served their country and made the ultimate sacrifice in helping to defend their country in two World Wars and other conflicts.
Many people have been involved in the work to design and build the garden and one freemason Eddie Ford from Burton-upon-Trent has worked tirelessly to see the project to fruition.
Down to work
At the start of a momentous period, Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group David Wootton reports on the initiative that is propelling Freemasonry forward
The Improvement Delivery Group (IDG) was set up last summer to take forward the initiatives begun by the Membership Focus Group (MFG), most capably chaired and led by Ray Reed, which held its final meeting in August. The IDG will develop new initiatives as well as lead the implementation and delivery of our strategy for Freemasonry to 2020.
Politicians like to say that ‘the time for talking is over, now is the time for action’. Of course, the time for talking is never really over – you can only achieve things by talking to people. But the time for just talking is over and I want to tell you what we’ve done in the IDG and what we will be doing.
Communication is key. We will only succeed if members know and agree with what we’re doing, and follow the leads we take. The IDG reports to the Grand Master’s Council (GMC), and we will not only do that annually in September but also whenever else is appropriate. We will make a progress report to Grand Lodge at Quarterly Communication in September this year.
The IDG will also make recommendations to and seek agreement from the Board of General Purposes (BGP) and the Committee of General Purposes (CGP) on matters within their respective management remits for the Craft and Royal Arch.
But we will be doing much more than this. We will send short newsletter updates to Provincial Grand Masters and to Grand Superintendents for distribution within their Provinces. This will likely be on a quarterly basis and whenever else there’s something significant we want people to know.
Individual members of the IDG will also be taking every opportunity to spread the word and convey the message at regional, Provincial and lodge meetings. So, if you would like someone to come to you to talk about what is being done, do ask.
Alongside the core IDG team – see ‘Who are we?’ for details – we are very ably supported by Ray Reed, MFG Chairman and Past Deputy President of the BGP; Willie Shackell, Grand Secretary; and Shawn Christie, Assistant Grand Secretary, and his Executive Assistant, Alexandra Fuller.
‘We want to show that both Craft and Royal Arch, and all parts of the country, matter’
With co-ordination and joined-up thinking key, we have also invited the President of the BGP, Anthony Wilson, or his Deputy, James Long, and the President of the CGP, Malcolm Aish, to join us at meetings, or send a nominee. Completing the line-up is Mike Baker, Director of Communications. In assembling a strong team, we want to show that both Craft and Royal Arch, and all parts of the country, matter.
Individual members of the IDG will communicate to the Regional Communications Groups (RCGs), gatherings of Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents in the same area, and through them to individual lodges and members. This is because messages exchanged between people who know each other are much more effective than those coming down from the top. This is not about giving orders; it is a collective effort to develop better ways of doing things.
In terms of what we seek to achieve, we keep in our minds the 2020 Strategic Objectives:
- Effective governance at all levels; a Leadership Development programme; reviewing and revising the governance arrangements of Grand Lodge.
- Improved attraction and retention of members, so that membership remains above 200,000; resignations before receipt of Grand Lodge certificate to reduce from 20 per cent to less than 10 per cent; and local media coverage to have incremental year-on-year growth of more than 20 per cent.
- Developing the financial sustainability of our masonic halls.
With this in mind, the IDG has formed six working groups, namely Governance, Leadership, Membership, Education, Masonic Halls and Image.
The Governance Group
The Governance Group, chaired by Gareth Jones, looks at how the various parts of Freemasonry work within themselves and with each other, so that everyone knows what they are doing and not doing. We have already put into circulation a written statement of the roles and responsibilities of Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents.
The Leadership Group
The Leadership Group, which Michael Ward chairs, helps office holders learn how to do the job and what it entails. Michael has already organised two successful workshops for Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents, and one for Deputy PGMs. At our last IDG meeting we approved recommendations to devote more resources, human and financial, to training programmes for a wide range of other officers, from Registrars to Treasurers to Membership Officers, so that those new to these roles know what is expected and those with experience can refresh their knowledge.
The Membership Group
The Membership Group, chaired by Peter Taylor, brings together recruitment and retention of members. Why do some members stay and progress and others leave? What is our members’ experience? Does their experience differ from their expectation? The Membership Group will have custody of membership surveys already carried out and will commission new ones, as well as managing and applying all the information we have already gathered. In particular, the group will manage the Pathway project, a series of guides to best practice in all the steps in the masonic journey, currently being piloted in a number of Provinces.
The Education Group
The Education Group, which Stuart Hadler chairs, has a programme for education, learning and personal development, and will produce a central repository of learning materials for brethren who wish to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of masonic ritual, history and tradition.
The Masonic Halls Group
The Masonic Halls Group, chaired by Jeff Gillyon, has produced a substantial guide to all aspects of the management and development of masonic halls, critical to the future of Freemasonry, which is being circulated to PGMs and Grand Superintendents via the RCGs and will be introduced in the spring.
The Image Group
The Image Group, chaired by Gordon Robertson, tucks in behind the BGP’s Communications Committee, chaired by James Long. Its brief is to look at ways of enhancing the image of Freemasonry, both to masons and to non-masons. Our image of Freemasonry is key to our enjoyment of it and our willingness to recruit the right people to join us. The group will work in close conjunction with the Communications Committee.
The IDG will be actively pushing forward the work of these groups. We’ll look at better ways of communicating with members, make better use of the membership information we have, and collect the information we don’t. We’ll also look at ways of supporting those who might benefit from ‘central help’ – the rapidly developing new and young masons clubs spring to mind. In this Tercentenary year, there’s lots to do, but we’ll enjoy doing it.
Who are we?
I am the Chairman of the IDG and the Deputy Chairman is Gareth Jones, Third Grand Principal and Provincial Grand Master in the Craft for South Wales. Gareth and I work very closely together. We are joined by Michael Ward, one of the three Deputy Metropolitan Grand Masters. Then we have one member from each of the geographical areas of England and Wales:
- Jeff Gillyon, PGM and Grand Superintendent, Yorkshire, North & East Ridings
- Stephen Blank, PGM and Grand Superintendent, Cheshire
- Peter Taylor, PGM and Grand Superintendent, Shropshire
- Tim Henderson-Ross, PGM, Gloucestershire
- Gordon Robertson, PGM, Buckinghamshire
- Charles Cunnington, Grand Superintendent, Derbyshire
- Ian Yeldham, PGM Suffolk
- Mark Estaugh, PGM and Grand Superintendent, West Kent
- Stuart Hadler, PGM, Somerset
Unique occasion for Univesities Scheme
Yesterday at Freemasons' Hall was the unique consecration of David Kenneth Williamson Lodge No. 9938.
The new lodge, which was sponsored by Lodge of Antiquity No. 2, is to be the Installed Masters’ lodge for the Universities Scheme, of which David Williamson, Past Assistant Grand Master, was the first President.
The consecration was done by Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, with David subsequently installed as the Primus Master by the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence. David's first act as Worshipful Master was to invest the Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, as the acting Immediate Past Master. It is a very rare thing to get all three Rulers at an event other than Grand Lodge!
David Williamson tweeted:
Deeply honoured to be installed as first WM of DKW Lodge 9938. Fantastic Ceremony & great Lunch. Thanks to all who made this possible.— David Williamson (@UGLE_DKW) December 5, 2016
David Kenneth Williamson
David Kenneth Williamson was born in Bombay, India in October 1943. He was educated at King Edward VI School, Lichfield, Queen Mary College, University of London, and King's College, Cambridge.
Having trained to be a pilot, after winning an RAF flying scholarship aged seventeen, and following a brief spell as a schoolmaster, David joined the British Overseas Airways Corporation (now British Airways) in 1968. He became Assistant Flight Training Manager on the Boeing 737, before undertaking the same role on the Boeing 747-400 fleet until he retired in 1998.
He was initiated into Freemasonry in the Andover Combined Services Lodge, No. 8300, aged 29 on the 17th April 1972, and was Master of that Lodge in 1982. Despite being initiated in the Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight, it was in Middlesex that David's Masonic career took hold. He was appointed a Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1992, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies from 1995 to 1997, and Deputy Provincial Grand Master from 2000 to 2001.
Within Grand Lodge, he was appointed an Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995, and a Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies from 1998 until his appointment as Assistant Grand Master in March 2001, a role he held for thirteen years. He served as a Grand Steward on the 2014-2 15 Board. He founded the Universities Scheme in 2005 andwas its President until 2015.
Outside the Craft, he was Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter from 2010 to 2016, Grand Senior Warden in the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons in 2002, and in 2014 became a member of the Supreme Council 33° of the Ancient and Accepted Rite for England and Wales and its Districts and Chapters Overseas (as Grand Chancellor).
The Universities Scheme
The Universities Scheme was founded in 2005 to establish or enhance arrangements and opportunities for undergraduates and other University members to join and enjoy Freemasonry. Building on the centuries old traditions of University Masonry at Oxford and Cambridge, the Scheme works with Provinces, Districts, and the Metropolitan Grand Lodge to identify Lodges, and now Royal Arch Chapters, willing to reach out and welcome young men from their local universities to join the Craft and Royal Arch.
The Scheme currently includes 72 Lodges and 3 Chapters, across the English Constitution. The 'DKW' Lodge will be its 73rd and will serve as the Scheme's Installed Masters' Lodge.
At a very special evening, over 80 members and guests of St Paul’s Lodge No. 5459 assembled in the McCausland Suite at Widnes Masonic Hall where they were honoured by the presence of the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton at the initiation ceremony of Christopher (Chris) George Farley
Also present was Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning and Assistant Provincial Grand Masters Kevin Poynton and Robert Wright.
The lodge was opened by the WM David Berrington and the usual administration undertaken. A ballot was then taken to admit the candidate, Mr Chris Fairley into Freemasonry, the ballot proved favourable to the candidate. The secretary and treasurer confirmed that the candidate had paid his dues and signed the necessary declaration.
There was then a report and the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp entered the lodge to announce that the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison stood without and demanded admission. David said that he and the brethren would be pleased to receive him.
Tony processed into the lodge accompanied by Philip Gunning, Kevin Poynton, Robert Wright, Neil Pedder (Widnes Group Chairman) and other acting Provincial grand officers. David warmly welcomed Tony to the lodge and offered him the gavel of the lodge trusting that he would have an enjoyable evening. Tony returned the gavel thanking David for the warm welcome and was looking forward to the ceremony and the festive board.
DC Joe Stanners retired from the lodge and on his return, he announced that the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton stood without and demanded admission. The WM said he and the brethren would be extremely pleased to receive him. Sir David processed into the lodge led by AGDC Barry McCormack with Ian Grindley and David Clews acting as Provincial deacons. Sir David was accompanied by grand officers Alan Locke, David Redhead, Derek Williams, Sam Robinson, Dennis Rudd and Andy Whittle.
David Berrington gave a very warm welcome to Sir David and thanked him for accepting his invitation. He was offered the gavel of the lodge which he returned saying that he would prefer to see the ceremony done the ‘Widnes way’.
At the appropriate time, Mr Chris Farley was admitted in due form and regularly initiated into Freemasonry by the WM David Berrington in an exemplary manner. Chris was guided on his journey through the ceremony by the junior deacon Ian Morris assisted by the senior deacon George Yarwood. David directed Chris to the senior warden Les Williams who gave a fine explanation of the working tools of the first degree. Excellent musical accompaniment throughout the ceremony was provided by the Provincial Grand Organist Stephen Derringer.
Following the explanation of the working tools, Chris retired from the lodge and on his return the charge after initiation was delivered by David Clews in a manner any thespian would have been proud of and gained him loud acclamation.
Sir David rose to congratulate the WM and the officers who participated in what was a memorable ceremony. He made special mention of David Clews, saying that he had never heard a better rendition of the charge of initiation.
The lodge was closed in due form by the WM and the brethren processed out of the lodge and assembled in the Alan Locke Suite for a superb festive board supplied by the hall catering staff Sugar and Spice.
After receiving the principal guest Sir David Wootton and other distinguished guest to the festive board the brethren sat to enjoy a three course meal of fish cakes with seasonal salad, chicken breast in white wine and mushroom sauce and homemade sherry trifle accompanied with wine and followed by tea or coffee.
Once the brethren had been wined and dined they stood to sing the national anthem and raised their glasses to the Queen. Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison proposed the toast to the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton thanking him for his attendance and making it a very special evening for St Paul’s Lodge and specially the candidate Chris.
Sir David responded to the toast to his health by again congratulated the WM David Berrington for an excellent ceremony and that he had now experienced the ‘Widnes way’, he would ensure that when he returned to Grand Lodge he would pass on that experience. He was pleased to see that Widnes Group was embracing the Tercentenary celebrations and was impressed by the plaque which had been commissioned for the event.
David Berrington, who proposed Chris into Freemasonry, proposed the toast to the initiate Chris and welcomed him as a member of St Paul’s Lodge. David said that by the way he had conducted himself in the ceremony he had no doubt he would make it as a Mason. He informed the brethren that Chris had two or three friends who wish to join, which is good news for the lodge and Widnes masonry in general. Chris responded by thanking everybody for making it a night to remember.
Provincial Senior Grand Warden John Lee responded to the toast to the guest with humour and sincerity. He complimented the WM on a faultless ceremony and also the senior warden Les Williams for the explanation of the working tools. John also agreed with the AGM Sir David that the charge by David Clews to the initiate was outstanding.
Unfortunately, the time came for the principal guests to retire, at which the AGM Sir David Wootton was presented with a bottle of whisky and the PrGM Tony Harrison presented with a bouquet of flowers for his wife Maureen. It was a delightful and memorable evening which was enjoyed by all present.
Actions speak loudest
At a special roundtable held at Freemasons’ Hall, members of the newly launched Improvement Delivery Group explained how they intend to support lodges and chapters as they build a strong and sustainable future for Freemasonry
What is the Membership Focus Group’s legacy?
DW: The reasoning behind the Membership Focus Group [MFG] lay in the words ‘membership’ and ‘focus’, with the realisation that membership was declining and that there was a need to address that. What the MFG has done is communicate very well that there is an issue and then develop a strategy by collecting information. Now there is a need to put those ideas into action.
GJ: We thought we knew what the issues were, but we needed to gather evidence that this was the case. The surveys have been very important to ensure that the membership had the opportunity to provide input into the thinking around what the strategy should be and how we should address the challenges that we face over the next few years.
SH: I’ve detected a concern from some members that the focus is about what Grand Lodge wants, but I think our surveys have demonstrated very clearly that we want to be driven by the needs and expectations of members. We’ve had some valuable information, which has helped us define the various projects that the MFG’s put into action.
SC: Having visited Provinces it’s apparent how enthused people are with the consultative approach the MFG has taken, which may not have happened as much in the past. The MFG has also done an incredible job of fostering collaboration and an environment where UGLE; Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges; and, importantly, individual lodges and members are all working together for the common good of the fraternity. Looking at how we attract into and select new members for the Craft, I know that Membership Officers, introduced through the MFG, will play a very important role.
What contribution does the Royal Arch make to the Improvement Delivery Group (IDG)?
DW: The MFG was established by the Board of General Purposes and it sits underneath that. The IDG has a more formal constitutional place in that it’s headed by a Craft Ruler, me, and deputy chaired by a Royal Arch Grand Principal, Gareth, who also happens to be a Provincial Grand Master. The IDG reports to the Grand Master’s Council and has on it one member from each of the regional communications groups in England and Wales. To make sure the Royal Arch is very much part of it, the IDG includes Provincial Grand Masters, Grand Superintendents, those who are one and those who are both.
GJ: With the Royal Arch being such a key step in pure and ancient Freemasonry, it’s very important that members of the Craft are made aware of its importance at an early stage. What we also know from the surveys is that being a member of the Royal Arch is a very important factor in the context of retaining members. By and large, if people join the Royal Arch, they enjoy their masonry more, learn more about masonry and want to stay in it.
‘I think our surveys have demonstrated that we want to be driven by the needs and expectations of members.’ Stuart Hadler
To what extent is the IDG about implementation?
GJ: The next stage from gathering evidence and evaluating options is delivering on what we have decided the priorities are, in conjunction with the membership, to deliver a sustainable Craft for the future.
SH: I believe the launch of the Improvement Delivery Group is a very important demonstration that there’s real ownership by UGLE of the work that the MFG’s done, as well as an intent to take that work forward with the widest possible buy-in from all Provinces, be they Royal Arch or Craft.
GJ: As we take this forward, we also need to make sure that all of the geographical areas in England and Wales are properly represented. We know that by and large our members are hungry for learning. They want to know more about what Freemasonry can give them. They want to know more about the meaning of Freemasonry.
DW: One thing that we’ve already done is to write a document and give it to new Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents to explain their roles and responsibilities – from financial controls through to understanding that being a mason is supposed to be fun. We’re not doing this so that we can negatively mark people down but to encourage them to think positively about what they’re going to do with our support.
SH: There’s a greater willingness and intent to help Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents be successful, to be effective and take their Province forward. It wasn’t too many years ago when you were expected, perhaps tacitly, to maintain a tidy ship, not rock the boat, and hopefully hand your Province on in a better shape than you inherited. We already have a much clearer agenda, evolving to deliver quality Freemasonry for our members and indeed their families, which is quite a challenging agenda, of course.
How important is sharing best practice?
SH: It’s a key piece of work because this is not just about organisational change, it’s cultural change within lodges themselves, identifying what makes for successful attitudes, culture, opportunities and engagement with the community. Some lodges are very good at that and others struggle.
GJ: Our work will be in providing what you might call a toolkit for Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents when they’ve identified what the particular challenges are in their Provinces. Be it supplying written documentation or examples of best practice around England and Wales, we want to empower Provincial Rulers to make decisions about how to drive their Province forward by providing them with the right information and support. What we’re not trying to do is to say we have all the answers.
SC: One of the key roles of Provincial Membership Officers is to facilitate the sharing of best practice. They’re looking at lodges that are successful in their own Provinces and then trying to find the best way of sharing that information with lodges that might need support.
DW: There are some Provinces that have done very well in particular areas. The Metropolitan area, for example, has done well in recruitment. So where there is something that works, we want to know about it.
SC: It is one thing for UGLE or a Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Lodge to say to a lodge, ‘we suggest you do this, this and this,’ and present them with a formula. In practice, it is a lot better if they hear first-hand what has worked direct from another lodge. We have countless examples of formerly struggling lodges that came up with a plan, took action and are now thriving. This success can be replicated.
GJ: And we also want to get Freemasons better connected and more involved with delivering good things in their communities. That’s a responsibility upon us all as Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents to make sure that we do, in part, enhance our reputation by being positive forces for good in our communities and therefore, as a spin-off, attract more good men into our ranks.
‘We want to empower Provincial Rulers to make decisions about how to drive their Province forward.’ Gareth Jones
What changes will be made at the centre?
DW: We’re looking at whether we’ve got the right structures, making sure that people know what their roles are and what they are not. I think it’s important to be looking at things like visits by Rulers. We could arrange their visits so they see and meet more people – going to some Provincial annual meetings, for example, so that more people see them, which can give members a stronger feeling of belonging and also give Rulers a better idea of the talent to watch for the future.
GJ: We should also say a word about the Pathway – a key membership programme being developed. One of the principal aims of the IDG will be to ensure that we become better at looking after people from the time they express an interest in joining Freemasonry, through managing their expectations and then, to being initiated, passed, raised and exalted into the Holy Royal Arch. The whole journey needs to be better managed so that people are better looked after throughout that process.
We know that far too many resign from Freemasonry very quickly after joining and that’s simply not good enough. It can only be down to two reasons – either we’ve chosen the wrong people or we’re not properly looking after them.
I rather think that it’s the latter category that we really need to give attention to.
SH: Some lodges may find this challenging because they’re perhaps too focused on a routine of ceremonies, making these the focus rather than the brethren who need to be enthused in order to become active members and future leaders.
What’s the IDG’s biggest challenge?
DW: The first challenge is maintaining the momentum of the MFG and the other is the agenda – we’ve got to deliver, which means making sure that we’re carrying people with us. The easiest thing in the world would be to produce lengthy documents and just send them out to the membership.
GJ: We have to deliver some early wins for the IDG to show people that we’re making a difference and we have to respond to the points that brethren are making in their survey responses. People are giving up their time to fill in surveys.
If they don’t think that we’re responding positively to the points they’re making, they’ll stop responding to us.
SH: We also need to recognise the capacity of Provinces to respond. Some are well-equipped but others will benefit from support and time to move forward.
GJ: This is why we’re currently running pilots in a number of Provinces, such as interviewing techniques, in order to iron out any problems before we roll them out to everyone.
SC: Another challenge is that people are pressed for time. Masons have a lot to do between their personal lives, work and just running a regular lodge without bringing in extra things for them to do. So it’s finding individuals to help who have the right skills and the time to contribute.
DW: As well as a force enabling good men to be better, we want Freemasonry to be fun and valued by all, where young and old together can develop friendships for themselves and their families, and be themselves in a happy, compatible and pleasant environment.
Canterbury evensong for Royal Arch
The choral evensong congregation at Canterbury Cathedral was enhanced by almost 500 companions, brethren, their families and friends coming together for the Province of East Kent’s Royal Arch biennial church service.
Led by Grand Superintendent Geoffrey Dearing, distinguished guests included Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, Third Grand Principal David Williamson, the then Metropolitan Grand Master Russell Race and several neighbouring Provincial Grand Masters.
Guests were able to view the Ancestors exhibit, a series of life-size figures representing the Ancestors of Christ that date to the 12th and early 13th centuries. These beautiful examples of medieval stained glass had been temporarily removed from the Cathedral’s Great South Window while conservation work was carried out on its crumbling stonework. They were on display in the Chapter House, the East Window of which was a gift from the Freemasons of Kent.
Derbyshire’s festival finale
Freemasons and their families in Derbyshire have made a £2.4 million donation to the MSF after a six-year fundraising appeal
More than eight hundred Derbyshire Freemasons and guests gathered at the magnificent Devonshire Dome in Buxton for a gala dinner to celebrate the finale of the Derbyshire 2014 Festival, which raised the tremendous sum of £2,414,016.
During the meal, diners were entertained by the Three Waiters, singing popular operatic tunes, and a Fab Four tribute band playing Beatles hits. For the first time in an MSF Festival, and the second time in Derbyshire’s history, every masonic unit in every order made a donation. Members of Craft lodges in the Province donated an average of £741 each.
Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton congratulated the Province on its fundraising and on organising the occasion. MSF President Willie Shackell added, ‘Not only will this generous donation help the Fund to support the health and care needs of individuals but it will also enable us to continue funding much-needed medical research.’
Supporting wider needs
The MSF has expressed its thanks to all its fundraisers for their generosity in ensuring that sufficient funds are available to meet demand
Commenting on the MSF’s achievements in the last financial year (Oct 2013-Sep 2014), Chief Executive Richard Douglas notes that the Fund has allocated more grants than ever before: ‘1,578 grants have been given to support 1,462 applicants covering all areas of the Fund’s work: medical, dental, mobility, home adaptation, respite, counselling and consultation needs. This is a 12% increase in funds allocated and a 21% increase in the number of individuals supported compared with the previous year. The Fund allocated nearly £4.4 million to individuals, or £12,000 a day, across the year.’
Talk of the town
A city lawyer by profession, Sir David Wootton is the new Assistant Grand Master. He talks to Luke Turton about his time as London’s Lord Mayor and why he likes to perform
You’ve been an alderman, chairman, Liveryman, almoner, chancellor and Lord Mayor of London. Would it be fair to say that you like to keep busy?
Most really good things that have come my way haven’t come from some master plan, but because I’ve said yes to something that has led on to something else. I do say no to a lot of things, but I always think twice because you’re not just turning down that opportunity, but all the things you can’t see down the line that it could lead to.
What connects all the different kinds of activities you’ve been involved in?
If I try and work out a pattern to my life, it’s where there’s been a job that involves performing in some way – whether it’s masonic ritual, making speeches as Lord Mayor or talking to clients of the law firm. I’m less successful at debating in a big crowd, so I wouldn’t be particularly good as a Member of Parliament.
How do you balance all your responsibilities?
I’ve had a career as a city lawyer in the field of corporate transactions. That requires you to operate on a tight timescale, invariably set by other people, which is often halved. In comparison to that high-pressure environment, the collection of jobs I have now is fairly relaxed because on most occasions the dates of things are known in advance. I’ve got masonic events in my diary for the next five years. That’s a great help and far easier than my life as a city lawyer, where most meetings in my diary are suddenly cancelled or come out of nowhere.
What was it like being Lord Mayor?
You operate on a different level. We all have a normal level at which we live – I’m a solicitor with a family living in Sevenoaks. We go to the shops and plan holidays.
If you envisage that as living on the twentieth floor of a building, being Lord Mayor is like being put in a lift and being sent up to live on the eightieth floor for a year, where people operate on an entirely different plane.
The people who work on the eightieth floor have normal concerns like everyone else, such as worrying about whether their ties are straight or not, but they’ve also got something special about them – an ability. Moving at that level was an interesting experience, but I’m really happy being back at the twentieth floor again.
‘When I was elected in 2002 to the City Council, someone said that I‘d have to come to Guildhall Lodge, No. 3116. There have been close connections for a long time between it and Freemasons’ Hall, with the Rulers attending. I liked doing ritual and I must have been noticed.’
As Lord Mayor of London, in the wake of the recent financial crisis, did you want to help change perceptions about the City?
The City isn’t good at fighting its PR battles. City businesses don’t like getting involved in public arguments; they don’t like politics and prefer to do things quietly behind the scenes. Therefore, when there’s a big crisis, other people who are much better at getting their story over heap all the blame for everything on the City, which is weak at replying. Part of the job for me as Lord Mayor was to try and re-address that, to help recognise that part of the criticism was rational and objective, but also to see that part of it was emotional.
How did you counter the emotional arguments about the City?
With the emotional part, there’s nothing that you can do – you can’t rebut it with a rational argument. If you say the City’s good, that’s not going to convince people. You also look a bit foolish if something else comes out in the press. When I was in office, the story about Libor came out, which was portrayed as an attempt to rig interest rates. Subsequently, there have been revelations about misconduct in the foreign exchange markets, where things were going on that shouldn’t have been. So if you mount a full-throttle defence of the City as being a very good place, and that’s followed by bad publicity, then you lose credibility. You therefore have to be careful about picking your ground, so I decided to draw attention to the good things that the City was doing – pointing to things like the jobs outside of London that depended on it, and hoped that, in due course, I could change the climate.
Why did you become a Freemason?
I rowed at university and in my last days there I was asked by one of the rowing coaches if I was going to work in London. He said that there was a society that I should consider joining. It turned out to be Argonauts Lodge, No. 2243, which was a rowing lodge. They met in the Lloyds Building in the City, which wasn’t too far from my office. Most of the people there had coached me on the river at university; I think the Craft works well when there’s an outside interest shared between its members.
How did you become Assistant Grand Master?
I went on for years only being a member of Argonauts Lodge as I didn’t have enough time to do much else. It’s only in the past ten years that I’ve been able to become more involved in Freemasonry. When I was elected in 2002 to the City Council, someone said that I’d have to come to Guildhall Lodge, No. 3116. There have been close connections for a long time between the lodge and Freemasons’ Hall, with the Rulers often attending. I like doing ritual and I must have been noticed. I was offered the chair of Guildhall Lodge, started to get to know people and became aware that the then Assistant Grand Master David Williamson wanted to retire. One thing led to another and I was asked if I wanted the position.
‘The principles of Freemasonry are very useful – they provide strong guidelines about your life. At the most basic level, they teach you that if you say you’re going to do something, then you should do it. Life operates better if you follow those rules.’
How does Freemasonry connect with the rest of your life?
The principles in Freemasonry are very useful – they provide strong guidelines about your life. At the most basic level, they teach you that if you say you’re going to do something, then you should do it. Life operates better if you follow those rules. I deal with people on the basis that I’ll come across them again and I want to be thought of in a positive way. In the business world, people often perceive that it’s to their advantage to do something that another party won’t like. I don’t want a reputation like that.
I think this approach is largely down to Freemasonry.
What do you hope to achieve as Assistant Grand Master?
I’m encouraged to attend the major events at the Hall, the Quarterly Communications, the Annual Investiture and the Festivals. I’ll take over the Universities Scheme next year, as well as looking after overseas districts, but those are the set tasks. What I also want to do is to make sure that Freemasons outside London, outside the Hall, feel they are part of a United Grand Lodge.
I’d like to make a contribution to improving the relationship between masons and non-masons, to counter the idea that people who practise the Craft are somehow a little bit different. There are also masons who are hesitant about admitting it as they’re worried others might not think they’re normal. We need to address both these internal and external perceptions.
I’d also like to help with improving recruitment and retention, to get younger members to join and to keep them. It’s a big undertaking, but I’m not alone and I see it as a fantastic opportunity – I’m looking forward to getting out and about in the country.
12 March 2014
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, it has been a pleasure to install Right Worshipful Brother Sir David Wootton as Assistant Grand Master. In offering him our congratulations I know that you would want me to wish him well in his important task at this exciting time for Freemasonry.
I also take this opportunity to thank RW Bro David Williamson for his thirteen years as Assistant Grand Master serving the English Constitution admirably in that role. I can think of few people who have done more for Freemasonry in general and the Craft in particular. I also know that I speak for Lord Northampton when I say that there could not have been a more loyal and supportive AGM.
It is, in fact, the unity of the English Constitution that I wish to talk about today. That unity is crucial to our survival as a relevant organisation in society for men of quality to join. In particular I want to emphasise the importance of all the component parts of our organisation working together. Enormous progress has been made in the liaison between the centre, here, and London, the Provinces and Districts.
The consistent approach from the centre is now very much a consultative one, working directly to seek views before making proposals for consensus approval. This is typically through the Grand Secretary, on behalf of the Rulers and Board of General Purposes by direct contact, online surveys or by Provincial Grand Masters championing or being members of committees looking into and ensuring the future of Freemasonry. This inclusive approach is working well. I am keen that it continues.
I will illustrate this inclusive approach with some examples to support this starting with the Board of General Purposes whose nine members include the Metropolitan Grand Master, two current and two past Provincial Grand Masters. They not only bring a wealth of experience but also an understanding of the issues directly facing the Provinces. For your information the latest issue of Freemasonry Today, which has just come out, has an article in which the President of the Board explains how the Board is fully transparent, where every member is an active contributor. He also mentions the increasing professionalism in the way the Craft is run with standards you would expect to find in successful businesses.
I mentioned that this is an exciting time for Freemasonry with several initiatives dealing with both future recruitment and retention as well as business effectiveness in running a large membership organisation. For example the newly formed Membership Focus Group which includes eight Provincial Grand Masters. Their brief is to advise the Board of General Purposes on how best Freemasonry can concentrate the minds of members, lodges, Provinces and Rulers to work in a collaborative and focused manner in stemming the decline in membership and meeting the long term needs of the Craft. Interestingly, they have already identified the high loss of members throughout the first ten years of membership. It is also already clear that the majority of recruitment is carried out by a relatively small number of members.
The Tercentenary Planning Committee is working closely with the Board of General Purposes looking at the overall plans for celebrations in 2017. Although there will be a final event in London towards the end of the year, I am determined that the Provinces and Districts run their own celebratory events throughout the year at times convenient to them. With this in mind two Provincial Grand Masters sit on the Committee with the aim of supporting and coordinating the planning with other Provincial and District Grand Masters. This way, many more members, throughout the English Constitution, will be able to participate in celebrating this milestone in our great history.
I have talked about Provincial Grand Masters being involved with helping to set the strategy as members of committees. But, brethren, wider views are also sought with online surveys which are quick and informative. For example, we have run a survey seeking opinions on communication strategies for the English Constitution. More recently, we have had a survey on potential new branding as we move towards 2017.
There are, of course, many other examples of how well we are all working together. I hold a business meeting for all Provincial Grand Masters the day before the annual Craft Investitures in April each year, and later this year I will be holding my next round of regional meetings with Provincial Grand Masters. These meetings have proved invaluable in the past, openly exchanging views and opinions.
Let us not forget the Districts who form an important part of the English Constitution. Last year, accompanied by the Grand Secretary, I attended business meetings with groups of District Grand Masters in Trinidad, Harare and Lagos whilst the Deputy Grand Master attended the inaugural Asia Oceanic Conference of District Grand Lodges in Kuala Lumpur. In addition I hold a dedicated meeting for all District Grand Masters who attend the Investitures in April to discuss issues that particularly affect them.
So, brethren, we are, as a united English Constitution, working more closely together than at any other time in our history. At a strategic level, I believe that continuing to work together will not only stem the decline in membership but start to increase it to ensure the future of Freemasonry. At an individual level, consider the fact that the more members there are, the better chance Grand Lodge has of keeping the dues down.
Changing tack, brethren, you will all be more than well aware of the appalling conditions being experienced by thousands of people as a result of the winter floods. Whilst the south west has been worst hit, Kent, Sussex and Berkshire as well as parts of Wales are not far behind, in fact there is barely a part of the south that does not have its tales of woe.
It will not surprise you to know that Freemasonry has been to the fore with providing relief funding. The Somerset Community Fund has received £750,000 in all, of which £125,000 has been from various masonic sources. The Provincial Grand Master of Somerset set a target of £50,000 and so, brethren, you can imagine how overwhelmed he is by the support the Province has received, from the Grand Charity, other Provinces (Essex alone donating £40,000) and many Lodges from all over the country, as well as those in his own Province.
The Grand Charity can and does react quickly in these situations and as well as its support of Somerset, it has donated to the Red Cross, Berkshire, Devonshire and West Wales. In all, so far, it has made donations of nearly £60,000.
We should all be immensely proud of the way in which our members respond to emergencies and how well we are able to coordinate our giving. Thank you to all those concerned.