9 September 2015
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
I am pleased to see such a good attendance at this important meeting and on a day that Her Majesty the Queen becomes the longest reigning British Monarch.
Brethren, I would like to thank those members who have participated in the Membership Focus Group’s first two surveys. These survey results have been a great help in deciding the best way ahead for Freemasonry and have provoked much constructive thinking. You will be able to see the results of the most recent survey in the latest issue of Freemasonry Today, which has just been published.
The results of that second survey highlight the importance to members of being valued and included, while developing knowledge and friendships at the same time. The Membership Focus Group is next planning to survey new initiates to assess how their expectations match their experience and whether this experience changes over time.
In December 2014, I announced that the Grand Master’s Council and the Provincial Grand Masters’ Forum had endorsed proposals from the Charities to consolidate the activities of the four central Masonic Charities. Subsequently, the proposals were endorsed by the Grand Master. Over the last nine months, all four Charities have launched consultations with their members about the proposals. Having just formally finished the AGM of the Grand Charity, their consultation is now complete and the same process with the other Charities is due to conclude by the end of October. Should the members of each of the other Charities follow the lead of the Grand Charity and endorse the proposals, it is anticipated that a new charity will be legally established as soon as possible and become operational on 1 April 2016. This new charity, subject to legal approvals, will be called The Masonic Charitable Foundation.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation will continue to offer the same support and services to those Freemasons and family members who need help, as well as providing support for the non-Masonic charitable causes that the Craft wishes to assist. Thus continuity of our charitable giving will be achieved.
The new charity will continue to rely on the generosity of Freemasons for its funds. The Festival system will therefore transition in favour of the new charity over the next few years.
A shadow board, comprised of trustees from the existing Charities has met and will, with the existing charities, oversee the creation of the new charity and transition from the existing four charities into a single one. The Board has elected Very Worshipful Brother James Newman as interim Chairman and Worshipful Brother Michael Heenan as interim Treasurer.
These changes will require amendments to the Book of Constitutions with formal notice of those amendments being brought to the December meeting of Grand Lodge. In the meantime, further details about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be made available over the next few months via a new website and general communications to the Craft.
Bringing the existing central Masonic Charities together means that the Trustees will be responsible for one of the largest charitable foundations in the country – a tremendous achievement and something of which we can all feel proud, particularly as we look towards the tercentenary celebrations in 2017.
When talking about our Charities, I am inevitably reminded of RW Bro Iain Bryce who so sadly died in July. Apart from his dedication to our Masonic Charities, he was also a long serving Treasurer of the RNLI.
I first met him at his Installation as PGM of Yorkshire N&E Ridings in 1984 and in the 30 years that I knew him, I can’t recall a cross word. He could upset people, can’t we all, but it was normally for a valid reason. When Bro Bryce became involved in something, he gave it his full attention. Masonically he was fully involved from Lodge level, through his Province to Grand Lodge and would take on any task asked of him.
I am sure that all the Charity Presidents who were in office during his time as Deputy Grand Master will have benefited enormously from his wise counsel. He was passionate about them all and held strong views on their management. His views were given in a forthright manner and were usually right. However, he would be first to admit he had got something wrong if that turned out to be the case.
Brethren, I shall miss him greatly and I know that I am far from alone in that.
Missed by many
After a short illness Iain Ross Bryce, Past Deputy Grand Master and Past Second Grand Principal, died peacefully in hospital on 30 June aged 79
Educated at Bridlington Grammar School, Iain Ross Bryce trained in accountancy, becoming a Fellow Chartered Accountant and joining Ernst & Young, where he rose to senior partner and ran the Hull office. After national service with the Royal Engineers, he enlisted in the Territorial Army, becoming colonel and earning the Territorial Decoration.
A keen yachtsman, Iain served as treasurer, chairman and president of Bridlington Royal National Lifeboat Institution and was for many years the charity’s national treasurer. A well-known and popular figure, he was involved in many community organisations in the town and was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire.
A lifelong friend commented: ‘He did a great deal for Bridlington, mostly behind the scenes. He had a very kind nature and many people in Bridlington have received his help, mostly without knowing it.’
In Freemasonry, Iain was active in the Province of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, serving as Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent from 1984 to 1991. Appointed Deputy Grand Master and Second Grand Principal in 1991, he served for 13 years during which time he gave wise counsel and strong support to the ‘top to bottom’ overhaul of the administration of the Craft. He also did much to bring the masonic charities together, laying the foundations for the major changes taking place.
A big man in every sense, Iain had a great love for and enjoyment of life, but always said that he could not have achieved anything without the great support of his wife Jan and their family.
He will be much missed by many.
We regret to announce the death of RW Bro Iain Ross Bryce, TD, DL, Past Deputy Grand Master, on the afternoon of 30 June 2015.
RW Bro Bryce served as Deputy Grand Master from 1991 until 2004, and in Supreme Grand Chapter ME Comp Bryce served as Second Grand Principal from 1991 until 2005.
The Provincial Grand Lodge meeting in May provided a fitting occasion to celebrate the finale of the West Kent 2015 Festival in aid of the Masonic Samaritan Fund
In front of a packed Grand Temple the PGM, RW Bro Jonathan Winpenny presented a cheque for the magnificent sum of £3,252,148.
RW Bro Willie Shackell, MSF President, offered his sincere thanks for such a generous contribution towards the work of the Fund. 'Your generosity will make a tremendous difference to so many people waiting to receive the treatment and care they need.'
At the Festive Board RW Bro Jonathan Spence, Deputy Grand Master, congratulated all present for their generous, energetic and innovative fundraising throughout the six years of the appeal.
A motorbike ride to Dar es Salaam, raft races on the Thames and a walk to the 1066 battlefield all helped to retain the fun in the Festival fundraising and achieve such a fantastic total. A further 'Howzat' event, for all the family, will be held on 28 June at the Warren in Bromley when even more members of the West Kent Provincial family can enjoy the extended celebrations.
The members of the Lodge of Concord No. 343 celebrated the bi-centenary of its consecration
The lodge was honoured by the attendance of the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence, accompanied by other distinguished brethren, including the Provincial Grand Master, Tony Harrison who was supported by his Provincial team. Also in attendance were 130 members and visitors.
After welcoming the assembled brethren, the lodge was opened in due form by the WM, Ray Thompson, following which, the dispensation calling the meeting was read by the lodge secretary.
Following transaction of the normal business, the lodge was raised to the third degree. The PrGDC, Keith Kemp entered the lodge to announce the attendance of the PrGM, Anthony Harrison. Tony, accompanied by an entourage of acting Provincial grand officers, was admitted and formally welcomed into the lodge by the WM. Salutations were then given under the direction of Keith Kemp.
The Acting Grand Director of Ceremonies, Stephen Blank entered the lodge to announce the presence of the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence, who entered the lodge accompanied by a Provincial escort of distinguished brethren and other grand officers. Salutations were then given under the direction of Stephen Blank.
The lodge returned to the first degree before lodge member, Melvyn Carter, rose to give a short history of the lodge. The presentation proved both interesting and informative and was well received by the brethren.
Stephen collected the bi-centenary warrant from the secretary’s table and presented it to Jonathan for confirmation of its validity. The brethren were invited to rise as the warrant was read to the assembled brethren by the Assistant Grand Secretary, Shaun Christie, who concluded by returning the warrant to Jonathon for him to make the official presentation to the worshipful master. Having accepted the warrant, Ray was then presented with a centenary jewel embellished with the bi-centenary bar.
There then followed a captivating oration, delivered without notes, by the Acting Grand Chaplain, Rev Harry Ross. He began by referring to his school motto, translated as: “Look to the past, look to the present and look to the future.” He reminded brethren that many things change with time and we as individuals should look to avoid repeating the bad things that have happened in the past and seek to improve on the good things that have also occurred. What we do today sets things for the future. Harry concluded his oration with solemn prayer.
The WM then had the pleasure of presenting Tony with a cheque for £2,343 in favour of the West Lancashire Freemason’ Charity. He commented that the cheque was the culmination of a number of years of charitable collecting and giving in the name of that charity that has been carried by the lodge since it announced its intention to begin planning for the bi-centenary. Ray continued by saying that during the last 10 years the lodge had become a Grand Patron of the 2010 Festival donating in excess of £22,500 to the WLFC and, in addition, had passed monies to the Preston Masonic Fellowship and the Masonic hall. A further £7,200 had also been donated to non-Masonic charities that included the North West Air Ambulance, the Girl Guide Association and the Rosemere Cancer Foundation. In summing up, Ray announced that, excluding the cheque that had just been presented, over the last 10 years the lodge had collected and dispersed a grand total of £31,700 to worthy causes.
Ray then announced that although the lodge charitable giving was complete for the evening, the lodge donations were not. He understood that the Masonic hall was about to launch an appeal for funds to help cover the cost of a major and necessary refurbishment of the hall roof. He then invited the Masonic Hall chairman, Terry McGill, to step forward and accept a cheque to the value of £1,000 as the starting donation for the appeal.
At the risings, prior to the formal closing of the lodge, Jonathan responded on behalf of the grand officers, Tony on behalf of the Provincial officers and the WM of the Setantia Lodge of Installed Masters No 7755, Bob Poole, responded on behalf of all the visitors all, of whom commended the lodge on its achievements over the last 200 years.
Later in the evening at the celebration banquet, in response to the toast to the grand officers, Jonathan began by relating some of the events occurring in 1814, the year of the lodge’s consecration; a year when the Times of London was first printed on steam driven presses. He went on to say that this was his first visit to West Lancashire as a ruler in the Craft. He also congratulated Shaun Christie for the excellent manner he had read and delivered the contents of the warrant. Thanks also went to Stephen Blank for his control of the proceedings as the Acting Grand Director of Ceremonies and to the Rev Harry Ross for his extremely powerful and thought provoking oration.
Jonathan continued by reminding brethren of the need to get younger men involved in Freemasonry and that lodges need to recognise and be sympathetic to the demands placed on young men as they develop their working careers. He emphasised that there is no such thing as a Masonic career. As members progress they may be asked to take on a responsibility that they would hopefully carry out to the best of their ability. This may lead to further opportunities within the Masonic community that should in no way be considered as a career path.
Jonathan concluded by saying he was delighted to be with Tony and his Provincial team on this auspicious occasion and wished him and the Province of West Lancashire well for the future. He closed by proposing a toast to the health of Tony that was followed by sustained applause from the brethren.
In his response, Tony thanked Jonathan for his kind words saying he was pleased to welcome him to West Lancashire. He thanked Jonathan and his colleagues, Stephen and Shaun for sparing the time to travel to Preston to attend and take part in the ceremony, a ceremony that represented a special day for the Lodge of Concord.
Tony continued by saying the brethren in 1814 could not have foreseen the future leading to this bi-centenary event. He congratulated the lodge on its achievement thanking the lodge for the support it has given down the years and continues to give to the Preston group today.
He suggested that, in this age of electronic communication, all Freemasons should communicate with Grand Lodge with suggestions and ideas to enable Freemasonry to keep up with the times.
He went on to thank the lodge members for the charitable donation made in the lodge and thanked the Provincial team for their support and attendance.
Tony concluded by wishing everyone all the best for the future and above all to continue to enjoy their Masonry to the full. He closed by proposing a toast to the Lodge of Concord No 343.
In his response, Ray, as the WM, thanked Jonathan for his attendance and the Provincial team for their support with particular thanks to the Provincial Grand Secretary, Peter Taylor, for his response to the numerous lodge requests for information during the build up to the celebration.
Turning to the lodge members he expressed special thanks to Bob Dickinson who, despite recently retiring as the lodge secretary, continued his work in organising the event. He reminded brethren that, excluding Setantia, Concord is the largest lodge in the Preston group and concluded by thanking all the visiting brethren for their attendance.
During the banquet proceedings, to serve as a memento of the occasion, hard backed bound copies of the 200 year lodge history were distributed to all those present.
The evening closed with the Provincial Grand Tyler, Frank Kennedy, proposing the Tyler’s toast.
Together with co-drivers Richard Barrett and Dimas Pestana, Larry travelled the 2,000km journey over 10 days in support of the two charities. During the final leg of the epic journey, the 1914 Model T passed through central London and stopped at Freemasons’ Hall where the trio were greeted by Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, the presidents of the four central masonic charities, and Lincolnshire Deputy PGM John Hockin.
The route was selected as Larry is a member of lodges in Portugal and the Province of Lincolnshire – the latter of which has supported the RMTGB for the past six years and is due to end its Festival appeal this November.
The Association of Medical, University and Legal Lodges (AMULL) celebrated its 12th annual festival at Lincoln’s Inn in London, in the presence of Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, his wife Almudena and Metropolitan Grand Master Russell Race.
This year’s host was the Chancery Bar Lodge, No. 2456, whose meetings are held in Lincoln’s Inn. The day included a lecture: ‘For Valour – The Victoria Cross’, by Mark Smith. An ecumenical service was held in Lincoln’s Inn Chapel, led by the Reverend Alan Gyle, with the address by the Venerable Peter Delaney. This year’s AMULL bursaries went to Michael Mather (Universities Lodge, No. 2352, Durham) and Daniel Glover (University Lodge of Liverpool, No. 4274).
Freemasonry has given Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes the confidence to stand up in front of people and make himself heard. He talks to Freemasonry Today about responsibility and his hopes for the Craft
How were you introduced to Freemasonry?
The first place was in the Rising Sun pub on Ebury Bridge Road as it’s where I found out about Freemasonry. A friend there was wearing an Old Etonian tie and I asked why he was wearing it, he said he was ‘off to the lodge’. I said, ‘What happens there?’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you come to find out sometime?’ So I did and it was as simple as that.
Did you ever have any doubts?
If I’d gone into a much bigger lodge I think I might have dropped it, but the fact that the lodge was smaller meant that it pushed you out of your comfort zone. I’d never been someone who liked doing things in front of people but suddenly pride takes over – you decide that if you’re going to do it you’re going to do it well. Then I discovered I enjoyed it.
What did you learn from Freemasonry?
During my work, I did property auctioneering and I remember being terrified of the first one I did. But the fact that I was getting up in Freemasonry and talking in front of people was beneficial. I hope I was a good property auctioneer, but if I was it was down to the confidence I got from Freemasonry. And vice versa. It’s the confidence of hearing your own voice, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. I believe that Freemasonry inevitably leads you to being absolutely clear about your principles; it concentrates the mind.
How did you become Pro Grand Master?
Like many things in life, becoming Pro Grand Master was about being in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in Grand Lodge because I’d been recommended. Once you have achieved a senior position, you get pushed in whichever direction you have the most use. I became Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995 and was delighted when Lord Northampton asked me to be Deputy Grand Master in 2004 as I felt that was way above my rank. When he then told me he was giving up and that I was taking over in 2009, I asked him if I could have 24 hours to think it over. I remember asking my wife for her thoughts and she said, ‘I don’t know why you’re talking to me because you’re going to do it anyway.’
Did your life change?
As Deputy Grand Master I could work full-time but I couldn’t as Pro Grand Master. Everybody is coming to you with everything and while you can delegate, it still all needs to come through you first. But I knew what to expect when I took the position and I think I’m the first commoner to do it, which is a good thing. Since I’ve become Pro Grand Master, the position has become so much more visible. Compared to 10 years ago, the questions I’m asked tend to be about finding answers to something, rather than somebody having a go. When you’re junior, you can clam up about Freemasonry, but I’m confident now and love talking about it to non-masons.
Has the role of Pro Grand Master changed?
Going back to the 1970s and 1980s, Freemasonry was run by the Grand Secretary, who would probably keep the Pro Grand Master, Deputy and Assistant informed. That’s now completely changed and it was Lord Farnham who started the process. He was a big man in the city and probably thought that if he was going to be head of something, he ought to take control of it. Farnham said that it must be the three rulers who dictate, through the Board of General Purposes, and that more people should be consulted about what is going on. Therefore, the three of us are involved in everything that happens in Freemasonry.
What would you change about Freemasonry?
I would love to leave behind the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when we didn’t communicate with the outside world. That all stems from Freemasons in Germany being treated the same way as the Jews. The local papers between the wars had pictures of new Provincial Grand Masters parading the streets but with everyone in 1940 assuming Hitler would invade the UK, everything went underground and didn’t really come up again for 30 years.
What is Freemasonry’s biggest challenge?
It’s not a numbers game, but that’s always fairly high on the agenda. If we never lost anyone until they died, our numbers would be going up. The problem is losing them in the first five years of joining. If I could click my fingers and do one thing, it would be finding a way of keeping all the people we’re bringing in. We’re losing them for reasons we can control because they might join the wrong lodge – they get there and find there aren’t many kindred spirits. We now have exit interviews and are recovering members by putting them in a lodge that suits them better.
Geoffrey Dearing has been installed as both Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent of the Royal Arch in the Province of East Kent by Jonathan Spence, Deputy Grand Master and Past Second Grand Principal.
The two ceremonies took place at the Winter Gardens theatre and functions building in Margate. Jonathan Spence reminded the companions and brethren that East Kent is his home Province, being a member of Pentangle Chapter and Sir Joseph Williamson Lodge, both meeting at Rochester.
Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence believes that it is vital to show the rest of the world why Freemasonry is enjoyable
I would like to share with you some thoughts on some essential aspects of ‘pure antient masonry’. I am prompted to do this after listening to an interview given by the Grand Chaplain to the BBC in May in which it became clear there are still substantial misunderstandings about the Craft, when frankly there ought not to be.
We need to be absolutely clear when we discuss our pure ancient masonry that we belong to a secular organisation, that is to say a non-religious organisation. This was a point made very eloquently by the Grand Chaplain in his interview. It is, however, a secular organisation that is supportive of religion: it is an absolute requirement for all our members to believe in a supreme being. As the late and sadly missed Dean Neil Collings so eloquently put it, this gives ‘a context and background to the individual’s way of life as they seek to live it’.
Freemasonry itself, as we all know, is neither a substitute for nor an alternative to religion. It certainly does not deal in spirituality – it does not have any sacraments or, indeed, offer or claim to offer any type of salvation. Freemasonry, in fact, absolutely fails to meet any of the tests of what it is to be a religion. The fact that men from different faiths can meet easily in harmony and friendship, without compromising their particular religious beliefs, demonstrates that one of the greatest strengths of the Craft, dating from its earliest beginnings, is that of tolerance. Therefore, to ensure this tolerance remains untroubled, discussions of religion, like discussions of politics, are strictly prohibited.
Encouraging our ideals
Organised Freemasonry, from its beginnings in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries – which was a time of religious intolerance – was always concerned with teaching and encouraging morality. Our forefathers were very aware of human nature and its flaws, particularly those of self-absorption and selfishness. The Craft sought to encourage men to be loyal to their country, to obey the law, to try to be better behaved, to consider their relations with others and to make themselves more extensively serviceable to their fellow men – that is to say their wider communities. In other words, to pursue a moral life. The ceremonies were used as the main means of teaching and illustrating the principles of the Craft: they were, and still very much are, a dramatic and effective set of morality plays.
The Craft, as a secular organisation, remains just as concerned today to encourage these ideals. In today’s language, we can articulate the fundamental principles to which our members subscribe as integrity, honesty, fairness, kindness and tolerance. These are principles that we should be very proud of and we should not hesitate to articulate them, when appropriate opportunities present themselves, to our family, friends and, indeed, the wider community in which we live. We should also make it very clear that we very much enjoy ourselves and what we do. I have no doubt that our principles will appeal to those who are not masons if they are aware of them.
The future of the Craft is dependent on attracting and retaining good quality candidates. Our principles should be attractive to many men of good reputation and integrity. The other side of this coin is that we should therefore be careful in our choice of candidates. This is something every new Freemason is told in the charge after initiation and for a very good reason – unsuitable candidates are likely to damage the Craft in general as well as their own lodges in particular.
Every one of us has an important part to play in articulating clearly what the Craft is and encouraging appropriately qualified candidates to be members. To support this, our strategic communications direction, together with the results from the working party on mentoring, will go a long way to help us to speak openly and in an informed way about Freemasonry. Our success will help to ensure Freemasonry’s long-term future.
Letters to the editor - No. 26 Summer 2014
A word of warning for younger Freemasons: be careful what you wish for! Eighteen months ago as part of the annual visit made by the masons of the southern area of the Province of East Lancashire, one of the younger visitors, Steve Stanley, was making his first visit. He was the Junior Warden of the Lodge of Union, No. 268, from Ashton-under-Lyne.
During luncheon, the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence, spent some time chatting to every brother who was present. When Steve took his turn to have a few words with such an eminent guest, he didn’t miss the chance to ask, ‘Would you like to attend my installation on 16 January?’ There was a pause before the Deputy Grand Master responded, ‘We’ll have to see what is possible.’ And that was that.
The Deputy Grand Master must get similar requests all the time and the other members of the lodge had to work on Steve to convince him that there was little, if any, chance of his actually receiving a visit from such an august Freemason.
However, some sixteen months later it became clear to one or two members of the Lodge of Union that there was a distinct possibility that something special might just be about to happen. On the evening of 16 January, after Steve was presented, it was announced that the Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies sought entry into our lodge! When he announced that Jonathan Spence, the Deputy Grand Master, demanded to be admitted you could have heard a pin drop. Steve looked up and I saw him mouth a few syllables that demonstrated that he understood what was about to happen.
The Deputy Grand Master entered with a small retinue, and as he walked past, he gave the Master Elect a clear and definite wink. Nor did the surprise end there. Right Worshipful Brother Spence accepted the gavel, took the Chair and performed the whole ceremony in a brisk, exact and perfect way that demonstrated to seventy-eight other masons just how it could be done. Steve was well and truly installed. The rest of us saw a ceremony that will not soon be forgotten.
Kevin Hall, Lodge of Union, No. 268, Ashton-under-Lyne, East Lancashire
Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence surprised a young Freemason at his installation