The university lodge, the Lodge of Fraternity No. 1418, welcomed Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton and Provincial Grand Master of Durham Eric Heaviside as guests to witness a triple second degree ceremony on 24th May 2018
David Chapman, Lodge of Fraternity, Stephen Cullen, Mowbray Lodge No. 5373 and David Squirrell, Universities Lodge No. 2352, were all passed to the second degree.
The candidates were conducted around the lodge by the senior deacon of their respective lodges.
Enough is Enough
With the misconceptions surrounding the nature of Freemasonry commonplace, one particular news story in 2018 proved the catalyst for a nationwide campaign that would confront these beliefs head on, as Dean Simmons discovers
The doors to Freemasons’ Hall in London may be open to the public, but this hasn’t stopped rumours, myths and conspiracy theories from grabbing the headlines over the decades. However, it was a news story in The Guardian at the beginning of 2018, which was subsequently covered by other national newspapers, accusing the Freemasons of blocking policing reforms, that proved to be a turning point for the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).
Dr David Staples, Chief Executive Officer of UGLE, rejected the claims as laughable in a letter to the newspapers. With the accusations following a well-trodden path of inaccurate and misleading information about Freemasonry, he called for an end to the discrimination against its members, citing the 2001 and 2007 European Court of Human Rights rulings that Freemasonry was not a secret or unlawful organisation.
Reflecting on the decision to respond, David says, ‘It’s something that has been building up over the past 20 years, as we haven’t argued our case or countered the increasingly ridiculous claims of our critics. I think the trouble, as we’ve seen in the past, is that if we don’t answer those critics, the vacuum is then filled by further ludicrous accusations.’
More was to come. In February 2018, The Guardian alleged that two masonic lodges were operating secretly at Westminster. ‘This was on the front page of an award-winning national newspaper and it was complete nonsense,’ David says. ‘Every aspect of that story was deliberately designed to give a false impression of Freemasonry and its influence.’ David again wrote to the newspaper, drawing attention to several inaccuracies, including the fact that the lodges did not operate in Westminster and that their existence is not secret – all of which could have been verified by a quick search on Wikipedia. While the letter led to corrections being made, there was clearly an appetite for these types of stories, and therefore a pressing need for Freemasonry to debunk the myths.
ON THE OFFENSIVE
‘In light of a new approach towards how we manage the media and how we represent ourselves and our members, we needed to go on the offensive – it was a good one to put the gloves on for,’ says David.
Contesting accusations is one thing, putting a stop to them in the first place is another. It was to this end that UGLE responded with a letter from David, titled ‘Enough is Enough’, which ran as a full-page advert in both The Times and Daily Telegraph newspapers. The letter called for an end to the ongoing gross misrepresentation of its 200,000-plus members.
‘We need to open up and talk about what we do; we needn’t be afraid of being both proud of who we are and our membership,’ David says. ‘We are the only organisation that faces repeated calls to publish our membership lists. We are the only organisation linked to a whole host of rumours and conspiracy theories, despite there being no substantial evidence to any of it. It’s important to not allow these myths to perpetuate in the public eye, and take on the critics with the facts.’
In the spirit of transparency, David embarked on a series of interviews with the press. Whether it was laying to rest myths, highlighting community work and charity fundraising or outlining what it means to be a Freemason, no stone was left unturned. ‘I did 24 interviews in one day,’ he recalls. ‘But if you’re portraying yourselves as an open organisation, you need to make yourself available in order to demonstrate that openness.’
With Freemasonry thrust into the spotlight, David believes the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign provides a strong communication platform going forward. ‘We need to be out there, as we have been for the last few months, taking journalists around our masonic centres, introducing journalists to Freemasons and letting them make their own minds up, according to what they see and what they find.
‘The Open Days being held in our Provinces are also important, as they allow us to engage not just with potential members, but also with our critics,’ continues David. ‘We shouldn’t shy away from that – we won’t convince everybody and we certainly won’t change everybody’s mind, but we want to give a true impression of who we are and what we do, and allow people to make up their own minds. Ultimately, we need to be in the public space for the things we should be known for.’
Opening up, inviting in
Freemasons’ Hall in London may have initially taken centre stage, but Provinces up and down the country have now embraced the campaign. Open evenings and interactive Q&A events have been taking place in masonic halls, inviting members of the public to find out more about Freemasonry and ask any questions.
Demonstrating the effectiveness of the campaign, there has been a rise in membership enquiries as people seek to find out more. Philip Bullock, Wiltshire Provincial Grand Master, says, ‘It’s had an effect in raising our profile, which has had a positive effect on the number of enquiries made to our Provincial office and website. Our Sarsen Club for younger members is also proving extremely popular and is growing in terms of membership and activities.’
‘Enough is Enough’ has been an opportunity to further highlight the ongoing efforts of many Provinces. ‘For the past four years we’ve taken a very proactive approach in making ourselves more visible,’ says Philip. ‘At the end of last year, we acquired a new display trailer that will be out and about appearing at county fairs, shows and marketplaces. This will allow us to expand our visible presence in the community.’
Further north, in West Lancashire, the Province has been busy giving the media guided tours of its masonic halls. ‘The reaction across the Province has been positive,’ says Tony Harrison, West Lancashire Provincial Grand Master, ‘and most agree that it’s about time we answered back.’
Cheshire Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank, who also faced the cameras in an interview with the BBC, echoes those sentiments: ‘The reaction from my members has been overwhelmingly positive,’ he says. ‘We’ve always been proactive with our open evenings at masonic halls. We’ll continue to publicise these across the county, alongside our charitable and community activities. I think it’s very important that we continue to react swiftly and positively to any future attacks on Freemasonry.’
Changing of the guard
Graham Ives reflects on 10 years of teamwork free from preaching and dictating as he prepares to step down as Lincolnshire’s Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent
In the middle of May 2008, Graham Ives received a letter from the Grand Secretary that would change his life. The Grand Secretary had been instructed by the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, to offer Graham the position of Provincial Grand Master for Lincolnshire.
Graham was installed as Provincial Grand Master one month later. ‘I didn’t really know what the role held for me; it was a steep learning curve,’ he says. ‘For a time, I felt like a fish out of water, but I received much support, advice and friendship, and soon became very comfortable with the role.’
Graham’s rise to the role of Grand Superintendent in the Royal Arch happened at a more leisurely pace. ‘I had been a member of the Provincial Executive of the Royal Arch for a number of years before I became Grand Superintendent. I understood that role more fully and was immediately at ease with it,’ he says of the office, which he has held for as long as he has been Provincial Grand Master.
Occupying the two most senior roles in Lincolnshire Freemasonry, Graham knew there would be a tremendous amount to do in the years ahead. ‘Fundamental to my time in office has been a desire to reach out to every mason in the Province, whatever their rank. Whenever I was on an official visit, I ensured that I was talking not just to senior brethren and companions, but to everyone.
‘My hope was always that when I left the lodge or chapter, everyone would be smiling and would have enjoyed my presence as much as I had enjoyed their company – from the newest Entered Apprentice to the longest-serving Grand Officer. I genuinely believe that I have achieved that goal.’
Graham recognises how crucial those around him were during his time as Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent. ‘It would have been impossible for Lincolnshire to have achieved what it has without the capable and dedicated teams I have had the privilege of working with.’
Looking forward, Graham acknowledges that given the pace and form of modern Freemasonry, no one individual can accomplish all the tasks required. ‘The modern roles of the Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent are very similar now to those of a chief executive. I believe that it is an exciting time to be a Freemason and that we can all look forward with confidence to the future.’
HIGHLIGHTS FROM A DECADE AS PGM
Far exceeding Festival targets
‘Against a target of £1.5 million, Lincolnshire raised £2.75 million for the 2014 Festival for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. This was right at the top of my achievements during my term of office. I was overwhelmed by the way in which the brethren and their families donated their hard-earned money to this very worthy cause, especially when you recall that for part of the time, the country was in recession.’
The Tercentenary service in Lincoln Cathedral
‘In Lincolnshire, we celebrated the Tercentenary in fine style, culminating in a magnificent service in Lincoln Cathedral. It took a lot of organising by a large number of people, but it paid off handsomely. It was a splendid and moving feeling to see the brethren and their companions, together with families and friends, filling the cathedral to capacity, wearing full masonic regalia.’
The commitment to involving Provincial officers
‘I made a decision to invite the year’s acting Provincial officers to accompany me on all my official visits. I wanted to create the opportunity for it to be something very special, but this is a big Province, stretching from the Humber almost to Peterborough. Would the officers want to make those journeys? It turned out that they did, and the visits have been a resounding success for the acting Provincial officers as well as the brethren and companions of the lodges and chapters visited. I suspect that I shall miss those official visits more than anything else.’
Consolidating the Royal Arch in Lincolnshire
‘I was determined that the Royal Arch would play a prominent part during my terms of office, not only as Provincial Grand Master but also as Grand Superintendent. A number of successful initiatives have taken place, and I am very grateful to all the dedicated Royal Arch masons who have supported me in these ventures. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and Lincolnshire has one of the country’s highest percentages of Royal Arch masons in relation to Craft masons. We have consolidated the strength of the Royal Arch in Lincolnshire over the past 10 years, and there is a very sound platform to move forward.’
Provincial Grand Master Stephen Hookey, along with other members of the Provincial Executive, were in attendance to present a cheque for £2,500 to this year’s cast of Guys and Dolls as part of a rolling programme of awards from the Provincial Grand Charity.
University Lodge of Chester No. 4477, welcomed Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, Cheshire Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank and more than 100 masons to witness the initiation of seven new members
The ceremony was conducted by Professor Andrew Thomas. The Provincial Grand Master presented Sir David with a bottle of Scotch whisky, while the lodge presented him with a bottle of Cheshire gin.
Westmorland Youth Orchestra has received £1,000 from the Province of Cumberland & Westmorland
The cheque was presented to director of music Fredrik Holm by Provincial Grand Master Norman Thompson at a concert at Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale.
The hall was full to hear the 60 gifted young musicians. Classical and contemporary pieces performed ranged from ‘Danse Macabre’ by Saint-Saëns to ‘Viva la Vida’ by Coldplay and George Gershwin’s ‘An American in Paris’.
Norman said the cheque was the first of five annual £1,000 gifts to help the orchestra’s players reach their fullest potential.
Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons have generously donated nearly £61,000 to 26 charities supporting local communities in many areas including health-related charities.
The charities all gathered at an event at Freemasons’ Hall in Leicester to receive their donations from the Provincial Grand Master, David Hagger, and the Grand Superintendent of the Royal Arch Masons, Noel Manby, on behalf of Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons.
They included Leicester-based Mia Moos Foundation, which provides holidays for children with cancer, receiving a donation of £1,200 from the Leicestershire and Rutland Masonic Charity Association.
Mia Moos was set up in 2016 by Chris Phipps after this daughter Mia was diagnosed with leukaemia at 21-months-old. Chris said: 'Three weeks ago we managed to purchase a static caravan at Butlins so families with children on oncology wards can apply to us for a weekend or week away free of charge with full access to Butlins. They can get a break from their hospital treatment on the east coast for some sea and sand and time away with their families.'
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, who are committed to eradicating type 1 diabetes which affects 29,000 children in the UK, received a donation of £600 from Holmes Chapter No. 4656.
Members of the Morley Lodge No. 8320 donated £1,300 to the Leicestershire Autistic Society, which provides support, information and advice to families and professionals dealing with Autism in Leicestershire, Leicester City and Rutland. It is volunteer led organisation, where the vast majority of their volunteers are parents or carers of someone with Autism spectrum disorder.
Linda Hardcastle from Leicestershire Autistic Society said: 'We do provide a play scheme in the summer holidays for children with very severe autism. We used to get grants for this from the city and county council but we don’t anymore, so the money for this has to be raised. Thank you very much to the Freemasons for this donation which will be so helpful in funding this scheme.'
Provincial Grand Master David Hagger said: 'Freemasonry is now one of the largest charitable givers in the UK, and we are thrilled to be able to support charities working in our local communities.'
Simon Wills, General Manager of Babbacombe Model Village in Torquay, Devon, had invited Ian to view the latest introduction to their collection – an exact replica of the iconic Freemasons' Hall building in Great Queen Street. Ian was also featured in his dress regalia as part of the new model demonstration.
These models had taken many months to build and also included in their new City display is a model of Mark Masons Hall.
The village, which has been open since 1963, houses hundreds of model scenes of famous and iconic buildings which can be found around the country, surrounded by waterfalls and water features and includes over 13,000 miniature residents who live there.
Simon also kindly offered to donate 50% of the entrance fee from Devonhsire Freemasons and their families to help fund the MCF Masonic Charitable Foundation Devonshire Festival 2023.
The ties were sold to Derbyshire Freemasons, with the profits destined for charitable causes.
The tie depicts a poppy with the leaf pointing to 11am to represent the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The square and compasses point to 5am to represent the actual time that the armistice was first signed. The tie can only be worn by members during November as a mark of gratitude to our armed forces.
The cheque was presented by the Provincial Grand Master Steven Varley at an informal ceremony, following a talk by staff of their Drop In Centre in Derby explaining the important work undertaken in supporting ex-military personnel returning home.
Lilly Clements, Community Fundraiser for the Royal British Legion, said: ‘We are honoured that the Masons have chosen us to support the Poppy Appeal.’
Disabled people supported by a Harrogate charity will be able to step into a whole new world, thanks to Yorkshire Freemasons
In a bid to equip customers for independent living, Disability Action Yorkshire is turning to virtual reality to help train and prepare them for a host of everyday life experiences, including supermarket shopping and travelling by public transport.
Members of the town’s Spa Lodge No. 7609 secured a grant of £2,000 from the Provincial Grand Master’s Fund, which has been used for the charity’s Virtual Independence Project to purchase a Garmin spherical camera, Oculus Go virtual reality headset and a new laptop computer to edit the recorded footage.
Disability Action Yorkshire Chief Executive Jackie Snape said: 'Thanks to the Spa Lodge nominating us for this generous grant, our training sessions for customers will be totally revolutionised.
'Whilst many are keen to live as independently as possible, the reality is that some people have had little or no experience of everyday life – our Virtual Independence Project will change all that.
'Our customers will be able to experience what it is like to travel on a bus independently, travel around a busy shopping centre or supermarket, or prepare and cook a simple meal. The aim is that once people have gained confidence in a virtual setting they will then go to try new experiences in daily life.'
Doug Mills, Spa Lodge Charity Steward, said: 'Charity is one of the three grand principles of Freemasonry and I’m delighted that we have been able to support Disability Action Yorkshire in kick-starting their Virtual Independence Project.
'With the camera, the charity will now be able to develop a series of 360-degree videos, which will help train and prepare customers keen to explore new experiences. I tried the headset on myself, and whilst it was great fun I could see a real benefit for those who lack confidence in undertaking simple tasks which, to them, can seem like major obstacles.
'The visit to Disability Action Yorkshire’s Claro Road residential care home proved to be a very satisfying experience, particularly in the knowledge that Freemasons in the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding have provided financial support to the wider community.'