The success of the Classic 300, a nationwide series of classic car runs supporting UGLE’s Tercentenary celebrations in 2017, has given rise to Square Wheels Lodge, No. 9966, consecrated in the British Motor Museum in Warwickshire. Edwin Smith meets the lodge that’s making a lot of noise
You have to be a certain sort of person to have a love for classic cars,’ says Peter Manning, Primus Master of Square Wheels Lodge. ‘And there’s an affinity between classic cars and Freemasonry.’
If the early days of the lodge are anything to go by, he’s not wrong. The lodge was only consecrated a few months ago, but already it has 90 members and a calendar brimming with events.
The genesis of the lodge, Peter explains, can be traced back to the Classic 300 – a series of 17 classic car rallies that took place across the country during the Tercentenary year, under the auspices of what was then the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club. When chairman John Cole chose to retire, the decision was taken to move the club from its base in Reading. ‘We settled on Warwick,’ says founding Secretary, now Senior Warden Peter Hughes, ‘because it’s at the centre of the country, it’s close to a lot of motor production, and it’s got a lovely masonic hall.’
The name of the classic car club was also changed to Square Wheels. It’s not necessary to be a Freemason in order to be a member of the car club but, Peter says, ‘the consensus was that the club could easily give birth to a lodge. We created a petition and David Macey, the Warwickshire Provincial Grand Master, who’s a petrolhead himself, supported it wholeheartedly.’
With the two Peters on the case, along with Lodge Secretary Bernard Foad tinkering under the bonnet, preparations accelerated. The warrant was secured in July last year and the consecration took place in October at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon – a ‘brilliant venue, full of classic cars,’ says Peter Manning. Some 253 people attended, including three Provincial Grand Masters: David Macey was the Consecrating Officer, Mike Wilkes of Hampshire & the Isle of Wight was the Consecrating Senior Warden, and Bob Vaughan of Worcestershire was the Consecrating Junior Warden.
The oil used during the ceremony was, appropriately, ‘Castrol R’ motor oil. ‘I wanted to burn it by putting a few drops in the censer,’ says Peter. ‘You really get the smell when it’s burning, but our Provincial Grand Chaplain suffers from asthma, so it wasn’t a good idea.’
'We'll take our wives and partners with us. They'll have the morning off while we have our meeting and then we'll go for a run around the Cotswolds and head home.’
The lodge has 75 founding members, 20 honorary members and welcomed a further 15 members early this year. It will primarily be based at Alderson House, a handsome Grade-II-listed Georgian building on the High Street in Warwick. Some of the lodge’s meetings in 2019, however, will take place elsewhere.
‘We’ll have four meetings a year,’ says Peter Manning. ‘Two in Warwick and the other two will be peripatetic – we’re taking the lodge to the members around the country.’ On 4 May, the lodge will meet in Bristol. ‘We will be taking wives and partners down with us. They can have the morning off while we have our meeting. After lunch, we will go for a run around the Cotswolds, have afternoon tea, and then head home.’
Another meeting is planned for Burton-on-Trent in July. ‘We want to spread the word around the country,’ says Peter Manning. ‘That’s one of the principal aims: for the lodge to visit its members rather than waiting for them to come to us.
‘I hope it’s going to be an extremely active lodge,’ he adds, ‘both masonically and socially. We want to make sure that partners get involved. At a lot of lodges, I think a problem can be that wives occasionally feel alienated, or at least not a part of it. But, clearly, we don’t want that to be the case.’ To that end, Peter Manning and others have also planned to organise an informal picnic every six weeks at a beauty spot or a National Trust venue.
There’s a need to keep ‘clear water’ between the car club and the lodge itself, but it is hoped that by touring around the country and remaining open to non-Freemasons, the club will fuel the future of the lodge. ‘The idea is to promote Freemasonry to the public through the club,’ he says. ‘We’re hoping it will be a feeder for initiates into the lodge.’
The cars themselves may prove to be a draw as well, with a huge range of vehicles in the club, from legendary marques to cute vintage runabouts. ‘There are some fairly heavy motors in the club,’ says Peter Hughes, but it’s his 1970 Fiat 500 that he describes as his ‘pride and joy’. ‘The biggest problem with my Fiat is keeping it away from my daughters,’ he says. It’s a far cry from the challenges he came up against in his early motoring life. He raced in Formula 3, and even shared a grid with the late, great Ayrton Senna. ‘I emphasise “shared a grid with”,’ he says, laughing. ‘It wasn’t “racing”. He went one way while I seemed to go backwards by comparison.’
Peter Manning is also very keen to emphasise that the club isn’t all about luxury or high-powered sports cars. On the contrary, ‘there’s a huge cross-section of vehicles,’ he says. ‘We’ve got loads of members who have MGBs and Austin 7s and goodness knows what. We’ve also got some beautiful pre-war Bentleys, but the nice thing is that it’s reflective of Freemasonry.’ What does he mean by that? ‘It might sound a bit poetic,’ Peter says, ‘but I mean it in the sense that everybody here has got the same passions: motoring and Freemasonry. It doesn’t really matter what you drive – we all enjoy it for what it is. It’s a great atmosphere we’ve created.’
Looking to the future, Peter Hughes is adamant that Square Wheels Lodge has the pulling power needed for further growth. Some of his back-of-the-envelope calculations based on research carried out by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs suggest that there might be as many as 10,000 Freemasons who own classic cars. ‘It’s predominantly a hobby for males over the age of 40,’ he says. ‘Which sounds a bit like Freemasonry.’
Other specialist motoring lodges are also beginning to spring up. ‘There’s a new one at the Mini factory in Oxfordshire, as well as Derbyshire, Cheshire and West Wales. I think a lot of Provinces are looking at this.’ He points to the Widows Sons, the association of Freemason motorcyclists, as an example of a community that can be built around a special interest. ‘They are huge on the charity side of things and everybody knows them – they have done very well. I think it’s a pattern we could follow.’
In fact, Peter Hughes sees no reason why there couldn’t be a national Freemasons’ association for classic vehicle enthusiasts. ‘I’d quite like us to take a lead; it would encourage people to visit other Provinces and build ties through meetings and cross-visiting. That’s got to be the next project.’
'We have to get out there and tell the general public all about Freemasonry', is the constant theme hammered home by Robert Vaughan, Provincial Grand Master of Worcestershire – and it inspired the Lodge of St Michael No. 1097 to set up a stand at the Annual Countryside Show in their home town of Tenbury Wells
The result was a healthy interest among visitors of the Masonic items on show and six potential new lodge members.
'We are delighted,' said Past Master John Rawlings, 'we were able to show Freemasonry in its true light and destroy some of the myths surrounding the Craft.'
The venture also threw up two remarkable coincidencies. A member of the Tenbury Show from the off in 1858 – and almost certainly one of the founders – was John Barber, who was also a founder of the St Michael Lodge in 1866. John Barber was a prominent dignitary in those Victorian times – a Master of Arts, a justice of the peace (JP), and from, 1866 to 1871, Deputy Grand Master of Worcestershire.
There is even a stained glass window dedicated to him at a church in nearby Knighton-on-Teme. It bears the square and compasses and was presented to the church by the Province of Worcestershire and the members of St Michael’s Lodge.
Lodge of St Michael, No. 1097, based in Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, is 115 years old
To celebrate, at the Annual Giveaway it presented cheques totalling £10,000 to 18 local charities and good causes, plus two defibrillators for the Tenbury area.
PGM Robert Vaughan and Tenbury Wells Mayor Cllr Mark Willis attended, along with representatives from the recipients.
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.
Triple backing for Midlands Air Ambulance rescue services
Three Provincial Grand Masters, Robert Vaughan (Worcestershire), Tim Henderson-Ross (Gloucestershire) and the Reverend David Bowen (Herefordshire) with his deputy Michael Roff, presented cheques totalling £12,000 to Midlands Air Ambulance.
Receiving the cheques was Michelle McCracken, fundraising manager at Strensham air ambulance base. The donations form part of the Masonic Charitable Foundation’s support for all of the 22 air rescue services in England and Wales, which since 2007 has totalled more than £2 million. An additional £6,000 was presented by the Reverend David Bowen from the Herefordshire Masonic Charity Association.
The brethren in the Isle of Man once again showed their hospitality when 26 visiting brethren from many Provinces in the UK, visited the island to attend the consecration meeting of Henry Callow Lodge No 9916.
The consecration of a new lodge is a fairly rare occurrence and it is considered an honour for a Provincial Grand Master to preside over. Keith Dalrymple, the Provincial Grand Master for the Isle of Man has previously acted as a consecrating officer when he presided over the consecration of the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Lodge No 9872, three years ago and he was delighted to again be honoured by taking the office of consecrating officer for the meeting.
The meeting started with the procession of the Provincial Grand Master and his Provincial team into the lodge room in the Masonic Hall in Douglas. After opening the lodge Keith explained the purpose of the meeting. The petitioners of the new lodge were arranged in order by Roger Southern, the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies. The warrant was inspected by the consecrating officer and then read aloud to the brethren by Martin Blackburn the Provincial Grand Secretary. The consecrating officer then confirmed his intention to constitute the petitioners into a regular lodge and to consecrate it according to ancient usage.
An oration was delivered by William Ashton the Deputy Grand Superintendent for the Isle of Man, titled ‘The nature and purpose of our institution’ Bill said: “The very title of the oration, in itself, poses questions. What is this institution of ours. What is freemasonry? Is it a secret society? We answer that with the glib and hackneyed phrase, ‘not a secret society but a society with secrets‘”.
Bill continued: “Is it really? What secrets? Our ritual has been in the public domain for many years. Complete and very detailed descriptions of the degrees which we work, together with the signs and the words. So what secrets. Consider the answer to the question posed before passing to the second degree – what is Freemasonry? – a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. I would suggest that the true secrets of Masonry are to be found in the allegorical ritual and you have to find them. That is the way, and the only way, by which you will make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge.
Masonry is a discipline of conduct and of the mind. It is also a challenge. It is a challenge we brought upon ourselves from the moment we took the obligation of an initiate. Over the years we move on to further degrees in Craft, in Royal Arch, and degrees beyond the Craft. Each one contained a particular commitment but all have similar aims ‘the love for our creator’, our love for our fellow-man, and a knowledge of ourselves. How to further that knowledge and love for the good of humanity.
In a world that is plunging into anarchy, lawlessness, man’s inhumanity to man, greed, selfishness and confusion we look to our Masonic principles and tenets for guidance. We look to our lodges where we can briefly escape the rigours of the outside and enjoy the company of our fellow Masons – like-minded men endeavouring to live by the same high principles. A virtual oasis. A normality the like of which cannot be found elsewhere.
The name chosen for the lodge throws further responsibilities on the members of the new lodge: Deemster Henry William Callow, Past Provincial Grand Master of the Province of the Isle of Man, was greatly admired and well respected. He was an honest and friendly man who openly professed his Masonic standing and allegiance to all. He was undoubtedly held in high estimation by the brethren of this and other Provinces. He justly deserves the honour bestowed on him.”
Bill concluded his oration by saying: “We are expecting good things of you and we will be observing your progress with great interest. We wish you well in all your undertakings. Remember the high standards that will be expected, obey the book of constitutions, obey your by-laws, and above all, obey the volume of the sacred law and its commandments.
Thou shalt love the lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul. And with all thy mind and with all thy strength. That is the first and greatest commandment. The second of these is - thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. If we do not live by these two great laws how can we reasonably expect to convey to the outside world the happy and beneficial effects of our ancient institution.
Martin Luther King famously had a dream, so did Robert Burns ‘For a’ that and a’ that it’s coming yet for a’ that that man to man the world o’er shall brithers be for a’ that.
A dream? Maybe, but we can and must strive towards it. We can hope and pray that come what may someday the human race will embrace these same principles and these same teachings, perhaps then the dream will become reality.”
The consecration then took place with the solemnity, and ceremonial, accompanied by music and psalms as the vessels containing corn wine and oil were carried around the lodge. The consecrating officer then sprinkled salt upon the lodge board and the founders as a symbol of fidelity, hospitality and everlasting friendship.
The consecration was followed by the installation of the Worshipful Master designate Captain Eidwin Mullan conducted by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master for the Isle of Man, Alexander Downie OBE.
This was followed by the appointment of lodge officers, which saw Fred Wright (that well-known West Lancs Mason) appointed and invested as Junior Warden.
The address to the WM was given by Keith Dalrymple. The address to the wardens was given by the Provincial Junior Grand Warden, Michael Garrett and the address to the brethren was given by Provincial Senior Grand Warden, Nigel Bowrey.
The business of the lodge was conducted this included the election of six honorary members which included the PrGM, DepPrGM, PrGSec and PrGDC.
Six joining members were balloted for, one of whom was Joeseph Williams who is a member of Croxteth United Services Lodge No 786 in the Province of West Lancashire.
At the conclusion of lodge business the lodge was closed in due form and the brethren then enjoyed a wonderful festive board, which started with the traditional starter of Manx Queenies with garlic and bacon, followed by roast beef and seasonal vegetables, followed by panna cotta with winter berries with a selection of Manx cheeses served with a glass of port.
Responding to the toast to the consecrating officer, Keith said: “I am happy and proud today as I was 45 years ago when Deemster Henry William Callow first called be a brother”
Responding to the toast to his health Eidwin thanked all the brethren that had worked hard over the last year to ensure that the new lodge could be formed, he said he never thought that he would be asked to serve as the first WM, but having been asked to do so he was honoured to do so. Eidwin then spoke about the lodge motto ‘Shereish’ or ‘Service’ which he said meant that the members of Henry Callow Lodge would be there to help any lodge in the Province, to improve Freemasonry by giving demonstrations and being there to serve when-ever they are needed.
Robert Vaughan, Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Worcestershire responded to the toast to the health of the visitors, he expressed his thanks to the brethren for their hospitality and the warmth of their welcome. He presented Eidwin with a bottle of Worcester Sauce and a Provincial Stewards Grand Lodge tie worn by the Provincial Stewards Lodge in Worcestershire and a crystal decanter for the WM and brethren of the Henry Callow Lodge to use to serve Port at their festive boards.
After midnight the brethren left to go home the visiting brethren returned to their hotels, some spending time over another glass of wine reflecting on the wonderful day they had in the Isle of Man.
The following morning offered time for the brethren to relax before flying back home.
On song at Worcester Cathedral
Thanks to a donation of £200,000 from the Province of Worcestershire, a new link has been forged between local masons and the magnificent Worcester Cathedral following the rededication of the cathedral’s refurbished Song School building.
The money was mostly part of a large legacy left by Derek Bullivant, who was active in the Province.
The Song School houses the choirs’ rehearsal rooms, library and storage facilities and was in a sad state of repair. The rededication, which took place outside the door of the Song School, followed an Evensong Service attended by Provincial Grand Master Robert Vaughan and other Worcestershire Freemasons.
RW Bros Tim Henderson-Ross, the Rev David Bowen and Robert Vaughan presented Annie Newell, Fundraising Manager at Strensham air ambulance base, with a combined donation of £12,000 as part of Grand Charity's support to all 22 rescue services in England and Wales – financial support which since 2007 has totalled nearly £2m.
The country’s air ambulance service, without either government or National Lottery funding, relies on such voluntary donations to operate its critical role. Annie Newell, in her final year as Fundraising Manager, expressed her sincere gratitude for the continued commitment and generous support given to the charity by Freemasons over many years. Michelle McCracken will be taking over Annie’s responsibilities in September.
Kidderminster masons have built their new lodge rooms attached to the Chester Road Sports and Social Club
The arrangement is proving a success, with goodwill and mutual support that sees the cricketers busy in summer and the masons fully occupied in winter. Strengthening this relationship, Robert Vaughan, Worcestershire Provincial Grand Master (shown above, left, with club chairman Norman Broadfield), presented a cheque for £3,000 towards a new electronic cricket scoreboard.