Fresh intake for Universities Scheme
Five years ago, Lincoln’s Saint Hugh Lodge, No. 1386, was admitted to the Universities Scheme. The undergraduates have brought vitality to the lodge and introduced many new young people to Freemasonry. PGM Graham Ives, Deputy PGM John Hockin and the Provincial team visited the lodge to witness the raising of five candidates in November. This was followed by the raising of five brethren and five initiations in subsequent months.
Over in Stoke-on-Trent, Universities Lodge of Staffordshire, No. 9907, has been consecrated at Shelton Masonic Hall, becoming the 65th lodge in the Universities Scheme. The Consecrating Officer was Past Assistant Grand Master David Williamson, President of the Universities Scheme.
Gareth Jones to be new Third Grand Principal
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes has announced at the December Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge that E Comp Gareth Jones is to succeeD David Williamson as Third Grand Principal
Peter Lowndes: I am delighted to announce that the MW The Grand Master in his capacity as First Grand Principal has appointed E Comp Gareth Jones, Past Deputy Grand Sword Bearer, who is better known in the Craft as Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, to succeed ME Comp David Williamson as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter, with effect from the Annual Royal Arch Investiture on 28 April 2016.
On that day I hope to have the pleasure of installing him. The contribution made by ME Comp Williamson in his capacity as Third Grand Principal for five years has been colossal, as, indeed, his contribution has been throughout masonry, but more about that on another occasion.
9 December 2015
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, I am so pleased to see the excellent turnout today and I would like to extend a very special welcome to those of you attending a Quarterly Communication for the first time. It was four years ago that we decided to admit Master masons to our Quarterly Communications meetings and the number who attend indicate that it has been a popular decision. Whilst you cannot vote, I hope it is still a worthwhile visit and that you will continue to come and encourage others to join you.
Since the last Quarterly Communication in September, the Grand Master celebrated his eightieth birthday on 9th October. On behalf of all of the members of the United Grand Lodge of England, a message of congratulations was sent.
2015 has been a very busy year. The particular emphasis has been on honing the initiatives to keep us in line with the overall mission to build a positive reputation for Freemasonry and assure its long term future.
Fundamental to ensuring that long term future has been the development of a clear strategy. The Membership Focus Group, supported by 18,000 responses from members to the recent surveys, has shaped this strategy which, in turn, has been approved by the Rulers and by the Provincial Grand Masters. The strategy concentrates on our vision and our values. Our 2020 strategic objectives are attached to the front cover of the latest edition of Freemasonry Today.
This enables all our members to read the strategy, it also asks members to help in supporting both the strategy and the objectives. To be clear, this strategy can only be achieved with the support of the vast majority of the members.
Concurrently the Tercentenary Planning Committee has been making great progress whilst liaising with Provincial Grand Masters, Provincial Grand Secretaries and Provincial 2017 Representatives. The majority of Provinces have advised the Planning Committee of the main events that are being planned locally – sometimes with neighbouring Provinces. I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm which is being shown as we approach the United Grand Lodge of England’s 300th milestone celebration.
I am delighted to confirm that the Charity Commission has formally approved the establishment of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. This has taken a long time to achieve and was a complicated operation overseen by the Deputy Grand Master and with most able help from the Charity Presidents, Chief Executives and Boards of Trustees We should all be most grateful to them for their hard work.
Preparations for the launch of the Masonic Charitable Foundation in April 2016 are continuing. A shadow board and various committees have been formed and during the past few weeks the first senior staff appointments have been made. David Innes of the RMBI has been selected as the Foundation’s first Chief Executive and Les Hutchinson of the RMTGB has been appointed Chief Operating Officer. They have a wealth of experience and knowledge about masonic charity and are well placed to lead the Foundation. I believe it is important to note that they faced strong competition for these jobs from outside the masonic charities.
In advance of April’s launch, publicity about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be increased throughout the Craft and beyond. As you leave today you will be handed a simple leaflet which introduces you to the identity and approach of the new charity.
Brethren, I am delighted to announce that the Most Worshipful The Grand Master in his capacity as First Grand Principal has appointed Excellent Companion Gareth Jones, Past Deputy Grand Sword Bearer, who is better known in the Craft as Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, to succeed Most Excellent Companion David Williamson as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter, with effect from the Annual Royal Arch Investiture on 28 April 2016. On that day I hope to have the pleasure of installing him. The contribution made by ME Comp Williamson in his capacity as Third Grand Principal for five years has been colossal, as, indeed, his contribution has been throughout masonry, but more about that on another occasion.
Brethren, it only remains for me to wish you and your families a very happy Christmas. In recent times, brethren, we have tended to refer to Christmas as the Festive Season. In Paris last weekend at the GLNF we were wished a Happy Christmas by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel during his speech in GLNF and afterwards I was wished the same by several brethren from other religious backgrounds. They all consider us to be grossly over sensitive on the subject. So, Happy Christmas, everyone!
Festival welcome in Chester
The 15th annual festival of the Association of Medical, University and Legal Lodges (AMULL) was held this year in Chester and attended by around 130 members, their wives and other guests.
During the past year AMULL lost its chairman, John Harvey, who was killed in a motor accident. Subsequently David Williamson, Past Assistant Grand Master and the then President of the Universities Scheme, accepted the offer to become the Association’s new leader.
Chester Cathedral was the venue for the annual ecumenical service, led by the Dean of Chester and Nigel Pett, Assistant Grand Chaplain. Next year the festival returns to London to be hosted by Western Circuit Lodge, No. 3154.
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.
The Universities Lodge of Staffordshire No. 9907, was Consecrated on 5th September 2015 at Shelton Masonic Hall in Stoke-on -Trent, Staffordshire, becoming the 65th Lodge in the Universities Scheme
The Consecrating Officer was RW Bro David Kenneth Williamson PAGM, President of the Universities Scheme and recently returned from Consecrating the Universitas Lodge No.9917 in South Africa, who was ably assisted by a team from Grand Lodge. The Installing Master was RW Bro Alexander I. Stewart TD, Provincial Grand Master of Staffordshire, who Installed as the primus Worshipful Master W. Bro David Firth, PPrGSuptWks (Cheshire).
The event was attended by approximately 130 Freemasons, including the Organising Secretary W.Bro Peter Hughes, thirty Founders, and representatives from many other Provinces. The Consecrating Officer was able to confirm the new Lodge as a member of the Universities Scheme and of the Association of Medical, University and Legal Lodges (AMULL). The Lodge will serve the Universities of Keele and Staffordshire primarily and has already received application forms from fourteen students, all eager to join following attendance at the Fresher’s Fair in mid-September. The first meeting of the lodge, in October 2015, will be a triple Initiation.
The event was made the more memorable by the fact that mid-ceremony the Organist announced that the organ was on fire! The crisis was dealt with by a serving Fire Officer who was present amongst the brethren, while the Consecrating Officer smoothly continued the ceremony with barely a pause, an organ” transplant” being effected!
RW Bro. Williamson ends his tenure as President of the Universities Scheme in November 2015 after a decade in the role, handing over to Assistant Grand Master RW Bro Sir David Hugh Wootton. He will not, however, be ‘resting on his laurels’ as he will become President of AMULL.
Varsity scheme is 10
Universities Scheme President David Williamson, Chairman Edward Lord, and past and present members of the committee came together in January with Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes and many other senior Freemasons to celebrate the scheme’s first decade of existence and hard work.
With the initiative having grown from two lodges to 62 since its inception, and currently expanding into the Royal Arch, it has achieved much, with some lodges now being specifically consecrated as Universities Scheme lodges. Its fifth National Conference will be held in Leicester in November.
Top marks for Universities Scheme
It was a special occasion when six students at the University of Buckingham joined Grenville Lodge, No. 1787, which meets on the campus, at the same time. Among the guests at the initiation were Past Assistant Grand Master and President of the Universities Scheme David Williamson and Buckinghamshire PGM Gordon Robertson. Lodge Secretary Andrew Hough said, ‘I am pleased that increasing numbers of people are recognising the advantages of joining Freemasonry, which stresses friendship, decency and charity. It’s also great fun.’
Not to be outdone, Castle of Leicester Lodge, No. 7767, has also undertaken a sextuple initiation ceremony. It was a fitting day for Master Bryan Weston in his final meeting, having initiated 13 brethren in 2014. The lodge has seen a steady influx of candidates since joining the Universities Scheme in January 2013. Indeed, the ceremony came just days after the lodge conducted a quintuple passing in the Leicestershire and Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 7896.
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.
RMTGB honours founder Ruspini
On 5 March, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB) held a church service to dedicate a memorial tablet in honour of its founder, Chevalier Bartholomew Ruspini, at his burial place, St James’s Church, Piccadilly. The service was attended by more than 100 people, including current and former trustees, staff from the masonic charities, and staff and pupils from the Royal Masonic School (RMS), established by Ruspini in 1788.
David Williamson – at his final formal engagement as Assistant Grand Master – delivered the first of two readings, the other being read by RMS Headmistress Diana Rose. The main address was delivered by RMTGB President Mike Woodcock, who spoke about the world in which Ruspini lived and his pioneering contributions to dentistry and philanthropy.
Letters to the editor - No. 26 Summer 2014
While I was at the University of Surrey I spent a year working as an intern at publishing companies in London. It was thanks to the Freemasons and to Freemasonry Today that this was possible. My ambition is to work in the field of publishing, but as almost all publishing houses are in London and I live in Dorset, I was becoming despondent.
I knew I could not afford to take up offers of unpaid internships in London, but then my Grandad read, in his Freemasonry Today magazine, an article about Ruspini House and about the help given to the children and grandchildren of Freemasons.
I was given a grant and accommodation in Ruspini House several times during that year whilst completing internships at different publishing companies.
I was so grateful for the help of the Freemasons and went on to complete my course and gain a BA Hons in English Literature. How surprised and delighted I was to be given my degree by HRH The Duke of Kent, who I know is also Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. So, thank you Grandad and Freemasons everywhere.
The RMTGB’s Ruspini House in central London provides accommodation for students