The end of mythology
John Hamill looks back to the pivotal moment in 1984 when Freemasonry had to confront its negative image with a policy of openness
Reviewing the many events that took place in our Provinces and Districts during the Tercentenary celebrations, I was struck by the number that included families, friends and members of the public. As the Pro Grand Master said in his review of the year, those events exemplified our membership’s renewed spirit of confidence and its pride in the Craft. It also reveals members’ wish to share that pride with their communities.
To most of the current members, being so visible in their communities last year was something new. However, like many things in Freemasonry, it was a welcome return to the past. Up to the outbreak of the Second World War, Freemasonry was a very visible part of the community. Meetings at national and local levels were freely reported in the national and local press: two weekly masonic newspapers and a monthly magazine were on public sale. Freemasons regularly appeared in public ‘clothed in the badges of the order’ either laying foundation stones of new structures or taking part in civic processions or those celebrating national events. As a result, Freemasons were both known and respected in their local communities.
A MUCH-NEEDED WAKE-UP CALL
During the war, Freemasonry turned in on itself and, with a shortage of newsprint, much social reporting disappeared from the media. After the war, introversion continued and Freemasonry gradually disappeared from the public consciousness. An unwillingness by Grand Lodge to engage with the media when they misreported Freemasonry allowed a mythology to grow. This was greatly helped by the less scrupulous in the world of journalism who knew they could write what they wished about Freemasonry without any fear of an official comeback from Grand Lodge.
The mythology and its effect on Freemasonry came to a head in 1984 with the publication of the late Stephen Knight’s anti-masonic rant, The Brotherhood: The Secret World of the Freemasons, which, for the first time in English Freemasonry, brought together the strands of anti-masonry in one volume.
In effect, the book was a wake-up call to English Freemasonry. The lead was taken by the Grand Master, who asked the Board of General Purposes to seek ways of better informing the public as to what Freemasonry is – and its place in society – so that they had good solid information against which they could weigh the nonsense appearing in the media on an almost daily basis. That gave birth to what has become known as the Openness Policy, which the Grand Master has greatly supported since its inception.
AND A CONTINUING EVOLUTION
It has been a long process – a perfect example of the old adage that it takes years to build a good reputation, seconds to lose it and years to rebuild it. I think that future historians will see the events of 1984 and what followed as a watershed moment. Since then, Freemasonry has evolved, and taken a long look at what it is and how it should fit with modern society. Today, it is a relevant and contributing part of our communities, without having changed its basic principles and tenets.
After all the positive media coverage that we received during last year’s celebrations, it was more than sad that a reputable newspaper such as The Guardian should put on the front page a story about Freemasonry that contained three major untruths, which a call to Freemasons’ Hall could have corrected. The story, as we know, led to ‘Enough is Enough’, which is reported on in this issue. As you will see, it was not a one-off project to meet an immediate need, but will be a continuing process led from the centre, with the Provinces, Districts and Metropolitan area all having a crucial role to play.
Plans are in place to provide the tools from the centre to bolster and maintain that pride and confidence that was so evident during the celebrations. Having been involved in ‘openness’ since its inception, I am convinced that what is already in place and what is being developed for the future will change attitudes and the public’s perception of Freemasonry. There will always be a minority that will believe the myths and are not open to their minds being changed, but with time they will become an insignificant minority.
‘Freemasonry has evolved, and taken a long look at what it is and how it should fit with modern society’
Loudly and clearly
As Freemasonry builds on the success of the Tercentenary celebrations, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes says there is still much work to be done in promoting its values
We now have the Soane Ark back with us in the Grand Temple. As those of you who were at the Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, or those of you who read Freemasonry Today, will know, the original of this beautiful mahogany piece, the Ark of the Masonic Covenant, was made by Sir John Soane in 1813. It was dedicated at the great celebration marking the union of the Antient and Modern Grand Lodges in 1813, and the Articles of Union were deposited inside.
The Ark was tragically destroyed by fire in 1883, but the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) commissioned an exact replica for our Tercentenary, which was dedicated at the Royal Albert Hall in October. Then, as in 1813, we placed a facsimile of the Articles of Union inside it, as well as the three Great Lights.
It was on public display at Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the months after the Royal Albert Hall celebration, but now it has returned to its intended place in Grand Lodge. Triangular in form, it has at each corner a column of the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian order representing wisdom, strength and beauty, the three great pillars on which our lodges, including this Grand Lodge, are said to stand. I am sure that it will grace our Grand Lodge meetings for centuries to come.
STANDING UP FOR THE CRAFT
We have become only too well aware of the term ‘fake news’ in recent times, and we began this year with our own encounter with fake news. Many of you will have seen the coverage generated by the outgoing chairman of the Police Federation and The Guardian newspaper, and I trust you will have also seen our responses.
Let me assure you that UGLE will always stand up for its members, their integrity and their care for the communities from which they are drawn. It is my firm belief that policemen are better policemen for their membership of our proud organisation. However, it is not just policemen who can benefit from membership – lawyers, public servants and indeed all men benefit from the teaching our ceremonies have to offer. The time has come for the organisation to stand up and make these points loudly and clearly. Enough, brethren, is enough.
I have said it before and I say it again: I strongly believe that the future is bright for Freemasonry. We created a bow wave of optimism last year that produced a surge of interest in the Craft. We must now ensure that we maintain the momentum created and build on that legacy, and we will.
AN IMPORTANT ANNIVERSARY
This year, as you know, is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. I have no doubt that many of you will be commemorating this as appropriate in your area.
The current Freemasons’ Hall was built to commemorate those masons who lost their lives in that war. It was called the Masonic Peace Memorial but changed its name at the outbreak of the Second World War to Freemasons’ Hall. We shall commemorate the end of the First World War on 10 November 2018 under the auspices of Victoria Rifles Lodge, No. 822, and I am sure it will be an impressive occasion.
‘We must now ensure that we maintain the momentum created’
The Masonic Charitable Foundation has developed specialist knowledge and expertise in order to give more targeted support to beneficiaries, as Chief Executive David Innes explains
When HRH The Duke of Kent, Grand President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), visited our offices at Freemasons’ Hall earlier this year, I was delighted to introduce him to our team and explain what we have achieved so far as a charity.
With around 5,000 members of the masonic community and hundreds of local and national charities supported each year since our launch, I am confident that the MCF has become the type of organisation that we hoped to create, supporting people from all walks of life with a wide range of needs.
GETTING SMARTER ABOUT WHAT WE DO
One of the benefits of forming the MCF has been the opportunity to develop specialist knowledge and expertise, rather than spreading our resources across many areas and limiting our impact.
With this in mind, we have made an informed decision to focus our energies and resources more intelligently and become smarter at what we do. From now on, our Charity Grants programme – historically referred to as ‘non-masonic giving’ – will target funding where it is most needed. Over the next five years, our grants will focus on two groups that we know the masonic community is keen to support: the young and the old.
Some of our grants will fund charitable projects that create the best start in life for disadvantaged children. Others will go to charities that help to reduce isolation in later life and support older people to actively participate in society.
FOR THOSE WHO NEED IT MOST
Research has shown that the early years of a child’s life are crucially important to their health, well-being and success as an adult, while our growing and ageing population means that the number of older, potentially lonely people is increasing.
By focussing our funding within these overstretched and underfunded areas, our new grants programmes will, over time, help to address these issues in your communities across all Provinces.
Our support for hospices has also been updated to focus on grants for innovative and in-demand projects that target specific changes in the palliative care sector. This year, grants have focussed on bereavement care services.
All of our programmes will involve partnerships with some of the country’s leading charities, including Age UK and Hospice UK. These organisations have a wealth of expert knowledge in their respective fields that we can draw upon to ensure we reach the parts of society where people need us the most.
While we strive to improve the way that we tackle society’s big issues, the well-being of Freemasons and their families remains paramount. We’ve been working hard to make sure the masonic community knows who we are and what we do, and recent figures suggest that the message is working. We are giving more, to more people: the number of grants awarded is up by 9 per cent and the amount we spend to support Freemasons and their families has increased by 19 per cent.
None of this would be possible without the generosity of Freemasons, and their family and friends. Thank you for your support.
‘We have made an informed decision to focus our energies and resources more intelligently’
Grand Lodge regularly receives special visitors, and none were more welcome than a group of Chelsea Pensioners who were greeted by then-Grand Secretary Willie Shackell and Junior Grand Warden Sir Tony Baldry
On their tour of Freemasons’ Hall, the Chelsea Pensioners were taken around the Grand Temple, saw Winston Churchill’s masonic apron in The Library and Museum of Freemasonry and visited several lodge rooms.
Each was given the latest copy of Freemasonry Today, with some taking the opportunity to have a look around Letchworth’s, the masonic shop within the hall.
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.
Sara Rothwell has become the first winner of the Royal College of Organists’ Freemasons’ Prize
Sara came up from Fishguard in south-west Wales to play on the Grand Temple organ at Freemasons' Hall, where she was congratulated by Dr David Staples, Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).
Following this, Sara was then shown around Freemasons' Hall by Charles Grace, the Organ Curator, who was also oversaw the restoration of the Grand Temple organ.
The Freemasons’ Prize is awarded to the pupil who scores the most points overall in the Colleague of the RCO (CRCO) examinations.
Besides instituting this prize, UGLE are also funding Freemasons’ Bursaries to help less well-off pupils with organ tuition fees and travel expenses, as well as making the new digital organ in Temple 10 available to RCO pupils who wish to practice for their exams. The Grand Temple organ may be one of those used by the RCO for examination purposes.
Sara said: 'I am delighted to be the first winner of this prize and thrilled to be able to look round this beautiful building and have a chance to play this organ. It is a lovely instrument and Harrison & Harrison have done a wonderful job of renovating and enhancing it.'
Lifelites Chief Executive Simone Enefer-Doy has left Freemasons' Hall to kick-start her 2,500 mile journey to 47 famous landmarks to raise awareness of Lifelites and £50,000 for the charity
Dubbed 'A Lift for Lifelites', Simone will see Freemasons in nearly every Province in England and Wales and will be stopping at landmarks such as Hadrian’s Wall, Angel of the North and Bletchley Park in vehicles including a classic Rolls Royce, a camper van, a four seater plane, an E Type Jaguar and even a zip wire.
Simone said: 'With the help of Freemasons and their vehicles around the country, I’m on a mission to raise the profile of our work and raise more funds to reach more children whose lives could be transformed by the technology we can provide.'
We'll be updating this page regularly, including images, as Simone continues on her epic quest.
Day 14 – Thursday 7 June
That's a wrap! Simone completed her 14 day challenge and finished in style on ThamesJet speedboat with guests including United Grand Lodge of England Chief Executive Dr David Staples. Her fundraising currently stands at over £103,000.
Day 13 – Wednesday 6 June
It's the penultimate day, starting with a trip to Bedfordshire at the Shuttleworth Collection. The next stop was Silverstone racetrack in Northamptonshire, which included completing a lap in a Jaguar, before driving this to Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire. The last trip was to the home, studios and gardens of former artist Henry Moore in Hertfordshire.
Day 12 – Tuesday 5 June
Day 12 took in journeys across Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. The first stop was Gordon Boswell Romany Museum in Lincolnshire before using two vehicles, a Hudson Straight Six Touring Sedan and a Range Rover, to Bressington Steam and Gardens in Norfolk. There was still time to grab lunch at Bury St Edmunds Abbey in Suffolk before a BMW took Simone to her final stop in Cambridgeshire, which included a punt on the River Cam.
Day 11 – Monday 4 June
Simone crammed in four locations to start the week, with a wide variety of vehicles used. The day started in Yorkshire Sculpture Park before driving a 1977 Bentley to the National Tramway Museum in Derbyshire. It was from here that Simone then picked up a DeLorean to take her to Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire before completing the day by driving a gold Rolls-Royce to Victoria Park in Leicestershire.
Day 10 – Sunday 3 June
The week concludes with trips to Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire and East Riding, as well as the news that Simone had already hit her £50,000 target. Trips included the Millennium Bridge in Northumberland, the Angel of the North and a scenic drive across the Yorkshire Moors to Bolton Castle.
Day 9 – Saturday 2 June
Day nine saw visits to the Provinces of West Lancashire and Cumberland and Westmorland, with landmarks including Hadrian’s Wall in Cumbria and transport provided by a horse and cart.
Day 8 – Friday 1 June
Two Rolls-Royces helped provide the transport on day nine, with Simone starting at the Avoncroft Museum in Worcestershire, driving down to New Place in Warwickshire and then to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. There was still time to conclude the day by visiting Manchester Cathedral in East Lancashire.
Day 7 – Thursday 31 May
At the halfway point, Simone made trips to Cheshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire – starting out at the Georgian Hall Dunham Massey, then heading to the RAF Museum Cosford in a custom built Rewaco Bike and finally, to Arthur’s Stone.
Day 6 – Wednesday 30 May
Day six was solely focused in North Wales where Simone took on the challenge of the fastest zip wire in the world. This was then followed by making the journey to Chester in a six month old blue McLaren Spider and flanked by the Widows’ Sons motorcyclists and Blood Bike volunteers.
Day 5 – Tuesday 29 May
Day five was a journey across the borders for Simone as she ventured to Oxfordshire before heading west to Monmouthshire and continued to South Wales and West Wales. Landmarks included Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, Caerleon Amphitheatre in Newport, the Donald Gordon theatre in Cardiff and ending the day in the county town of Carmarthen to meet the Provincial Grand Lodge of West Wales.
Day 4 – Monday 28 May
Simone began day four by driving an Aston Martin DB9 to the Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare with help from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Somerset. A 1928 MG Riley saloon then took Simone to her next port of call, Clifton Suspension Bridge where the Provincial Grand Lodge of Bristol had a 1966 Austin Mini Cooper waiting to take her to Caen Hill Locks. It was here that Simone met representatives from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Wiltshire, before the final stop of the day saw her clock up the miles to Shaw House in Berkshire to be greeted by members of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Berkshire.
Day 3 – Sunday 27 May
Day three involved journeys to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. It started with a visit to Lulworth Cove in Dorset to be met by members from the Provincial Grand Lodge in a yellow camper van and to receive a donation of £2,000. Simone then ventured to Buckfast Abbey to receive a donation of £5,000 from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Devonshire before departing in a classic Rover to head to Lanhydrock House and Garden in Cornwall, where she received another donation of £1,750.
Day 2 – Saturday 26 May
Simone took to the sky for day two, meeting a representative from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Hampshire and Isle of Wight who drove her to Southampton to board a flight to Jersey, to meet members of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Guernsey and Alderney.
Day 1 – Friday 25 May
Simone has begun her challenge, leaving in a taxi escorted by a fleet of Widows Sons motorcyclists. This is the start of her 14 day road trip with a difference, using a variety of unusual and extraordinary forms of transport.
The next destination for Friday was Richmond Park where Simone was met by representatives from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex after arriving in a Porsche 550 Spyder. Further destinations included Guildford Cathedral, where Simone was met by a Noddy car, and Brighton Royal Pavilion, where the Provincial Grand Lodge of Sussex made a donation of £5,000.
Lifelites has a package of their magical technology at every children’s hospice across the British Isles and their work is entirely funded by donations. Through the journey they are seeking to raise £50,000 – that’s the cost of one of their projects for four years.
You can sponsor Simone by clicking here
The memorial paving stones outside Freemasons’ Hall commemorate Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War, and Royal Marine Portsmouth Lodge No. 6423 in Hampshire is fortunate to have one of those members amongst their founders
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the action that saw Sergeant Norman Augustus Finch, Royal Marine Artillery, awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the lodge dedicated their Installation Ceremony in April 2018 to his memory.
United Grand Lodge of England had commissioned wooden cut-out figures to display the details of each holder at their memorial unveiling, which were subsequently sent to those Provinces in which the individuals had been members. Norman’s one had been presented to his mother lodge, Lodge of Hope No. 2153, who kindly allowed its use at the meeting so that Norman’s presence could be felt by all.
Additionally, so that present and future members would have a lasting memorial to Norman before them during meetings and festivities, a statuette of a Royal Marine was dedicated to his memory. This statuette had previously been presented to the lodge by Jane Suter, the wife of one of their regular visitors, for use as the lodge saw fit, and it was mounted on a plinth on which Norman’s citation had been engraved by Mark Bizley of Hermes Lodge No. 5532.
Prior to the Installation of their new Worshipful Master Graham Jickells, the statuette was presented to the outgoing Master Gary Spencer-Humphrey, with an explanation of the significance delivered by David Barron. The lodge then fell silent as Ian ‘Taff’ Davies MBE gave an eloquent and moving rendition of the ‘Zeebrugge Citation’. On completion of the ceremony the new Master took ‘Norman’ to their Festive Board where he symbolically represented ‘All Absent Brethren’.
To put these events into context, it was no coincidence that Royal Marine Portsmouth Lodge was consecrated on 23rd April 1947 as this was the date in 1918 that the Zeebrugge Raid took place – a date that ranks with special significance amongst all Royal Marines. A raid that displayed the commitment, bravery, ‘daring-do’ and valour of those members of the Corps (in its then form, Royal Marine Light Infantry) that all those following in their footsteps could aspire to.
Norman was awarded the Victoria Cross under Clause 13 of the Royal Warrant, which provides for the recipient to be elected by his peers, who were present at the action.
Norman was initiated into Lodge of Hope in September 1918 and was subsequently a founding member of Royal Marine Portsmouth Lodge, when it was consecrated in 1947. He was their first Senior Warden, and the following year was installed as their second Worshipful Master – 30 years after being awarded his Victoria Cross.
Freemasons' Hall, the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England, has been recognised with two silver awards at the National Venue Awards on 11th May 2018 in Manchester
The building was honoured in the Best Historic Venue and Best Christmas Venue categories.
The National Venue Awards are a sister event to the already established and successful London Venue Awards, and seek to give the same recognised benchmark and badge of excellence for venues from anywhere in the UK.
The awards provide venues with the opportunity to showcase the excellence of their facilities, the creativity of their customer-facing teams and the exceptional quality of their overall service.
Members of Lodge of St Cuthberga No. 622 in Dorset travelled to Freemasons' Hall in London to present a cheque for £1,785 to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT)
The lodge's Past Master Geoff Knights and current Master Andy Gale presented the cheque inside Freemasons' Hall to Patrick Tonks, CHECT's Chief Executive, and Diana Emery, their Fundraising Manager. Geoff Knights said: 'During my term of office, I had funds for several charities and the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust was dear to everyone’s heart.'
The lodge raised a proportion of the funds through social events and lodge meetings. A large share however, was raised by James Smith, the lodge Charity Steward, when he and his wife Maria ran the London Marathon last year.
CHECT supports children with Retinoblastoma, which is a fast-growing eye cancer found in some babies and children under the age of six years. CHECT helps guide families through the shock, stress and practical challenges after diagnosis.
The charity funds research to improve understanding, treatments and outcomes and raises awareness to improve recognition and early diagnose of the disease.
Diana Emery said: 'I am over the moon with the amount raised by Dorset Freemasons as CHECT is a small charity with no public funding.'