It was a unique evening at Saint Nicholas Lodge No. 6377 in Ilfracombe on Wednesday 21st March 2018 where Ron Thompson, aged 97, was installed as Worshipful Master in a fine ceremony carried out by his predecessor Terry Bridges
Ron was also taken by surprise on the night when he was presented with a 70 Year Certificate of Service to Freemasonry on behalf of the Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire Ian Kingsbury. Ron was also given the rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden and presented with the badge and jewel of that office.
Ron was initiated back in February 1948 in a double initiation with his elder brother. They were initiated by their father in Pro Minimis Lodge No. 5180 which met at Freemasons' Hall in London. Ron became Master in 1960 and again in 1972.
When he moved to Devonshire in 1997, the lodge elected him to Honorary Membership. Ron also received London Grand Rank in 1975 and was Exalted in Pro Minimis HRA Chapter on 26th January 1956.
Ron joined Saint Nicholas Lodge and Davie HRA Chapter 3721 in 1997, but resigned as he moved to Essex where he joined Gunfleet Lodge No. 6884 and Le-Soken Chapter No. 2949. Having returned to Devon two years later, he rejoined both St Nicholas Lodge and Davie Chapter.
Ron was installed as MEZ of Davie Chapter in 2005 and appointed as Past Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah in 2009.
Last year, he served as Senior Warden in Saint Nicholas Lodge and the brethren were delighted when he agreed to become their Master.
14 March 2018
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, it is always a pleasure to see this magnificent temple as full as it is today, although it is hardly surprising bearing in mind the special nature of today’s meeting. Our Provinces and Districts, as well as those involved here at the centre, have taken a great deal of trouble in identifying those brethren most deserving of the honour that they have received today. I hope it has been a very special day for them and I really do congratulate and thank them. As always brethren, whilst congratulations are very much in order for all that you have done, particularly during the Tercentenary year, it also raises great expectations for your endeavours in the future.
We also have the Soane Ark back with us today. 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 Bro Sir John Soane in 1813. It was dedicated at the great celebration marking the Union of the Ancient and Modern Grand Lodges in 1813 and the Articles of Union were deposited inside.
It was tragically destroyed by fire in 1883, but 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 the Soane 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.
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, and 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 again I strongly believe that the future is bright for Freemasonry. We created a bow wave of optimism last year which 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.
This year is very much a year of change, particular of key personalities both here and in the Provinces and Districts. On your behalf I welcome Geoffrey Dearing to his first Quarterly Communication as President of the Board of General Purposes and, in April, David Staples, our CEO will become our new youthful and dynamic Grand Secretary, bringing together all the activities here in Freemasons’ Hall. Already this year we have installed two new PGMs as well as new DGMs in New Zealand South Island and SA Western Division. Both John Clark from Buckinghamshire and Anthony Howlett-Bolton from Berkshire are able to be present and I welcome them to their first Quarterly Communication as Provincial Grand Masters. We now start a steady stream of installations: nine Provincial Grand Masters and ten District Grand Masters, plus many Grand Superintendents in the Royal Arch. This will keep the Rulers in both the Craft and Royal Arch busy this year as we catch up on the backlog.
Although we have plenty of ceremonial work to do, I am also keen that we continue to visit Provinces and Districts in a less formal way. We are here to provide help and support and we must show it.
This year, as you know, is the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War – 'The Great War'. I have no doubt that many of you will be commemorating this, as appropriate in your area. This building was built to commemorate those masons who lost their lives in that war. It was called the Masonic Peace Memorial Building, 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 10th November 2018 under the auspices of Victoria Rifles Lodge and I am sure it will be an impressive occasion.
Brethren, I hope that today has been a memorable event for those I have invested. Many congratulations, once again, and remember there is no resting on your laurels.
To bring the union of the Grand Lodges into being, Articles of Union were agreed that laid the foundations of the United Grand Lodge of England. As such an important document, it was to be carried into each Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge by the Grand Registrar. Sir John Soane (1753-1837) offered to produce an ‘ark’ to stand in front of the Grand Master’s throne into which the document could be safely placed while the meeting was in progress
Soane was one of England’s greatest architects. He became a Freemason and, after the union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, was the first person to hold the new office of Grand Superintendent of Works. As such, he was the professional adviser overseeing the maintenance and development of Freemasons’ Hall in London.
The first work Soane produced for Grand Lodge was what became known as the Ark of the Masonic Covenant. It was an impressive piece of furniture, triangular in shape with an Ionic, Corinthian or Doric column at each corner and surmounted with a dome topped by Soane’s signature lantern.
The ark stood in front of the Grand Master’s throne from 1814 until 1883, when disaster struck. A fire broke out in the old Grand Temple, gutting its interior and destroying the portraits of former Grand Masters, as well as most of the furniture and Soane’s ark. Much was done to reconstruct the interior of the room and reinstate the paintings and furniture, but the ark was not replaced.
One of Soane’s 20th-century successors as Grand Superintendent of Works was architect Douglas Burford, who hoped one day to persuade Grand Lodge to have a replica constructed. It took 30 years for that dream to finally become a reality, and Burford was delighted to learn that, as part of the Tercentenary celebrations, Soane’s ark was to be reconstructed.
The project was one of cooperation between The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation and master wood carvers Houghtons of York. Their combined efforts produced a superb and accurate reconstruction of one of the lost treasures of Grand Lodge.
After appearing in an exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum, the ark was transported to the Royal Albert Hall for the great Tercentenary celebration, where it was dedicated by the Grand Master. Afterwards, like the original, it took its place in the Grand Temple as a permanent memorial.
From the Grand Secretary
Welcome to this Tercentenary souvenir edition of Freemasonry Today, which celebrates the achievements of 2017 while looking to the future with a quiet confidence. I say that in the knowledge that I will retire at the April Investiture and hand over to David Staples, our current dynamic CEO, which will bring back together all of the departments within Freemasons’ Hall under one head.
Clearly the Sky TV programme and the many events organised across the Provinces and Districts last year, which are commemorated in this special edition, considerably raised the profile of Freemasonry. It is now important that we maintain that momentum by promoting our values and relevance to society at every appropriate opportunity.
In this unique issue, we feature the events that helped make the Tercentenary so remarkable – from the especial meeting at the Royal Albert Hall to the teddy bears’ picnics, cathedral services and masonic parades held. These celebrations not only show what Freemasonry has achieved in its long history, but also demonstrate its ongoing commitment to communities and causes, both at home and overseas.
With this in mind, we draw from the masons we’ve interviewed in Freemasonry Today whom we feel represent the core values of Freemasonry. From Wayne Ingram, the mason who has been raising money in order to fund facial reconstructive surgery for a child he met in Bosnia, through to Sean Gaffney, who lost his leg in an accident only to win gold at the Invictus Games – these are the type of individuals taking Freemasonry forward for the next 300 years.
FATHERS OF FREEMASONRY
We also feature inspirational masons from history who have helped make the Tercentenary an anniversary worth celebrating. These are masons who worked tirelessly in their local communities, broke down social barriers and challenged the status quo in order to improve the lives of those about them – from the Duke of Sussex, who helped shape modern Freemasonry, through to Augustus John Smith, who brought education and hope to the residents of the Isles of Scilly. Reflecting the spirit of the Tercentenary as an ongoing journey, we call this issue Past, Present & Future.
Brethren, it has been a great privilege and pleasure to have been your Grand Secretary for the last two years, and I wish you well for what I know will be a bright future.
‘It is important that we maintain momentum by promoting our values and relevance to society’
A renewal of pride
For Director of Special Projects John Hamill, the Tercentenary celebrations have been an opportunity to reflect on the past, enjoy the present and plan for the future
One thing that I hope will come through to readers of this special souvenir edition of Freemasonry Today is that not only were the celebrations successful, but also that the brethren, their families and friends who attended them had a great deal of enjoyment in taking part – whether it was at the dramatic performance and ceremonial at the Royal Albert Hall or one of the many smaller local events.
The activities that took place around the country and in our Districts overseas were worthy of such a notable anniversary. But the celebrations were not limited to our own members. Many of our sister Grand Lodges around the world regarded the anniversary not just as being the Tercentenary of the Grand Lodge of England, but also the Tercentenary of the start of the organised, regular Freemasonry of which they now form a part.
Throughout the year there was a steady stream of visitors from other Grand Lodges who came to Freemasons’ Hall in London, simply to be here during a very special year and to say thank you to the ‘Mother Grand Lodge’.
PLACE FOR HUMOUR
Sometimes we take ourselves a little too seriously and forget that Freemasonry is to be enjoyed. We take great pride in our work and carry it out with dignity and decorum, but even within the confines of a lodge meeting there are times when humour and gentle banter has its place.
We should keep in mind that part of the Address to the Brethren, given at each Installation meeting, in which we are reminded that we should ‘unite in the Grand Design of being happy and communicating happiness’. A great deal of happiness was communicated during the Tercentenary celebrations. That is something we should preserve and build on in the future.
When attending major celebrations as Pro Grand Master, the late Lord Farnham would often say that there were three things we should do at special anniversaries: reflect on the past, celebrate the present and plan for the future. Were he still with us, I think he would agree that we have followed his wish list during the Tercentenary year.
A RICH HISTORY
During the lead-up to the celebrations, we certainly reflected on the past. The history conference in Cambridge organised by Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, in September 2016; the new exhibition gallery at the Library and Museum in London; the splendid celebratory book The Treasures of English Freemasonry 1717 – 2017 and the amazing performance at the Royal Albert Hall will all be permanent records of that reflection. To this we should add the exhibitions that were mounted in masonic premises and public museums around the country, and the many talks given by masonic historians.
We celebrated in style, as the events recorded in this issue show. Our grateful thanks should go to everyone at both national and local levels who put so much work into making the celebrations a success. It was hard and, at times, exhausting work, but not without its moments and well worth the effort given the obvious enjoyment of those who attended.
As we reflected on our past, so we looked forward, too. The Membership Focus Group and its successor the Improvement Delivery Group, the University Lodges Scheme and the growing network of young masons groups across the country are all focused on the future.
As the Pro Grand Master said in his review of the year in December, we can now move forward from here with enormous self-belief. One of the intangibles that the Tercentenary celebrations has produced is a renewal of pride in Freemasonry among the members. These are all things that we should foster and build on so future generations can enjoy Freemasonry, as we and our predecessors have done.
‘The activities that took place around the country were worthy of such a notable anniversary’
Just getting started
With the Tercentenary celebrations raising awareness and improving perceptions, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes believes there has never been a better time to be a Freemason
It has been an enormous privilege to have been Pro Grand Master during the Tercentenary year. At the outset, Provinces and Districts were asked to concentrate on coming up with events in their own jurisdiction that their brethren could join in and enjoy. Dare I say, they all did this in spades, and I include our groups of lodges in that.
Quite rightly, there was often a significant charitable aspect to these events. I should add here that this was greatly enhanced by the imaginative input from the Masonic Charitable Foundation with its multitude of grants across the Provinces. The Rulers and past Rulers have endeavoured to meet your requests and wherever we have been, brethren have looked after us with incredible kindness and generosity. Thank you all so much.
Since our last communication, we have had the Grand Ball and our major celebratory event at the Royal Albert Hall. The events of 29 to 31 October were a resounding success, and I must single out Keith Gilbert and his team for the superb administrative arrangements throughout. Diane Clements and the museum staff managed to collect, catalogue and display the many gifts brought by the 133 Grand Masters from around the world amazingly quickly. These are now all displayed in the museum.
A JOB WELL DONE
Finally, thanks to James Long and his team, who took us all by surprise at the Royal Albert Hall with an amazing and uplifting performance of masonry across the three centuries. The whole London experience was beyond my expectations, and from the comments we have had since, it astounded all our hundreds of visitors from overseas. Well done indeed.
Brethren, has there ever been a better time to be a Freemason? I really believe that during the year we have learned so much about how to talk about our Freemasonry with non-members, helped enormously by the Sky documentary, which has opened our eyes and made the general public more receptive. I would love us to have had more editorial control over the end product, but that would, perhaps, have defeated the object. Nonetheless, I think we can go forward from here with enormous self-belief and pride.
We head now into 2018, continuing the work of the Improvement Delivery Group and capitalising on the great successes of 2017, rewarding those who have worked so hard throughout the year. We will also be remembering the fact that it is 100 years since the end of World War I, after which Freemasons’ Hall was built as the Masonic Peace Memorial to recognise the sacrifice of more than 3,000 English Freemasons who fell in that conflict.
‘I think we can go forward from here with enormous self-belief and pride’
Memorial paving stones commemorating the 64 English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross during World War I were unveiled outside Freemasons’ Hall
Roughly one in six of the 633 VC recipients during World War I were Freemasons. Of these, 64 were under UGLE and 43 were under Grand Lodges in the British Empire.
The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, attended the ceremony for the stones’ unveiling and blessing, together with General Lord Dannatt representing the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, the Mayor of Camden, senior officers from the military services, a group of Chelsea Pensioners and representatives from the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association, as well as representatives from the regiments in which the VC holders had served. Specially invited were the families of those being commemorated.
The event was open to the public, with Great Queen Street and Wild Street closed to traffic. The crowd included representatives from many of the service lodges. Music was by the Band of the Grenadier Guards and the North London Military Wives Choir.
Radio and television presenter Katie Derham narrated the first part of the ceremony, which opened with Chelsea Pensioner Ray Pearson reading an extract from AE Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, followed by the then President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson warmly welcoming those attending.
‘The horrors of war were brought vividly to life by Sebastian Cator, who read from the diaries of Major Richard Willis’
Simon Dean OBE paid tribute to his grandfather Donald John Dean, who, at the age of 21, was awarded the VC in 1918. Col Brian Lees LVO OBE, chairman of the Rifles, Light Infantry and KOYLI Regimental Association, and Lt Col Matt Baker, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, The Rifles, paid tribute to Oliver Watson, who was posthumously awarded the VC in 1918.
The horrors of the war were brought vividly to life by Sebastian Cator, a pupil at Harrow School. He read from the diaries of Major Richard Willis, who had also been a pupil at Harrow, in which he described the carnage resulting from landing his men on W Beach at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. For his part in that action he was one of the famous ‘six VCs before breakfast’ of the Gallipoli landings.
The Grand Secretary, Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, gave an exhortation that was followed by the last post, a one-minute silence and reveille. The stones were then unveiled and blessed by the Grand Chaplain the Rev Canon Michael Wilson.
The Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall hosted the largest gathering ever of Grand Masters from all around the world
Grand Masters from more than 130 foreign Grand Lodges were welcomed by UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, who addressed all those present, ‘Ladies, gentlemen and brethren, I am delighted that so many of you have been able to come to London to celebrate our Tercentenary anniversary with us. Indeed, I am advised that this is the largest gathering of Grand Masters there has ever been.
‘I am so pleased to have this opportunity to greet you all this morning in the relative peace and tranquillity of our magnificent Temple within Freemasons’ Hall, and it is most important to me that I meet you all.’
Dressed in their formal regalia, the Grand Masters brought kind words and greetings to commemorate the Tercentenary. Many gifts were presented to the Grand Master, who then spent time inspecting the selection, which included Russian dolls depicting the Grand Master himself. The gifts have now been put on display in The Library and Museum of Freemasonry for everyone to see.
Events continued into the evening when the Grand Masters, along with their guests, attended a reception held at the Mansion House, with a welcome by the then Lord Mayor of London Andrew Parmley and Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes.
‘I am so pleased to have this opportunity to greet you all in our magnificent Temple' HRH, The Duke of Kent
The Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent, officially opened the Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s newest gallery
Part of UGLE’s Tercentenary celebrations, the ambitious project took several months to complete.
Among the beautiful treasures on show at the gallery are items belonging to such well-known masons as HRH Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex; Sir Winston Churchill; King Edward VIII; circus proprietor Billy Smart; and land speed record-holder Sir Malcolm Campbell.
Located at Freemasons’ Hall, the gallery includes the elaborate, monumental Grand Master’s gilded ceremonial throne, commissioned in 1790 for the Prince of Wales (later King George IV), the second royal prince to be a Grand Master.
The gallery opens up into a lodge room, where the Grand Master unveiled a new plaque renaming it the Kent Room.
‘The exhibition aims to explain Freemasonry’s values of sociability, inclusivity, charity and integrity, as well as its history and development to the general public,’ said Diane Clements, then director of the Library and Museum. ‘We hope it will also be an enjoyable way for members to explain to friends and potential new members what Freemasonry is all about.’
With the especial meeting at the Royal Albert Hall streamed online in the Grand Temple of Freemasons’ Hall, nearly 1,000 brethren and ladies – including the wives of official guests – were able to watch the ceremonies
After attending the screening, Ruth Wright from the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons commented, ‘I could feel that I was part of something very special. I cannot say how privileged I felt to be part of your special day. You could have heard a pin drop as everyone watched with great interest and when, spontaneously, most of the men joined in singing the hymns. It made you realise just how wonderful an organisation Freemasonry is.’
‘A wonderful meal – how on Earth could such splendid fare have been served to the thousands present with such style?’ David Pratt
The Grand Temple guests then attended a special dinner in the Grand Connaught Rooms, chaired by Earl Cadogan, who was assisted by senior members of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London.
Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 of the attendees from the Royal Albert Hall meeting were being bussed through London’s rush-hour traffic to Battersea Evolution for a special reception and banquet. Yorkshire, West Riding Provincial Grand Master David Pratt commented, ‘A wonderful meal – how on Earth could such splendid fare have been served to the thousands present and with such style? We then floated back to our hotel with so many stories to share. What a day.’