From the Grand Secretary & Grand Scribe E

At the September Quarterly Communications, the Pro Grand Master’s address spoke of the importance of teamwork in governing and managing Freemasonry. UGLE has traditionally been a federal amalgamation of ‘city states’, each ruled by a Provincial or District Grand Master, whose patents were granted by the Most Worshipful Grand Master. It was not uncommon, in decades past, for those chosen few to be given their patent and told to ‘get on with it’, but with very little instruction or guidance as to what the ‘it’ either was or entailed. 

We like to think that we are more enlightened now, and take some time and effort to explain what we think a Provincial or District Ruler might want to consider, and what the Rulers and Board/Committee of General Purposes think their priorities should be when taking up their important office. 

It will not surprise you to learn that membership and communications are very high up on that list, and as UGLE evolves to meet the challenges of our very different world, so this old system must evolve to ensure consistency of message and image across our organisation as a whole. 

We have also come to realise that the ‘Bright Ideas Club’ at the centre may not have all of the answers, and initiatives rolled out with little or no consultation with our membership or their leaders are unlikely to be successful in the longer term, if at all. 

Lord Northampton, as Pro Grand Master, set up a system of Regional Communication Groups which divided the Provinces into nine geographical clusters, and which provided a means for Provincial Rulers in each group to meet regularly and exchange ideas on matters of import. Under Sir David Wootton, these assumed a greater sense of purpose, with the representation of each integrated into the Improvement Delivery Group, with its remit to deliver the 2020 strategy conceived five years ago. Now, under Geoffrey Dearing, they form the backbone of our ability to consult with the Provinces and to set the agenda and direction of the organisation with strong representation on both the Membership Working Party and the Communications Working Party of the Board. 

Both groups have a wide remit to shape the direction the organisation will take, and their influence will be wide ranging. They are no paper tigers, and are considering questions which will affect each and every one of us as Freemasonry evolves into a more transparent, accountable and respected organisation within the public consciousness.

The representatives on these various committees can, of course, accomplish nothing without the hard work and dedication of the teams that support them – making it vital that those team members have the ability, enthusiasm and professional capabilities and knowledge to deliver what is needed. Professional expertise is by no means short in an organisation such as ours, and Provincial leaders are well used to tapping into the potential of their membership to fulfil important roles within the Province. What perhaps is changing is the willingness to recognise that many individuals are much busier in their family and work lives than perhaps their predecessors were. As such, those who are less senior within Freemasonry and less experienced are finding themselves working on major Provincial portfolios while balancing very busy lives. 

We should not shy away from using the talent that we have within our ranks. Neither should we shy away from altering the way ‘things have always been done’ to allow those individuals to flourish and to serve. It is inconceivable that the Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents of the future will be able to dedicate the time and effort to Freemasonry that perhaps some of their predecessors have managed, without detriment to their family or personal connections. Their teams around them become of paramount importance if the organisation as a whole is to grow and develop. Similarly, if we want leaders who are truly exceptional and able to carry the organisation forward, we must be willing to accommodate the many other things that will call on their time – not least their greater involvement in the running of the ‘Centre’.

We will do our bit here at UGLE to listen to those ideas coming out of the Provinces, and to ensure that others can benefit from them; to ensure that ‘best practice’ is shared, such as the membership initiatives in Bristol and the communications strategies of Buckinghamshire and Cheshire. 

We will also continue to listen to you, our members, paying heed to what you think is important, and what our priorities should be for the years ahead.

Dr David Staples
Grand Secretary and Grand Scribe E

‘If we want leaders who are truly exceptional and able to carry the organisation forward, we must be willing to accommodate the many other things that will call on their time’

Published in UGLE

As part of their Tercentenary celebrations, Cumberland and Westmorland Freemasons have donated a brand new fully equipped and liveried motorcycle to Blood Bikes Cumbria to support them in their vital work across Cumbrian communities

The bike carries the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland’s provincial emblem and the square and compasses symbol.

Since May 2014, Blood Bikes Cumbria have provided an out of hours, 365 days a year transport service for urgently needed blood, drugs, human tissue and other medical requirements between hospitals, medical centres and blood banks across Cumbria. The Great North Air Ambulance Service also receives supplies daily to keep their helicopters stocked.

Blood Bikes Cumbria is run entirely by volunteers, the drivers all undergo specialist advanced training to operate the bikes under ‘blue light’ conditions. There is also a specialist team of volunteer dispatchers who take calls and co-ordinate the deliveries.

At a special presentation evening in Kendal, the motorcycle was handed over to a team of drivers from Blood Bikes Cumbria by Past Pro Grand Master The Marquess of Northampton and Provincial Grand Master, Rt W Bro Norman James Thompson DL.

W Bro Thompson said: ‘The Freemasons of Cumberland and Westmorland are delighted to be able to support this relatively new charity who do vital work for our Cumbrian communities, often behind the scenes.

‘Our brethren and families will be pleased to see this motorcycle put to good work for the benefit of all who need emergency medical supplies in the county.’

A £56,000 grant from West Wales Freemasons has helped to fund a new ambulance for the Haverfordwest Division of St John Cymru Wales

The new ambulance was presented to St John Cymru Wales on Sunday July 2nd at St David’s Cathedral, as part of a Thanksgiving Service to mark the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary, and will be used by volunteers to provide medical cover at a range of community events.

The service was attended by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed, Miss Sara Edwards and The High Sheriff of Dyfed, Mrs Sue Balsom.

Other attendees included the Prior of the Priory for Wales, Sir Paul Williams and the Chief Executive of the charity, Keith Dunn OBE, along with volunteers from the Haverfordwest Division.

Sir Paul Williams commented: ‘We are extremely grateful to West Wales Freemasons for providing such a generous grant to ensure St John Cymru Wales can fulfill its commitments in Haverfordwest and the wider community.’

Chief Executive for St John Cymru Wales, Keith Dunn OBE, said: ‘The Haverfordwest Division has 57 dedicated volunteers who generously devote more than 5,000 hours every year to support the public. In addition to providing medical cover, this new ambulance can also be used at events where our volunteers can help to encourage more people to learn first aid.’

Freemasonry was represented by The Past Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, The Marquis of Northampton, and The Provincial Grand Master of West Wales, Stephen Hookey, along with more than 200 West Wales Freemasons, who processed to and from the service in full Masonic regalia.

Stephen Hookey said: ‘We are very proud to be able to support St John Cymru Wales. A new ambulance will help them with their potentially life-saving work at events right across West Wales.  They are a huge asset to our community.’

The grant from West Wales Freemason comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons and their families from across England and Wales.

Shirt sleeves and sun cream were the order of the day as Nottinghamshire Freemasons celebrated the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England with their Community Fun Day

Held in the hub of Nottingham’s city centre, the Old Market Square, the public was treated to fabulous entertainment at this free to attend event. The UGLE representative and special guest for the day was the Past Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, who was accompanied by his wife Lady Northampton.

Community was at the very centre of this incredible spectacle, with over 40 local charities supported by Nottinghamshire Freemasons invited to attend. Their hard work, undertaken with the assistance of donations by Nottinghamshire Freemasons, was on display for everyone to see. The Masonic Charitable Foundation promoted the current Tercentenary Awards with their unique Human Fruit Machine – a popular attraction for visiting Provincial Grand Masters.  

Live bands and international dancers performed and local sports stars were interviewed on the big stage by two local radio presenters. Pop-up entertainment spots, a Victorian market, fairground rides, face painters, storytellers, a graffiti artist and even an organ grinder all added to the great family friendly atmosphere. Nottinghamshire Teddies for Loving Care grassed over an area for their TLC Teddy Bear Picnic and handed out lots of goodies to the children.

In blazing sunshine, the undoubted highlight of the day captured the attention and imagination of the Nottinghamshire public. A procession, the first in Nottingham since 1946, of over 200 brethren in full regalia marched from the Masonic HQ through the streets of Nottingham to the city centre, assembling at the steps of the Council Building. 

The procession was led by the ‘Knights of Nottingham’ on horseback and the banner of Provincial Grand Lodge, followed by the banners and representitives of 70 lodges in Nottinghamshire. The public lined the streets, cheering and applauding as the procession passed. 

In addressing the public and the procession, the Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire, RW Bro Philip Marshall, paid tribute to 300 years of English Freemasonry, the fantastic communities in Nottinghamshire and the contribution made by local Freemasons. Lord Northampton followed with an address in which he highlighted the positive role in society played by freemasons through their charitable work and congratulated all on their fantastic contribution to the UGLE Tercentenary celebrations.

Please scroll through the gallery at the top to view photos from the parade

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.

Published in Universities Scheme
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:00

Assistant Grand Master's address - December 2013

Quarterly Communication 
11 December 2013 
An address by the RW Assistant Grand Master David Williamson

Brethren, the more observant among you may have noticed that I acted as Deputy Grand Master at the last two Quarterly Communications, in September and June. However, you should not infer from the fact that you see me in this chair today, that this is a portent of what the future holds for me!

You will remember that at the June Quarterly Communication, the Pro Grand Master announced that the Grand Master had appointed VW Bro Sir David Wootton to succeed me as Assistant Grand Master. He is a man of great quality, and I wish him every success in his new role; he will be installed on 12th March next year. Thus today is my last appearance as Assistant Grand Master at Grand Lodge, and the Pro Grand Master, with the collusion of the Deputy Grand Master, has contrived to be otherwise engaged today, to permit me the extraordinary privilege of presiding over Grand Lodge, for the first and last time, for which I am deeply grateful.

By the time I retire next March, I will have served thirteen years as Assistant Grand Master, during which time I have visited every continent, for a variety of purposes; to Install District Grand Masters and Grand Inspectors, to attend landmark meetings of private lodges, and to represent the Grand Master at other Grand Lodges. Here at home, I have installed Provincial Grand Masters, attended Charity Festivals and lodges in their Provinces, and in Metropolitan London; I have always received a warm and generous welcome, for which I thank them all.

There are many other people to whom I owe personal debts of gratitude for the support and encouragement they have given me during my term of office, not least the several Rulers I have been privileged to serve under, two of whom, I am delighted to see here today, MW Bro Lord Northampton, and RW Bro Iain Bryce. I am also very grateful to so many people here at Freemasons' Hall, who have helped smooth my path with their advice and support.

Over the years I have witnessed many changes and exciting initiatives, not least the formation of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, in which I was privileged to play a part. Nine years ago, with Lord Northampton’s encouragement, I started the Universities Scheme, which now has fifty nine lodges around the country, many of which I have visited. I am proud of what those lodges are achieving, and very grateful to successive members of my organising committee for the time and effort they have devoted to promoting the Scheme.

Parallel with the growth of the Scheme, I have seen the mentoring initiative take an increasingly positive effect in making masonry meaningful to new masons and aiding overall retention. One of the biggest changes has been in the development of the way we portray ourselves to the outside world, through websites, social media, and our publications, all of which contribute to what we know as 'openness', and in helping us regain, what the Grand Master has called, 'our enviable reputation in society.' 

Finally, brethren, as I reflect on the last thirteen years, it is with all humility I can say that it has been a great honour to have had the opportunity to contribute to English Freemasonry; I have enjoyed every moment. My grateful thanks to all of you who may have made a special effort to be here today; it is wonderful to see the Grand Temple so full!

My sincere thanks too to the many masons it has been my pleasure and privilege to meet, in London, in the Provinces, and overseas. I will always remember the collective and individual encouragement you have given me over the years. Brethren, thank you all.

Published in Speeches
Thursday, 05 September 2013 01:00

Michael Baigent obituary from John Hamill

Independent voice

Past editor of Freemasonry Today, Michael Baigent was a successful author and influential mason whose writing sparked debate and created a loyal following. John Hamill looks back at his career

It is with real regret that we have to announce the death of Michael Baigent who was editor of Freemasonry Today from the spring of 2001 until the summer of 2011, when increasing ill health forced him into partial retirement. He continued as consultant editor until his untimely death from a brain haemorrhage on 17 June 2013 at a Brighton hospital.

Born in Nelson, New Zealand, in 1948, he was educated at Nelson College and the University of Canterbury, at Christchurch, reading comparative religion and psychology and graduating in 1972 with a BA. In later life he earned an MA in the Study of Mysticism and Religious Experience from the University of Kent.

After graduating, Michael spent four years as a photographer in India, Laos, Bolivia and Spain. Coming to London in 1976, he worked for a time in the photographic department at the BBC, which brought him into contact with Henry Lincoln and Richard Leigh, who were filming a documentary about the medieval Knights Templar. Their mutual interests and enthusiasm ultimately led to the publication in 1982 of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, a controversial bestseller and still in print after more than thirty years.

Embracing the craft

The success of the book enabled Michael to concentrate on research, writing and lecturing. Writing with Leigh, he produced works on such diverse topics as Freemasonry, the Dead Sea Scrolls, magic and alchemy, the Stauffenberg plot to kill Hitler and the Inquisition. His solo works covered the ancient mysteries, the early Christian church and the influence of religion in modern life. 

Michael’s interest in the history of ideas and the esoteric tradition led him to the Craft, becoming a Freemason in the Lodge of Economy, No. 76, Winchester, near his then home. He later joined the Prince of Wales’s Lodge, No. 259, London, and was nominated by them as a Grand Steward and appointed a Grand Officer in 2005. 

Freemasonry brought Michael to the notice of Lord Northampton, who invited him to become a trustee of the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre, which he was setting up as a focus for research into the more esoteric aspects of Freemasonry. Equally, Michael became involved in and greatly shaped the early years of the Cornerstone Society, which Lord Northampton had established as a forum for those interested in exploring the deeper meanings of the ritual. When the Orator Scheme was being discussed in 2006, Michael was the obvious candidate to draft the early Orations.

Leading from the front

When Michael became editor of Freemasonry Today it was still ‘the independent voice of Freemasonry’. He greatly extended its coverage beyond the Craft and Royal Arch and attracted a new audience to the magazine, including a growing number of non-masons. He not only sought out contributors and edited their pieces but was responsible for the page design and seeing the magazine through the presses. He employed his old talents and provided many of the photographs that illustrated the content. It was something of a departure for him when in 2007 the magazine merged with Grand Lodge’s then house organ, MQ Magazine, to become the Craft’s official journal. Yet he rose to the occasion and continued to produce a magazine that combined news with interesting, and sometimes challenging, articles.

Michael would have been the first to acknowledge that his work fell outside the normal run of academic historical research, but he believed completely in what he did. He was not writing for other academics but for the general reader, and he had a loyal following. Whether he worked on his own or with Lincoln and Leigh, Michael’s writing was never ignored and always provoked discussion – which is all any writer seeks.

His last years were, sadly, marked by increasing ill health, including an initially successful liver transplant, and financial problems caused by the unsuccessful case he and Leigh took against the novelist Dan Brown’s publisher, claiming that Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code was both a plagiarism and infringed the copyright of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. A gentle, courteous man, Michael was always a pleasure to meet and talk to and will be greatly missed by many. Our thoughts go out to his wife, daughters and stepson and stepdaughter.

Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00

Right Place, Right Time

Freemasonry has given Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes the confidence to stand up in front of people and make himself heard. He talks to Freemasonry Today about responsibility and his hopes for the Craft

How were you introduced to Freemasonry?
The first place was in the Rising Sun pub on Ebury Bridge Road as it’s where I found out about Freemasonry. A friend there was wearing an Old Etonian tie and I asked why he was wearing it, he said he was ‘off to the lodge’. I said, ‘What happens there?’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you come to find out sometime?’ So I did and it was as simple as that.

Did you ever have any doubts?
If I’d gone into a much bigger lodge I think I might have dropped it, but the fact that the lodge was smaller meant that it pushed you out of your comfort zone. I’d never been someone who liked doing things in front of people but suddenly pride takes over – you decide that if you’re going to do it you’re going to do it well. Then I discovered I enjoyed it.

What did you learn from Freemasonry?
During my work, I did property auctioneering and I remember being terrified of the first one I did. But the fact that I was getting up in Freemasonry and talking in front of people was beneficial. I hope I was a good property auctioneer, but if I was it was down to the confidence I got from Freemasonry. And vice versa. It’s the confidence of hearing your own voice, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. I believe that Freemasonry inevitably leads you to being absolutely clear about your principles; it concentrates the mind.

How did you become Pro Grand Master?
Like many things in life, becoming Pro Grand Master was about being in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in Grand Lodge because I’d been recommended. Once you have achieved a senior position, you get pushed in whichever direction you have the most use. I became Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995 and was delighted when Lord Northampton asked me to be Deputy Grand Master in 2004 as I felt that was way above my rank. When he then told me he was giving up and that I was taking over in 2009, I asked him if I could have 24 hours to think it over. I remember asking my wife for her thoughts and she said, ‘I don’t know why you’re talking to me because you’re going to do it anyway.’

Did your life change?
As Deputy Grand Master I could work full-time but I couldn’t as Pro Grand Master. Everybody is coming to you with everything and while you can delegate, it still all needs to come through you first. But I knew what to expect when I took the position and I think I’m the first commoner to do it, which is a good thing. Since I’ve become Pro Grand Master, the position has become so much more visible. Compared to 10 years ago, the questions I’m asked tend to be about finding answers to something, rather than somebody having a go. When you’re junior, you can clam up about Freemasonry, but I’m confident now and love talking about it to non-masons.

Has the role of Pro Grand Master changed?
Going back to the 1970s and 1980s, Freemasonry was run by the Grand Secretary, who would probably keep the Pro Grand Master, Deputy and Assistant informed. That’s now completely changed and it was Lord Farnham who started the process. He was a big man in the city and probably thought that if he was going to be head of something, he ought to take control of it. Farnham said that it must be the three rulers who dictate, through the Board of General Purposes, and that more people should be consulted about what is going on. Therefore, the three of us are involved in everything that happens in Freemasonry.

What would you change about Freemasonry?
I would love to leave behind the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when we didn’t communicate with the outside world. That all stems from Freemasons in Germany being treated the same way as the Jews. The local papers between the wars had pictures of new Provincial Grand Masters parading the streets but with everyone in 1940 assuming Hitler would invade the UK, everything went underground and didn’t really come up again for 30 years.

What is Freemasonry’s biggest challenge?
It’s not a numbers game, but that’s always fairly high on the agenda. If we never lost anyone until they died, our numbers would be going up. The problem is losing them in the first five years of joining. If I could click my fingers and do one thing, it would be finding a way of keeping all the people we’re bringing in. We’re losing them for reasons we can control because they might join the wrong lodge – they get there and find there aren’t many kindred spirits. We now have exit interviews and are recovering members by putting them in a lodge that suits them better.

 

 

Published in UGLE

Burlington Lodge, No. 3975, hosted a momentous event at Bridlington in the Province of Yorkshire North & East Ridings in November, when Past Deputy Grand Master Iain Ross Bryce celebrated his 50 years as a mason.  Joining him for the event were Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, Assistant Grand Master David Williamson and Past Pro Grand Master Lord Northampton.

Sunday, 19 April 2009 16:26

Supreme Grand Chapter

Fresh Look at Status of the Royal Arch to Encourage Recruitment and Retention

A fresh definition of the status of the Royal Arch is to be considered by Grand Lodge following the publication of the report of the working group set up last year under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal, George Francis.

The announcement was made by Lord Northampton, Pro First Grand Principal, to the November meeting of Supreme Grand Chapter following publication of the report into the recruitment and retention of Royal Arch Masons. The report was going to Grand Superintendents, who would make it more widely available in Provinces. 

The report covers neither the Metropolitan Grand Chapter, as they are to bring out their own report, nor Districts overseas. 
Lord Northampton said that overall numbers had been dropping steadily, broadly in line with the falls in membership in the Craft generally, but as a proportion of the total membership of the Craft, they have been rising very slightly over the past ten years. However, there was much to do. 
The first conclusion of the report related to the additional paragraph to the 1813 Declaration in the preamble to the Book of Constitutions, relating to the status of the Royal Arch. 

This was added to by Grand Lodge in December 2003, and described the Royal Arch as ‘an extension to, but neither a superior nor a subordinate part of the Degrees which precede it’. 
Lord Northampton commented: “There is no doubt that the Royal Arch is not the completion of just the third degree, but the 2003 declaration has not been entirely satisfactory.” 
Neither did it help to describe the relationship of the Royal Arch to the three degrees, so had not been helpful to those joining or those seeking to recruit new members. 

Lord Northampton added: “I am minded to request Grand Lodge to give careful consideration to replacing the 2003 paragraph with a fresh definition. A number of companions will be assisting me in trying to find a more suitable form of words for consideration. 
“We should all seek to describe the Royal Arch as the next step in Freemasonry after the Craft degrees and the final step in pure ancient masonry. It is, of course, both an integral part of Craft masonry as well as being its completion.” 

The other important conclusion of the report was a recommendation to that a Royal Arch representative should be appointed in each Craft lodge. Lord Northampton said that this representative, at least until further research and consideration, would not be a lodge officer, but would have the responsibility of promoting the Royal Arch within the lodge. 

He added: “Where this role has already been implemented in some lodges, it has had a dramatic effect on the levels of recruitment and retention. Representatives need to be carefully chosen and the report gives advice and guidance on this matter.” 
Lord Northampton said the report made a number of recommendations, and pointed to the dangers of allowing Chapters to become smaller and smaller to the point where they will no longer become viable. 

There was a recommendation to look for ways of holding joint meetings with other chapters from time to time – with a possible view to encouraging amalgamation rather than inevitable closure. 

He added: “The sharing of work is made much easier by the new ritual, but greater efforts are needed to include as many Companions as possible in ceremonies. This is to prevent boredom on the part of experienced companions, and fear and trepidation among newer Companions.” 

Royal Arch to Adopt Hybrid System of Appointments and Promotions

The Royal Arch is to follow the Craft and revert to the principle of first appointments to Provincial and District Grand Ranks being based on the number of Chapters in a Province or District, and not as currently, on the number of Royal Arch Masons in such areas. The existing scales of acting ranks, based on the number of Royal Arch Masons, will, however, be retained. 

The change was announced at the meeting of Supreme Grand Chapter in November. In addition, the working party headed by Past Second Grand Principal Peter Lowndes – who is also Deputy Grand Master in the Craft – has recommended that there be no formal restriction on the number of promotions that may be made. The changes will also apply to Metropolitan and Overseas Grand Chapter Ranks. 

A notice of motion to amend the Royal Arch Regulations was given at the November Convocation of Grand Chapter, but as the retention of the existing scale of acting ranks was only decided on after the paper of business had gone to press, the formal motion will be subject to amendment when it comes before Grand Chapter on 1 May. 

Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia is Set Up

A Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia is expected to be formed in early April 2008 with Hackney Brook Dependable Chapter No. 7397 of London planned to appear, without number, at the head of the register. 

The London Chapter is currently meeting by dispensation in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, and is to retain its original charter, after cancellation, as an integral part of its history and that of the new Grand Chapter. 
Subject to the Estonian Grand Chapter being constituted on or after 1 April, Hackney Brook Dependable Chapter will be erased from the register of the English Supreme Grand Chapter. 

Two Chapters under the Grand Chapter of Finland have been exalting brethren from lodges under the Grand Lodge of Estonia with a similar view. All three Chapters will form the new Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia.

Published in SGC
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