Celebrating 300 years

The history of the Holmes Lodge Room organ in Freemasons' Hall, Leicester

Lodge of Research No. 2429 was recently treated to Bro Carl Heslop, a young member of Highcross Lodge No. 4835, giving a presentation on the history of the organ in the Holmes Lodge Room in Freemasons' Hall, Leicester, and its current versatility following the extensive restoration it underwent over the summer of 2014.

W Bro David Hughes, the current Master of the Lodge of Research and who has also been involved with the restoration, introduced the speaker and stated that he had commenced playing the organ at the age of 8. He had then become much involved in the theatre organ world, before being apprenticed to the world famous firm of organ builders, Harrison and Harrison of Durham.

Bro Heslop, who is now working for another most prestigious organ builder, Peter Collins of Melton Mowbray, then proceeded to give the assembled audience a most illuminating lecture on the arcane mysteries of organ building, by showing how various types of traditional organ pipes are made and can be combined to produce a very wide range of sounds and differing volumes.

He then brought the science and art of organ building into the 21st century by introducing the modern system of digital sound production, with which the Holmes Temple organ is now equipped, in addition to its older traditional wood and metal pipes.

Bro Heslop revealed that the origins of the organ can be traced back to the early years of the 19th century, when it started life as a small chamber instrument built by the famous London craftsman William Gray.

By some unknown process this had made its way to Leicester and was utilised by the local organ builders Taylor and Co. as the basis of the instrument installed in the old Masonic Hall in Halford Street in 1903. This was moved to the present Hall in 1910 and was extended by Taylors in memory of W Bro Billson in the 1940s.

After many years of faithful service the old instrument fell into disrepair and silence until being rescued by Bro Heslop, who volunteered his services shortly after attending an open evening meeting at London Road – where he was invited to become an initiate in Highcross Lodge, the lodge of our current Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro David Hagger.

The lecturer then became the recitalist and demonstrated with great virtuosity the amazing versatility the organ now has in its new 'hybrid' form, which places it at the vanguard of organ building technology and gives us one of the finest instruments available to Freemasonry.

Bro Heslop showed how the organ can produce sounds in the English cathedral tradition, those of the north German and French Baroque styles and then by simply pressing a few switches he transported the entire company present to the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool with a recreation of the sounds of 'the Mighty Wurlitzer' school of organs.

It was subsequently pointed out that the world renowned Reginald Dixon, for so many years the organist of the Tower Ballroom and who was known as 'Mr Blackpool', was a prominent mason in Lancashire.

Following the recital, Bro Heslop answered questions and was then thanked and congratulated by the Provincial Grand Master, who pointed out that the selfless devotion of this young mason had saved the Province a very considerable sum of money while giving us an instrument of which we may be truly proud.

Bro Heslop was then thanked by W Bro David Hughes, who presented him with a copy of the Transactions of the Lodge of Research for the current year as a token of the lodge's thanks for his efforts. Bro Heslop responded by presenting W Bro Hughes with a redundant pipe from the organ which prompted the response that the Master of the Lodge of Research would now be able to blow his own trumpet!

It can honestly be said that this event was historic in that it was the first combined lecture and recital to be given to the Lodge of Research, and it was most enthusiastically received by all those who were present.

Over the festive period a band of determined and enthusiastic brethren from the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club undertook a unique and historic feat, visiting 12 different lodges across 12 different evenings in December

The lodges visited were:

1st December - Jason Lodge No. 7716 (Leicester)
4th December - Highcross Lodge No. 4835 (Leicester)
5th December - Edward Sherrier Lodge No. 6757 (Lutterworth)
9th December - Castle of Leicester Lodge No. 7767 (Leicester)
11th December - Beacon Lodge No. 5208 (Loughborough)
12th December - Rothley Temple Lodge No. 7801 (Leicester)
13th December - Old Oakhamians No. 8033 (Oakham)
15th December - Lodge of the Golden Fleece No. 2081 (Leicester)
16th December - Temperantia Lodge No. 4088 (Leicester)
17th December - Reynard Lodge No. 9285 (Loughborough)
18th December - St Peter's Lodge No. 1330 (Market Harborough)
19th December - Wyggeston Lodge No. 3448 (Leicester)

The event was organised by Samuel Harris (Lodge of the Golden Fleece), and was conceived not only as an enjoyable test of endurance (and waistlines), but also to achieve three specific aims:

  • To introduce brethren to the joys of visiting and meet other masons across the Province, by providing a unique opportunity to attend any of the 12 lodges during this period knowing there were a group of likeminded individuals also attending
  • To raise awareness of the Light Blue Club and its aims across the Province and
  • To raise a significant amount of money for LOROS Hospice as one of the designated charities

Over the course of the event, over two dozen individual brethren took part at various stages, including a few who had only been in the Craft for a matter of weeks but were keen to take part. Indeed, one brother who was initiated at one of the meeting, then came to visit another first degree ceremony the day immediately after his own!

In total, visits under the guise of the 12 lodges accounted for over 60 individual visits during the period, with the Light Blue Club attended meetings across the Province, from Leicester to Loughborough and Lutterworth, from Oakham to Market Harborough.

The brethren were overwhelmed with the warm welcome and hospitality they received at every lodge, and enjoyed seeing a wide variety of ceremonies performed, as well as the peculiarities and traditions unique to each Lodge either in the meeting or at the Festive Boards.

Every degree was witnessed at least one, as well as an Installation, although due to the time of the year, Christmas dinner was more often than not the menu of choice! The brethren enjoyed being able to explain to other junior Freemasons the aims of the Light Blue Club, the events put on, and how much they enjoy meeting and socialising with others across the Province. As a result, many more are now aware of the club and intend to get involved in the future.

Samuel Harris was supported in organisation of the event by Karl Coles (Edward Sherrier Lodge), and both deserve full credit for their commitment being the only members who managed to attend all 12 lodges. By the end of the final visit, both stated they would be happy if they never had to see turkey on the menu again!

Over £800 has been raised so far for LOROS, with contributions still coming in.

On Tuesday 13th January, Grand Superintendent Peter Kinder, together with his Provincial Team, visited Temperantia Chapter No. 4088 to mark the occasion of Michael Edward Herbert's 50th anniversary as a member of the Royal Arch

After witnessing an excellent ceremony, when W Bro Simon Baigent was exalted into Royal Arch Masonry, E Comp Peter Kinder presented a certificate to Michael in recognition of his 50 years in the Royal Arch.

Before making the presentation, Peter read from a 'Big Red Book' entitled 'This is your Masonic Life'. It was impossible for Peter to mention everything in the book as Michael is active in virtually every degree in Freemasonry and has, indeed, been the head of orders both Provincially and nationally.

The evening was concluded with an excellent Festive Board when over 60 companions dined and the chapter presented Michael with a gift to mark this wonderful occasion.

Members the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club started 2015 off as they mean to go on when on Friday 9th January, a dozen brethren from eight different lodges in the Province (including VW Bro Peter Kinder, APGM, and W Bro Richard Jelly, ProvSGW) visited The Grand Master's Lodge in Dublin, Ireland

The Grand Master’s Lodge is one of the oldest lodges in the Irish Constitution and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 1999. The lodge initiates candidates and carries out all the routine business of a Lodge, but due to its unique history, it has a number of traditions, rights and privileges which stem from its origins in the 18th century.

Prior to the meeting, the visiting brethren were treated to a private tour of Freemasons’ Hall by the Grand Tyler of Ireland. The hall was completed in 1869 and has been the home of Irish Freemasonry ever since. Not only does it contain a number of lodge rooms, but also a specially built room for meetings of the Royal Arch, Knights Templar and Rose Croix, as well as an interesting library and museum.

Highlights included the Chapter room decorated in an Egyptian style with a trap door designed to lower individuals down into another room beneath the floor during the ceremony, an ornately designed chapel-like preceptory room complete with a stunning stained glass window, and the Prince Masons room (Rose Croix) which was adorned with beautifully crafted wooden chairs, coats of arms and banners.

The Light Blue Club were lucky enough to be visiting when the Grand Master of Ireland, Most Worshipful Douglas Grey, was attending his own Lodge for the first time in his current capacity having been Installed as Grand Master a few months earlier after previously holding the office of Deputy Grand Master.

In addition to the Grand Master being the Master of his own lodge, the Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Ireland also hold their respective positions within the lodge. In the absence of these Brethren there are appointment permanent acting officers, and therefore the Installation ceremony witnessed was that for the Right Worshipful Acting Master, in this case the RW is applied to the office rather than the individual, and his officers.

The ritual was of impeccable standard and carried out superbly and in good humour by members of the Lodge, assisted by Light Blue Club attendees RW Bro Peter Kinder and W Bro Daniel Hayward who were honoured to be asked to undertake the roles of Senior Warden and Inner Guard respectively within the Inner Workings. The ceremony offered a fascinating insight into the differences between our own ritual and that practiced in Ireland, and was enjoyed by all the visitors present.

Following the Installation, the brethren had a chance to meet the Grand Master of Ireland before the Festive Board, where they once again learned about and enjoyed the differences in approach practiced by our Irish brethren. The Grand Master offered his fraternal greetings and welcomed the Light Blue Club to Dublin, whilst also being very impressed that brother Luke Smith was visiting just weeks after being initiated into the Craft.

RW Bro Peter Kinder responded to the toast on behalf of the visitors, with a speech laced with good humour and fellowship, thanking the Grand Master for the superb hospitality provided by the lodge. The festivities continued after dinner, as the Brethren of Grand Masters’ Lodge hosted the LBC until the small hours.

A truly memorable time was had by all, especially those brethren for which this had been their very first visit to any lodge at home or abroad. The question on everyone’s lips was 'Where is next?!'

Published in International

The Wyggeston Lodge No. 3448, which is the Universities’ Scheme lodge for the University of Leicester, welcomed another five new members at their Christmas meeting on 19th December 2014 held at Freemasons' Hall, Leicester

These five new members take a very special place in the history of Wyggeston Lodge, being part of an ever growing number of young Freemasons to have joined since 2011 when the lodge joined the Universities’ Scheme

Three of the members are either undergraduate or postgraduate students at the University of Leicester whilst the others work and live locally. The Lodge now has 47 members in total, with an age range between 21 and 90 and an average age of 45.

The festivities continued at the festive board where the lodge members and visitors, including the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club, enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner with an interjection of rousing christmas carols and songs including 12 Days of Christmas and Good King Wenceslas.

Through the generosity of those at the meeting, over £240 was raised for LOROS Hospice, a local charity that cares for over 2,500 people across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, and the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance.

Remembering the Alamo

Andy Green, Provincial Communication Officer for Leicestershire and Rutland, recently attended a special meeting of Alamo Lodge, No. 44, San Antonio, Texas, which was held in the Alamo Chapel. The lodge was founded in the historic Alamo complex, known as the ‘Shrine of Texas Liberty’. It was granted a charter from the Grand Lodge of Texas in January 1848 and a plaque on the south wall of the Long Barrack of the Alamo celebrates this. 

The Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas, Michael Wiggins, paid tribute to the masons who lost their lives in the assault on the Alamo by Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna on 6 March 1836. They included Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, James Bonham, Almaron Dickinson and William Travis. 

Published in International

On Tuesday 11th November 2014, the Castle of Leicester Lodge No. 7767 undertook an historic sextuple initiation ceremony at Freemason’s Hall, Leicester

This was the first time in the lodge’s history that six candidates were initiated in the same ceremony.

In his final meeting as master, W Bro Bryan Weston was in the Chair for the third initiation ceremony of his year in office, having now initiated 13 men into Freemasonry since February 2014.

A multiple ceremony was once again order of the day as Castle of Leicester Lodge has seen a steady influx of candidates since becoming the Universities' Scheme lodge for De Montfort University (DMU) in January 2013. Indeed, this ceremony came just 11 days after the lodge conducted a quintuple passing in the Leicestershire and Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters No. 7896.

The Lodge continues to attract candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds, and on this unique occasion the initiates included students, businessmen, and the retired, all having been attracted to join the Craft either via existing friends in the lodge or after learning more via its social media presence.

The meeting was well supported with 48 in attendance, a dozen of which were guests, including a student member from the Grand Orient of Brazil, who having arrived to study at DMU in September, completed his application on the very same evening in order that he may become a joining member and continue his masonic journey with the United Grand Lodge of England.

Published in Universities Scheme

On Tuesday 2nd December 2014, RW Bro David Hagger, Provincial Grand Master for Leicestershire and Rutland, attended the meeting of Lodge of Friendship No. 7168 at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester, along with his Provincial Officers, to present RW Bro Michael Roalfe with a 50 year certificate of continuous and dedicated service to Freemasonry

RW Bro Michael was initiated into the Lodge of Friendship No. 7168 on the 1st December 1965 and was installed 15 years later into the Master's Chair in 1979. He joined the Leicestershire and Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters No. 7896 and became its Master in 1999 and is also a member of Reynard Lodge No. 9285, the Three Counties Lodge No. 9278 (Province of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire) and an Honorary member of 8 other Craft lodges.

RW Bro Michael was installed as Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland in 2002 and remained in Office for 8 years until 2010. He attained Grand Rank of Past Grand Sword Bearer in 2000.

Within the Royal Arch, RW Bro Michael was exalted into Chapter of Welcome No. 5664 in 1982, was a Founder Member of Uppingham in Rutland Chapter No. 9119 and is also a member of the Gateway Chapter No. 6513. He was Third Provincial Grand Principal of Leicestershire and Rutland in 1991 and has since received Grand Rank of PGScribeE in 2002. He further holds Grand Rank in 10 other masonic degrees.

During the presentation, the Provincial Grand Master referred to RW Bro Michael's 'glittering career in Freemasonry and wished him many more happy years', to which he responded that he had enjoyed every moment of his masonry and gave heartfelt thanks to the Provincial team, visitors, his personal guests and to the members of the Lodge of Friendship, which amounted to over 100 in total, for attending and supporting him on this special occasion.

Leicester's War Memorial

On the north side of the Holmes Lodge Room in Leicester's Freemasons’ Hall stands a war memorial tablet which details the names of the brethren who served in the Great War (WW1), and the seven Leicestershire and Rutland brethren who gave their lives in that conflict. Often the brethren attending meetings in that fine space give it scarcely a second glance, but how did it come to be there and what can we find out about those seven brethren?

An appeal was launched in 1919 for subscriptions towards a Freemasons’ War Memorial which 'should take the form of a substantial fund for the Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) and a memorial of some kind in connection with the Masonic Temple'.

The appeal raised over £5,500 (equivalent to £750,000 in today's money) of which £5,000 was for the LRI (new Orthopaedic Department) and the remainder for a memorial tablet to record the names of the seven brethren who fell in the war, plus those brethren who served in His Majesty’s Regular and Territorial Forces.

A question has been raised whether there are other Leicestershire and Rutland masons who died in action or as a result of wounds, who are missing from the memorial. The problem is that many of the records were bombed in the Second World War – many being totally destroyed and what remains at Kew are referred to as 'the burnt records'.

So next time you are in Freemasons’ Hall, please do go into the Holmes Lodge Room and look at the memorial tablet, and spare a thought for those brethren in general who served their country 100 years ago.

A detailed paper has been written about the tablet in the Holmes Lodge Room (with detailed notes on the seven brethren) by W Bro Jonathan Varley and has been published in the 2012-13 Transactions of the Lodge of Research No. 2429, which are available from the lodge secretary.

The Lodge of Research seeks to exchange opinions with Freemasons throughout the world, and to attract and interest brethren by means of papers on the historical and symbolic aspects of masonry. It meets on the fourth Monday in November, January and March at London Road. Contact the secretary for further details of membership or visiting.

 Symposium for UGLE  bicentenary

Lodge of Research, No. 2429, in the Province of Leicestershire & Rutland, has marked the 200th anniversary of the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England by organising a symposium and dinner at one of its regular meetings. 

There were both masonic and non-masonic visitors, including the then Assistant Grand Master David Williamson and Provincial Grand Master David Hagger, who heard a number of papers delivered by prominent masonic historians, including Professor Andrew Prescott. Among other guests was Philippa Faulks, publishing manager at Lewis Masonic, which sponsored the event.

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