A better place
If Freemasonry is to thrive by spreading a consistent and strong message, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes believes that every member needs to behave and act responsibly
During the early part of this year, we have built on the euphoria of our Tercentenary year. In March, 149 brethren were invested with their special Tercentenary ranks, and in April we had the usual Annual Investiture presided over by the Grand Master. I felt both meetings had a wonderful atmosphere.
I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked why Freemasonry is relevant in today’s society. I think it would be right to turn this round and ask how today’s society cannot fail to be improved by Freemasonry.
I have said in the past that I believe that the Charge after Initiation explains very clearly what is expected of a Freemason throughout his life – at home, at work, in lodge and in the community at large. If the world lived their lives in accordance with that Charge, how much better a place it would be.
Over and above this, Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability – qualities so often missing in the lives of so many. We all know when our lodges meet, and that Grand Lodge meets on set dates every year. We all know the format that our meetings will take, and there is perhaps solace to be drawn from that comfortable regularity of the masonic year.
LIVING UP TO RESPONSIBILITIES
We are all confident that those needed at our meetings will turn up, usually on time, unless there is a very good reason. We all know that our lodge Secretaries will produce the minutes and that the Treasurer will have prepared the accounts and had them audited for the appropriate meeting. Surely, in a world where there is so much disharmony and a general lack of agreement, an organisation that can provide so much unanimity and concord should be welcomed with open arms?
If I may use a cricket analogy, just as the Marylebone Cricket Club is considered to be the custodian of the laws of the game, the United Grand Lodge of England, in conjunction with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland, are looked on by the majority of the masonic world in rather the same light. It is important that we live up to that responsibility in all aspects of our behaviour – from the individual mason to Grand Lodge.
There is an annual meeting between the three ‘Home’ Grand Lodges, and I have recently returned from this year’s meeting in Dublin. We are agreed that Freemasonry is going through a good phase at the moment, but we are equally agreed that there is no room for complacency.
Lodges must give a good account of themselves in their communities, which should be backed up by the Provinces and Districts in a wider context. It is Grand Lodge’s duty to monitor all this and, at the same time, ensure that we exemplify all that is good in Freemasonry to the world at large.
Brethren, if we are all successful in this, the world will be a better place, and a better place for the positive influence we bring to it. Long may that continue.
‘Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability’
United Grand Lodge of England has been presented with a new organ in Temple 10 at Freemasons’ Hall, which has been generously donated by The Grand Stewards’ Lodge
The funds for the new organ were raised over a three-year period, through a combination of the generosity of individual members of the lodge and through donations from some of the 19 ‘Red-Apron’ Lodges which nominate Grand Stewards.
A total of £65,000 was raised to pay for the new organ, which was installed in the latter part of 2017 by Viscount Organs and inaugurated at The Grand Stewards’ Lodge installation meeting on 17th January 2018 by the then Grand Organist, Carl Jackson MVO.
The journey started when The Grand Stewards’ Lodge were looking for a suitable project they could support to commemorate the Tercentenary of the first Grand Lodge on 24th June 1717. It was during this time that the organ in Temple 10, roughly 50 years old, stopped working and so it was decided that its replacement would be chosen as the lodge’s project to celebrate the Tercentenary.
The Organ Committee decided that the new instruments specification and layout should mirror the fine renovated Willis III pipe organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall. The organ console is made of oak, stained to match the existing furniture, it has three manuals (Great, Swell and Choir) and a full pedal board, 55 speaking stops and a full set of couplers, together with the same number of thumb and toe pistons as are available on the Grand Temple Organ.
UGLE has established close links with the Royal College of Organists, which was founded by Freemason Richard Limpus in 1864, and now funds the RCO Freemasons’ Prize, as well as providing Freemasons’ Bursaries to cover items such as tuition fees and travelling expenses. As a result, the new organ in Temple 10 will be available to pupils who wish to practise for their exams from September 2018.
Freemasons of the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland presented a brand new, fully liveried, BMW R1200 RT-P motorcycle, to the North West Blood Bikes Lancs and Lakes charity, in memory of the late Russell Curwen on 16th July 2018
The event took place at Kendal Masonic Hall where 190 guests gathered to witness a very moving and memorable occasion. Russell was a rider for the charity who died in a crash in May 2018 whilst on duty delivering vital medical supplies to hospitals in the area.
Amongst those attending were Russell's parents, Pat Curwen and Ken Curwen, sister Susan Fiddler, brother Phil Curwen and uncle Terry Curwen. They were supported by members and friends of the North West Blood Bike Lancs and Lakes Charity, together with members from the Blood Bikes Cumbria Charity.
Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria, Claire Hensman, was also in attendance, together with former Lord Lieutenant Sir James Cropper and Lady Cropper. Following a short reception, during which the Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria was introduced to all present, the Provincial Grand Master of Cumberland and Westmorland Norman Thompson gave an address.
He said: 'On behalf of the Freemasons of Cumberland and Westmorland, I am delighted to be able to present this third fully equipped motorcycle to the North West Blood Bikes Lancs and Lakes charity. This third bike is named 'Russell', in memory of the Blood Bike Volunteer, Russell Curwen, who sadly lost his life whilst on duty with the charity.
'The Blood Bikers are unsung heroes, supporting the community at large and to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude. I am also delighted to announce that we will be funding the purchase of a fourth motor cycle, thus ensuring that the two Blood Bike charities covering the County of Cumbria, have both received two new bikes funded by members.'
The guests then gathered outside where the motorcycle received a blessing by Provincial Grand Chaplain Rev. Robert Friedrich Roeschlaub. The official presentation of the motorcycle was then carried out by Norman Thompson who handed over the keys to the Chairman of the North West Blood Bikes, Paul Brooks. One further presentation was made when Karen Carton, Assistant Area Manager - Central, presented Pat Curwen with a candle in memory of Russell, which had come all the way from the West Coast of Ireland, having been commissioned by the Blood Bikers fraternity.
Although Russell was not a mason himself, he was very much liked and loved by all who knew him and this presentation was a very poignant occasion, whilst at the same time recognising his commitment to the Blood Bikes charity as a volunteer rider.
This was the third motorcycle presented to the Blood Bikes charities by the Freemasons of the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland, which cost in excess of £18,000. The first was presented in 2017 to the Blood Bikes Cumbria in the north of the county as part of their Tercentenary celebrations. The second was presented in May 2018 to the North West Blood Bikes Lancs and Lakes at an annual meeting in Carlisle, just a few days after the tragic death of Russell.
In a letter of thanks to the Provincial Grand Master, Simon Hanson Fleet Manager and Volunteer Rider for the North West Blood Bikes, said: 'Your hospitality was second to none with an array of distinguished guests which meant the night was even more special and one that the family has been able to take comfort from at this difficult time.
'On behalf of the complete charity, I would again like to thank you for this superb donation and I can assure you it will make a tangible difference to the operation of our charity and enable us to provide the best support possible to the NHS and the 'local community' in South Cumbria who are the eventual recipients of our service.'
With Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) extensively prevalent in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka, as a result of contaminated ground water, the District Grand Lodge of Sri Lanka have been raising funds to help
The inhabitants of the remoter areas have been compelled to purchase drinking water from external sources, spending as much as Rs 500.00 per day for their needs, with children in particular having been severely affected. As its Tercentenary charity project, the District Grand Lodge of Sri Lanka chose to involve itself in this national need of alleviating this issue and undertook to gift a minimum of three Reverse Osmosis (RO) Plants in the most affected areas.
The District elected to partner with the Sri Lanka Navy welfare unit on the primary basis that on handing over the equipment, the operation and maintenance of the Plants would be looked after by the Navy and hence, the villagers would not need to pay even a nominal amount towards the Plant upkeep.
The first of these units, which was established by funds raised by the District, was set up in the Kurunegala District some 20 kilometers from Kurunegala town and opened by the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes on 20th July 2017.
The second unit, which was partially funded by the United Grand Lodge of England and the balance made up by the District, was set up in the Anuradhapura district in the hamlet of Wahalakada, approximately 300 kilometers from Colombo, and was declared open by Dr Suresh Britto, President of the District Board of Benevolence on 5th May 2018.
Each of the units serves approximately 400-500 families, around 1500-2000 individuals in each case, in the immediate vicinity. The Kurunegala Plant was set up on government land in the centre of the village and the Wahalakada Plant in the premises of the Buddhist Temple of the hamlet. Both plants are located in areas where there is a sufficiency of ground water and little likelihood of running dry.
Fundraising for the third RO Plant is currently in progress and the District hope to have this in operation by the end of October 2018.
Supportive sailors in Lincoln have transformed a £25,000 Tercentenary donation from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) into a specialist pontoon and a safety boat to transform the way it can help disabled people on to the water
The sailors are members of Hykeham Sailability, a charity launched in 2009 to provide sailing opportunities for disabled people in Lincolnshire, but at that time the group had no boats, equipment, sailing expertise, volunteers, or even potential members.
Led by non-sailing Keven Roberts, who sadly passed away in 2016, the group has secured thousands in funding, inspired and trained numerous volunteers and instructors and worked tirelessly to establish what is now a thriving, vibrant sailability club.
Hykeham Sailability is part of the national RYA Sailability programme, which supports disabled people in learning to sail and sailing regularly. The group’s aim is to give both adults and young people the freedom and confidence to get out on the water.
Lincolnshire Freemasons Walter Cook, Worshipful Master of Doric Lodge No. 362, and Terry Wallhead, from Witham Lodge No. 297, have visited the club to see the equipment bought with the MCF grant.
13 June 2018
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, I really believe that during the early part of this year we have built on the euphoria of our Tercentenary year.
In March, 149 brethren were invested with their special Tercentenary ranks and, of course, in April, we had the usual Annual Investiture presided over by the Grand Master. I felt both meetings had a wonderful atmosphere.
It was hoped that the DVD of the Royal Albert Hall event would be circulated with the next edition of Freemasonry Today, however the Board have come to the conclusion, I think quite rightly, that the chances of a significant number of the DVDs being damaged in transit was too great a risk and it is therefore the intention to distribute them to active members through individual masonic halls. I am sure that this is something that we will all be proud to watch time and time again, but, perhaps, not boring our friends and families too much along the way.
Brethren, I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked why Freemasonry is relevant in today’s society. I think it would be right to turn this round and ask how today’s society cannot fail to be improved by Freemasonry?
I have said in the past that I believe that the Charge after Initiation explains very clearly what is expected of a Freemason throughout his life; at home, at work, in lodge and in the community at large. If the world lived their lives in accordance with that Charge, how much better a place it would be?
Over and above this, Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability – qualities so often missing in the lives of so many. We all know when our lodges meet. We all know that Grand Lodge meets on set dates every year. We all know the format that our meetings will take, and there is perhaps solace to be drawn from that comfortable regularity of the masonic year. We are all confident that those needed at our meetings will turn up, usually on time, unless there is a very good reason. We all know that our Lodge Secretaries will produce the minutes and that the Treasurer will have prepared the accounts and had them audited for the appropriate meeting. Of course, there can be slip ups, but these are rare and are almost always quickly rectified.
Brethren, surely in a world where there is so much disharmony and a general lack of agreement, an organisation that can provide so much unanimity and concord should be welcomed with open arms.
Brethren, if I may use a cricket analogy where the MCC is considered to be the Custodian of the Laws of the game, UGLE in conjunction with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland are looked on by the majority of the masonic world in rather the same light. It is important that we live up to that responsibility in all aspects of our behaviour, from the individual mason up to the Grand Lodge.
There is an annual meeting between the three ‘Home Grand Lodges’ and I have recently returned from this year’s meeting in Dublin. We are agreed that Freemasonry is going through a good phase at the moment, but we are equally agreed that there is no room for complacency. It is of great importance that we, as individuals, set an example of behaviour in our lives and in our lodges. Lodges must give a good account of themselves in their communities, which should be backed up by the Provinces and Districts in a wider context. It is Grand Lodge’s duty to monitor all this and, at the same time, ensure that we exemplify all that is good in Freemasonry to the world at large.
Brethren, if we are all successful in this, the world will be a better place, and a better place for the positive influence we bring to it. Long may that continue.
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’
From the Grand Secretary
The first words in this new Grand Secretary’s column pay tribute to my predecessor, Brigadier Willie Shackell, whose steadying hand, gentle humour and humility have steered the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) through the tumultuously successful Tercentenary year.
Our handover period has unusually been a full six months, and I have thoroughly enjoyed his company, wise words and kind introduction to a very different world to the one I had left. I wish him a happy retirement and will miss him. Freemasonry owes him a great debt for stepping into, but more importantly filling, a vacancy in such a professional manner.
My appointment signals a change in direction by the Board – a move to a more outward-looking and proactive organisation. One that is not content to be misrepresented by the popular press, or tolerate the slurs of the uninformed, but will stand up for itself, its members and the principles that guide it.
Similarly, I am charged with developing a professional, fit for purpose and efficient central headquarters, which is held in high esteem by you, our members; which engenders pride and a desire to perform to an excellent standard in its staff; and which communicates an appealing, confident, relevant and consistent message to the outside world. That’s quite a mouthful, and quite a task, but one I very much look forward to taking on.
One of the most important tasks we face is to turn around the tide of public perception and negativity about who we are and what we do. Communication has become ever more important; it is the lifeblood of any membership organisation – whether that be listening to our members, keeping them in touch with the latest developments in and around the masonic world, or addressing the concerns of our critics and detractors head on.
You will have noticed a more robust approach to the one we have traditionally taken, and we will be continuing in this vein. We are holding meetings up and down the country to let people know that we are a proud part of the communities from which we are drawn, that we have nothing to be ashamed of, and that we are confident enough to tell people who we are, what we do, why we enjoy Freemasonry and why we are proud to be part of it.
In this issue we meet Freemason Mark Ormrod, who defied medical opinion to walk again after losing both his legs and one arm while serving in Afghanistan; discover whether the world’s first Grand Lodge did in fact originate in 1717; and bid a fond farewell to John Hamill as he retires from UGLE as Director of Special Projects.
‘Communication is the lifeblood of any membership organisation’
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’
When John Hamill joined Grand Lodge as a librarian in 1971, he had no idea that he would go on to create a communications department, driving a policy of openness that has shaped modern Freemasonry
Can you remember a life before Grand Lodge?
I went off to university to read history and then went into librarianship before very quickly realising that the public library service was not what it used to be. At that time, if you had any sort of ambition, you went into administration, which is the last thing I wanted to do. Fortunately, when I was just about to start my postgraduate training, I saw an advert for a job at Grand Lodge. I came down and was interviewed, and despite the fact that I wasn’t going to be available for another nine months, they decided to appoint me.
That was in 1971, and I thought that I would probably have an interest for five or six years before moving off to some other sort of research library. But the interest never flagged, and I got hooked. Having said that, I thought I would have a quiet, academic life at the Library and Museum. If anybody had told me then about some of the things that I would be involved in over the next 45-odd years, I would have probably ordered the men in white coats.
I was the library assistant when I joined. In those days, we had a much smaller staff in the Library and Museum, but I hadn’t realised at the time that it was a very dynastic set-up. The then-librarian and curator was retiring 15 months after I joined, the assistant librarian would be taking over, and they were looking for somebody who was a potential successor to him. I had a wonderful 12 years where I could just open cupboards and drawers, look at files and read up on subjects. Then, in 1983, my mentor retired and I was appointed as the librarian and curator.
How did your job evolve in the 1980s?
As things began to change in Freemasonry, particularly changing public attitudes and growing interest by the press, we quickly realised that if we were going to better inform the public about Freemasonry, then the Library and Museum needed to have a key role. We opened up to the public in 1985 and held an exhibition in 1986. We went from being a very small group that maybe saw 7,000 or 8,000 visitors a year to managing about 28,000 to 30,000 visitors a year.
We are now regarded as a major cultural asset, as we have been roughly on this same site since 1776 – and there has been a reluctance to throw things out. We have probably got the best continuous archive in the country, and that is a huge resource for people who are interested in the history of ideas, social history and cultural history.
‘I’ve been lucky. As a retiree, I can say now that I have been one of those very fortunate people who has been paid a salary for doing a hobby’
Why did the Library and Museum decide to open up to the public?
The publication of The Brotherhood by Stephen Knight in 1984 was a real watershed moment for us. Up to that point, from the start of the Second World War, we had gradually withdrawn from society and didn’t engage with the media. In a sense, we shot ourselves in the foot; we allowed a mythology to grow, which hadn’t really been an issue before in this country. We had a pretty heavy time in the 1980s and right into the 1990s, when we were oftentimes a general whipping boy for the ills of society.
Because of the fact that I had gone out to communicate on behalf of the library, I suddenly found I was being drawn more into what is now called the Openness Policy, and I was made Grand Lodge spokesman, along with the Grand Secretary, in 1985. My introduction into the world of communication was an interview with John Humphrys, who wanted to interview somebody from Freemasonry on the Today programme. I remember it was at 7:05 in the morning, which is not my best time. I think it was something to do with the police, and I was really pushed into the deep end – there was so much going on at that time.
Does communicating with the press require a different skill set to that of a historian?
Yes and no. I was able to communicate as a result of things that happened to me during my life. I attended choir school, where we were taught how to use the voice and how to get as much out of the voice as possible. When I got involved in communications at Grand Lodge, I started to go out talking. It’s not exactly a skill – you can’t learn it. It’s something that you have inside you and that is brought out. When dealing with the media and being a spokesman, I just regarded it as being another way of telling people what we are doing.
In the late 1990s, we had a change of Grand Secretary, and it was an opportunity to do something that hadn’t been done for a couple of generations, which was to look at how the office was structured. I was doing more and more of what I would now call the communications side, and I didn’t want the Library and Museum to suffer. When I was asked if I would formally set up a communications department I said yes, but added that I couldn’t run the Library and Museum as well.
We advertised for somebody to come in for the position at the Library and Museum, with the title changed to ‘director’. We were fortunate to get Diane Clements, who did a fantastic job establishing the systems as they are now. I set up the communications department and was its director for 10 years from 1999.
By 2008, we had changed Grand Secretary and I was getting a bit stale in the role. Nigel Brown, who came in as Grand Secretary, had some expertise in communications and took it back into the private office, which I was very happy about.
‘The Pro Grand Master said at the end of 2017 that we have rebuilt confidence and pride in masonry at the grass-roots level over the past 30 years. That is a huge transformation’
What came after the communications department?
I think it was realised that I was an asset, so it was determined that I should have a job that would keep me around for when they needed to tap into my brain. In 2008, I became Director of Special Projects. I basically was the corporate memory at Grand Lodge. It is one of those roles that myself and the Deputy Grand Secretary Graham Redman do. We complement each other – there are areas I don’t know much about and he does, and vice versa. I formally dropped off the paid staff at the end of April, and Graham is continuing, but they’re still going to be benefiting from what’s in my brain after I cease formal employment.
As well as getting involved in whatever projects happen to turn up from time to time, I have been running the Grand Chancellor’s office. I had been involved with the External Relations Committee since the late 1980s and have done a lot of travelling abroad. People very kindly invited me over to talk about masonic groups, so I built up a network of contacts. The Grand Chancellor needed a staff member, so they introduced the office of Assistant Grand Chancellor, of which I was the first. Two years ago, I was promoted to Deputy Grand Chancellor, which I will continue to be, although I won’t be in the office.
As you retire, what state do you feel you’ve left Freemasonry in?
One of the most difficult parts of the Openness Policy, from back in its early days in 1984, was firstly persuading members that they could talk about Freemasonry, and secondly giving them the tools to talk about it. We had been quiet for so long, people had lost the habit of talking about it. There was a huge educational process that had to go on within the organisation to say, ‘yes, it is all right to talk about Freemasonry, but make sure you are sending out the right messages.’
I think the dividends of that approach came through last year in the Tercentenary celebrations – local media and local people were very positive about Freemasonry because members were very happy to talk about it. The Pro Grand Master said at the end of 2017 that we have rebuilt confidence and pride in masonry at the grass-roots level over the past 30 years. That is a huge transformation, and it has been fascinating to be involved in the process. Freemasonry has a far more positive future now than in, say, 1999 or 2000. If you’d asked me then, I would have been fairly pessimistic, but the things that have been done since then have really made a difference.
What is your proudest achievement?
As well as being part of the Openness Policy, I’m most proud of transforming the Library and Museum into a charitable trust, combined with working with academia to rebuild our connections there. I’ve been lucky. As a retiree, I can say now that I have been one of those very fortunate people who has been paid a salary for doing a hobby. I’ve had the most extraordinary opportunities to meet people who I couldn’t imagine meeting in other circumstances. I’ve been able to travel. I’ve made some very good friendships around the world. It’s just been fun.