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.
After a car crash in 2007 left him paralysed from the waist down, Arthur Vaughan Williams’ military career came to an abrupt end
At 21 years old, Arthur had to rethink his entire life. ‘To go from peak physical fitness to somebody who can’t control two-thirds of their body – it’s unimaginable,’ he says.
Bedridden for six weeks, Arthur was incapable of showering, dressing or even sitting up without help. It took two months of painful rehabilitation before he was allowed to return to his parents’ house. Gradually, Arthur began to rebuild his life piece by piece, starting with his initiation into White Ensign Lodge, No. 9169, in 2008.
‘My dad was a Freemason, and his father before him, so it’s a path I’ve always been interested in,’ he says. ‘As a military lodge, it’s no coincidence that many of the Freemasons there are successful, but it’s not through greed or selfishness. It’s because we want to lead a good life, to raise a decent, good family and to play our role in society well.’
With this newfound positivity, Arthur threw himself into his sporting passions. But it was television that gave Arthur his big break. After submitting a video to a national talent search, he was chosen as one of six new disabled presenters to front Channel 4’s coverage of the 2012 Paralympic Games. Since then, his career in television has allowed Arthur to combine his passions for flying and presenting on the documentary series Flying To The Ends Of The Earth.
‘Obviously my accident completely changed my life,’ says Arthur. ‘Back then, the young boy in me wanted to blow everything up and burn it all to the ground. But now, as an adult, I want to create, to have something to show for my work that I can always be proud of. It’s the only direction my life could’ve gone if I wanted to survive.’
What does the Tercentenary mean to you?
‘In the 21st century, particularly in 2018, we are losing the basic human ability to share and love one another. Freemasonry, 300 years on, is helping keep that alive.’
‘I was hoping for three golds on the first day,’ deadpans Sean Gaffney, when asked if he was happy with the two golds, one silver and a bronze that he won in the 2016 Invictus Games, the international Paralympic-style event
During a practice run for a tournament while he was serving in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm in 1999, there was ‘a bit of an accident’ when a 1,500lb field gun ended up on top of Sean’s foot, crushing it. Since suffering that life-changing injury, in which he lost the lower part of his left leg, Sean Gaffney has pushed his body to the limits of physical endurance.
He spent three months in hospital undergoing about 26 surgeries before contracting life-threatening septicaemia and having his leg amputated below the knee. Back at the gym within a month of being released from hospital, Sean started entering triathlons and began raising money for charities such as Help for Heroes, which led to him being asked to take part in the Invictus Games.
It’s his charity work that made Sean interested in Freemasonry. ‘Since 2006 I’ve done one or two physically challenging charity events a year,’ he says. ‘So when that side of Freemasonry was explained to me, I thought that was the best thing about it.’
Sean was initiated into the Royal Naval Lodge, No. 2761, in Yeovil in 2013, and feels that Freemasonry fits well into his life. ‘I can go off to a lodge meeting or a charity meal, or say that I’ll help out a fellow brother at the weekend lifting and shifting,’ he says. ‘It’s opened up a network of friends. Being a mason is not just about being a good man today, but having the desire to be a better man tomorrow.’
What does the Tercentenary mean to you?
‘How proud I am to be part of an organisation that for 300 years has sought to bring out the best in people. To be a member of a fraternity that does so much good in the world and asks for so little in return.’
Despite having raised money to give one boy life-changing facial surgery and more to build an orphanage in Africa, Wayne Ingram doesn’t spend much time considering his role in improving the quality of people’s lives. ‘I don’t really think about my involvement,’ he says. ‘I’m just glad it happened'
Wayne’s fundraising fervour began while stationed in Bosnia. He heard about Stefan Savic, a boy of four born with a facial cleft. Wayne organised a football match between the British Army and local nationals to raise more than €6,000 (£5,288).
Stefan’s first surgery in 2003 was a success but he has needed a series of lengthy operations since, all of which were funded with money raised by Wayne, which opened the door to other fundraising efforts.
When working in Nouadhibou, Africa, in 2012, Wayne was asked to conduct a health and safety audit on an orphanage. ‘There were 40 children sleeping on the floor, in a room with no lights, open sewage and rats running around. They had nothing at all.’
True to form, Wayne set about raising money for the children, intending to cycle 900km across the African countryside. When this was thwarted because of the potential of a kidnap threat, he altered the challenge to have expats and locals cycle in a gym for 24 hours under the banner ‘Ride a Mile and Make a Smile’, raising £67,000.
Wayne’s commitment and compassion sit well with his membership of the Craft. His father a mason, Wayne joined All Souls Lodge, No. 170, based in Dorset, in 2007. ‘At first, I enjoyed going to the events and didn’t want to seek progression. But it’s an amazing lodge: most of them are ex-servicemen and there’s a great family atmosphere.’
What does the Tercentenary mean to you?
‘It’s an amazing achievement for UGLE. I was extremely lucky to be part of the Tercentenary Interprovincial Banner relay, where the Provincial banner was relayed to every masonic hall in Dorset by masonic motorcyclists.’
Over the last five decades, Graham Hill's interest in animals has, he admits, somewhat taken over his life
‘I started exhibiting dogs in 1965 – Russian wolfhounds known as borzoi – and I’ve won breeding and showing achievements at championships for years: top dog, top breed,’ he beams proudly as his well-trained borzoi calmly gaze into the camera lens.
Graham is Secretary of Connaught Lodge, No. 3270. Set up for Freemasons with an interest in dog fancying, the lodge now has members from across Britain involved in all facets of the dog world, from showing at Crufts and other dog shows, through to field trials, agility, breeding, owning and judging.
The lodge has a history inextricably linked with The Kennel Club that goes back more than a hundred years. Connaught was founded by a group of six like-minded men in 1907 and named in honour of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (son of Queen Victoria), who was, in the early 20th century, Most Worshipful Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England and also president of The Kennel Club.
The philosophy behind Connaught Lodge is simple. ‘It’s for Freemasons with a common interest in the canine world,’ he says. ‘All of us are associated with dogs, and Connaught members are involved in organising and taking part in all disciplines of canine activities.’
Though the lodge meets just four times a year, its members routinely meet informally. ‘We’re a whole cross-section of canine enthusiasts,’ Graham says of this niche interest lodge. ‘It’s a philosophy that truly espouses two key aspects of masonry: socialising and brotherhood. Many members are glad of the social aspect, counting Connaught as their mother lodge.’
What does the Tercentenary mean to you?
‘The celebrations have been an exciting, important milestone in the Connaught calendar, with each member bringing their ideas and enthusiasm to the table.’
Unlike many students, partying was the last thing on John Henry Phillips’ mind when he headed to the University of Leicester in 2013
After spending four years touring Europe as part of a rock band, John was eager to indulge in his archaeological passions.
It was the discovery of a World War I grenade during his first visit to the fields at Flanders in Belgium that inspired John to apply to study archaeology. After being accepted onto a course in Leicester (with the same university department that discovered Richard III’s remains in a local car park in 2012), John became interested in the Universities Scheme, which forges links between lodges and young people who are seeking to become involved in Freemasonry.
‘Student living can be quite intense,’ recalls John. ‘So Freemasonry was a great opportunity to step away from it all, to do something positive and unselfish rather than just going on a pub crawl.’ In December 2013, John was officially initiated into Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448.
The overlap between the history of Freemasonry and the world wars had a strong appeal for John. ‘As a historical fraternity, it ties in with my interests. I particularly like masonic traditions that originate from those eras – such as raising a glass to absent brethren at lodge dinners, which stems from World War I,’ he says.
It is this sense of tradition, combined with the support of the fraternity, that John believes young people could benefit from most. ‘It’s an uncertain time for young people. Freemasonry could be a welcome constant for many,’ he says. ‘But it’s a two-way street. Young people have more diverse experiences and perspectives than they did 50 years ago. I think we have just as much to offer in the way of new ideas.’
What does the Tercentenary mean to you?
‘It’s a real honour to think back over 300 years of history and know that you’re a part of a long line of people who achieved great things. I try and work the morals of Freemasonry into all of the work I do.’
The Tercentenary celebrations reached their peak on 31 October, when more than 4,000 brethren attended an especial meeting of the Grand Lodge at London’s Royal Albert Hall
Those present will long remember this wonderful event.
Proceedings began when Grand Lodge was opened and called off in a side room. Following the fanfare, the Grand Master took his place in the Queen’s Box to huge applause, accompanied by HRH Prince Michael of Kent. The visiting Grand Masters were then introduced, while their location and Grand Lodge seals were gradually added to a map of the world projected on two large screens.
As it was an especial meeting, there was no formal business, and entertainment was provided by actors Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar, with screen projections exemplifying the principles, tenets and values of Freemasonry. The play gave insight into Freemasonry’s history over the last 300 years with reference to the famous men who have graced it with their presence. Those who organised this memorable performance deserve great thanks.
'The 4,000 brethren present at the Royal Albert Hall will long remember this wonderful event'
At the end of the evening, the Grand Master was processed onto the stage. The Deputy Grand Master read out a message of loyal greeting sent to Her Majesty The Queen, and the response received. Then, with the assistance of the Grand Chaplain, the replica of Sir John Soane’s Ark of the Masonic Covenant was dedicated.
The Pro Grand Master congratulated the Grand Master on his 50th anniversary in that role and thanked him for his service. In response, the brethren rose and gave the Grand Master a prolonged standing ovation. He was clearly touched. The Grand Master was then processed out of Royal Albert Hall with his Grand Officers.
It was a remarkable occasion, and all who were involved in organising it are due our grateful thanks for such a fitting celebration of the Tercentenary of the first Grand Lodge in the world.
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.’