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’
Seeing the light
Freemasons’ Hall welcomed more than 100 guests for a special event on 16 May, with renowned war artist Arabella Dorman the guest speaker for the Anthony Wilson Memorial Lecture
The event was opened by Dr David Staples, the United Grand Lodge of England’s Grand Secretary and CEO, as he introduced Arabella to the stage and announced the two charities it was in aid of – Beyond Conflict and Age Unlimited.
The lecture was in honour of Anthony Wilson, who served as the President of the Board of General Purposes at UGLE from 2004 to 2017. Anthony’s widow, Vicky, was also in attendance, as well as Peter Lowndes, Pro Grand Master, and Geoffrey Dearing, the current President of the Board of General Purposes.
Dorman opened by paying tribute to the great man that Anthony was and telling the audience what a pleasure it had been to paint his portrait, which was placed at the front of the stage throughout the event. She has also been commissioned to paint a scene from UGLE’s Tercentenary celebrations in 2017, and this will soon be displayed in Freemasons’ Hall.
Dorman gave a vivid and insightful talk, opening with a poem and asking the audience to ‘think about our one life’, as she spoke in detail about her journeys across a number of war-torn countries.
Displayed behind her were images both harrowing and beautiful, including a bombed mosque in Syria, as Dorman argued that the destruction of ancient sites had only added to the tragedy that has befallen that country. The artist also explained how her belief in the idea of permanence was changed by her visit, telling the audience that history can be rebuilt, but that the past is lost to this present.
Dorman said the voices she had heard in Syria were not broken, but full of defiance and longing. This was even more inspiring when she recalled how one woman had told her that she had lost her car and carried on; she had lost her house and carried on; and she’d then lost her family and thought that she couldn’t carry on, but still did.
This was one of many real-life examples Dorman detailed throughout the night, as she shared her hope that even though art couldn’t change the world, it might help people feel a calling to resist corruption and war. In conclusion, she asked that her own work be seen as a salute to the power of peace, courage, faith and hope – as well as a call to reach out to others with compassion.
13 March 2019
A talk by RW Bro John Pagella, Grand Superintendent of Works
Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren
If you want to understand the responsibilities which you have as a Grand Lodge Officer you can do one of two things. Consult the Book of Constitutions, or speak to Graham Redman.
Rule 35 states – ‘The Grand Superintendent of Works shall advise the Board of General Purposes when required on any matter in connection with the building and the works. He shall furnish reports on the state of repair of the properties of the Grand Lodge when required’.
When I asked Graham if this meant that I simply had to submit periodic reports on necessary works we intended to carry out to keep this building in repair his reply was to the effect that ‘well - you may find that in practice it is rather more than that’
He was right.
I will start with Freemasons’ Hall.
You are surrounded in the Grand Temple by the centrepiece of one of this country’s foremost art deco buildings with a heritage value sustained by the fact that it remains today in use for the purpose for which it was originally designed and built. We are in the middle of a Conservation Area, and the building itself is Listed Grade 11*. What this means in practice is that anything which we do which affects the exterior of the building requires planning permission, and anything other than very minor like for like repairs to both the interior and the exterior must be notified to, and approved by, the Conservation Officer.
Planning Officers have to work within National Planning Policy Guidelines, and they are required to implement Local Plan Policies. Conservation Officers on the other hand have responsibility for protecting the heritage value of buildings of architectural and historic interest which, by their nature, are individual. They have wide ranging powers, which frequently involve subjective judgements which, even with professional advice, can be hard to predict.
Carrying out work to a listed building which requires, but does not have, Listed Building consent is a criminal offence. As I have no wish to return to address Grand Lodge on my experience as Grand Superintendent of Works after 12 months in Ford Prison I treat the need for works in this building to be approved by the Conservation Officer with the utmost care and respect.
Late and unexpected interventions by the Conservation Officer can be a very real problem, as we discovered when we renewed the West Door steps. To avoid this in the future we are at an early stage in negotiations with the Conservation Officer and Historic England for an HPA, a Heritage Partnership Agreement, which will give pre-approval in principle to specified works which we are likely to carry out, often repeatedly. Examples range from future phases of repairs to the building’s steel frame ( Regents Street Disease ), through work to repair and refurbish the many original toilets in the building ( not very glamorous, but nevertheless necessary ) down to the specification of the paint to be used when redecorating some of the more elaborately embellished Lodge Rooms.
HPAs are complex, time consuming, and costly, but the prize is securing for UGLE ownership and control of the timing and phasing of major works of repair which we need to carry out.
Keeping a building in repair can require reacting to the unexpected, but for the most part it can be anticipated through planned property maintenance. We are working to a ten-year time horizon in implementing recommended works within this building so that, for example, phased repairs to deal with RSD will include routine maintenance and general repairs within the same area. As far as possible once we have access to any hard to reach area within this building, or for that matter any area, our aim is to complete all necessary work properly and to a high standard so that an early return is not needed.
I have concentrated up to this point on repair, but the more interesting challenge is working to deliver changes to the way in which Freemasonry needs to use Freemasons’ Hall to support the vision of the Craft’s place in society today which the Grand Secretary outlined at the Quarterly Communication in December.
Freemasons’ Hall is and will remain a Masonic building, but our needs are changing. Many of you will know from personal experience that most of the Lodge Rooms here in Freemasons’ Hall, with the notable exception of Lodge Room No 10, were designed to accommodate meetings with an attendance of between 70 and 80. Today average attendance is in the mid 20s.
We cannot subdivide Lodge Rooms in response to this. Their scale and proportions were an important element within the original design of the building, and we know that any attempt to change this would meet with strong opposition from the Conservation Officer.
We can, however, adapt space to form smaller Lodge Rooms from accommodation in the building designed for other uses. Examples of where this has been achieved are the conversion of two committee rooms on the Sussex Corridor to provide two Chapter Rooms, and the three Lodge Rooms created on the third floor in what was originally two caretaker’s flats.
While these changes take place we are also looking at how this building can play its part in encouraging a wider understanding of Freemasonry in society. This means improving public access, both generally and through supporting outside hire events. Both encourage improved awareness, while providing the opportunity for education through community engagement.
Improving public access, while at the same time meeting the continuing needs of UGLE as well as those of MetGL, the Library & Museum and the Masonic Charitable Foundation is far from straightforward, and we always have to keep in mind that our ideas and ambitions may not always meet with approval from the Conservation Officer if work is involved requiring Listed Building Consent.
I don’t want to overstate the problem. There are projects which receive immediate support, at least in principle.
Freemasons’ Hall, like many public buildings, fails to provide enough female toilets. The building was designed to provide toilets for the convenience of members, and the paid employees of Grand Lodge were thought unlikely to include women. How the world has changed.
We have legal obligations to provide facilities for both men and women who work in the building, and if we are serious in wanting to host events such as Letters Live and London Fashion Week we must provide facilities which are as good, if not better, than competing venues. The unisex toilets off the vestibule and those on the floor below meet this need, and as we approach the refurbishment of the Gallery Suite to improve the facilities available for Masonic use and outside hire in what was Lodge Room 1 and its ante room, we will be restoring to their original use nearby toilets on the lower ground floor. These will, however, be designed with flexible male / female use use in mind.
As I and others on the Hall Committee oversee these projects I do so in the knowledge that my responsibilities as Grand Superintendent of Works do not end at the front door.
From the very early years of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge has owned a number of buildings in Great Queen Street. These include the Grand Connaught Rooms and the Sway nightclub, together with most of the buildings opposite on the north side of Great Queen Street. They are in the same Conservation Area as Freemasons’ Hall, and many of them are listed, including several which are Grade 11 *.
A diverse property portfolio such as this is by its nature management intensive, and just over 10 years ago the Board of General Purposes received a report from the then Grand Superintendent of Works John Edgcumbe drawing attention to the possibility of selling the properties to reinvest in a modern, well let commercial property which might provide better growth prospects without the need for continuous oversight, and periodic investment in refurbishment and repair.
Mindful of the importance which heritage has to Freemasonry, and the fact that ownership provides control over the setting of Freemasons’ Hall, the decision was taken by the Board that the buildings should be retained.
Maximising value by improving tenant mix, and income quality, while refurbishing and modernising the properties where necessary, became a long-term objective of the Property Investment Committee chaired by the Grand Treasurer, Quentin Humberstone. As well as being Grand Superintendent of Works I am a Chartered Surveyor with practical experience of property investment and asset management, and the valuation of commercial properties. With this background I should perhaps have expected that my work would extend beyond looking after Freemasons’ Hall to include contributing to the work of the Property Investment Committee.
Pausing at this point it is perhaps worth drawing attention to the fact that the Property Investment Committee’s investment objectives have served Grand Lodge well.
The accounts of Grand Lodge are not exactly bedtime reading, but in 2006 the north side of Great Queen Street had a book value in the region of £14.5m. By 2011 an external independent valuation confirmed that the value of the whole portfolio including the Grand Connaught Rooms, and with the benefit of investment in the refurbishment of several of the properties, had risen to £31.1m, and as at 31st December 2017 the figure in the UGLE accounts was just over £56.5m. You must wait for publication of the 2018 accounts for the corresponding value as at December last year, but I can reveal that a further increase in value will be reported.
Given the long-term commitment of Grand Lodge to holding this portfolio improvements in capital value, while reassuring, are perhaps less important than rental income. This is currently just over £2.5m pa. which contributes to the investment income which is available for Grand Lodge to maintain, repair and improve Freemasons’ Hall without making a call on individual members’ Grand Lodge dues.
Masonic ownership of land and building extends well beyond Great Queen Street to the many Masonic Halls and Centres throughout the country. These are the responsibility of their owners. Whilst Freemasonry is a Craft, running and managing Masonic Halls and Centres is a business. Over the years there have been many successes, but occasionally things have gone wrong, and the accompanying adverse publicity compromises years of hard work in promoting the reputation of Freemasonry for the better.
We have within our membership valuable knowledge and experience of how to manage a Masonic Hall and Centre in a way which is both sustainable, and financially viable. What we did not have until recently was a reference resource which brought together in one place experience and best practice. This gap was recognised by the Membership Focus Group in 2015 which set up a Masonic Halls Working Group tasked with creating a Guidance Manual to share knowledge of best practise.
Unlike the Book of Constitutions compliance with the Guidance Manual is not mandatory, although ignoring advice inevitably leaves room for criticism if things go wrong.
As Grand Superintendent of Works I am now responsible for issuing updates to the Masonic Halls Best Practise Guidance Manual. Working with a Steering Group we issue periodic updates – best practise is not static. It evolves in the light of new legislation, and widened experience. We hold annual seminars here at Freemasons’ Hall as a way of making sure that Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works and those looking after Masonic Halls and Centres can contribute their knowledge and experience to the Guidance Manual and its advice.
As Grand Superintendent of Works here at Grand Lodge I am as much a user of the Guidance Manual as my counterparts in MetGL and across the Provinces.
As you can see Graham Redman was correct when he explained to me that I would be spending my time doing rather more than simply submiting periodic reports to the Board of General Purposes on the condition of this building.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
13 March 2019
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 12 December 2018 were confirmed.
Election of the Grand Master
HRH The Duke of Kent was re-elected as Grand Master.
Grand Lodge Register 2009-2018
The tables below show the number of Lodges on the Register and of Certificates issued during the past ten years.
Charges for warrants
In accordance with the provisions of Rule 270A, Book of Constitutions, the Board has considered the costs of preparing the actual documents specified in this Rule and recommends that for the year commencing 1 April 2019 the charges (exclusive of VAT) shall be as follows:
Installed Masters' Lodges
In December 2012 the wording of Rules 269 and 271 in relation to the definition of an Installed Masters’ Lodge was amended to include those Installed Masters’ Lodges serving a group of Lodges with a common affiliation. Because of the way the amendment was framed, the last sentence of each Rule was inadvertently omitted in the next and all subsequent reprints of the Book of Constitutions.
The Board, having considered the matter, is of the view that for the avoidance of doubt the lost wording should be restored by way of a formal amendment to the two Rules, and that for ease of reference the full wording of each Rule should be printed in the Paper of Business.
The Board has received a report that Cleddau Lodge, No. 6952 has resolved to surrender its Warrant in order to amalgamate with Cambrian Lodge, No. 464 (West Wales).
The Board accordingly recommends that the Lodge be removed from the register in order to effect the amalgamation.
Erasure of lodges
The Board has received a report that 13 Lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. The Lodges are:
Ellesmere Lodge, No. 3068 (West Lancashire), Hillingdon Lodge, No. 3174 (Middlesex), Ashfield Lodge, No. 4129 (Cheshire), Meridian Lodge, No. 5060 (Cheshire), Hadrian Lodge, No. 5216 (Cumberland and Westmorland), Byerley Lodge, No. 7853 (Durham), Lodge of Friendship, No. 7902 (Worcestershire), Ancient of Days Lodge, No. 9230 (West Kent), Caer Estyn Lodge, No. 9252 (North Wales), Southwood Lodge, No. 9293 (West Kent), Service above Self Lodge, No. 9537 (Durham), Black Country Heritage Lodge, No. 9702 (Staffordshire), and Essex Millennium Lodge, No. 9729 (Essex)
Over recent years, the Lodges have found themselves no longer viable. The Board is satisfied that further efforts to save them would be to no avail and therefore has no alternative but to recommend that they be erased. A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Amendments to the Book of Constitutions
For the next Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge, the President of the Board of General Purposes to move:
a. That Rule 269 be amended to read:
“269. There shall be payable to the Fund of General Purposes annual dues inrespect of each of its members by every Lodge
(i) in England and Wales that isunattached
(ii) in a Metropolitan Area or a Province
(iii) in a District and
(iv) abroad not in a District of such respective amounts as shall be fixed for each calendar year by resolution of the Grand Lodge in the preceding June.
Provided that any Lodge in a Metropolitan Area, Province, District or Group that is from time to time determined by the Board of General Purposes to be a Lodge the membership of which is restricted to Brethren who are Installed Masters but which is otherwise open without further restriction to all Brethren either within the relevant Metropolitan Area, Province, District or Group, or within a group of Lodges linked together by a common purpose or affiliation, shall pay annual dues in respect of those Brethren only who are not members of any other Lodge, and in the case of a Brother who is a member only of one or more such Lodges restricted to Installed Masters the Lodge of which he has been longest a member shall alone pay annual dues in respect of him. Such a Brother shall pay, by way of annual subscription, an additional amount equal to the dues payable in respect of him by such Lodge, but such additional amount shall be disregarded in determining for the purposes of Rule 145 whether all the members of the Lodge entitled to the same privileges pay the same subscription.”
b. That Rule 271 be amended to read:
“271. There shall be payable to The Masonic Charitable Foundation by every Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or a Province or in England and Wales that is unattached in respect of each of its members annual contributions of not less than such amount as shall be fixed for each calendar year by resolution of the Grand Lodge in the preceding June. (No payment is due in respect of members of Lodges Overseas).
Provided that any Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or Province that is from time to time determined by the Board of General Purposes to be a Lodge the membership of which is restricted to Brethren who are Installed Masters but which is otherwise open without further restriction to all Brethren either within the relevant Metropolitan Area or Province, or within a group of Lodges linked together by a common purpose or affiliation, shall pay annual contributions in respect of those Brethren only who are not members of anyother Lodge, and in the case of a Brother who is a member only of one or more such Lodges restricted to Installed Masters the Lodge of which he has been longest a member shall alone pay the annual contribution in respect of him. Such a Brother shall pay, by way of annual subscription, a further additional amount equal to the annual contribution payable in respect of him by such Lodge, but such additional amount shall be disregarded in determining for thepurposes of Rule 145 whether all the members of the Lodge entitled to the same privileges pay the same subscription.”
Presentatation to Grand Lodge
A talk on A year in the life of the Grand Superintendent of Works by RW Bro John Pagella, PJGW, Grand Superintendent of Works.
List of new lodges
List of new lodges for which warrants have been granted by The MW The Grand Master, showing the dates from which their Warrants became effective with date of Warrant, location area, number and name of lodge are:
14 November 2018
9972 Hinckley Lodge of Installed Masters, Hinckley, Leicestershire and Rutland
9973 Epicurean Lodge, Kingston, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands
9974 Ruck and Maul Lodge, Marsh Baldon, Oxfordshire
12 December 2018
9975 Fidelity Lodge, Avellaneda, South America, Southern Division
9976 Ferring Contemporary Lodge, Worthing, Sussex
9977 Aubrey Shervington Jacobs Lodge, Kingston, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
A Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge is held on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The next will be at noon on Wednesday, 13 June 2019. Subsequent Communications will be held on 11 September 2019, 11 December 2019, 11 March 2020 and 10 June 2020.
The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on the last Wednesday in April (the next is on 24 April 2019), and admission is by ticket only.
Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter are held on the second Wednesday in November and the day following the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge. Future Convocations will be held on 25 April 2019, 13 November 2019 and 30 April 2020.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
12 December 2018
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 12 September 2018 were confirmed.
HRH The Duke of Kent KG was nominated to be Grand Master for the ensuing year.
Annual Investiture of Grand Officers – 24 April 2019
So that sufficient accommodation can be reserved for those Brethren who are to be invested and their friends, admission to the Annual Investiture is by ticket only. Brethren to be invested for the first time may invite to be present with them three qualified Brethren, and those to be promoted two qualified Brethren.
Allowance having been made for such an issue and for those whose presence in the Grand Lodge is essential, a few seats will remain. Written application for these seats may be made to the Grand Secretary between 1 March and 31 March by Brethren qualified to attend the Grand Lodge:
- Past Grand Officers;*
- Wardens (not Past Wardens);
- Past Masters qualified under Rule 9 of the Book of Constitutions.
Applications should state clearly the name, address and Lodge of the Brother concerned and under which of the four categories mentioned his application is made. If necessary, a ballot for the allocation of seats will be held in early April, and tickets will be posted to successful Brethren on or about 5 April. Brethren who have been unsuccessful will be so informed.
Possession of a ticket will not, of itself, ensure admission – Brethren who are not Grand Officers will be required to hand their tickets to the Scrutineers before examination by them in accordance with the usual practice at Quarterly Communications.
Past Grand Officers should sign the Attendance Books in the Past Grand Officers’ Room, and give up their tickets before being admitted to the Grand Temple. Grand Officers taking part in the procession will sign in the Grand Officers’ Room.
* Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Masters, all other Present Grand Officers, including Grand Stewards, Deputy Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Masters, and Assistant Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Masters should not apply in this way as they will be invited specifically by letter about a month before the day of Investiture and asked to indicate on a reply slip whether they intend to be present. Similar arrangements are made for District Grand Masters who are known to intend to be in the UK on 24 April and this can be extended to others, if they write indicating their wish to attend.
Masonic Year Book
The next edition of the Masonic Year Book, 2019–2020, will be available next autumn. The charge will be £15 per copy, plus postage and packing where appropriate. It is not proposed to produce a new edition of the Directory of Lodges and Chapters during 2019. Copies of the 2018 edition will still be available from Letchworth’s shop.
Every Lodge is provided access to an online version of the Masonic Year Book and Directory of Lodges and Chapters free of charge via the designated website. The Board emphasises that this information should be available to all the members of private Lodges and not regarded as for the exclusive use of the Secretary to whom, for administrative reasons, access is provided.
Metropolitan and Provincial Lodges
Access to the online version of the Masonic Year Book and Directory of Lodges and Chapters is provided to Secretaries of Lodges.
Access to the online version of the Masonic Year Book and Directory of Lodges and Chapters is provided to Secretaries of Lodges in the Districts as well as to Secretaries of Lodges abroad not in a District.
Prestonian Lectures for 2019
The Board has considered applications for the delivery of the oﬃcial Prestonian Lectures in 2019 and has decided that these should be given under the auspices of the following:
Dean Leigh Masters Lodge, No. 3687 (Herefordshire)
Norfolk Installed Masters’ Lodge, No. 3905 (Norfolk)
Leeds and District Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 7918 (Yorkshire, West Riding)
West Sussex Masters Lodge, No. 8963 (Sussex)
The Lecturer, W Bro Michael Karn, PAGSwdB, states that the title of the Lecture will be: English Freemasonry during the Great War.
The Board, when annually inviting applications for the privilege of having one of the official deliveries of the Lectures, invariably emphasises their importance as the only Lectures held under the authority of the Grand Lodge. The Board and the Trustees of the Prestonian Fund are correspondingly keen to ensure that Brethren come forward with potential future lectures on topics which will be of interest to English Freemasons. Brethren who consider that they have the requisite skill and knowledge are accordingly invited to submit their names to the Grand Secretary, through their Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretaries.
Since the Board last reported to Grand Lodge on lotteries in December 1994, there has been no signiﬁcant change in the law on the subject, which is now contained in the Gambling Act 2005. There have, however, been some changes in the names of the various regulatory bodies and the classes of lotteries themselves, as well as minor changes to the rules applying to the various classes. The Board accordingly hopes that the Grand Lodge will endorse the following statement on lotteries, which takes into account the changes since it last reported on the subject.
There is no inherent Masonic objection to any form of lottery currently permitted by law, and a lottery with a Masonic character may, therefore, be used by members of the Craft to raise money for any lawful purpose, subject to the qualiﬁcations set out below. Such a lottery should, in general, be used to raise money only for charity, other benevolent purposes, or some other speciﬁc object not directed to private gain; no form of lottery should in any circumstances be used to defray the general running expenses of a Lodge, Metropolitan Area, Province or District.
A lottery has a Masonic character if it is promoted or run by Freemasons
- who declare their capacity as such; or
- for a purpose, or on behalf of a body, which is identiﬁably Masonic, whether or not the purpose or body includes words such as “Masonic” or “Freemason” in its title or description.
The Board considers it essential that the purpose for which any such lottery is held is clearly stated to anyone to whom chances in the lottery are oﬀered for sale.
It does not accord with the spirit of Masonic charity or of Masonic bodies that lotteries should be held which seek money under the banner of Freemasonry from other than Masonic sources (Masonic sources include anyone who has a family or other close personal connection with the Craft or with any of its members). It is therefore inappropriate for tickets for a lottery with a Masonic character to be made available for sale to the public at large.
The responsibility for compliance with the provisions of the law rests ﬁrmly on those responsible for promoting and assisting in the running of lotteries. It is the duty of such Brethren to ensure, by obtaining where necessary appropriate procedural and legal advice, that the Craft is not brought into disrepute by any failure to meet all legal requirements, or for any other reason. Advice is readily available from, among others, the Gambling Commission, local authorities, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Institute of Fundraising.
The Gambling Act 2005 provides that all lotteries must be either licensed, or registered or fall within one of ﬁve statutory exemptions. The Board’s guidance on the three types of lottery most likely to be relevant for lotteries with a Masonic character is as follows:
- The Board sees no objection to “small lotteries incidental to events” (for example, a raﬄe at a dinner), provided that the entertainment is of a Masonic character.
- A “private society lottery” (for example a “100 club”) where tickets are sold only to members or visitors and the lottery is advertised only within the relevant Lodge: the Board considers that such lotteries, if appropriate for Masonic purposes, should be subject to the same restrictions as small society lotteries (see below).
- A “small society lottery”, for which registration of the organisation is required, is appropriate for fundraising on a larger scale, for example a Provincial Benevolent Fund or one of the Masonic Charities or local charities, or when a Private Lodge sponsors a special appeal. The written leave of the Provincial or District Grand Master (or, in London, of the Board of General Purposes) must be obtained at the earliest opportunity, both before registration is applied for, and again before any individual lottery is organised.
Literature which includes Masonic forms of address in promoting the sale of lottery tickets is unacceptable, even if it emanates from Associations of Friends, over which Grand Lodge has no jurisdiction.
Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Masters of Lodges should refuse to permit the distribution of literature or tickets which clearly infringe any of the above principles, and may refuse to permit their distribution if in their opinion the spirit of those principles is infringed.
Recognition of foreign Grand Lodges
The Grand Chancellor to move that the following Grand Lodges be recognised:
Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alabama
The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alabama was originally formed as the Independent Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons for the State of Alabama on 27 September 1870, by three regular Lodges of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio, which was recognised by this Grand Lodge on 11 June 1997.
Grand Lodge of Paraná
The Grand Lodge of Paraná was formed on January 25th, 1941 by three regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the State of Rio de Janeiro, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 12 December 2001. The Grand Lodge of Paraná’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Paraná.
Grand Lodge of the State of Goiás
The Grand Lodge of the State of Goiás was formed on 9 June 1951 by ﬁfteen regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the State of São Paulo, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 8 December 1999. The Grand Lodge of the State of Goiás’ jurisdiction is limited to the State of Goiás.
Grand Lodge of Santa Catarina
The Grand Lodge of Santa Catarina was formed on 21 April 1956 by seven regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 12 December 2001. The Grand Lodge of Santa Catarina’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Santa Catarina.
Grand Lodge of the State of Roraima
The Grand Lodge of the State of Roraima was formed on 20 August 1981 by three regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of Amazonas, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 14 March 2018. The Grand Lodge of the State of Roraima’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Roraima.
Grand Lodge of the State of Rondônia
The Grand Lodge of the State of Rondônia was formed on 10 April 1985, by three regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of Amazonas, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 14 March 2018. The Grand Lodge of the State of Rondônia’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Rondônia.
Having shown that they have regularity of origin and that they conform to the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge recognition, the Board, having no reason to believe that they will not continue to maintain a regular path, recommends that these six Grand Lodges be recognised.
The Board has received reports that the following Lodges have resolved to surrender their Warrants: Palmer Lodge, No. 9255, in order to amalgamate with Heabrym Lodge, No. 7201 (Durham); and Blaauwberg Lodge, No. 9337, in order to amalgamate with Wynberg Lodge, No. 2577 (South Africa, Western Division).
The Board accordingly recommends that the Lodges be removed from the register in order to eﬀect the amalgamations.
Erasure of lodges
The Board has received a report that eighteen lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. The lodges are:
Red Rose of Lancaster Lodge, No. 1504 (East Lancashire); Lodge of Charity, No. 1551 (Warwickshire); Epping Lodge, No. 2077 (Essex); Arthur Sullivan Lodge, No. 2156 (East Lancashire); Edward Terry Lodge, No. 2722 (London); Catford Lodge, No. 3649 (West Kent); Loyal Lodge, No. 5040 (East Lancashire); Father Thames Lodge, No. 5615 (Middlesex); Old Rectory Lodge, No. 6651 (Oxfordshire); Hurstwood Lodge, No. 6768 (East Lancashire); Syon Lodge, No. 7394 (Middlesex); Cathedral Lodge, No. 7814 (East Lancashire); Phaethon Lodge, No. 7820 (London); Alphin Lodge, No. 8461 (East Lancashire); Delphi Lodge, No. 9061 (East Lancashire); Blakewater Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 9574 (East Lancashire); Condate Cheshire Provincial Grand Oﬃcers Lodge, No. 9594 (Cheshire); and Kendalian Lodge, No. 9757 (Cumberland and Westmorland)
Over recent years, the Lodges have found themselves no longer viable. The Board was satisfied that further efforts to save them would be to no avail and therefore had no alternative but to recommend that they be erased. A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Presentation to Grand Lodge
A presentation on Risk Takers, Caretakers and Undertakers was given by VW Dr David Staples, Grand Secretary.
List of new lodges for which warrants have been granted by the MW The Grand Master, showing the dates from which their Warrants became effective with date of Warrant, location area, number and name of lodge are:
12 September 2018
9967 Barão de Batovi Lodge, Campo Grande, South America, Northern Division
9968 Essex Cornerstone Lodge, Upminster, Essex
9969 Vectis Service Lodge, Ryde, Hampshire and Isle of Wight
9970 Swallowﬁeld Pitt Bridge Lodge, Wokingham, Berkshire
9971 Shropshire Provincial Grand Stewards’ Lodge, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge will be held on 13 March 2019, 12 June 2019, 11 September 2019, 11 December 2019 and 11 March 2020.
The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers will take place on 24 April 2019, and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend.
Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter will be held on 25 April 2019, 13 November 2019 and 30 April 2020.
From the Grand Secretary
The Grand Secretary’s column is, of course, also the Chief Executive’s column and I would like to give you a feel for what we have been implementing over the past year, and our hopes for the future. As Chief Executive, one of the reasons I was hired was to oversee the modernisation of the organisation in terms of its administration. The Chief Executive and the 90 or so staff at 60 Great Queen Street are responsible for the 180,000 members in England and Wales and some 20,000 members in our Districts overseas, for the upkeep and commercial realisation of the headquarters – a Grade 2* art deco masterpiece – and for supporting the committees which give direction and strategy to the membership organisation.
Some of the most important changes will not be obvious to you but will help build an organisation capable of delivering the will of the Rulers and the Board and Committee of General Purposes in a manner which serves and supports you, the members. There have been changes in roles and staff as is inevitable with any change management process, but we are moving, at pace, towards becoming a more transparent headquarters whose purpose is understood and appreciated.
Investors in People has advised us on some of these changes as we transform the way we do things, and we have just learnt that we have been awarded Investors in People accreditation. We are at the tail end of a wholesale restructure to ensure that ‘delivering for our members’ is at the heart of everything we do. The Directory of Lodges and Chapters and Masonic Year Book are now living online documents, and you may now book in, and pay for Quarterly Communications and Supreme Grand Chapter online (saving 1,800 man hours for the Secretariat a year). We have also increased the commercial hire of our wonderful building by 30 per cent year on year, without affecting our masonic hires, thereby offsetting the costs we have to pass on to you. New video conferencing suites enable members up and down the country to participate in the decisions being made here in London and we are training more people than ever before – from Provincial Grand Masters to Media Ambassadors, Provincial Grand Secretaries to Almoners and Communications Officers.
From January we will have a Member Services Department incorporating Registration, the Chancellery, and a Department for the Districts to support the Provinces and Districts as well as delivering our renewed focus on attracting new members and engaging our current membership. A new communications structure will focus on getting the positive messages of Freemasonry known, and ensuring the Court of Public Opinion is firmly on our side. Imagine an organisation ‘normalised’ in the public consciousness. Where going to a lodge meeting was regarded in the same manner as going out for a meal, going to watch the rugby or going to the cinema.
Imagine an organisation where writing the same details on different forms every step of your masonic journey was a thing of the past; where clearance Certificates could be obtained at the click of a button; where you could update your personal details in a few seconds and where candidates received information on the ceremonies they had just been through the following morning. Imagine lodges being visible in the community – volunteering to help with what matters to them – and being regarded as an outward expression of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth; where lodge secretaries didn’t spend hours on installation returns, and where Grand Lodge certificates were dispatched with the merest twitch of Bro Secretary’s index finger. These are some of the things the Executive and staff, the various committees, working groups and volunteers are looking at realising over the coming 18 months as we seek to improve how we administer your organisation.
These changes are not, of course, about altering our character or our essence. They are not about changing our rituals or outlook, or imposing faddish political correctness or unnecessary change for change’s sake. The United Grand Lodge of England will always be here to act as a custodian of the values and traditions of Freemasonry that inspire men to lead better lives for the benefit of society. We are here to curate those areas that are precious to us while promoting a straightforward organisation that is supportive, self-confident, welcoming, member focused, friendly and fun, because that is an organisation so many people would want to join, and would never dream of leaving.
Dr David Staples
‘Imagine an organisation where going to a lodge meeting was regarded by the public in the same manner as going out for a meal, going to watch the rugby or going to the cinema’
How did a renowned masonic jeweller come to play a pivotal role in the union of the two Grand Lodges? Dr James Campbell explores the life and times of Thomas Harper
Visit any masonic meeting in England or Wales and you will find members dressed in the same aprons: sky-blue with rosettes for Master Masons; sky-blue with plumb rules for those who have been through the Master’s Chair; and garter-blue for Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge Officers, with standard jewels suspended from their collars. While this regalia is well known, the people who came up with these designs have been largely forgotten. One of them was Thomas Harper (c. 1736-1832).
Before 1813 there was no standard masonic regalia. There were special aprons that denoted rank, but huge variations remained in the designs – as can still be seen today in Scottish masonry.
When the two Grand Lodges of England and Wales (the Premier or Moderns and the Antients) came together on 27 December 1813 to form the United Grand Lodge of England, an effort was made to standardise designs, including warrants, certificates, the ritual and the regalia. The Duke of Sussex, the new Grand Master, formed a Board of Works charged with working out the details. The first meeting was held on 7 February 1814. The minutes survive and record that Thomas Harper was in the chair.
There are some people for whom Freemasonry is an agreeable but small part of their otherwise busy lives, and others whose lives become so devoted to Freemasonry that it defines them. The latter was most definitely the case for Thomas Harper.
Harper’s origins remain obscure: we know nothing about where he was born or where he grew up. His first appearance in the historical record is because of his Freemasonry. We know that he was by 1774 a member of Lodge of the Antients, No. 190, in Charlestown, South Carolina. It is believed he probably first became a mason in 1761 in Bristol before setting sail for the American colonies.
A loyalist, Harper returned in 1781 with his wife and child, moving to London and setting himself up as a silversmith. He registered his mark at Goldsmith’s Hall and soon distinguished himself as a jeweller, rising to eminence in the City and acting as Master of the Turner’s Company in 1798, 1813 and 1829.
It is chiefly as a jeweller that Harper is remembered today. He made jewellery for several livery companies, but his principal output was in masonic jewels of all kinds. These are exceptionally fine and have become the most sought-after of all masonic jewels, instantly recognisable by his maker’s mark featuring his initials ‘TH’ on the reverse. His shop was in Fleet Street and he later moved to nearby Arundel Street.
There are some people whose lives become so devoted to Freemasonry that it defines them. This was most definitely the case for Thomas Harper
ANTIENTS AND MODERNS
Harper’s skill as a jeweller was such that it has largely overshadowed his other achievements and involvement in the Craft. To say that Harper was a keen Freemason is an understatement. On his return to England he had joined Lodge No. 5 of the Antients, now Albion Lodge, No. 9, whose most prominent member was Laurence Dermott, the first Grand Secretary, and the driving force behind the formation of the Antients Grand Lodge.
Harper rose quickly through the ranks of the Antients, being elected their Junior Grand Warden in 1785, Senior Grand Warden from 1786-88 and Deputy Grand Secretary from 1792-1800, before being elected Deputy Grand Master in 1800 and serving until the Union. He became a member of the Antients’ Grand Master’s Lodge, No. 1 and became Senior Warden in 1788, Master in 1793 and Treasurer from 1794-1829.
Harper was also prominent in the rival Moderns Grand Lodge. He had joined Globe Lodge, No. 13 (now no. 23) in 1787, which was then, as now, one of the lodges that nominated a Grand Steward and in 1794 his name was put forward, although it is not clear whether he took up the office.
INTRIGUE AND EXPULSION
In 1792, Harper had joined William Preston’s breakaway Lodge of Antiquity (No. 1 in the Moderns, now No. 2), helping organise its reunion with the remainder of the Lodge No. 1 in 1792, becoming its Treasurer from 1792-1803. He was thus for a brief time Treasurer of both Lodge No. 1 of the Antients and of Lodge No. 1 of the Moderns. His membership of both Grand Lodges was not without incident and he was briefly expelled from the Moderns in an intrigue in 1803 – but the expulsion was reversed in 1810.
After Dermott’s death in 1788, Harper took over producing the constitutions of the Antients (mysteriously entitled Ahiman Rezon). Like Dermott, he believed in the reunion of the two Grand Lodges, and became a prime mover in this effort. He was ideally placed as Deputy Grand Master of the Antients and a previous member of several Moderns’ Lodges, and played a leading part in the proceedings.
As a reward he was made a member of both the Board of Works and the Board of General Purposes in 1814, the ruling committees of the new United Grand Lodge of England. In these capacities he became involved in the designs for new jewels, aprons and certificates.
Harper also produced aprons alongside his business in masonic jewellery. He supplied Sir John Soane’s apron when he joined Grand Master’s Lodge, No. 1 in 1813. Both the apron and the receipt are retained in Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Harper chaired the first meeting of the Board of Works, which discussed the masonic jewels to be attached to the collars of the various officers. In the following weeks the coat of arms of the new Grand Lodge and the form of the aprons were discussed, with Harper present and involved in all of them.
It may be going too far to say he designed it, but Harper was undoubtedly an important influence on the regalia we have today, and a key player in forming modern Freemasonry.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
12 September 2018
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 13 June 2018 were confirmed.
Meetings in 2019
The dates on which the Board of General Purposes will meet in 2019 are: 12 February, 19 March, 14 May, 16 July, 17 September and 12 November.
Overseas Grand Lodges
The Board considered it appropriate to draw attention to Rule 125 (b), Book of Constitutions, and the list of Grand Lodges recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England, which is published in the Masonic Year Book, copies of which are sent to lodge secretaries.
Only Brethren who are members of lodges under recognised jurisdictions may visit English lodges. They must produce a certificate (i.e. a Grand Lodge certificate or other documentary proof of masonic identity provided by their Grand Lodge), should be prepared to acknowledge that a personal belief in TGAOTU is an essential Landmark in Freemasonry, and should be able to produce evidence of their good standing in their lodges.
It is the Master’s responsibility to ensure that the requirements of Rule 125 (b) are met.
It is particularly noted that the hazard of admitting a member of an unrecognised constitution arises not only in connection with overseas visitors, or individuals resident in this country who belong to an unrecognised constitution overseas, but there are also Lodges of unrecognised constitutions meeting in England, and care must be taken that their members are not admitted to our meetings.
Brethren are reminded that they are permitted to visit lodges overseas only if they come under a jurisdiction which is recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England.
A list of recognised Grand Lodges is published annually, but as the situation does change from time to time, Brethren should not attempt to make any masonic contact overseas without having first checked (preferably in writing) with the Grand Secretary’s Office via their Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretary, that there is recognised Freemasonry in the country concerned and, if so, whether there is any particular point which should be watched.
The Board recommends that the terms of this warning should be repeated:
- Verbally in open lodge whenever a Grand Lodge Certificate is presented, and
- In print once a year in a lodge’s summons.
Brethren should also be aware of the masonic convention that communications between Grand Lodges be conducted by Grand Secretaries. They should therefore not attempt without permission to make direct contact with the Grand Secretary of another Constitution. This does not preclude direct contact on a purely personal level between individual Brethren under different Grand Lodges.
Following the recent adoption of a policy on gender reassignment, the Board recommended a small amendment to the document Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition originally drawn up by the Board of General Purposes in 1929 at the request of the MW The Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, KG.
The amendment relates to paragraph 4 and, if approved, would bring that paragraph into line with this Grand Lodge’s policy. It is intended that when the document is printed in future in the Book of Constitutions, the Masonic Year Book and the booklet Information for the Guidance of Members of the Craft, a footnote will be included to the effect that the amendment was made at the Quarterly Communication of 12 September 2018.
The Board had received reports that the following lodges had resolved to surrender their Warrants in order to form amalgamations:
Langbourn and Dominicos Lodge, No. 5252, in order to amalgamate with National Westminster Lodge, No. 3647 (London); Pilgrim Lodge, No. 7265, in order to amalgamate with St Catherine’s Priory Lodge, No. 7960 (Surrey); Y Bont Faen Lodge, No. 8533, in order to amalgamate with Industria Cambrensis Lodge, No. 6700 (South Wales); and Erewash Lodge, No. 9376, in order to amalgamate with Dale Abbey Lodge, No. 5603 (Derbyshire).
A recommendation that the lodges be removed from the register in order to effect the amalgamations was approved.
The Board had received a report that eight lodges had closed and had surrendered their Warrants. The lodges are: Wodehouse Lodge, No. 1467 (South Africa, Eastern Division);
Northbourne Lodge, No. 3241 (Durham); Argosy Lodge, No. 3740 (West Lancashire); Faraday Lodge, No. 4852 (Northumberland); Faith and Honour Lodge, No. 7142 (Middlesex); St Mary’s Lodge, No. 7244 (Warwickshire); Circle of Sussex Lodge, No. 7905 (Sussex) and Beacon Lodge, No. 7915 (Worcestershire).
A recommendation that they be erased was approved.
Expulsions from the Craft
Eight members had been expelled from the Craft
Library and Museum Charitable Trust
The Board had received a report from the Library and Museum Charitable Trust.
Presentation to Grand Lodge
A presentation on Solomon – Fostering Curiosity, Developing Understanding was given by Stuart Hadler, Provincial Grand Master for Somerset and Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire.
13 June 2018: 9965 Curitiba Lodge Curitiba, South America, Northern Division.
11 July 2018: 9966 Square Wheels Lodge, Warwick, Warwickshire.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge will be held on 12 December 2018, 13 March 2019, 12 June 2019, 11 September 2019 and 11 December 2019.
The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers will take place on 24 April 2019, and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend. Full details will be given in the Paper of Business for December Grand Lodge.
Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter will be held on 14 November 2018, 25 April 2019 and 13 November 2019.
Instrumental in shaping the way that Freemasonry is now run, Anthony Wilson embraced modernisation with a focus on teamwork
Anthony Wilson, a long-time Freemason, died on 14 May this year after a long battle with cancer fought with great dignity. Anthony was born in 1950, educated at Eton, and subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant. One of the first audits he conducted was for the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund. Some 20 years later he became a Trustee of the charity, which is now known as The Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research.
Initiated into Tuscan Lodge, No. 14, in March 1976, Anthony was appointed Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1997 and served as President of the Committee of General Purposes from 2001 to 2004. He subsequently became President of the Board of General Purposes in March 2004.
Anthony was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for purpose. ‘My background is in chartered accountancy, and I’ve always been interested in business and how you can improve it,’ Anthony told Freemasonry Today 10 years after becoming Board President. ‘Working on the Board was a way of helping the running of Freemasonry that wasn’t purely ceremonial but rather administrative. It’s very much a collegiate affair – we’re a team and I’m very fortunate with the support and counsel I get.’
Promoted to Past Senior Grand Warden in April 2012, Anthony played a prominent role during the Tercentenary celebrations, including unveiling the memorial stones to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War, through to the Especial meeting of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall, where he was seated in the Royal Box with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
He retired as President of the Board of General Purposes at the end of 2017. Following his death, the United Grand Lodge of England sent condolences on behalf of all members of Grand Lodge to his widow, Vicky, and family.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes paid tribute to Anthony’s work: ‘I don’t often mention individuals in this context, but Anthony Wilson was a very special mason and a very special friend to so many of us. He carried out his duties in a very understated way, but he presided over the Board during a very busy period including, of course, the 300th celebrations.
‘He was an incredibly hard-working and efficient President who managed to carry out his role without falling out with anyone – quite a feat! And all this despite his illness, which was with him for far too many years. But he never, ever complained, and many would not have known how ill he was. He is sorely missed by all who knew him.’
Looking back on why he first became a Freemason, Anthony told Freemasonry Today: ‘Initially, what attracted me was the intrigue of finding out what Freemasonry was about, but once I’d been through the ceremonies, my whole view of it changed. It was relaxed, but there was also a formality – it wasn’t an easy ride. Don’t just expect to get things out of it; put things into it and you’ll get enjoyment. I realised that there was a lot of knowledge, that it was telling you a story linked to your values and that it gelled with what I stood for in life.’
It's the start
With an emphasis on professionalism and transparency, President of the Board of General Purposes Geoffrey Dearing wants to take Freemasonry to a new level of alignment
How would you describe your masonic progression?
It was a very slow burn. I helped to manage a law practice in East Kent and became a Freemason in 1974 when two of my partners, whom I respected, proposed and seconded me. I only used to go to four meetings a year as I couldn’t do more than that; I was very busy working around the courts. But I found that those four evenings were very relaxing, because you’re with different people who have a similar view of life.
I joined the Royal Arch in 1981. That was purely accidental: somebody’s son was a member of our lodge, and I got talking to his father, who turned out to be the Grand Superintendent for the Province of East Kent. But, again, I was very busy with the business, so nothing else happened until the end of the 1980s, when I was made a Steward in the Province in the Craft and the following year Senior Warden.
Along the way I spent a year as president of the Kent Law Society and became a Past Assistant Grand Registrar in 1994, which is a common office for a lawyer to take in Grand Lodge. But I wasn’t involved at all in the Province, as I had been made managing partner of one of Kent’s largest law firms. I just had no time for anything other than getting on with the business.
When did your focus change?
In 2004, I stepped down as managing partner. My firm very kindly kept me on as a consultant, and I found the change quite reinvigorating. When you’re responsible for two or three hundred people, you’re not able to do your own thing, because you are looking for consensus. I was able to go off and do things that interested me. I did a lot of lecturing on various legal-related bits and pieces and worked with some small companies.
By 2011, I had ceased to be a consultant and coincidentally received a telephone call asking if I would become Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for East Kent. I’ve never had any grand career plan; if I have been asked to do a job and think I can do it, I’ve done it, simple as that. So that’s really why I’m sitting here now – it was never my ambition.
How did you approach the PGM role?
I went in there entirely cold. I hadn’t been on the executive and knew nothing about how the office ran. But I had run a business. So, I went in there and started asking questions – it was not commercial, and there was a lot that I could bring to it that would make it work better.
I believe strongly that communication is fundamental. Most of the really big errors and some of the biggest claims as a lawyer that I’ve been involved in were avoidable. Things get to where they get to because of poor communication or, indeed, a total lack of it. So, when I started in East Kent in 2011, I supported a communications team.
We don’t tend to know enough about what Freemasons do for a living, but I found that we had web designers, we had people who really understood software and we had people connected with the media and the written word. It meant that when we had the Holy Royal Arch 200-year celebrations in 2013, we were able to interest the media, and ITV came down.
‘When you have to make big calls, you need as much information as possible in order to get it right’
How have you found becoming President?
You’re in touch with every single aspect of how the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) runs, which is fascinating. I’m trustee of the Library and Museum, I’m on the Grand Master’s Council and I’m involved with the External Relations Committee. All aspects of what’s happening in Grand Lodge are ultimately the responsibility of the Board. It gives you an insight into the entire picture, and very few have that privilege.
When you have to make big calls, you need as much information as possible in order to get it right. I think in order to get everything joined up, to get alignment, the communication with the Provinces is very important. What goes on outside UGLE is every bit as important as what goes on inside it, so coming from the background I’ve had, I know about what goes on around the country in the Provinces. I’ve dealt with the same problems that other Provinces have experienced; I’ve got some understanding and some sympathy.
What do you mean by alignment?
The biggest thing in terms of what I hope can be achieved is improving alignment. If you ask what Freemasonry is about, it might be expressed entirely differently if it’s in Cornwall, Durham, Carlisle or London, but it should be broadly the same message. This hasn’t necessarily been the case, because everyone’s in their own areas, not always talking to others.
After the Second World War, there was a period when you just didn’t talk about Freemasonry, and people thought that was the norm. That did us no favours at all. You’re always going to have a lot of conspiracy theorists, and if you’re not providing correct information, that’s their oxygen. If they put false accusations in enough newspapers and say it often enough, people will believe it. We have to communicate.
What role does communication play in alignment?
What you do with communications and how you address those people who are talking nonsense is important. If someone publishes a newspaper article that says Freemasons have a lodge in Westminster with many MPs in it, that’s untrue. So challenge it. You do it quietly, but you do it fairly. And you make sure there’s an audit trail. I know the truth is far less exciting, but why don’t we have transparency? Why don’t we have complete openness? Why aren’t we relaxed? Why don’t we encourage the Library and Museum to talk openly about Freemasonry to people who visit us? I think that’s exactly how it should be and how it should develop.
How are you different to your predecessors?
I’m hugely respectful of tradition and history, but the success of Freemasonry will come from it being able to evolve. That’s how it has managed to survive for 300 years. My responsibility as President of the Board of General Purposes is to try to ensure that we stay relevant. It is our job to look at the big picture and the messages we put forward. We’ve got to get our thinking straight at the centre and then consider how to get the messages out there, making sure that all our organs of communication are going down the same lines.
The more we communicate, the better. David Staples is going to be a very good CEO for the organisation, and I think his approach to management has not been seen before at UGLE. But that is how it needs to be in the modern world. If we get the set-up, professionalism and the operation here as good as it can be, it’s the start.
Why should someone become a Freemason?
One of the attractions of Freemasonry is that it actually takes away a lot of insecurity, because it creates stability and has very good support mechanisms. If you think about the world today, a bit of consistency doesn’t go amiss.
If we can get alignment, I think Freemasonry will become more normal, more accepted and more understood. And that’s a good thing. It’s not for everybody; a lot of people don’t like the ceremonial that goes with it, but others do.
I don’t think it’s any accident that those who have been involved in the armed services or organisations that have a certain disciplinary culture find Freemasonry very attractive. I absolutely get that, but we all have different reasons. For me it’s actually about the people. I have met some terrific people along the way, and it’s been my privilege to know them and to spend time with them.
‘I’m hugely respectful of tradition and history, but the success of Freemasonry will come from it being able to evolve’
Where do you want masonry to be in five years?
It’s a big question. I don’t have a burning ambition for massive change, but I do have a goal to improve and evolve. The basics would be that we have good alignment within UGLE, including the Library and Museum and the Masonic Charitable Foundation. They’re separate and independent operations, but they’re both masonic and are golden opportunities for communication with the wider world.
I mentioned relevance before, because if Freemasonry is going to regenerate and be here in another 50 or 100 years, staying relevant will be part and parcel of that journey. Then there’s the way in which we communicate what we’re about – we have to do this in a much better way in order to strengthen our membership. It’s a big ambition, and I’m not sure that it can be achieved in five years, but we can certainly start the process.
We have a fantastic opportunity here. Today is not going to repeat itself tomorrow, or any other time, so we need to make the most of it. I always have the ambition that, every day, something constructive gets done.