14 March 2012
A speech by the VW The Grand Secretary Nigel Brown and Jessica Bondy
NB: Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren,
I am delighted to introduce Jessica Bondy to those of you who do not already know her. She is our public relations adviser and has been working closely with us on our communications strategy. Put it another way: she probably knows more of what we are all about, and what our aims are, than any other non Mason!
The core, the heartbeat, of the strategy is to dispel myths. But why bother? After all, we know that as the oldest fraternal organisation in the world, our principles have never changed and our timeless values are as relevant today as they were three hundred years ago.
We suggest, as modern Freemasons, there are two reasons in particular why we should bother – you will have others. If we take as a given that we want good press, then the first reason is that, by dispelling the myths it will help with both retention and recruitment and secondly, it will reduce – potentially eradicate – discrimination against us, especially in the public sector.
To explain the determined progress of our communications strategy I use the analogy of Mount Everest. The expedition has started. And we have before us the long haul to the top which we must reach before 2017. I say long haul, because on the one side our members are going to have to be brought up to date with our thinking, which we have started to do with the Provincial Information Officers, and on the other side we must overcome the utter rubbish that has been written about us. I'll now handover. Jessica.
JB: For a communication strategy to work, it is essential to have support at the highest level in an organisation. We have that. So working closely with the Strategic Communications Committee and the Board of General Purposes we are at the first stage of our journey with a clear objective to both increase understanding of, and support for, Freemasonry - and to build a positive reputation for the Organisation. Critical to achieving this is by highlighting your openness and relevance in society today. And rather than just talking about it we have taken action to demonstrate change.
In your assets we have for example proper open websites, the newly highly acclaimed Freemasonry Today magazine, which is increasingly read by family members, a mentoring scheme which includes helping you to talk about Freemasonry openly and sensibly, so that as many of you as possible can become ambassadors for the organisation. All of this will be further helped by a new leaflet designed simply to give people a good feel about Freemasonry.
But more importantly, and for the first time ever, we approached a non-masonic body to produce a report for the media on the future of Freemasonry, written by an independent third party, with no connection to Freemasonry. This was a bold move, but it was essential for the media to both see this as a neutral and outsider's perspective for credibility's sake, and also to act as the catalyst for them to want to talk to us. The Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, otherwise known as SIRC, was selected competitively. They offered not only anthropological expertise, which forms much of the backdrop of the report, but also their research criteria are based on evidence and not ideology. In their words: "We needed to test Freemasonry's claims for openness and transparency".
SIRC set about compiling the views and opinions of a cross-section of Freemasons and non-Masons alike, examining the presence of, or the need for, an element in ritual in all our lives, our need to belong, the ways we express our generosity to others, and the extent to which our everyday lives involve ritual behaviours. The result is a truly insightful and timely commentary, not just on this great Organisation, but also fascinatingly on the complex interactions, perceptions and values of modern society itself.
Just to give you a flavour: among their key findings, is that contrary to much misleading commentary, Freemasonry shows genuine openness and transparency. To quote a piece from the report, "One thing that immediately became apparent was that the notion of Freemasonry as a secret society was clearly inappropriate". More importantly the report ends by saying that it is arguably more relevant today than ever before. It also shows that Freemasonry acts as a 'constant', and by that I mean that it provides members with a unique combination of friendship, belonging and structure, with many Masons saying they have made lifelong friendships. Also, although I absolutely understand that Freemasonry is not a Charity the report also highlights the importance that Freemasonry places on giving – thinking of the needs of others.
For your interest we concurrently ran a survey among non-Masons which showed what a huge opportunity we have. Over half wanted to know more about us and a quarter would consider joining.
So with the report published and in our hands, and the knowledge that people really do want to know more, we took the Grand Secretary on a highly successful media tour, quite literally the length and breadth of the country, which was another first. We felt it important for the Grand Secretary to be on the road and truly show openness by meeting people face-to-face to show we have nothing to hide. So over the past two weeks he has visited twenty locations around the country with forty interviews with local press and radio stations. The response was very positive and he was given the opportunity to communicate a number of the key messages. I will share one headline from the Yorkshire Post written by one of the only women editors: "A Secret Society? No we're Freemasons because we enjoy friendships and fun", and the editor's opener: "For centuries Freemasonry has been known as a 'secret society' but we've got them all wrong".
Nationally, we have also made waves. At best we set off to generate balanced pieces and stimulate debate, with the view that we would be very pleased indeed if they were positive. BBC online was the third most popular story last Friday and generated an unprecedented number of comments running currently at over one thousand. The interview on one of the leading radio stations, LBC, quite literally jammed the switchboard.
You can now all see the report on your Freemasonry Today website. Combining all the media and press interviews, the reach has been to a potential audience of over fifty million!! Grand Secretary.
NB: Here is a brief feedback from the front line for your interest. I was pleasantly surprised by the reception I got from the press and media in the Provinces. Yes, all the questions were based on the typical myths which all of you are aware of, but they were receptive to my answers. National newspapers are very different, being much tougher, more liable to misquote, and going for sensational headlines, but just to get coverage is a further demonstration, very publically, of our openness and acceptance of debate. It is well worth the risk and we need to do this if we are ever to move forward. Let us be very clear: the myths are deeply set in people's minds. But as we move forward we want people to base their judgement on facts – not fantasy. As all of you can imagine, it is a very real challenge to change people's deeply rooted perceptions in a few minutes, but it is a challenge we relish. I leave the last word to Jessica.
JB: These firsts, the report and the media tour, have presented a major opportunity for your organisation. We have to harness and build on the interest now, in order to achieve the impact we deserve in 2017. If we can convert people from negative to neutral at the very least, I believe we will be making huge progress. The SIRC report ends as I do, "If Freemasonry is able successfully to conclude its quiet revolution, while at the same time ensuring that its central features are retained to preserve the true 'spirit' of Freemasonry, then its future may well be assured – for the next century or two at least".
"The Future of Freemasonry" report is the first ever independent study conducted by a non-Masonic body, and was commissioned as part of the build-up to the United Grand Lodge of England's tercentenary in 2017.
Now that Freemasonry Today has settled into its stride I think it important to confirm our editorial policy. For news, we cover stories about our members in both the Craft and the Royal Arch. We are keen to see news about the end product of our giving – from our time helping others through to our charitable donations. Editorial needs to be of interest to both our members and their families, consistently supporting our communications philosophy.
A good example of this can be found on page ten of the news section, where we report on the Red Balloon Learner Centre Group in Cambridge, which has received a major grant of £25,000 from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity to fund training for staff at its centres for severely bullied children. The centres help restore a young person’s confidence as well as helping them cope academically and socially. With a survey from Red Balloon finding sixteen thousand children absent from school due to severe bullying, such stories not only point to the work of one of our four charities but are also of interest to everyone, mason and non-mason.
One of the many benefits of our new members’ website is that it can carry – among many other things – the latest, and particularly time sensitive, news. This allows us to concentrate on the thinking and direction of our most senior leaders in the magazine, with our section named Senior Insights. These are not time sensitive messages but are hugely important for us all to know about. On page twenty-two, Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes considers how best to explain the importance of the Royal Arch in the completion of pure ancient masonry. Is this best done after they have been raised? How does their mentor brief them? And how does the mentor or Royal Arch representative gain the right level of knowledge to correctly brief them in the first place?
Freemasonry Today is not a lifestyle magazine. It will, however, concentrate on stories and achievements of our members – showing how relevant Freemasonry is in today’s society. A young, up-and-coming dancer called Blaze Porter is profiled on page sixteen and you can find out how Freemason Humphrey Ball is helping Blaze fulfil his dreams. History that depicts the work of Freemasons is also very popular among our readers and we look at the life and times of Anthony Sayer on page forty-one. Chosen as the first Grand Master of Grand Lodge in 1717, little is known about his life and we ask whether historians have deliberately ignored him out of snobbery.
For information that members need to know quickly, or when action needs to be taken, these can be transmitted via Metropolitan, the Provinces and Districts through their grand secretaries, information officers and mentors.
We are constantly updating our mailing lists and if you have any problems, or know of a fellow member who is having problems receiving their copy, please do let us know.
14 December 2011
A speech by VW Bro Graham Redman, Assistant Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill
GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, the Minutes of the Premier or Moderns Grand Lodge for February 1811, record that
The Most Worshipful Acting Grand Master the Earl of Moira having expressed his intention of being installed previous to the Business of the Quarterly Communication this day and having signified his directions to the R.W. Master and Officers of the Lodge of Promulgation for that purpose they assembled at Free Masons’ Hall, at half past seven o’clock and required the attendance of all the Members of the Grand Lodge in the Committee Room to assist in the ceremony of installing the Acting Grand Master. The Lodge was then opened in the First Degree … The Earl of Moira was thereupon introduced … to receive the benefit of installation when the Ancient Charges and Regulations were read … to which His Lordship was pleased to give his unqualified approbation and assent. Such members of the Grand Lodge as were not actual installed Masters were then desired to withdraw and the Lodge was opened in the Third Degree and the Right Hon. The Earl of Moira was installed according to Ancient Custom Acting Grand Master of Mason[s] and duly invested and saluted on the occasion: after which the Lodge was closed in the Third Degree and subsequently in the First Degree and the usual procession being then formed the Acting Grand Master was conducted into the Hall where the Grand Lodge was opened in due form and the Laws relating to the behaviour of Masons in Grand Lodge were read.
JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, it might seem odd to us today that the Acting (or as we would say Pro) Grand Master had not been properly installed. One of the ritual differences between the Moderns and Antients Grand Lodges was that in the Lodges of the former the installation was simply the ceremonial placing of the Master in the chair with no additional signs, tokens or words. Possibly due to their Irish origins, Lodges under the Antients Grand Lodge did have an inner working limited to Installed Masters. The Lodge of Promulgation, which had been set up by the Premier Grand Lodge in 1809 to bring its rituals into line with those of other Grand Lodges, recognised the Installation Ceremony as one of the true landmarks of the Order. Lord Moira’s very public installation was in a sense pour encourager les autres, for the Lodge of Promulgation continued to meet over the next few months to enable Masters and Past Masters of Lodges under the Premier Grand Lodge to receive the benefit of Installation.
GFR: As the final item of business that evening:
The Grand Treasurer moved That the Tickets for the Grand Feast be in future delivered by the Stewards at One Guinea each instead of half a Guinea, which being seconded, an amendment was duly moved that the Tickets should be fifteen shillings: and the Question being put on the said amendment. It passed in the affirmative.
JMH: It says much for the economic stability of the last half of the 18th century that the cost of tickets for the annual Grand Feast had been set at half a guinea (52½ pence in our terms) for more than forty years! Then, as now, the Grand Stewards had the privilege of making up the short fall between monies received from ticket sales and the actual cost of the Grand Feast. Clearly the difference had become onerous by 1811 and this motion by the Grand Treasurer John Bayford, himself a Past Grand Steward, sought to redress the situation. Grand Lodge, as was to often happen in the 19th century, agreed the rise but only at half of the rate requested!
GFR: The only other matter of interest that year was at the April Communication, when
The Grand Lodge proceeded to take into consideration the following motion which was duly made and seconded at the last Grand Lodge, vizt: “That the Thanks of the Grand Lodge be given to Brothers James Earnshaw, James Deans, William Henry White and Charles Bonnor the Officers and to the several other members of the Lodge of Promulgation for their labors respectively; and that a Blue Apron be presented to Brothers Deans and Bonnor, Officers of that Lodge who do not at present possess the same and that they be requested to wear such Apron in all future meetings of the Society. And also that they be considered Members of the Hall Committee.
And the Question being put thereon it duly passed in the Affirmative.
JMH: The work of the Lodge of Promulgation brought the ceremonies of the Premier Grand Lodge into line with those of Ireland and Scotland and thereby with the Antients Grand Lodge, removing a number of potential obstacles to the proposed . Blue lined and edged aprons were restricted to the actual Grand Officers and those who had served in those high offices. As there was no concept of appointing Brethren to past ranks, with the exception of Princes of the Blood Royal who were usually appointed Past Grand Masters within a short time of their being initiated, James Deans and Charles Bonner were singularly honoured by this motion. Deans became the actual Junior Grand Warden in 1812.
GFR: Rather more was going on – though perhaps not much more being achieved – in the Antients or Atholl Grand Lodge. To remind you, in May 1810 that Grand Lodge had passed a threefold resolution setting out its requirements for a with the Moderns: first uniformity of Obligation and Rules; secondly, the Grand Lodge to consist of the Masters, Wardens and all Past Masters of the respective Lodges; thirdly, a monthly disbursement of Masonic benevolence. At its meeting in March 1811, the report of the Committee appointed to meet the Moderns’ Committee was received, setting out the Moderns’ responses to the threefold resolution:
To the First resolution ... That the [Moderns] Grand Lodge had resolved to return to the Ancient Land Marks of Masonry and in order to a perfect of the two Grand Lodges they will consent to the same Obligations and continue to abide by the Ancient Land Marks of Masonry when it should be ascertained what those Ancient Land Marks and Obligations were.
To the Second resolution the Committee of the [Moderns] Grand Lodge submitted .... That a true representation of all the warranted Lodges in and adjacent to London and Westminster should consist of the Master and Wardens with one Past Master from each Lodge that to admit all Past Masters would be inconvenient and if admitted could not be said to be a true and prefect representation of all the Lodges …
To the Third resolution, ... The Committee of the [Moderns] Grand Lodge agreed with the resolutions of the Antients Grand Lodge, the whole of this and all other minor concerns to be nevertheless discussed by a joint Committee of Masters to be chosen and appointed by the two Grand Lodges respectively to meet thereon and finally to conclude and arrange all matters relating to an of the two Grand Lodges.
A resolution that the Antients’ Committee be empowered to accede to such modification or alteration of the second resolution, respecting Past Masters, as might appear to them expedient and necessary for fully accomplishing a between the two Grand Lodges was, after a long and protracted discussion, defeated by a very large majority.
JMH: As I remarked last year when the three resolutions were first proposed in the Antients Grand Lodge, the second resolution regarding the composition of the United Grand Lodge was to cause problems leading to an almost childish reaction on the part of the Premier Grand Lodge. Membership of the Premier Grand Lodge was limited to the present and former Grand Officers, the Master and Wardens of each Lodge and representatives from the Grand Stewards’ Lodge. Membership of the Antients Grand Lodge encompassed present and former Grand Officers, Masters and Wardens of Lodges and all subscribing Past Masters. Not surprisingly, the Antients were not willing to deprive Past Masters of their Lodges of a privilege they had held from the start of that Grand Lodge. When asking the Premier Grand Lodge to explain their stance, the only response they got was that if all Past Masters were included there would not be a room large enough in which to hold meetings of the proposed United Grand Lodge!
At the meeting of the Antients in May a compromise was suggested, whereby those who were Past Masters at 24 June 1811 would continue to have the right to be members of the proposed United Grand Lodge, but after 24 June 1811 only the actual – or as we would say Immediate – Past Masters of Lodges would qualify as members of the new body. As the Minutes record, however, “After some discussion and long debate thereon and the question being put passed in the negative by a large majority”. Back to square one!
GFR: At the September Communication of the Grand Lodge a letter dated 5 June from the Grand Secretary of the Moderns was read, which reported that he had laid before the Earl of Moira and the Moderns’ Committee a letter reporting the decision of the Antients Grand Lodge and continued:
I am directed by his Lordship and the Committee to acquaint you for the information of the Grand Lodge under His Grace the Duke of Atholl that it appears to them wholly unnecessary and nugatory, that any further Meeting between the two Committees should take place at present in as much as the Committee of the Grand Lodge under the Duke of Atholl is not furnished with any sufficient powers to enter into the discussion or arrangements of the various subjects necessary to the proposed as is sufficiently manifest from the circumstance of the Grand Lodge under His Grace the Duke of Atholl having at different times negatived propositions which its Committee had acceded to thereby annulling and frustrating concessions which the Grand Lodge under the Prince Regent had professed itself upon certain points willing to make. I am further directed by his Lordship and the Committee to acquaint you that whenever the Committee from your Grand Lodge shall be invested with the powers specified in my letter of 26th January last the Committee of the Grand Lodge under His Royal Highness the Prince Regent will be most ready to meet and confer with them in the hope and expectation of finding a cordial and sincere desire correspondent with their own, for effecting a of the two Societies upon terms honorable and equal to both.
The matter was then deferred to a meeting of the Grand Lodge held on 9 October, when a Committee was at last appointed – and by a large majority – with full powers to carry into effect the measure of a Masonic , subject to a specific Instruction on the entitlement of Past Masters to attend Grand Lodge.
JMH: Correspondence between Lord Moira and Grand Secretary White shows that his Lordship was becoming increasingly angry at the delays caused by the Antients Commissioners for not having full power to decide matters but having to report back to a quarterly meeting of their Grand Lodge on every small decision. He was conscious that his time was limited as in 1812 he was being posted to India as Governor and Commander-in-Chief at Bengal and wanted matters settled before he departed. It took all of White’s diplomatic skills to dissuade Moira, writing direct to the Duke of Atholl demanding action or a complete cessation of the negotiations. Instead, White wrote the letter we have just heard and in October the Antients agreed a compromise and allowed their Commissioners full powers.
It was perhaps as a result of this, and to limit the number of future Past Masters, that at its meeting on 4th December 1811 the Antients Grand Lodge adopted two regulations which still stand today: that no one could be elected to the Master’s Chair until he had served for twelve months as a Warden, and that no Brother would be entitled to the privileges of a Past Master unless he had served a full twelve months as Master of his Lodge. Previously to this it had been the custom in both Grand Lodges for the installation of the Master to take place twice each year, on the two feasts of St John, and the Warden qualification did not exist. Indeed, under both Grand Lodges it was constitutionally possible for a Fellowcraft to be elected Master, the reasons why today we still say the Master is elected by “his brethren and fellows in open lodge assembled” and why he takes the obligation as to his duties as Master in the second degree.
GFR: 1911 was a relatively uneventful year. In March the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, announced that he was
Commanded by the Most Worshipful Grand Master to inform you that he intends to preside over the Festival of Grand Lodge on the 26th April. I believe that the opportunity which will be afforded by His Royal Highness’s gracious intention is one that anticipates the heartfelt desire of all Freemasons.
JMH: The reason was that at the request of His Majesty the King, the Duke of Connaught had accepted the Governor Generalship of Canada, which would lead to his protracted absence abroad. To meet the expected demand from those wishing to attend, the Investiture was moved to the Royal Albert Hall. A huge amount of work went into the preparation of the meeting, attended by over 6,000 Brethren. Disaster struck! The Grand Master was struck down by bronchitis and held prisoner by his doctors! A loyal address was moved expressing disappointment, wishing him a speedy relief and a safe journey to his onerous duties in Canada. At the June Quarterly Communication a further message was received from the Grand Master in which, inter alia, he said: “It has been a source of deep gratification to me to have held for eleven years that post of Grand Master of English Freemasons, in which my dear brother King Edward VII took such pride, and while I have considered it a solemn duty to carry on his work I have not been forgetful of the great advantage to myself of my association with the Craft. Wherever I have been I have felt that proud assurance that I had you watchful sympathy and interest in my welfare. I know that scarcely a day has passed on which bodies of Freemasons, all over the Empire, have not wished me well at their Festive assemblies and listened with sympathetic attention to kind words which have been said about me. I can assure you Brethren, that I have not regarded all this as mere formality and that I have attached the highest value to your personal and fraternal goodwill.”
GFR: In June the Board of General Purposes reported that, acting on the recommendation of the Officers and Clerks Committee, it had resolved
to recommend to Grand Lodge that the salary of the Grand Secretary be increased to £2,000 a year, as from the 1st January last, on the understanding that such increase shall not be considered as a permanent endowment of the office of Grand Secretary but solely as a personal recognition of the services which have been rendered to Freemasonry by the present Grand Secretary.
The Report of the Board was taken as read and confirmed, the recommendations contained therein adopted, and the Report entered on the Minutes.
JMH: Until 1909 the appointment of staff from the Grand Secretary downwards, their terms, conditions and salaries had all been debated in Grand Lodge. The setting up of the Officers and Clerks Committee of the Board in that year removed much of the debate, except for additional finance, out of Grand Lodge. The Grand Secretary, Sir Edward Letchworth was indefatigable and much liked, hence the ready agreement to the motion. The present Grand Secretary might be interested to know that the purchasing power of £2,000 in 1911 equates to over £150,000 today!
GFR: The year ended with some sad news: the death of W Bro Henry Sadler, first the Grand Tyler and then the Librarian and Curator of the Grand Lodge, and therefore in the latter capacity one of the predecessors of my co-presenter, who can pay a far more eloquent tribute to him than I could hope to do.
JMH: My co-presenter is, as always, correct! (Laughter) Henry Sadler is one of my Masonic heroes. Indeed it could be argued that had he not worked at Freemasons’ Hall I might well not be standing before you today. Sadler joined the staff in 1865 as an assistant to the Grand Tyler, being appointed to that office in 1879. As Grand Tyler, in addition to ceremonial work, he was responsible for the running and letting of Freemasons’ Hall and was provided with an apartment in the building. Fascinated by history he spent most of his spare time searching cupboards and cellars locating all the archives of the two previous Grand Lodges, the United Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter. When in 1887 the Board revived the moribund Library and Museum with the Grand Secretary as nominal Librarian, Sadler was appointed sub-Librarian and quickly set to, expanding the collections. He quickly became known to the growing group of Masonic historians both at home and abroad, all of whom acknowledged his help and knowledge. When the house next door to Freemasons’ Hall was acquired in 1904 for additional office space, such had been Sadler’s work that the main rooms were set aside as a Library and Museum. His work was crowned in 1910 when he was appointed the first Librarian and Curator of Grand Lodge and was elected Master of the renowned Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076. The many tributes to his memory praised his kindness, helpfulness and great willingness to share with others what he had learned from the treasures under his care. He was certainly one who “lived respected and died regretted” and, one hundred years later, Masonic historians still revere his memory.
When Freemasons’ Hall hosted the launch party for West End musical Rock of Ages, Anneke Hak slipped past the celebrities to find out what goes on behind the scenes
Jeremy Clarkson schmoozes with paparazzi on the purple carpet while Ronnie Wood’s ex-wife Jo Wood mingles with friends in the foyer. Glasses clink together, Champagne flows and loud chatter fills the room as the band takes centre stage in the Grand Temple. All the while, everyone is wholly oblivious to the fact that just one hour ago their spectacular venue, Freemasons’ Hall in London’s Great Queen Street, was a picture of organised chaos.
Having hosted some of the biggest events in the British social calendar, including London Fashion Week catwalk shows, Freemasons’ Hall isn’t afraid of glitz and glamour, it oozes it. However, the Rock of Ages launch party was a very different beast.
On 28 September, the production team had only a three-and-a-half hour slot between the departure of 700 Freemasons visiting from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Hertfordshire at six in the evening, and 1,000 party guests arriving at 9.30pm. In this small time frame, they had to transform the building into a venue fit to celebrate a musical that takes audiences back to the times of big bands with big egos playing big guitar solos and sporting even bigger hair. The Grand Temple in Freemasons’ Hall needed to be fitted out with a dance floor, disco ball and stage for a rock band to perform on. No mean feat, especially considering how precious the Grade II-listed building is to hundreds of thousands of Freemasons.
Helping smooth the proceedings was Lee Batty, Production Manager at Stoneman Associates. As Freemasons left the Grand Temple, Batty’s team moved in, quickly assembling their scaffolding to start the mammoth task of hoisting the lighting and glitter ball 93ft to the top of the Temple roof, before focusing their attention on the dance floor and rock band sound check. ‘We did a little bit of prep work the day before,’ Batty reveals. ‘Well, I say a little bit, we worked eight hours to programme all the lighting, and then when we got into the venue we had to go hell for leather to get it all up and working.’
Technicalities of transformation
Of course, moving scaffolding, heavy lighting and sound equipment around an 80-year-old building, and one of the finest Art Deco creations in the country, can prove challenging. ‘I’ve not worked at Freemasons’ Hall before,’ says Batty, ‘but I’ve done events in historic palaces and English Heritage properties over the years. So I’m aware that you have to look after furniture and any element of the building that’s been there for a long time – you have to be very careful.’
As a result, every little detail is thought about months in advance, and some elaborate ideas are thrown straight out. Karen Haigh, Head of Events at Freemasons’ Hall, explains, ‘There was talk about hanging some Harley Davidsons from the ceiling at one point. I feel anything is possible, so long as I know it’s going to be safe.’
As the last piece of purple carpet is laid, the Rock of Ages signs go up and the façade of the glorious building is lit from below, Matthew Quarandon, Director of Moving Venues, makes sure all of his staff are in place to welcome the guests with food and drink, and one thing he can’t help but notice is how easy-going everything is. ‘Freemasons’ Hall seems to be very liberal,’ says Quarandon, who’s used to working in old, protected properties. ‘They’re allowing us to push cages across old stone floors and serve red wine on their marble floors upstairs.’
Most excited about tonight’s event has to be Grand Secretary Nigel Brown, who praises the great job Karen Haigh does booking events for the Hall and thinks these nights are the perfect opportunity to show the public that Freemasonry isn’t about secret handshakes. ‘Can you imagine, you’re at a dinner party and the lady next to you says, “You went into Freemason’s Hall? What did you go in for? A fashion show!”’ laughs Nigel. ‘It’s breaking all these myths and, although being teased about Freemasonry doesn’t matter much, people are often making a decision based on false impressions. I think hosting these events is changing people’s preconceptions.’
Batty admits that the mystery surrounding the organisation is a great reason to hold events like the Rock of Ages party at Freemasons’ Hall. ‘It’s nice that people come in and see it in a different light,’ he says. Karen Haigh agrees: ‘The best thing about it is that you bring a group of people that have never been in the building before and they come in and say, “Oh, wow!” It’s like opening a little package.’
So, after months of planning, which began back in June, how does it feel when it all finally comes together? ‘You get a massive buzz from the final product,’ admits Batty. ‘The response that we got when we opened the main doors to the Grand Temple was worth all the pressure.’
As the guitar amplifiers and purple carpet are packed up and glasses of half-drunk Champagne cleared away, all the hard work and preparation has paid off – the Rock of Ages launch party has been a brilliant success. So, the only question left now is when’s the next one?
The group visited St George’s Hospital to see the work of the Think Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation supported by the District Grand Lodge of Bombay. The foundation coordinates and collects more blood than any other non-governmental organisation in Mumbai. It also runs the only structured programme for prevention of thalassaemia major, a serious genetic blood disorder where survival is dependent on lifelong blood transfusions. Vinay Shetty, vice president at the foundation, gave an address at the hospital to the English visitors, who then toured the hospital with Bombay District Grand Master Percy Driver.
Since the mid-1990s, the internet has had an increasing impact on culture and commerce; as the majority of our members now communicate electronically with the rest of the world, their expectation is to be able to do just that with their lodges and with us. With that in mind, I am reminded of the challenges we face in aligning ourselves to that expectation.
Two constant drivers to our thinking are: first, how best to ensure our members are kept informed and feel included; second, how best to communicate with the non-masonic community so that we put the correct information about us out there. In 2009, the main UGLE website was relaunched to provide information about the Craft for the non-mason. That site has proved to be a great success, with an average of thirty thousand visitors a month over the last six months; 58% via search engines; 25% via referral sites and the rest through direct traffic.
However, this site, though very useful to existing members, was not designed for them specifically. On that understanding, the Board of General Purposes decided to have a second site developed, dedicated to the membership. It is this members’ site that we have had great pleasure in officially launching in 2011. The platform is the old Freemasonry Today magazine site and we have maintained that website address: www.freemasonrytoday.com. The benefits of this site are that it is article-based, and it will include many more stories and features than we have space for in the printed magazine. In particular, it allows us to be timely with getting news to you and our response to real time events.
An attractive feature of the website is that all members can submit articles for potential inclusion and an especially useful aspect is that it will allow us to conduct surveys and polls among the membership, gauging their opinions on selected topics. Additionally, the current issue of each magazine will be available to view as a digital copy on the site.
We realise that many members, especially the younger ones, prefer to read the magazine digitally, rather than receive the printed copy. With this in mind, we have now added a digital subscription facility so that members who wish to, will receive an email alert when each new edition is available on the site. This digital subscription is also available to non-members.
We are extremely pleased with the number of lodges now launching their own websites and seeking an UGLE charter mark – a mark of Grand Lodge approval. The sheer number of lodges applying for a charter mark has meant that we have a backlog, as we carefully check each one for technical and masonic compliance. To overcome this, we have updated the UGLE guidelines for lodge websites to better reflect the ever-changing online landscape.
We live in very exciting times and I hope that you find the new members’ website both useful and interesting as it continues to evolve over the many years to come.
Good friends and neighbours
The Friends of the RMBI charity ball raised £35,000 for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution's The Good Neighbour Fund
With the ball held in June at the Grange Hotel in London, a cheque was presented to the President of the RMBI, Brigadier Willie Shackell, by Grand Secretary and President of the Friends of the RMBI, Nigel Brown.
The Friends of the RMBI was formed in 1973 with an annual charity ball to provide extra funds for Thee Good Neighbour Fund. Over the years it has raised more than £550,000.
It’s probably fair to say that Freemasonry in Monaco has been low-key for a number of years, following its conditional acceptance by the Monégasque authorities in the first half of the twentieth century.
The Port of Hercules Lodge was formed in 1924 under the English Constitution, and many Monégasques who wished to become Freemasons sought membership outside the principality. In more recent years, three lodges were formed under the German Constitution, but it became apparent that the Monégasques who had joined lodges in France would like one of their own. Accordingly, the first steps were taken three years ago to establish a Grand Lodge in Monaco, and this meticulous planning came to fruition on 19 February in Monte Carlo.
The Grande Loge Nationale Regulière de la Principauté de Monaco was formed by seven lodges, one formerly meeting under the English Constitution and three each under the German and French.
The consecrating officer was Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, assisted by the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Germany, Rüdiger Templin, as Senior Warden; and the Past Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of France, Jean-Charles Foellner, as Junior Warden. The ceremony was directed by Oliver Lodge (Grand Director of Ceremonies) with the help of Nick Bosanquet and Sebastian Madden (Deputy Grand Directors of Ceremonies) and Malcolm Brooks (Grand Tyler). The team from UGLE also included Nigel Brown (Grand Secretary), Alan Englefield (Grand Chancellor), Reverend Dr John Railton (Grand Chaplain) and Ron Cayless (Grand Organist).
The consecration ceremony proceeded without a hitch, and included the unveiling of the lodge boards, the familiar scriptural readings from the Bible, the symbolic use of corn, wine and oil, and the censing of the lodge and its officers. It was conducted almost entirely in English, but the Rulers-designate took their obligations in their own languages. Jean-Pierre Pastor was installed as the first Grand Master, and he then appointed and installed Claude Boisson as Deputy Grand Master, and Rex Thorne, Knut Schwieger, Renato Boeri and John Lonczynski as Assistant Grand Masters.
Other Grand Lodges were represented by more than a hundred delegates and many presented gifts to the newly installed Grand Master, including a magnificent ceremonial sword from the United Grand Lodge of England. The new Grand Master appointed and installed his officers, before the UGLE team withdrew, leaving the Grand Master and his new team to complete essential business. Monaco’s Grand Lodge had been launched in splendid style.
As Letchworth marks its one-hundredth year, John Hamill reports on the centenary of a very special lodge
On 28 March 2011 in Lodge Room No. 10 at Freemasons’ Hall in London, almost 150 brethren gathered for an emergency meeting. Nothing unusual in that – until you look at the signature book and discover that those present included the Pro, Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters, the Metropolitan Grand Master for London, the President and Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, the Grand Chaplain, Grand Secretary, Grand Director of Ceremonies, Presidents of the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund, and other senior brethren.
What, you might wonder, other than a Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, would bring such illustrious company together in one tyled meeting? The reason is a joyous one – to take part in the centenary celebrations of Letchworth Lodge, No. 3505. But why such eminent brethren for a Hertfordshire lodge? The answer, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is all in a name. The ‘Letchworth’ after which the lodge was called is not the delightful Hertfordshire town, but Sir Edward Letchworth who was Grand Secretary from 1892 to 1917. As for why the celebrations were in London, when the membership of the lodge was formed in 1911, it was restricted to the permanent clerks in the Grand Secretary’s Office. And even today is limited to those employed in the capital’s masonic headquarters.
Although a Secretary to the Grand Lodge was appointed in 1723 (becoming Grand Secretary in 1734) and the premier Grand Lodge had a permanent building in Great Queen Street from 1775, it was not until 1838 that the Grand Secretary’s Office came into being. From the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813 until 1838, the Grand Secretaryship was a joint office shared by William White, who had held the same office in the premier Grand Lodge, and Edward Harper, who had been Deputy Grand Secretary of the Antients.
In 1838, Harper ‘retired’ and White was asked to take on the role of Grand Secretary. He agreed but on one condition: that Grand Lodge employed two full-time clerks to assist with paperwork. As a result of the expansion in members and lodges in the Victorian period, by the time Letchworth became Grand Secretary in 1892 the office had grown to seven clerks. As they had to be Master Masons it was suggested they should have a lodge. There was one problem: nine was the minimum number of petitioners and there were only seven clerks.
By 1911, there had been an expansion of the Craft and clerk numbers grew to 15. They approached Letchworth to petition for a lodge, and the consecration took place on 28 March 1911. Sir Edward himself was the Consecrating Officer, assisted by the President of the Board of General Purposes, the President of the Board of Benevolence (now the Grand Charity), the Grand Chaplain and Grand Director of Ceremonies and the Chairman of the Board’s Officers and Clerks Committee.
Sir Edward stated that the lodge’s purpose was ‘to meld the clerks into greater harmony’. It would also assist Grand Lodge by bringing into Freemasonry suitable candidates that might become clerks in the office; and get brethren through the Chair in a reasonable time for additional duties. The latter was important, as many lodges had more than 100 members and it could take 15 or more years to reach the Chair.
The lodge’s first year was a busy one with two candidates and three installations. The Master designate had been installed at the consecration and at the July and November meetings two of the senior clerks were installed. In 1913, the lodge began a practice that was to continue until the 1970s – that of initiating as serving brethren members of the portering and maintenance staff of the Hall. They were to assist the Grand Tyler by laying up the lodge rooms and acting as Assistant Tylers whenever Grand Lodge met.
The First World War halted progress of the lodge and office, as half the staff were on active service. Only one did not return, Ponsonby Cox, and another, Guy Mercer, was awarded the Military Cross. Those too old for military service kept the lodge and office going. To help in the office, the rule requiring clerks to be Master Masons was put into abeyance and three lady clerks and two ‘lady typewriters’ were taken on. The latter, Miss Haigh and Miss Winter, proved far from temporary, spending the rest of their working lives as private secretaries to Grand and Deputy Grand Secretaries.
The huge increase in the Craft four years after the war, and the plan to rebuild Freemasons’ Hall as a permanent war memorial, led to an increase in office size. Between 1925 and 1927, five boy clerks were taken on as ‘temporary’ staff ; each of them eventually becoming members of the lodge. There were similar problems during the Second World War, when again the rule on clerks being Master Masons was set aside and women were taken on. They proved so popular and useful that in 1949 the rule (No. 33 in the current Book of Constitutions) was put into abeyance. The lodge had difficulties meeting and reduced its wartime gatherings to two per year. The only ceremonial work was the annual installation of the Master.
The immediate post-war years saw an enormous growth in the Craft. This led to expansion of the office and an increase in the membership of the lodge. Much of the work was in making serving brethren, as the portering and maintenance staff had also grown, and many took on additional work as Tylers for lodges meeting at Freemasons’ Hall.
By the late 1960s, however, things were slowing down and doubts were expressed about the future of Letchworth Lodge. Membership had been limited to Permanent Clerks, but in 1977, Grand Secretary James Stubbs was approached about opening the lodge to the full office, to which he agreed. In the early 1980s, under Grand Secretary Michael Higham, the lodge was opened to the whole of the male staff at Freemasons’ Hall and the staff of other masonic headquarters in London. This has resulted in a vibrant lodge with a steady stream of candidates. The changes have also brought the staff of the various masonic offices in London closer together. Sir Edward Letchworth’s hopes at the consecration can truly be said to have been achieved.
As the Grand Secretary’s lodge, Letchworth has had great support from Sir Edward and his successors. Sir Philip Colville Smith became an honorary member when he became Grand Secretary in 1917. (Sir) Sydney White joined the lodge when he was appointed Chief Clerk in 1918, was its Master in 1920, and was a regular attendee even after election as an Honorary Member when he became Grand Secretary in 1937. (Sir) James Stubbs was elected an Honorary Member when he was appointed Assistant Grand Secretary in 1948, while Michael Higham became a joining member when appointed Deputy Grand Secretary in 1978, and is still active. Nigel Brown joined when he was appointed Grand Secretary in 2007 and members are delighted to have him as their Centenary Master. He was thrilled to have been installed by Michael Higham.
Being involved in central masonic administration, the members of the lodge were only too aware of the privilege extended to them to have the Pro Grand Master present the Centenary Warrant. The happy occasion was followed by a reception and banquet in the Grand Temple vestibules.