12 March 2014
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, it has been a pleasure to install Right Worshipful Brother Sir David Wootton as Assistant Grand Master. In offering him our congratulations I know that you would want me to wish him well in his important task at this exciting time for Freemasonry.
I also take this opportunity to thank RW Bro David Williamson for his thirteen years as Assistant Grand Master serving the English Constitution admirably in that role. I can think of few people who have done more for Freemasonry in general and the Craft in particular. I also know that I speak for Lord Northampton when I say that there could not have been a more loyal and supportive AGM.
It is, in fact, the unity of the English Constitution that I wish to talk about today. That unity is crucial to our survival as a relevant organisation in society for men of quality to join. In particular I want to emphasise the importance of all the component parts of our organisation working together. Enormous progress has been made in the liaison between the centre, here, and London, the Provinces and Districts.
The consistent approach from the centre is now very much a consultative one, working directly to seek views before making proposals for consensus approval. This is typically through the Grand Secretary, on behalf of the Rulers and Board of General Purposes by direct contact, online surveys or by Provincial Grand Masters championing or being members of committees looking into and ensuring the future of Freemasonry. This inclusive approach is working well. I am keen that it continues.
I will illustrate this inclusive approach with some examples to support this starting with the Board of General Purposes whose nine members include the Metropolitan Grand Master, two current and two past Provincial Grand Masters. They not only bring a wealth of experience but also an understanding of the issues directly facing the Provinces. For your information the latest issue of Freemasonry Today, which has just come out, has an article in which the President of the Board explains how the Board is fully transparent, where every member is an active contributor. He also mentions the increasing professionalism in the way the Craft is run with standards you would expect to find in successful businesses.
I mentioned that this is an exciting time for Freemasonry with several initiatives dealing with both future recruitment and retention as well as business effectiveness in running a large membership organisation. For example the newly formed Membership Focus Group which includes eight Provincial Grand Masters. Their brief is to advise the Board of General Purposes on how best Freemasonry can concentrate the minds of members, lodges, Provinces and Rulers to work in a collaborative and focused manner in stemming the decline in membership and meeting the long term needs of the Craft. Interestingly, they have already identified the high loss of members throughout the first ten years of membership. It is also already clear that the majority of recruitment is carried out by a relatively small number of members.
The Tercentenary Planning Committee is working closely with the Board of General Purposes looking at the overall plans for celebrations in 2017. Although there will be a final event in London towards the end of the year, I am determined that the Provinces and Districts run their own celebratory events throughout the year at times convenient to them. With this in mind two Provincial Grand Masters sit on the Committee with the aim of supporting and coordinating the planning with other Provincial and District Grand Masters. This way, many more members, throughout the English Constitution, will be able to participate in celebrating this milestone in our great history.
I have talked about Provincial Grand Masters being involved with helping to set the strategy as members of committees. But, brethren, wider views are also sought with online surveys which are quick and informative. For example, we have run a survey seeking opinions on communication strategies for the English Constitution. More recently, we have had a survey on potential new branding as we move towards 2017.
There are, of course, many other examples of how well we are all working together. I hold a business meeting for all Provincial Grand Masters the day before the annual Craft Investitures in April each year, and later this year I will be holding my next round of regional meetings with Provincial Grand Masters. These meetings have proved invaluable in the past, openly exchanging views and opinions.
Let us not forget the Districts who form an important part of the English Constitution. Last year, accompanied by the Grand Secretary, I attended business meetings with groups of District Grand Masters in Trinidad, Harare and Lagos whilst the Deputy Grand Master attended the inaugural Asia Oceanic Conference of District Grand Lodges in Kuala Lumpur. In addition I hold a dedicated meeting for all District Grand Masters who attend the Investitures in April to discuss issues that particularly affect them.
So, brethren, we are, as a united English Constitution, working more closely together than at any other time in our history. At a strategic level, I believe that continuing to work together will not only stem the decline in membership but start to increase it to ensure the future of Freemasonry. At an individual level, consider the fact that the more members there are, the better chance Grand Lodge has of keeping the dues down.
Changing tack, brethren, you will all be more than well aware of the appalling conditions being experienced by thousands of people as a result of the winter floods. Whilst the south west has been worst hit, Kent, Sussex and Berkshire as well as parts of Wales are not far behind, in fact there is barely a part of the south that does not have its tales of woe.
It will not surprise you to know that Freemasonry has been to the fore with providing relief funding. The Somerset Community Fund has received £750,000 in all, of which £125,000 has been from various masonic sources. The Provincial Grand Master of Somerset set a target of £50,000 and so, brethren, you can imagine how overwhelmed he is by the support the Province has received, from the Grand Charity, other Provinces (Essex alone donating £40,000) and many Lodges from all over the country, as well as those in his own Province.
The Grand Charity can and does react quickly in these situations and as well as its support of Somerset, it has donated to the Red Cross, Berkshire, Devonshire and West Wales. In all, so far, it has made donations of nearly £60,000.
We should all be immensely proud of the way in which our members respond to emergencies and how well we are able to coordinate our giving. Thank you to all those concerned.
New ProvGM appointed for South Wales
Gareth Jones has been installed as the new Provincial Grand Master for South Wales by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes at Barry.
A ‘seven-point plan’ is now in motion to address recruitment and retention, and to maintain standards within lodges. Charitable efforts will be further developed, as will greater social interaction for families.
In good company
Royal Alpha Lodge celebrated the Grand Master’s fifty years in the Craft at an historic occasion in Freemasons’ Hall
His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent was initiated into Royal Alpha Lodge, No. 16, on Monday, 16 December 1963 at a meeting held at the Café Royal. The then Grand Master, the Earl of Scarbrough, was his proposer and his seconder was Lord Cornwallis, Provincial Grand Master of Kent.
Although the Master was the Marquess of Zetland, it was the Assistant Grand Master, Sir Allan Adair, who took the chair for the ceremony. Adair was both a famous soldier and a well-known mason; not only had he heroically commanded the 4th Guards Armoured Division in World War II, he also went on to become Deputy Grand Master.
Fifty years on, members celebrated the anniversary at the December 2013 installation meeting of Royal Alpha Lodge. Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes presented His Royal Highness with a framed collage of pictures of past royal Grand Masters surrounding a picture of the current Grand Master. The Pro Grand Master pointed out that Earl Cadogan, who was present when he was Viscount Chelsea, had acted as Junior Deacon at the ceremony. Also in attendance was Sir John Welch whose father had also been present on that day.
The meeting was held in the Grand Secretary’s Lodge Room at Freemasons’ Hall, followed by dinner at Lincoln’s Inn, where His Royal Highness is the Royal Bencher. The members were delighted that the Grand Master was able to attend his lodge on this historic occasion and his health was drunk with much enthusiasm.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains how UGLE has been supporting Districts across the world and looks closer to home at the recommendations of the Universities Scheme Committee
One of my pleasurable duties is, along with the other Rulers, visiting our Districts. In June I was in Trinidad and Tobago and, more recently, I visited Zimbabwe to install our new District Grand Master. We were given a very warm welcome and I was somewhat surprised that the last visit there from Grand Lodge was in 1989. I was even more surprised to find that two of our lodges are in Malawi, where seventy members ensure masonry thrives.
Apart from meeting many of the local brethren and their wives, we were driven to a school in a township seventeen miles west of Harare, where we were entertained by some very moving African dancing and singing. The education support programme that started here in 1992 now has four hundred and seven orphaned children. A trust fund has been set up for these children to provide school fees, books, uniforms, a daily hot meal, healthcare and sports activities. It was most impressive and exactly the type of charity the District should support.
On a different theme, following the presentation at the Quarterly Communication last year on assuring the future of Freemasonry, I challenged the Universities Scheme Committee to consider how the principles expressed in the address could be implemented across the whole Craft.
I have now had first sight of their report, which covers a series of recommendations and examples of good practice from lodges around the English Constitution. This is an excellent document and I will be discussing the proposals through the Provinces and Districts to lodge level. Brethren, how often do we hear that changes and progress in masonry take an eternity? This report has been put together with admirable speed and it is incumbent on the Rulers to ensure that there is no delay in passing them on.
We are united in recognising the importance of recruiting and retaining younger Freemasons and these recommendations will give a better chance of strengthening all lodges, however successful, while not alienating established brethren.
‘We are united in recognising the importance of recruiting and retaining younger Freemasons.’
Enthusiasm and commitment in Monmouthshire
In September, Monmouthshire Freemasons celebrated the conclusion of their 2013 Festival Appeal and a magnificent total of £1,219,414 for the RMTGB.
The Provincial Grand Master and Festival President, the Rev Malcolm Lane of the Welsh Province, launched the appeal just over five years ago. Malcolm, who also serves as a trustee of the RMTGB, congratulated his Province for their generosity and hard work. ‘I commend to you all the work of the RMTGB and in doing so I express on behalf of the Province my grateful thanks, bless you for your enthusiasm and commitment.’
After the total sum was revealed by RMTGB Chief Executive Les Hutchinson, the charity’s President Mike Woodcock expressed his heartfelt thanks to the one thousand three hundred members of the Province and their families during a passionate address in which he recalled his own childhood holidays in Monmouthshire.
The brethren of Monmouthshire and their families raised £1,002,013 towards the appeal – a remarkable achievement for a Province of only thirty lodges. Metropolitan Grand Lodge and other Provinces and Districts added a further £200,000.
The Festival event, held at the Celtic Manor Resort, was attended by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes. More than four hundred guests enjoyed an evening of entertainment including Welsh harpist Sian Williams, the Only Boys Aloud choir (finalists of Britain’s Got Talent), Abertillery Orpheus Male Choir and soloist Robert Knight. Also in attendance was David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth.
‘Bless you for your enthusiasm and commitment.’ Rev Malcolm Lane
Monmouthshire masons raise over £1.25 million for charity
Over the last five years the Freemasons of Monmouthshire have worked very hard raising funds for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. The charity supports underprivileged children from all walks of life who through no fault of their own find themselves in distressed circumstances. Many are orphaned by tragic events and others need support with education and life experience.
On the 27th September at the prestigious Celtic Manor resort a celebration dinner was held to reveal the total raised and to celebrate the end of our fundraising for this Festival. The event was a tremendous success with the Pro Grand Master MW Bro Peter Lowndes, the County MP David Davis and many other dignitaries and brethren from all over Monmouthshire and the surrounding counties.
In addition to the £1,219,414 for the RMTGB, the Provincial Grand Master Rev Malcolm Lane was pleased to present £50,000 to the Lifelites charity, which provides cutting-edge technology packages for children and young people in children's hospices. Together they made a grand total of over £1,260,000.
There are only 30 lodges and just over 1,400 Freemasons within the old county boundaries of Monmouthshire, and no funds were collected from the general public. This therefore is an extremely impressive sum, and thanks should go to all who worked towards this figure and those who supported our many events.
The Freemasons of Monmouthshire now intend to direct their attention towards raising money for local charities. Annually there are donations in excess of £30,000 and the intention is to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
The Bicentenary Celebrations for Supreme Grand Chapter started with a demonstration of the new ceremony of exaltation by the Metropolitan Grand Stewards Chapter, which was followed by a celebratory luncheon in the Grand Connaught Rooms, presided over by the Pro First Grand Principal, ME Comp Peter Lowndes
11 September 2013
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, one of my pleasurable duties is, along with the other Rulers, visiting our Districts and in June I was in Trinidad and Tobago and, more recently, I visited Zimbabwe. Brethren before any of you start to think that the Grand Secretary and I spend all our time swanning around the world, I, perhaps could point out that our visit to Zimbabwe for two and a half days involved 17 hours of travel in each direction. However, I feel strongly that we should make every effort to support our Districts and endeavour, when possible, to install our new District Grand Masters.
The visit to Harare in Zimbabwe was, indeed, to install our new District Grand Master. I was somewhat surprised that the last visit there from Grand Lodge was in 1989 and, as you can imagine, we were given a very warm welcome. I was even more surprised to find that two of our Lodges are in Malawi, where masonry thrives, there being 70 members and we can count Members of Parliament and High Court Judges among them.
Apart from meeting many of the local Brethren and their wives, we were driven to a school in a township seventeen miles west of Harare where, after a tour of the school, we were entertained to some vibrant and very moving African dancing and singing. Started in 1992, the number of orphaned children in the Education Support Programme is now 407. A trust fund has been set up to provide for example school fees, uniforms, books, a daily hot meal, healthcare and sports activities. All in all it was most impressive and exactly the type of Charity the District, if possible, should support. Later the same day, and back in Harare we visited the Masonic home, run to the high standard you would expect.
At the same time, it was also a good opportunity to catch up with the District Grand Masters attending from neighbouring Southern African Districts who attended the business meeting as well as the Installation.
I have mentioned already that earlier in the year I visited the District of Trinidad and Tobago. The Caribbean Districts have met every year – for the last eleven – for a regional conference and we now attend whenever we can. As they meet regularly, they know each other well, sharing issues and enjoying each other’s company. They are a great example to follow.
Looking forward – I am attending the Centenary of our District of Nigeria at the end of October. Our stated philosophy is that if a District wishes to remain loyal to us we will remain loyal to it. Nigeria is a current example of this, preferring to stay in the English Constitution, rather than joining the newly formed Grand Lodge of Nigeria. As in Harare we will be running a business meeting for District Grand Masters from throughout Africa.
On this theme, I was pleased to hear that in early December this year the first conference for the Districts in Asia and Oceania is being held. This is being attended by the Deputy Grand Master. All these meetings are a sign of the strength of our Districts and long may that continue.
On another theme, and applicable to all Lodges wherever they are in the English Constitution, is the theme of making the Craft relevant to all generations. Following the presentation at the Quarterly Communication this time last year on assuring the future of Freemasonry I challenged the Universities Scheme Committee to consider how the principles expressed in the address – particularly about shortening meetings and running them more efficiently – could be implemented across the whole Craft.
I have now had first sight of their report for consideration. A report which covers a series of evidence-based recommendations and examples of good practice from lodges around the English Constitution. This is an excellent document and I will be discussing the proposals and how to disseminate agreed recommendations through the Provinces and Districts to Lodge level. Brethren how often do we hear, only partly in jest, that any changes and progress in Masonry take an eternity. These recommendations have been put together with admirable speed and it is incumbent on the Rulers to ensure that there is no delay in passing them on.
We are, I believe, united in recognising the importance of recruiting and retaining younger Freemasons and these recommendations will give a better chance of strengthening all Lodges, however successful, whilst not alienating established brethren.
Catch the smile
Members of the Masonic Trout and Salmon Fishing Charity (MTSFC) organised a fly-fishing event at Chigboro Fisheries, alongside the Blackwater Estuary near Maldon in Essex, for youngsters from Trinity London Care, St John’s School, Acorn Village and Avelon Road Centre.
Each participant was supported by a fly-fisherman, who took them to various points around the lakes for their chance at catching some fish to take away with them. Those casters not having a novice in their charge were also fishing and would pass their rod to the nearest participant when they had a fish on the line.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, the MTSFC president, attended along with Essex PGM John Webb. The Pro Grand Master presented certificates to each of the participants.
12 June 2013
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
our June meeting always has a full agenda with the meeting of the Grand Charity and I am sure you would like me to thank the President of the Grand Charity and all whose hard work has made their work so effective over so many years. What is not required now is a long address from the chair and I will be brief.
Brethren, you will recollect that last year, in recognition of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we sent a loyal message to Her Majesty on the occasion of the sixtieth Anniversary of her accession to the Throne.
Last Tuesday a service was held in Westminster Abbey to celebrate the sixtieth year since her Coronation. Her actual Coronation was on the second of June 1953 and the ceremony was conducted by Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury. Interestingly, Archbishop Fisher was a committed Freemason serving as Grand Chaplain in 1937 whilst being Bishop of Chester. He was re-appointed Grand Chaplain in 1939 just at the time he was made Bishop of London.
At the Quarterly Communication the day after the Coronation, on the third of June 1953, the Earl of Scarbrough, Grand Master, gave a loyal address to Her Majesty on the occasion of her Coronation and I quote, “Brethren, we meet in Grand Lodge this afternoon on the day following the Coronation of our Gracious Queen. This is an event which stirs the hearts of us all – in these Islands, in every part of the Commonwealth and, indeed, throughout the world. We Freemasons, remembering in particular the many greatly-prized links which we have had, and those which we still have, with the Royal House, have our hearts full of loyalty and prayer towards Her Majesty”.
Brethren, we often joke that nothing in Freemasonry ever changes or that, if it does, it takes a good many years to do so. In this case I know that it is true and that as we celebrate the Coronation – sixty years later – those sentiments expressed by Lord Scarbrough are as true today as they were then. Long may that be the case.
We celebrate another royal sixtieth anniversary this year, that of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh’s sixty years as a subscribing member of the Craft. The Grand Master sent him a message of congratulations to mark the occasion and, in reply, Prince Philip asked for his thanks and best wishes to be expressed to all members.
Brethren I have to announce that the MW The Grand Master has appointed VWBro Sir David Wootton Past Grand Sword Bearer and, of course last year’s Lord Mayor, to succeed RWBro David Williamson as Assistant Grand Master with effect from 12 March 2014. On that day either the MW The Grand Master or I will have the pleasure of investing him. I must add that Bro Williamson will be continuing as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter.