11 March 2015
Order of Service to Masonry citation for VW Bro Charles Raymond Grace, PGSwdB
Bro Charles Grace was made a mason in October, 1966, at the age of 27, in his old school lodge, Old Marlburian Lodge, No. 3533, in London and became its Master in 1983. In the meantime he had joined, and in 1981 served in the Chair of, St. George's Lodge of Harmony, No. 32 in Liverpool, where he was at the time working in shipping. He is a member and Past Master of three other lodges in London. He was exalted into the Royal Arch in Jerusalem Chapter, No. 32 in 1978, and ten years later joined Old Union Chapter, No. 46 in London, becoming its First Principal in 1997. He is a member of two other London chapters.
Bro Grace was appointed to the office of Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in the Craft in 1997 and that of Grand Standard Bearer in the Royal Arch in 2000. With the evolving reorganisation of London masonry he was promoted, as one of over twenty Group Chairmen under "London Management", to Junior Grand Deacon in 2000. On the formation of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge (and Chapter) of London in October 2003, he became the Metropolitan Group Chairman for the Ripon Group, and following a further reorganisation of London he was appointed as one of the first batch of Assistant Metropolitan Grand Masters and Assistant Metropolitan Grand Superintendents in 2007 until his appointment as Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent from 2009 to 2011. He currently holds the rank of Past Grand Sword Bearer in the Craft and Past Grand Scribe Nehemiah in the Royal Arch.
Bro Grace's service to Freemasonry, however, has by no means been confined to London. He served from 1995 to 2003 as Deputy Chairman of the Public School Lodges' Council and for a further year as its Chairman. He has also been a member of the Committee of General Purposes of Grand Chapter since 2005, and in that capacity has been a strong contributor to the Committee's deliberations, including those in relation to the arrangements for the Royal Arch bicentenary, which took place in October 2013. Most notably, however, he has acted as the unpaid project manager for the refurbishment and extension of the Henry Willis Organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons' Hall, which has been in progress since the beginning of 2014 and is due to be finished later in the spring. Although the Organ cannot be heard in all its glory today, much – but not yet all – of its glistening pipework is already enhancing the visual impact of the Grand Temple.
It is gratifying to know that, at the age of seventy-five, he is active enough to continue to be able to give us the benefit of his counsel and experience for many years to come.
11 March 2015
An address by W Bro Martin Clarke PSGD
MW Pro Grand Master and brethren, I am here today to give a brief presentation on one of the Masonic success stories of the last 40 years. It gives practical assistance to both those with Masonic connections and those without, and therefore combines our undertaking to help Freemasons in need and to make a contribution to the good of freemasonry in general, demonstrating again that Freemasons’ generosity extends outside immediate self interest. I refer to the work of the Masonic Housing Association where tangible results can be seen in the happy faces of those living in its properties.
Its beginnings were charitable in nature. When the 1974 Housing Act provided grants towards the construction of social housing schemes the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution saw an opportunity to extend its provision of services to encompass what became known as sheltered housing. However the rules prevented RMBI from participation in grants because of its charitable status. It was necessary to create a separate entity. This was done in 1975, alongside the RMBI, but as an independent body and was then called Masonic Charitable Housing. Technically it is not a charity but is registered under the Industrial and Provident Society legislation. However it is also an exempt charity and able to receive and dispense charitable donations. So in one sense it is our fifth – or soon to become our second –charity, but it is financially self supporting and apart from initial donations, has had no call on central charitable funds.
Masonic donations were made – some in cash and some in land – and grants were raised to build 5 properties. Under the Chairmanship of Lord Burnham the first property was built in 1980 in Aylesbury, in the Province of Buckinghamshire, and thereafter 4 more were built between then and 1992 in South Woodham Ferrers in the Province of Essex, Wellingborough in Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire, Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire, and Rugeley in Staffordshire, being located in those Provinces which had agreed to be party to the initial objectives. Last year we enlarged the property in Wellingborough with additional accommodation, spending £1 million from accumulated reserves.
I have stressed the Provinces in which the properties are located because the involvement of the Provinces is perhaps the most important aspect of this whole initiative, as I shall describe later.
In round figures the investment in the 5 schemes amounted to £6m in land and buildings financed by Masonic donations of £600k, £4.5m in grants and £900,000 in loans from the Housing Corporation, since repaid. Although we have no formal valuation of the estate, to give a sense of proportion of the investment in today’s money, the properties are worth between £15 and £20 million. We have only £300,000 of borrowings.
What is sheltered housing?
You must forgive me if you already know a lot about Housing Associations and Sheltered Housing in particular, but some may be less familiar.
A Housing Association is a non profit making organisation which provides and manages homes for people who cannot afford to buy a suitable home on the open market. Any surplus is ploughed back into the organisation to maintain existing homes and build new ones. Renting from a housing association remains a cheaper option than renting an equivalent standard of accommodation in the private sector – at least 20% less – and tenants can still receive housing and other benefits if they qualify.
Sheltered housing provides independent living in a smaller and easier to manage home with the opportunity to call on a warden or a call service if there is an emergency, and the provision of facilities for social interaction.
Rents are regulated by Government and are set according to a valuation of each property increased annually by a formula of RPI plus one half of one percent. The weekly rent including a service charge for management of the property, heating and lighting, and the warden, currently ranges from £129 to £164.
This is what Masonic Housing Association is – a housing association providing sheltered accommodation for over 240 people at a modest cost.
What do we provide by way of accommodation?
All accommodation is in self-contained one- or two-person flats under one roof, with a protected main entrance for security. Each tenant has their own front door to their flat. All units have a bedroom, a living room, bathroom and kitchen.
Personal safety and security is of paramount importance to elderly people. It is our policy to provide a warden, in contrast to many sheltered housing schemes that only provide an emergency call system. We provide both.
There is a residents’ lounge and adjoining kitchen, used extensively by the tenants and the local house committees for social functions, well equipped laundries, and guest rooms where friends or relatives can stay for a nominal charge.
We are emphatically not a care home. Care, when needed, is provided by various agencies within each home. We have an understanding with the next of kin that where care cannot be provided satisfactorily in the home, for example with Alzheimer’s, then the tenant needs to go to a care home. In many cases we can use our good connections with RMBI to make a practical transfer but it depends on the geographical location of the next of kin.
Where do our tenants come from?
Grants came with certain obligations which require a proportion of the lettings to nominees of the local housing authority, so we are prevented from letting solely to those with Masonic connections. Broadly speaking the nominations are split 50/50, half from the local authority and half from an open waiting list from direct applications. Those with Masonic connections form a large part of this waiting list.
Local authorities cannot impose nominations as selection of tenants includes an interview to ensure, as far as possible, compatibility within what is quite a close community, with the final decision remaining with local committee. The local authorities understand this and so more often than not we can fill the vacancy from our waiting list.
Currently our tenants range in age from 53 to 103. Their average age on entry is 77 and their average length of tenure is about 7 years.
How it is managed?
As you would expect, MHA has a Board with a range of useful skills drawn from Masons and includes the widow of a Mason. The Board selects new members itself, but the Chief Executive of the Grand Charity keeps an occasional eye on us as an Observer. Members tend to be senior Masons and in recent times we have had 2RW and 2VW Brethren, a number of Grand Officers from both Grand Lodge and MetGL and 4 Past Grand Stewards.
There are two parts to our business model which makes MHA unique.
First, at the local level, apart from one employed warden at each property, the schemes are managed by voluntary house committees of local Freemasons assisted by their wives. The Provincial Grand Master appoints the local chairman, usually a Grand Officer or Provincial Grand Officer, who then appoints other committee members with the approval of the PGM. The Chairmen are ex officio members of the MHA Board.
Each scheme has a surveyor or architect on the committee, usually a Mason, who is responsible for refurbishment, maintenance and long term repairs. We take every opportunity when tenants move out or on to redecorate accommodation. We keep abreast of technological developments in energy supplies, insulation or television, and we build up reserves for long term repair to roofs and boilers.
Secondly, we manage the overall organisation centrally. We have outsourced routine administration to another Housing Association, based in Croydon, which runs its own schemes and performs administrative work for other housing associations. This means we do not have to reinvent the wheel when dealing with regulation, can gain the benefit of scale from common systems, and have up to date expertise. The cost is less than half what it was when we had our own administration here in Great Queen Street and gives us the peace of mind that is required when confronted with regulations, particularly for the elderly like those on disability, health and safety, legionnaires disease, fire risk and evacuation procedures and so on.
The result is a very lean operation financially. As I said earlier rents are regulated, but they are set for housing associations that have to employ a number of people. We get huge financial benefit from the local Masonic volunteers who carry out functions that would otherwise require paid hands.
We have a healthy free cash flow of £450,000 per annum out of which we can replace time expired assets and keep the properties to a high standard. Additionally close contact with local lodges produces donations which are used to enhance the lifestyle of the residents, ranging from social functions to the provision of additional amenities and services.
But of course it is not just financial. The Provinces in which our schemes are based regard them as a jewel in their crown and I know how much enjoyment and satisfaction is derived by the volunteers. And, of course, this transfers itself to the community they serve.
What are our risks and priorities?
1. We need to keep the properties full
Generally we have been very successful in achieving 95% occupancy, the 5% in voids being the time required to refurbish vacated properties for new tenants. There are a number of factors to which we pay attention. Applicants are coming to us later in life. There is an increasing demand from married couples. Increased longevity, better facilities for care in the home, depressed house prices causing a delay in downsizing - they all contribute to this shift in demand. However much we are all likely to live longer, anno domini does have its effect on health, particularly in disease like Alzheimer’s, so as we cannot provide care in such cases, the average length of a tenancy is also likely to be shorter.
Competition is apparent. There are many newer properties built to the higher standard of accommodation now required. We are also looking to see where we can make alterations to the properties to accommodate more couples.
On the plus side the elderly population is growing and the accommodation for them is not growing that fast. Secondly, because of our business model, there is a useful cushion between what we can earn and what we need to earn to keep the properties paying their way.
But this is where you can all help through your communications officers and lodge almoners becoming familiar with what we offer. The Board feels that we have been “under the radar”, except in the Provinces where the properties are located. Hence my gratitude for being given the opportunity to speak to you today. Details of all our properties are on the websites of the Provinces concerned and on Porchway. Shortly we shall be launching our own website. It would be very useful if you could link us to your own Provincial website. This way all Masons can be kept up to date with any developments.
2. Keeping our properties fit for purpose
All of our properties were built to standards applicable at the time. In the older ones the flats are smaller than the current standard ; not that that in itself has deterred applicants, but those flats are not suitable for people with disabilities requiring, for example, the use of a wheelchair. Wherever possible we are refurbishing the flats to make better use of the space available but there are limitations. Currently we are half way through a complete refurbishment of the Wellingborough property.
We are considering building a new property to replace our oldest which is now becoming less suitable for the older tenant and cannot be modified. This would be a very complex transaction possibly requiring us effectively to swap our existing property to avoid repayment of grant and to secure new grants and loans for the new build to the latest standards. We are in early discussions.
We always welcome donations from Lodges. Lodges have supported their local property and we have received donations from unconnected lodges in the past, particularly Grand Stewards’ Lodge, which were put to good use and for which we are grateful.
4. Volunteers for the Board
We need to refresh the Board from time to time. So if you would like to help please get in touch. The address is in the Year Book. These are the matters presently occupying the Board. Other thoughts for the future are;
5. New developments in the Provinces
We are always interested in discussing the possibility of building additional properties in other Masonic Provinces but this is dependent on local interest and land, whether by gift or purchase. Provincial support is essential as our model requires substantial cooperation and enthusiasm from local Masons. The financing would have to be by donations, grant and loans as rents alone are insufficient to finance a project. At present the supply of government finance is limited but our cover for loans is excellent
6. Merger with another Housing Association
Rather than develop afresh there may be possibilities for merger at minimal cost. Again we would look for Provincial support. But above all, we wish to retain our independence.
In its 40 years of life Masonic Housing Association has operated successfully and has sheltered housing of which we can all be very proud. That is a good thing in its own right. It has also shown in practical terms how Freemasons are involved in their local communities providing security, comfort and independence for the elderly. It is a splendid way also in which the Craft reaches out to provide benefits for non-Masons. We face the future with confidence. I am grateful for the opportunity to present to you.
10 December 2014
A speech by WV Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill, Assistant Grand Chancellor
GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, a year ago we left the United Grand Lodge of England duly constituted on 27 December 1813 with elaborate ceremonial, and the Brethren recruiting themselves at the Crown and Anchor tavern where a grand banquet was provided.
As might be expected, 1814 was a year of consolidation in which many of the details of the Union fell to be worked through. At the Quarterly Communication of 2 March the Board of General Purposes in its report set out the “Duty of the Board”:
1st To propose for the sanction and adoption of the Grand Lodge such Laws and regulations as may appear necessary or expedient for the Government of the Craft and to draw up and arrange the same….
2dly To propose for the consideration and adoption of the other Masonic Boards such measures as appear to this Board to require their consideration.
3dly To hear and determine all subjects of Masonic Complaint or irregularity respecting Lodges or Individual Masons, To proceed to admonition or suspension if judged necessary, and where the case shall appear of so flagrant a nature as to require the Erasure of a Lodge or expulsion of a Member from the Fraternity to make a special report to the Grand Lodge with their Opinion thereon.
That all the other powers and duties heretofore exercised and belonging to the former Stewards Lodge or Committee of Charity now belong to this Board, except only such powers and duties as are specially vested in or properly belong to the several other Boards now constituted
The Board then promulgated the Rules and Regulations proposed for its Government
JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and brethren, the Duke of Sussex was keen that there should be no slacking once the festivities were over and the Union achieved. He had round him a close circle of advisers to push forward his aims. The new Boards were immediately set to their tasks. The Board of General Purposes was a combination of the former Committee of Charity of the premier Grand Lodge and the Stewards Lodge of the Antients. Both had originally been set up to manage the central charitable affairs of their respective Grand Lodges but had gradually accrued both policy making and disciplinary powers and were more like general committees. In the twenty years after the Union the Board of General Purposes slowly absorbed the other Boards set up in 1814, except for the Board of Benevolence which continued until 1980 when its duties were taken over by the Grand Charity.
GFR: The Board went on to represent
that various irregularities having been communicated to this Board in the practice of initiating of Members as well as in that of granting Certificates and other Matters, It is recommended that in the Conferences which are to take place between this Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland a general understanding be established on every point of communion between them that perfect unity may be established.......
JMH: Because the Union had, in the end, been so hastily arranged neither the Grand Lodge of Ireland nor that for Scotland had been able to send delegates to the great meeting on 27th December 1813. The Grand Master, however, was keen to have their support and to try and achieve unanimity of purpose between the three Grand Lodges. Although not referred to in the Grand Lodge Minutes the Grand Masters of Ireland and Scotland and other of their senior brethren met with the Duke of Sussex in the early summer of 1814 and agreed and signed what became known as the International Compact which has governed relations between the three Home Grand Lodges ever since and brought into being what is now an annual tripartite meeting where the three get together to discuss common problems.
GFR: The Board also reported on Charges preferred before them by the Officers of the Lodge of Antiquity, No. 2 against Brother Charles Bonner … for having printed part of the Proceedings of the Lodge of Antiquity, and its Permanent Committee, without the consent of the Grand Master or his Deputy. Grand Lodge Resolved unanimously that the report be confirmed and the paper printed by Brother Bonner be referred to the consideration of the Board of General Purposes and that in the meantime Bro Bonner be suspended from all Masonic Rights and Privileges.
Reports were also delivered by the Board of Works (which had been considering jewels and aprons), the Board of Finance and the Board of Schools.
JMH: Brother Bonner we will return to a little later. The Board of Works had been given the remit of looking after the real property, furniture and regalia of Grand Lodge. They immediately set to designing standard regalia and it is to them that we owe the design of the aprons, collars and jewels we still wear today. The only differences since 1814 are the addition of emblems for new officers as they have been introduced at Lodge, Metropolitan, Provincial, District and Grand Lodge levels and the wearing of chains by active Grand Officers. Until 1836 active Grand Officers wore their jewels pendent to embroidered collars, as Past Grand Officers do today. Amazingly the Minutes of the Board of Works still survive. Infuriatingly, whilst they list the designs chosen they give no indication as to why they were chosen – which has left the field wide open to Masonic symbologists to give more and more abstruse meaning to the various symbols used! Having presented their ideas to the Grand Lodge in March, they were formally approved at the Installation of the Grand Master on 2nd May.
GFR: At the Quarterly Communication held on 1 June, the Board of General Purposes reported that Bro Bonner had been summoned to answer
“for having printed and circulated amongst some Members of the Craft a certain paper purporting to be the Copy of an address proposed in the Lodge of Antiquity to be presented to His Royal Highness The Grand Master together with remarks and observations thereon, in which said printed Paper the conduct of the M.W. Grand Master and others was spoken of and animadverted on and that in a way highly improper unmasonic and unjust and to bring with him to the Board such witnesses and evidence as he might think necessary in his behalf”
JMH: Charles Bonner was the Acting Master of the Lodge of Antiquity, of which the Grand Master was the permanent Master. Claiming to act with the agreement of the Past Masters and other members of the Lodge, Bonner had issued a printed letter in which, like his mentor in ritual matters William Preston almost forty years earlier, he claimed that the immemorial rights of the Lodge of Antiquity were being set aside by the Act of Union. In particular he referred to the Lodge having lost its No. 1 status on the Register, lost its right to carry the Book of Constitutions on a cushion immediately in front of the Grand Master in all Masonic processions and the right of its Master or Acting Master to sit at the right hand of the Deputy Grand Master at feasts after Grand Lodge meetings. His case might have been listened to had he simply made these claims, but he was guilty of two major errors. First, admittedly in the most carefully polite language, he chided His Royal Highness the Grand Master as Master of the Lodge of Antiquity for not having done more to safeguard the rights of the Lodge and, secondly, despite claiming to speak on their behalf had not gained the agreement of the Lodge to his complaint before having it printed and circulated. At its meeting the Lodge formally rejected the letter and informed both the Grand Master and the Grand Secretary that it did not represent the views of the Lodge.
GFR: The Quarterly Communication of 7 September saw the reappearance of a character we have previously met in these historical presentations. The Board of General Purposes reported
that Brother Francis C. Daniel a Member of the Lodge of Felicity No. 75 late No. 54 having attended on the 22d Decr last at one of the Meetings of the Lodge of Reconciliation previous to the day of Union….. it was stated by some of the Brethren present that he had been expelled from that part of the Fraternity of which His Grace the Duke of Athol was formerly Grand Master and as the Rules Orders Regulations and Acts of the two Grand Lodges previous to the Union ought to be maintained subject to the reconsideration of the United Grand Lodge Brother Daniel must be taken and considered to stand expelled the United Fraternity.
JMH: Those who have been attending this Quarterly Communication for the last few years will remember that Francis Columbine Daniel was the Brother who, joining a queue at a garden party at Buckingham Palace was surprised when asked to kneel and had a sword tapped on his shoulder, thus gaining a knighthood by default! He had indeed been expelled by the former Antients Grand Lodge and, as a tit for tat, had engineered the expulsion of Thomas Harper from the premier Grand Lodge, which actions delayed any discussion of the Union for nearly seven years.
GFR: There were a few fireworks at the December Communication. After the Grand Lodge had been opened in ample Form and the Laws relating to the Behaviour of Masons in Grand Lodge had been read, the Minutes of the previous Communication were put for confirmation, whereupon:
Robert Leslie Junr Master of the Lodge No. 9, rose and addressing himself in the most disrespectful, disorderly and unmasonic manner to the Grand Master then presiding over the Grand Lodge which had been opened in ample form, demanded to know whether he had been regularly initiated and passed the several Degrees of Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft. This outrageous act of indecorum committed in the Grand Lodge towards the Fraternity at large in the person of the Grand Master by Bro. Leslie Junr excited a general indignation in the breast of all the Brethren present; who had most of them witnessed the joint and solemn Obligation taken by the two Grand Masters of the respective Fraternities on the day of Union.……
Eventually a motion was carried
“That the said Robert Leslie Junr should lay aside his Masonic Insignia and Quit the Grand Lodge”
which upon his refusal he was compelled to do.
JMH: Robert Leslie Jnr was the son of Robert Leslie who since 1790 had been Grand Secretary of the Antients Grand Lodge. Father Leslie had been wholly against any idea of a Union of the two Grand Lodges and did all he could to hinder matters. He continued to rail against the event and refused to hand over the books and papers of the Antients Grand Lodge until he was guaranteed a pension of £100 p.a., which had been his salary from the Antients Grand Lodge. It would appear that the son was even more abrasive than the father!
GFR: Later in the meeting a Letter addressed to the Most Worshipful Grand Master by Bro Charles Bonner was by His Royal Highness laid before the Grand Lodge and read …….. After which on a Motion duly made it was Resolved that Bror. Charles Bonner be restored to his functions as a Mason and a Member of the Grand Lodge.
JMH: Bonner’s letter was suitably abject and apologetic and he was enabled to return to the fold and continued his interest in ritual matters. He had been Secretary of the Lodge of Promulgation, which had paved the way towards the Union and gave much advice to the Lodge of Reconciliation in its attempts to bring about a standard form of ritual after the Union.
GFR: It was “Ordered that a Special Grand Lodge be holden on Wednesday the 1st of February next”… The purpose of the meeting was to consider the new Code of Laws and Regulations for the Government of the Grand Lodge, and of the Craft in general, which had been deliberated on by the Board of General Purposes.
The Board’s report had also dealt with the case of Bro Francis Columbine Daniel, and he
being in attendance two Stewards conducted him into the Grand Lodge without his Masonic Clothing when His Royal Highness the Most Worshipful Grand Master addressed him on the circumstance of his Restoration to his Masonic Privileges and on the conduct which it was the duty of every Mason to observe after which he was reinstated with his Apron and directed to take his Seat as a Member of the Grand Lodge.
JMH: Daniel, you may be pleased to hear, caused no further problems, was never referred to again in Grand Lodge and will not appear again in these talks, should we be asked to continue them! The new Code of Laws was issued as unbound sheets for anyone to make comment on their content. Comments there were aplenty and it was not until 1819 that the final text was agreed and published.
GFR: The Quarterly Communication of 4 March 1914 was held at Central Hall, Westminster, in order to accommodate the large numbers attending, and opened on an amicable note with a unanimous vote in favour of a contributory pension scheme for the clerks in the Grand Secretary’s office in receipt of salaries of under £400 per annum. Alas, controversy set in immediately afterwards with the Motions Pursuant to Notice. In December 1913 Grand Lodge had directed that a special report of the Board of General Purposes putting forward significant constitutional proposals for the reorganisation of the Grand Lodge and London be circulated to Lodges in order that all Brethren might vote on the proposals. This provoked a flurry of Motions for March 1914.
A preliminary skirmish was launched by W Bro Samuel Green, who objected to the order in which the various motions were set out in the paper of business. He quoted the then Rule 55:
“Notices of motion shall be set down for consideration in the order in which they were given, and.... shall stand on the paper of business in precedence of all subsequent notices.........”
He went on to submit that it was
a matter of extreme importance that the resolutions shall come on in the order in which the notices were given, because it may be a matter of considerable interest to the Brethren that certain resolutions should be dealt with before others. I have little doubt about that. Many Brethren sent in their resolutions earlier in order that they might be dealt with in accordance with the Book of Constitutions, and the point I make is, that if whoever is responsible for altering the Agenda Paper now does so on a future occasion it may create considerable difficulty. I submit that the Book of Constitutions binds, not merely the Initiate, not merely the Master Mason, but also the Board of General Purposes. Therefore, Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master, I ask your ruling as to whether the notices of motion shall be taken in the order in which they are on the Agenda Paper to-day, or whether they shall be taken in the order in which they were given, and comply with the Book of Constitutions?
The Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, after consultation with the Grand Secretary replied:
Brethren, I hold myself most particularly bound by the Book of Constitutions, but this matter is capable of a very natural and simple explanation, which, I am sure, will give satisfaction to all and cause offence to nobody. …. It is this. The Grand Secretary showed the motions of which notice had been given to the President of the Board and asked him what would be the best order in which to take them? The President did not recollect for the moment that there was Rule 55 – any of us may forget the existence of a Rule – and, as it was put to him in that way, he naturally only regarded it from the point of view of the convenience of Grand Lodge and suggested a particular order. It was only after that had happened and the notice had been printed, that he was reminded of the Rule. That is the explanation, and I hope you regard it as a sufficient one….
Nevertheless, Bro Green’s resolution “That the original order of the motions, as they stood on the Agenda on the 18th February of this year, be adhered to” was put to the meeting and declared carried.
After passing an amendment to the Book of Constitutions to allow Honorary Members an unfettered right to attend the Lodges that had elected them to honorary membership, the first Motion relating to the reorganisation of Grand Lodge was called. Its proposer, VW Bro R.A. McCall, KC, PDepGReg, was detained in Court, so it was put back in the agenda and W Bro Norman Armitage rose to propose on behalf of W Bro Keogh Murphy (who was absent through illness)
That this Grand Lodge expresses its regret at the action of the Board of General Purposes in circulating two letters dated the 18th December, 1913, and the 24th January, 1914, respectively, inaccurately stating the effect of the Resolution passed in Grand Lodge on the 3rd December, 1913, which authorised the reception and circulation of the Report of the Board of General Purposes containing nineteen proposals.
JMH: The Board had a very paternalistic attitude towards the Grand Secretary’s Staff and the new pension scheme was a generous one, which, it was admitted in introducing it to Grand Lodge, would in the long run save Grand Lodge money, which the then existing ad hoc provisions would not!
The rest of the meeting was one of those rare occasions when the management of Grand Lodge was caught on the wrong foot! The rather acrimonious debate which followed, and went on for most of the evening, was on technicalities: who had said what and if they had been correctly reported in the official published records, whether or not the procedural rules for debate in Grand Lodge had been followed to the letter (they had not), complete with statements implying that the Pro Grand Master, President of the Board and Grand Secretary did not appear to be as well acquainted with the Book of Constitutions as persons of their eminence should be. The evening was taken up with motions, counter motions and amendments that make reading the Proceedings of the event something of a towel round the head task.
GFR: VW Bro McCall, now released from Court, spoke to his motion “That this Grand Lodge do now proceed to discuss and consider the Report of the Board of General Purposes relating to the Reconstruction of Grand Lodge.” The debate became heated and eventually boiled over when another PDepGReg, VW Bro. J.V. Vesey Fitzgerald, KC, weighed in with
except from Bro. McCall, I have never heard anyone suggest it is beyond the power of Grand Lodge to accept a scheme for devolving some of its powers… and Brethren, although Bro. McCall asserted that with great emphasis, he has given no reasons why we should accept his statement on that point as a sound one….. I do not know whether the members of Grand Lodge wish to be addressed as common jurymen or Judges. Brother McCall's speech struck me as very much like what we hear from him in the Law Courts when addressing a Common Jury. (Cries of “Withdraw.”) I am very sorry if my opinion is not that of others. I am quite sure that anyone who is used to the Courts as Bro. McCall is, will not take objection to what I say, If he does I am sorry. (Cries of “Withdraw.”) If Bro. McCall feels I have said anything to hurt him, and he objects, I will do so.
From the Pro Grand Master: Bro. Fitzgerald has said that if Bro. McCall feels hurt he apologises. Is not that sufficient?
From VW Bro Fitzgerald: If Grand Lodge feels aggrieved I apologise to Grand Lodge.
JMH: Tempers were evidently fraying and the tenor of the debate was certainly descending. To the possible relief of the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, Brother Samuel Green suggested the setting up of a Committee to go into all the matters, which was agreed to and the meeting closed. Lord Ampthill had obviously been affected by the ferocity of the debate and that some of the attacks had come from senior Grand Officers. When he addressed the assembly after he had invested the new Grand Officers in April 1914 he quoted the first paragraphs of the Address to the Brethren given at the installation of every Master of a Lodge, modifying it to refer to Grand Lodge and stated his hope that if in the future Grand Officers disapproved of the agenda or any other matter they would approach him or some other senior officer to discuss them rather than to launch them on Grand Lodge without notice. He reminded Grand Lodge that its meeting were not a Parliament or a political meeting but a meeting of Freemasons and that there should not be factions or an opposition party but that they should be able to have informed debate and respect each other’s views as Freemasons were taught to do.
GFR: In June, again at Central Hall, Westminster, Grand Lodge gave its unanimous approval to two resolutions: “That there be appointed by Grand Lodge a Special Committee of seven Members, to consider the question of making a further grant to the Royal National Life-Boat Institution, and report to Grand Lodge;” and “That the sum of three hundred guineas (£315) be granted to the fund now being raised in Newfoundland, and assisted by the District Grand Lodge, for the relief of the widows and orphans of the 250 sealers who recently lost their lives in the ice-fields.”
The Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill then spoke:
Brethren, I beg to move, “That the Board of General Purposes be requested to prepare a scheme for the fitting celebration in 1917 of the Bi-centenary of the foundation of Grand Lodge, with due regard to the fact that genuine Freemasons in every part of the world are looking forward to the occasion with deep interest and with the hope that it may be the means of strengthening the bonds of the fraternity and conforming the true principles of our Order.” It is high time that we should commence preparations for the celebration of our Bi-centenary, an occasion when English Freemasonry will be expected to prove its worth to all the world. .…. For some time past letters have reached me from different parts of the world asking me what the Grand Lodge of England is going to do, and whether other Grand Lodges will be invited to participate in the celebrations or allowed to co-operate by simultaneous celebrations in their own territories. I regret to say that I have not yet been made aware of any similar interest or intelligent anticipation of the event among Brethren in England…… You cannot do better than test the ability of the Board which you have just elected by calling upon them for proposals…. I daresay that a special Committee of a more representative character may be suggested, but it will be time enough to set up Special Committees when there is special work to be done. For the present, all that is necessary is to draw up a general scheme and to promulgate it for discussion in the Craft, so that there may be general approval of anything that is eventually decided I beg to move.
The Deputy Grand Master seconded the proposal, which was declared carried unanimously.
Grand Lodge then moved on to the business of debating at almost interminable length the composition and mode of selection of a special or representative Committee to consider the proposals for constitutional change.
JMH: Grand Lodge support for the Royal National Life-Boat Institution had begun in 1871 and it was a cause dear to many members of the Craft. Those who wish to know more can read about the long association between the Craft and the RNLI in the new issue of Freemasonry Today. Support for Newfoundland was because the majority of the Lodges there were under our Grand Lodge, there being no local Grand Lodge. Interminable the discussions on the proposed Committee certainly were and sight appears to have been lost of what the Committee’s purpose was to be. The proposal to start planning a major celebration to mark the bi-centenary of the formation of the premier Grand Lodge and the interest being shown in it by Grand Lodges overseas certainly resonates today when plans are being hatched to celebrate our tercentenary in 2017 and those same sister Grand Lodges are showing great interest in what might be being planned. Although it is ahead of the time we are talking about today, it should be noted that despite the War over 7,000 brethren, many of them in uniform, gathered in the Royal Albert Hall in June 1917 to celebrate our bi-centenary.
GFR: When Grand Lodge next met, on 2 September, the country was at war. MW Pro Grand Master, in your Presiding Officer’s Remarks this September you quoted the words used by the then Deputy Grand Master, Bro Halsey, and we do not propose to repeat them now. The Grand Secretary read a letter, expressing deep fraternal concern, from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, which described itself as our eldest child in the Western Hemisphere, and similar sentiments were echoed by a Past Grand Master of South Carolina and two Past Grand Masters of New Zealand who were present as Visitors at the Quarterly Communication.
JMH: Support from the Grand Lodges in Australia, Canada and the United States of America was to be a constant throughout the War, which in a very real sense brought those Grand Lodges closer to us, particularly when troops from those areas began to go through London, the Brethren amongst them taking an opportunity of visiting Lodges. The Board showed its paternalistic side once again by announcing that those of its Clerks who responded to the “call to the Colours” would continue to have their salaries paid throughout the hostilities and would be guaranteed to resume their labours at Grand Lodge once hostilities ceased. More than half of the clerks answered the call and happily only one of them did not return.
GFR: The following resolution marked an early casualty of the conflict:
That further proceedings in regard to the election of the Representative Committee on the question of the re-organization of Grand Lodge, under the resolution of Grand Lodge of June 3rd, be postponed.
JMH: Mercifully the war put an end to the endless argument over the re-organisation of the administration of the Craft. The intention had been a good one of bringing the Provinces more actively into the central administration of the Craft but the scheme that had been produced was an unwieldy one of multiple layers of Committees at both local and central levels, the division of London into ten Provinces and so much would have been devolved to committees before coming to a central Council and then the Board that it would have been almost impossible to get any policy or changes through in less than eighteen months! Some changes were made during the War, the most important of which was elected Provincial representation on the Board of General Purposes to give the Provinces a voice in central administration.
GFR: In December an amendment was made to the Book of Constitutions to prevent the automatic exclusion of Brethren from their Lodges if the arrears of subscription arose while they were serving their country.
JMH: The amendment was an example of Grand Lodge at its pragmatic best, almost making policy and change “on the hoof” amending a recommendation within Grand Lodge to bring into effect a rule change recognising the difficulties that members on active service would face during what was being slowly realised was not going to be a short war. The year, however, ended as it had begun with a very lengthy and somewhat nit picking debate on the actual wording of the proposition. There was also an attempt to persuade Grand Lodge to make a donation of 1,000 guineas towards the funding of a Masonic Nursing Home to care for members of the services injured on active service. There was a certain amount of support but two major figures questioned whether this was a good use of Grand Lodge’s limited finances as experience had shown that running a private hospital was an enormous economic undertaking. The proposition was negative but in 1917 the Freemasons’ War Hospital and Nursing Home was opened in London, eventually becoming the Royal Masonic Hospital. As time was to show the comments made in 1914 proved correct and the Hospital eventually had to go. But that, as they say, is a story for another day.
10 December 2014
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, a lot goes on during a period of 12 months in Freemasonry. Much of this all our members see in their lodges, as well at Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges and Grand Lodge. However what is not seen is all the work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that all runs smoothly and, even more importantly, that the Craft is fit for purpose for the future.
Over the last 40 odd years we have fought hard to ensure that our public image is continually improving. It would be ridiculous to claim that we have won all these battles or that we have convincingly won the war, but we have undoubtedly made significant progress in many areas. We will not be giving up on any of these battles, but in addition we are very much concentrating our efforts on making sure that we know as much as possible about our membership and what we can do to stabilise membership numbers and increasingly attract natural leaders and high quality members.
The Membership Focus Group under the chairmanship of the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, RW Bro Ray Reed, has made great strides in gathering essential information and assessing membership trends. We are presently considering governance, leadership, image and branding needs, as well as recruitment and retrieval, all vital to the success of any organisation. The MFG is keen to have the views of members on a number of subjects essential to the future of the Craft and is setting up a series of surveys to be conducted over the coming months which will allow all members to express their views. So far, I understand that over 5,500 members have signed up and I encourage more to do so.
Some ideas put forward may appear trivial, but it so often that which appears trivial that introduces a debate which widens and becomes, dare I say, a cornerstone. One such idea has been put to me by Bro Reed and came from a chance conversation that he had with a certain Deputy PGM, who shall remain nameless but his Province has a county town called Lincoln! Amongst several very useful points that he made was that the word “recruitment” has connotations of press ganging into the services and that, rather than talking about “recruiting” new members, why not think about “attracting” them. This may appear to be just semantics, but I believe it is rather more than that and could be very relevant.
The point I am making is that nobody should consider any idea too small to put forward. The worst that can happen is that it is not implemented – you won’t be demoted! A word of warning on this – I will be hugely unpopular with the Grand Secretary if his department is flooded out with emails so please express your ideas by using the free text boxes that will be incorporated into future surveys.
There have also been a number of changes within the secretariat and those working in this building. As most of you will have noticed by now, we are leading up to a very major event in 2017 and this is going to take a huge amount of organisation. For this reason it was decided to ask the Grand Secretary to concentrate his time and efforts on the purely masonic side of his current role and to separate away the operational side of the building, along with the finance and IT departments, which will be run by a Chief Operating Officer, Nicola Graham-Adriani who has been working for us here for over 13 years, latterly as Deputy Chief Executive.
Brethren, this meeting of Grand Lodge marks a watershed by having the Paper of Business circulated electronically. This was not as easy as it may sound, as, amongst other things, it required changes to the Book of Constitution. A team led by VW Bro James Long and including the current Grand Pursuivant have spent many hours ensuring that the circulation went smoothly and I congratulate all of them on doing so.
Another area where there has been much activity is the organisation of our four main Charities. In 2008 several PGMs made representations to the Rulers about how they would like to see the Charities modernised. A Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee was set up under the chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master, which at that time was myself, but was soon to become RW Bro Jonathan Spence who has overseen the vast majority of the Committee’s work. The Charities themselves had already made an important start by agreeing to come together under one roof and they are, of course, now all in this building.
The Committee has been working extremely hard, together with the Charity Presidents and their Chief Executives, to come forward with a formula that will suit the Charities for many years to come.
I am pleased to announce that the MW The Grand Master has now received a comprehensive briefing on the review that has taken place, as have the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters. This is the first major review to have taken place since the Bagnell Report of 41 years ago.
The Grand Master and all those who have been briefed have given their full support to the proposal to consolidate the four existing main Charities into a new overarching charity managed by a single board of Trustees under a single Chief Executive Officer with a single staff team.
Further details will be made available via the individual Charities, Provincial and District Grand Masters, and through future editions of Freemasonry Today.
At the Annual General Meeting of The Grand Charity, to be held in conjunction with the September 2015 Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, members, after a period of consultation, will be invited to endorse the proposals in respect of the changes required to the constitution of The Grand Charity. Similar activity will be required at appropriately convened members meetings for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
The review sets out to ensure that the provision of charitable support remains central to the future of Freemasonry, but is enhanced by moving to a demand-led, whole family, cradle-to-grave model, which will be far more appropriate for the 21st century. I congratulate all those involved in this review and commend their recommendations to you.
Brethren, I have spoken for rather longer than usual, but I trust that you will agree that some important issues have been covered and I believe that it is right for Grand Lodge to be kept up to date on such matters.
Last year I mentioned that I was expecting a tiring Christmas with my grandchildren. It wasn’t just them who were exhausting. My three sons, who are all in their thirties, passed my two grandsons on the stairs. One set were on their way to bed, the other on their way to open their stockings. I leave it to you, brethren, as to which lot was going in which direction!
Whoever you spend your holiday period with, may I wish you all a very happy and relaxing time.
12 November 2014
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, the Second Grand Principal has just completed a series of meetings with Grand Superintendents. One of the topics of conversation was the relationship between the Royal Arch and the Craft – specifically covering two issues. First, the selection of Royal Arch representatives in Craft Lodges and secondly, the taking of wine with Royal Arch members at Craft Festive Boards.
The appointment and monitoring of the Royal Arch Representative in a Craft Lodge needs careful consideration. There has been debate as to who is responsible for this important appointment. In Provinces where the Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent are the same, there should be no issue. However, where the heads of the two orders are different I believe it essential that the Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent liaise. The appointment should never be a ‘tick in the box’ exercise.
As a member of the Royal Arch, the Representative will need to know sufficient about the merits of joining the Order and be able to work closely with the Lodge Mentor. In many instances it could be best judged that a member should be approached at the same time that he receives his Grand Lodge Certificate. I know from experience that there is a balance between judging whether someone will enjoy the Royal Arch with the right time for that individual to join. This timing is also pressurised by the concern that an individual will be approached to join one of the side orders first if there is any delay in recruitment. I continue to believe that there is a good stage to brief Master Masons on the merits of the Royal Arch, but that the actual timing of joining should be linked to each individual’s appetite for Masonic advancement and personal circumstances.
For those of you who are very involved with the side orders, please do not think that I am in any way against Craft members joining them, far from it. However I do firmly believe that the Royal Arch should be the first priority.
As for wine taking with Royal Arch members at Craft Festive Boards – I believe that this custom should be treated sensitively – if ever used. I will also be mentioning this at the Craft Quarterly Communication in December. In any event the decision should lie in the hands of each Provincial Grand Master. I can see a case for this where a Chapter is linked to a Craft Lodge – but, even so, it is recommended that this wine taking is conducted with everyone sitting down so that those who are not members of the Order are not embarrassed or – worst still – pounced on with a joining form!
Companions you will have read in the last issue of Freemasonry Today about the Membership Focus Group and their mission to stop the bleed in membership. It is clearly of the greatest importance to Royal Arch recruitment that this bleed is halted whilst recruiting and retaining men of quality and integrity. You will have read that members were asked to participate in a series of short surveys so that the Membership Focus Group could seek grass roots’ ideas about the future of Freemasonry. I would ask as many of you as possible to take this opportunity and register and so be able to give your views.
Most Excellent Pro First Grand Principal and companions, good morning.
My name is Ian Bell, and I have been privileged to act as consultant to the great work that has been going on, and is nearing completion, in the restoration and enhancement of the Grand Temple organ.
This organ was built in 1933, installed as part of the fitting out of this wonderful room, and – unusually for an organ – is specifically mentioned in its official listing by English Heritage. It was made by the firm of Henry Willis and Sons and is, by a margin, the largest of three pipe organs that the Willis company installed in rooms in this building.
The Willis family did rather fancy themselves, successive generations – each called Henry – giving themselves regnal numbering, after the manner of royalty. It was Henry Willis the third that was involved here, and though still quite a young man he was well-qualified for the job. He came here hot-foot from having overseen the installation of the new Willis organ in Westminster Cathedral, and immediately before that, the largest organ in the country, both then and now, at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.
The organist at Liverpool was one Reginald Goss Custard – I have no idea whether, like Mr Farage, he took upon himself the affectation of adjusting his vowels to become Custaard – but we do know that at the time he carried the title of Grand Organist of England, and as such not only presided over the organ at the opening ceremonies of the Grand Temple in July 1933, but had also been responsible for approving the designs that Willis had put forward.
For the best part of a century, the Willis name had been at the forefront of English organ building.
The founder of the Willis firm, the first Henry Willis, who was later respectfully known as Father Willis, had played a major role in the process whereby, during the latter half of the 19th century, organs – and consequently the self-esteem of those who played them – grew exponentially in size, and in complexity.
Willis had hit the headlines with the largest and most ambitious of several organs that were on display at the Great Exhibition of 1851, in Hyde Park. This led directly to a very large contract for a new organ in the magnificent St George’s Hall, in Liverpool; and then in 1871, went on to build what was then the largest organ in the world, for the newly constructed Royal Albert Hall, for the splendid sum of £8,000 – not including engines. The engines in question were steam engines required to pump air into the main bellows – needing an organist to give a day’s notice whenever he might want to play the thing – and they were an indicator of the point to which the scale of these organs had grown, over the course of a mere twenty or thirty years.
These enormous instruments were now not only too large for the bellows to be pumped by hand, but also much too hard work for the organists to be able to push the keys down by finger power alone. Various ways were devised to provide servo-assistance, as it were – first employing pneumatic means, using wind-pressure; and soon, as the 19th century drew to a close, using low-voltage electricity and batteries.
The die was now cast – no longer limited by the wind-pressure that human muscle-power, lubricated by copious amounts of beer, could generate, organs could now be as loud and as large as funds and space allowed, distributed on multiple sites around a building, connected simply by electric cables, and with the organist detached on the end of another cable, at a suitably safe distance from the considerable noise that he was now able to make.
The only limiting factor was now that of good taste – something which, in my experience, can no more be relied upon with organists than it can with organ builders.
One further spin-off in all of this remote control of organs, and one which especially appealed to architects, who generally make it very clear that they have a deep distaste of organs as being an intrusion in their otherwise fine buildings, was that they no longer needed be actually on view in the space where they were meant to be heard, but could be tucked away in odd and forgotten corners, often behind a grille – or even completely invisible above the ceiling, or hidden under the stage as usually became the case in the cinema. Simply blow the pipes harder and they would still be heard, and all would be well, went the theory.
The installation of this organ fell right into that period. It is packed in very tightly, and when it is all assembled, the impression to someone standing very uncomfortably inside is that the brief to Mr Willis must have been something like ‘Here are two odd left-over spaces – pack as much organ into them as you can.’ As with all of this building money did not seem to have been in short supply, but– for the organ – space certainly was.
Although it was at least given the concession of visible pipes, and pipes which actually work and announce ‘See – this room has an organ’, they were as usual only a fraction of the entire picture – just 60-odd pipes out of the total of 2,200 that the organ contains. Most of those were pushed very much into the background, packed into two very crowded spaces, each triangular in floor area and tapering from the widest end next to the balconies, down to virtually nothing at the eastern end where the opening into the Temple actually is. So although the pipes are shouting very loudly in there, they are shouting in the wrong direction away from the listeners and their output is being squeezed down until the point where, like toothpaste from a tube, it can eventually escape sideways into the room. To the organist against the far wall, and indeed to the great and good privileged to qualify for seats on the dais underneath it, it is clear that the organ is bellowing at the top of its voice. To those out in the body of the Temple it becomes instead a somewhat muted roar.
To add to the difficulties, the acoustics were extensively treated with absorbent material, so as to minimise reverberation, and clarify speech. This was the absolute opposite of the organ builder’s ideal dream of the sound of the pipes speaking without restriction or obstruction, into a flattering and reverberant cathedral acoustic, however inappropriate such an acoustic might have been here. Henry Willis’s very evident pride, as a freemason himself, at being offered the chance to make his mark here, in the heart of the Peace Memorial Building, was therefore unavoidably tempered by the hazards thrown into his path. Writing in his house magazine in September 1933 he says:
'I was clearly given to understand from the very start that the acoustical properties of the Temple would be such that the requirements of speech would be considered first, last, and all of the time; and that it would not be possible to modify this requirement to suit the needs of the organ in any way. It was under these onerous conditions of restricted space and an almost non-existent reverberation period that I had to make my plans.'
One can sense a heavy heart going about the making of those plans. But whatever his misgivings Willis succeeded in very largely overcoming, or at any rate minimising, the difficulties with which he was faced. By the end of the same article he cannot resist quoting a letter of congratulation from Mr Goss Custard:–
'Everyone is more than delighted with the Temple organ and I must say that personally I consider it one of the most beautiful that you have ever made. Considering the difficulties that you have had to overcome with the site, the effect is nothing short of marvellous.'
A happy client – what we all wish for....
And, not unusually it has to be admitted, Willis felt moved to pat himself on the back too:–
'If I may say so, a noble organ in a noble edifice. Only the best has been good enough for the Masonic Peace Memorial in every part of its structure and furnishing. The Temple organ is worthy, in every way, of its superb setting.'
What he did not then know was that this was to be the last completely new instrument on such a scale that he was to oversee, and that his firm was to build. The 1930s were tough for everyone, and when times were hard, organs would not be at the top of anyone’s priorities. His competitors got by on the brief but vigorous vogue for the theatre organ, to go with the frenzy of cinema building, but Willis declined to lower himself to that, and saw his order book dwindle drastically, up until the point that war arrived, and with it the turning over of the factory to supplying very different materials, for a very different cause.
After the war the period of patching and repairing of damage kept people busy for a while, but by the time things settled down Willis found that the market had moved on, and that major work – when it picked up – was going elsewhere. This was partly a shift in organ building fashion to which, in his autocratic way he had refused to bend; and partly, simply, that same autocratic attitude that he could not, or would not, shake off. Clients were no longer happy to be told 'You may think that you know what you want, but if you want an organ from us you will have what we are prepared to give you.'
Willis III died in 1963 a disappointed and, one suspects, rather bitter man, and his son, inevitably Willis IV, was what one might pigeon-hole as something of a Boris Johnson of organ building – a self-designed larger-than-life eccentric, to whom there was certainly more than met the eye – but with whom what met the eye could sometimes appear as a bit of a buffoon, which the staid world of churches and cathedrals rarely found reassuring.
Henry IV did father a Henry V, who never inherited the crown. Henry IV himself retired to India where I am recently told that in his mid-80s he spends his time pottering with the organ of the local lodge. The Willis firm continues in name under new management.
So for the organ historian, what Willis III provided here as his last major creation has extra significance above and beyond its characterful qualities as a musical instrument, and as a sophisticated piece of machinery.
And sophisticated it was.
In the mid-1920s Willis had visited America for two or three extended trips. He spoke of these, both in public and in private correspondence, as rather being his generously sharing his special insight into organ building with the lesser mortals of our former colonies. The spin-off for him, less openly talked about, was his coming home armed with a number of designs for up-to-date mechanisms developed by the Americans, and with the generous granting of permission to use them.
Because, as the 20th century dawned, the miracle of central heating slowly became less of a rarity here, and radiators began to find their way even into churches. The design of the central aspect of organ mechanisms, the soundboards on which all the pipes sit, had not been changed since the 15th or 16th century – there had been no need to – but it now turned out that organs and efficient heating were very uncomfortable bedfellows. Things stuck fast when they should be free; pipes whistled when they should be silent, or refused to speak when asked. For the Americans, whose grandest churches and public buildings were made well into the time when heating was taken for granted, these problems had already been very successfully addressed.
So Willis returned with technical drawings of mechanisms guaranteed to withstand the extremes of heating found in our climate – itself much less rigorous than the extremes found in the USA – and thereafter his organs in modern buildings, such as this one, became problem-free. His soundboards ensured that the required pipes would deliver the anticipated sounds only when they should, and right around the year, decade after decade. Needless to say, typically, this never caught on with the stubborn majority of his suspicious British competitors, who rightly found this foreign new kit extremely costly and complicated to make, and wrongly assumed that this would also make it tricky to keep in good order.
Whereas in truth, like the Duracell bunny, once set up on its legs it just keeps on going – in this instance for 80 years, at the end of which it was becoming worn but still doing pretty well, and it was the low-voltage switchgear connecting all the bits together and operating the console gadgetry – the 12-volt model railway stuff, if you like – that forgivably was starting to show its age. With an impeccable sense of good housekeeping, your masters and mine decided that it was better to pre-empt the time when the slow deterioration began to become more obvious to those out in the room, and to address the question of complete and meticulous restoration.
This work is being undertaken by the largest present-day firm of British organ builders, Harrison & Harrison of Durham, a highly-respected team who have their nameplate on a long list of prestigious instruments including in the London area Westminster Abbey, the Royal Festival Hall, Westminster Cathedral, Southwark Cathedral, the Temple Church and many more.
The entire organ apart from a handful of the largest pipes and the decorative casework, was in January of this year dismantled for the first time since 1933, and taken away to Durham for a comprehensive programme of attention to all of its diverse components.
The sound of an organ is obviously central to its purpose, and depends upon its pipes. Fortunately the pipes here generally remained in pretty good order, though the soft metal of which they are made – predominantly lead –is susceptible to slowly subsiding under its own weight, and to need coaxing back into shape – which was needed to a certain degree here.
But most of the cost, and the estimated 14,000 man-hours that the work is likely to have taken at completion, has gone into restoring the mechanism. This does not imply any original failing in its design or manufacture, but it does contain perishable materials – only very slowly perishable, but perishable nevertheless – which intermittently need renewing.
Principal amongst these here is leather, specifically sheepskin of a type known as splitskin, because having been removed from the sheep it is carefully split in its thickness to form very thin, supple and quite delicate leather similar to that used for bookbinding or making ladies’ gloves – sadly in themselves an endangered item. This will be found in some quantity in most organs of this period, and this particular ingenious mechanism uses a great deal, of only the finest quality. A whole flock of top-quality sheep will have been turned into lamb chops, legs and shoulders to supply the need for the thousands of individual leather components here, and their sacrifice has not been without value, since their skins have lasted remarkably well – as indeed we can confidently expect the replacement leather to do. Incidentally sporadic efforts to find a synthetic replacement for this purpose have failed, sometimes disastrously, and been set aside.
All of this must now be restored, each of the 2,220 pipes requiring its own, individually sized and shaped mechanism. The bellows or reservoirs which store and regulate the numerous different wind-pressures on which the pipes speak, similarly use sheepskin which again has lasted well, but will also now be replaced by fresh, new leather.
Though the sound itself is entirely generated by organ pipes, in time-honoured fashion, the linkage between the organ console and the pipes, and the complex mechanism within the console itself, all operates on low-voltage electricity and incorporates many hundreds of delicate electro-magnets which must operate instantly when electric contacts attached to the three keyboards, the pedal keys, and all of the stops, are activated. Over time, the iron armatures of these electro-magnets gradually themselves become permanently magnetised – what is called residual magnetism – and so all of these will be replaced, as will the 1933 cabling connecting it all together, cables containing hundreds of strands, each of which remains insulated by cotton, soaked in paraffin wax. It sounds fairly combustible doesn’t it? Does it catch light? – very rarely. Do we want to take that risk? Emphatically not.
So whilst outwardly the 1933 organ and its console will remain entirely unaltered, all of this electrical equipment has been discreetly modernised, as have the switching and control systems that direct the organist’s commands to this or that section of the organ. And as a spin-off, this will allow the organ to play all on its own at the touch of a button, to add a little something extra to guided tours, or more usefully allow players to record their intentions, and then walk down into the building and hear in advance the real effect of what they are planning to inflict upon the assembled gatherings.
In all of this we were conscious on the one hand of our conservationist obligations, and on the other of the need to try and do something to overcome the indirectness and woolliness of sound that had frustrated Mr Willis, and more recently had also been a matter of concern to the organ committee of distinguished Masonic organists, presided over by Charles Grace whose diplomacy, patience and seemingly tireless energy has steered this project so admirably, and to whom I personally am hugely grateful for his guiding me through just enough of the mysteries of freemasonry as I needed to know in order to understand the uses of what we were discussing, and to be able to work in this place without undue surprises.
One answer, which had already been considered when I became involved here, was that of adding a small but bold new chorus of pipes, positioned centrally against the east wall where it would speak clearly along the main axis of the building, thereby allowing us to leave the Willis organ sounding and performing exactly as when built, but with this supercharger in reserve. This would mean altering the appearance of the building and I was not sure whether this would be acceptable first to the powers-that-be here, and then to English Heritage and the local authority.
After a lifetime of working with the various manifestations of the church, where everyone these days avoids making any decisions at all for fear of upsetting somebody, it was hugely refreshing here to find that not only did people have firm views, but they had no hesitation in backing them up with actions. That the major work which has taken place should be marked by a clear and visible alteration was seen as not only acceptable, but desirable. Recognising that such a change should, and would, be done in such a fashion as to appear as if it had always been here, English Heritage were equally accommodating. So we had a plan. The organ will retain all of its imperial grandeur, but gain in clarity when accompanying and encouraging the building full of people; and for occasional, and one hopes tasteful, use there will be some fiery icing on the cake in the form of a commanding fanfare trumpet.
The new decorative casework – being assembled behind the curtain behind me – will match exactly that of the two original cases, both in its shape and in the style and extent of its carving; and the similarity between the three will be further drawn together by the fact that the decorative finish of real gold leaf which has been renewed on the existing casework and pipes, will be applied also to the new. For this work we have been very fortunate to secure the talents of an internationally respected specialist in this decorative work, Robert Woodland, who as Excellent Companion Woodland is I believe here today.
Finally a less glamorous but very important aspect has been the equally thorough restoration and rebuilding of the powerful original blowing plant, buried just below the back corner of the dais, and which is now augmented by two compact new electric blowers for the new section – one for the chorus, and a small but muscular one solely for the fiery icing on the cake.
This great project, which has had to be timetabled around the use of the Temple and the installation of the separate engineering work needed to provide discreet but sturdy support for the additions, should be finished by early April.
All of this technical skill and artistry costs money. Restoration work on what is essentially industrial archeology is always tricky, extremely labour-intensive, and therefore costly, and with both the obligation and the wish to balance respect for the original work with the sensible updating of the unseen technology, requires considerable time and care. You will probably be aware that in round terms, the cost is expected to finish at about a million pounds, or around £840,000 pounds before the taxman has added his cut. Of this £840,000, just over £400,000 has been spent on the restoration of the original organ and its casework. The organ builders’ work on the new section adds a further £125,000, plus a little over £200,000 for its casework, embellishment and decoration, and the necessary engineering works to hold it invisibly to the wall.
The final slice of £80,000 for sundries includes the hire of the temporary imitation organ, a new CCTV system to allow the organist to see not just what is happening in here but what is approaching in the corridor and vestibule outside, a contingency provision for unknowns, and finally a very modest amount for fees for those of us who are just barnacles clinging to the hull.
I should add that we have no grounds to doubt that the life-expectancy of what has been achieved will be any less than that of the eighty years of the original installation. Divided over that period this present outlay amounts to £10,000 per annum, which is markedly less than many will spend on keeping themselves kitted out with a reasonably decent car.
The philosophy behind the making of this building, with respect both to its long-term purpose and to its immediate dedication to peace and remembering the fallen, whilst looking forward rather than back, was that the main criterion should be that of the best quality, with the cost being an inevitable consequence to be managed, not side-stepped. As an admiring and appreciative visitor, it has been impressive for me to see that approach and responsibility so unhesitatingly upheld in this further work, itself looking forward to serve the future.
10 September 2014
A talk by Mike Woodcock, President of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, and Chairman of Lifelites Trustees, and Simone Enefer-Doy, Chief Executive of Lifelites
Mike Woodcock: MW Pro Grand Master, brethren, at the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys we inevitably deal with many distressing cases involving children: those who are orphans, those from single parent families, even those whose parents have taken their own lives. And many being brought up by grandparents who simply cannot afford their upkeep.
Most of these children never had the opportunities that we had when we were young, but because they are children of the wider masonic family, through a mixture of financial support, care and advice, we can help them often substantially and most go on to lead happy and fulfilling adult lives.
However, today we are here to talk about children who neither we nor anyone else can help into adulthood – because these are children who will never have what the other children take for granted – the chance to grow into adults. They are children with life-limiting conditions who are cared for by children’s hospices.
For parents facing the tragedy of losing a child, making the most of the time left is the most precious gift they can give.
Today Simone and I are here to tell you more about Lifelites, a small charity established by the trust 15 years ago to mark the millennium. It remains a masonic charity but through the power of partnership it has been able to work with non-masonic people and organisations to bring unlimited opportunities to children with limited lives.
Fifteen years ago, children’s hospices were a relatively new concept. There were just 17 throughout the British Isles and for the first seven years Lifelites was funded entirely by the RMTGB. However, as the children’s hospice movement grew and new technology provided more and more possibilities, Lifelites was given the independence to raise funds more widely and to partner non-masonic organisations. The result is that today there are 49 children’s hospices with a Lifelites project and presence in every one. Lifelites provides the very best technology, equipment and training enabling children with life-limiting conditions and often with profound disabilities to learn, to explore, to communicate and to play in ways which they, their parents or their carers never thought possible.
What we do is often life-changing not only for 9,000 – yes 9,000 – children being cared for in children’s hospices at any one time, but also for their parents and extended families.
Simone leads the small and dedicated team at Lifelites, and she is now going to explain what a Lifelites project consists of and how it makes such a difference. I will then explain how Freemasons and others have helped to make all of this possible.
Simone Enefer-Doy: Those of you who have visited a children’s hospice will know that they are special places caring for terminally ill children and their families. The child may visit the hospice over a number of years for respite and specialist care, and they will always find a lively home-from-home atmosphere with plenty of activities taking place. I regularly witness the struggles these children and their families face. It is hard to imagine what it is like having a child who cannot communicate or play like other children.
When Daniel first visited Richard House Children’s Hospice in London he told his carer Bernie that he could not do anything because he could only move one arm. But Bernie thought that if he could move one arm then he could hold a camcorder and from that spark of imagination a whole film club was born. Using the Lifelites camcorder to film and the Lifelites computers to edit, Daniel and his friends went on to make action features and now every year they have their own Oscars’ ceremony – wheeling themselves along the red carpet, dressed in their bow ties – and every child gets an Oscar. Daniel’s mum and dad told us that his confidence had gone through the roof, for the first time he had made friends and was doing things he never thought possible. They realised that they would never see their son taking part in a school sports’ day, but for them, this was even better. Sadly, Daniel is no longer with us, but we are proud that Lifelites had such a positive impact on his short life.
As Mike said the children we help often have profound disabilities – some have difficulty controlling their movements, others are less cognitively able and many find it difficult to speak. But Lifelites can change all that. Recent advances in technology are enabling dreams to become a reality, and everything we do is aimed at helping these children – whatever their abilities – to join in and take part.
Wherever you may live in the British Isles, there are children being supported by Lifelites because we have a magical technology project at every one of the 49 children’s hospices. Our typical package includes items like touchscreen computers, games consoles which work through sensing movements, iPads with drop-proof covers, and software that makes it possible for the children to be creative, to communicate and control something themselves. Very importantly, we make sure that the equipment we provide is portable so that even if a child cannot get out of bed, the equipment can be taken to them.
Most children love playing computer games, but off the shelf software is not designed with disabilities in mind. So we have worked with students at London South Bank University to develop games which are unique to Lifelites.
Another amazing piece of equipment is the 'magic carpet' that projects an image onto the floor which the children can interact with. It gives them the chance to escape the confines of their condition and to embrace a world of make-believe, flying an aeroplane, splashing in the sea or playing football. We also provide software that enables those who can only move their heads to use a computer. But sometimes the only part of their body they can move is their eyes so we also provide cutting edge technology called eyegaze. Eyegaze enables children to access a computer through a camera which tracks their eye movements, enabling them to move the cursor around the screen. Through eyegaze, children whose carers and families thought they were unable to communicate at all, can now do so – they can tell their carers what they would like for breakfast, when they are thirsty, they can explore new worlds and can even, for the first time, tell their parents that they love them. It means that these children can enter and stay involved in the world around them for as long as it is possible.
But we do not just provide the equipment and walk away: first we consult with the staff and children to find out what would be most useful for them; we constantly research the best solutions and make hospice staff aware of what is possible; we raise the funds to provide it, we install it; we train the hospice staff in how to use it, we commit to maintaining it in good order and we aim to replace every four years.
With the addition of exciting new items like eyegaze and the magic carpet this now costs around £50,000 for each hospice every four years. This means that we need to raise £12,500 for each of our 49 projects or over £600,000 every year.
The hospices themselves simply could not afford to do what we do. Without Lifelites these children, for whom every second counts, would miss out on the opportunities which new technology can bring. Because we look after the equipment, hospice staff can concentrate on doing what they do best: caring for the children and their families. What we provide comes at no cost to the hospice and does not detract in any way from their fundraising.
David Strudley, Chief Executive of Acorns Children’s hospices in Birmingham, Walsall and Worcester tells people: 'Whatever the problem, nothing seems to be too difficult for Lifelites to solve for us or with us. As technology moves on, so does Lifelites. Our children – however severely disabled – are able to use the equipment for themselves. It does not matter that a child cannot communicate in the traditional way anymore – non-verbal communication is not a problem. Lifelites has helped us to discover better ways of looking after our children.
'Each time I visit a hospice I am reminded that the children are not just patients, they are funny, joyous people, and it is possible for a short life to be a good life, a happy life and a full life.'
What we do is in no small part due to the support we continue to receive from Freemasons. So I would like to say thank you on behalf of all those 9,000 children for the help you have given – and we hope you will continue to give – for our vital work which makes such a difference.
Mike Woodcock: Brethren, even though we work with 49 children’s hospices and raise all of our own funds we have just five full time staff and this is only possible because we have so many volunteers who not only raise funds but also help deliver our services, most are Freemasons and some of them are here today including: our trustees and members of our management committee; individual Freemasons who visit the hospices helping to set up and maintain the equipment and to train staff in how to use it; at least two-thirds of the Provincial Grand Masters sitting behind me whose Provinces have made generous and sometimes substantial donations to support our work. And I also include generous support from other masonic orders, from the Mark Benevolent Fund and the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland, and the many others here today who have either made personal donations or taken part in the many Lifelites fundraising initiatives.
As chairman of Lifelites trustees I too extend a huge thank you to you all. Lifelites is further proof that masonic charity is not just inward looking and that Freemasons not only give generously but involve themselves directly in caring for the less fortunate.
Unlike the main masonic charities we do not receive funding from the festival system, but importantly we are able to raise funds from outside Freemasonry and we work in partnership with non-masonic organisations to help deliver our aims.
Significant non-masonic donors have included: the Thomas Cook Children’s Charity; The Khoo Teck Puat Foundation; Dixons Group who made Lifelites their chosen charity; GamesAid, Microsoft, London South Bank University, Sainsbury’s (here in holborn), Children with Cancer UK, Buckinghamshire Building Society and many others who have supported us. London Underground allow us to make a christmas collection. We even have Ladies that Lunch who raise funds for us.
By working with others we have been able to triple the funds donated by freemasons enabling us to do so much more.
But partnership is not just about fundraising, Lifelites also works with others in delivering its services.
The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists has been our partner from day one, bringing their specialist knowledge and expertise to our management committee as well as donating funds themselves. As Simone said we also work in true partnership with the hospices themselves to ensure maximum impact.
Today the charity world is changing rapidly and we need to respond to change if we are to become even more successful. There is intense competition for funds meaning that we have to employ management techniques derived from the commercial sector, especially in marketing and fundraising. Charities have to be able to find, select and utilise the very best of new ideas – no one has a monopoly of these. It is no longer enough to simply ask for support because we have a worthy cause. The emphasis has to be on performance and impact assessment requiring rigorous questioning, enabling potential donors to make informed choices. As a result of being a leader in innovation we have been proud to receive no less than four national industry awards recognising our achievements.
So, today we celebrate the fifteen year success of a small charity founded by Freemasons which has grown to encompass every children’s hospice in the british isles and in doing so we have been able to raise the profile of the Craft as a modern and effective force for good in society.
Charity may not be the main purpose of Freemasonry but we all know that it is high on our agenda and in many ways characterises the kind of people we are. Freemasonry has a long, proud and enviable record in charity and Lifelites has shown that if we use the power of partnership we can achieve even more.
Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master, the last time that I had the privilege of addressing Grand Lodge, I looked up at the depiction of Pythagoras on the temple frieze in the west and reminded us that the ancient Knights of Pythagoras had a saying, 'that a man never stands as tall as when he kneels to help a child'
Today, every Freemason who has supported Lifelites stands very tall indeed.
Thank you again and please remember that if ever you would like to become more involved in our work we are only a telephone call away or you could arrange to visit our small office at 26 Great Queen Street – you will be most welcome.
Brethren, thank you for listening to the Lifelites story and thank you again for giving so many children the power to control at least something in their lives and their parents the joy of seeing them live their short lives to the full.
10 September 2014
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, at the Quarterly Communication held on the second of September 1914, one hundred years ago, the First World War had been underway for just under a month. Thinking back to that time, your predecessors would have known that, even in that short time, the German Army had already defeated the Russian forces at the Battle of Tannenberg and the French and British armies were in fierce contact with the German advance in the South of Belgium.
That Quarterly Communication was presided over by Sir Frederick Halsey as Deputy Grand Master as the then Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Connaught and the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill were away serving their country.
Sir Frederick, in proposing the motion that ‘Grand Lodge expresses the deep appreciation of the loyal and devoted service now being rendered to our country by HRH the MW Grand Master, the MW Pro Grand Master, and very many other Brethren of all ranks in the Craft, and its earnest prayer for their continued well-being’, went on to say – amongst other things – that it was a time of great anxiety and that every Grand Officer would carry out their work without panic and alarm and show that calmness and confidence which animates the breast of every Englishman and mason.
He added, ‘our hearts go out to our friends and relations, to our dear ones, both in the Craft and outside it, who are now serving their country at the call of duty; our prayers follow them, and we trust that before long, in the mercy of the Great Architect of the Universe, they may emerge from this present struggle safe and sound’.
Sadly over 3,300 masons, serving in the four fighting services Army, Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Flying Corps never made it home. This fine building was created as a peace memorial dedicated to them and I trust you will have all seen the magnificent memorial window at the end of the vestibules beyond those doors and which have been recently restored thanks to the generosity of London Lodges and Chapters as well as individuals coordinated by Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Chapter, and below it, the bronze shrine containing the Roll of Honour parchment scroll honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in the service of their country. We should not forget that many sons and grandsons of members were killed – many of whom would have been potential members.
The Library and Museum at Freemasons’ Hall has an exhibition entitled, ‘English Freemasonry and the First world War’ starting next week and which will go on until the beginning of March next year. This major exhibition tells the story of the organisation and members during the First World War and, for example, it explores how lodges coped with members being called up to fight.
Brethren, brotherly love remains as important in today’s world as it did in those dark days of great anxiety in the First World War. To exercise kindness, tolerance and charitable support – and to feel deeply interested in the welfare of others – is a source of the greatest happiness and satisfaction in every situation in life. It is, I believe, of the utmost importance today to ensure our long term survival but I am concerned that we are, surprisingly, not always seen internally as a caring organisation with junior members too often marginalised and unsupported. This must change and it is the responsibility of every member to help to retain those of integrity within their Lodges by making them feel included and cared for. By so doing we will ensure that they will gain the same fulfilment and satisfaction from their masonry that we have all been lucky enough to enjoy.
11 June 2014
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, over the last year or two there has been a certain amount of correspondence in the various masonic magazines regarding the pros and cons of reading rather than reciting our ritual.
One correspondent suggested that as ritual was read throughout European Grand Lodges, we should follow. I am not sure all our politicians would agree with that! Certainly it is true that reading ritual is prevalent in many European Grand Lodges, however it is not universally so, and, in any event, there surely is no good reason for us to follow their example. Indeed, I have many friends in European Lodges who envy the way we deliver our ritual.
You will note, brethren, that I said that they are envious of the way we 'deliver' our ritual and, in my experience, ritual that is recited has much greater meaning to the candidate than ritual that is read, although I am pleased to say I have not been present on many occasions that it has been read.
I entirely accept that learning ritual is time consuming and time is at a premium in today’s hectic schedule of life. But how often is it true that the busiest people are those who find the time to learn it. I am not going to pretend that I have ever found ritual learning easy, and, as time goes by, dare I say, I find learning new ritual more difficult, but, nonetheless, I shall never forget the satisfaction of carrying out a second degree ceremony at the first meeting that I was in the chair of my mother lodge. To be told by an extremely demanding DC that it had been adequate was as good as it gets! I should add that this was a great deal more complimentary than anything he ever said to me during the year that he taught me classics.
By definition reading means looking at the book and, if the deliverer is looking at the book, he is not looking at the candidate or the brethren to whom he is speaking. To read a text well is in itself a skill that not everyone has. Good reading needs preparation and unless our ritual is understood by the deliverer, what chance is there that it will be understood by the recipient. For the reader to have a good understanding of what he is saying he will have had to have read through the text on several occasions and it is most certainly not a case of turning up, opening a book and reading.
Our ritual is to be treasured and there are few better experiences than seeing and hearing a really well conducted masonic ceremony.
One of the prime reasons that lodges are being encouraged to share the workload is so that members should spend time really learning and understanding what they are delivering and not just reciting ritual parrot fashion. It is inevitable that some members will find ritual easier than others and it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that as much help as possible is given to those who need it, thus giving everyone the opportunity to take pride in their delivery, however short a piece it may be.
I don’t expect what I have said today to be universally accepted, but I would be surprised if the majority do not agree with at least part of it.
Letters to the Editor - No. 28 Winter 2014
All in the delivery
With regard to the June address by our Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, there is no doubt that the candidate deserves to experience the ritual without the deliverer needing to read the text from a book. I was greatly impressed by the sincerity and meaning thus offered. At one time I could comfortably deliver the Second Degree Tracing Board as well as preside over a lodge or chapter with similar confidence, but now, with the years advancing and being into my seventies, such standards of delivery are now virtually impossible. The reluctant answer, where appropriate, is to delegate, but sometimes reading the ritual is just unavoidable. I do try to impart appropriate emotion with my delivery.
Barry Mitchell, Zetland Lodge, No. 511, London
11 June 2014
Order of Service of Masonry citation for W Bro Richard Leonard Ellis
Bro Len Ellis was made a mason in March, 1962, at the age of 30, in Old Castles Lodge, No. 5773, in Hawarden, North Wales, serving as its Master in 1978. In 1982 he joined Clwyd Lodge of lnstalled Masters, No. 8676 and in 1987 he joined Pen-y-Ddraig Lodge, No. 8163, serving as its Secretary from then until 2008. He was exalted into the Royal Arch in Pen-ar-lag Chapter, No. 3273 in 1964, becoming its First Principal in 1981.
After a year as Provincial Assistant Grand Secretary of North Wales in 1977, Bro Ellis became, in short order, Provincial Senior Grand Deacon, Provincial Grand Sword Bearer and, in 1985, Provincial Senior Grand Warden. In 1987 he was appointed Provincial Grand Secretary (and Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra), and received the rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in the Craft, receiving that of Past Grand Standard Bearer in the Royal Arch the following year. In due course he was promoted to his present ranks of Past Junior Grand Deacon and Past Assistant Grand Sojourner.
Bro Ellis was one of the last long-serving Provincial Grand Secretaries, a breed that is all but extinct in an age when that office is perceived as a burden that should only rarely be shouldered by any individual for much more than five years. He held that office with distinction under four Provincial Grand Masters, from 1987 until 2008, one of whom, the late Bro Ian Mackeson-Sandbach, knew he had one of the best Provincial Grand Secretaries in the Constitution and treated him accordingly. The wealth of knowledge and experience which he accumulated during his period in office stood him, his successive Provincial Grand Masters and, above all, his Province in good stead. His later years in office were marred by severe arthritis, but he never lost his sense of humour and remained unfailingly courteous as well as a great source of advice and information to his neighbouring Provincial Grand Secretaries and even senior staff at Freemasons' Hall.