United Grand Lodge of England's Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton graced a regular meeting of Marlow Lodge No. 2752 in Buckinghamshire on 14th February 2018

Sir David, who is also President of the Universities Scheme, was escorted by Alan Baverstock, Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies. Also in attendance were Julian Soper, Deputy Chairman of the Universities Scheme, and Nigel Scott-Moncreiff, Vice Chairman of the Universities Scheme.

The Buckinghamshire Provincial Executive team was led by John Clark, the Provincial Grand Master on his first official visit, accompanied by Hugh Douglas-Smith, Deputy Provincial Grand Master and  Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, Graham Dearing, Philip Blacklaw and Tony Robinson.

All the distinguished guests, as well as members of the lodge, then witnessed a Second Degree ceremony. The candidate Marco Davi was congratulated by the Assistant Grand Master and the Provincial Grand Master before the brethren retired to the dining room to enjoy the festive board.

This was the first time in the 120 years history of Marlow Lodge that one of the UGLE Rulers was in attendance and proved to be a lasting memory to all those present.

Published in Universities Scheme
Wednesday, 13 September 2017 06:00

Presentation on the Improvement Delivery Group

Quarterly Communication

13 September 2017
A presentation by RW Bro Bro Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master

Pro Grand Master and brethren, we all have our own view of what we see in masonry. For me, it’s five things:

  1. We’re all volunteers: none of us have to be masons or do what we do. The magnificent total of £3,100,000 announced at the North Wales Festival on Saturday was all the result of volunteering: voluntary time, voluntary effort, voluntary money;
  2. What we now call “social inclusion”: bringing together people of different origins, backgrounds, occupations, interests, locations, opinions, faiths; people who would not otherwise meet; in a common activity in which all are fundamentally equal;
  3. Our purposefulness: when we meet, there’s a purpose, whether it’s a masonic meeting, ritual; or charity or a community project; the best recent example I saw, the Jurassic Coast Youth Adventure organised by Dorset, 200plus children in need from all over the country taken on a week’s healthy activities by the sea. Whatever it is, we want to do it well, and we do;
  4. The practice of every moral and social virtue: words cited by the Bishop of Worcester, not a mason, at the Provincial Tercentenary Service on Sunday in a sermon that would inspire every mason. Our, if you like, moral code, best illustrated in the Charge to the Initiate, is a huge asset which will play increasingly well with younger generations for whom such things are in short supply;
  5. The social side: we do do the best parties, don’t we, getting to know each other informally, in friendship, and it works because of the other factors I’ve mentioned.

We all sense a steady move to greater openness: the Sky TV programmes; publicity in the right way for our charity and community activities: the word Freemasons on the London's Air Ambulance; wearing regalia in public: all in the right direction.

Recognising masonry’s good things but sensing that the make-up and profile of our membership – age, number – were going in the wrong direction, the Board of General Purposes – BGP – set up the Membership Focus Group – MFG – under the inspired leadership of Ray Reed to find out what was happening to today’s membership, to assess the likely affect on tomorrow’s and, if we didn’t like that – which we didn’t – to decide what to do.

Deciding what to do is called STRATEGY – YES! The MFG produced, and everyone adopted, Strategy: The Future of Freemasonry 2015-2020, which I know we’ve all read and like.

Thoughts then turned to implementing the Strategy. Ooh, the MFG said, could be difficult – better get someone else to do it, and so was born the Improvement Delivery Group – IDG (I hope you’re keeping up with the jargon, brethren) to Deliver the Improvements which should flow from the work of the MFG.   

I was out of the room at the time, so they made me Chairman. Also out of the room was Provincial Grand Master for South Wales and Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones, so we made him Deputy Chairman.

Strategy is no good unless it is accepted, understood and embraced by the membership – remember we’re all volunteers. The IDG had to show it was including Craft and Royal Arch, and all areas of the country, and Head Office. So, in addition to Gareth and me:

  • Michael Ward, London
  • Jeff Gillyon, Yorkshire North and East Ridings
  • Stephen Blank, Cheshire
  • Peter Taylor, Shropshire
  • Tim Henderson-Ross, Gloucestershire
  • Charles Cunnington, Derbyshire
  • Ian Yeldham, Suffolk
  • Mark Estaugh, West Kent
  • Stuart Hadler, Somerset
  • Gordon Robertson, Buckinghamshire, who leaves us on retiring as PGM and is replaced by James Hilditch, Oxfordshire
  • Ray Reed

 ...and from Head Office:

  • Grand Secretary Willie
  • Assistant Grand Secretary Shawn
  • ..and now Chief Executive David

Brethren, in light of all they do, I would like all those I’ve named to stand and be recognised. Thank you.

To pick up the work of the MFG we formed Working Groups matching the elements of the Strategy. The Strategy talks about effective governance at all levels; a leadership development programme; the attraction and retention of members; and the sustainability of masonic halls. Thus…

Gareth Jones is leading our Governance Group looking at who and what does what, the roles and responsibilities of each office and body, what they and what they’re not, and how we ensure that people understand what their roles and responsibilities are and aren’t, and what is expected of them. From the esteemed Adelphi2 we have lots of lovely statistics which will help show how Provinces and Districts are doing in terms of membership and help them to direct their efforts where they are needed.

Leadership – Michael Ward – aims to equip office-holders for their roles. Workshop sessions for PGMs and Grand Superintendents; workshops for Deputy PGMs and Grand Superintendents; next week the first training session for secretaries. We now have a UGLE training officer, Andrew Kincaid, to devise and roll-out training roles for all different roles. This not about imposing uniformity – you will do it this way – but helping people to see what’s involved and how to do the job well.

Jeff Gillyon’s Masonic Halls Group have published the Masonic Halls Centres of Excellence Guide, now available, best electronically, and those responsible for the management of masonic halls are strongly encouraged to use it: you will find it very useful. It is now in the charge of John Pagella, Grand Superintendent of Works, who has formed a Steering Group to manage the Guidance Manual and keep it up to date. There will be an annual meeting for all Provincial Grand Superintendents of Works.

The five Provinces in Regional Communications Group 1 – North of England – on the initiative of Gordon Brewis, Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works for Durham, have recognised the need for professionally qualified Provincial Grand Superintendents of Works and arranged for them to meet so that the adoption of best practice can be recommended uniformly across them all.

The Guidance Manual is not a book to be read from cover to cover: it is a reference tool, to be consulted as circumstances lead. It is guidance, support and advice: a guide to best practice. It can’t give definitive advice on, for example, legal issues, because so much depends on individual circumstances.

We want our halls and centres to be at the centre of the local community. Maybe we should refer to them as Masonic Community Centres.

Our Membership Group, headed by Peter Taylor, has circulated for comment the Membership Pathway, the product of several years of devoted effort, and parts well piloted in ten Provinces and 110 lodges Its purpose is to help lodges attract and retain the right members in the right place: to show what we need to do to attract the members we want to join us, stay and enjoy the full masonic journey.

Again, it is not a book, you do not read it cover to cover, you look at the parts you want as and when you need to.

The Pathway will be launched at the Provincial and District Rulers’ Forum – PDRF – on 18 October and then rolled out. So no-one should worry that they will be presented with it and then left on their own. Roll-out will be organised for you: to Regions and Provinces from January to March next year, and then to lodges….and there will be a folding leaflet on the front of Freemasonry Today in December.

There is much demand from masons to know more about masonry, its origin, history and meaning. Stuart Hadler’s Education Group is creating an online store of masonic learning materials, readily accessible in a Virtual Learning Environment. It will be tested later this year, introduced to a number of pilot Provinces in the new year, and full roll-out will be in later in 2018. What the group want is more materials to include, so contributions welcome, please.

In parallel to all this continues the excellent progress of the Universities Scheme, of which I am honoured to be the President. Existing and new lodges, and chapters, here and in Districts, recruit among students at universities and equivalent across the country and outside the UK, and do so very successfully. There are still a number of universities in this country not represented in the scheme, and we are addressing that.

I would like to thank all who are involved in the scheme, all volunteers, for all they do, and in particular the Chairmen: the founding Chairman, Oliver Lodge, now moonlighting as the Grand Director of Ceremonies; Edward Lord, current Chairman who retires after eight distinguished years at the Scheme conference in this building on 4th November; and Chairman-Designate Mark Greenburgh, who takes over on that date, and I would ask them to stand and be recognised too.

Many Provinces and Districts have New and Young Masons’ Clubs, with a wide variety of imaginative names, and those that don’t will. These clubs are an excellent way of those newer to masonry getting to know more other newbies, and building essential camaraderie. The clubs are holding their conference on 14 October in Birmingham under Gareth Jones’ leadership.

All this, IDG and others, is about creating our future, which is in our hands and which we are doing. The figures already show that it is working: in many areas there is a discernible shift in the trend of the numbers, and there will be more.

I have illustrated this talk with scenes from the everyday life of an Assistant Grand Master. Here’s the last one. In his sermon at the Durham Tercentenary Service last Thursday – I’m into clergy this morning, brethren – the Dean of Durham, also not a mason, said he saw masonry as a confident, open and engaged fraternity with strong foundational values.

We can do this, brethren, we can do this.  

Thank you. 



Published in Speeches

Securing our future

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes is encouraged and  humbled by members’ efforts as they ensure the Tercentenary year is a success

In our Tercentenary year, it is fitting that we look back on our history with pride. On 18 April we remembered brethren who have fallen since 1945 in the service of their country by opening the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. A week later, in the presence of the Grand Master, we remembered those of our brethren awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War in a magnificent ceremony outside Freemasons’ Hall.

And so, as we look back with pride, we must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a force for good in society and have so much to contribute to it. The Sky 1 documentary series has given us an amazing platform and viewing figures have been good. It has been well received and our Provinces are reporting an upsurge of interest, which I know you are capitalising on in order to secure our future. In addition, I believe it has enabled us to be aware of how important it is to talk openly about our Freemasonry and, perhaps, how best to do so.


As Pro Grand Master, it is very encouraging, yet humbling, to witness just how much effort you are all putting in to promoting our masonic values and making this Tercentenary year such a tremendous success. Your charitable giving never ceases to amaze me, and a magnificent total of £3,617,437 was raised at the Sussex Festival for the Grand Charity. This has been followed by the West Yorkshire Festival for the RMBI, which raised £3,300,300. I now have firm figures that show that last year we not only supported our own brethren with more than £15 million in grants, but also helped non-masonic charities with grants in excess of £17 million.

This year, the nation has been rocked by the serious terrorist attacks at Westminster Bridge, the Manchester Arena and at London Bridge. You should be aware that we have received numerous letters of support and concern from other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, some enclosing generous cheques to the East Lancashire Fund. These have supplemented the extreme generosity shown by many towards this fund, and I have been assured by the Provincial Grand Master that the money will be spent wisely where need is identified.


While congratulating you on all your efforts, I must pay tribute to my fellow Rulers, who have been globetrotting on our behalf. Having previously been to Bombay, the Deputy Grand Master paid a second visit to India this year to join the District of Northern India’s Tercentenary celebrations, and followed this by attending a Regional Conference in Jamaica.

The Assistant Grand Master, as President of the Universities Scheme, invaded South Africa with a very strong team. He followed this, immediately after our Grand Investiture, with a gala lunch and banner dedication in Malta. As a past Ruler, David Williamson kindly represented us in Gibraltar. And just to show that I have not been sitting idly by, I have just returned from a most enjoyable visit to our District in the Eastern Archipelago, having previously visited Bermuda for the bicentenary of its Lodge of Loyalty.

Carrying out these visits is a great privilege, and our brethren in the Districts value our presence and have great pride in being members of the oldest Grand Lodge.

‘We must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a force for good’

Published in UGLE

Members of three Universities Scheme Lodges meeting in the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland - Wyggeston Lodge No.3448, which is the Universities Scheme Lodge for the University of Leicester, Castle of Leicester No.7767 (De Montfort University) and Lodge of Science and Art No.8429 (Loughborough University) - met together for a joint meeting to celebrate the success of the Universities Scheme in the Province together with the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England.

The meeting, which was held at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester, on Saturday 25th February 2017 was attended by over 90 brethren who witnessed 3 ceremonies (an Initiation, a Passing and a Raising) with multiple candidates and conducted in turn by each of the lodges.

The Lodges were extremely honoured to welcome the Assistant Grand Master, RW Bro Sir David Wootton, who is President of the Universities Scheme, along with the Scheme Chairman, W Bro Edward Lord. Also attending were the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro James Buckle, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Peter Kinder, brethren representing ten other Scheme Lodges, and with other visitors.

After the Master of Wyggeston Lodge Master, W Bro Yogesh Patel, opened the meeting at 2.30pm, the Master of Castle of Leicester Lodge, W Bro Daniel Hayward, along with members of the lodge conducted a triple Raising. Following a short tea break it was the turn of Lodge of Science and Art to conduct a Passing. Finally, after a further tea break, Wyggeston Lodge conducted an Initiation ceremony for three new members, two of whom are students at the University of Leicester.

The meeting was followed by a wonderful Festive Board, where the lodges enjoyed a hearty three course dinner and the company of the guests and visitors. A raffle held in aid the Alderman Newton’s Educational Foundation, which is a local charity offering financial support to individuals and schools to help people access education or training opportunities in Leicestershire, raised £420. A collection for the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2022 Festival also raised £422 including Gift Aid.

W Bro Andy Green, organiser of the event and Vice-Chairman of the Universities Scheme, said: “Getting the three lodges together provided a wonderful occasion to celebrate the Universities Scheme in the Province and to mark the Tercentenary of Grand Lodge. It was encouraging to see so many younger members enjoying their Freemasonry, which created a real buzz throughout the day.”


Published in Universities Scheme

On the level

At 26, Alex Rhys has just conducted his first initiation. Peter Watts finds out how younger members are embracing Freemasonry for its sense of continuity

When Alex Rhys is asked how he came to join the masons at the age of 21, he puts it down to an instinctive inquisitiveness you might ordinarily expect to find in a scientist. ‘I’d always been a bit nosey and I was at university, procrastinating during revision, when I saw on the university website that the alumni had been on a tour of the local masonic temple,’ he recalls. ‘I then found out about the Universities Scheme in Bath, went on a tour of the lodge and found it very interesting.’

From there, Alex moved fast. He was initiated at 21 and, five years later, has just presided over his first initiation as a Master, having gained the chair of Bath’s St Alphege Lodge, No. 4095, earlier this year. The ceremony was well attended as it came on the same day that Somerset’s club for new and young masons, the Adair Club, hosted the second annual New & Young Masons Clubs’ Conference at Bath Masonic Hall – an event that attracted 60 delegates from clubs in 20 Provinces and saw much discussion about the problems and possibilities of recruiting and retaining young masons.

‘Alex is an inspirational figure,’ says Sam Mayer, who founded the Adair Club in 2012 to support young masons in Somerset and allow for better interaction between masons across the Province. ‘Some young masons can feel isolated,’ says Sam, who also became a mason at 21. ‘I didn’t experience that myself, which may be the reason I stayed. I want other masons to have the same experience I did.’

Once in the Craft, Alex embraced all that it offered. He joined a second lodge in the South West before moving to London, where he was invited by the Universities Scheme to help take over the Lodge of Good Fellowship, No. 3655, in Great Queen Street, which was seeing declining numbers.

Alex holds regular drop-in sessions for interested young masons and has also been invited to join the Universities Scheme committee. ‘At Great Queen Street, we filled the offices with interested people and now bring in about 12 people a year – it’s thriving,’ says Alex, who achieved all this while working on his PhD in cancer research.

Since becoming Master of St Alphege, Alex has decided against jazzing up ceremonies for a younger audience. ‘Our last Master tried to change the lighting levels and that caused enough of a fuss,’ he jokes. Instead, he believes a sense of continuity can appeal to younger masons, who enjoy tapping into a tradition that goes back three centuries. ‘What’s most important is that they know what to expect,’ he says.

Thinking differently

Alex feels his role is to fill meetings with enthusiastic young masons who will maintain momentum without upsetting older members. This mix of youth and experience is one of the things he most enjoys about Freemasonry.

‘I can sit next to a judge or a student and we are all completely on the same level; there’s no hierarchy,’ he says. ‘You get to know people at the top of their profession on a first-name basis. If we weren’t wearing the apron, I’d never have the chance to talk to people like that on a professional level, let alone a social one.’

In October, Alex returned to the South West to attend the Adair Club conference, where concerns about recruitment and retention were the main topics of discussion. Delegates from various clubs spoke about the specific structure and organisation of clubs for young masons as well as asking these members what aspects of Freemasonry were most important.

Ben Batley, Assistant Provincial Grand Master for Somerset, explains how important it is for groups like the Adair Club to target masons under 40 or with fewer than five years’ experience. ‘It’s that critical group who we view as most important to take masonry forward in our Province in the next 30 years,’ he says. Somerset has also introduced a Future of My Lodge initiative for all its 88 lodges. ‘We’ve been asking lodges to think carefully about young members, those at work or with a young family and how to keep them engaged with the Craft.’

‘Nothing can prepare you for how welcoming everybody is.’ Alex Rhys

Learning the Craft

The Adair Club has both a social and learning element, so members can learn more about the Craft and are better equipped to understand their place in it. ‘Recruitment is important but so is retention, and some of the learning opportunities may suit the more inquisitive mind of the younger masons,’ says Ben.

Sam takes up this theme. ‘The tradition has always been for masonry to be quite secretive, but it’s fundamental that people know about its history, its tenets, why it’s there,’ he says. ‘If people can get a grasp of that early on it will help them develop, and that’s fundamental for retention.’

The Bath Masonic Hall conference featured workshops, speed-networking sessions and talks about the traditional membership history of Freemasonry. The information will now be spread around the Provinces, helping those who are in similar clubs or thinking of setting one up. ‘It was very positive,’ says Sam. ‘We know there are a lot of capable people committed to the cause. We will now spread the word as far as possible.’ Staffordshire had already agreed to host the third annual conference next year.

Freemasonry’s increased confidence in reaching out to younger people is epitomised by the figure of Alex, whose enthusiasm remains unabashed despite the occasional quizzical response from colleagues and friends. ‘It’s difficult to explain that we wear aprons and do these little plays,’ he says. ‘But I am very open about it – for lodge meetings I wear a suit to work and my colleagues know where I’m going. I don’t hide anything.’

Alex enjoyed the conference, noting the enthusiasm and how people new to Freemasonry would have benefited from meeting others at a similar stage in their journey. As for how his first initiation played out, Alex says that it went as faultlessly as it could have done, remembering his own initiation five long and busy years ago.

‘I was probably more nervous this time as I had an actual part to play, whereas for my own initiation I didn’t know what was going to happen. Everybody says Freemasonry is sociable, but nothing can prepare you for how welcoming everybody is. They are all there to see you flourish, and want you to get the most out of your experiences.’


Kind of blue


I enjoyed Peter Watts’s article in the last issue and in particular, Alex Rhys’s comment, ‘I can sit next to a judge or a student and we are all on the same level.’ I’d like to think this is the experience of all our brethren, but I doubt whether it is always so. In my view, there is still in some instances too much emphasis placed on our hierarchy although, thankfully and clearly, not experienced by Alex.

When I have the privilege of presenting a Grand Lodge Certificate to a relatively new brother, I sometimes ask, ‘What is the colour of your apron?’ and the reply is always ‘light blue’.
I then ask the colour of my apron which is invariably given as ‘dark blue’.

I then assure him that my questions were not to embarrass him and say, ‘The answer to both questions is white.’ I explain that the different shades of blue and other embellishments serve only to distinguish the different stages of progress brethren have made in the Craft, so be he an Entered Apprentice on the evening of his initiation or the Grand Master – and all levels in between – we all wear a white apron, the badge of innocence, and in this context we are all equal. Do I hear,
‘Yes, but some are more equal than others’? I hope not.

Michael Weeden, Windsor Castle Lodge, No. 771, Windsor, Berkshire

Published in Universities Scheme

Unique occasion for Univesities Scheme

Yesterday at Freemasons' Hall was the unique consecration of David Kenneth Williamson Lodge No. 9938. 

The new lodge, which was sponsored by Lodge of Antiquity No. 2, is to be the Installed Masters’ lodge for the Universities Scheme, of which David Williamson, Past Assistant Grand Master, was the first President.

The consecration was done by Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, with David subsequently installed as the Primus Master by the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence.  David's first act as Worshipful Master was to invest the Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, as the acting Immediate Past Master.  It is a very rare thing to get all three Rulers at an event other than Grand Lodge!

David Williamson tweeted:

David Kenneth Williamson

David Kenneth Williamson was born in Bombay, India in October 1943. He was educated at King Edward VI School, Lichfield, Queen Mary College, University of London, and King's College, Cambridge.

Having trained to be a pilot, after winning an RAF flying scholarship aged seventeen, and following a brief spell as a schoolmaster, David joined the British Overseas Airways Corporation (now British Airways) in 1968. He became Assistant Flight Training Manager on the Boeing 737, before undertaking the same role on the Boeing 747-400 fleet until he retired in 1998.

He was initiated into Freemasonry in the Andover Combined Services Lodge, No. 8300, aged 29 on the 17th April 1972, and was Master of that Lodge in 1982. Despite being initiated in the Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight, it was in Middlesex that David's Masonic career took hold. He was appointed a Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1992, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies from 1995 to 1997, and Deputy Provincial Grand Master from 2000 to 2001.

Within Grand Lodge, he was appointed an Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995, and a Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies from 1998 until his appointment as Assistant Grand Master in March 2001, a role he held for thirteen years. He served as a Grand Steward on the 2014-2 15 Board. He founded the Universities Scheme in 2005 andwas its President until 2015.

Outside the Craft, he was Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter from 2010 to 2016, Grand Senior Warden in the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons in 2002, and in 2014 became a member of the Supreme Council 33° of the Ancient and Accepted Rite for England and Wales and its Districts and Chapters Overseas (as Grand Chancellor).

The Universities Scheme 

The Universities Scheme was founded in 2005 to establish or enhance arrangements and opportunities for undergraduates and other University members to join and enjoy Freemasonry. Building on the centuries old traditions of University Masonry at Oxford and Cambridge, the Scheme works with Provinces, Districts, and the Metropolitan Grand Lodge to identify Lodges, and now Royal Arch Chapters, willing to reach out and welcome young men from their local universities to join the Craft and Royal Arch.

The Scheme currently includes 72 Lodges and 3 Chapters, across the English Constitution. The 'DKW' Lodge will be its 73rd and will serve as the Scheme's Installed Masters' Lodge.

Published in UGLE

Triple stand-in at Isaac Newton

At a meeting of Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859, circumstances meant that the three senior officers of the lodge could not be present.  

Not content with their responsibility for planning this year’s Grand Festival, three Past Masters of the lodge, Simon Duckworth (1990), Chris Freeman (2003) and John Hammond (2006), who have served together on this year’s Board of Grand Stewards, took the three vacant chairs and led a triple raising witnessed by the President, Past President and Chairman of UGLE’s Universities Scheme.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 09:37

Deputy Grand Master's address - September 2016

Quarterly Communication

14 September 2016 
An address by the RW Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence

Brethren, I am delighted to see so many of you here today and I hope you have all had a suitably refreshing summer. I am particularly pleased to see a large number of younger masons amongst us, especially the delegations from the Provinces of Cambridgeshire and Durham, members of the Universities Scheme and especially those of the Apollo University Lodge in Oxford.

Many of you will be aware of the excellent work undertaken by the Membership Focus Group over the last two and a half years. I hope that you are all still referring to the UGLE strategy, which was a significant development resulting from the group’s work. 

We have now moved to ensuring the timely implementation of the strategy and the Membership Focus Group has been superseded by the Improvement Delivery Group. This group will, rather like a well- known wood treatment product, “do exactly what it says on the tin”. Its remit is to facilitate the delivery of change throughout the Craft in order to secure a successful future for Freemasonry by meeting the needs of “modern man” while retaining our traditional standards; it is chaired by the Assistant Grand Master, the Third Grand Principal is Deputy Chairman and the membership is drawn from London and all the regional groups of Provinces. 

This group will be “bedding in” for the next year, but will be reporting to Grand Lodge at the Quarterly Communication in September 2017. There is a considerable amount of work to do and we wish them all well in their endeavours.

Brethren, the Tercentenary celebrations have already begun and I am very pleased to see the variety and breadth of events that are planned to mark this significant milestone in our history. Events are being planned throughout the English Constitution. 

So far well over 100 events are scheduled ranging from Cathedral Services, Race Meetings, and Classic Car Rallies; Family Fun Weekends, supporting Youth Activities, to Dinners and Balls, including “The Grand Ball” which will take place here next September and will see this Grand Temple converted into one of the largest dance floors in LondAs the premier Grand Lodge it is appropriate we also celebrate this achievement with the other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, which we will do with the event at the Royal Albert Hall. I very much hope there will be a full cross section of our membership, including Master Masons, from London, Provinces and Districts and elsewhere overseas attending the meeting at the Royal Albert Hall.

As you are all aware 2017 will start with the broadcast in January of the Sky observational documentary.  I have been fortunate enough to have been part of the small group that has seen all the programmes and whilst, for confidential reasons, I am unable to say more about their content, I can assure you our privacy has been respected entirely for those matters that ought to remain private for our members.

Brethren, it has become very noticeable that the times in which we live are described with some use of either uncertain or uncertainty, or a variation thereof. Uncertainty is used to describe many aspects of our national life almost as a default mechanism. In many ways our predecessors who were there at the foundation of the Grand Lodge would have felt a certain affinity and seen possible parallels with their own time, although they would probably have used the word turbulent to describe the second decade of the eighteenth century.

In their case the uncertain times included significant change with a new ruling dynasty following the accession of King George I in 1714, a significant rebellion from supporters of the old dynasty defeated in 1715 and an incipient share scandal with the South Sea Bubble gently inflating until the spectacular bust. In those and, indeed , in the intervening uncertain times of the subsequent three hundred years, the principles of the Craft have withstood the test of time and are as relevant today as they were then. 

We may now restate them in more modern language as integrity; honesty; fairness; kindness and tolerance, but their essence is unchanged and we should all be justly proud of them and, needless to say, act in accordance with them. 

To finish, I will quote King Frederick II, or The Great, of Prussia who said his support of the Craft came from its objectives being, “ the intellectual elevation of men as members of society and making them more virtuous and more charitable”. I do not think that his view can be bettered. 


Published in Speeches

PhD scholarship funding in Berkshire

To mark the University of Reading’s 90th year and the Pharmacy Department’s 10th year the Berkshire Freemasons are funding a PhD Pharmacy student with a grant of £15,000 from the Berkshire Masonic Charity (BMC). This postgraduate scholarship will be known as the Berkshire Masonic Charity Scholarship in Pharmacy, and the grant will be paid at £5,000 per year over 3 years

The first cheque for £5,000 was presented on behalf of the BMC by John Palmer, Secretary of the BMC, and Stan Crooks of Grey Friars Lodge No. 1101, the Berkshire Universities Scheme lodge, to Dr Becky Green, Head of the Pharmacy Department, in the presence of University of Reading Vice Chancellor Sir David Bell.

Crucially, and blessedly, Millennials are becoming masons

Those under thirty constitute at present only two per cent of British masons. This may seem negligible – apart from when you note they are also precisely the one age group in masonry whose numbers are growing.

Membership for people under thirty is currently on the uptick by 7.65 per cent. Contrast this with a decrease in all other age groups – just over ten per cent for people in their 40s, by seven per cent for people in their 50s, and just under ten per cent for people in their 60s.

This is a significant reprieve from a death-knell for us all. In the United Kingdom, a postwar peak pushed our numbers to over half-a-million masons.

In recent years, we are not quite half that – 228,000 in 2011, 214,000 in 2013.

And this is not the case for English Freemasonry alone. Trends have been broadly parallel across the Atlantic, where 1959 saw a height of American masonic membership at four million, buoyed by a generation of stalwart joiners home from war, then hitting a trough at half that shortly after 2000.

If we would know what the future of Freemasonry holds, we might do worse than look to Millennial masonry. What do masons in their twenties and early thirties say about what they want from their masonic experience? What in masonry do they tell us they would like to change?

I've spoken to a sample set of masons in their late twenties and early thirties, putting these two questions to them. Amongst them, they run the gamut from a Fellowcraft, newly in his first office as Inner Guard, through to two current Masters, and three past Masters, one of whom is now a lodge Secretary. They are joining masonry in some numbers – what do they, in turn, wish masonry to look like?

Millennial voices


John works in IT and is in his young thirties. An active London Past Master, he has earned three silver matchboxes for word-perfect ceremonies, from the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, and was just invested as a Metropolitan Grand Steward. He replies with four ways in which he would like masonry to change:

1. Later starting times. A 4pm starting time is just too early for most salaried workers. Leave days are precious, and I don't like booking days off or half-days off for masonry unless it's strictly necessary.

2. Preserve the ritual. It's at the core of what we do. It's a little hard to do this while starting later, but it is possible. I don't go to meetings to listen to minutes or Charity Steward's reports (sorry, Bro Charity Steward – try email next time).

3. Cheaper meals. This is a controversial one, as many affluent young gentlemen are looking for some really fine dining. I, alas, have found myself skipping such meals as I find it difficult to justify with our darling little financial constraint crawling around.

4. Taking it seriously. It's fine to have a laugh, but if your lodge or unit does not essentially take what they're doing seriously, I'd rather be somewhere else. 


Niall, 27, works as an investment manager, and is secretary of a London lodge, where he is also a Past Master. He says, 'One thing that keeps popping up is the dress code and meeting times. I find that interesting at least.'


Richard, 33, is a senior manager at a professional services firm. He joined Freemasonry in September, is now a Fellowcraft, and has just taken his first office as Inner Guard. He thoughtfully observes:

'I think one of the challenges with Millennials is that they may see masonry like they see Young Farmers or Conservative Future. It is for a certain type of wealthy, privately educated nerd. There are plenty of geeks out there that would enjoy Freemasonry, but have a worldview opposite or at least different to Young Farmers or Conservative Future. Then there are the festive boards – socialising with people outside of your age group is often challenging for younger people. That's not to mention the expense of dining.

'For me, I think Freemasonry offers a journey of personal discovery, something I can't find in politics or religion alone. I told my two closest friends and their responses were: 1) isn't it a bit weird all that dressing up? And 2) I guess it will be good for your career as masonry is about men getting up the greasy pole. I then had to explain brotherhood, charity, etc.


Danny, in his thirties, is a Leicestershire mason, works as a consultant, and is heavily involved with the Universities' Scheme. He calls for more of Project Streamline (late starts, cut out the unnecessary bits etc.) whilst maintaining the tenets of the Craft.

'Expanding the Universities' Scheme and light blue clubs across the country. Stronger mentorship schemes to look after and retain members. Greater openness and awareness of the public, including in the Tercentenary celebrations. Modernisation in terms of the use of electronic communication to keep lodge members up-to-date at lodge, Provincial and UGLE level. Wider awareness of what's going on outside your own lodge. And an advance in the use of social media.'


Richie, in his thirties, is a local government officer. He is a recent past master of a university scheme lodge, Honor and Generosity Lodge No.165. He wants to see more of the Universities' Scheme, multiple ceremonies, multiple candidates and get them quickly on the ladder.


Tim, 34, is a consultant in Oxford, where he finished a doctorate five years ago. He is currently master of the Apollo University Lodge No.357.

'The key with Freemasonry for younger people is to think of it as a charitable and social personal development course. To consider the three relationships it tries to encourage us to think about our relationship with our Creator, between each other, and with ourselves.'


To sum up, the masons interviewed were not in it for dining. They each, without prompting, emphasised ritual, personal and moral development, and charity.

They asked for a masonry which is adapted to working practices, as in the case of John and Niall; and one which responds to desires for individual charitable entrepreneurship.


The young masons which whom we've spoken display many of the most striking characteristics of Millennials – roughly those born from 1982 onwards.

This generation is so named – first, by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe in the United States – to note a demographic bump from roughly 1980 to 1990, as Baby Boomers born after the Second World War themselves produced children. And the name captures the fact that they would reach maturity from the year 2000 onward, in this brave millennium.

If they are joining masonry, it is not as yet another thread within a fabric of the establishment, and it is not – in striking difference to the hardy serial 'joiners' who returned from the Somme and Normandy to seek communal experiences at home after their demobilisation – because they very much like joining things.

In fact, it likely is rather the opposite. According to the British Social Attitudes survey, the Millennial generation is less likely than those that which before to consider themselves part of a particular religious denomination, less likely to join a political party or a trade union, and less likely to have an especially high view of the forces. Though interest in current affairs is quite strong (at two-thirds, when asked by the Hansard Society in a 2013 study of political engagement), party politics leaves Millennials cold (with one-third confessing any interest there whatsoever).

They are fiercely individualistic. Polling by YouGov shows them more likely than their elders to consider confronting social problems a responsibility of individuals, instead of the government. British Millennials especially, compared with their European neighbours of the same generation, are relaxed about social issues – same sex marriage, for one, or consumption of alcohol, tobacco, or cannabis, according to a Eurobarometer study.

They also are much more likely to have set up their own business than counterparts in any other European country. Part of this is to do with Britain – a country with high university attendance, which correlates with social liberalism, with a flexible and competitive labour market, tending towards competitiveness and individualism, and whose citizens (according to the Economist) 'chart their lives on social media with more zeal than most'.

'Detached from institutions and networked with friends,' is how the Pew Research Center describes Millennials in a study from March 2014. The millennial generation's world is digital, with 41% admitting they would rather communicate electronically than in person or by telephone. This generation's affinity with the digital world, as digital natives, seeps into what they seek from organisations – flexibility, varied and interesting experiences, regular feedback, an opportunity to keep learning.

Uncomfortable with rigid organisational structures, their paradigmatic employer is Google or Apple, or still better, the tech start-up. They value mentors from older generations, but there are hints of possible generational conflict afoot – 38% say that in the workplace, older senior management do not relate to them, 34% say their personal drive intimidates older generations, and half found their managers did not always understand they ways they used technology.

A Price Waterhouse Cooper report on Millennials at work says the global economic crisis was their formative coming-of-age experience, making them scrappy, deeply afraid of unemployment (72 per cent feeling they had made some sort of trade-off to get into work), but with personal learning and development still the most important thing they seek from employers – flexible working hours comes second, with cash bonuses in a surprising third place.

They do not especially like to join institutions, but they are joining this one. Why? Doubtless, the deeply personal engagement with moral development encouraged by the Craft – that the ritual is there, supremely evocative, but how you interpret and engage with it is utterly up to you – appeals to Millennials with a disillusion towards authoritative institutions. As does the exclusion from the masonic space of religion and politics, both discredited discourses for Millennials.

As Richard noted above, they are hardly joining Freemasonry because, having already joined Young Conservatives and Young Farmers, they wish for more of the same – going perhaps back marvelously full-circle to the organisation's Enlightenment-era origins, motivated by tolerance, free-thinking, and scepticism.

Masonry's countercultural nature in 2016 may even appeal. Conspiratorial theories hold less traction amongst Millennials, equally alongside all other received viewpoints.

Future of Freemasonry

Millennial masonry so far has thrown up its own institutions. The Connaught Club, founded in 2007 for those London-area Freemasons under 35, is one – for members of lodges which span the mix of ages, it is a novel affiliation which is cross-lodge and generational. The Universities' Scheme is another, set up in 2005, with a remit to 'establish and enhance arrangements and opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to enjoy Freemasonry.'

Masonry in universities has its own flavour – multiple-candidate ceremonies, and in many cases more than one degree worked in an evening, are the norm, as is a speedy progression into office – in both cases, in order to see new masons through as much of their masonic journey as possible within the context of a short university time.

Though our numbers are gratefully stabilising, the contraction of membership from the postwar boom will mean there is a slight excess of units, with many of the twentieth-century lodges and chapters being permitted to return warrants and charters, to permit a slightly smaller number of healthy units rather than a much larger number of units with smatterings of seven or eight members. Interestingly, says Mike Baker, the UGLE Director of Communications in an interview for this paper, compared with the state of the Craft at the consecration of the current Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street, the numbers now and then 'are not dramatically different, but the number of lodges is incredibly numerous now'.

Another trend is the repurposing of other dying units – especially the 19th century lodges that are our Victorian family silver, holders of Hallstone Jewels and slightly longer pasts. Often, this is into class lodges uniting people around particular shared interests. I owe a personal confession that in the past year I have contributed to precisely such mischief, in refounding a dying Hallstone lodge as a London book group lodge called Tivoli Libris Lodge No.2150, whose festive boards are all open to guests (including non-members and women) and which discuss a different book each occasion over pudding and port. The openness, we have found, demystifies us a bit, shows masonry off as something endearingly erudite, quirky, and welcoming, and we have had initiates from out of the guests of every meeting so far.

In a similar vein, June saw the consecration of a football lodge in Hampshire and Isle of White – which already had consecrated a cycling lodge, and a rugby lodge with the sturdy name Rugby Bastion. West Kent is making moves to form a cycling lodge as well.

Another convenient point of reference might be the Future of Freemasonry report, which UGLE commissioned in 2012. The document was largely a stock-taking exercise with the tercentenary of the UGLE – and modern masonry – beginning to lumber into view next year, in 2017. On page 29, the report – by the independent Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford – concludes 'even at the cutting edge of twenty-first century communication technologies, our need for symbolic exchanges that reinforce social bonds remain as evident as ever.'

It goes on to observe, similarly to the Millennials above, 'perhaps surprisingly, it was the younger masons who put the greatest emphasis on the rituals, seeing them as a distinct pull of Freemasonry from the beginning', all 'as the more formal rituals of British life decay'. This appeals strongly to younger members, in the way it combines enjoyable, entertaining aspects with more serious ones involving the 'transmission of moral codes' by reflection on the dramaturgical experiences and antique phrases.

There is an excellent quote there, from a mason holding a senior office in a university lodge, who says: 'The ritual is a strange, seductive thing. As an outsider you would wonder at this. As an intelligent man you would say, "This is extraordinary." And yet I see these [undergraduates] come into masonry and they love it.

'And they compete with each other in a sort of serious game. They throw in stray words in the ritual to catch each other out.'


What does this mean for their masonry? Cheery things, I think. The Craft is acquiring, quickly and in some numbers, a generation who show no signs of caring especially for rank, whose predilection to see masonry as a dining club (though admittedly, the best dining club) is weak, guided by a sense of moral seriousness and dissatisfaction with the answers, for the grand questions, on offer either from organised religion or political parties – questions to which their strong disposition is to answer themselves, educated, and charitably entrepreneurial.

More speculatively, others have raised the question whether Millennial masonry may produce a different and closer working relationship between UGLE and the two women's grand lodges.

For a more national perspective, I went to greater Manchester recently and shared much of this with a Provincial conference which included both younger and older masons, as well as the Provincial Grand Master. One older mason went so far as to suggest that if younger masons were less drawn by dining, perhaps masonic centres should consider converting some of their dining rooms to gyms, with free access to masons. Retaining young members who joined through the Universities' Scheme appeared as a key challenge, too – relations with London 'receiver' lodges are well established for the older university-linked lodges in the South East, but less so for, say, Northern graduates moving to the capital.

In any case, and in nearly all respects, the inclination of Millennials will be to nudge us back to where we began – a less top-heavy institution, a haven of tolerance in a partisan and angry world. And a Craft whose charitable efforts share a bit more in common with the entrepreneurial start-up culture of the tech sector, and show a bit less of what Mike Baker calls 'masonic porn', what one Millennial quoted above called 'grip'n grin' – old men, holding a very large cheque.


Pádraig Belton is a journalist, and secretary of London's book group lodge, Tivoli Libris Lodge No. 2150.  Its book dinners are very much open to everyone, and it raises pennies for inner London, British, and overseas literacy charities.


Published in Features
Page 2 of 6

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