Top marks for Universities Scheme
It was a special occasion when six students at the University of Buckingham joined Grenville Lodge, No. 1787, which meets on the campus, at the same time. Among the guests at the initiation were Past Assistant Grand Master and President of the Universities Scheme David Williamson and Buckinghamshire PGM Gordon Robertson. Lodge Secretary Andrew Hough said, ‘I am pleased that increasing numbers of people are recognising the advantages of joining Freemasonry, which stresses friendship, decency and charity. It’s also great fun.’
Not to be outdone, Castle of Leicester Lodge, No. 7767, has also undertaken a sextuple initiation ceremony. It was a fitting day for Master Bryan Weston in his final meeting, having initiated 13 brethren in 2014. The lodge has seen a steady influx of candidates since joining the Universities Scheme in January 2013. Indeed, the ceremony came just days after the lodge conducted a quintuple passing in the Leicestershire and Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 7896.
The Wyggeston Lodge No. 3448, which is the Universities’ Scheme lodge for the University of Leicester, welcomed another five new members at their Christmas meeting on 19th December 2014 held at Freemasons' Hall, Leicester
These five new members take a very special place in the history of Wyggeston Lodge, being part of an ever growing number of young Freemasons to have joined since 2011 when the lodge joined the Universities’ Scheme
Three of the members are either undergraduate or postgraduate students at the University of Leicester whilst the others work and live locally. The Lodge now has 47 members in total, with an age range between 21 and 90 and an average age of 45.
The festivities continued at the festive board where the lodge members and visitors, including the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club, enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner with an interjection of rousing christmas carols and songs including 12 Days of Christmas and Good King Wenceslas.
Through the generosity of those at the meeting, over £240 was raised for LOROS Hospice, a local charity that cares for over 2,500 people across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, and the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance.
On Tuesday 11th November 2014, the Castle of Leicester Lodge No. 7767 undertook an historic sextuple initiation ceremony at Freemason’s Hall, Leicester
This was the first time in the lodge’s history that six candidates were initiated in the same ceremony.
In his final meeting as master, W Bro Bryan Weston was in the Chair for the third initiation ceremony of his year in office, having now initiated 13 men into Freemasonry since February 2014.
A multiple ceremony was once again order of the day as Castle of Leicester Lodge has seen a steady influx of candidates since becoming the Universities' Scheme lodge for De Montfort University (DMU) in January 2013. Indeed, this ceremony came just 11 days after the lodge conducted a quintuple passing in the Leicestershire and Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters No. 7896.
The Lodge continues to attract candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds, and on this unique occasion the initiates included students, businessmen, and the retired, all having been attracted to join the Craft either via existing friends in the lodge or after learning more via its social media presence.
The meeting was well supported with 48 in attendance, a dozen of which were guests, including a student member from the Grand Orient of Brazil, who having arrived to study at DMU in September, completed his application on the very same evening in order that he may become a joining member and continue his masonic journey with the United Grand Lodge of England.
The new experience
Freemasonry has a refreshingly open-minded attitude when it comes to age. The routes to the Craft for engaged young people are now more accessible than ever. The emergence of the Connaught Club, a social club for Freemasons under thirty-five, and the hugely successful Universities Scheme prove as much
But while there’s plenty for this younger generation to take from Freemasonry, what can these new brethren bring to the Craft? From a choreographer with all the right moves and a stonemason preserving the nation’s heritage, to an archaeology student unearthing our past, Sarah Holmes meets three young Freemasons with fresh perspectives, experiences and knowledge just waiting to be shared.
Mat Tindall, stonemason, King Egbert Lodge, No. 4288, Province of Derbyshire
Mat Tindall rarely has a typical day at the office. He is currently rebuilding the roof of Castle Drogo on Dartmoor – the last ‘castle’ to be built in Britain in 1911. It’s a painstaking process that involves re-fixing 3,000 granite blocks back into their original positions. ‘It’s like piecing together a giant jigsaw puzzle,’ Mat reveals, adding that the puzzle is made all the more difficult by the fact that some of the pieces weigh as much as one-and-a-half tonnes.
The whipping autumnal winds blowing in from the exposed Dartmoor landscape certainly don’t make it any easier. Fortunately, Mat isn’t deterred. ‘If I didn’t enjoy my job, I wouldn’t be here,’ he admits. ‘I’m lucky I get to experience some of the country’s most incredible heritage first hand.’
Just last year, Mat ventured below the floors of Sheffield Cathedral into the sixteenth-century crypt of George Talbot, the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury.
‘It was amazing being able to explore this archaic space by lamplight, to stand beside these huge coffins and read the eulogies chiselled into their lids in lead. It’s not something everybody gets to do.’
It was Mat’s love of the historical aspects of his job that first inspired his interest in Freemasonry. Working in great halls, cathedrals and castles, Mat became fascinated with the masonic symbols that he regularly encountered. ‘But it wasn’t until I was working on a farmhouse conversion next to King Egbert Lodge in Derbyshire that I finally got in touch with the Worshipful Master,’ he says.
In September 2014 Sheffield-born Mat was initiated into the Craft. ‘I loved the camaraderie of it all,’ he recalls. ‘The history, the tradition – it’s exactly what
I’m interested in, but my partner felt unsure. I think she worried that the lodge would take time away from our three-year-old daughter, Willow. But she knows now it won’t come to that. There’s never been a pressure to prioritise the lodge over family.’
Despite having only just started his journey into Freemasonry, Mat is already feeling confident in this new undertaking. ‘It’s definitely broadened my horizons,’ he says. ‘As the youngest person in my lodge I feel I bring a fresh perspective, too. Young people do have a different way of thinking about things, and when everybody brings their own stories and insights to their lodges it can benefit Freemasonry as a whole.’
‘Freemasonry has definitely broadened my horizons. As the youngest person in my lodge I feel I bring a fresh perspective, too.’
John Henry Phillips, archaeology student, Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448, Province of Leicestershire and Rutland
Unlike many students, partying was the last thing on John Henry Phillips’ mind when he headed to the University of Leicester in 2013. Having spent the past four years of his life touring Europe as part of a burgeoning rock band, John was eager to immerse himself in his archaeological passions.
It was the discovery of a World War I grenade during his first visit to the fields at Flanders in Belgium that inspired John to apply to study archaeology. He was just ten minutes into his visit when he and his dad happened upon the small explosive shell.
‘One hundred and sixty tonnes of ammunition are ploughed up from under the fields each year, so people often find artefacts,’ says John. ‘Even so, it’s astonishing to find yourself face to face with a soldier’s boot after over a century. I’m now in talks with various projects in France about excavating the trenches in the future.’
It was after being accepted to study in Leicester (with the same university department that discovered Richard III’s remains in a local car park in 2013) that John became interested in the Universities Scheme, which forges links between lodges and young people who are seeking to become involved in Freemasonry.
‘Student living can be quite intense,’ recalls John, ‘so Freemasonry was a great opportunity to step away from it all, to do something positive and unselfish rather than just going on a pub crawl.’ In December 2013, John was officially initiated into Wyggeston Lodge.
The overlap between the history of Freemasonry and the world wars had a strong appeal for him.
‘As a historical fraternity, it ties in with my interests. I particularly like masonic traditions that originate from those eras – such as raising a glass to absent brethren at lodge dinners, which stems from World War I,’ he says.
It is this sense of tradition, combined with the support of the fraternity, that John believes young people could benefit from most. ‘It’s an uncertain time for young people. We’ve more debt than ever – the old guarantees of a steady job and a mortgage are gradually disappearing. I think Freemasonry could be a welcome constant for many,’ he says.
‘But ultimately it’s a two-way street. Young people today have more diverse experiences and perspectives than they did fifty years ago. We’re better travelled than before and education is more accessible, so I think we have just as much to offer in the way of new ideas.’
‘Student living can be quite intense, so Freemasonry was a great opportunity to step away from it all and do something positive.’
Anthony King, Choreographer, Howard Lodge of Brotherly Love, No. 56, Province of Sussex
After balancing his entire frame on tiptoes, Anthony King bursts across the Pineapple dance studio in a fit of energy and excitement. A Michael Jackson song booms from the speakers above as he moonwalks his way across the white floors.
By day, Anthony is a born performer, specialising in the trademark routines of the King of Pop. His Michael Jackson-style dance classes are a firm favourite on the London fitness scene, and this October he performed two sell-out tribute shows at the Shaw Theatre. But outside the dance studio, he is a dedicated Freemason of Howard Lodge of Brotherly Love, where he was initiated in May 2014.
‘As a performer, I live in quite a superficial daily environment, so Freemasonry gives me insight into another world,’ explains Anthony. ‘It appeals to my philosophical and historical side.’
In particular, it was the idea of being part of a centuries-old brotherhood that drew Anthony to the Craft. ‘I loved the idea of being part of something bigger, of the continuity of the past through the ritual and tradition,’ he explains.
On entering the lodge, Anthony was inspired by the honesty and warmth of his fellow brethren towards him. ‘They made me feel valued and respected from the moment I arrived,’ he says. ‘That really impressed me.’
Anthony became interested in Freemasonry through his friend Simon, whose father, Richard, is a Freemason. ‘But I never thought I’d be able to join until we were discussing it over dinner one night. Richard saw how passionate I was about it, so the next day he gave me the forms and we got the process underway.’
While the prospect of balancing the commitments of Freemasonry with rehearsing for sell-out shows and preparing for dance classes might seem a challenge, for Anthony it’s not an issue. ‘I’ll always be able to make time for it,’ he says. ‘When Simon and I joined, we both agreed this was a turning point in our lives. We were committing ourselves to improvement through Freemasonry.’
Despite being the youngest person in his lodge, Anthony doesn’t pay much heed to the age difference between himself and his brethren. ‘The Craft attracts a certain type of person, regardless of age. Perhaps young people bring a little more vibrancy, but over three hundred years what difference does a generation make? The important thing is that we all value one another.’
‘I loved the idea of being part of something bigger, of the continuity of the past through the ritual and tradition.’
The traditionally peaceful masonic month of August has been enlivened by the announcement that the Most Worshipful Grand Master has agreed to the Petition for a new lodge for Shropshire, to be called the Iron Bridge Lodge No. 9897
This lodge, named after Shropshire's iconic Iron Bridge near to Telford, will be the 34th on Shropshire's list, and the first to be consecrated since the West Mercia Lodge No. 9719 in 2000.
The Petition includes the names of 42 aspiring Founder members, including the Worshipful Master Designate, W Bro Andy Delamere. It was presented in open lodge at the regular meeting of Forester Lodge No. 7211 in April, in the presence of RW Provincial Grand Master, Peter Allan Taylor, and signed by Forester Lodge's Worshipful Master Jim Brown and his Wardens, Peter Smith and Andrew Gordon.
The Petition now having been sanctioned by Grand Lodge, Shropshire hopes to see the Consecration late in 2014 or early in 2015. It is also hoped that the new lodge will be accredited under the Universities' Scheme, so that it may become the first – or one of the first – to be founded as a member of that scheme. Members of other university lodges are to be invited to the Consecration.
The Provincial Grand Master congratulated the Founding Committee, including W Bro Delamere and the Secretary W Bro Ray Dickson, for the huge amount of energy and time they had devoted to the project. The Worshipful Master of the intended Mother Lodge, Forester 7211, presented the Founding Committee with a set of silver square and compasses to mark the event.
The Gladstone Club was formed by Barry Hopton for the younger members of University Lodge No. 4274 and other lodges in Liverpool to have regular opportunities to get to know one another better outside of the six lodge meetings a year
The younger masons have welcomed the idea of a friendship society and the club was founded in early 2013. They have had several informal ‘pub nights' with varying success and most recently a black tie dinner at the Artists Club.
The event organiser by Barry Hopton welcomed the members and their guests to the Artists Club, after pre-dinner drinks they took their places at the table. After grace was said in Latin as is traditional in University Lodge, the meal was served, it began with a stuffed mushroom starter, salmon main course followed by cheesecake and was accompanied by a healthy amount of wine!
After the loyal toast, Barry Hopton welcomed everyone and thanked David Goddard who had kindly stepped in as treasurer for the event, as well as being WM of Imperial Sefton Lodge No. 680 which regularly meets at the Artists Club. The club secretary Seb Jones, concluded the toasts by thanking the staff for their hard work and toasting to the future success of the Gladstone Club. Following that coffee was served along with snuff (as a substitute for cigars) which was well-received.
After the dinner Seb, said: 'We hope to have two informal events throughout the summer months including a brewery tour and another formal event at the start of the next Masonic and academic year to which all brethren and friends and partners are most welcome.'
Seb also thanked Mike Jones who had helped a lot in setting the club up. He concluded by saying: 'A number of young brethren from across Liverpool along with their partners and also non-Masonic friends attended, three of whom have indicated that they would like to become Freemasons!'
Derbyshire lodge initiates first student
One year after Assistant Grand Master David Williamson accepted it into the Universities Scheme, Derbyshire’s Hartington Lodge, No. 1085, has initiated its first student candidate, 18-year-old Philip Tomlinson.
The meeting was attended by more than 80 brethren, including Provincial Grand Master Graham Rudd; Assistant Provincial Grand Master Steven Varley; and 12 Entered Apprentices, as well as two Fellowcrafts from other lodges.
The lodge has already secured six further candidates, having run a stand at the University of Derby’s freshers’ fair, followed by an open evening at Derby Masonic Hall.
11 December 2013
An address by the RW Assistant Grand Master David Williamson
Brethren, the more observant among you may have noticed that I acted as Deputy Grand Master at the last two Quarterly Communications, in September and June. However, you should not infer from the fact that you see me in this chair today, that this is a portent of what the future holds for me!
You will remember that at the June Quarterly Communication, the Pro Grand Master announced that the Grand Master had appointed VW Bro Sir David Wootton to succeed me as Assistant Grand Master. He is a man of great quality, and I wish him every success in his new role; he will be installed on 12th March next year. Thus today is my last appearance as Assistant Grand Master at Grand Lodge, and the Pro Grand Master, with the collusion of the Deputy Grand Master, has contrived to be otherwise engaged today, to permit me the extraordinary privilege of presiding over Grand Lodge, for the first and last time, for which I am deeply grateful.
By the time I retire next March, I will have served thirteen years as Assistant Grand Master, during which time I have visited every continent, for a variety of purposes; to Install District Grand Masters and Grand Inspectors, to attend landmark meetings of private lodges, and to represent the Grand Master at other Grand Lodges. Here at home, I have installed Provincial Grand Masters, attended Charity Festivals and lodges in their Provinces, and in Metropolitan London; I have always received a warm and generous welcome, for which I thank them all.
There are many other people to whom I owe personal debts of gratitude for the support and encouragement they have given me during my term of office, not least the several Rulers I have been privileged to serve under, two of whom, I am delighted to see here today, MW Bro Lord Northampton, and RW Bro Iain Bryce. I am also very grateful to so many people here at Freemasons' Hall, who have helped smooth my path with their advice and support.
Over the years I have witnessed many changes and exciting initiatives, not least the formation of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, in which I was privileged to play a part. Nine years ago, with Lord Northampton’s encouragement, I started the Universities Scheme, which now has fifty nine lodges around the country, many of which I have visited. I am proud of what those lodges are achieving, and very grateful to successive members of my organising committee for the time and effort they have devoted to promoting the Scheme.
Parallel with the growth of the Scheme, I have seen the mentoring initiative take an increasingly positive effect in making masonry meaningful to new masons and aiding overall retention. One of the biggest changes has been in the development of the way we portray ourselves to the outside world, through websites, social media, and our publications, all of which contribute to what we know as 'openness', and in helping us regain, what the Grand Master has called, 'our enviable reputation in society.'
Finally, brethren, as I reflect on the last thirteen years, it is with all humility I can say that it has been a great honour to have had the opportunity to contribute to English Freemasonry; I have enjoyed every moment. My grateful thanks to all of you who may have made a special effort to be here today; it is wonderful to see the Grand Temple so full!
My sincere thanks too to the many masons it has been my pleasure and privilege to meet, in London, in the Provinces, and overseas. I will always remember the collective and individual encouragement you have given me over the years. Brethren, thank you all.
As he approaches retirement from the position of Assistant Grand Master, David Williamson reflects on a career as an airline pilot, becoming President of the Universities Scheme and why Freemasonry is not about a ‘blinding light’
When did you become interested in flying?
I’ve had a fascination with aeroplanes since I was a boy. I won a flying scholarship when I was seventeen and my first passenger was my wife –my girlfriend at the time. It was one of my biggest disappointments; there I was thinking she’d be impressed, but she hated every minute of it!
I joined British Overseas Airways Corporation in 1968, and eventually became assistant flight training manager on the 737 at Heathrow. Later, I worked as assistant flight training manager on the 747-400 fleet until I retired in 1998.
How did you come to Freemasonry?
It was the early 1970s and I was approaching thirty. I knew that my father was a Freemason, but I had little idea what it was about. After my mother died I would go and spend time with him and it was then that he spoke to me about Freemasonry. He was Junior Warden and his lodge wanted him to become Master the next year. He asked me what I thought, so I asked him what was involved and whether he thought it was something that would interest me. He said it might.
What attracted you to join?
I did a lot of reading. There was no internet then but I found out that notable people such as Mozart had been Freemasons. It struck me that there was something special about Freemasonry. On the night I was going to be initiated I was excited because I felt there was going to be some kind of revelation. And it wasn’t like that at all. The night was amazing, the atmosphere incredible and I can’t remember if the ritual was good or bad. I read the Book of Constitutions I had been given later that night. In retrospect, I was a little disappointed, but it taught me a valuable lesson: Freemasonry is a journey – not a blinding light but a series of learning events.
How did you become Assistant Grand Master?
I became the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, both in the Craft and the Royal Arch in Middlesex, before becoming Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1998. In March 2001, Lord Northampton took over from Lord Farnham as Pro Grand Master. The chatter within Grand Lodge was about who the next Assistant Grand Master was going to be. I certainly didn’t think it would be me as I had been appointed to take over as Pro Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex, so it came as a bolt out of the blue. But I took on the role in March 2001.
‘Freemasonry has an appeal for young people... It has a set of values, it has structure and it combines many aspects of life that you don’t always get elsewhere.’
What was your first duty?
London Freemasonry was not like it is now – it didn’t have a Metropolitan Grand Master and the Assistant Grand Master would carry out most of the ceremonial functions. But around the same time as I was appointed, there was a push for London to be self-governing, as it is now. Lord Northampton asked me to chair the committee to make this happen. It was a very exciting time.
What kicked off the Universities Scheme?
Around nine years ago I visited Apollo University Lodge in Oxford. I had been extremely impressed; the members were very young and the ritual was excellent. I spoke about it to Lord Northampton, saying it was fantastic and that we should have lodges like this all around the country. He said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ From that was born the Universities Scheme. I formed a committee with Oliver Lodge, now the Grand Director of Ceremonies, as Chairman and we used Apollo University Lodge and Isaac Newton University Lodge, Cambridge, as a pattern. We now have fifty-nine lodges.
What do you feel appeals to young people?
Freemasonry has an appeal for young people, which we’ve perhaps overlooked. It has a set of values, it has structure and it combines many aspects of life that you don’t always get elsewhere. The motivation for me is that these are bright people who are going to make their way in society with a knowledge of Freemasonry. Even if they were to leave, hopefully they will have a positive view of Freemasonry that they can take out into the world, although of course we hope they will stay. While the goal of the scheme is to ‘attract undergraduates and other university members to join and enjoy Freemasonry’, we also want to keep them; retention is our biggest challenge.
What about recruiting masons from elsewhere?
The principles of recruitment and retention in the scheme don’t just apply to universities. It’s about approaching membership in a different way. You’ve got to think about how things are different now from fifty years ago. The scheme is a good way of saying
‘if it works here, why can’t it work there?’ It certainly does not address the membership issue but it points to how things could be done elsewhere.
Is Freemasonry changing?
Rulers used to come from the nobility, with Provincial Grand Masters often local landowners, whom you might see once or twice a year. That has all changed. I am the first Assistant Grand Master for several years without a title and Peter Lowndes is the first ever Pro Grand Master not to have one. We have learned to communicate at a different level. You can stand on a stage or you can stand on the floor and we appreciate that we need to put ourselves about. We’ve got to sell our message at a personal level and lead by example. That’s a big change.
‘We have learned to communicate at a different level... We’ve got to sell our message at a personal level and lead by example.’
The first degrees
Through the Universities Scheme, Freemasonry is reaching a young, community-minded generation. Sophie Radice finds out what attracted five university recruits to Leicester’s Wyggeston Lodge
University is a place that encourages self-expression and personal discovery. Surely not a time when you would consider joining Freemasonry, with all its traditions and structures? Dr Andy Green of Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448, disagrees: ‘Freemasonry is a sociable and supportive fraternity. This works very well with those just starting out on their adult lives and looking to meet a range of people with a solid moral code – it’s also a lot of fun.’
The first university lodge, Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, was founded at Oxford almost two hundred years ago, with Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859, following some years later at Cambridge. Since then, many thousands of young men have been introduced to Freemasonry through these two lodges, and they provided the inspiration for the Universities Scheme. Set up in 2005, the scheme establishes opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to learn about Freemasonry and to bring fresh minds and ideas into the organisation. There are now more than fifty lodges pursuing a similar course. Their membership consists of undergraduates, postgraduates, senior members of the university and alumni, ranging in age from eighteen upwards.
Wyggeston Lodge in Leicester joined the Universities Scheme in 2011 to try to revive membership numbers – in the 1950s the lodge had one hundred and twenty members and in 2010 it had dwindled to thirty-two. In the past few years, however, the lodge has initiated twelve students. Last summer, four students from the University of Leicester were part of a special meeting of the lodge, when it carried out its first ever quadruple initiation ceremony. This saw Valentin-George Tartacuta, Yusif Nelson, Peter Clarke and Peter Shandley joining the Craft.
‘It’s very exciting to see the lodge filling up with the younger generation, all of whom seem to have great ideas about the future of the lodge and what might make Freemasonry more attractive to their age group,’ says Andy, Universities Scheme Subcommitee Chairman at Wyggeston. ‘We have already made good use of social networking sites – we have a strong Facebook and Twitter presence, as well as a website with film clips of our new members talking about why they joined, and a blog. I realised that it was essential to be able to contact and attract young members through these forums. It has made the lodge communications more dynamic, because we have all had to up our game in a way.’
Provincial Assistant Grand Master Peter Kinder, who is also the Provincial Universities Scheme Liaison Officer, says: ‘We are very lucky in this area with potential next-generation Freemasons because we have three very good universities – Loughborough (with the Lodge of Science & Art), De Montfort (with Castle of Leicester Lodge) and Leicester itself. When we first went to the University of Leicester freshers’ fair three years ago, we were really surprised at the interest. So many people wanted to talk to us and asked us to explain what we were doing there. We spoke about the history of Freemasonry and if they seemed interested, we suggested that they came and had a tour of the lodge.’
Peter recalls how, at the end of the freshers’ day, the floor was filled with flyers. ‘But you couldn’t see any of the Freemasonry ones chucked away. I suppose we were a little bit more unusual than the pizza and taxi firms. We gave out seven hundred leaflets that first year and one thousand this year. We seem to be going from strength to strength.’
Learning the ropes
Peter Clarke is in his third year studying history and knew very little about the Freemasons when he came across the stand at the freshers’ fair. ‘It took me a year to think about it and by the time my second freshers’ came up, I had done a bit of research and found out about the history of the Freemasons. I thought it would be something a bit different to join and take me out of my normal social circles. I like the feeling of being part of something bigger and, as a history student, I was fascinated by tracing back the roots of Freemasonry.’
‘It’s very exciting to see the lodge filling up with the younger generation, all of whom seem to have great ideas about the future of the lodge.’ Dr Andy Green Business and finance student Jeff Zhu also came across Freemasonry for the first time at a freshers’ fair. ‘It was my second year at university; I had just split up with my girlfriend and was feeling a bit down, so I went to the freshers’ day. I come from China and I have to say that I liked the historical look of the Freemasons’ stall, but I had never heard of them before.
Many Chinese students just stick together but I really wanted the chance to branch out. I also like the values of integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. It fits in with the way I want to live my life.’ Peter Shandley, who reads law and has just finished a year studying in Germany, was taken aback when he made his first visit to Wyggeston Lodge, which holds its meeting in Leicester’s Freemasons’ Hall – a Georgian building with stunning interiors. ‘From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but when I came inside and saw the main hall I was really interested in the heritage. e hall was built in 1910, when this area was really booming from the textile trade, and is one of the most impressive in the country. I feel really privileged to have been initiated into this lodge because it is such a distinguished one. I have so enjoyed my experience here that I have brought someone else into the lodge. He was initiated in December.’
‘I like the feeling of being part of something bigger and, as a history student, I was fascinated by tracing back the roots of Freemasonry.’ Peter Clarke
While initially surprised by the decision to join, friends of university lodge members have been receptive to hearing about the general ethos of Freemasonry. Andrew Slater, who is in his third year reading medical biochemistry, says that he was attracted by the international aspect of Freemasonry and the fact that ‘pretty much anywhere you end up in the world you could find a Freemasons’ lodge and be welcomed there’. He also goes to other lodges in the UK and enjoys being part of the events that they hold. ‘It’s a good feeling to know you have people who will welcome you everywhere.’
For Andrew, joining a brotherhood that brings him together with new people is important. ‘Andy Green is so great at promoting the values of decency, charity and brotherhood that it is hard not to be enthused by him. there is also the feeling that as well as having a great deal to teach us, the Freemasons here are very receptive to what we have to say about the way forward to keep membership alive. I have also become friends with students from different departments that I would never have met if I hadn’t become a Freemason.’
Alex Pohl is twenty-two and has enjoyed acting in the ceremonies. ‘I’m often nervous and things never go exactly to plan but it really helps with a sense of belonging and fraternity.
I am really committed to the Freemasons – it is a lifetime thing – and I joined because I knew about the huge amount Freemasons do for charity. I also really like the modesty behind the charitable giving. It’s not something that the Freemasons make a big deal of but so much of what we are about is the desire to help others as much as we can. I really respect that, and I am excited about being a part of a new generation of Freemasons.’
‘As well as having a great deal to teach us, the Freemasons here are very receptive to what we have to say about the way forward to keep membership alive.’ Andrew Slater