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
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains how UGLE has been supporting Districts across the world and looks closer to home at the recommendations of the Universities Scheme Committee
One of my pleasurable duties is, along with the other Rulers, visiting our Districts. In June I was in Trinidad and Tobago and, more recently, I visited Zimbabwe to install our new District Grand Master. We were given a very warm welcome and I was somewhat surprised that the last visit there from Grand Lodge was in 1989. I was even more surprised to find that two of our lodges are in Malawi, where seventy members ensure masonry thrives.
Apart from meeting many of the local brethren and their wives, we were driven to a school in a township seventeen miles west of Harare, where we were entertained by some very moving African dancing and singing. The education support programme that started here in 1992 now has four hundred and seven orphaned children. A trust fund has been set up for these children to provide school fees, books, uniforms, a daily hot meal, healthcare and sports activities. It was most impressive and exactly the type of charity the District should support.
On a different theme, following the presentation at the Quarterly Communication last year on assuring the future of Freemasonry, I challenged the Universities Scheme Committee to consider how the principles expressed in the address could be implemented across the whole Craft.
I have now had first sight of their report, which covers a series of recommendations and examples of good practice from lodges around the English Constitution. This is an excellent document and I will be discussing the proposals through the Provinces and Districts to lodge level. Brethren, how often do we hear that changes and progress in masonry take an eternity? This report has been put together with admirable speed and it is incumbent on the Rulers to ensure that there is no delay in passing them on.
We are united in recognising the importance of recruiting and retaining younger Freemasons and these recommendations will give a better chance of strengthening all lodges, however successful, while not alienating established brethren.
‘We are united in recognising the importance of recruiting and retaining younger Freemasons.’
Varsity scheme gains pace
Four students from the University of Leicester were part of a special meeting of Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448, at which the lodge carried out its first ever quadruple initiation ceremony. They bring the number of students from the University of Leicester initiated at the lodge to 11 since it joined the United Grand Lodge of England’s Universities Scheme in 2011. Among the guests was Provincial Grand Master for Leicestershire and Rutland David Hagger, who witnessed the initiation of Valentin-George Tartacuta (reading Aerospace Engineering), Yusif Nelson (reading Economics), Peter Clarke (reading History) and Peter Shandley (reading Law).
The sesquicentenary University Lodges' Ball will take place on Saturday 23rd November 2013, at Armoury House, London, the headquarters of the Honourable Artillery Company
For more information and to buy your tickets, visit the University Lodges' Ball website.
About the Ball
At the first meeting of the Ball Committee, it was agreed that there were three central reasons to hold this ball. The first, simply, was to have fun - to organise a large event that could be enjoyed by friends, partners, and family, and hopefully repeated in years to come. The second was to do it for a good cause - to raise money for two very worthy charities. And the third was to resurrect and commemorate the great tradition of the masonic ball, of which can be found below.
It is hoped that this event will not only give guests an opportunity to meet and enjoy a lavish and unique celebratory evening, but will also give non-masonic guests the opportunity to learn more about Freemasonry by meeting members, asking questions, and finding out more about what we get up to!
The particulars for the event are still being confirmed, but it is possible at this stage to provide an outline. The ball will be preceded by a number of (optional) banquets, information about which can be found here. Guests will have the option to book places at these dinners once they have purchased their ball tickets.
The champagne reception will commence in the Prince Consort Rooms at 8.30, after which all guests will assemble in the Prince Consort Rooms to watch the opening ceremony at 9.15.
Once the opening ceremony has finished, Armoury House will be opened and the evening will really begin! The events programme is still being finalised, so check back soon for updates, but the night will feature:
- Dancing - traditional ballroom dancing in the Prince Consort Rooms, and more informal throughout Armoury House
- Live music of a variety of genres
- Magicians, acrobats, and other visual performers
There will also be a wide selection of food and drinks available on the night, all of which is included in your ticket price, so the only time you will have to open your wallet is to donate to charity!
Frequently asked questions
Do I have to be a Freemason to buy tickets?
No! The original University Masonic Balls were the highlight of the social calendars in both Oxford and Cambridge. Now, as then, anyone can attend - so if you have always been curious about what Freemasons get up to, you now have a chance to find out...
Why are there multiple banquets beforehand?
As is the case with almost all society Balls, it would be logistically impossible to have a seated banquet for 900 guests, then have the same rooms immediately available for the evening's entertainments. Traditionally, several parallel dinners have taken place before such events (in Clubs, nearby restaurants, and even in guests' houses), which end in time for guests to come to the Ball in time for the opening ceremony.
You can view details of these banquets here, and will be able to book places at them when you buy your tickets. However, please remember that it is not compulsory to dine beforehand - a variety of food and drink will be available throughout the night at no extra cost, so guests who have not dined will certainly not go hungry!
Can I sponsor the University Lodges' Ball?
What is the dress code?
Evening Dress. This means white tie and tails for gentlemen (although black tie and tuxedo are acceptable), and long gowns for ladies. Formal military Mess Dress and National Dress are also encouraged. To hire or buy Evening Dress, please visit our formalwear sponsor, Clermont Direct, who are kindly extending discounts to Ball guests.
There is a long history of Apollo and Isaac Newton University Lodges holding balls, garden parties, and other festive events at the end of the academic year at Oxford and Cambridge. The balls started early in both lodges' histories, and carried on well into the twentieth century, being considered one of the highlights of the social calendar in both universities.
The best known of these balls was the Grand Ball held by Apollo in 1863 at Christ Church to celebrate the wedding of the Prince of Wales (later Grand Master and King Edward VII) and Alexandra of Denmark, who both attended. The ball cost £2,046 (the equivalent of around £220,000 now). Luckily, half the cost was borne by the college!
Attendances were large - in 1866, 750 attended the ball and over 3,200 attended the garden party - and, as you can see from the menu from an Isaac Newton University Lodge ball in the early twentieth century (in the gallery above), the refreshments were lavish. Unfortunately, after World War II, Freemasonry became less ostentatious, and the balls fell into abeyance.
In the late autumn of 2012, the Secretaries of Apollo and INUL, Chris Noon and Alistair Townsend, met for an ale or two, having both, independently, had the idea of resurrecting the ball tradition, noting that no equivalent existed for Freemasons today. They agreed that it would be difficult to achieve for either lodge on its own, but that, if resources were combined, and the ball were to be held for masonry as a whole, it could be a success.
It was also decided that, despite the short notice, 2013 would be an auspicious year to hold the event - marking the 150th anniversary of Apollo's Grand Ball, and the 200th year of Supreme Grand Chapter (the charitable appeal of which it therefore seemed sensible to support). The obvious location was London - neutral territory - and, after considerable investigation, Armoury House was chosen, as an outstanding venue with a suitable capacity.
It remains to be seen whether this sesquicentenary ball will be a one-off, whether it will be repeated in another 150 years, or whether it will become a regular event in the Masonic calendar. It all depends on how many tickets are sold...
As the Universities Scheme recruits younger members, Caitlin Davies reports on how older Freemasons are staying involved in the Craft
Three years ago, Steward Philip Hadlow heard some interesting news. Plans were afoot for a new lodge in Bedfordshire, one that would be geared towards keeping elderly Freemasons involved in the Craft.
‘The Provincial Grand Master, Michael Sawyer, and the provincial team realised we were not doing enough for our more elderly brethren,’ he explains. ‘Many have mobility problems, which means it’s difficult getting to meetings. We were looking after them when they were ill, supporting their family, but there was a need for something more proactive.’
In recent years Freemasonry has been keen to recruit younger members, but that doesn’t mean elders should be forgotten. And so Bedfordshire’s youngest lodge, the Michael Sawyer Lodge of Reunion No 9848, was born. Philip became involved because he thought it a ‘fantastic idea’.
The lodge began in 2009 and meets twice a year on a Saturday lunchtime, as some people are not keen to eat late or to go out at night at all. Philip doesn’t know of any similar scheme, and there’s been interest in the project from other Provinces.
While some members were already being picked up and taken to meetings by younger members, the lodge wanted to do more. So people were identified, sent invitations and offered travel arrangements – in some cases for a fifty-mile round trip.
‘When they come out with a smile on their face and say, “Thank you so much, I’ve had a wonderful time”, that’s what it’s all about’ Philip Hadlow
The lodge doesn’t do masonic work – meetings open with a welcome, then a lecture and the Festive Board. One of the annual meetings is held in Luton, the other in another Bedfordshire centre.
John Cathrine, Provincial Information Officer, is a founder member of the Michael Sawyer Lodge and last year’s Worshipful Master. ‘It’s such a great idea. It’s something that was missing from our Province. People get to the stage where they can’t drive to meetings and they drift away from masonry.’
Not forgotten, never sidelined
John cites a past Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Vic Lawrence, who lives at Prince Michael of Kent Court, a Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution care home. ‘He came to the previous meeting and he wanted to make a speech at the Festive Board. He said it was really great to be invited and see old friends, all of whom he said looked older than him!’
Freemasonry in Bedfordshire traces its history back to at least 1841, when the Bedfordshire Lodge of St John the Baptist was consecrated in Luton. By the time the Province celebrated its centenary, there were forty-five lodges; there are now fifty-five.
At the last meeting of the Lodge of Re there were sixty people, including twenty honoured guests. ‘It takes time to get something like this off the ground,’ says Philip, who was Chief Steward for two years, ‘but it’s getting bigger every meeting.’
Lodge members pay annual dues to cover being a member and having two guests. ‘It’s funded until the honoured guests outnumber us two to one. It means we can treat them well. You see them sitting there opposite their friends, and they’re having a whale of a time. When they come out with a smile on their face and say, “Thank you so much, I’ve had a wonderful time”, that’s what it’s all about.’
John is delighted by the letters of thanks that the lodge receives. ‘One brother is ninety-five and not able to get out much. We’ll invite him to the next meeting for a nice day out. The letters we get say the principles and ethos of the lodge are exactly in line with what we should be doing – taking care of those who could be sidelined and forgotten.’
Reflecting on the need to recruit new members, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains why Freemasonry should remember its history while keeping an eye firmly on the future
Having finished the two yearly regional conferences with Provincial Grand Masters, I can report that one consistent theme was a determination to see our numbers on the increase by 2017. Indeed, in one or two cases this has already started, which means that perhaps we are getting some things right.
I have frequently said that we must not be looking for new candidates simply for the sake of increasing numbers, but if we can start this increase with the right candidates there should be a knock-on effect.
Enthusing new members is of paramount importance and we heard in the last issue from Edward Lord and Julian Soper about the work of the Universities Scheme. I have asked the Universities Scheme Committee to think about how we can best implement some of the principles that were mentioned across the whole Craft.
Recruiting and retaining young candidates is our most important task and I am confident that those who have made the Universities Scheme successful can help us with this important challenge. However, this is not just down to them and we must all pull our weight in this respect.
At the end of last year, I visited my great grandfather’s mother lodge in Hertfordshire – and a splendid occasion it was, with a nearly faultless Second Degree ceremony being performed. I can almost hear you all thinking that they would have spent hours rehearsing. Not so, as they didn’t know that I was coming.
The reason for mentioning this is that in the reply for the visitors, the brother speaking referred to the Craft as an altruistic society. Altruism is one of those words that I have often heard used and possibly even used myself without having been completely sure of its meaning. The dictionary definition is ‘regard for others as a principle of action’ and it’s rather a good description for a lot of what Freemasonry is about.
If we can instil this ethos into our candidates, we won’t go far wrong. Of course, it is not all that we are about, but it is not a bad starting point as it should naturally lead to a practice of brotherly love, relief and truth, which in itself leads on to our charitable giving.
During the past year, the Festivals for our charities in our Provinces have raised a total of nearly £10m, of which Leicestershire and Rutland raised £1.7m for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution; Warwickshire raised £3.16m for the Masonic Samaritan Fund; Cambridgeshire raised £1.285m for the Grand Charity; and Devonshire raised £3.836m for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.
I hope that our membership, as a whole, is far more familiar with the activities of our charities than might have been the case twenty or so years ago. The charities’ promotion of their activities is excellent and the Freemasonry Cares campaign has enlightened many people at home and abroad about what support is available.
While three of our charities are masonic in their giving, the Grand Charity has a wide brief for giving to non-masonic bodies, provided that they are also charities. Not everyone appreciates this aspect, or how much money is involved, and we should be quick to point it out.
We should be proud of our history, but it is of paramount importance that we look forward and ensure that we go from strength to strength in the future, in both numbers and our usefulness to the society in which we live.
Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013
Sir, as usual, the article from our Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, in the spring 2013 edition of Freemasonry Today was both interesting and stimulating. The paragraph relating to our use of words without fully appreciating their meaning struck a very strong chord with me.
From all the words available to them in the English language, our founders chose to use the word ‘speculative’ to describe our branch of Freemasonry (as opposed to the operative Freemasonry). In our modern idiom this word is defined as ‘to conjecture without knowing the full facts’. Does this describe a proportion of our brethren today?