Pro Grand Master’s address - March 2006

Wednesday, 08 March 2006


8 MARCH 2006

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL

I would like to say something about the proposal to create The Rulers’ Forum and why I believe such a body will have an important role to play in the future. When the old Board of General Purposes was transformed into the new much smaller one, it was thought advisable to create a General Council, under the chairmanship of the President of the Board, to retain that wealth of knowledge and experience which the former members had acquired over many years of service.

It did not succeed for a variety of reasons and is now a standing committee which has not met for some years. The Associated Masonic Provinces is a much older body, and although it has performed some useful functions for the Craft and has come up with many innovative ideas, it has struggled to be heard. 

The Rulers’ Forum would, in effect, unite both the General Council and the Associated Masonic Provinces under the chairmanship of the Grand Master. Although it will have no powers, as such, it cannot fail to have considerable influence, comprising, as it will, the High Rulers, the President and Deputy President of the Board and the President of the Committee. 

Of the remaining members, two-thirds will be elected to represent the Provinces and London, while one-third will be appointed by the Grand Master. Its role will be to debate some of the issues facing us at this time, and to encourage brethren with good ideas to air them in a spirit of fraternal co-operation. I am excited by the creation of such a representative body and hope its members will be enthusiastic and forward thinking with the best interests of the Craft at heart. 

In fact, brethren, visiting Lodges in London, our Provinces and Districts over the past year I have begun to sense a new optimism among our members and this is reinforced by the figures [see p20]. 

We are continuing to lose members overall and Lodges will go on closing when their numbers make them untenable, but the number of Grand Lodge certificates we issue each year appears to be holding up. If we average out the drop in the number of initiates since the millennium, it is less than 1% a year. This surely means our efforts must be concentrated on retaining them, and to do that we must educate them into the meaning and relevance of Masonry in the 21st century. 

Brethren, as you will have read in the report of our last meeting, the Prestonian Lecture is entitled The Victoria Cross – Freemasons’ Band of Brothers and will be given by W Bro G S Angell. I would like also to commend to you the exhibition currently on view in the Library and Museum to mark the 150th anniversary of the institution of the Victoria Cross in 1856. The criterion for the reward is simple – conspicuous valour in the presence of the enemy – but its winners have been drawn from all sections of the armed forces, including some civilians under military command, and from all walks of life. 

This exhibition is a tribute to those holders of the Victoria Cross who were also Freemasons and includes some of their stories. They amount to over 10% of all the awards ever won, which is a remarkable figure and one of which we can feel justifiably proud. 

Pro Grand Master’s tribute to The Hon. Edward Latham Baillieu, Past Deputy Grand Master:

Brethren, many of you will be aware of the loss that has been suffered by the Craft by the death on 10 February of RW Bro. the Honourable Edward Latham Baillieu, Past Deputy Grand Master. I believe that a memorial service will be held in due course, but in the meantime I should like to say a few words in Grand Lodge now, so that those of us who knew him can be reminded of what sort of man – and Mason – he was, and those who did not may have some idea of what they have missed. 

Bro. Baillieu, known to all his friends as ‘Ted’, was born in 1919 and was educated at Winchester and Oxford University, where his career was interrupted by the Second World War. He served in the Royal Horse Artillery and was invalided out after being wounded. In 1946 he was initiated into Empire Lodge No. 2108 in London and two years later was exalted into Empire Chapter. 

Meanwhile, he was making his career in the City as a stockbroker. In 1962 he was appointed a Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies and served in that capacity for three years under the late Brother Frank Douglas, whom he succeeded as Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1968. When he relinquished that office in 1976 he became Assistant Grand Master in succession to the present Lord Cornwallis, in this again following in Frank Douglas’s footsteps (though this time at one remove). When Lord Cornwallis became Pro Grand Master in 1982, Ted succeeded him as Deputy Grand Master (and Second Grand Principal), finally retiring in 1989. 

Ted was a larger than life character with an imposing presence, forthright in expressing his opinions, but commanding great affection among many of those who worked with or for him. He was a most impressive Grand Director of Ceremonies, but was nonetheless modest enough to claim in later years that Bro. Alan Ferris, who succeeded him, was the true professional in that office. 

As a Ruler of the Craft he had no need to grow into his office, for he already brought with him all the necessary characteristics. After his retirement he only rarely attended Masonic functions in London – the last one of any magnitude being the 275th anniversary of Grand Lodge at Earls Court in 1992. Increasing infirmity in his later years meant that we saw less and less of him. 

He nonetheless retained a keen interest in the affairs of the Craft, which is left the poorer by his passing.

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