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.
11 December 2013
A Speech By VW Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary, And VW Bro John Hamill, Assistant Grand Chancellor
GFR: RW Assistant Grand Master and Brethren, a year ago we left the Moderns Grand Lodge resolving unanimously to give a dinner to The Earl of Moira, Acting Grand Master and to present him with a Masonic Jewel of a value not less than 500 Guineas in token of the Craft’s esteem for his most valuable services from 1790 to 1812.
At a Special Grand Lodge held on Wednesday the 27th January 1813:
The Grand Lodge was opened in due Form by His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, Deputy Grand Master and the Minutes of the last Grand Lodge relating to the Masonic Dinner… and the Jewel… were read. The Grand Lodge was then adjourned and the Grand Officers went in procession into the Hall…………..
After Dinner His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, … in the Name and on behalf of the Grand Lodge and the Masons of England invested The Earl of Moira with a most superb Past Grand Master’s Jewel, richly set with Brilliants and suspended from a Collar composed of seven Rows of Gold Maltese Chain intersected by five gold parallelograms with Brilliant Centres, on the reverse of which Jewel [an] inscription was engraven……..
JMH: Special is hardly a strong enough word to describe this meeting. Six Royal Dukes, foreign visitors, the present and 19 Past Grand Wardens and almost all of the Provincial Grand Masters attended. Those who were present here last year might remember that in modern money the jewel and chain cost £22,500. The jewel can be seen in the Museum here.
GFR: At the Quarterly Communication held on Wednesday the 7th of April 1813
A letter from Brother Colonel McMahon, Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent addressed to Brother Bayford, Grand Treasurer was read communicating the Pleasure of His Royal Highness to decline on the present Election the Situation of Grand Master as he should be unable under his present circumstances to attend to and discharge its important Duties.
After voting a humble and dutiful Address to The Prince Regent, praying His Royal Highness to allow himself to be designated Patron and Protector of the Craft, a little later in the meeting
Brother J. Joyce, R.W.M. of the Bank of England Lodge, No. 435 proposed His Royal Highness Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex etc etc etc to be elected Grand Master for the present year which was seconded by Brother Bayford G[rand] T[reasurer] and on the Question being put it passed unanimously in the Affirmative and was accompanied with the most animated demonstrations of Joy, Affection and Respect.
JMH: The reason given to Lord Moira for the Prince of Wales’s resignation was that it was believed that 'the monarch, or his Regent, should not be the subject of an annual election in which there was a possibility he might lose'! The Prince had been a popular Grand Master regularly attending the premier Grand Lodge and its Committees and the Lodges of which he had been elected permanent Master. He had also appeared as Grand Master in public on a number of occasions, laying foundation stones with Masonic ceremonies. He was not, however, too keen on paying his lodge subscriptions. The letter still survives in the Royal Archives in which the Grand Secretary gently reminds the Prince’s Treasurer that he is more than five years in arrears with his subscriptions to the three lodges of which he was permanent Master.
The election of the Duke of Sussex as his successor was to prove a masterstroke. Not only did he ensure the Union taking place but as Grand Master for thirty years did much to ensure that it would be permanent and laid the ground plan for Freemasonry as we practise it today.
GFR: At the Quarterly Communication held on Wednesday the 23rd June 1813, the new Grand Master reported that he had duly presented the address to the Prince Regent by whom it was most graciously received.
Then, in accordance with the Grand Master’s expressed wish it was
Resolved that His Royal Highness the M.W. Grand Master be fully empower[e]d to take such measures as to him may seem most expedient for arranging an Union between this Grand Lodge and the Society of Masons under His Grace the Duke of Athol and if necessary to agree and conclude the same: with power to His Royal Highness if he find occasion to convene such Members of the Grand Lodge as he may think fit to be a Committee to assist in effecting this object and to give such Instructions and Orders to the Committee as the circumstances may in his opinion require.
JMH: Negotiations towards the Union had virtually stalled, largely because of the continuing insistence by the Antients of re-debating every point of agreement at one of their Quarterly Communications. The premier Grand Lodge in giving Sussex full power to decide obviously wished to see matters brought to a head. Sussex had been given similar carte blanche by the Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter, of which he had just become First Grand Principal, to settle the place of the Royal Arch in whatever relationship he thought best with the new Craft arrangements.
GFR: At an Especial Grand Lodge held on Wednesday the 1st December 1813
The Most Worshipful the Grand Master … announced that by virtue of the power delegated to him by the Grand Lodge on the 23rd June last he had selected [three senior Brethren] to assist him in the negotiation for an Union with the other Fraternity of Masons in England. That they had several conferences with His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent assisted by three Grand Officers…, the happy result of which was that Articles of Union between the two Grand Lodges of Masons of England had been signed and sealed in duplicate at Kensington Palace on the 25th November. H[is] R[oyal] H[ighness] The Grand Master then laid the same before Grand Lodge. The announcement of this great event was received with Masonic acclamations and the said Articles were read by the Grand Secretary.
After which [ten] resolutions were passed to put into effect a Union between the two Grand Lodges, and a vote of most sincere and grateful thanks to His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex was moved for all his work towards this end
thereby erecting the Edifice of the Masonic Union on a Basis constituted of such materials as must be rendered more firm and compact by revolving years and on which the Hand of Time can work only to prove that Masons possess the art of raising a Structure which Storms cannot destroy.
All business being ended the Grand Lodge was closed in solemn and ample form and adjourned to Monday the 27th Instant at eleven O’Clock in the Forenoon.
JMH: The Minutes just quoted take us a little ahead of ourselves. The observant will have noticed that a change had occurred within the Antients Grand Lodge and that Sussex’s brother, the Duke of Kent has entered the story with powers to arrange matters for the Antients. It says a great deal for the power and authority of Princes at that time that in a short period of weeks Sussex and Kent had knocked heads together, drafted the Articles of Union between the two Grand Lodges and had them agreed by both parties. Sadly for historians most of the meetings between the Dukes and their aides took place in private and no Minutes were taken.
GFR: The other half of the story is to be found in the Minutes of the Atholl or Antients Grand Lodge.
At a Special Grand Lodge on Wednesday 4th August 1813 the following letter from the Grand Secretary of the Moderns Grand Lodge was read:
I am commanded by His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, Grand Master of the Society of Free and accepted Masons, under the Patronage of the Prince Regent, to acquaint you that the Grand Lodge of that Society, feeling with its Royal Grand Master the fullest conviction that the Union so long contemplated of the two Societies of Masons in England would be of the greatest advantage to the Craft in general, has requested and empowered His Royal Highness the Grand Master to take such steps as may appear most proper for arranging and concluding so desirable an object upon terms that may be equal and honorable [sic] to both parties trusting that a correspondent disposition continues on the part of the Society, acting under his Grace the Duke of Atholl.
I am further commanded to request you will make this communication known to the proper authorities of your Grand Lodge, and state the wish of His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, to have a meeting as early as possible on the Subject, should the proposal accord with the sentiments of your Society.
The Duke of Atholl, being unable at that time to give his personal attention to the matter, had suggested that His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent might be prevailed on to act in his stead, and that course of action was approved by the Grand Lodge
JMH: HRH Edward, Duke of Kent was one of the most prominent of the brethren who had a foot in both Grand Lodges. He had been initiated in Switzerland, joined Lodges under the premier Grand Lodge and been appointed a Past Grand Master of that Grand Lodge. In 1790 he had been appointed their Provincial Grand Master for Gibraltar when on military duties there. When he took up command of the forces in Canada the Antients appointed him their Provincial Grand Master and he did much to revive Freemasonry in Canada and strengthen the position of the Antients there. A special meeting of the Antients was held on 18 May 1813, ostensibly to celebrate the anniversary of their Boy’s Charity but also an opportunity for the Duke of Atholl to present the Duke of Kent to them and thank him for all his work in Canada. In responding to their welcome the Duke of Kent promised his full support to the Antients in the negotiations with the premier Grand Lodge so that it could be 'accomplished on the basis of the Antient Institutions, and with the maintenance of all the rights of the Ancient Craft'.
GFR: At another Especial Grand Lodge held on Monday 8th November, a letter from The Duke of Atholl was read intimating his desire of resigning the office of Grand Master in favour of His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent. Resolutions were moved accepting the Duke of Atholl’s resignation, tendering a vote of thanks to him for his services as Grand Master, requesting that the Duke 'permit his portrait to be taken by an artist of celebrity that it may be placed conspicuously in the Grand Lodge as a perpetual memorial of their love and reverence of his virtues and of their gratitude for his services to the Craft.' The Duke of Kent was unanimously elected Grand Master and, he having already signified his acceptance of the said office, his 'solemn installation as Grand Master with all the ancient forms and ceremonies' was fixed for high noon on Wednesday the first day of December next, with the details for the ceremonial delegated to a Committee of Present and Past Grand Officers
JMH: Kent’s installation as Grand Master on 1st December was quite a day! It began with a meeting of the Grand Master’s Lodge at which the Duke of Sussex and other senior members of the premier Grand Lodge were made Antient Masons to enable them to attend the installation. The Duke of Kent entered in procession and was duly installed by the Duke of Atholl with 'ceremonials which cannot be written or printed' after which the new Grand Officers were invested. Then a special Ode was sung followed by an 'exhortation on the Principles of Antient Masonry '. The Grand Lodge was then closed and those present moved to the next room where 'a sumptuous dinner' had been prepared and the afternoon was 'spent with high masonic conviviality'. But that was not the end of the day…
GFR: After the afternoon 'spent with high masonic conviviality', a Quarterly Communication was held with the newly installed Grand Master in the Chair. The Duke of Kent announced that after several conferences with His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, Grand Master of the other Fraternity, who was also assisted by three of his Grand Officers…. articles of Union had been signed and sealed in duplicate in Kensington Palace, on the 25th November last, and His Royal Highness laid the same before the Grand Lodge. The announcement of this Great Event was received with masonic acclamation, and the said articles were read.
Resolutions were carried, providing amongst other things:
That the articles of union now read be Ratified and Confirmed.
That brotherly application be made to the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland, enclosing them a copy of the above articles, when ratified, and entreating them to delegate two or more enlightened members of their respective bodies to be present at the Assembly of Union on Monday, the 27th December instant, pursuant to Article IV.
That a special dispensation, under the great seal, be issued to … [nine Brothers, and their Secretary], to hold a Lodge of Reconciliation, in conjunction with an equal number to be appointed and empowered by His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, to fulfil the duties set forth and enjoined in the said Articles of Union.
JMH: The Articles of Union required the Lodge of Reconciliation to meet with the Masters, Wardens and Past Masters of Lodges under both Grand Lodges to obligate, certify and register them as being entitled to attend the great celebration to be held on 27th December 1813 to ratify the Union and bring the United Grand Lodge into being. If we are allowed to continue our duologue in future years, we will see that the Lodge of Reconciliation was to take on a much greater role and was to establish the basic ritual to be adopted by all lodges under the United Grand Lodge. A further special meeting of the Antients Grand Lodge was held on 23rd December at which the Minutes of the various meetings on 1st December were confirmed, allowing the Union to go ahead. The Duke of Sussex was again present and thanks were given to him and the Duke of Kent for their work in ensuring the Union. Thanks were also given to Thomas Harper, the Deputy Grand Master and to Robert Leslie, accompanied by a medal valued at £10, for his thirty years of loyal service, including twenty as Grand Secretary of the Antients.
GFR: The Grand Assembly of Freemasons for the Union of the two Grand Lodges of England was duly held on Saint John’s Day, 27th Dec[ember] 1813
An order of proceedings which had been previously settled, was strictly observed.
The platform on the East was reserved for the Grand Masters, Grand Officers and visitors.….
The Masters, Wardens and Past Masters of the several Lodges to the number of six hundred… were arranged on the two sides [of the Hall], … and the Lodges were ranked so that the two Fraternities were completely intermixed….
The Grand Masters, Past Grand Masters, Deputy Grand Masters, Grand Officers, and distinguished Visitors of the two Fraternities, assembled in two adjoining Rooms in which they opened two Grand Lodges each according to its peculiar solemnities and the Grand Procession moved towards the Hall of Assembly……
On entering the Hall, the procession advanced to the Throne, and opened and faced each other, the Music playing a March composed for the occasion by Brother Kelly.
The two Grand Masters then proceeded up the centre [and]….. seated themselves, in two equal chairs, on each side [of]the Throne. ….
The Director of the Ceremonies, Sir George Nayler having proclaimed silence.
The Reverend Dr. Barry, Grand Chaplain [of the Antients] delivered a prayer.
The Act of Union was then read by the Director of Ceremonies….
The Reverend Dr. Coghlan, Grand Chaplain to the [Moderns] proclaimed aloud, after sound of trumpet
‘Hear Ye This is the Act of Union, engrossed in confirmation of Articles solemnly concluded between the two Grand Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons of England, signed, sealed and ratified by the two Grand Lodges respectively by which they are to be hereafter and for ever known and acknowledged by the Style and Title of The United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England. How say you, Brothers, representatives of the two Fraternities ‘Do you accept of, ratify and confirm the same?’ To which the Assembly answered ‘We do accept, ratify and confirm the same’. The Grand Chaplain then said ‘And may the Great Architect of the Universe make the Union perpetual!’ To which all the assembly replied, ‘So mote it be’.
JMH: The Articles of Union were then signed by the two Grand Masters and their Commissioners after which the Grand Chaplain, Dr. Barry proclaimed the United Grand Lodge of England and Brother Wesley performed a symphony on the organ. The Grand Masters then moved to the floor of the Lodge and were, in sequence, provided with square, level, plumb and mallet to try and approve the Ark of the Masonic Covenant a wonderful edifice in mahogany designed by Sir John Soane, only recently made a Mason in the Grand Master’s Lodge, which was to be the repository for the Articles of Union whenever the United Grand Lodge of England was to be opened. Sadly the Ark and the many portraits of Past Grand Masters which adorned the old Grand Temple were destroyed in a fire which destroyed the Grand Temple on 3rd May 1883. Fortunately the Articles of Union had been placed in a safe and are still with us today.
GFR: After the Grand Officers had resumed their places a prayer was offered by The Revd. Dr. Coghlan.
Letters were read from Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of Ireland, neither of which was able to send a deputation.
The distinguished visiting Grand Masters pronounced that the forms settled and agreed on by the Lodge of Reconciliation were pure and correct.
This being declared, the same was recognized [sic] as the forms to be alone observed and practised in the United Grand Lodge and all the Lodges dependent thereon until time shall be no more.
The Holy Bible spread open with the square and compass thereon the ark of the covenant and the two Grand Chaplains approached the same.
The recognized [sic] obligation was then pronounced aloud by the Revd. Dr. Hemming one of the Masters of the Lodge of Reconciliation, the whole Fraternity repeating the same, with joined hands and declaring ‘By this solemn obligation we vow to abide, and the regulations of ancient freemasonry now recognized [sic] strictly to observe’.
The assembly then proceeded to constitute one Grand Lodge, in order to which the Grand Masters, Deputy Grand Masters, Grand Wardens and other Acting Grand Officers of both Fraternities divested themselves of their insignia and Past Grand Officers took the chairs……
His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent after an eloquent address proposed His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex to be Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England for the year ensuing. This was seconded and was unanimously carried in the affirmative with Masonic honours.
His Royal Highness was placed on the throne and solemnly obligated. The Grand Installation was fixed for St. George’s Day. After being proclaimed the Grand Master nominated his Grand Officers.
It was then solemnly proclaimed that the two Grand Lodges were incorporated and consolidated into one and the Grand Master declared it to be open in due form according to ancient usage.
The Grand Lodge was then called to refreshment and the cup of brotherly love was delivered by the Junior Grand Warden to the Past Deputy Grand Master who presented the same to the Grand Master; he drank to the Brethren ‘Peace, goodwill and brotherly love all over the world’ and he passed it. During its going round the vocal band performed a song and glee.
After the Grand Lodge was recalled to labour various addresses were moved and administrative matters dealt with, such as the appointment of various Boards.
The United Grand Lodge was then closed in ample and solemn prayer.
The Grand Officers and the brotherhood then repaired to the Crown and Anchor tavern where a grand banquet was provided. His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex in the chair supported on the right by His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent and on the left by His Excellency Count de Lagardje and other distinguished foreigners. The auspicious day was concluded with the most festive harmony and brotherly love.
JMH: And so after more than four years of tough negotiation the great event had been accomplished and the United Grand Lodge of England brought into being. As I hope we will be able to show over the next few years, the foundations laid on 27th December 1813 were built upon by the Duke of Sussex and his aides and the Craft in England as we know it today became firmly established as the sole Craft authority for England, Wales and our lodges overseas. So well laid were the foundations that, with the exception of a brief rebellion in Liverpool in the 1820s, the authority of the United Grand Lodge of England has never been seriously challenged.
At this point we would normally look at the events in Grand Lodge one hundred years ago. After the tumultuous events two hundred years ago one can only say that 1913 was possibly the dullest year in Grand Lodge’s long history. So rather than waste Grand Lodge’s time, may we simply suggest that, like two hundred years ago, we raise a cup and drink to 'Peace, Good Will and Brotherly Love all over the world'.
11 September 2013
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, one of my pleasurable duties is, along with the other Rulers, visiting our Districts and in June I was in Trinidad and Tobago and, more recently, I visited Zimbabwe. Brethren before any of you start to think that the Grand Secretary and I spend all our time swanning around the world, I, perhaps could point out that our visit to Zimbabwe for two and a half days involved 17 hours of travel in each direction. However, I feel strongly that we should make every effort to support our Districts and endeavour, when possible, to install our new District Grand Masters.
The visit to Harare in Zimbabwe was, indeed, to install our new District Grand Master. I was somewhat surprised that the last visit there from Grand Lodge was in 1989 and, as you can imagine, we were given a very warm welcome. I was even more surprised to find that two of our Lodges are in Malawi, where masonry thrives, there being 70 members and we can count Members of Parliament and High Court Judges among them.
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, after a tour of the school, we were entertained to some vibrant and very moving African dancing and singing. Started in 1992, the number of orphaned children in the Education Support Programme is now 407. A trust fund has been set up to provide for example school fees, uniforms, books, a daily hot meal, healthcare and sports activities. All in all it was most impressive and exactly the type of Charity the District, if possible, should support. Later the same day, and back in Harare we visited the Masonic home, run to the high standard you would expect.
At the same time, it was also a good opportunity to catch up with the District Grand Masters attending from neighbouring Southern African Districts who attended the business meeting as well as the Installation.
I have mentioned already that earlier in the year I visited the District of Trinidad and Tobago. The Caribbean Districts have met every year – for the last eleven – for a regional conference and we now attend whenever we can. As they meet regularly, they know each other well, sharing issues and enjoying each other’s company. They are a great example to follow.
Looking forward – I am attending the Centenary of our District of Nigeria at the end of October. Our stated philosophy is that if a District wishes to remain loyal to us we will remain loyal to it. Nigeria is a current example of this, preferring to stay in the English Constitution, rather than joining the newly formed Grand Lodge of Nigeria. As in Harare we will be running a business meeting for District Grand Masters from throughout Africa.
On this theme, I was pleased to hear that in early December this year the first conference for the Districts in Asia and Oceania is being held. This is being attended by the Deputy Grand Master. All these meetings are a sign of the strength of our Districts and long may that continue.
On another theme, and applicable to all Lodges wherever they are in the English Constitution, is the theme of making the Craft relevant to all generations. Following the presentation at the Quarterly Communication this time last year on assuring the future of Freemasonry I challenged the Universities Scheme Committee to consider how the principles expressed in the address – particularly about shortening meetings and running them more efficiently – could be implemented across the whole Craft.
I have now had first sight of their report for consideration. A report which covers a series of evidence-based recommendations and examples of good practice from lodges around the English Constitution. This is an excellent document and I will be discussing the proposals and how to disseminate agreed recommendations through the Provinces and Districts to Lodge level. Brethren how often do we hear, only partly in jest, that any changes and progress in Masonry take an eternity. These recommendations have 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, I believe, 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, whilst not alienating established brethren.
11 September 2013
An address by VW Bro Chris Caine, PGSwdB, Deputy President of the RMBI
VW Bro Caine commenced by thanking the MW Pro Grand Master for the opportunity to provide a relatively short, but comprehensive presentation on the important, topical and at times emotive subject, ‘Understanding Dementia’.
He went on to say that during the next eighteen minutes he would provide a detailed explanation of dementia and its two most common forms: Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, then moving on to explain, from a personal perspective, how the RMBI, one of the four central masonic charities based in Freemasons’ Hall, and of which he is privileged to be Deputy President, is providing high quality care for RMBI residents with dementia.
In so doing, he would explain the importance of colours, fabrics, pictures and photographs as well as providing examples of signs, a memory box and a detailed explanation of how to address people living with a dementia, the use of precise narrative and the care needed when considering the use of mirrors.
VW Bro Caine explained that dementia is a word used to describe a group of symptoms including memory loss, confusion, mood changes, and difficulty with day-to-day tasks. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease which affects around 62 per cent of those who suffer from dementia. With Alzheimer’s disease, two abnormal proteins build up in the brain forming plaques or tangles usually first seen in the part of the brain responsible for making new memories. The second most common form of dementia is vascular dementia which affects around 20 per cent of those with a dementia. Vascular dementia reduces the blood flow to the brain often damaging those parts of the brain important to attention, memory and language.
Although the above could sound terribly frightening, VW Bro Caine assured all present that from the perspective of the RMBI the prospect of living with dementia needn’t be frightening as by the careful training of staff and use of fixtures, fittings, furnishings, colours and other specifics, life can be quite comfortable. All 17 RMBI homes throughout England and Wales are registered for dementia care with 12 having specialist Dementia Support Units.
He explained exactly the purpose of a Dementia Support Unit. Some RMBI residents who live in a Dementia Support Unit are so confused by their dementia that were they not to be cared for in a keypad controlled environment, they could well enter areas where there is a greater danger of harming themselves or others. The units have been especially developed to provide comfortable and intimate living environment for a small group of people who are generally at the same stage of their illness.
However, it’s not necessary for everyone with a dementia to live in a Dementia Support Unit. VW Bro Caine explained about the RMBI home in South Wales, Porthcawl, which was built in 1973; when it was built the average age of new admissions was 64 and every perspective resident had to provide a Certificate of Ambulance, signed by their GP to prove that they could walk unaided to and from the dining room three times each day.
In that relatively short time – only 40 years – the average age of new admissions to RMBI homes is now approaching 90. With two out of three people within that age group living with some form of memory loss leading to dementia it’s essential that the RMBI reflects the need of Craft.
As previously advised, he suggested that the careful use of colours, signs and pictures can greatly assist normal life and a fine example is the Davies Wing at Shannon Court, Hindhead in Surrey. VW Bro Caine explained that in 30 years’ time he would be 90 and if he’d developed a dementia could move into an RMBI home and would quite like it to be Shannon Court where he might live on the Davies Wing.
On the Davies Wing there is a single-colour carpet with the warp all in one direction. If the carpet were to be joined and the warp to be at right angles to that which is normal, residents with a dementia may perceive the join to be a step and become confused by it. VW Bro Caine mentioned another care home provider that had a beautiful new floral display carpet in their main lounge. Sadly, some residents were attempting to pick the flowers seen on the carpet and therefore would not go near the beautiful lily pond in the centre of the room.
Looking ahead 30 years, on the Davies Wing there are hand rails down the corridor to assist with ambulance because many residents are already very frail when they move to an RMBI home. The hand rail would be extended over a utility door such as a laundry or a sluice room, to ensure that it couldn’t be confused with a resident’s room. VW Bro Caine then went on to provide examples of what had been done in relation to recognising particular rooms and showed an example of the sign for a bathroom suite.
In pre-refurbished RMBI Homes a bathroom may have had a sapele door with B1 or B2 on it which is not meaningful to somebody living with a dementia, but the sign he displayed, clearly showing the narrative ‘bathroom’ and a coloured picture of a bath full of water is much easier to understand. He asked all present to note the particular shade of blue behind the black narrative, which is cyan and it’s one of a small group of primary colours – magenta, cyan and yellow – which following extensive research at Sheffield University has been proven to be most easily recognised by those even with acute dementia. See above.
In RMBI homes there is often a large dining room with smaller dining rooms for use by smaller groups of residents. Previous to refurbishment the dining room might say D1 or D2, which is not meaningful to somebody living with a dementia, but the sign he displayed quite clearly showed a plate of food, a knife and fork and the clear narrative ‘dining room’ which would ensure that there would be no misunderstanding that that is indeed the dining room. Also see above.
VW Bro Caine explained that he had spoken to Professor Clive Ballard concerning life expectancy following diagnosis of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease and that he also spoke of the importance of the careful use of signs and memory boxes.
He went on to suggest that were he to be living on the Davies Wing and was making his way down the single-coloured carpet, holding onto the hand rail over the sluice room door he would come to his front door. At the moment he lived at 15 Roseacre Close in Emerson Park near Hornchurch and his house has a white front door with number 15 on it. If he were to remember that when he moved into the Davies Wing in Shannon Court he could have a white front door with the number 15 on it to assist him. To further assist, and many residents have these, he would have a memory box outside his room.
Prior to showing his own example of a memory box, VW Bro Caine asked that viewers consider what they might have in their own memory box. It should contain intrinsically personal items to help one remember that one is approaching one’s own room and that when walking along the Davies Wing he would come to his white front door and at eye level would be the memory box displayed, a twelve by twelve glassless casement frame with intrinsically personal items belonging to Chris Caine – above.
He explained in detail, the number plate was purchased by him in 1995 from the DVLA and has never belonged to anyone else before Chris Caine. Significantly, again, the colour yellow with black numeral and letters on there. Above that was a photograph of a couple of his cars and being privileged to be a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards in the City of London, there was a depiction of the two jokers from the Livery. In the top corner was a picture of his late wife, Joy, who sadly died 16 years ago. He hoped that he would never ever forget her and the picture showed Chris and Joy at their first Ladies night when he was President. Next to that was the double-headed eagle of the compliment slip of the St John Group of the Rose Croix Chapters in London where he’s privileged to be Group Recorder to the Inspector General, Very Illustrious Brother Graham Redman.
VW Bro Caine explained that these were intrinsically personal items to Chris Caine, which would assist him when he walked along the Davies Wing corridor and came to his white front door his memory box would be at eye level so there could be no confusion that he had reached his own room. Having entered his room there may well be the end of a wardrobe or a white board with other intrinsically personal photographs displayed, possibly of his son and daughter, his favourite nephew with their respective wives and husband, maybe even children with their boyfriends or girlfriends, and if they did come to visit him he hoped there would be a label with their name on because at that stage, when he’d be 90, he might not remember who they are or the names of their boyfriends or girlfriends.
VW Bro Caine also explained about age perception in many forms of dementia. Although a person may be in the 80s or 90s they may believe themselves to be in their mid-20s, say 26. He went on to say that three years ago he was faced with a very embarrassing situation when he was being shown through the newly refurbished wing at Devonshire Court in Oadby in Leicester. There the manager took him into one of the small lounges, which had been refurbished, and there was an elderly lady in her late 80s or 90s watching television. There was a 1940s style mantelpiece with a ticking clock, and she was very happy in her lounge. As he approached her she looked up at him and said “are you my dad?”
VW Bro Caine explained that he had been embarrassed and had not known what to say, but since then, having been trained, as have all staff in RMBI homes - not just nurses and care assistants, but laundry staff, domestic cleaners, gardeners and maintenance staff – and indeed, many head office staff including our Chief Executive, myself, James Newman the President, and other Trustees have been trained in this way. He now knew how to answer the lady so as not cause any offence or further confusion. Importantly he would kneel down to be at her level and avoid any sense of condescension and hold her hand. He explained that tactility is terribly important with dementia and that some RMBI residents’ enjoy an appropriate cuddle from our staff. He should maintain eye contact with the lady and show a smiling face; although the smile may not get an obvious response, he would be signalling an attitude of friendliness towards her. Then he should say a precise form of words such as “that’s very kind of you to think of me like that, but I am just visiting today.” He would then let go of her hand, rise and move off.
By that very carefully worded statement, importantly, he hadn’t told her a lie because there will always be moments of lucidity with dementia, and it’s important not to lose the trust of somebody living with a dementia; he hadn’t been condescending because he knelt to be at her level.
VW Bro Caine explained that it may have only been a few moments to make that statement, but that lady’s attention span can be as short as a couple of minutes and were he to have gone back to the lounge, five or ten minutes later, she might have asked again “are you my dad?” He advised that he had been in a situation with someone with dementia in his car on a car journey and within an hour, she had asked thirty times “where are we going?” and that every time he answered the question it was important that he did so with a freshness as if it were the first time he’d heard the question.
As Chris Caine had explained earlier, some dementia affects part of the brain which creates new memories and she wouldn’t remember that she had just asked him the question. He suggested that it may well be that those to whom he was speaking had had dealings with people with dementia and been asked “when am I going home?” and that instead of saying, “you are at home mum, you now live here,” one should say “can we talk about that when we’ve been out for a walk?” Or “can we chat about that when we’ve had a cup of tea?” Although prevaricating, the response would not cause any concern or alarm.
VW Bro Caine suggested that he thought it important to understand about the use of mirrors with certain forms of dementia. At the RMBI home at Stisted Hall in Essex, the Dementia Support Unit is on the ground and first floor and many residents have their own bedrooms and assisted bathroom on the first floor. They gain access to the first floor via a lift, so the carer would assist the resident into the lift and travel to the first floor. While they are in the lift they wouldn’t see a mirror because reflected to them would be an old person who is staring at them when they perceive themselves to be in their mid-20s and that can cause fear.
Assistance can also be provided in one’s home environment with the careful use of photographs and a considered choice of words can be of assistance. VW Bro Caine explained that he had given a presentation to a Lodge at Chingford in Essex some time ago and after the meeting and before the festive board the junior warden had come to him and said: “my mum has been suffering from Alzheimer’s for some time now. She visits us regularly, she used to be fine, but more recently she has become frustrated and aggressive and much to the embarrassment of my two young children she has become incontinent - her frustration has manifested itself in wetting the sofa.”
After he had heard a lot more about mum’s home environment and her background VW Bro Caine suggested that the next time he visited mum he should take copies of pictures of the Ford Consul with members of the family, the family home and garden as it was in the 50’s and place the copy pictures in frames. Some weeks later when he saw the Brother again, he suggested that he had heeded his advice and when mum visited she still sat in the same place on the sofa, but within her home environment, she had familiar pictures which made her very happy, and importantly she was no longer incontinent or frustrated.
VW Bro Caine explained that a close friend of his, Shane, whose mother is currently living in a home on the south coast of England and has a particularly challenging form of dementia, not yet diagnosed but believed to involve vascular dementia and possibly dementia with Lewy bodies because she was disillusioned. When Shane was visiting her recently he went into the lounge and said “hello mum,” and his mum said “oh, your father was in earlier.” Sadly, Shane’s dad has been dead for more than ten years, but because Shane understands how to deal with dementia he didn’t tell mum, “mum, dad has been dead ten years,” because that would have re-introduced all the unhappiness of having lost her husband and loved one from so many years. Instead, Shane simply said “Oh, I haven’t seen dad today.” He hadn’t told a lie and hadn’t caused any further confusion.
In all forms of dementia early assessment is essential as with the use of non-anti-psychotic drugs, in some cases, short-term memory loss can be reversed and the person living with dementia can continue to live with their dementia on a plateau and then have a slow deterioration rather than declining steadily and slipping away. Normally, an assessment can be arranged through one’s own GP, but if that’s difficult it’s important to remember that the very successful Freemasonry Cares helpline can channel the call to where it needs to be, possibly to one of the extended team of Care Advice Visitors from the Central Charities who could visit at home and give guidance and advice.
VW Bro Caine said that he was pleased to advise of future RMBI plans. Not only will training be extended to families and the wider Masonic groups in relation to dementia, but the RMBI is looking into day care throughout the wider Masonic community. When summing up, VW Bro Caine suggested that in the relatively short time he hoped that a true meaning of dementia had been gained, especially the two most common forms, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, and by the examples shown he hoped that an understanding had been gained of how to deal with somebody with a dementia and how even in their own home or one’s own home a balanced environment could be achieved with the careful use of photographs.
VW Bro Caine completed his presentation by thanking the MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren for their polite attention.
11 September 2013
A statement by the Grand Chancellor Derek Dinsmore on the Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF)
MW Pro Grand Master and brethren, Grand Lodge will recall that twelve months ago it voted to withdraw recognition from the Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF). Since then the Board and its External Relations Committee have continued to monitor the situation in France.
Last December the GLNF installed a new Grand Master, MW Bro Jean Pierre Servel, as a result of which the mandate of the Court appointed administrator ceased so that the GLNF is once again in full control of its affairs. His predecessor as Grand Master, having failed to attend a disciplinary hearing, has been expelled. The new Grand Master has already made changes welcomed by his brethren and is setting in train constitutional processes to return to the Grand Lodge and its constituent lodges powers and authority removed by his predecessor. His actions appear to be restoring harmony within the GLNF.
Five Grand Lodges in Europe – Austria, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Swiss Grand Lodge “Alpina” – have been in discussion with four other Grand Lodges in France with regard to the formation of a “Federation of Regular French Grand Lodges”. The four Grand Lodges, none of which has ever been recognised by this Grand Lodge, are: the Grande Loge de France, the Grande Loge de l’Alliance Maçonnique Française, the Grande Loge Traditionnelle et Symbolique Opéra and the Grande Loge Indépendante de France. In June they agreed a charter outlining the basic principles on which the Federation will be founded but have not yet given any details as to how it will be organised and administered. So far the discussions have not included the GLNF, despite its having been internationally recognised for almost one hundred years as the only representative of regular Freemasonry in France.
Whilst the five European Grand Lodges have kept us informed of the progress of the discussions it is important to note that this Grand Lodge has not been a party to them nor has it given any sanction to the project. It is equally important to note that, should the Federation come into being, before we could consider extending recognition this Grand Lodge would have to be wholly satisfied that each of its constituent Grand Lodges fully complied with our Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition.
The “blogosphere” is, as usual, full of rumour and misinformation, particularly regarding what the United Grand Lodge of England is supposedly planning in relation to France. We continue to believe that the problems in France are internal to that country and that the French brethren should be allowed to sort out their problems without interference from outside. Whilst we welcome the changes taking place within the GLNF we do not have under active consideration any plan to recognise or re-recognise any Grand Lodge in France. We will continue to monitor the situation and, in doing so, will not enter into any formal discussions with any of the Grand Lodges in France. As a consequence of this position, we shall not be participating in any way in the centenary celebrations of the GLNF to be held later this year.
12 June 2013
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
our June meeting always has a full agenda with the meeting of the Grand Charity and I am sure you would like me to thank the President of the Grand Charity and all whose hard work has made their work so effective over so many years. What is not required now is a long address from the chair and I will be brief.
Brethren, you will recollect that last year, in recognition of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we sent a loyal message to Her Majesty on the occasion of the sixtieth Anniversary of her accession to the Throne.
Last Tuesday a service was held in Westminster Abbey to celebrate the sixtieth year since her Coronation. Her actual Coronation was on the second of June 1953 and the ceremony was conducted by Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury. Interestingly, Archbishop Fisher was a committed Freemason serving as Grand Chaplain in 1937 whilst being Bishop of Chester. He was re-appointed Grand Chaplain in 1939 just at the time he was made Bishop of London.
At the Quarterly Communication the day after the Coronation, on the third of June 1953, the Earl of Scarbrough, Grand Master, gave a loyal address to Her Majesty on the occasion of her Coronation and I quote, “Brethren, we meet in Grand Lodge this afternoon on the day following the Coronation of our Gracious Queen. This is an event which stirs the hearts of us all – in these Islands, in every part of the Commonwealth and, indeed, throughout the world. We Freemasons, remembering in particular the many greatly-prized links which we have had, and those which we still have, with the Royal House, have our hearts full of loyalty and prayer towards Her Majesty”.
Brethren, we often joke that nothing in Freemasonry ever changes or that, if it does, it takes a good many years to do so. In this case I know that it is true and that as we celebrate the Coronation – sixty years later – those sentiments expressed by Lord Scarbrough are as true today as they were then. Long may that be the case.
We celebrate another royal sixtieth anniversary this year, that of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh’s sixty years as a subscribing member of the Craft. The Grand Master sent him a message of congratulations to mark the occasion and, in reply, Prince Philip asked for his thanks and best wishes to be expressed to all members.
Brethren I have to announce that the MW The Grand Master has appointed VWBro Sir David Wootton Past Grand Sword Bearer and, of course last year’s Lord Mayor, to succeed RWBro David Williamson as Assistant Grand Master with effect from 12 March 2014. On that day either the MW The Grand Master or I will have the pleasure of investing him. I must add that Bro Williamson will be continuing as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter.
24 April 2013
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
I congratulate all those of you that I have had the pleasure to invest today. This is, I hope, a memorable occasion and an important milestone in your Masonic life. I trust that you will carry your Grand Rank with humility and continue to support your fellow members to the best of your ability.
I have consistently stressed both the importance of recruiting high quality candidates and then ensuring that they understand what masonry stands for and how enjoyable it can be. If we are successful in this we stand every chance of retaining them. Clearly good mentoring plays a key part in retention and here I see all Grand Officers playing a significant role. Some will act as Lodge mentors or personal mentors, but all of us should assist in this task particularly for our newer members so that they enjoy their Freemasonry and want to stay.
These are exciting times for all of us to be Freemasons and we can be justly proud of our membership. However, as with any other large organisation, we are constantly looking for ways to ensure the long term future for the generations to come. To do so we have both a pro-active and collaborative approach. By pro-active, I mean looking at initiatives that we need to be putting into place now to retain our members. Above all we must clearly demonstrate to the non-Mason that we are a relevant and outward facing organisation in today’s society. And by collaborative, I mean that we work closely with Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges to mutually agree plans for the future. As Grand Officers several of you are already part of your executive teams. But whatever your role within the hierarchy, or the responsibilities you hold or will hold, please remember you are all members of the English Constitution with a common cause working together to ensure the future.
Today is a day of celebration for those I have invested and for the friends you have invited to witness this special ceremony. It is good to see you all and I wish you every success and happiness as you continue to enjoy your Freemasonry.
Finally Brethren, I constantly receive comments about the outstanding quality of our organisation and ceremonial at Grand Lodge. This applies to the Quarterly Communications as well as today, but today is, of course the real showpiece. I can assure you that a great deal of work goes into ensuring the success of these great occasions and on your behalf I thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for the highly efficient conduct of the ceremony and the Grand Secretary and all his staff for all the weeks of planning and preparation that have been devoted to this Annual Investiture.
13 March 2013
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
In my address to Grand Lodge last December I commented that we should be proud of our history. I therefore have no qualms – indeed I believe it is important – in mentioning that this year marks an important landmark in the history of our Grand Lodge: the two hundredth anniversary of the between the Ancients and Modern Grand Lodges. The actual – forming the United Grand Lodge of England – took place at Freemasons’ Hall on St John’s Day, December 27th 1813.
It is therefore more appropriate that we mark this major anniversary later in the year at the December Quarterly Communication. At that time I hope that Brothers Hamill and Redman will give us an account of the intriguing story of how the was finally achieved and its importance to English Freemasonry in particular and world-wide Freemasonry in general.
However, I mention this anniversary today for two main reasons. First, because those of you who are also members of the Royal Arch know that the Order is holding its own celebration in October of this year. It is to mark the decision, achieved during the negotiations leading to the, that the Royal Arch be recognised as an essential part of pure ancient Freemasonry, forging an indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch.
Secondly, and importantly for us, rather than making major celebrations this year we have decided to concentrate our efforts on 2017 and the celebration of our tercentenary of the formation of Grand Lodge in 1717. This is considered the more important of the two events and a celebration of both would inevitably stretch all recourses beyond any reasonable limit. It is intended that these celebrations will take place throughout the constitution both at home and overseas.
Freemasonry is good at celebrations. Lodges are usually very keen to celebrate their important anniversaries, and rightly so. There can be few, if any, other organisations that have so many individual component parts that survive to celebrate 50, 100, 200 years and beyond. We should be immensely proud that our Lodges not only survive and thrive, in most cases, for so long, but that they also keep full and accurate records of all their meetings. It is, of course, a prerequisite of the granting of a Centenary or Bicentenary Warrant that the Lodge can show continuous working. Some latitude is given to take account of war time conditions, but, otherwise, we are firm about this.
We do have Lodges that fail and at every Quarterly Communication there is a list of lodges to be erased. Sad as this is, it is inevitable when overall numbers have fallen, the redressing of which is on the top of any list of priorities that is drawn up. Conversely we still have new Lodges being consecrated, which may seem something of a paradox in the face of falling numbers, but I would argue that, if there is a group of like minded people who want to get together to form a Lodge and they can show reason for doing so as well as an ability to sustain it in the future, why not? The members will have considered the sustainability of the Lodge carefully and, even if it only survives for, say, 50 years, many people will have derived great enjoyment from it and many people will have been introduced to our great institution who might otherwise have missed out.
Brethren let’s celebrate on all possible occasions.
13 March 2013
An address by VW Bro Mike Woodcock, President, and W Bro Les Hutchinson, PAGDC, Chief Executive, Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys
'A celebration of 225 years in supporting children by the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys'
VW Bro Mike Woodcock:
Brethren, on the ceiling frieze above the senior warden’s chair, is an image of Pythagoras. It reminds me that the antient Knights of Pythagoras had a saying “that a man never stands as tall as when he kneels to help a child”. Today, we want to tell you about a freemason who put that saying into action by creating the first central masonic charity 225 years ago.
He came, not from England, but from Italy, where he was a dentist - you might say he was of Italian extraction! He came to London in 1759. Then, a very different city with a population of only 800,000 crowded on the north bank of the Thames, between the tower and Westminster. Chelsea, Paddington and Marylebone were but farming villages.
England was becoming prosperous, the industrial revolution was underway and the English way of life, at least for the squire, the yeoman and the villager were the envy of Europe. But there was another side to society; the poor in the slums had a hard time, low wages, no welfare and a harsh penal regime. Gin houses advertising that you could get drunk for a penny and dead drunk for tuppence, were the escape and ruin of many.
It was to this London that thirty year old Bartholomew Ruspini came with letters of introduction from influential connections in France and Italy, ensuring his rapid entry into the highest circles of society. He set up a dentistry practice on Pall Mall opposite Carlton House, the residence of the Prince of Wales and he began to clean the teeth of royalty.
Ruspini was initiated into the Bush Lodge; became a founder of the Lodge of the Nine Muses, helped the Prince of Wales, which whom he had become a good friend, set up the Prince of Wales’s Lodge and he achieved the rank of Grand Sword Bearer, a rank he held until his death.
Although there were occasional casual grants for the children of deceased brethren from the committee of charity of the moderns and the steward’s lodge of the antients, there was no continuous provision and so 225 years ago, almost to the day, Ruspini established an orphanage school for girls.
He secured the first funding from his wealthy connections, including the Prince of Wales and the Dukes of York and Gloucester, and the Royal Cumberland School for Female Objects, was opened and named after the Duchess of Cumberland its first patron.
Fifteen girls met at Ruspini’s house on Pall Mall and processed to the new school, on the site of what is now the British Library. At the end of their school life, the girls were to return to their families or go into domestic service. School life was far from luxurious; meals consisted mainly of gruel, bread and beer with a weekly treat of boiled mutton – think of this brethren before you complain about your festive boards!
But Ruspini soon needed further funding for his school and so on its first anniversary he organised a church service and a dinner at which his masonic connections were invited to make donations - collected in a wooden box.
The event was called a festival and the collection an appeal. It raised 82 pounds, 10 shillings and 6 pence, about £9,000 in today’s values. That was freemasonry’s first festival appeal and it gave birth to the festival system which has endured for well over 200 years.
That brethren, is the collection box which started the festival system and it still bears the name of the Royal Cumberland School.
By now Ruspini had acquired a wide reputaton for benevolance and as result he received a papal knighthood conferring the title Chevalier.
What Ruspini had achieved inspired William Burwood and the United Mariner’s Lodge, to establish a similar charity for boys ten years later. The two charities grew and included the Royal Masonic Schools at Rickmansworth and Bushey.
But masonic boarding schools were not always the best solution and ‘out relief’ was started – financial grants for children who usually remained at home with their family attending local schools.
Eventually, this ‘out relief’ became the main support and in the 1980s, following the Bagnall Report, the girls and boys charities merged to form the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.
W Bro Les Hutchinson:
If Ruspini were looking down on our proceedings today he would be extremely proud of his legacy and the impact it continues to have on the lives of so many.
The modern RMTGB is a far cry from its humble beginnings, but it still upholds the objects laid down for that first school, namely: to preserve children from the dangers and misfortunes to which their distressed situation may expose them; to train their young minds; and to qualify them to occupy useful stations in life.
We have moved on significantly from supporting just a few girls between the ages of five and ten and today we support almost 2,000 girls and boys, ranging from only a few months old to those completing full-time education, sometimes in their mid-twenties.
Today, our support is available to any child who is financially dependent on a freemason and this includes: step-children, adopted children and even grandchildren.
Today, just like in Ruspini’s day, our beneficiaries have one thing in common: they have all faced a life changing event that has reduced their family to a state of poverty. Around half of those we support have been affected by family breakdown; some have a parent who has a disability; almost a third have experienced the death of at least one parent – and some have lost both parents.
In the current economic climate more and more are from families affected by redundancy, unemployment or bankruptcy.
All of those we support are real children with real needs. And although we cannot completely erase tragedy, we can and do help to give them a brighter future.
Today, the majority of our grants are directed to children living at home, targeting the effects of poverty and helping to provide the best possible opportunities for them to succeed in life.
In addition to grants towards everyday costs, we also help with other essential items that can make all the difference to children, such as: school uniforms to ensure they fit in on their first day at school; extra-curricular activities to learn new skills, make friends and develop into well rounded young people; computer packages to enable them to complete their homework to the highest standard; and opportunities to develop rare and exceptional talent into a professional career.
We are responding to real needs of children in 2013, much like Ruspini was responding to real needs of children in his day.
But today, our work goes far beyond simply awarding and paying grants. Our skilled team of welfare advisers visit all the families in our care ensuring that they receive the appropriate support not just from us, but from the state and other providers. And our case advisers provide practical assistance and reassurance when families are at their lowest ebb.
As a celebrated philanthropist, Ruspini would be pleased to know that in addition to our core work, each year our grant making-scheme Stepping Stones helps thousands of non-masonic children.
He would also be proud that our choral bursary scheme provides other life-changing opportunities for children from low income families.
And his legacy now includes the work of Lifelites, our subsidiary charity which provides fun and educational technology, such as computers and games consoles, to every children’s hospice in the British Isles; helping to bring a little light into the lives of thousands young children who will never reach adulthood.
In these three ways we are demonstrating that masonic charity and Ruspini’s legacy are not just inward looking but a real force for good in wider society.
However, like Ruspini we need to work hard to secure funding to support our work. The short lease on that first school cost just £35 but we now spend over £9m each year and the festival system which he started continues to be the principal source of funding for the central masonic charities.
I have helped organise 25 festival appeals during which over £65 million has been raised for the trust. I am constantly astonished and immensely grateful for the generosity shown by the brethren and their families. Ruspini could never have imagined how his simple plan for securing the financial future of his school would become so pivotal to the existence and future of masonic charity.
But, what does the future hold for Ruspini’s legacy and that which is represented by that special collection box?
VW Bro Mike Woodcock:
Brethren, today, Ruspini would surely be proud that the charity he founded now cares for more disadvantaged children than at any time in its history.
He would be proud that the Royal Masonic School for Girls at Rickmansworth, although now an independent school, maintains a strong masonic tradition; providing a caring and special environment for some of our beneficiaries.
He would be proud that his name lives on in Ruspini House, located just behind Great Queen Street, where we provide accommodation for beneficiaries completing their education or beginning careers in London.
He would be proud that the endowment he helped to establish enables us to now spend on our beneficiaries on average, three times what we receive in donations from today’s freemasons.
He would be proud that the charity he founded now not only cares for boys as well as girls but works seamlessly with the other central charities providing, through Freemasonry Cares, a whole family approach – and as a man of change he would expect us to continue to evolve in order to meet the changing faces of society and of freemasonry.
But most of all he would be proud that never once in our 225 year history have we had to turn away a child in distress through lack of funds.
Brethren, that collection box is so much more than an item from a bygone age. It is a reminder that charity is at the heart of freemasonry and that we still rely on you, today’s freemasons, to support our vital work.
Let us finish with a passage taken from last year’s Prestonian lecture on Scouting and Freemasonry, words with which Ruspini would surely have agreed:
A child is a person who is going to carry on what you and I have started. He is to sit right where you are sitting and attend to those things that you and I think are important, after we have gone. We may adopt all the policies we please but how they will be carried out depends on him. Even if we make leagues and treaties, he will have to manage them. He will assume control of our cities, our provinces, countries and government (as well as scout troops and masonic lodges). All of our work is going to be judged and praised, or condemned, by him. Your reputation and future, and mine, are in his hands. All of our work is for him and the fate of our nations and all humanity is in his hands.
Chevalier Ruspini died 200 years ago this year and is buried at St James Church, Piccadilly. All the girls from his school attended his funeral wearing black cloaks.
Brethren, let us all remember not only those first girls but the hundreds and thousands of other disadvantaged children to whom we, as freemasons, have given a better start in life.
Thank you for listening to his and our story.
You can find out more information about the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys by visiting their website