Having a ball

Apollo University Lodge, No. 357 (Oxford), and Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859 (Cambridge), invite all masons and friends to the University Lodges’ Ball on 23 November 2013 in the unique setting of Armoury House, London. This collaboration marks the 150th anniversary of the Grand Ball held by Apollo for the Prince of Wales (later Grand Master and King Edward VII), in celebration of his marriage to Alexandra of Denmark.

This year, the committee is raising money for the Supreme Grand Chapter Bicentenary Appeal and Combat Stress. For tickets and details, visit www.universitylodgesball.com

Published in Universities Scheme

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?

Yes! The Ball will offer numerous excellent opportunities for advertising. If you are interested in becoming one of our official sponsors, please e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to discuss possibilities.

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...

Published in Universities Scheme
Sunday, 30 September 2012 01:00

Land's End to John O'Groats

Follow Bro Pádraig (Paddy) Belton as he cycles from Land's End to John O'Groats in aid of the Royal London HOSPITAL'S Trauma Unit


You can sponsor Paddy by clicking here


Day 1: Land's End to Plymouth

In every respect, cycling from Land's End to John o'Groats is infinitely better than fretting about cycling from Land's End to John o'Groats.

After cycling the five miles from a delightfully bonkers couchsurfer who somewhat accidentally motorbiked around the world two months after acquiring her first motorcyle (a BMW called Thelma), I made it to the start line at 6 am clutching my tenner for the chap who takes your photograph at a sign saying John o'Groats 874 miles (for those who don't want to take any known road), or (for those preferring to cycle the wrong way) New York 3147. I opted for John o'Groats. The chap turns out to be a bit more lazy than his quarry and doesn't wake up until 10, so I found a lone security guard for the requisite pictorial evidence. I'd thought LeJog (spelt - and done - this way, it can be pronounced with a terrible French accent) would be a veritable motorway of the spandexed and charitable, but I couldn't see a soul in sight.

Fragrant Cornwall sea air and waving walkers all suggested Cornwall people very nice, but did not dissuade me from really wanting to get away from them - and Penwith House Temperence Hotel (lurking menacingly by the start line) as quickly as possible.

Cornish hills slowed but did not destroy me, and I gained Plymouth and Lodge of Fidelity No.230 in time for the festive board - where the Acting WM (a lovely chap called Alan Vangorph) saw the humour in sitting me beside him on top table in my spandex. Replying for the visitors, I noted you have certain ways you imagine your life will go, and the present image had never really suggested itself to my mind as a possible future. (For those quite taken by local differences, there was no fire - I almost typed Tweeting - but a song, after a toast to absent brethren, about meeting together again in the Grand Lodge Above. The Tyler's Toast was taken seated, with the left hand.)

I was sent off with promises to return, and a whip round for the cycle appeal and Trauma Unit. A lovely Plymouth Freemason who tweets as @Freemason_UK found me sumptuous digs for the night, with a lovely friend of his who knew the Cyberknife appeal well, having lost a father to cancer. I've been absolutely bowled over by the kind support of brethren and other friends, without which my lunatic dash through Britain would have remained firmly fixed in the realm of the subjunctive. I am a grateful Cycling Paddy, and promise to keep pedalling on.

Sunday 30 September 2012

Hullo from Cornwall - and the starting line!  (where I'm making a dinner of bananas and protein bars)

On an eleven-day cycle through Britain, it is a mathematical certainty that it will stop raining for some of it.

Persisting with this sunny theme, my spirits were lifted marvellously today before my departure by the surprise appearance of brethren from my mother lodge, Apollo University Lodge No. 357, at my send-off.  (A cunning, anonymous past master even contributed £35.70 to my appeal;  better than £3.57.) There also was a chap there  who will shortly begin working as an A&E doctor in the Royal London.  He mentioned a portable CT scanner was very much needed for patients with head and neck injuries. (Medical parlance refers to the present arrangement as the 'doughnut of death', though please try not to think about that if you find yourself there.)

This send-off (taking place in a Wren-built City church in which I'm a guildsman) concluded with this cycle ride's modest contribution to the Book of Common Prayer, the Rite of Blessing of Bicycles.  After, I sped down the aisle in a flurry of spandex to head out the recessional  - fixing the firm point of precedence that the Bicyclist, when present, precedes the Crucifer.  I only nearly wiped out once.

Thankfully (lest readers worry), I'm cushioned against such falls by my panniers. One is chocker with such mouth-watering temptations as creatine, lucozade powder, protein, and glutamine.  (This is not to mention the plasters, Compeed, chafing cream, Anadin, caffeine, Nurofen, and 'flu tablets with which I serenely contemplate Day Two.)  The other, the dressing up bag, is its more banterous sibling, home to aprons and grand lodge certificates - carefully photographed before they succumb to Cornish, Scottish, or even the less remarkable English rain.

On another Technical Footnote, before leaving I received an 8 am tutorial from a kindly neighbourhood cycle shop owner, on clipping in to clipless pedals; flush with confidence, I skipped the 9 am one, on clipping out.  (Cf, 'cushioning against falling,' above.)

My bicycle, I'm reliably informed by its previous owner, is named Herman.  Ever the pragmatist, I've been pondering deed-polling him to William - conqueror of Britain, you see - but William I only really conquered England (whereas my cycle ride secretly harbours more northerly territorial ambitions).  And though there always remain the coregnants William and Mary, I'm not wholly sure a stately, constitutional transfer of power is entirely the sport analogy I'm after.  I might continue with Herman for the moment.

I then pedalled my way to Paddington, to train to Cornwall.  Everyone, after all, said I should train before my cycle ride.

I'm really very excited to begin - kind brethren from across the country have been writing to offer me visits to their lodges and guest rooms.  And I do look forward to meeting them.  After all, anyone who would open their doors to a lunatic mad cyclist must be good fun.  Bring on the morrow, and Land's End to Plymouth!



Hullo everyone - and I'm very grateful to Freemasonry Today for following me as I cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats, stopping to visit a lodge along the way every night.  (my itinerary is below!)  I'm taken utterly back by the kindness of brethren who've offered me guest rooms, invitation to their lodges, and - in the case of the IPM of Dumfries Kilwinning - Hungarian goulash....

I'm cycling to raise funds for the Metropolitan Masonic Charity's appeal for the Royal London Hospital's Trauma Unit.  (I've a page for my fundraising here.)  The funds will go to purchase a portable CT scanner, so the most critically injured patients won't need to be transported down the lift to the hospital's CT scan - it can come to them.

I'm also cycling in memory of my mother - I'm arriving in John O'Groats six years after she died.  

Finally, I'm cycling to explore masonry across Great Britain, just as I've recently gone into the chair in my own lodge, the Lodge of Assistance - which readers are very welcome to come visit!  I started writing to lodges from Cornwall to Caithness just before my installation in April, and on my birthday in May I joined the local gym and began embarrassing myself in spin classes.  

In June, the spandex arrived, and it took me two hours to get up the courage to go outside in it.  I waited for nightfall.

The last few weekends, I've cycled from Oxford to London, and from London to Brighton.  Clearly, I'm an example of the dangers of watching too much of the Olympics, and getting notions.

I'll be tweeting as I pedal (and dodge lorries), on @CyclingPaddy, and writing a diary of my lunatic misadventures here on this blog.

And I'm still pondering whether or not to grow a pair of Bradley Wiggins sideburns, between now and Scotland.

Little Cycle Ride - Itinerary

1st October
Begin at Land's End.
Cycle 76.5 miles, 9.25 hours.
End in Harmony Lodge No 156, Davie Masonic Hall, North Hill, Clifton Place, Plymouth, PL4 8HU.

2nd October
Cycle 118.5 miles, 13 hours.
End in Beaufort Lodge, No 103, Freemason's Hall, 31 Park Street, Bristol, BS1 5NH.

3nd October
Cycle 90 miles, 8.5 hours.
End in Birmingham, at Athol Lodge, No 74,  Severn Street Masonic Hall, 60 Severn Street,  Birmingham B1 1QG.

4th October
Cycle 73.5 miles, 7.75 hours.
End in Britannia Mark Mason Lodge No 53, Sheffield, Tapton Hall, Shore Lane, Sheffield S10 3BU.

5th October
Cycle 66.25 miles, 6.75 hours.
End in De Grey and Ripon Lodge No 837, Ripon Masonic Hall, Water Skellgate, Ripon HG4 1BH

6th October
Cycle 60.25 miles, 6 hours.
End at Kepier Lodge 8308 who meet at Hetton-le Hole Masonic Centre,  Station Road, Hetton-le-Hole DH5 9HQ.

7th October
Cycle 82 miles, 8.5 hours
Being a Sunday, have Sunday Dinner with Immediate Past Master of Lodge Dumfries Kilwinning No 53.

8th October
Cycle 74.75 miles, 8.25 hours
End at Glasgow Star Lodge No 219, 101 Clifford Street, Glasgow, G51 1DP.

9th October
Cycle 103.25 miles, 11.5 hours
End at - to be confirmed - The Lodge of Fort William, No 43, 23 High Street, Fort William PH33 6DH.

10th October
Cycle 67.25 miles, 7.75 hours
End at St Andrew’s Chapter No 115, 5 Gordon Terrace, Inverness IV2 3HD.

11th October (Last day)
Cycle 118.75 miles, 12.5 hours
End at John O'Groat Lodge No 1333, Masonic Hall Waitside, Castletown, Thurso, Caithness, KW14 8SL.
(14 miles from John O’Groats, where I will cycle afterwards to complete my journey.)

Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Freemasonry and the Olympics

Gold doesn't tarnish

Susan Snell, Archivist and Records Manager for the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, reveals connections between the Craft and the Olympics

The London 2012 organisers revealed in 2011 that they received applications for more than 20 million tickets from 1.8 million people for the Olympic Games – more than three times the 6.6 million tickets available to UK sports fans. Compared with this mad scramble for tickets, attendances at the first London Games were low according to The Times on 18 July 1908. Expensive ticket prices, ranging from five shillings to a Guinea (£45 to £60 in today’s money) were blamed for poor sales. 

Thankfully, visits by the Royal Family boosted gate returns to the 1908 Games, with over 20,000 people attending the White City Stadium, constructed by the entrepreneur and Freemason, Imre Kiralfy. The masonic connections do not stop there. A keen sportsman and Freemason, Lord Desborough fenced at the unofficial Athens Games of 1906 and served as a member of the International Olympic Committee until 1913. Desborough was initiated in Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, Oxford, on 23 February 1875, the same day as Oscar Wilde.

The games begin

The 500 British athletes at the opening of the Olympic Games wore caps and blazer badges manufactured by the masonic regalia company, George Kenning & Son. Britons achieved sporting success in real tennis (jeu de paume), athletics, swimming, boxing, tug of war and cycling, with several masonic participants, including Richard Wheldon Barnett of St Alban’s Lodge, No. 29, London, who represented Great Britain in the rifle, military pistol class competition.

This was just the beginning of the 1908 success stories. A Great Britain team won the gold medal in the Olympic football competition, with Vivian John Woodward, an amateur player at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur football clubs, scoring the second of two goals. Woodward, from Clacton, Essex, worked as an architect with his father and later designed the Antwerp stadium for the 1920 Olympics. Four years after his Olympic triumph, he was initiated in Kent Lodge No. 15, London.

Sir John Edward Kynaston Studd carried the British team flag and most track and field events were organised by the Regent Street Polytechnic, founded by Quintin Hogg. Studd became honorary secretary of the Polytechnic from 1885 and after Hogg’s death, president. Many sportsmen, including Studd, joined Polytechnic Lodge, No. 2847, after it was consecrated in 1901.

Studd and others formed Athlon Lodge, No. 4674, in 1924, the year Harold Abrahams won an Olympic gold medal in the 100 metres, as featured in the film Chariots Of Fire, beating an American, Charley Paddock, and another British athlete, the New Zealand-born Freemason, Sir Arthur Espie Porritt. Bronze medal winner Porritt, who later served as Governor-General of New Zealand, became a consultant surgeon and then chairman at the Royal Masonic Hospital from 1974 to 1982. Athlon Lodge member Abrahams and Porritt dined together on 7 July at 7pm every year to celebrate the anniversary of their double medal success in 1924, until the former died in 1978.

British sporting success

With the 1908 Games encouraging participation in competitive sports, Britons excelled at subsequent Olympic competitions. The Thames-based rower, Jack Beresford, won a silver medal in the single sculls at the 1920 Olympics and then won medals for rowing at each of the four subsequent Games. He carried the British flag at the opening and closing ceremonies of the controversial 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he won a gold medal in the double sculls. He was initiated as a Freemason in Argonauts Lodge, No. 2243, London, in 1944.

Forty years after its first visit to UK shores, the Olympics came to London again. Ernest James Henry ‘Billy’ Holt, who was initiated in Black Horse of Lombard Street Lodge, No. 4155, in 1922, served as director of organisation for the 1948 London Games. Holt, Master of Athlon Lodge in 1938, had coached the long-distance athlete, Gordon Pirie.

Cycling Freemasons, Gordon ‘Tiny’ Thomas, formerly of Lodge of Equity, No. 6119, Yorkshire West Riding, won a silver medal in the team road race and Tommy Godwin, formerly of Lodge of St Oswald, No. 5094, Worcestershire, won bronzes in the 1km time trial and in the team pursuit. Godwin coached the British cycling squad at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and will be an Olympic torchbearer in Solihull in July, aged 91. This blend of local and national interests, where Olympic and masonic aspirations combine, points to a time when members and non-members can enjoy the pleasure of a game well played, and a race well run.

 Sport by all
The Paralympic Games, which began at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1948 also have masonic ties. Professor Guttman, director of the National Spinal Injuries Centre at the hospital, encouraged WW2 veterans to play sport for rehabilitation. The Middlesex Masonic Sports Association has supported Paralympians, including Tracy Lewis, basketball, and Anthony Peddle, weightlifting, at the 1992 Barcelona Games, while the Grand Charity contributes to WheelPower (formerly the British Wheelchair Sports Foundation).
Game, Set and Lodge: Freemasons and Sport exhibition at the Library and Museum on Great Queen Street runs from 2 July-21 December 2012
Published in Features
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:33

year of gravity and celebration

Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859, decided that celebration of its 150-year history should be spread over much of 2011. Beginning in January, there was the first delivery of the 2011 Prestonian Lecture, as the lecturer was their Immediate Past Master, Dr James Campbell, a Senior Fellow of Queens’ College, Cambridge.

In March, brethren from Apollo University Lodge No. 359 (Oxford) and Loge Robert de Sorbon (Paris) attended a meeting at Freemasons’ Hall, Cambridge, followed at the June meeting with a friends and family garden party. The celebration of the anniversary was held in July, at which the principal guest was the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence.

The prime purpose of the meeting was to make the substantial charitable donations that the lodge had decided should be the main way in which it celebrated its anniversary year.

The lodge has donated £1,000 for each year of its existence, with £50,000 going to the Grand Charity through the Provincial Festival, £50,000 to other masonic charities and £50,000 to a number of non-masonic charities drawn from suggestions and requests from lodge members.

Past Masters of the lodge presented cheques to the Assistant Grand Master, David Williamson, the Metropolitan Grand Master, Russell Race, and to the Presidents of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institute (RMBI), Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) and the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB).

The Provincial Grand Master received the cheque for his Festival on behalf of the Grand Charity.
Sunday, 01 October 2006 01:00

Young Masons: The Universities' Scheme

A scheme to encourage undergraduates into Freemasonry is outlined by Oliver Lodge

It is said that young men have no interest in Freemasonry, that such formality is alien to youth and that the minimum age for initiation is ‘the full age of 21 years’. The trouble with generalisations such as these is that, generally, they are misleading.

We need to challenge the mantra; if we don’t, we are ignoring our own history and missing an important opportunity.

My hypothesis is that young men come in all shapes and sizes and that, perhaps surprisingly, large numbers are indeed interested in Freemasonry.

Those Masons lucky enough to have come across either Apollo University Lodge or Isaac Newton University Lodge will know very well that these two hugely successful Lodges attract substantial numbers of initiates every year from undergraduates at their two great universities. Both Apollo at Oxford and Isaac Newton at Cambridge have, in their own very different ways, proved to the Masonic world that young men can and do make exceptional Freemasons, producing many of the leaders of the English Craft today. And there is nothing hypothetical about that.

Likewise, age itself is not a barrier. Provincial Grand Masters have the authority to dispense with the traditional minimum age for initiation, as they have been doing for many years. This is no longer the rarity that it once was, and may well one day beg the question of the need for the continued existence of the regulation.

That may make clear why the Assistant Grand Master, David Williamson, has set up the Universities Scheme. That, and the fact that at present less than 800 of the many thousands of English Masons are under 25.

We live in a time of an aging population, but in the Craft our population is aging faster than most.

While one might be tempted to suppose that this arises because we Masons live life to the full and survive well, in reality it has rather more to do with our reluctance to make Freemasonry properly accessible to those who have not yet established their professional careers. The Universities Scheme is about to change all that.

In essence, the scheme is setting out to enable specified Lodges to appeal to undergraduates. More formally, the scheme’s objective is 'To establish and/or enhance arrangements and opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to join and enjoy freemasonry.'

To this end, the AGM has established a group of Masons, well below average age, but with vast experience of university Masonry, to promote the scheme. With the enthusiastic support of the Provinces in question, as well as the members of the scheme group, he has visited Lodges in Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, Oxford and Sheffield to invite them to participate in the scheme.

He also plans to visit Manchester in the autumn. Each of these visits has resulted in a Lodge devoted to becoming or firmly remaining open to undergraduates from that city’s university. In some cases that is a commitment amounting to a very real challenge for the Lodge in question.

It would, however, be a mistake to give the impression that Apollo and Isaac Newton are the only undergraduate Lodges in the country. At Durham, the Universities Lodge has been actively welcoming undergraduates to its fold over recent years. Likewise, St Vincent Lodge in Bristol and, to varying degrees, in other universities too. On all of this, the scheme intends to build.

Who can doubt that momentum is a wonderful thing? Apollo has been fortunate to have existed for nearly 200 years (indeed, there existed, even in the 18th century, a University Lodge in Oxford). Blessed with critical mass, established undergraduate Lodges just free-wheel, picking up initiates effortlessly as they go. Or so it seems.

In fact, while they may appear on the surface to glide like swans, they achieve it by paddling like fury under the surface.

Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that their existing undergraduate membership exerts a gravitational pull, reinforcing their daily efforts to ensure a healthy future. For those setting out on this path for the first time, the biggest hurdle is the first one. How are the first few undergraduates to be found?

A typical initiation path is that a chum will suggest that Masonry might interest the individual; he will be introduced early-on to other young members; he will meet the secretary and be given a fairly frank outline of what he can expect and what is expected of him. Very few do not proceed to initiation.

In seeking to answer that question more broadly, each participating Lodge is setting up a committee to determine its own unique approach. If that looks like successive wheel re-inventions, it is not quite so. The function of the scheme group is to provide to participating Lodges the benefit of the group’s collective experience and ideas.

But, more importantly, it is fundamental that each Lodge should resolve the question in the way that suits its own circumstances and customs. The AGM’s scheme has no intention of seeking to create clones across the country; rather the focus is that the objective should be achieved in a range of different ways, further enriching the diversity of Freemasonry and fully respecting the individuality of each Lodge.

Let me nevertheless offer a little of the thinking of the group. Recent experience has shown that a fair proportion of young initiates first made contact with Freemasonry through the internet. To some that will come as quite a surprise; others will have known or guessed that it was so.

But the conclusion must be that a website is a valuable thing. University Lodges must be prepared to be fairly public affairs; they must advertise without shame, to freshmen each year, using opportunities to promote Masonry in general. University Lodges should support undergraduate charities and ensure that such benevolence is known to the public. Another, probably unsurprising, feature of successful experience is the opportunity for undergraduates to meet the Lodge either over drinks or dinner, in order to acquire an impression of the people and, even more importantly, of Freemasonry itself.

The avoidance of un-undergraduatefriendly features is also significant. Careful consideration has to be given to costs, to dates and times, to early involvement of new joiners and many similar details of the Lodge’s administration.

In addition to all of this activity within the university Lodges, a valuable contribution to this theme is the recent pair of reductions in dues agreed by Grand Lodge, both for its own levy and for that of the Grand Charity.

All costs for undergraduates and other young men are magnified in their significance, whether they be subscriptions, dining fees or the price of regalia. With initiative and determination, ways can be found to ameliorate the burden.

It is also to be hoped that the profile of the scheme itself will result in an enhancement to the usual paternal or family-based encouragement. Where such suggestion might typically have awaited the initiate’s 30th birthday, it might now instead relate to establishing contact with the Lodge of an undergraduate’s university, ten years earlier.

Although the focus of the scheme is squarely on universities, everyone involved is very well aware of the relevance of it to young men outside university life. To them, Freemasonry should extend a similar welcome whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. Universities may represent merely the start to the process of Masonic involvement of a materially wider age-group.

There is no doubt that the scheme represents a project that will take many years to achieve its full potential. The challenge will be to continue to innovate, to continue to drive the programme in the face of occasional set-back and disappointment.
But with momentum, the scheme will deliver.

Oliver Lodge is chairman of The Universities Scheme Group

Published in UGLE
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