Friday, 06 September 2019 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Autumn 2019

From the Grand Secretary

I trust you have all had an enjoyable summer and are looking forward to the new Masonic season. September marks the start of my third year in post, and how time flies when you’re busy! UGLE thankfully quietens down in August, giving staff and the Organisation time to take stock of what we have achieved over the last year, and where we want the next 12-18 months to take us. 

Undoubtedly one of the major highlights this year was the dedication of a memorial stone to those, our members, awarded the Victoria Cross. The Most Worshipful Grand Master commented that, having served in the armed forces for more than 20 years, he understood the common values shared by Freemasonry and the services – camaraderie, respect, integrity – and the ideals of service and tradition. It is an extraordinary fact that 14 per cent of all Victoria Cross recipients have been Freemasons and we were proud to be able to recognise and celebrate this at Freemasons’ Hall in London. Perhaps we should be mindful of that part of our ritual, delivered on the presentation of a Hall Stone Jewel to a new Worshipful Master, which tells us that it should ‘ever provide an inspiration to every Brother to put service before self’. 

Freemasons’ Hall was, of course, built as a peace memorial to those brethren who lost their lives in the Great War and we have been thinking hard about how we can use our fabulous Grade II-listed building to help inform and educate people about Freemasonry. By the time you read this, having worked closely with the Museum of Freemasonry, the first members of the public will have undertaken a redesigned tour of Freemasons’ Hall. It sets out to explain not only our history, but also our contemporary relevance, and includes a newly commissioned 10-minute film, which will be seen by our 40,000-plus visitors a year. It helps us launch a new approach as to how we define and regard ourselves. We are less apologetic for the misguided views of others, and instead talk about the positives of membership, both in terms of the benefits for the individual member and for society at large. What other organisation can boast charitable donations of more than £45 million a year? What other boasts an annual delivery of over five million hours of unpaid community and voluntary service? What other seeks to make people better individuals through philosophical and philanthropic engagement? 

Freemasonry offers a simple philosophical message to its members and one that we should all be proud of: that within each of us is a thoughtful, kind, tolerant and respectful individual. Our purpose is not only to promote virtue, but also to promote a thoughtful approach to being virtuous. It is centred around an analogy of building, or creating, and thus by chipping away our rough edges, Freemasonry teaches us to chip away at our inadequacies, revealing the better person we can be, one more fit to serve those less fortunate than ourselves, those who have fared less well in life than us, and those communities from which we are drawn. Of course, all Freemasons will know and appreciate these points, but it is now our aim and intention to share these messages with the public, starting with the new public tour and closely followed by other supportive material.

We have an amazing history, often at the forefront of monumental social and economic change, as anyone who has watched the DVD of our Tercentenary celebrations cannot fail to appreciate. We have such a story to tell and intend to be confident and committed when speaking about our many strengths and the reasons why we are just as relevant today as we have been in decades and centuries past. Watch this space, and let us know how you think we are doing!

In other developments, we intend to produce, for the first time in our history, an annual report explaining to you, our membership, how your fees and dues are spent, while explaining to both you and the public what it is that UGLE does and how well we do it. Many of you will be involved in helping us collate the information we need, so look out for this over the coming months as we work towards a publication date of March 2020.

‘Project Hermes’ is in full swing, looking at how we can update our processes to modernise the management of our membership, ensuring that some of the more laborious and outdated demands placed upon Lodge and Provincial Secretaries concerning collecting data, paying dues and keeping up-to-date records are simplified and made more accessible to those who need to see, use and work with them. We hope to be able to have a much fuller article explaining this in our next edition. 

In short, as ever, there is plenty going on to keep us all busy, but if you find yourself in London with an hour or so to spare, please do book into our new tour via the Museum of Freemasonry website – we can guarantee an enjoyable way to make that all-important daily advancement in Masonic knowledge!

Dr David Staples
Grand Secretary

‘Our redesigned tour of Freemasons’ Hall sets out to explain not only our history, but also our contemporary relevance, and includes a newly commissioned 10-minute film, which will be seen by our 40,000-plus visitors a year’

Published in UGLE

Dwight St. George Reece was installed as the new District Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for the District Grand Lodge of Jamaica & the Cayman Islands on 20 July 2019, with UGLE’s Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, conducting the ceremony

Alongside the other Caribbean District Grand Masters, those from Bahamas & Turks, Bermuda, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia, as well as Suffolk’s Provincial Grand Master Ian Yeldham, they joined UGLE’s Grand Secretary, Dr David Staples, and Grand Director of Ceremonies, Charles Hopkinson-Woolley, in participating in the ceremony held at the AC Hotel Kingston in St Andrew, Jamaica.

After being installed, Dwight thanked his predecessor Walter Scott who served 10 years as District Grand Master.

The ceremony was then followed by a celebratory banquet at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

The British Red Cross has launched a pilot scheme in North Wales to help people build independence and better links with their communities and reduce unnecessary hospital admissions. The move comes thanks to a £84,460 grant from North Wales Freemasons

The Pathways to Better Health service aims to help over-50s in Conwy and Denbighshire who have been identified as needing extra support due to a pattern of frequent hospital attendance or calls to the emergency services.

The project will help people who call 999 or go to emergency departments (ED) more than 12 times a year, many of whom are among the most vulnerable members of our communities with few alternative sources of help. They may have multiple, complex needs including loneliness, social isolation or drug and alcohol dependency issues.

Figures for 2017 show that frequent attenders accounted for 86,000 Welsh ED attendances costing £36.4 million to the NHS.

The scheme, which runs for a year, will enable trained Red Cross staff to work in partnership with emergency services and ED teams to find people who could benefit, and refer them to the service.

The project team will then work with people to identify the root causes of their frequent attendance, and support them to develop coping strategies. By providing emotional and practical support, helping to build confidence, and signposting to other services in their community that could help, the team will aim to increase a person’s health and well-being, independence and resilience.

It is hoped this will reduce the number of calls to the emergency services and visits to the NHS, saving money, freeing up resources and improving the lives of those who are helped by the project.

In a previous pilot project in Swansea, the results revealed 96 per cent of people helped reported a positive change in emotional health, a 70 per cent positive change in physical health and a 69 per cent positive change in reducing loneliness and isolation.

The pilot, which was launched by the British Red Cross in November 2017, covered the Western Bay area in Wales including Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea. It helped 22 people for 16 weeks and resulted in a huge reduction in 999 calls and hospital attendances from the participants.

The grant from North Wales Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Stanislava Sofrenic, Independent Living Operations Manager for Red Cross Wales said: 'We are thrilled to have launched this scheme in North Wales. I’d like to thank North Wales Freemasons for their generous donation, which has enabled us to set up this invaluable scheme.

'Our smaller pilot project in Swansea demonstrated that early intervention with people who use NHS and emergency services frequently has a significant impact both on improving their lives and reducing pressures on NHS and emergency services’ resources. We are looking forward to working with our partner organisations over the next 12 months and helping people across Conwy and Denbighshire.'

John Hoult, Provincial Grand Master for North Wales, said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to support the fantastic work being done by the British Red Cross in North Wales. This will have a huge impact on the users of the emergency services and will make a big difference to improving their lives.'

Last year, Cheshire’s Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank set a challenge to members to organise an event promoting awareness and building support for the Cheshire Freemasons Charity

John Miller was first to step forward and so developed the idea of organising a sponsored bike ride from Chester to London, utilising only the intricate canal network and towpaths that weave between Cheshire’s’ county town and capital city.

The route was agreed from the Masonic Hall in Queen Street, Chester, to Freemasons’ Hall at Great Queen Street following the Shropshire Union Canal to Wolverhampton, then the routes through Birmingham, picking up the Grand Union Canal near Solihull and following that into the heart of London, some 230 miles and crossing several masonic Provinces.

The team consisted of 16 riders with a support team of two and given the rough terrain and general riding conditions it was agreed to limit each day to between 40 and 50 miles allowing the challenge to be completed within five or six days. Riders were tasked with raising sponsorship and several Cheshire businesses sponsored the exclusive team shirts produced in order to support logistical costs such as travel, accommodation and food.

A black tie benefit event was also held within the Province which greatly contributed to the costs of the task ahead. To make the most of the fine English weather, the departure date was set for 6th June and the Deputy Provincial Grand Master David Dyson was present to see the team off safely from the Chester start point, and the Provincial Grand Master put a date in his diary to meet the exhausted riders outside the doors of Great Queen Street on the 11th June, what could possibly go wrong? The answer is Storm Miguel – which for three days of the journey tested each and every rider for their tenacity, and for how waterproof their kit truly was.

In the main the team discovered that waterproofs aren’t that effective in the face of a tropical storm, and indeed for two of the riders who managed to fall in to the canal, and are now affectionately referred to as the ‘Cheshire Splash Masters’. Cheshire’s Provincial Office reached out to Provinces that the riders would pass through en route.

Shropshire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire were all kind enough to offer a warm welcome and kind words of encouragement, as well as contributions, a true reflection of communication, commitment and teamwork by Freemasons. It is noteworthy that during the ride, many conversations with members of the public took place, lifting the profile of Freemasonry in general, and additional contributions were made by many of these non-Masons met along the way in support of the rider’s objectives.

A joint effort between the riders and HQ meant the Communications team were able to promote the event on social media platforms, using the dynamic mapping of GPS, daily blogs and great pictures sent by the riders each day.

Followers loved watching the daily progress made by the cyclists. The event organiser, John Miller, was keen to ensure the fundraising aims were kept clearly in the spotlight throughout the event via the online donation link and ‘interviewed’ members of the team at each overnight stay so this could be broadcast. The ride ended with the entire team completing the journey.

The total fundraising was then announced that over £22,000, which this was increased at Quarterly Communications the following day when the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes made a donation to the Cheshire Freemasons Charity of a further £1,000.

A well-planned cooperative effort, ably supported by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), has enabled a significant £60,000 donation to be made to Thames Hospice, on behalf of the Freemasons of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire

This great example of fraternal cooperation resulted in a significant grant to support the construction of its new hospice in Bray near Maidenhead. 

After several weeks of planning, the Provincial Grand Masters of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, Anthony Howlett-Bolton and John Clark respectively, together with representatives of their Provincial Charities, met up with Debbie Raven, CEO of Thames Hospice, to formally present their combined donation in front of the site of the new hospice, which was from the Berkshire Masonic Charity, the Buckinghamshire Masonic Centenary Fund and the MCF.

Serving both Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, Thames Hospice opened in 1987 but is now no longer able to keep up with the increasing number of people who need their care and services. As well as the increase in numbers, the charity is dealing with more complex and challenging medical conditions and, as a result, the decision was taken to build a larger facility. In 2017, planning permission was given to construct a new state of the art facility on land donated to the charity near Bray Lake. Inpatient rooms will increase from 17 to 28 and there will be more dedicated space to treat outpatients as well as to provide therapeutic and other activities.

This new Thames Hospice will open in 2020, with the £60,000 donation helping towards the building of two dedicated rooms in the £22 million facility. These rooms will be quiet areas for reflection and remembering loved ones as well as offering help and advice to families.

After the presentation ceremony, Debbie Raven gave an outline of how Thames Hospice is developing and some of its future plans. Once the new building is complete, there will be a permanent reminder of the contributions that the Freemasons of the two Provinces have made.

Debbie commented: ‘I cannot thank the Freemasons enough for their generous support towards our new Hospice. The donation comes on top of several others from their charitable funds and the incredible support they have given over many years. It will make a significant difference to our patients and their families.'

Together with Debbie, both Provincial Grand Masters acknowledged the cooperation and support given to this collaborative donation by the MCF and the continuing work they do in supporting the Hospice movement in England and Wales.

Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire, said: ‘Working together with our fellow Freemasons in Buckinghamshire and the MCF has allowed us to make a significant contribution to Thames Hospice to help them in the wonderful work they are doing to help families across our counties.’

John Clark, Provincial Grand Master of Buckinghamshire, commented: ‘The Freemasons of Buckinghamshire are delighted to be part of this joint initiative supporting the essential work performed by Thames Hospice. We look forward to establishing a long and fruitful relationship with them.’

In honour of all English Freemasons awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross (VC), the United Grand Lodge of England’s (UGLE) Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, unveiled a unique Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone at Freemasons’ Hall on 27th June 2019

The Remembrance Stone was commissioned in 2016 by Granville Angell to commemorate all English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross. The VC is the highest award for gallantry that can be conferred on a member of the British Armed Forces and since its introduction in 1856, more than 200 Freemasons have been awarded the Victoria Cross – making up an astonishing 14% of all recipients.

The Remembrance Stone was carved by Emily Draper, who was Worcester Cathedral’s first female Stonemason apprentice, having been sponsored by local Freemasons. During the preparation stage of the stone, Emily also found out that her Great Uncle was a Freemason VC recipient.

The event was opened by Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive and Grand Secretary, followed by readings from Robert Vaughan, Provincial Grand Master of Worcestershire (My Boy Jack by Rudyard Kipling) and Brigadier Peter Sharpe, President of the Circuit of Service Lodges (The Soldier by Rupert Chawner Brooke).

Over 130 guests were in attendance including serving military personnel, a group of Chelsea Pensioners and Sea Cadets, as well as Sergeant Johnson Beharry, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving the lives of his unit – Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment – while serving in Iraq in 2004. Johnson is also a Freemason and a member of Queensman Lodge No. 2694 in London.

Music was provided by Jon Yates from the Royal Marines Association Concert Band, who performed the ‘Last Post’, a minute’s silence and the ‘Reveille’.

This was proceeded by the grand Unveiling and Dedication of the Remembrance Stone by The Duke of Kent, as a fitting tribute to the service and sacrifice of those Freemasons awarded the VC. The Duke of Kent also presented Emily with a stone carving toolset to aid her future projects.

The event was concluded with a speech by Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, Past Grand Secretary of UGLE and Past President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund.

Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive and Grand Secretary, said: “It’s been a huge honour to mark the dedication of this wonderful Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone and another significant milestone in our longstanding history.

“It is even more remarkable in the context that 14% of all recipients of the Victoria Cross have been Freemasons and I can think of no more fitting home than for it to be placed here at Freemasons’ Hall – a memorial to the thousands of English Freemasons who lost their lives during the Great War.”

Read Dr David Staples' speech here

Read the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent's, speech here

Read Willie Shackell's speech here

Published in UGLE

Provinces across the country have helped raise in excess of £55,000 for children’s charity Lifelites by taking part in ‘Lift for Lifelites returns’ – a 3,000 mile road trip aimed at raising the charity’s profile, as well as the vital funds it needs to carry out its work

This is the second time the charity have staged this wacky fundraiser which sees its Chief Executive, Simone Enefer-Doy, travel to a landmark in every Province in England, Wales and some of the Crown Dependencies in just 15 days. To reach each of the 48 photoshoots, Simone asked Freemasons in every Province to give her a lift in a weird and wonderful variety of transport, and they didn’t disappoint.

Among her 80 lifts were a genuine Thai Tuk Tuk, a classic Rolls-Royce, a paddle steamer, a wartime motorcycle sidecar, a Lamborghini, no less than three steam trains and an electric tram, to name but a few. Famous sites visited on the trip included the beautiful Bleinheim Palace, the Heights of Abraham, Lake Windermere and the National Space Centre.

Simone said: ‘It was a real whistle stop tour and I’ve been blown away by the incredible generosity of Freemasons across the country; this event wouldn’t have been possible without them. After the success of last year, I couldn’t wait to see what everyone had come up with.

'It was wonderful to meet so many loyal supporters as well as lots of new friends along the way, and great to have the opportunity tell them more about Lifelites and other ways they could help us with our work for local children.’

The challenge has raised over £55,000 to date which will go towards the charity’s work donating and maintaining assistive technology for life-limited and disabled children in children’s hospices across the British Isles.

Simone explained: ‘This technology can be life-changing for these children. It helps them escape the confines of their conditions and do things they never thought possible, even things that we take for granted like playing a game with their brothers and sisters or telling their parents that they love them. We simply couldn’t do what we do without money raised from our supporters and we are very grateful.’

You can read about all the organisations who were involved in the challenge on the Lifelites website here.

If you’d like to hear more about the challenge, Simone or one of the Lifelites team can come to a Provincial meeting to give a presentation and talk about what the charity does and how else you can help Lifelites help children in your area. To arrange a date, please contact Samuel Davies by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in Lifelites

A donation of £75,000 from Lincolnshire Freemasons has given a welcome early boost to a relief fund set up in readiness for the rebuilding of homes in and around Wainfleet after the floods

And in a surprise presentation to Steve Hallberg, Provincial Grand Master of Lincolnshire’s Mark Master Masons, the Mark Masons of Cumberland and Westmorland added a further £2,000 to the pot, taking the donation to £77,000.

The fund has been set up by the Lincolnshire Community Foundation, which is bringing together fundraising efforts behind the long-term recovery plan which will swing into action once the floodwaters have receded.

Already there have been about 500 people from a number of agencies working around the clock to provide an emergency response to the incident, which has forced the evacuation of almost 300 homes.

But it’s the recovery phase that will take time, and that’s where the Freemasons’ donation will be directed. Provincial Grand Master Dave Wheeler said: ‘To see anyone driven from their home by flooding is heartbreaking, especially when it’s in your own community.

‘The emergency response to the incident has been extremely effective through the days after the torrential rainfall followed by the breach of the banks of the River Steeping, but that is only part of the story. The recovery phase will be long, and will take considerable effort.

‘I’m pleased that we have been able to move so quickly in making this donation of £75,000. It underlines that Lincolnshire Freemasons are determined to help put the heart back into this part of Lincolnshire, and we have every confidence that the Lincolnshire Community Foundation will make sure the money is used effectively in making that happen.’

The donation is made up of three Masonic grants of £25,000 each, from The Province of Lincolnshire, the Mark Benevolent Fund, and the Masonic Charitable Foundation. The latter two are national charities subscribed to by Freemasons all over the country, including those in Lincolnshire.

James Murphy, Joint CEO of the Lincolnshire Community Foundation, said: ‘There are lots of people for whom properties in Wainfleet are their "forever home". We shall be doing what we can to return things to normal for this community. It’s when something like this happens that you find out how good a community is, and Wainfleet’s is particularly strong.

‘The Lincolnshire Community Foundation is working in partnership with the Recovery Coordinating Group to raise funds and support Wainfleet and the surrounding area. Money donated will help to relieve hardship, complete repairs, make good loss or damage, help to prevent the flooding happening again, and to improve the response in the event that it ever does. 100% of donations will be spent in and around Wainfleet.’

To donate online, please go to the Total Giving page at this link.

For over 30 years, Warwickshire Freemasons have been making annual donations in support of non-masonic charities who provide health and support to some of the most vulnerable adults and children in Warwickshire

In 2019, the Provincial Grand Master David Macey approved donations to 138 charities totalling £148,500. David met with 29 of these charities at the Tally Ho Conference and Banqueting Centre in Birmingham to personally present them with their cheques.

The High Sheriff of Warwickshire, Clare Sawdon, thanked the Provincial Grand Master and all the Freemasons of Warwickshire for their tremendous generosity which enables local charities to support the most vulnerable people in their local communities.

The donations were split across a number of categories to ensure that they make a difference across a wide range of organisations needing support. The largest being hospitals, hospices and rescue services with £5,000 each going to Acorns Children’s Hospice, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Myton Hospice and both of the region’s Air Ambulances.

Community and Education projects received a total of £25,500, going to charities ranging from specialist education to domestic violence and crisis centres.

Read the full list of recipients here.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019 15:31

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2019

Quarterly Communication

12 June 2019 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren we have a number of firsts today. It is June and, therefore, the first meeting of Grand Lodge since the investiture of the new team of Acting Grand Officers. Some old hands, some new, including, of course, the Grand Director of Ceremonies. We wish them all well and hope they enjoy their term of office how ever long that may be.

Another first is the luncheon arrangements. This is not the place to go into the whys and wherefores of the action that the Grand Secretary has taken. Many of you will be aware of the reasoning. What I will say is that the Grand Secretary deserves our support and, whilst I know how reluctant you all are ever to comment on such issues, I am sure that he would welcome constructive comments.

Changing the subject: I was in Stockholm three weekends ago at the Installation of the new Grand Master of the Swedish Order of Freemasons. In his address the new Grand Master laid out his vision for the future which included ensuring that all new candidates who wished to join their Order were properly interviewed and briefed prior to their initiation so that they knew what was expected of them as Freemasons and what they, as Freemasons, should and should not expect from their membership. This struck a slight chord with me, Brethren. Are we, perhaps, ahead of the game with Pathway which is now being so widely used within our Constitution?

I am quite certain that Pathway is a 'game changer' for many of our Lodges and I am so pleased that so many of you have embraced it, as it makes attracting new Brethren much more effective and we are far more likely to effectively engage our new members if they have been introduced to Freemasonry in this way.

I have also been delighted to have seen the use of Solomon in a number of Lodges not least on my visit to Cyprus in April. Many of the excerpts are ideal for filling in idle moments in Lodge, when there is a natural gap in proceedings, without extending the overall time of the meeting.

I have said before, but it bears repeating. Time is a precious commodity in most people’s lives and becomes more so as time goes on. The time that we meet and the time we spend in Lodge are very relevant. Personally it might suit me very well to meet at 5 o’clock or even earlier, spend two hours in the meeting and then be finished by 9 to 9.30, but that would be a pretty selfish attitude when it comes to the younger brethren and in the case of most Lodges, a sure way of reducing its popularity for new members.

Brethren, let’s all be flexible and listen to each others’ requirements. If suitable, the meeting times can be varied from meeting to meeting as many Lodges already do, and we should not be afraid to consecrate new lodges that meet the needs of those we hope to attract rather than blindly supporting lodges that don’t.  Every Lodge has a natural life span. 

Brethren that is enough lecturing for one day. The gap between now and our meeting in September has the natural summer break from which I am sure we will all emerge with renewed vigour.

Published in Speeches
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