Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
9 November 2016
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, I am very pleased to see so many of you here both from our Districts overseas and from our Provinces, including sixty companions from Cambridgeshire. Since our last meeting in April the Most Excellent First Grand Principal has been pleased to appoint Comp Willie Shackell as Grand Scribe Ezra and we wish him well. He was, of course, formally invested as Grand Secretary at the June Quarterly Communication.
This meeting, companions, always falls near to 11th November, Armistice Day, and as you are well aware this marvellous building is a peace memorial to all those who gave their lives for us during the First World War. It is worth, therefore, drawing your attention to two events taking place next year.
The first is on 18th April 2017 at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, when the newly constructed Masonic Memorial Garden in memory of all those masons who gave their lives during conflict in the service of our country will be opened. You are all invited.
The second is the unveiling of the Victoria Cross Memorial by the Grand Master on 25th April 2017. It will be placed on the pavement in front of the Tower Entrance of this building and will take the form of a number of paving stones with the names of the 63 Victoria Cross holders who were awarded the Victoria Cross in World War I and who were members of UGLE. Of these, 17 were also companions in the Royal Arch.
Companions, this seems to be an appropriate time to say a few words about Comp Denis Beckett who was one of the companions we stood in memory of earlier in the meeting. Comp Beckett was a very remarkable man and I had the good fortune to know him well. Indeed he was President of the Committee of General Purposes when I joined it in 1987. He was a Craft mason for 71 years and a Royal Arch mason for 59 years. He was initiated immediately after World War 2 in which he served with such distinction. He was awarded the DSO for his extraordinary courage during the battle of Monte Cassino. There were those who felt a VC would have been more appropriate.
Companions, we were privileged to have him as a member and particularly so that he presided over the Committee of General Purposes for 7 years.
Companions, whilst it is clearly important to remember the past, we must also look to the future. I am therefore very pleased that the successor to the Membership Focus Group, the Improvement Delivery Group, is composed of both Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents, with our Third Grand Principal, Gareth Jones, as its Deputy Chairman. It will be designing and delivering the future direction of both the Craft and Royal Arch.
Companions, you may have seen that, after my address at Quarterly Communications in June, I have been accused in the national media of suggesting that masons are all grumpy and boring – a misrepresentation, companions. At least I consider it to be a misrepresentation, but, if any of you think otherwise, I apologise. I said that if an amusing incident occurs at one of our meetings, it should not be frowned upon as had sometimes been the case in the past. It is not a capital offence to smile during meetings. Whilst I was not suggesting we should turn our meetings into a pantomime, there is no harm in us being seen to enjoy ourselves.
I believe this to be particularly so in the Royal Arch, as our Exaltation Ceremony is one of the finest and, in my experience, candidates derive great enjoyment from it. I think this is particularly so when the new format of the ritual is used which involves more of the companions and has the benefit of changing the voice that the candidate hears which I always feel refreshes his interest.
Finally, since Supreme Grand Chapter arranged the refurbishment of our magnificent organ, we have been treated to a number of superb concerts in this temple and I congratulate the Organ Committee on its achievements to date. I am very keen to draw your attention to the next concert at 5.00 pm, on 14th December, after the Quarterly Communication, to be given by the international concert artist, Jane Parker-Smith. The concerts are free, companions, and, so far, they have been wonderfully entertaining, and I am quite certain that this will be no exception.
Companions, I have no doubt that after our closing, you will enjoy listening to a team from the Royal College of Surgeons led by Professor Neil Mortensen, RCS Research Board Chairman at Oxford University, who will enlighten us on what has been achieved through your most generous support.
Thank you, companions.
When considering a major celebration, we often focus on the nationwide events. Keith Gilbert, Coordinator of Tercentenary Planning, explains why local activities can mean so much more
The major celebrations for Her Majesty The Queen’s recent 90th birthday are very important for national and individual pride – from the 900 horses and 1,500 participants in the private grounds of Windsor Castle through to the Service of Thanksgiving in St Paul’s Cathedral and the 10,000 attending the Patron’s Lunch in The Mall. But it is at the street parties and the gatherings in local halls and civic centres where the many who have been unable to attend the big central events can celebrate our Sovereign’s wonderful reign, and which individuals will remember in the years to come.
In a similar vein, our Tercentenary celebrations are being held at various levels. Nationally, the Tercentenary will be marked at a meeting to be held on 31 October 2017 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, which will be followed by a banquet at Battersea Evolution; arrangements are progressing well. More than 190 Grand Masters from around the world have been invited as our guests, and although many would wish to bring several other brethren from their Constitutions to accompany them at those events, it has been explained that there is great demand for the available places.
Instead, those other brethren, along with wives and partners, are being invited to a parallel, ticketed event in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, where proceedings at the Royal Albert Hall will be streamed live. This facility will also be offered to the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges.
On 30 September 2017, UGLE will also hold a Grand Ball in Freemasons’ Hall. The Temple will be transformed with an illuminated dance floor, while surrounding rooms will host bars and buffet areas, with food and drinks included in the one price.
Other events in 2017 include the opening of the Freemasons’ Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on 18 April; the unveiling of the Victoria Cross Paving Stones at Freemasons’ Hall on 25 April; the classic vehicle rallies across the country between May and July; and a series of organ concerts.
The global gala
Around the Provinces, Districts and in London, the number of events has now exceeded 100. In India there will be a performance of masonic plays, with a concert and the production of a documentary by the District of Madras, as well as the holding of an Asia Oceanic Conference; there will be a major celebration in East Africa; a meeting of Freemasons in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands; an evening of masonic music in Johannesburg; celebrations in Ghana; and in Rotorua, New Zealand, there will be a meeting of all Grand Lodges in the region. These are but a few of the events in our Districts.
All Provinces have planned at least one event to celebrate the Tercentenary, with some choosing to hold several. Certain activities, such as the refurbishment of part of Bradgate Park near Leicester, supported by Leicestershire and Rutland, will have a lasting legacy. Musical concerts and choir festivals with Freemasons, friends and the community are planned in Truro, Worcester, Kendal, Middlesbrough and Hull.
Celebratory dinners and balls are to be held in Blackpool, Gorleston, Ipswich, Bushey, Exeter, Bury St Edmunds and Great Yarmouth, as well as on HMS Drake in Portsmouth and at Guildhall in London (to name but a few). Services of Thanksgiving were referred to in the spring edition of Freemasonry Today and there will also be family and fun days at Marwell Zoo, the Royal Masonic School for Girls in Rickmansworth, Windsor racecourse, Weston Park, in Wokingham and in Nottingham city centre, and parades will take place in Guernsey and Jersey. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but rather to give a flavour of the celebrations.
As with the Queen’s birthday celebrations, however, it is at the local events organised by brethren in their own lodges where many of us will celebrate the creation, 300 years ago, of the first Grand Lodge in the world.
In New Zealand, United Manawatu Lodge, No. 1721, has purchased an adjacent building, the site of the first Baptist church in Palmerston North, to save it from being turned into offices. Built in 1928, the current church structure is one of the few historical buildings left in the city centre and, once refurbished, it will be reopened as a community theatre. Through this project, the lodge is connecting itself and the longevity of English Freemasonry with the preservation of an early historic building.
Also in New Zealand, Prince of Wales Lodge, No. 1338, has been working on a Roll of Honour comprising all the members who have served their country in times of war. More than 150 brethren, who served in many major and minor conflicts, will be honoured with their names recorded and a recognition of the medals awarded, including the Victoria Cross.
A suitable board on which to display the Roll of Honour is in preparation and a formal dedication with national and local dignitaries will be held as close as is possible to ANZAC Day – Tuesday, 25 April in 2017. The theme of the ceremony will be the Tercentenary of Grand Lodge and the service of the members of Prince of Wales Lodge over many years.
Meanwhile, Lodge of Loyalty, No. 358, will be celebrating its bicentenary in 2017. It has chosen to link its own celebrations to the Tercentenary, widening the invitations to produce an event with even greater impact.
Other plans include the enactment of a 1717 ceremony; an old-time musical; Burns celebrations on a greater-than-usual scale; a grand banquet involving members of the Time Immemorial lodges; a celebration of the music of Daniel Purcell, who died in 1717; and a White Table event involving four lodges to be held on 24 June 2017.
The Tercentenary gives us all a chance to reflect on Freemasonry today. It is an opportunity for our lodges to celebrate and consider their position as we look forward to the next 100 years. Likewise, it gives individuals a chance to reflect upon their own part in the development of the Craft, and how they might enjoy their Freemasonry with more of their friends who are yet to see the fellowship we have.
Bikers rally to masonic memorial gardens
An estimated 10,000 motorcyclists gathered during the annual Ride to the Wall event at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire in October, in memory of members of the Armed Services killed in action since the end of World War II.
Home to ‘The Wall’ – the 43-metre Armed Forces Memorial, constructed from Portland limestone – the Arboretum also encompasses the Freemasons Memorial Garden of Remembrance. Last year more than 60 masons from around the UK, mainly members of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association, gathered there to pay their respects to fallen comrades, friends and relations.
Gresham goes to Guildhall
Pete Digby of Gresham Lodge, No. 7651, London, has completed a nine-day, 150-mile run from the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to Guildhall Yard in the City of London in support of the Afghanistan Trust.
Pete and his teammates Paul Milson and John Vergopolis arrived to cheers from City of London Police Commissioner Adrian Leppard, Sheriff Sir Paul Judge, Colonel Commandant of the Parachute Regiment Lieutenant General Jacko Page, half a dozen Chelsea Pensioners and other well-wishers.
To make the challenge even more gruelling, there was another ‘team member’ – a 250kg oven called Agatha, which Pete pulled behind him throughout the run.
Pete is a serving officer in the City of London Police, an ex-Parachute Regiment soldier and no stranger to a challenge, having run London Marathons carrying a fridge and a washing machine.
Thousands of bikers pay their respects to fallen members of the armed services at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The event was held on the eve of the 11th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan and W Bro David Murphy laid a wreath on behalf of the Brethren of Pegasus Forces Lodge No. 9393, the Parachute Regimental Association, and the British Airborne Forces Club.
Called Ride to the Wall, the event included many bikers with messages such as 'lest we forget' on their leather jackets. Attendees came from across Europe, either as individuals or in groups and chapters from particular organisations.
The riders paid tribute to the war dead in a service of remembrance at the walls of the Armed Forces Memorial in Alrewas, which is engraved with the names of more than 16,000 servicemen and women killed on duty or by terrorist action since the end of the Second World War. They gathered at one of the eight designated start points around the country to ride to the Arboretum, including Drayton Manor.
Organisers estimated about 15,000 people attended and funds raised at the ride will go to the upkeep of the arboretum. £150,000 has been raised since the first ride in 2008.