12 September 2018
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, it is a pleasure to see you all back after the long, hot summer, and I would like to particularly welcome again those younger members of our Universities Scheme and, indeed, anyone else making their first visit to Quarterly Communications this September.
Brethren, this year we will see perhaps the greatest change in senior leadership within the Craft that there has ever been - and I'm not of course referring to the three of us! No fewer than 12 Provincial Grand Masters and seven District Grand Masters will have retired and their successors Installed by the end of this year. With each Installation ride the hopes of not just the members of that particular Province or District but, to a certain extent, the success and longevity of the Craft itself. More than ever before we expect so much from our leaders. We hold them accountable for the guardianship of a heritage stretching back centuries, and also for the future of the Craft, its growth and development and, dare I say, the innovation and change needed to allow it to flourish and grow.
If we are to attract and engage our membership, and those who might flourish as members, we need to be not only responsive to the society in which we live, but also mould and form the perceptions of that society. It is quite right and proper that I pay tribute and thank those who, often for a decade or more, steward and safeguard the Ideals of the Craft for future generations.
Historically we have been a melting pot for ideas, a Brotherhood where concepts at the forefront of science and social change could be debated. We have been fortunate to count amongst our members some of the greatest minds of any age, Alexander Fleming and Edward Jenner; Scott of the Antarctic and Ernest Shackleton; Pope, Trollope, Burns, Kipling, and, like Sir Winston Churchill, those who truly valued service above the external advantages of rank and fortune.
Then, as now, there was not a ‘Right’ way of thinking, but a respect for all ways of thinking - some orthodox, some challenging. If we, as an organisation have a ‘unique selling point’ ghastly expression, I know, we respect each other, irrespective of our beliefs.
I know that some of our members were uncomfortable with the direction the Law has taken on issues such as gender fluidity and the obligation that puts upon us as individuals who pay due obedience to the laws of any State which may for a time become our place of residence.
I know from the debates that have been held up and down the country that there are similarly a large number of you who feel that our response to recent changes in the Law is generous, decent and open minded and you applaud it.
Throughout our history our members have held vastly different views on many different subjects. It is one of our great strengths to encompass this breadth of views. Unlike the echo chambers of social media, we meet people who are different to us, who think differently, but that does not set us apart, or put us at variance; it binds us together as it did for those many freemasons who have gone before us.
Brethren, this is one of the many things that, in my view, we have to offer society, and that so many outside the Craft could learn and prosper from, and it is just one of the many reasons I am proud to be Pro Grand Master.
13 June 2018
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, I really believe that during the early part of this year we have built on the euphoria of our Tercentenary year.
In March, 149 brethren were invested with their special Tercentenary ranks and, of course, in April, we had the usual Annual Investiture presided over by the Grand Master. I felt both meetings had a wonderful atmosphere.
It was hoped that the DVD of the Royal Albert Hall event would be circulated with the next edition of Freemasonry Today, however the Board have come to the conclusion, I think quite rightly, that the chances of a significant number of the DVDs being damaged in transit was too great a risk and it is therefore the intention to distribute them to active members through individual masonic halls. I am sure that this is something that we will all be proud to watch time and time again, but, perhaps, not boring our friends and families too much along the way.
Brethren, I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked why Freemasonry is relevant in today’s society. I think it would be right to turn this round and ask how today’s society cannot fail to be improved by Freemasonry?
I have said in the past that I believe that the Charge after Initiation explains very clearly what is expected of a Freemason throughout his life; at home, at work, in lodge and in the community at large. If the world lived their lives in accordance with that Charge, how much better a place it would be?
Over and above this, Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability – qualities so often missing in the lives of so many. We all know when our lodges meet. We all know that Grand Lodge meets on set dates every year. We all know the format that our meetings will take, and there is perhaps solace to be drawn from that comfortable regularity of the masonic year. We are all confident that those needed at our meetings will turn up, usually on time, unless there is a very good reason. We all know that our Lodge Secretaries will produce the minutes and that the Treasurer will have prepared the accounts and had them audited for the appropriate meeting. Of course, there can be slip ups, but these are rare and are almost always quickly rectified.
Brethren, surely in a world where there is so much disharmony and a general lack of agreement, an organisation that can provide so much unanimity and concord should be welcomed with open arms.
Brethren, if I may use a cricket analogy where the MCC is considered to be the Custodian of the Laws of the game, UGLE in conjunction with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland are looked on by the majority of the masonic world in rather the same light. It is important that we live up to that responsibility in all aspects of our behaviour, from the individual mason up to the Grand Lodge.
There is an annual meeting between the three ‘Home Grand Lodges’ and I have recently returned from this year’s meeting in Dublin. We are agreed that Freemasonry is going through a good phase at the moment, but we are equally agreed that there is no room for complacency. It is of great importance that we, as individuals, set an example of behaviour in our lives and in our lodges. Lodges must give a good account of themselves in their communities, which should be backed up by the Provinces and Districts in a wider context. It is Grand Lodge’s duty to monitor all this and, at the same time, ensure that we exemplify all that is good in Freemasonry to the world at large.
Brethren, if we are all successful in this, the world will be a better place, and a better place for the positive influence we bring to it. Long may that continue.
Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter
26 April 2018
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, this meeting is always a very happy occasion and I do congratulate all those of you whom I have invested today. It both recognises your past endeavours but is also a clear indicator that we expect more from you in the future. Grand Rank in the Royal Arch is both a senior, and in many cases, a public position within the organisation, and I would hope that you all feel willing to communicate the pride you now feel to those you meet, and to act as ambassadors for the Royal Arch not only to those within your lodges and chapters, but also to the general public at large. However, I do appreciate that the general public would not understand the relevance of the Royal Arch, but it clearly demonstrates your seniority within Freemasonry as a whole.
I have heard it said that the Royal Arch might have been somewhat eclipsed by the Tercentenary celebrations this year in the Craft, but far from it. The Royal Arch completes the craft degrees and increased interest and membership for the Craft can only be to the good for our Order. A new injection of pride and confidence in Freemasonry – in what we do, and in our relevance to the wider community from which we herald can only result in a strong, confident and successful future.
We must be careful to maximise the momentum, energy and enthusiasm that surrounds Freemasonry at the moment and ensure that it is neither wasted nor neglected. We must make the effort, and spare the time to explain who we are and what we do, and also ask ourselves why some of those brethren in our lodges have not taken that extra step to become our companions. We must listen to, and think hard on the answers they give. I believe we are winning. If we turn the clock back 10 years we were experiencing a 30% conversion rate from Craft to Royal Arch, now there are very few Provinces or Districts where the ratio is under 40% and some are considerably higher.
May I take this opportunity to bid a fond farewell to Excellent Companion Willie Shackell, Grand Scribe Ezra, who has served in a number of senior appointments over the last 11 years. We all wish him well in his fourth, and what I am sure he hopes will be his final retirement.
Companions, events like this do not just happen and I would like, on your behalf, to congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for once again arranging such an impressive ceremony and the Grand Scribe Ezra and his team for ensuring all the other arrangements have gone so smoothly.
Companions, I look forward to hearing of, and reading about your exploits over the summer, and also to welcoming you back in the autumn.
Craft Annual Investiture
25 April 2018
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG
Brethren, this meeting is always a very happy occasion and I do congratulate all those whom I have invested today. It is both a reward for past endeavours but also a clear indicator that we expect more from you in the future. An award of Grand Rank signifies UGLE’s pride in you, and recognises your efforts on our behalf. It denotes a senior, and in most cases, a public position within our brotherhood, and I would hope that you all feel willing to communicate the pride you now feel to those you meet, to those who might not understand us, and to those who know little of us.
Your Rulers, I know, have been very busy already this year promoting Freemasonry across the world and installing new Provincial and District Grand Masters. I welcome those recently appointed and am greatly heartened by this youthful enthusiasm, for this brethren is where our future lies. I welcome our new Grand Secretary – David Staples whilst at the same time bidding farewell to Willie Shackell who has served in a number of senior appointments for the last 11 years. We wish him well in retirement.
Many of those I have invested today will go on to be leaders in the Craft and I believe it is a very exciting time for Freemasonry in general. For 300 years men from all different backgrounds, faiths, ages and races have met as equals to make themselves ‘better men’. Such sentiments have never been more relevant, or more needed, than they are today. Be sure that we do not hide that light as we look forward to our next 300 years.
Brethren, events like this do not just happen and I would like, on your behalf, to congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for once again arranging such an impressive ceremony and the Grand Secretary and his team for ensuring all the other arrangements have gone so smoothly.
Enjoy the rest of our celebrations.
14 March 2018
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, it is always a pleasure to see this magnificent temple as full as it is today, although it is hardly surprising bearing in mind the special nature of today’s meeting. Our Provinces and Districts, as well as those involved here at the centre, have taken a great deal of trouble in identifying those brethren most deserving of the honour that they have received today. I hope it has been a very special day for them and I really do congratulate and thank them. As always brethren, whilst congratulations are very much in order for all that you have done, particularly during the Tercentenary year, it also raises great expectations for your endeavours in the future.
We also have the Soane Ark back with us today. As those of you who were at the Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, (or those of you who read Freemasonry Today) will know, the original of this beautiful mahogany piece, the “Ark of the Masonic Covenant”, was made by Bro Sir John Soane in 1813. It was dedicated at the great celebration marking the Union of the Ancient and Modern Grand Lodges in 1813 and the Articles of Union were deposited inside.
It was tragically destroyed by fire in 1883, but UGLE commissioned an exact replica for our Tercentenary, which was dedicated at the Royal Albert Hall in October. Then, as in 1813, we placed a facsimile of the Articles of Union inside it, as well as the “Three Great Lights”.
It was on public display at the Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the months after the Royal Albert Hall celebration, but now it has returned to its intended place in Grand Lodge. Triangular in form, it has at each corner a column of the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian order representing Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, the three great pillars on which our lodges, including this Grand Lodge, are said to stand.
I am sure that it will grace our Grand Lodge meetings for centuries to come.
We have become only too well aware of the term 'fake news' in recent times and we began this year with our own encounter with 'fake news'. Many of you will have seen the coverage generated by the outgoing Chairman of the Police Federation and the Guardian newspaper and I trust you will have also seen our responses. Let me assure you that UGLE will always stand up for its members, their integrity and their care for the communities from which they are drawn. It is my firm belief that policemen are better policemen for their membership of our proud organisation. However, it is not just policemen who can benefit from membership – lawyers, public servants and indeed all men benefit from the teaching our ceremonies have to offer, and the time has come for the organisation to stand up and make these points loudly and clearly. Enough, brethren is enough.
I have said it before and I say again I strongly believe that the future is bright for Freemasonry. We created a bow wave of optimism last year which produced a surge of interest in the Craft. We must now ensure that we maintain the momentum created and build on that legacy, and we will.
This year is very much a year of change, particular of key personalities both here and in the Provinces and Districts. On your behalf I welcome Geoffrey Dearing to his first Quarterly Communication as President of the Board of General Purposes and, in April, David Staples, our CEO will become our new youthful and dynamic Grand Secretary, bringing together all the activities here in Freemasons’ Hall. Already this year we have installed two new PGMs as well as new DGMs in New Zealand South Island and SA Western Division. Both John Clark from Buckinghamshire and Anthony Howlett-Bolton from Berkshire are able to be present and I welcome them to their first Quarterly Communication as Provincial Grand Masters. We now start a steady stream of installations: nine Provincial Grand Masters and ten District Grand Masters, plus many Grand Superintendents in the Royal Arch. This will keep the Rulers in both the Craft and Royal Arch busy this year as we catch up on the backlog.
Although we have plenty of ceremonial work to do, I am also keen that we continue to visit Provinces and Districts in a less formal way. We are here to provide help and support and we must show it.
This year, as you know, is the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War – 'The Great War'. I have no doubt that many of you will be commemorating this, as appropriate in your area. This building was built to commemorate those masons who lost their lives in that war. It was called the Masonic Peace Memorial Building, but changed its name at the outbreak of the Second World War to Freemasons’ Hall. We shall commemorate the end of the First World War on 10th November 2018 under the auspices of Victoria Rifles Lodge and I am sure it will be an impressive occasion.
Brethren, I hope that today has been a memorable event for those I have invested. Many congratulations, once again, and remember there is no resting on your laurels.
13 December 2017
Announcement regarding the President of the Board of General Purposes
I now have to announce that, at his request, the President of the Board of General Purposes will retire at the end of December this year.
It is with great regret that I have accepted this, and the Grand Master is pleased to appoint Geoffrey Dearing, PGM of East Kent, as President in his place.
Anthony has been President of the Board for the last 13 years and as President of the Committee of General Purposes for three years before that.
He was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for the purpose. At our Quarterly Communication meetings, he always manages to ensure that the Board’s Report is succinct, yet comprehensive, and his presentations cover all the salient points.
Anthony, we will miss your charm, easy manner of address and your wise counsel. On behalf of the Craft we owe you our most sincere and grateful thanks. Enjoy your retirement.
Pro Grand Master
13 December 2017
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Well Brethren, what a year, and if you are anything like me you are looking forward to putting up your feet over the Festive Season, and actually reconnecting with your family. Having said that it has been an enormous privilege to have been Pro GM during the Tercentenary year and I am sure that the Deputy and Assistant GMs will echo that sentiment in respect of their important contributions.
I do not propose to give you a résumé of the whole year. That would be impossible and you would never get to lunch. At the outset Provinces and Districts were asked to concentrate on coming up with events in their own jurisdiction which their Brethren could join in and enjoy. Dare I say, Brethren, they all did this in spades and I include our Groups of Lodges in that. Quite rightly there was often a significant charitable aspect to these events. I should add here that this was greatly enhanced by the imaginative input from the MCF with their multitude of grants across the Provinces. The Rulers and Past Rulers have endeavoured to meet your requests and you, Brethren, wherever we have been, have looked after us with incredible kindness and generosity, thank you so much.
Since our last Communication, we have had the Grand Ball and our major celebratory event at The Royal Albert Hall, at the end of October.
The events of the 29th to 31st October were a resounding success and I must congratulate and single out Keith Gilbert and his team for the superb administrative arrangements throughout. Diane Clements and the Museum staff who managed to collect, catalogue and display the many gifts brought by the 133 Grand Masters from around the world amazingly quickly, I think in under one hour! These are now all displayed in the Museum. And, finally, to James Long and his team who took us all by surprise at the Royal Albert Hall with an amazing and uplifting performance of Masonry across the three Centuries. The whole “London” experience was way beyond, certainly, my expectations and from the comments we have had since, it all simply astounded our hundreds of visitors from overseas. Well done indeed.
Brethren, has there ever been a better time to be a Freemason. I really believe that during the year we have learned so much about how to talk about our Freemasonry with non-members, helped enormously by the Sky Documentary which has opened our eyes and made the general public more receptive. I would love us to have had more editorial control over the end product, but that would, perhaps, have defeated the object. Nonetheless I think we can go forward from here with enormous self belief and pride
We look forward now to 2018, continuing the work of the Improvement Delivery Group and capitalising on the successes of this year, rewarding those who have worked so hard throughout the current year at our March Communications and remembering the fact that it is 100 years since the end of WW1 after which this magnificent building was built as the Masonic Peace Memorial to recognise the sacrifice of over 3,000 English Freemasons who fell in that war.
Brethren, thank you for all your endeavours this year and I wish you a most enjoyable and relaxing Christmas with your families and send you all my good wishes for 2018.
13 December 2017
A presentation by VW Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary
At the Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge held in June 1945, the Grand Secretary read out a message from the Grand Master, MW Bro the Earl of Harewood:
It is my desire to have power to confer on Brethren who have rendered special service to Freemasonry a distinction to be known as The Grand Master’s Order of Service to Masonry, to rank immediately above the Grand Deacons, with the prefix Very Worshipful.
It is my wish that there shall be a limit to be determined from time to time by the Grand Master upon the number of holders of the Order. I propose that the present limit be 12.
The President of the Board of General Purposes at once moved amendments to the Book of Constitutions to give effect to the Grand Master’s wishes.
In the early years recipients were invested along with new Grand Officers, generally at the Annual Investiture, but occasionally when additional Grand Ranks were being conferred by way of celebration.
In December 1960, the then Grand Master, the Earl of Scarbrough, made a statement about the Order, 15 years after its institution, concluding that the Order of Service to Masonry would be more effective and be held still higher in the estimation of the Craft if it ceased to be one of the seventy-two ranks in our Masonic hierarchy of Grand Officers. I believe that Grand Lodge will agree with me that the Order of Service to Masonry should be set apart and that it should be possible to confer it upon any Brother without reference to his existing rank, or having any effect upon it.
The necessary amendments to the Book of Constitutions were duly passed, and in June 1961 two new appointments were made – of Brethren who were already Right Worshipful.
A year later, Lord Scarbrough announced in relation to the Order:
It has been in my mind all along that there are Brethren, not already Grand Officers or even perhaps members of Grand Lodge, whose work has nevertheless been of outstanding value to the Craft.
I have, I believe, found such a Brother, and I shall shortly ask the Grand Director of Ceremonies to introduce him into Grand Lodge.
He is Bro Reginald A. Easton, and he has been Secretary of the Whittington Lodge [in London] for 18 years. Largely by his efforts, the Whittington Lodge has built itself up a peculiar position with regard to Brethren of our own and other Constitutions overseas. The result is that the Whittington Lodge now has a world-wide reputation for its hospitality and the welcome it extends to visitors from abroad.
All this is, I believe, due to Bro Easton, who has, however, resisted all attempts to persuade him to accept other offices and reach the Chair, preferring to remain a Master Mason. Hitherto, he has debarred himself from any honour or preferment in Masonry by this attitude of self-denial, but the recent changes in the status of the Order of Service to Masonry enable me to do honour to one who has, I believe, in the truest sense done good service to Masonry.
Bro Easton was then escorted into Grand Lodge and invested.
Bro Easton remains the only Master Mason to be so honoured, but it can nevertheless be seen that the Order looks to a Brother’s service rather than to his rank. As a result, among the eighty recipients (as of today) there have been Brethren of widely varying seniority, but of whom each has made his own unique contribution to English Freemasonry.
The jewel itself, worn from a dark blue collarette, is of silver-gilt, being a double-circle with a pair of compasses extended on the segment of a circle, and the letters O S M; beneath it is the motto In Solo Deo Salus “In God alone is our safety”.
The limit of 12 members has never been increased and there are 12 jewels only in existence, each of which must be returned on the death of its latest recipient. The jewel allocated to each recipient is recorded in a small notebook, and it is the recent custom to give each recipient a list of the previous holders of the jewel with which he has been invested.
13 December 2017
A speech by VW Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill, Deputy Grand Chancellor
GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, after a two-year break, I propose to jump-start this presentation by harking back to the Act of Union between the Antients’ and the Moderns’ Grand Lodges, Article III of which provided:
There shall be the most perfect unity of obligation, of discipline, of working the Lodges, of making, passing and raising, instructing and clothing Brothers; so that but one pure unsullied system, according to the genuine landmarks, laws and traditions of the Craft, shall be maintained, upheld and practised, throughout the Masonic World, from the day and date of the said union until time shall be no more.
In order to effect this, the Act provided for the setting up of a Lodge of Reconciliation, consisting of nine worthy Brethren from each of the former Grand Lodges, who were charged initially with settling obligations and subsequently with settling the forms of the openings and closings and the ceremonies, of the three Degrees of Craft Masonry.
At a Special Communication of the Grand Lodge at Freemasons’ Hall on Monday 20 June 1816,
The MW Grand Master stated that he had convened this special Grand Lodge that the Lodge of Reconciliation might exhibit and explain to the Brethren the result of their arrangement. That it was not His Royal Highness’s intention that any discussion should this day take place as to those arrangements; but that at the Quarterly Communication on the 5th of next month he should submit them for the opinion and sanction of the Grand Lodge, so that the Brethren might in the interim have an opportunity of giving them due consideration.
The Officers and Members of the Lodge of Reconciliation then opened a lodge in the first, second and third degrees successively and exhibited the ceremonies of initiating, passing and raising a Mason as proposed by them for general adoption and practice in the Craft.
At the June Quarterly Communication just over two weeks later,
The minutes of the Grand Lodge on the 20th of May last, when the ceremonies and practices recommended by the Lodge of Reconciliation were exhibited and explained, were read, and alterations on two points, the third degree, having been resolved upon. The several ceremonies recommended were approved and confirmed.
I have to admit that I am much taken by the opening words of the Report of the Board of General Purposes:
The Board of General Purposes have to report that during the present quarter there has scarcely arisen anything of importance for them to report upon to the Grand Lodge. (Happy days)
JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, like many special Masonic Committees before and after it, the Lodge of Reconciliation went a great deal further than its original brief of settling the form of the obligations and openings and closings. Before the Union, in both Grand Lodges, the actual ceremonies were very brief: in essence the candidate was introduced, took an obligation and had the signs, words and token of the degree conferred upon him. The manner of instructing him in the principles, tenets, history and symbolism of the Craft was by means of catechetical lectures, normally worked at table. The Lodge of Reconciliation greatly extended the simple ceremonies by including material from the catechetical lectures which, sadly, gradually dropped out of use excerpt in the Emulation Lodge of Improvement where sections of them are worked every Friday evening during the Masonic season. I say sadly because the lectures contain a wealth of information which provides answers to many of the questions that brethren regularly raise about our ritual and practices.
The original aim of establishing perfect unanimity of working was never achieved, for the simple reason that Grand Lodge would not allow the revised ritual to be written down or printed in any form. The Lodge of Reconciliation, once its work was agreed, was continued in being to provide weekly demonstrations of the new system, to which lodges were invited to send representatives. You can imagine, brethren, what happened. The only means of transport to London in those days was by foot, horse, carriage or water. Brethren from the North, the West and Wales would travel for days to get to London, see the ceremonies demonstrated perhaps twice and then irritated the heck out of their companions in the coach travelling home muttering under their breaths to try and remember what they had seen and heard! Arriving home they would call together their brethren and demonstrate to them what they thought they had seen in London. This method of promulgation combined with an unwillingness to give up cherished local traditions has resulted in the richness and variety of working under our constitution, which makes visiting all the more interesting for us.
GFR: At the September Quarterly Communication, RW Bro William Williams, the Provincial Grand Master for Dorset addressed the Grand Lodge and stated that he had been informed that at the meeting of the General Committee held on the 21st of August last (at which he was not present) a Brother whom he now saw in the Grand Lodge had there made against him a charge of the most grave and serious nature, and of which charge if he were guilty he declared that he felt himself unworthy of the name of a Mason and that he ought never to be permitted again to enter within the walls of a Lodge, but feeling himself properly innocent of the crime charged against him, he called upon that Brother now to state it, and he implored the Grand Lodge to allow a Special Committee to be immediately appointed for the purpose of enquiring into its truth or falsehood.
W Bro Charles Bonner then rose and stated that he had at the General Committee mentioned his intention of preferring a charge against the Provincial Grand Master for Dorset for violating his obligation as a Master Mason and which charge he was ready to prove before any Committee the Grand Lodge might think proper to appoint; Whereupon after much discussion as to the necessity and propriety of appointing a Special Committee,
It was resolved that a Special Committee consisting of the actual Masters of the 15 senior lodges now present be nominated to investigate such charge to be preferred by Brother Bonner against Brother Williams.
JMH: William Williams was one of the leading members of the small group of Masonic advisers working with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Sussex, to ensure that the Union of the two Grand Lodges succeeded and to manage the necessary changes it brought about. A man of integrity in response to Bonner’s call for an enquiry he “solicited a Special Committee, because being himself a member of the Board of General Purposes he was unwilling that they should investigate the charge lest it might be imagined from his being a member there should exist even the slightest tendency to look partially towards him; he knew there could not be any fair ground for such an opinion, but he was still anxious to avoid any thing that could give even a colour for such a thought”. Those with long memories will remember our having referred to Brother Bonner on a previous occasion when he fomented unnecessary problems within Grand Lodge!
GFR: At a Special meeting in October the Committee reported to Grand Lodge. It gave Bro Williams a clean bill of health, feeling it appropriate not to let the matter go “without subjoining to their report a few observations.” The observations start:
When your Committee assert that not a shadow of proof was adduced in support of one of the most serious charges that was ever preferred by one mason against another and that the proceedings which they had the pain of witnessing exhibited so far as Brother Bonnor was concerned in them nothing short of a disgusting mockery of the forms of justice the Grand Lodge will judge with what mixed feelings of astonishment, regret and indignation your Committee were impressed when they found themselves compelled by a general conviction of the futility of the charge to impute it solely to a base attempt of the part of Brother Bonnor to assail in the tenderist point the fair character of a Brother mason.
They didn’t mince their words in those days – and it would be greedy of me not to leave to my colleague the opportunity to regale you with some more of their remarks.
JMH: Plain speaking it certainly was! The Committee went on to question the sanity of Bonner adding “unfortunately, however, for Brother Bonner his poisoned shafts have recoiled upon himself” adding that “the only effect of his charge has been to manifest in his own conduct clear and abundant proof of the commission of the very crime which he has in vain imputed to another”. They then drew Grand Lodge’s attention to Bonner’s previous behaviour stating that “They should have hoped that Brother Bonner’s recollection of his own prior and recorded delinquencies and a grateful sense of the indulgence of the Grand Lodge in restoring him to the participation of those privileges which he had so justly forfeited by his misconduct would have operated as a salutary check upon the un-masonic feelings the indulgence of which has a second time led to his disgrace …”.
GFR: At the December Quarterly Communication, Bro Bonner was “introduced between two Grand Stewards”, made a long statement disclaiming any intention to injure the character of Bro William Williams, coupled with an apology to the Grand Master and Grand Lodge, and withdrew while the matter was debated. Nevertheless, it was resolved
That the original offence of Brother Bonner remains unanswered, but that in consideration of his having publicly acknowledged his error, and made an ample apology to the MW Grand Master to the Provincial GM for Dorset and to the Brethren at large, the Grand Lodge do not feel inclined to visit his misconduct with the sentence of expulsion; in order however to mark their displeasure and also their solicitude for the dignity and tranquillity of the Craft do deprive him of his insignia as a Grand Officer, and of all rights derived therefrom, allowing him to remain in possession of his masonic privileges.
That the preceding resolution respecting Brother Bonner be communicated to the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland.
JMH: When the Minutes of the December meeting were put for confirmation on 5th March 1817 they were passed with the exception of the sentences passed on Bonner. It was agreed not to report the matter to Ireland and Scotland but his being deprived of his Grand Rank, after a paper from him had been read out, was again put to the vote and “passed in the affirmative by a very large majority”.
GFR: At the Quarterly Communication of 1 March 1916, after the re-election of the Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master announced three special appointments to Grand Rank. One was the representative of another Grand Lodge at the United Grand Lodge of England, but the other two were Brethren at that time interned respectively in Holland and Germany.
The full justification for the latter two appointments was made clear in the Report of the Board of General Purposes. W Bro Commodore Wilfred Henderson, RN, appointed a Past Senior Grand Deacon, had been instrumental in the formation of a Lodge under the Grand East of the Netherlands for naval officers and men interned at Gröningen. W Bro Percy Hull, appointed Past Deputy Grand Organist, had rendered great service to the English Brethren interned in the civilian camp at Rühleben, Spandau.
JMH: Despite its horrors, the First World War has sometimes been characterised as the last “gentleman’s war” because of the way in which it was conducted and the honourable treatment accorded to prisoners of war, be they service personnel or civilians. As we reported on a previous occasion 112 Masonic civilian prisoners of war interned at Ruheleben had sent Christmas greetings to Grand Lodge in 1914. They were suffering privations in 1916 and 1917 due to food rationing in Germany and were sustained by parcels funded by brethren in England and delivered through diplomatic channels and by the Red Cross. As we shall hear in a moment despite those privations they did not forget the bi-centenary celebrations of Grand Lodge in 1917. The Lodge for whose formation Commodore Henderson was honoured was the Gastvrijheid Lodge consecrated in May 1915 by the Grand East of the Netherlands amongst members of the Royal Naval Division interned at Groningen. It was to be joined in 1918 by a second Lodge, the Willem van Oranje Lodge, again consecrated amongst interned British service personnel by the Grand East of the Netherlands. After the end of the war both lodges transferred to England and became Nos. 3970 and 3976 on the register of Grand Lodge.
GFR: The violent anti-German sentiments expressed in December 1915, by W Bro Col. Charles Cassal, PDepGSwdB, resurfaced at this meeting. The Board of General Purposes had considered Col. Cassal’s proposals put forward at the previous Communication, and had produced a more moderate form of words to deal with the relationship between English Masons and those under Grand Lodges in Germany and its allies, both during and after the War. The Colonel, however, took exception to a part of the Board’s statement and – such was the feeling in Grand Lodge – succeeded in having that part referred back to the Board. Nevertheless the Board substantially got its way over the resolution that arose from its report.
After the rather ill-natured atmosphere and debate in March, the June Communication was altogether more amicable. After the adoption of the Minutes, the Deputy Grand Master delivered a statement:
I am desired by the MW Grand Master to state that, having regard to the unprecedented character of the present War and the intense feelings it has aroused, which show no sign of abatement, the Grand Master has decided that, during its progress and until such time after the treaty of peace has been signed as in the future he may determine, there shall be no intercourse or exchange of representatives between the United Grand Lodge of England and Grand Lodges in enemy Countries. and that such Grand Lodges shall be omitted during that period from the list of bodies in the "Masonic Year Book" recognised as in association with this Grand Lodge.
This appears to have spiked the guns of Bro Cassal, because after the adoption of the Board’s Report had been moved a few minutes later, but before the vote had been taken, he rose to address Grand Lodge – at his usual length – to say, among other things:
I came here… intending, and I informed the General Committee of Grand Lodge of my intention, to move an amendment in the shape of a refere; but, having heard the gracious message of the MW Grand Master, I consider that the position of affairs is entirely altered, and… it is not necessary for me to take up the time of Grand Lodge in criticising the Report of the Board of General Purposes as I had intended to do with a good deal of severity.
JMH: Despite his promise, Brother Cassal, like Brother Bonner one hundred years before him, did take up Grand Lodge’s time with another windy speech which, happily made no difference when the resolution was put. The atmosphere at the March Communication, in which the debate was not only ill-natured but at times un-masonic, was symptomatic of the great wave of anti – German feeling then sweeping the nation at that time, which ultimately led even to HM King George V, in 1917, changing his dynasty’s name to Windsor and other members of the family dropping their German titles and accepting English peerages.
One possible reason for the more subdued meeting in June was the fact that news had reached England that Field Marshal Earl Kitchener, KG, on a mission to Russia, had perished with his staff officers and the Captain and crew of HMS Hampshire when it was torpedoed by the Germans two days before the Quarterly Communication. Kitchener had been a very active Freemason holding office successively as District Grand Master for Egypt and the Sudan and for the Punjab.
GFR: It was at this meeting that amendments to the Book of Constitutions were brought forward to ensure the representation of Provincial Brethren on the Board of General Purposes.
JMH: The lack of Provincial representation “in the counsels of the Craft” had become a very sore point. Whilst there might have been some justification in the past for selecting only London Past Masters, because of their ability to attend Board meetings, the coming of the railway network had made London much more accessible to Provincial Brethren. The new Board was to consist of ex officio members, 8 members appointed by the Grand Master, 12 elected by London and 12 elected by the Provinces.
GFR: In September much of the time of Grand Lodge was taken up with discussion of the new Entertainments tax, which had come like “a bolt from the blue” in the Finance (New Duties) Act 1916. The Board’s Report states:
The Commissioners [of Customs] hold that the duty can be claimed in all cases where musical or other entertainments, other than the making of speeches, follow Masonic dinners, though no specific or separate charge is made for admission, and no fee paid to the entertainers. Concerning the basis on which the duty would be assessed with the least inconvenience, the Commissioners have not yet communicated their intentions; and the Board expresses the hope that they will draw up a form of return to enable Secretaries of Lodges to give the information required for the assessment of the duty.
and the President by way of amplification said:
I was strongly in the belief, and even more strongly in the hope, that the claim would prove unsubstantial, and would break down when fairly examined. I think I have at least as intimate an acquaintance with the ordinary everyday opinion of Parliament as any Brother present, and I knew, and I am still of the same opinion, that not a single Member of the House of Commons dreamed that this enactment could possibly apply to such gatherings as ours. I think, moreover, that…. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and even the Commissioners of Customs themselves, had no idea when this clause was originally drafted that it would have so wide a sweep. But the Commissioners of Customs – and Brethren, the way of the tax-gatherer is hard, especially for those who have to pay him – the Commissioners discovered in the Act something that went far beyond what Parliament intended, but which it is submitted went no farther than Parliament enacted….
I regret to say that the opinion of … distinguished Counsel upon the case laid before them, and after considering the Act of Parliament, was directly adverse to our hope that we did not come within the tax. One point they suggested… that we should have an interview on the matter with the Commissioners of Customs before taking any further steps. That interview was held with the Commissioners, who were extremely polite, but all the same they made it perfectly clear that they intended to have the money.
JMH: In December the President of the Board of General Purposes was able to report that further discussions had been had with the Commissioners of Customs and Excise and agreement had been reached that provided any entertainment at a festive board was impromptu and not pre-arranged it would not be taxable. The Entertainment Tax remained operable until it was withdrawn in 1960 and Grand Lodge had from time to time to remind brethren of its existence.
GFR: The Quarterly Communication in December was notable for a visit, after Grand Lodge had opened, from the Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Connaught, newly returned from the Dominion of Canada. After he had delivered a short speech and invested the President of the Board of Benevolence, the first verse of the National Anthem was sung and the Grand Master retired in procession.
The Board’s Report contained a paragraph about the introduction of musical items into the ceremonies. And after the Report had been adopted the President moved the following resolution:
That Grand Lodge is of opinion that the introduction of instrumental or vocal music during Masonic Ceremonies is not per se objectionable, but that, in regard to the latter, it is essential that the words are strictly in accord with Masonic principles, practices and procedure; that they are not identified with an exclusive form of religious worship; and that they are submitted before use to the Grand Secretary for approval by the Grand Master…. in order to secure that these conditions, preventing an innovation in the Body of Masonry, are strictly adhered to.
Before the resolution could be seconded, Bro George Rankin, PAGDC, rose to propose an amendment
That Grand Lodge is of opinion that the introduction of instrumental music during Masonic ceremonies is not per se objectionable, but it still adheres to its historic desire for more rather than less uniformity in the ritual of Freemasonry. Grand Lodge cannot therefore consent to the insertion of hymns or anthems or other foreign matter into the body of the ceremonies.
As I have a remote connection with Bro Rankin, I will leave it to my colleague to add his comment on this matter.
JMH: Brother Rankin as well as being a member of the Board of General Purposes was also the Senior Member of the Committee of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement. In addition to ambushing the President of the Board by proposing an amendment without notice, he appears to have got the wrong end of the stick! The motion before Grand Lodge was to control the type of hymns and anthems used during ceremonies so that the universality of the Craft would not be endangered. Rankin seems to have believed that the Board was innovating in matters of ritual and trying to introduce new matters into the ceremonies. His amendment was put to the vote and lost.
GFR: The same meeting was also notable for a motion to transfer the hearing of appeals in disciplinary matters from Grand Lodge to a “Judicial Committee of Grand Lodge”; and for a motion by W Bro Freke Palmer (a Metropolitan magistrate) to amend the Book of Constitutions to limit the number of candidates for any one degree to two on any one occasion.
JMH: Both propositions were held over for future discussions resulting in much of Grand Lodge’s time being consumed with the hearing in great details of appeals against decisions by higher authority. In the debate on limiting the number of candidates for any one degree the Provincial Grand Master for Devonshire gave some incredible statistics, stating of one Lodge in his Province “at one meeting there were 2 initiations, 11 passings and 8 raisings; at the next meeting there were 3 initiations, 11 passings and 8 raisings; and at the next meeting 4 initiations, 9 passings and 9 raisings.”
GFR: In March 1917 Bro Freke Palmer returned to the adjourned motion. Much debate ensued, in the course of which amendments were proposed by several Brethren, including our old friend Col. Cassal, but in the end Bro Palmer’s motion was successful and the Book of Constitutions was amended. the Rule surviving, except for its final sentence, to the present day in the form of Rule 168.
JMH: No doubt the passing of the motion was assisted by comments from the President of the Board who stated that one Lodge which he described as having an ordinary membership of 120 in 1916 performed 83 initiations, 86 passings and 82 raisings.
The motion to remove the appeals procedure from Grand Lodge to a Committee was effectively kicked into touch and was not finally achieved until 1963.
GFR: In June, the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, making his first appearance in Grand Lodge for several years, was received with cheers, when he rose at the beginning of the meeting to address the Brethren:
I am extremely fortunate in having this opportunity of visiting Grand Lodge, and I feel that I am doubly and trebly fortunate in being able to carry away with me as I shall, the recollection of your more than kind and generous greeting. Believe me, it is not without considerable diffidence that I have come here…. But I want to thank you with all my heart for having continued to me that friendship and goodwill and kindness to which I owe so much. My resignation was in the hands of the MW Grand Master after the first few months of the war, and I fully expected that the Grand Master would accept it. But he has been pleased to re-appoint me now on three occasions, and that he has done so can only be due to the fact that it is believed to be your wish that I should continue. (Cheers).
Before the Report of the Board of General Purposes was taken, Lord Ampthill congratulated its President on the knighthood he had recently received.
The Board’s Report itself may fairly be said to be packed full of goodies:
After a general exhortation to the Craft to exercise due economy and even abstinence in those troubled times, there was a tribute to the Grand Secretary, Sir Edward Letchworth – the first of the great Grand Secretaries – who had just completed a quarter of a century’s service in that office.
The Report also signalled several changes to the Book of Constitutions which still survive today: the placing of a positive duty on the Master of a Lodge to exercise a casting vote on any equality of voting in a Lodge; the introduction of a Rule prohibiting a Lodge from passing or raising a Brother from another Lodge except at the written request of that Lodge; and the conferment on the Grand Master of the power to form Lodges abroad not under Districts into Groups under what are now known as Grand Inspectors.
JMH: The President of the Board of General Purposes, Brother Alfred Robins, was a major figure in the world of journalism and had received his knighthood for services to the press. As a young Past Master he had regularly raised questions in Grand Lodge, leading to his being elected to the Board of General Purposes. He worked untiringly for Grand Lodge both at home and overseas and did much to publicise the Craft and to build good relations with the press. It was due to his persistence that we are meeting here today as he skilfully managed both the financing and the construction of the present Freemasons’ Hall.
My co-presenter rightly characterises Sir Edward Letchworth as the first of the great Grand Secretaries. A solicitor by profession, though he practised only for a short time having private means, he had been very involved in the growing militia movement, which brought him to the attention of the then Prince of Wales and other courtiers. He also encountered the Prince of Wales in Freemasonry and it was on the latter’s suggestion that he was offered the Grand Secretaryship in 1892 when Col Shadwell Clerke unexpectedly died. Although approaching 60 when appointed he took to the office with relish and quickly established a reputation for his Masonic knowledge and his diplomatic skills. As Grand Secretary he was responsible for the administration of London Freemasonry, then expanding greatly. Were there a Guinness Book of Masonic records he would have earned a place as during his 25 years in office he consecrated nearly 500 lodges and chapters. Much respected and held in affection by the many he came into contact with, he died a few short months after his retirement in 1917 to universal regret.
GFR: Grand Lodge assembled for an Especial Meeting at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 23 June to celebrate the Bi-Centenary of the first Grand Lodge. After Grand Lodge had been opened in due form by the Deputy Grand Master, the Grand Master was received, and after he had been saluted he announced an exchange of telegrams with his Majesty King George V:
Eight thousand Masons are assembling in the Albert Hall this day to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of British Freemasonry in England. I desire on their behalf to take this opportunity of renewing our expressions of loyalty and devotion to your Throne and Person, and to wish you long life and happiness. We pray that victory may crown your arms, and that a just and lasting peace may be the result (Signed) Arthur, Grand Master.
The King had replied:
I have received with much satisfaction the message which you, as Grand Master, have conveyed to me from 8,000 Freemasons, who to day celebrate the 200th Anniversary of British Freemasonry in England. Please thank them most heartily in my name. The traditional loyalty of British Freemasons is a force upon which the Sovereign of this country has ever reckoned, and has been to me a proud memory during the anxious years through which we are passing. (Signed) George, R. & I.
The following morning a service was held in the same venue, with the Lessons being read by the Deputy Grand Master and the Grand Secretary, and an Address by the Bishop of Birmingham, Grand Chaplain. At the conclusion the National Anthem was sung in full.
JMH: With no fire regulations and no health and safety committees over 8,000 Brethren were able to attend the celebration of the Bi-centenary of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall, how different from modern times! In addition to representatives from the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland the attendance included senior representatives from Grand Lodges in the Empire and the United States of America, many of them being serving officers passing through London on their way to the front. Fortunately the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Connaught, who was serving as Commander in Chief in Canada was in London for an Imperial Council and was able to preside at both the special Grand Lodge and the service on the following day.
To mark the anniversary and the part played by the remaining three of the four Lodges who came together to form the Grand Lodge in 1717 the Grand Master announced that in future the collars of their officers would be distinguished by the addition of a central Garter blue stripe. The three Masters were called up and were invested by the Grand Master with their new collars.
Amongst the many greetings and congratulations which had been received was a beautifully illuminated address from the Brethren still held in the prisoner of war camp in Ruhleben, now preserved in the Grand Lodge archives, which the Grand Secretary read out and was met with cheers from the assembled brethren.
Had war not broken out in 1914 it had been the intention to have what the Grand Master described as “a great imperial celebration in London” to mark the bi-centenary of Grand Lodge. Many of those who spoke at the Royal Albert Hall lamented the fact that the war had prevented representatives from overseas, from both our own lodges and from sister Grand Lodges, from taking part in what should have been the largest representative gathering of Freemasons from around the world. It was to be another hundred years before that dream was achieved with our recent celebration of the tercentenary of the formation of Grand Lodge at which almost 150 sister Grand Lodges were represented. But that, as they say, is a story to be told on a future occasion, no doubt by Graham’s and my successors in December 2117!
13 December 2017
Order of Service to Masonry Citation for W Bro Keith Gilbert, PSGD
Bro Keith Gilbert was made a Mason in November, 1972, at the age of 27, in Radius Lodge, No. 5474, in London, and was installed as Master of Skelmersdale Lodge, No. 1380 in West Lancashire in 1984. He has at various times been a member of eight other Lodges and has served as Master of five of them. He was exalted into the Royal Arch in Bedeword Chapter, No. 7274 in Warwickshire in 1976, and served as First Principal of Harpenden Chapter, No. 4314 in Hertfordshire in 1995. He is, or has been, a member of three other Chapters. He remains active in Hertfordshire as Secretary of a Lodge, Scribe E of a Chapter and Immediate Past Master of the Province’s Lodge of Installed Masters.
Bro Gilbert was appointed a Provincial Grand Steward in Hertfordshire in 1995 and held various other offices in that Province before he became Provincial Grand Secretary in 2004. On relinquishing that office in 2011 he was appointed an Assistant Provincial Grand Master, holding that office for four years. Bro Gilbert holds the rank of Past Senior Grand Deacon in the Craft, and Past Grand Standard Bearer in the Royal Arch. He also served as a Grand Steward on the nomination of Globe Lodge, No. 23 in 2014.
In 2015 Bro Gilbert was appointed as the unpaid Team Leader for the Tercentenary Planning Committee, which reported direct to the Board of General Purposes. He was therefore directly responsible for coordinating all the Tercentenary events throughout the Provinces and Districts, as well as linking in and coordinating the requirements of our guests from the many Grand Lodges around the world, and masterminding and planning all administrative matters for the period 29th to 31st October 2017.
He selected and built up a team with great skill and they worked well with him. He planned everything well in advance and in great detail, endeavouring to ensure that nothing was missed. Initially he would spend about two days a week in the office, but that gradually increased until 2017 when he spent most working days at Freemasons’ Hall.
That all the Tercentenary events went so smoothly was down to the outstanding determination and dedication of Bro Gilbert over a three-year period of intense and detailed hard work. For ensuring the success of Grand Lodge’s Tercentenary celebrations, Bro Gilbert is awarded the Grand Master’s Order of Service to Masonry.