Wednesday, 09 June 2010 17:41

Pro Grand Master’s address - June 2010

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

9 June 2010

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
I am delighted to see so many of you here today. Having had the great pleasure to present Sir John Welch with the Grand Master’s Order of Service to Freemasonry and having called off for the Annual General Meeting of the Grand Charity, I will be brief.

Since the last Quarterly Communication I travelled to South Africa, accompanied by the Grand Secretary. The reason was to install the new District Grand Master for South Africa North and I first took the opportunity to visit the District of KwaZulu Natal in Durban. We met many of the Brethren as well as their wives and partners before flying to Johannesburg for the Installation. This was well attended by the District Grand Masters of Southern Africa and the Grand Secretary ran a business meeting for them all. I am delighted that they were all in good heart.

With the volcanic ash clouds cancelling all flights back to Europe, I am also glad that the Grand Secretary and I managed to return to England – flying via Luanda in Angola, then on to Lisbon where we travelled by car to Bilbao, finally flying by twin engine propeller plane landing on a grass airstrip in Essex – with only a two day delay. Such was our determination to return in time for the Annual Investitures!

Brethren, I hope you will agree with me that the faith last year’s Board of Grand Stewards placed in the ability of the Grand Connaught Rooms was well founded. The Grand Secretary put his head on the block during last year by stating his confidence in the new management and I believe that the quality of both the food and the service at the Grand Investiture means that he can keep his head. I repeat what I said last year, which was to encourage as many of you as possible to join us for lunch after the Quarterly Communication meetings.

I shall shortly be starting my regional business meetings when I will see all the Provincial Grand Masters. I am in regular contact with the Provincial Grand Masters and we recently held my business meeting when they were all together before the Annual Investitures. However, the regional meetings allow time for detailed discussions specific to each Province whilst still further improving communications with the Centre.

Brethren, since 1924 Port of Hercules Lodge No. 4626 has been meeting in Monte Carlo. In recent years three Lodges under the United Grand Lodges of Germany have been meeting in Monaco and a number of Monegasque citizens have become Freemasons in Lodges under the National Grand Lodge of France. In April of this year we were approached by the brethren in Monaco and the United Grand Lodges of Germany to assist in the formation and consecration of a Sovereign Grand Lodge of Monaco. As the members of Port of Hercules Lodge have agreed to be one of the founding Lodges of the new Grand Lodge we have agreed to assist in the project.

It only remains for me to wish you all an enjoyable summer.

Published in Speeches

Royal Arch Investiture 
29 April 2010 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes 

Companions, firstly I congratulate all those of you that I have had the pleasure to appoint to or promote in Grand Rank this morning. It is important for you all to understand that the Royal Arch is both the completion and the climax of pure Antient Masonry. In our constitution there is an indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch making the Royal Arch not just a graceful adjunct to the Craft but a vital part of pure Antient Masonry. This theme will be the common thread through my speech.

As in the Craft, Grand Rank is a rare accolade – not given liberally – and with that Grand Rank comes the responsibility to explain and promote the Order – with the aim of recruiting and retaining members.

I have also had the especial pleasure, on behalf of the First Grand Principal, of installing Most Excellent Companion David Williamson as Third Grand Principal. He is already well known to you and respected in the Royal Arch and he has frequently carried out Royal Arch duties in his previous capacity of Past Third Grand Principal. On your behalf I congratulate him and wish him every success in this important role. At the same time I wish recorded our heartfelt thanks to the Past Third Grand Principal, the Very Reverend Neil Collings, for his enormous contribution to the Order for which he will never be forgotten.

Companions, it has been too long since we last had a Royal Arch celebration and I am delighted to announce the decision that we will celebrate the Bi-Centenary of the Declaration of the Royal Arch as the completion of pure Antient Masonry in 2013. In the 18th century the Premier Grand Lodge and the Antients Grand Lodge developed differing attitudes to the Royal Arch. The Premier Grand Lodge would only accept it as an order completely separate from the Craft. The Antients Grand Lodge readily embraced it and worked it within their Lodges. This divergence of opinion was settled in 1813 – two years before the Battle of Waterloo and I am delighted to say with no bloodshed – with the of the two Grand Lodges.

The Articles of between the two, forming the Craft and Royal Arch into pure Antient Masonry, defining it as consisting of ‘...three degrees and no more, that is to say, those of Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch’. For your added interest the  between the original Grand Chapter and the Royal Arch members of the former Antients Grand Lodge was initially known as the United Grand Chapter, with the name changed to Supreme Grand Chapter in 1820.

With the understanding that, although the in 1813 is also very significant to the Craft, the major Craft celebrations will be in 2017 to celebrate three hundred years since the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717.

The Royal Arch celebrations in 2013 will take the form of a Special Convocation here in the Grand Temple followed by a commemorative dinner. The 2013 Royal Arch Committee is being chaired by the Second Grand Principal and the Executive Committee for the event is being run by Grand Scribe Ezra. Grand Superintendents will be briefed in detail by Grand Scribe Ezra who, in turn, will promulgate the information accordingly.

This will be a most important event in the history of the Royal Arch. To further recognise the event it has been decided that a collection be made for a donation to the Royal College of Surgeons, to be used specifically for Royal Arch bursaries. Again, the detail of this will be communicated by your Grand Superintendent.

An approved Royal Arch tie has been produced and is on sale as from today.

I am wearing one now. As another example of the indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch, the Grand Master announced yesterday, in his speech at the annual Craft Investiture, that the Royal Arch tie can be worn in Craft Lodges.

Grand Scribe Ezra will be issuing guidelines on the wearing of the tie within both Grand Chapter and Chapter meetings.

Finally, I wish to thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the excellent way the ceremony has been conducted and Grand Scribe Ezra and the large number of people in this building who have been involved in the detailed planning and organisation of this important meeting.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 28 April 2010 11:51

Grand Master’s address - April 2010

ANNUAL CRAFT INVESTITURE

28 APRIL 2010

An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG

Brethren,
I want first to congratulate very warmly all those that I have had the pleasure to appoint or promote this afternoon and to welcome all those of you who are here to support them. Grand Rank is only conferred after much consideration and is a rare accolade given both in acknowledgement of good work done and , more importantly, in anticipation of future endeavours. Be assured that the rest of the Craft members will be looking to you both for leadership, particularly in the important area of mentoring, and to set the highest standards in all your activities at all times. There are many situations when these attributes will be called for and humility will be a common thread in all of them.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 10:57

‘Freemasonry in our Districts’

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

10 MARCH 2010

A speech by the VW The Grand Secretary Nigel Brown
Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren,
On the 27 April this year, the day before the Annual Craft Investitures, the Pro Grand Master has made the decision to hold – for the first time – a business meeting here specifically for all District Grand Masters. This is a clear sign of the importance we attach to supporting our Districts and the Board of General Purposes felt it important for me to give a short talk today on both why the Districts are important to us at Grand Lodge as well as to all their members.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 10:54

Pro Grand Master’s address - March 2010

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

10 MARCH 2010

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
I believe it appropriate today to inform you of a matter that relates more particularly to the Royal Arch. As you will know the Third Grand Principal, the Very Reverend Neil Collings, has been unwell for over a year and sadly will not be returning to his Masonic duties. At the Convocation in April this year I will be installing his successor as Third Grand Principal.
The Grand Master, in his capacity of First Grand Principal, has decided to appoint the Assistant Grand Master as Third Grand Principal. Right Worshipful Brother David Williamson is, of course, extremely well known and respected in the Royal Arch as well as in the Craft and has frequently carried out Royal Arch duties in his Royal Arch capacity of Past Third Grand Principal.

Published in Speeches

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

9 DECEMBER 2009

A speech by VW Bro Graham Redman, Assistant Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill

GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, in the early part of 1809, the Antients or Atholl Grand Lodge, apart from authorising expenditure totalling £177–6s–0d for the Erection of a Throne and presenting or resolving to present three Brethren with gold medals in testimony of their services to the Craft, seems to have been preoccupied with the arrangements for a Masonic Procession, Sermon and Festival in celebration of St. John’s Day (24th June).

 

The Church Service, procession and Festival of St John the Baptist was an annual event. In 1809 it was variously proposed that the event should take place in Islington, Hackney, Lambeth or Camberwell. The service actually took place at Camberwell Church following which the brethren processed to the Grove House, Camberwell for dinner. The Grand Treasurer reported that the day’s costs had been £210–5s–3d leaving a shortfall of £29–1s–6d to be taken from Grand Lodge Funds.

Nor was Charity neglected. In March 1809 £100 from Grand Lodge funds was voted to the Masonic Charity for Clothing and Educating the Sons of Indigent Freemasons. To this, later in the year, was added 200 guineas to celebrate the coming Golden Jubilee of King George III. This special grant would enable the Boy’s Charity to take on another ten boys, bringing the total under their care to fifty.

GFR: In September of that year the Minutes record that:

Bro Jeremiah Cranfield, Past Master of 255 again brought forward a motion presented and afterwards withdrawn at the meeting of Grand Lodge 7th June last, that a committee be appointed from the Grand Lodge to consider of and adopt such prompt and effectual measures for accomplishing so desirable an object as a Masonic .

The RW Bro Charles Humphreys, PSGW objected to the motion being received as tending to annihilate the Antient Craft. Hereon a very long debate and conversation ensued.
The RW Deputy Grand Master in the Chair, after maturely considering thereon and as at present advised and according with his duty as Deputy Grand Master conceived it incompatible with his situation in the absence of the Grand Master to receive such Motion. And thereupon the Grand Lodge was closed at past 12 o’clock at night.

In December, Bro Cranfield returned to the charge, by objecting to the adoption of the whole of the minutes of the September Communication, whereon a long and interesting debate upon the minutes of the 6th September last took place. After some time it was moved by Bro Charles Humphreys, PSGW and seconded that the said minutes be read separately and the sense of the Grand Lodge taken thereon paragraph by paragraph and the question being put thereon the same was carried in the affirmative.”

The minutes were severally read and confirmed unanimously except for the last minute and the motion therein mentioned and moved by Bro Cranfield for a Committee to be appointed to consider and adopt prompt and effectual measures for accomplishing a Masonic .

Upon this the debate recommenced and thereon it was moved by Bro Charles Humphreys and seconded that the said motion made by Bro Cranfield and refused to be put by the Deputy Grand Master be expunged from the minutes of the RW Grand Lodge and the question being thereon put passed in the negative.

Afterwards Bro Cranfield’s motion of the 6th September was again read and the question thereon put the same was carried in the affirmative.

JMH: This momentous resolution, brethren, I shall return to in a few moments.

GFR: In February 1809, the Moderns Grand Lodge was opened in due form and – as usual – the Laws relating to the behaviour of Masons in Grand Lodge were read.

The Special Committee appointed in November 1808 to enquire into the charges preferred against the Royal Naval Lodge reported. A number of Brethren had laid eleven charges against the Master, Officers and Brethren of the Lodge, then numbered 57 and now No. 59, and three charges against one of its members, Bro Francis Columbine Daniel. The charges included unjustly and unconstitutionally erasing the names of two of the complainants from the Lodge books without their consent and thereby terming them expelled members; not keeping a set of Bye Laws in the Lodge for the internal government thereof; not regularly registering the members and the Brethren initiated there in the books of the Grand Lodge; not regularly and justly paying the Liquidation fee at the Grand Lodge; irregularly admitting a joining Member who had on a former Lodge night been black balled by nine; and publishing and inserting false statements concerning the transaction of the Lodge. Apart from his having been implicated in several of the charges against the Lodge, and in particular the last, the principal complaint against Bro Daniel was that he illegally presided over the Lodge under the assumed title of ‘Acting Master’.

The members of the Committee had found themselves hampered in their investigations, particularly that into the non-payment of fees to Grand Lodge, by a lack of co-operation on the part of the Lodge. The matter was deferred to the April Communication, then to November and eventually stood over to the following year.

JMH: The tribulations within the Royal Naval Lodge took up an inordinate amount of the time not only of the premier Grand Lodge itself but of its Committee of Charity (which in addition to its charitable function worked as a sort of Board of General Purposes) and the special Committee set up to investigate the charges laid against members of the lodge. The reason Grand Lodge took such an interest was money. The premier Grand Lodge had large debts resulting from the building of the first Freemasons’ Hall in 1775 and its later extension and renovation. To reduce the debts they introduced a Liquidation Fund and required lodges to pay a levy to the fund in respect of each of the members of their lodge. The investigation committee found that Royal Naval Lodge owed £168 – 4s – 6d in registration fees to Grand Lodge, had paid nothing into the Liquidation Fund in the years 1799, 1805 or 1807 and had made no returns of names or monies since April 1807.

As so often happens, the problems in the lodge centred around one character: Francis Columbine Daniel. A successful surgeon and apothecary, Daniel was a strong minded character of decided views who brooked no opposition. He was a member of lodges under both the premier and the Antients Grand Lodge and had a great interest in charity. He persuaded members of the Royal Naval Lodge to set up and fund a charity to clothe and educate the sons of indigent or deceased Freemasons, which in 1816 united with the similar charity under the Antients Grand Lodge to become the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys. Outside Freemasonry, Daniel is remembered for two things: inventing an inflatable life vest for sailors, which won him gold medals from both the Royal Humane Society and the Royal Society of Arts, and gaining a knight hood by accident. Attending a garden party at Buckingham Palace he joined what he thought was a queue waiting to be presented to the King and was somewhat amazed when he was asked to kneel and had each shoulder tapped with a sword! Having been dubbed he could not be “un – dubbed” but his accident caused a major review of the procedures for the installation of future knights.

GFR: At the April Communication another topic was raised:

The minutes of the Committee of Charity were read and confirmed, whereupon it was resolved that the Grand Lodge do agree in opinion with the Committee of Charity that it is not necessary any longer to continue in force those measures which were resorted to in or about the year 1739 respecting irregular Masons and do therefore enjoin the several lodges to revert to the Ancient Land Marks of the Society.

JMH: Reporting of Masonic meetings in the press in the 1720s had led to great public curiosity about Freemasonry. This, in turn, led to enterprising journalists producing articles and pamphlets claiming to reveal the secrets and rituals of Freemasonry. In 1730 one Samuel Prichard produced a pamphlet entitled “Masonry Dissect’d” which for the first time gave details of all three of the Craft degrees. He must have been reasonably accurate as a significant number of individuals used his work to gain access to lodges and make claims on the lodge charity box. This panicked the premier Grand Lodge which, in the late 1730s, to catch out these impostors, reversed the first and second degree pillar words. Unfortunately they appear not to have informed the Grand Lodge of Ireland of the change, which was to have a significant effect on English Freemasonry.

In the 18th century, as today, there was a significant Irish population in London. Many of them had become Freemasons before leaving their native land but after the ritual change in the late 1730s were rejected as impostors when they attempted to visit lodges. After a decade of such rejections, on the basis that if you cannot join them beat them, a group of mainly Irish brethren in 1751 met at the Turks Head Tavern in Greek Street, Soho, and formed themselves into a Grand Committee until such time as a noble brother could be elected to serve as their Grand Master. Thus was the Antients Grand Lodge born. They were proud to accept the epithet Antients as they claimed that the original Grand Lodge had departed from the ancient landmarks and they alone were working “Masonry according to the ancient institutions”.

The decision by the premier Grand Lodge to reverse the 1730s changes was the first step towards negotiating an equable with the Antients. In October 1809 they set up a special Lodge of Promulgation whose brief was to ascertain that their ceremonies were in accord with those practised in Ireland, Scotland and lodges over the seas and to establish the landmarks of the Order. That was the public reason, the reality was that they wished to bring themselves more into line with the practices of the Antients lodges to ease the road to .

My co–presenter referred a few moments ago to Brother Cranfield’s motion in the Antients Grand Lodge to form a committee to look at a possible . It rather begs the question of why a simple Past Master rather than a senior member of the Antients Grand Lodge should raise such an important resolution. Cranfield was a member of Oak Lodge No. 255 (still in existence as Oak Lodge No. 190). Another member of that Lodge was one Francis Columbine Daniel, whom we have seen was active in both Grand Lodges. Daniel was well known to Thomas Harper, who despite being Deputy Grand Master of the Antients Grand Lodge was also active in the premier Grand Lodge and like Daniel had served as a Grand Steward and was a member of the Grand Stewards Lodge. Harper and Daniel were both advocates of a of the two Grand Lodges. Would I be laying myself open to accusations of being a conspiracy theorist were I to suggest that Cranfield was possibly a stalking horse acting for Harper and Daniel?

GFR: We now fast-forward one hundred years to 1909. In March, after the adoption of various reports, the Pro Grand Master declared:

Brethren, I have been sorry to hear within the last few days that the Resolution which I have now to propose is giving rise to difference of opinion, and even in some quarters, I grieve to hear, to a feeling which almost approaches resentment, but I trust that the explanation which I have to offer will succeed in removing misunderstanding, for it is to misunderstanding, I venture to think, that difference of opinion is due.

The resolution proposed by the Pro Grand Master, which followed the grant of an honorarium to the Grand Registrar of 1,000 Guineas in 1906, was:

“That in view of the Resolution of the 6th June, 1906, affirming the principle that the duties of the Grand Registrar ought not to be rendered gratuitously, and in view of the great and growing importance to Grand Lodge in her relations with the colonies and with foreign countries of the correct and authoritative interpretation of Masonic Law, it is desirable that the remuneration of the Grand Registrar should take the more satisfactory and regular form of an annual retaining fee of such an amount as may fairly be tendered to distinguished counsel.”

The Motion was seconded by a Past Grand Chaplain, but opposed by the Vice-President of the Board of General Purposes. The Deputy Grand Master spoke in support of the motion, concluding his remarks with:

I am convinced that whenever the time comes … for a new Grand Registrar to beappointed, if we are to have the man we ought to have, we shall have to pass this Motion. I do submit it would be much more graceful and gracious to pass it now.

The Motion was put and declared to be lost.

JMH: When one looks at the Grand Lodge finances and sources of income in 1909 it is not surprising that the suggestion that the Grand Registrar be paid a retainer of at least 500 guineas was negatived. Grand Lodge’s income came from registration fees for new and joining members, fees for warrants, patents, dispensations and appointments to Grand Rank, rents for the use of Freemasons’ Hall and from the Tavern and investment income. Lodges paid quarterage in respect of each member but this went to the Fund of Benevolence. Grand Lodge dues as we know them were not introduced until 1930! There was also the matter of principle. If the Grand Registrar were to be remunerated what about the Grand Superintendent of Works, who freely advised Grand Lodge on all property matters, and even the Grand Director of Ceremonies who was regularly called on to rule on matters of protocol and ceremonial?

The debate was – to be polite – robust, despite the motion having been proposed by the Pro and supported by the Deputy Grand Master. When the Rev JT Lawrence rose to support the motion there were cries from the floor of “Time, Time”!

GFR: How different from the proceedings of the Grand Lodge in the 21st century!

This time last year we left off at that part of our history which mentioned the problems with the Freemasons’ Tavern. In December 1909, the Board of General Purposes which had been giving progress reports throughout the year reported that the work connected with the reconstruction and enlargement of “Freemasons’ Tavern,” hereafter to be known as “The Connaught Rooms, Freemasons’ Hall,” is approaching completion, and will be ready for occupation by the end of the year.

The Board has concluded an arrangement with Bro George Harvey, at one time a manager of the Hotel Cecil, for granting him a lease of the premises for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years; and looking to the high esteem in which he is held by very many members of the Craft, to whom he is well known, and to his great experience in connection with establishments of a similar character, the Board confidently believes that the arrangement is one which will be as beneficial to the Craft as it hopes it will be to Bro Harvey.

The greater part of the building has been entirely re-modelled. The principal Banqueting Hall has been enlarged to an extent sufficient to accommodate 800 diners. Additions and improvements have been made to the smaller dining rooms, and the kitchen and service arrangements have been entirely reconstructed, greatly enlarged, and in every way adapted to the most modern requirements.

JMH: When last December I quipped that “like the poor, problems with the Connaught Rooms were always with us” I had no knowledge of what would happen next door during 2009! In 1809 and 1909 problems with the Freemasons’ Tavern were happily settled and with the installation of new managements lengthy periods of good management and service to Freemasonry followed. With the installation of the Harvey family in 1909 the Tavern became the Connaught Rooms, as a compliment to the then Grand Master. A Brother Lewis Ferguson queried the rents and the costs of the refurbishment. The President of the Board informed him that the rent was £500 for the first year rising by increments to £3050 and the refurbishment of the building had cost Grand Lodge nearly £30,000. The present Board of General Purposes did rather better. As the President announced in September the new lessees, Principal Hayley, were to invest in excess of £5 million refurbishing the Connaught Rooms and a commercial rent was being paid to Grand Lodge. We can only hope that the new incumbents will have the same flair and care as the Harvey family in 1909 and that the Grand Connaught Rooms will live up to its new name!

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 09 December 2009 10:59

Pro Grand Master’s address - December 2009

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

9 DECEMBER 2009

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
We have had a fairly full agenda today, with the Grand Charity Meeting and the excellent talk from Bros Hamill and Redman. I shall, therefore, be brief.

Brethren, as I hope they know, our Districts are an immensely important and valued part of UGLE. I hope and believe that communications with our Districts are as good as they have ever been. We are delighted when they visit us, as they frequently do, and we always try to be present with them on important occasions.

Published in Speeches

Regular Convocation 
11 November 2009 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal 

Companions, those of you who were in Grand Lodge in June or September will know that the Preliminary Declaration to the Rules in the Book of Constitutions was amended by the removal of the additional sentence which had been added to it in 2003.

The Preliminary Declaration – defining pure Antient Masonry as the three Craft degrees including the Royal Arch – was composed in 1813 to enable the  of the two existing Grand Lodges to take place. By this declaration the Royal Arch was accepted by both contracting parties as an essential part of, and the means whereby, a Brother completed his journey through pure Antient Masonry by absorbing the practical moral lessons of the Craft, and the more spiritual message of the Royal Arch.

The addition of the Preliminary Declaration in 2003 was meant to strengthen the indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch, but it appears to have caused confusion and suggested to some Brethren that it was the first step to some form of separation of the Craft and Royal Arch. The latter was most certainly not the intention.

Despite the changes made in the Royal Arch in the last few years there is no intention of breaking this link that was so firmly established back in 1813.

In their Report to Grand Lodge in June the Board of General Purposes stated “The Board believes that it is a matter of common ground that the teachings of the Royal Arch enrich those of the Craft and vice versa. Properly considered therefore, each is inextricably interwoven with each other, with the result that no Brother’s Masonic experience can be considered truly complete unless he has been exalted into the Order of the Holy Royal Arch”. Those are sentiments, Companions, with which we would all heartily agree.

So important do we regard the 1813 Preliminary Declaration, and the acceptance by the Craft of the Royal Arch as an integral part of pure Antient Masonry, that the Committee of General Purposes is putting in hand plans to celebrate the Bi-Centenary of the adoption of the statement at the Convocation of this Supreme Grand Chapter to be held in November 2013. Further details on this will be given at the April Convocation.

Our Third Grand Principal has retired as Dean of Bury St Edmunds Cathedral due to his continued ill health. Many of you would have seen the moving article in Country Life about his farewell service which highlighted the enormous contribution he had made to the Cathedral in a sadly short space of time. I am sure you would wish me to convey greetings and support from you all here today, when I next visit him. And Companions, not a few minutes before this meeting I also heard that a Past Third Grand Principal, the Rev Preb Leighton Thomson, TD, had a nasty fall and he is in St Thomas’ Hospital. He has been spoken to from here, and he is in his usual good spirits.

Companions, what I am going to mention next refers very much to the Craft as a whole and not just the Royal Arch.

Many of you will be aware of the announcement made by the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, that judges and other members of the judicial system such as magistrates, will no longer have to declare that they are Freemasons. Nor will applicants for judicial office have to disclose that they are Freemasons on their application form.

This is as a result of action taken by the Board of General Purposes following a Ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on a case involving Italian Freemasonry that to single out Freemasonry and not include all other organisations was discriminatory, and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Board made it clear to the Minister that unless the policy was changed it would institute proceedings on behalf of Grand Lodge and its members.

In his statement Mr Straw stressed that the Government’s policy requiring disclosure, which had been operating since 1998, had shown no evidence of impropriety or malpractice within the judiciary as a result of a judge being a Freemason, and that he had concluded that it would be disproportionate to continue the collection or retention of the information.

Companions, this does not mean that our members do not need to disclose that they are Freemasons; common sense will always dictate when it is appropriate to do so and, if there is any doubt, you should err on the side of disclosure. In any case, I hope we would all be proud to do so.

The Board will continue to monitor the situation and will not hesitate to take steps against any Public or Local Authority who discriminate against our members.

Finally Companions, as always I thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for the efficient way they have run the ceremony, and Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for organising this successful meeting.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

9 September 2009
A speech by the VW Grand Secretary Nigel Brown

Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren. ‘Building Bridges – Freemasons’ Hall in the 21st Century’. You may think that this talk is about operative masonry and with some justification as we have recently successfully completed the building of four fire bridges at the east end of this fine Grand Temple. Built to the satisfaction of English Heritage and do have a look when you ever have a moment, at the way the bridges are appropriately adorned with squares and compasses. But the talk is not about that. Nor is it about the opening up of all the sealed entrances to the Connaught Rooms.

If you would allow some poetic licence, the building of bridges between us and what is from this day forth to be known as the Grand Connaught Rooms. As the President just announced the lease is being granted by the Board of General Purposes with definite benefits to the United Grand Lodge of England. The new people – the Principal Hayley Group - have, since the beginning of July, been completely refurbishing the Building to bring it back to its former glory – working literally day and night – at their expense – gutting the building, and for example, installing new kitchens, so the food will be cooked on site served by people who know what they are doing as well as new wiring, lifts and loos. They are spending over five million on the work. It is all exhilarating and inspiring. They have worked tirelessly to have the Grand Hall – now once again one of the most impressive banqueting rooms in London - ready for today’s lunch. All the rest of the major refurbishment works are to be completed by the end of September. So they ask for patience until that time. By the way, do look at the uncovered Masonic black and white marbled floor. The proof of the pudding will, quite literally, be in the eating. However if their rapidly growing order book is anything to go by, people are intending to return in droves. It is clear from our discussions that they are taking the trouble to understand our needs – and see us Masons as valued customers – unlike their predecessors.

However it is the speculative side of building bridges that this talk is all about. Building bridges from here, at Freemasons’ Hall, with both the non Masonic and Masonic community. First then, building bridges with non Masons. Having now seen all the Provincial Information Officers in a series of regional meetings – the one consistent request is for another Freemasonry in the community event. In fact, we all know that Freemasons should always be actively working in their communities. A great example is when Provinces have a stand at county shows – not only being manned by Freemasons of all ages but especially when wives and partners are part of the team. Grand Lodge has done its bit since the last Freemasonry in the community in 2002 – predominantly by allowing Freemasons’ Hall to be used more extensively than before – as a conscious implementation of strategy - and having a policy of open communications in all our dealings. That strategy has meant that we have moved to a position of respect within the local community. We liaise successfully with all the local residents’ associations as well as with Camden and Westminster Councils. Examples of building bridges are holding open days for locals – in fact on the 19 September it is ‘open house’ for all major buildings in London and on previous form we expect some two and a half thousand visitors on the day. Then we host the ‘In and around Covent Garden’ Annual General Meeting and on the 11th September Camden has invited us to participate in the opening of the new Piazza outside here in Great Queen Street. The opening ceremony will take place at the Tower Entrance. They also see us as the iconic building for the area. However that is all very well – what we actually want is for all members, wherever they are, to see the building as important to and representative of the whole English Constitution. The fact is that it is owned by all members, not just those from London. This wonderful building completed in 1933 as a peace memorial to all those Masons who died in the First World War is still, in the 21st century, one of the finest art deco buildings and is rated as a Grade II* building internally and externally. The actual shrine is a focal point and is situated at the West end of the Vestibule area showing the names of those who died, linked to Lodges throughout the Constitution. Brethren, let us also see this shrine as a continuing memorial to those Freemasons who have died, in the loyal service to their country, in all the wars since the First World War. In that context, it is heart warming to see the high level of support from Freemasons to families of those who have been killed or to very seriously injured soldiers themselves in Afghanistan, in the most ferocious fighting since the Second World War.

Our highly successful events go from strength to strength with thousands of people coming through our doors each year. This is in addition to all those who come on our regular tours of the Building and visit our centre of excellence, the Library and Museum. We are therefore talking about people who would otherwise never come in or know anything about Freemasonry. Freemasons’ Hall has been appointed a Unique Venue of London. The rigorous membership criteria means we are considered to be representative of London and an important building alongside, for example St Pauls or the Natural History Museum. Indeed, for the last three years we have been nominated by the events industry as one of the top locations for availability, accessibility and services offered to film makers. Freemasons’ Hall is our 21st Century brand name and we are highly respected within the events industry.

For film makers, this is a designers’ paradise. Both for television series and Hollywood blockbusters. Then there are the award ceremonies and the list is long. We highlight the Gala Dinner for the London Philharmonic Orchestra – the Grand Master being their patron. A pre dinner recital in the Grand Temple was breathtaking and the Artistic Director remarked that the acoustics in here were ‘perfect’. By letting them have the Hall free for the evening we are shown as sponsors for the whole year on their promotional material. As an aside, they raised seventy three thousand pounds for their own charity that evening. This charity allows under privileged children from all over the Country the opportunity to come and listen to live orchestras. We are very careful about whom we let hire the venue and indeed are keen never to interrupt Masonic activities. However I will mention amusingly that Tesco’s recently came to display the items that are going to appear in their shops at Christmas. Although rather surreal at this time of the year, the marvellous thing was that we had five hundred journalists in over two days – none of whom thought they were allowed in and all of whom were wowed by the fantastic building. Clearly the revenue stream is important – we have raised a great deal of money to maintain the fabric of the building – and another real benefit is the soft PR for the Craft as a whole.

Then we have built bridges with the four Masonic Charities all of whom, as you know, have moved into the building and it is a great delight to see how they are now working together and with us, again to the benefit of the Craft. We are also delighted that over this very summer the Metropolitan Grand Lodge has also moved into the building and into the space previously occupied by the Grand Charity.

Secondly, as part of building bridges with our membership it is important that we stay very close to Metropolitan, the Provinces and Districts. These relationships are very important to us and they grow stronger each day. Apart from the reality of geographical spread in England, Wales and abroad, everyone here considers you all of equal importance. It is also important that all our members throughout this geographical spread appreciate the vital role that this iconic building, the Mother Lodge of the World and the Headquarters of the English Constitution, plays to Freemasonry in general and to them specifically. Indeed, Brethren from our Districts and from all over the world view a visit to this building as a highlight to their stay in London. First and foremost, this is a working building, from where a vast membership organisation is run on 21st century business lines. Apart from the running of the business of Freemasons’ Hall we link to Metropolitan Grand Lodge, to 47 Provinces in England and Wales, to 33 District Grand Lodges around the world, to 5 groups under Grand Inspectors as well as to lodges abroad not under Districts or Grand Inspectors. That is well over 8,300 Lodges and now couple this with the Royal Arch which is also run from here, gives us a total of over 11,600 Lodges and Chapters. Or, to put it another way, over a quarter of a million members.

As you can imagine there is a huge volume of correspondence and of course, in this day and age, an increasing amount of electronic mail. Hundreds a day, many requiring considered advice and guidance on a vast range of technical Masonic issues. Some say ‘why don’t you have standard responses?’ Well, Freemasons can be ingenious – they think of ninety ways to ask the same question – all with a twist!

Then there are, just by way of a snapshot, the Board of General Purposes and Committee of General Purposes meetings covering for example strategic and investment decisions; conferences; the Rulers’ Forum with representatives from all the Provinces; the provision to all the Provinces - and increasingly to the Districts – of a standardised and integrated system for maintaining membership data called Provincial ADelphi; the writing, production and distribution of Freemasonry Today; initiatives such as mentoring, orator schemes and new websites, monitoring national and all local newspapers and dealing with the press and giving advice on media issues. Brethren, on that subject, our relations with the media have improved dramatically through the efforts of the Provincial Information Officers and from here. We will take no nonsense from any detractor. Interestingly, this considered approach has earned Freemasonry considerable respect and us – many new friends. That snapshot, that flavour of a few of the things we do, is for the good of all members. Things like today’s Quarterly Communication, or Supreme Grand Chapter and Investitures do not just happen. They all have to be organised and staffed. Just think what it is like for a Lodge Secretary to run one meeting and then compare, no, we need say no more – you have got the picture! Don’t forget we also work closely with Provinces and Districts with their activities including the installation of Provincial or District Grand Masters, bi-centenaries, centenaries and business meetings throughout the Constitution.

The Centre here is in many ways a clearing house, giving advice and guidance when asked for. Having said that, we do initiate change and our great strength is adaptability. Whether from 1717 or 1813 it has been our ability to adapt to the society in which we are living without changing the basic principles and tenets.

At the same time we will continue to keep the building up-to-date and in good order. This means that the building remains a prestige venue and commercially viable.

So, Brethren, with the leadership of our Rulers and the direction of the Board we will together continue to build and strengthen those bridges as we move happily forward from a strong base towards our three hundredth anniversary in 2017 and beyond. We commend to every single member, wherever you are, the true value of Freemasons’ Hall and all it stands for in the 21st Century.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 12:02

Pro Grand Master’s address - September 2009

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

9 SEPTEMBER 2009

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
I welcome you to this September Quarterly Communication and I trust you have all had an enjoyable summer.

I am sure that many of you will think that Masonic activity slackens off in July and August. At private Lodge level this may be true, but let me assure you, brethren, we keep going here!

Published in Speeches
Page 12 of 18

ugle logo          SGC logo