10 December 2014
A speech by WV Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill, Assistant Grand Chancellor
GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, a year ago we left the United Grand Lodge of England duly constituted on 27 December 1813 with elaborate ceremonial, and the Brethren recruiting themselves at the Crown and Anchor tavern where a grand banquet was provided.
As might be expected, 1814 was a year of consolidation in which many of the details of the Union fell to be worked through. At the Quarterly Communication of 2 March the Board of General Purposes in its report set out the “Duty of the Board”:
1st To propose for the sanction and adoption of the Grand Lodge such Laws and regulations as may appear necessary or expedient for the Government of the Craft and to draw up and arrange the same….
2dly To propose for the consideration and adoption of the other Masonic Boards such measures as appear to this Board to require their consideration.
3dly To hear and determine all subjects of Masonic Complaint or irregularity respecting Lodges or Individual Masons, To proceed to admonition or suspension if judged necessary, and where the case shall appear of so flagrant a nature as to require the Erasure of a Lodge or expulsion of a Member from the Fraternity to make a special report to the Grand Lodge with their Opinion thereon.
That all the other powers and duties heretofore exercised and belonging to the former Stewards Lodge or Committee of Charity now belong to this Board, except only such powers and duties as are specially vested in or properly belong to the several other Boards now constituted
The Board then promulgated the Rules and Regulations proposed for its Government
JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and brethren, the Duke of Sussex was keen that there should be no slacking once the festivities were over and the Union achieved. He had round him a close circle of advisers to push forward his aims. The new Boards were immediately set to their tasks. The Board of General Purposes was a combination of the former Committee of Charity of the premier Grand Lodge and the Stewards Lodge of the Antients. Both had originally been set up to manage the central charitable affairs of their respective Grand Lodges but had gradually accrued both policy making and disciplinary powers and were more like general committees. In the twenty years after the Union the Board of General Purposes slowly absorbed the other Boards set up in 1814, except for the Board of Benevolence which continued until 1980 when its duties were taken over by the Grand Charity.
GFR: The Board went on to represent
that various irregularities having been communicated to this Board in the practice of initiating of Members as well as in that of granting Certificates and other Matters, It is recommended that in the Conferences which are to take place between this Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland a general understanding be established on every point of communion between them that perfect unity may be established.......
JMH: Because the Union had, in the end, been so hastily arranged neither the Grand Lodge of Ireland nor that for Scotland had been able to send delegates to the great meeting on 27th December 1813. The Grand Master, however, was keen to have their support and to try and achieve unanimity of purpose between the three Grand Lodges. Although not referred to in the Grand Lodge Minutes the Grand Masters of Ireland and Scotland and other of their senior brethren met with the Duke of Sussex in the early summer of 1814 and agreed and signed what became known as the International Compact which has governed relations between the three Home Grand Lodges ever since and brought into being what is now an annual tripartite meeting where the three get together to discuss common problems.
GFR: The Board also reported on Charges preferred before them by the Officers of the Lodge of Antiquity, No. 2 against Brother Charles Bonner … for having printed part of the Proceedings of the Lodge of Antiquity, and its Permanent Committee, without the consent of the Grand Master or his Deputy. Grand Lodge Resolved unanimously that the report be confirmed and the paper printed by Brother Bonner be referred to the consideration of the Board of General Purposes and that in the meantime Bro Bonner be suspended from all Masonic Rights and Privileges.
Reports were also delivered by the Board of Works (which had been considering jewels and aprons), the Board of Finance and the Board of Schools.
JMH: Brother Bonner we will return to a little later. The Board of Works had been given the remit of looking after the real property, furniture and regalia of Grand Lodge. They immediately set to designing standard regalia and it is to them that we owe the design of the aprons, collars and jewels we still wear today. The only differences since 1814 are the addition of emblems for new officers as they have been introduced at Lodge, Metropolitan, Provincial, District and Grand Lodge levels and the wearing of chains by active Grand Officers. Until 1836 active Grand Officers wore their jewels pendent to embroidered collars, as Past Grand Officers do today. Amazingly the Minutes of the Board of Works still survive. Infuriatingly, whilst they list the designs chosen they give no indication as to why they were chosen – which has left the field wide open to Masonic symbologists to give more and more abstruse meaning to the various symbols used! Having presented their ideas to the Grand Lodge in March, they were formally approved at the Installation of the Grand Master on 2nd May.
GFR: At the Quarterly Communication held on 1 June, the Board of General Purposes reported that Bro Bonner had been summoned to answer
“for having printed and circulated amongst some Members of the Craft a certain paper purporting to be the Copy of an address proposed in the Lodge of Antiquity to be presented to His Royal Highness The Grand Master together with remarks and observations thereon, in which said printed Paper the conduct of the M.W. Grand Master and others was spoken of and animadverted on and that in a way highly improper unmasonic and unjust and to bring with him to the Board such witnesses and evidence as he might think necessary in his behalf”
JMH: Charles Bonner was the Acting Master of the Lodge of Antiquity, of which the Grand Master was the permanent Master. Claiming to act with the agreement of the Past Masters and other members of the Lodge, Bonner had issued a printed letter in which, like his mentor in ritual matters William Preston almost forty years earlier, he claimed that the immemorial rights of the Lodge of Antiquity were being set aside by the Act of Union. In particular he referred to the Lodge having lost its No. 1 status on the Register, lost its right to carry the Book of Constitutions on a cushion immediately in front of the Grand Master in all Masonic processions and the right of its Master or Acting Master to sit at the right hand of the Deputy Grand Master at feasts after Grand Lodge meetings. His case might have been listened to had he simply made these claims, but he was guilty of two major errors. First, admittedly in the most carefully polite language, he chided His Royal Highness the Grand Master as Master of the Lodge of Antiquity for not having done more to safeguard the rights of the Lodge and, secondly, despite claiming to speak on their behalf had not gained the agreement of the Lodge to his complaint before having it printed and circulated. At its meeting the Lodge formally rejected the letter and informed both the Grand Master and the Grand Secretary that it did not represent the views of the Lodge.
GFR: The Quarterly Communication of 7 September saw the reappearance of a character we have previously met in these historical presentations. The Board of General Purposes reported
that Brother Francis C. Daniel a Member of the Lodge of Felicity No. 75 late No. 54 having attended on the 22d Decr last at one of the Meetings of the Lodge of Reconciliation previous to the day of Union….. it was stated by some of the Brethren present that he had been expelled from that part of the Fraternity of which His Grace the Duke of Athol was formerly Grand Master and as the Rules Orders Regulations and Acts of the two Grand Lodges previous to the Union ought to be maintained subject to the reconsideration of the United Grand Lodge Brother Daniel must be taken and considered to stand expelled the United Fraternity.
JMH: Those who have been attending this Quarterly Communication for the last few years will remember that Francis Columbine Daniel was the Brother who, joining a queue at a garden party at Buckingham Palace was surprised when asked to kneel and had a sword tapped on his shoulder, thus gaining a knighthood by default! He had indeed been expelled by the former Antients Grand Lodge and, as a tit for tat, had engineered the expulsion of Thomas Harper from the premier Grand Lodge, which actions delayed any discussion of the Union for nearly seven years.
GFR: There were a few fireworks at the December Communication. After the Grand Lodge had been opened in ample Form and the Laws relating to the Behaviour of Masons in Grand Lodge had been read, the Minutes of the previous Communication were put for confirmation, whereupon:
Robert Leslie Junr Master of the Lodge No. 9, rose and addressing himself in the most disrespectful, disorderly and unmasonic manner to the Grand Master then presiding over the Grand Lodge which had been opened in ample form, demanded to know whether he had been regularly initiated and passed the several Degrees of Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft. This outrageous act of indecorum committed in the Grand Lodge towards the Fraternity at large in the person of the Grand Master by Bro. Leslie Junr excited a general indignation in the breast of all the Brethren present; who had most of them witnessed the joint and solemn Obligation taken by the two Grand Masters of the respective Fraternities on the day of Union.……
Eventually a motion was carried
“That the said Robert Leslie Junr should lay aside his Masonic Insignia and Quit the Grand Lodge”
which upon his refusal he was compelled to do.
JMH: Robert Leslie Jnr was the son of Robert Leslie who since 1790 had been Grand Secretary of the Antients Grand Lodge. Father Leslie had been wholly against any idea of a Union of the two Grand Lodges and did all he could to hinder matters. He continued to rail against the event and refused to hand over the books and papers of the Antients Grand Lodge until he was guaranteed a pension of £100 p.a., which had been his salary from the Antients Grand Lodge. It would appear that the son was even more abrasive than the father!
GFR: Later in the meeting a Letter addressed to the Most Worshipful Grand Master by Bro Charles Bonner was by His Royal Highness laid before the Grand Lodge and read …….. After which on a Motion duly made it was Resolved that Bror. Charles Bonner be restored to his functions as a Mason and a Member of the Grand Lodge.
JMH: Bonner’s letter was suitably abject and apologetic and he was enabled to return to the fold and continued his interest in ritual matters. He had been Secretary of the Lodge of Promulgation, which had paved the way towards the Union and gave much advice to the Lodge of Reconciliation in its attempts to bring about a standard form of ritual after the Union.
GFR: It was “Ordered that a Special Grand Lodge be holden on Wednesday the 1st of February next”… The purpose of the meeting was to consider the new Code of Laws and Regulations for the Government of the Grand Lodge, and of the Craft in general, which had been deliberated on by the Board of General Purposes.
The Board’s report had also dealt with the case of Bro Francis Columbine Daniel, and he
being in attendance two Stewards conducted him into the Grand Lodge without his Masonic Clothing when His Royal Highness the Most Worshipful Grand Master addressed him on the circumstance of his Restoration to his Masonic Privileges and on the conduct which it was the duty of every Mason to observe after which he was reinstated with his Apron and directed to take his Seat as a Member of the Grand Lodge.
JMH: Daniel, you may be pleased to hear, caused no further problems, was never referred to again in Grand Lodge and will not appear again in these talks, should we be asked to continue them! The new Code of Laws was issued as unbound sheets for anyone to make comment on their content. Comments there were aplenty and it was not until 1819 that the final text was agreed and published.
GFR: The Quarterly Communication of 4 March 1914 was held at Central Hall, Westminster, in order to accommodate the large numbers attending, and opened on an amicable note with a unanimous vote in favour of a contributory pension scheme for the clerks in the Grand Secretary’s office in receipt of salaries of under £400 per annum. Alas, controversy set in immediately afterwards with the Motions Pursuant to Notice. In December 1913 Grand Lodge had directed that a special report of the Board of General Purposes putting forward significant constitutional proposals for the reorganisation of the Grand Lodge and London be circulated to Lodges in order that all Brethren might vote on the proposals. This provoked a flurry of Motions for March 1914.
A preliminary skirmish was launched by W Bro Samuel Green, who objected to the order in which the various motions were set out in the paper of business. He quoted the then Rule 55:
“Notices of motion shall be set down for consideration in the order in which they were given, and.... shall stand on the paper of business in precedence of all subsequent notices.........”
He went on to submit that it was
a matter of extreme importance that the resolutions shall come on in the order in which the notices were given, because it may be a matter of considerable interest to the Brethren that certain resolutions should be dealt with before others. I have little doubt about that. Many Brethren sent in their resolutions earlier in order that they might be dealt with in accordance with the Book of Constitutions, and the point I make is, that if whoever is responsible for altering the Agenda Paper now does so on a future occasion it may create considerable difficulty. I submit that the Book of Constitutions binds, not merely the Initiate, not merely the Master Mason, but also the Board of General Purposes. Therefore, Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master, I ask your ruling as to whether the notices of motion shall be taken in the order in which they are on the Agenda Paper to-day, or whether they shall be taken in the order in which they were given, and comply with the Book of Constitutions?
The Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, after consultation with the Grand Secretary replied:
Brethren, I hold myself most particularly bound by the Book of Constitutions, but this matter is capable of a very natural and simple explanation, which, I am sure, will give satisfaction to all and cause offence to nobody. …. It is this. The Grand Secretary showed the motions of which notice had been given to the President of the Board and asked him what would be the best order in which to take them? The President did not recollect for the moment that there was Rule 55 – any of us may forget the existence of a Rule – and, as it was put to him in that way, he naturally only regarded it from the point of view of the convenience of Grand Lodge and suggested a particular order. It was only after that had happened and the notice had been printed, that he was reminded of the Rule. That is the explanation, and I hope you regard it as a sufficient one….
Nevertheless, Bro Green’s resolution “That the original order of the motions, as they stood on the Agenda on the 18th February of this year, be adhered to” was put to the meeting and declared carried.
After passing an amendment to the Book of Constitutions to allow Honorary Members an unfettered right to attend the Lodges that had elected them to honorary membership, the first Motion relating to the reorganisation of Grand Lodge was called. Its proposer, VW Bro R.A. McCall, KC, PDepGReg, was detained in Court, so it was put back in the agenda and W Bro Norman Armitage rose to propose on behalf of W Bro Keogh Murphy (who was absent through illness)
That this Grand Lodge expresses its regret at the action of the Board of General Purposes in circulating two letters dated the 18th December, 1913, and the 24th January, 1914, respectively, inaccurately stating the effect of the Resolution passed in Grand Lodge on the 3rd December, 1913, which authorised the reception and circulation of the Report of the Board of General Purposes containing nineteen proposals.
JMH: The Board had a very paternalistic attitude towards the Grand Secretary’s Staff and the new pension scheme was a generous one, which, it was admitted in introducing it to Grand Lodge, would in the long run save Grand Lodge money, which the then existing ad hoc provisions would not!
The rest of the meeting was one of those rare occasions when the management of Grand Lodge was caught on the wrong foot! The rather acrimonious debate which followed, and went on for most of the evening, was on technicalities: who had said what and if they had been correctly reported in the official published records, whether or not the procedural rules for debate in Grand Lodge had been followed to the letter (they had not), complete with statements implying that the Pro Grand Master, President of the Board and Grand Secretary did not appear to be as well acquainted with the Book of Constitutions as persons of their eminence should be. The evening was taken up with motions, counter motions and amendments that make reading the Proceedings of the event something of a towel round the head task.
GFR: VW Bro McCall, now released from Court, spoke to his motion “That this Grand Lodge do now proceed to discuss and consider the Report of the Board of General Purposes relating to the Reconstruction of Grand Lodge.” The debate became heated and eventually boiled over when another PDepGReg, VW Bro. J.V. Vesey Fitzgerald, KC, weighed in with
except from Bro. McCall, I have never heard anyone suggest it is beyond the power of Grand Lodge to accept a scheme for devolving some of its powers… and Brethren, although Bro. McCall asserted that with great emphasis, he has given no reasons why we should accept his statement on that point as a sound one….. I do not know whether the members of Grand Lodge wish to be addressed as common jurymen or Judges. Brother McCall's speech struck me as very much like what we hear from him in the Law Courts when addressing a Common Jury. (Cries of “Withdraw.”) I am very sorry if my opinion is not that of others. I am quite sure that anyone who is used to the Courts as Bro. McCall is, will not take objection to what I say, If he does I am sorry. (Cries of “Withdraw.”) If Bro. McCall feels I have said anything to hurt him, and he objects, I will do so.
From the Pro Grand Master: Bro. Fitzgerald has said that if Bro. McCall feels hurt he apologises. Is not that sufficient?
From VW Bro Fitzgerald: If Grand Lodge feels aggrieved I apologise to Grand Lodge.
JMH: Tempers were evidently fraying and the tenor of the debate was certainly descending. To the possible relief of the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, Brother Samuel Green suggested the setting up of a Committee to go into all the matters, which was agreed to and the meeting closed. Lord Ampthill had obviously been affected by the ferocity of the debate and that some of the attacks had come from senior Grand Officers. When he addressed the assembly after he had invested the new Grand Officers in April 1914 he quoted the first paragraphs of the Address to the Brethren given at the installation of every Master of a Lodge, modifying it to refer to Grand Lodge and stated his hope that if in the future Grand Officers disapproved of the agenda or any other matter they would approach him or some other senior officer to discuss them rather than to launch them on Grand Lodge without notice. He reminded Grand Lodge that its meeting were not a Parliament or a political meeting but a meeting of Freemasons and that there should not be factions or an opposition party but that they should be able to have informed debate and respect each other’s views as Freemasons were taught to do.
GFR: In June, again at Central Hall, Westminster, Grand Lodge gave its unanimous approval to two resolutions: “That there be appointed by Grand Lodge a Special Committee of seven Members, to consider the question of making a further grant to the Royal National Life-Boat Institution, and report to Grand Lodge;” and “That the sum of three hundred guineas (£315) be granted to the fund now being raised in Newfoundland, and assisted by the District Grand Lodge, for the relief of the widows and orphans of the 250 sealers who recently lost their lives in the ice-fields.”
The Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill then spoke:
Brethren, I beg to move, “That the Board of General Purposes be requested to prepare a scheme for the fitting celebration in 1917 of the Bi-centenary of the foundation of Grand Lodge, with due regard to the fact that genuine Freemasons in every part of the world are looking forward to the occasion with deep interest and with the hope that it may be the means of strengthening the bonds of the fraternity and conforming the true principles of our Order.” It is high time that we should commence preparations for the celebration of our Bi-centenary, an occasion when English Freemasonry will be expected to prove its worth to all the world. .…. For some time past letters have reached me from different parts of the world asking me what the Grand Lodge of England is going to do, and whether other Grand Lodges will be invited to participate in the celebrations or allowed to co-operate by simultaneous celebrations in their own territories. I regret to say that I have not yet been made aware of any similar interest or intelligent anticipation of the event among Brethren in England…… You cannot do better than test the ability of the Board which you have just elected by calling upon them for proposals…. I daresay that a special Committee of a more representative character may be suggested, but it will be time enough to set up Special Committees when there is special work to be done. For the present, all that is necessary is to draw up a general scheme and to promulgate it for discussion in the Craft, so that there may be general approval of anything that is eventually decided I beg to move.
The Deputy Grand Master seconded the proposal, which was declared carried unanimously.
Grand Lodge then moved on to the business of debating at almost interminable length the composition and mode of selection of a special or representative Committee to consider the proposals for constitutional change.
JMH: Grand Lodge support for the Royal National Life-Boat Institution had begun in 1871 and it was a cause dear to many members of the Craft. Those who wish to know more can read about the long association between the Craft and the RNLI in the new issue of Freemasonry Today. Support for Newfoundland was because the majority of the Lodges there were under our Grand Lodge, there being no local Grand Lodge. Interminable the discussions on the proposed Committee certainly were and sight appears to have been lost of what the Committee’s purpose was to be. The proposal to start planning a major celebration to mark the bi-centenary of the formation of the premier Grand Lodge and the interest being shown in it by Grand Lodges overseas certainly resonates today when plans are being hatched to celebrate our tercentenary in 2017 and those same sister Grand Lodges are showing great interest in what might be being planned. Although it is ahead of the time we are talking about today, it should be noted that despite the War over 7,000 brethren, many of them in uniform, gathered in the Royal Albert Hall in June 1917 to celebrate our bi-centenary.
GFR: When Grand Lodge next met, on 2 September, the country was at war. MW Pro Grand Master, in your Presiding Officer’s Remarks this September you quoted the words used by the then Deputy Grand Master, Bro Halsey, and we do not propose to repeat them now. The Grand Secretary read a letter, expressing deep fraternal concern, from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, which described itself as our eldest child in the Western Hemisphere, and similar sentiments were echoed by a Past Grand Master of South Carolina and two Past Grand Masters of New Zealand who were present as Visitors at the Quarterly Communication.
JMH: Support from the Grand Lodges in Australia, Canada and the United States of America was to be a constant throughout the War, which in a very real sense brought those Grand Lodges closer to us, particularly when troops from those areas began to go through London, the Brethren amongst them taking an opportunity of visiting Lodges. The Board showed its paternalistic side once again by announcing that those of its Clerks who responded to the “call to the Colours” would continue to have their salaries paid throughout the hostilities and would be guaranteed to resume their labours at Grand Lodge once hostilities ceased. More than half of the clerks answered the call and happily only one of them did not return.
GFR: The following resolution marked an early casualty of the conflict:
That further proceedings in regard to the election of the Representative Committee on the question of the re-organization of Grand Lodge, under the resolution of Grand Lodge of June 3rd, be postponed.
JMH: Mercifully the war put an end to the endless argument over the re-organisation of the administration of the Craft. The intention had been a good one of bringing the Provinces more actively into the central administration of the Craft but the scheme that had been produced was an unwieldy one of multiple layers of Committees at both local and central levels, the division of London into ten Provinces and so much would have been devolved to committees before coming to a central Council and then the Board that it would have been almost impossible to get any policy or changes through in less than eighteen months! Some changes were made during the War, the most important of which was elected Provincial representation on the Board of General Purposes to give the Provinces a voice in central administration.
GFR: In December an amendment was made to the Book of Constitutions to prevent the automatic exclusion of Brethren from their Lodges if the arrears of subscription arose while they were serving their country.
JMH: The amendment was an example of Grand Lodge at its pragmatic best, almost making policy and change “on the hoof” amending a recommendation within Grand Lodge to bring into effect a rule change recognising the difficulties that members on active service would face during what was being slowly realised was not going to be a short war. The year, however, ended as it had begun with a very lengthy and somewhat nit picking debate on the actual wording of the proposition. There was also an attempt to persuade Grand Lodge to make a donation of 1,000 guineas towards the funding of a Masonic Nursing Home to care for members of the services injured on active service. There was a certain amount of support but two major figures questioned whether this was a good use of Grand Lodge’s limited finances as experience had shown that running a private hospital was an enormous economic undertaking. The proposition was negative but in 1917 the Freemasons’ War Hospital and Nursing Home was opened in London, eventually becoming the Royal Masonic Hospital. As time was to show the comments made in 1914 proved correct and the Hospital eventually had to go. But that, as they say, is a story for another day.
10 December 2014
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, a lot goes on during a period of 12 months in Freemasonry. Much of this all our members see in their lodges, as well at Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges and Grand Lodge. However what is not seen is all the work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that all runs smoothly and, even more importantly, that the Craft is fit for purpose for the future.
Over the last 40 odd years we have fought hard to ensure that our public image is continually improving. It would be ridiculous to claim that we have won all these battles or that we have convincingly won the war, but we have undoubtedly made significant progress in many areas. We will not be giving up on any of these battles, but in addition we are very much concentrating our efforts on making sure that we know as much as possible about our membership and what we can do to stabilise membership numbers and increasingly attract natural leaders and high quality members.
The Membership Focus Group under the chairmanship of the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, RW Bro Ray Reed, has made great strides in gathering essential information and assessing membership trends. We are presently considering governance, leadership, image and branding needs, as well as recruitment and retrieval, all vital to the success of any organisation. The MFG is keen to have the views of members on a number of subjects essential to the future of the Craft and is setting up a series of surveys to be conducted over the coming months which will allow all members to express their views. So far, I understand that over 5,500 members have signed up and I encourage more to do so.
Some ideas put forward may appear trivial, but it so often that which appears trivial that introduces a debate which widens and becomes, dare I say, a cornerstone. One such idea has been put to me by Bro Reed and came from a chance conversation that he had with a certain Deputy PGM, who shall remain nameless but his Province has a county town called Lincoln! Amongst several very useful points that he made was that the word “recruitment” has connotations of press ganging into the services and that, rather than talking about “recruiting” new members, why not think about “attracting” them. This may appear to be just semantics, but I believe it is rather more than that and could be very relevant.
The point I am making is that nobody should consider any idea too small to put forward. The worst that can happen is that it is not implemented – you won’t be demoted! A word of warning on this – I will be hugely unpopular with the Grand Secretary if his department is flooded out with emails so please express your ideas by using the free text boxes that will be incorporated into future surveys.
There have also been a number of changes within the secretariat and those working in this building. As most of you will have noticed by now, we are leading up to a very major event in 2017 and this is going to take a huge amount of organisation. For this reason it was decided to ask the Grand Secretary to concentrate his time and efforts on the purely masonic side of his current role and to separate away the operational side of the building, along with the finance and IT departments, which will be run by a Chief Operating Officer, Nicola Graham-Adriani who has been working for us here for over 13 years, latterly as Deputy Chief Executive.
Brethren, this meeting of Grand Lodge marks a watershed by having the Paper of Business circulated electronically. This was not as easy as it may sound, as, amongst other things, it required changes to the Book of Constitution. A team led by VW Bro James Long and including the current Grand Pursuivant have spent many hours ensuring that the circulation went smoothly and I congratulate all of them on doing so.
Another area where there has been much activity is the organisation of our four main Charities. In 2008 several PGMs made representations to the Rulers about how they would like to see the Charities modernised. A Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee was set up under the chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master, which at that time was myself, but was soon to become RW Bro Jonathan Spence who has overseen the vast majority of the Committee’s work. The Charities themselves had already made an important start by agreeing to come together under one roof and they are, of course, now all in this building.
The Committee has been working extremely hard, together with the Charity Presidents and their Chief Executives, to come forward with a formula that will suit the Charities for many years to come.
I am pleased to announce that the MW The Grand Master has now received a comprehensive briefing on the review that has taken place, as have the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters. This is the first major review to have taken place since the Bagnell Report of 41 years ago.
The Grand Master and all those who have been briefed have given their full support to the proposal to consolidate the four existing main Charities into a new overarching charity managed by a single board of Trustees under a single Chief Executive Officer with a single staff team.
Further details will be made available via the individual Charities, Provincial and District Grand Masters, and through future editions of Freemasonry Today.
At the Annual General Meeting of The Grand Charity, to be held in conjunction with the September 2015 Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, members, after a period of consultation, will be invited to endorse the proposals in respect of the changes required to the constitution of The Grand Charity. Similar activity will be required at appropriately convened members meetings for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
The review sets out to ensure that the provision of charitable support remains central to the future of Freemasonry, but is enhanced by moving to a demand-led, whole family, cradle-to-grave model, which will be far more appropriate for the 21st century. I congratulate all those involved in this review and commend their recommendations to you.
Brethren, I have spoken for rather longer than usual, but I trust that you will agree that some important issues have been covered and I believe that it is right for Grand Lodge to be kept up to date on such matters.
Last year I mentioned that I was expecting a tiring Christmas with my grandchildren. It wasn’t just them who were exhausting. My three sons, who are all in their thirties, passed my two grandsons on the stairs. One set were on their way to bed, the other on their way to open their stockings. I leave it to you, brethren, as to which lot was going in which direction!
Whoever you spend your holiday period with, may I wish you all a very happy and relaxing time.
10 September 2014
A talk by Mike Woodcock, President of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, and Chairman of Lifelites Trustees, and Simone Enefer-Doy, Chief Executive of Lifelites
Mike Woodcock: MW Pro Grand Master, brethren, at the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys we inevitably deal with many distressing cases involving children: those who are orphans, those from single parent families, even those whose parents have taken their own lives. And many being brought up by grandparents who simply cannot afford their upkeep.
Most of these children never had the opportunities that we had when we were young, but because they are children of the wider masonic family, through a mixture of financial support, care and advice, we can help them often substantially and most go on to lead happy and fulfilling adult lives.
However, today we are here to talk about children who neither we nor anyone else can help into adulthood – because these are children who will never have what the other children take for granted – the chance to grow into adults. They are children with life-limiting conditions who are cared for by children’s hospices.
For parents facing the tragedy of losing a child, making the most of the time left is the most precious gift they can give.
Today Simone and I are here to tell you more about Lifelites, a small charity established by the trust 15 years ago to mark the millennium. It remains a masonic charity but through the power of partnership it has been able to work with non-masonic people and organisations to bring unlimited opportunities to children with limited lives.
Fifteen years ago, children’s hospices were a relatively new concept. There were just 17 throughout the British Isles and for the first seven years Lifelites was funded entirely by the RMTGB. However, as the children’s hospice movement grew and new technology provided more and more possibilities, Lifelites was given the independence to raise funds more widely and to partner non-masonic organisations. The result is that today there are 49 children’s hospices with a Lifelites project and presence in every one. Lifelites provides the very best technology, equipment and training enabling children with life-limiting conditions and often with profound disabilities to learn, to explore, to communicate and to play in ways which they, their parents or their carers never thought possible.
What we do is often life-changing not only for 9,000 – yes 9,000 – children being cared for in children’s hospices at any one time, but also for their parents and extended families.
Simone leads the small and dedicated team at Lifelites, and she is now going to explain what a Lifelites project consists of and how it makes such a difference. I will then explain how Freemasons and others have helped to make all of this possible.
Simone Enefer-Doy: Those of you who have visited a children’s hospice will know that they are special places caring for terminally ill children and their families. The child may visit the hospice over a number of years for respite and specialist care, and they will always find a lively home-from-home atmosphere with plenty of activities taking place. I regularly witness the struggles these children and their families face. It is hard to imagine what it is like having a child who cannot communicate or play like other children.
When Daniel first visited Richard House Children’s Hospice in London he told his carer Bernie that he could not do anything because he could only move one arm. But Bernie thought that if he could move one arm then he could hold a camcorder and from that spark of imagination a whole film club was born. Using the Lifelites camcorder to film and the Lifelites computers to edit, Daniel and his friends went on to make action features and now every year they have their own Oscars’ ceremony – wheeling themselves along the red carpet, dressed in their bow ties – and every child gets an Oscar. Daniel’s mum and dad told us that his confidence had gone through the roof, for the first time he had made friends and was doing things he never thought possible. They realised that they would never see their son taking part in a school sports’ day, but for them, this was even better. Sadly, Daniel is no longer with us, but we are proud that Lifelites had such a positive impact on his short life.
As Mike said the children we help often have profound disabilities – some have difficulty controlling their movements, others are less cognitively able and many find it difficult to speak. But Lifelites can change all that. Recent advances in technology are enabling dreams to become a reality, and everything we do is aimed at helping these children – whatever their abilities – to join in and take part.
Wherever you may live in the British Isles, there are children being supported by Lifelites because we have a magical technology project at every one of the 49 children’s hospices. Our typical package includes items like touchscreen computers, games consoles which work through sensing movements, iPads with drop-proof covers, and software that makes it possible for the children to be creative, to communicate and control something themselves. Very importantly, we make sure that the equipment we provide is portable so that even if a child cannot get out of bed, the equipment can be taken to them.
Most children love playing computer games, but off the shelf software is not designed with disabilities in mind. So we have worked with students at London South Bank University to develop games which are unique to Lifelites.
Another amazing piece of equipment is the 'magic carpet' that projects an image onto the floor which the children can interact with. It gives them the chance to escape the confines of their condition and to embrace a world of make-believe, flying an aeroplane, splashing in the sea or playing football. We also provide software that enables those who can only move their heads to use a computer. But sometimes the only part of their body they can move is their eyes so we also provide cutting edge technology called eyegaze. Eyegaze enables children to access a computer through a camera which tracks their eye movements, enabling them to move the cursor around the screen. Through eyegaze, children whose carers and families thought they were unable to communicate at all, can now do so – they can tell their carers what they would like for breakfast, when they are thirsty, they can explore new worlds and can even, for the first time, tell their parents that they love them. It means that these children can enter and stay involved in the world around them for as long as it is possible.
But we do not just provide the equipment and walk away: first we consult with the staff and children to find out what would be most useful for them; we constantly research the best solutions and make hospice staff aware of what is possible; we raise the funds to provide it, we install it; we train the hospice staff in how to use it, we commit to maintaining it in good order and we aim to replace every four years.
With the addition of exciting new items like eyegaze and the magic carpet this now costs around £50,000 for each hospice every four years. This means that we need to raise £12,500 for each of our 49 projects or over £600,000 every year.
The hospices themselves simply could not afford to do what we do. Without Lifelites these children, for whom every second counts, would miss out on the opportunities which new technology can bring. Because we look after the equipment, hospice staff can concentrate on doing what they do best: caring for the children and their families. What we provide comes at no cost to the hospice and does not detract in any way from their fundraising.
David Strudley, Chief Executive of Acorns Children’s hospices in Birmingham, Walsall and Worcester tells people: 'Whatever the problem, nothing seems to be too difficult for Lifelites to solve for us or with us. As technology moves on, so does Lifelites. Our children – however severely disabled – are able to use the equipment for themselves. It does not matter that a child cannot communicate in the traditional way anymore – non-verbal communication is not a problem. Lifelites has helped us to discover better ways of looking after our children.
'Each time I visit a hospice I am reminded that the children are not just patients, they are funny, joyous people, and it is possible for a short life to be a good life, a happy life and a full life.'
What we do is in no small part due to the support we continue to receive from Freemasons. So I would like to say thank you on behalf of all those 9,000 children for the help you have given – and we hope you will continue to give – for our vital work which makes such a difference.
Mike Woodcock: Brethren, even though we work with 49 children’s hospices and raise all of our own funds we have just five full time staff and this is only possible because we have so many volunteers who not only raise funds but also help deliver our services, most are Freemasons and some of them are here today including: our trustees and members of our management committee; individual Freemasons who visit the hospices helping to set up and maintain the equipment and to train staff in how to use it; at least two-thirds of the Provincial Grand Masters sitting behind me whose Provinces have made generous and sometimes substantial donations to support our work. And I also include generous support from other masonic orders, from the Mark Benevolent Fund and the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland, and the many others here today who have either made personal donations or taken part in the many Lifelites fundraising initiatives.
As chairman of Lifelites trustees I too extend a huge thank you to you all. Lifelites is further proof that masonic charity is not just inward looking and that Freemasons not only give generously but involve themselves directly in caring for the less fortunate.
Unlike the main masonic charities we do not receive funding from the festival system, but importantly we are able to raise funds from outside Freemasonry and we work in partnership with non-masonic organisations to help deliver our aims.
Significant non-masonic donors have included: the Thomas Cook Children’s Charity; The Khoo Teck Puat Foundation; Dixons Group who made Lifelites their chosen charity; GamesAid, Microsoft, London South Bank University, Sainsbury’s (here in holborn), Children with Cancer UK, Buckinghamshire Building Society and many others who have supported us. London Underground allow us to make a christmas collection. We even have Ladies that Lunch who raise funds for us.
By working with others we have been able to triple the funds donated by freemasons enabling us to do so much more.
But partnership is not just about fundraising, Lifelites also works with others in delivering its services.
The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists has been our partner from day one, bringing their specialist knowledge and expertise to our management committee as well as donating funds themselves. As Simone said we also work in true partnership with the hospices themselves to ensure maximum impact.
Today the charity world is changing rapidly and we need to respond to change if we are to become even more successful. There is intense competition for funds meaning that we have to employ management techniques derived from the commercial sector, especially in marketing and fundraising. Charities have to be able to find, select and utilise the very best of new ideas – no one has a monopoly of these. It is no longer enough to simply ask for support because we have a worthy cause. The emphasis has to be on performance and impact assessment requiring rigorous questioning, enabling potential donors to make informed choices. As a result of being a leader in innovation we have been proud to receive no less than four national industry awards recognising our achievements.
So, today we celebrate the fifteen year success of a small charity founded by Freemasons which has grown to encompass every children’s hospice in the british isles and in doing so we have been able to raise the profile of the Craft as a modern and effective force for good in society.
Charity may not be the main purpose of Freemasonry but we all know that it is high on our agenda and in many ways characterises the kind of people we are. Freemasonry has a long, proud and enviable record in charity and Lifelites has shown that if we use the power of partnership we can achieve even more.
Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master, the last time that I had the privilege of addressing Grand Lodge, I looked up at the depiction of Pythagoras on the temple frieze in the west and reminded us that the ancient Knights of Pythagoras had a saying, 'that a man never stands as tall as when he kneels to help a child'
Today, every Freemason who has supported Lifelites stands very tall indeed.
Thank you again and please remember that if ever you would like to become more involved in our work we are only a telephone call away or you could arrange to visit our small office at 26 Great Queen Street – you will be most welcome.
Brethren, thank you for listening to the Lifelites story and thank you again for giving so many children the power to control at least something in their lives and their parents the joy of seeing them live their short lives to the full.
10 September 2014
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, at the Quarterly Communication held on the second of September 1914, one hundred years ago, the First World War had been underway for just under a month. Thinking back to that time, your predecessors would have known that, even in that short time, the German Army had already defeated the Russian forces at the Battle of Tannenberg and the French and British armies were in fierce contact with the German advance in the South of Belgium.
That Quarterly Communication was presided over by Sir Frederick Halsey as Deputy Grand Master as the then Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Connaught and the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill were away serving their country.
Sir Frederick, in proposing the motion that ‘Grand Lodge expresses the deep appreciation of the loyal and devoted service now being rendered to our country by HRH the MW Grand Master, the MW Pro Grand Master, and very many other Brethren of all ranks in the Craft, and its earnest prayer for their continued well-being’, went on to say – amongst other things – that it was a time of great anxiety and that every Grand Officer would carry out their work without panic and alarm and show that calmness and confidence which animates the breast of every Englishman and mason.
He added, ‘our hearts go out to our friends and relations, to our dear ones, both in the Craft and outside it, who are now serving their country at the call of duty; our prayers follow them, and we trust that before long, in the mercy of the Great Architect of the Universe, they may emerge from this present struggle safe and sound’.
Sadly over 3,300 masons, serving in the four fighting services Army, Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Flying Corps never made it home. This fine building was created as a peace memorial dedicated to them and I trust you will have all seen the magnificent memorial window at the end of the vestibules beyond those doors and which have been recently restored thanks to the generosity of London Lodges and Chapters as well as individuals coordinated by Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Chapter, and below it, the bronze shrine containing the Roll of Honour parchment scroll honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in the service of their country. We should not forget that many sons and grandsons of members were killed – many of whom would have been potential members.
The Library and Museum at Freemasons’ Hall has an exhibition entitled, ‘English Freemasonry and the First world War’ starting next week and which will go on until the beginning of March next year. This major exhibition tells the story of the organisation and members during the First World War and, for example, it explores how lodges coped with members being called up to fight.
Brethren, brotherly love remains as important in today’s world as it did in those dark days of great anxiety in the First World War. To exercise kindness, tolerance and charitable support – and to feel deeply interested in the welfare of others – is a source of the greatest happiness and satisfaction in every situation in life. It is, I believe, of the utmost importance today to ensure our long term survival but I am concerned that we are, surprisingly, not always seen internally as a caring organisation with junior members too often marginalised and unsupported. This must change and it is the responsibility of every member to help to retain those of integrity within their Lodges by making them feel included and cared for. By so doing we will ensure that they will gain the same fulfilment and satisfaction from their masonry that we have all been lucky enough to enjoy.
Grande Loge Nationale Française
In 2012 the United Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Ireland and the Grand Lodge of Scotland (the Home Grand Lodges), because of internal problems within the Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF), each withdrew recognition from the GLNF. This action was undertaken in the belief that it was in the best interests of the Home Grand Lodges to distance themselves from the problems within the GLNF and to give the GLNF time and space to resolve their problems without external interference.
The Home Grand Lodges continued to monitor the situation and believe that the actions taken by the current leadership of the GLNF have actively and comprehensively addressed the problems which led to the withdrawal of recognition, with the almost unanimous support of the Brethren of the GLNF, and that peace and harmony have now been restored.
Accordingly, at their respective Quarterly Communications held on 5th June (Ireland), 11th June (England) and 12th June (Scotland) 2014 the Home Grand Lodges each moved resolutions to restore recognition to the GLNF, which resolutions were accepted.
|Charles Wolrige Gordon of Esslemont||Peter Lowndes||Douglas Grey|
|Grand Master Mason||Pro Grand Master||Deputy Grand Master|
11 June 2014
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, over the last year or two there has been a certain amount of correspondence in the various masonic magazines regarding the pros and cons of reading rather than reciting our ritual.
One correspondent suggested that as ritual was read throughout European Grand Lodges, we should follow. I am not sure all our politicians would agree with that! Certainly it is true that reading ritual is prevalent in many European Grand Lodges, however it is not universally so, and, in any event, there surely is no good reason for us to follow their example. Indeed, I have many friends in European Lodges who envy the way we deliver our ritual.
You will note, brethren, that I said that they are envious of the way we 'deliver' our ritual and, in my experience, ritual that is recited has much greater meaning to the candidate than ritual that is read, although I am pleased to say I have not been present on many occasions that it has been read.
I entirely accept that learning ritual is time consuming and time is at a premium in today’s hectic schedule of life. But how often is it true that the busiest people are those who find the time to learn it. I am not going to pretend that I have ever found ritual learning easy, and, as time goes by, dare I say, I find learning new ritual more difficult, but, nonetheless, I shall never forget the satisfaction of carrying out a second degree ceremony at the first meeting that I was in the chair of my mother lodge. To be told by an extremely demanding DC that it had been adequate was as good as it gets! I should add that this was a great deal more complimentary than anything he ever said to me during the year that he taught me classics.
By definition reading means looking at the book and, if the deliverer is looking at the book, he is not looking at the candidate or the brethren to whom he is speaking. To read a text well is in itself a skill that not everyone has. Good reading needs preparation and unless our ritual is understood by the deliverer, what chance is there that it will be understood by the recipient. For the reader to have a good understanding of what he is saying he will have had to have read through the text on several occasions and it is most certainly not a case of turning up, opening a book and reading.
Our ritual is to be treasured and there are few better experiences than seeing and hearing a really well conducted masonic ceremony.
One of the prime reasons that lodges are being encouraged to share the workload is so that members should spend time really learning and understanding what they are delivering and not just reciting ritual parrot fashion. It is inevitable that some members will find ritual easier than others and it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that as much help as possible is given to those who need it, thus giving everyone the opportunity to take pride in their delivery, however short a piece it may be.
I don’t expect what I have said today to be universally accepted, but I would be surprised if the majority do not agree with at least part of it.
Letters to the Editor - No. 28 Winter 2014
All in the delivery
With regard to the June address by our Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, there is no doubt that the candidate deserves to experience the ritual without the deliverer needing to read the text from a book. I was greatly impressed by the sincerity and meaning thus offered. At one time I could comfortably deliver the Second Degree Tracing Board as well as preside over a lodge or chapter with similar confidence, but now, with the years advancing and being into my seventies, such standards of delivery are now virtually impossible. The reluctant answer, where appropriate, is to delegate, but sometimes reading the ritual is just unavoidable. I do try to impart appropriate emotion with my delivery.
Barry Mitchell, Zetland Lodge, No. 511, London
11 June 2014
Order of Service of Masonry citation for W Bro Richard Leonard Ellis
Bro Len Ellis was made a mason in March, 1962, at the age of 30, in Old Castles Lodge, No. 5773, in Hawarden, North Wales, serving as its Master in 1978. In 1982 he joined Clwyd Lodge of lnstalled Masters, No. 8676 and in 1987 he joined Pen-y-Ddraig Lodge, No. 8163, serving as its Secretary from then until 2008. He was exalted into the Royal Arch in Pen-ar-lag Chapter, No. 3273 in 1964, becoming its First Principal in 1981.
After a year as Provincial Assistant Grand Secretary of North Wales in 1977, Bro Ellis became, in short order, Provincial Senior Grand Deacon, Provincial Grand Sword Bearer and, in 1985, Provincial Senior Grand Warden. In 1987 he was appointed Provincial Grand Secretary (and Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra), and received the rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in the Craft, receiving that of Past Grand Standard Bearer in the Royal Arch the following year. In due course he was promoted to his present ranks of Past Junior Grand Deacon and Past Assistant Grand Sojourner.
Bro Ellis was one of the last long-serving Provincial Grand Secretaries, a breed that is all but extinct in an age when that office is perceived as a burden that should only rarely be shouldered by any individual for much more than five years. He held that office with distinction under four Provincial Grand Masters, from 1987 until 2008, one of whom, the late Bro Ian Mackeson-Sandbach, knew he had one of the best Provincial Grand Secretaries in the Constitution and treated him accordingly. The wealth of knowledge and experience which he accumulated during his period in office stood him, his successive Provincial Grand Masters and, above all, his Province in good stead. His later years in office were marred by severe arthritis, but he never lost his sense of humour and remained unfailingly courteous as well as a great source of advice and information to his neighbouring Provincial Grand Secretaries and even senior staff at Freemasons' Hall.
Craft Annual Investiture
30 April 2014
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG
Brethren, I want to start by saying a very warm welcome to you all, and to thank you for re-electing me as Grand Master at the last meeting in March. I particularly congratulate all those that I have had the pleasure of investing today.
Whether you have been appointed to or promoted in Grand Rank, I want to emphasise that two of your key tasks are recruitment and retention. It has become clear from the research carried out by the Membership Focus Group chaired by the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes that these tasks are more important than ever before. I am particularly concerned to hear that very few members recruit at all, and that there is an unacceptably high loss rate after each of the three degrees and indeed during the first ten years of membership.
The Membership Focus Group has been formed to analyse the statistics and to make proposals to stem the loss of members. It is already clear that the Mentoring Scheme will play a vital role going forward. It is therefore important that Lodge Mentors appoint appropriate personal mentors to look after each new candidate, rather than trying to do all the mentoring themselves. I look to you all, as Grand Officers, supporting the Mentoring Scheme.
Naturally, I expect you will also be good examples to others whatever their rank – not only in your good conduct and supportive approach but also by demonstrating your enjoyment of Freemasonry.
Yesterday evening I hosted a dinner for Provincial and District Grand Masters. The support of and direction from your respective Provincial and District Grand Masters is paramount and I am pleased to hear how closely they, in turn, are working with the Centre, here at Freemasons’ Hall. This inclusive approach is core to the future of the English Constitution.
I continue to hear of the good work done by the Provinces in their local communities and no better example has been the help given to the victims of the recent floods, especially in the West Country. This good work was supported when I recently had the opportunity to visit two Provinces. In Gloucestershire where I also attended their annual service in Gloucester Cathedral and also in Cornwall. I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the members I met in both Provinces.
Finally Brethren, I want to express our thanks to the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the smooth running of the impressive ceremony that you have just witnessed, as well as to the Grand Secretary and his staff for all their hard work leading up to today’s investiture.
12 March 2014
A Statement by The President of the Board of General Purposes, RW Bro Anthony Wilson, concerning Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF)
MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, in September last the Grand Chancellor made a short statement on our position with regard to the GLNF. The Board has continued to monitor the situation and I believe it would be useful for Grand Lodge to receive an update on the subject. The Board has been encouraged by the progress being made in restoring peace and harmony within the GLNF. A special meeting will be held in April at which the members of the GLNF will be invited to approve significant changes to their Constitution and Rules, which will return power to the Grand Lodge and its members. If those changes go through, the Board believes that it would be possible to consider restoring recognition to the GLNF in the near future. The Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland are of the same opinion.
12 March 2014
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, it has been a pleasure to install Right Worshipful Brother Sir David Wootton as Assistant Grand Master. In offering him our congratulations I know that you would want me to wish him well in his important task at this exciting time for Freemasonry.
I also take this opportunity to thank RW Bro David Williamson for his thirteen years as Assistant Grand Master serving the English Constitution admirably in that role. I can think of few people who have done more for Freemasonry in general and the Craft in particular. I also know that I speak for Lord Northampton when I say that there could not have been a more loyal and supportive AGM.
It is, in fact, the unity of the English Constitution that I wish to talk about today. That unity is crucial to our survival as a relevant organisation in society for men of quality to join. In particular I want to emphasise the importance of all the component parts of our organisation working together. Enormous progress has been made in the liaison between the centre, here, and London, the Provinces and Districts.
The consistent approach from the centre is now very much a consultative one, working directly to seek views before making proposals for consensus approval. This is typically through the Grand Secretary, on behalf of the Rulers and Board of General Purposes by direct contact, online surveys or by Provincial Grand Masters championing or being members of committees looking into and ensuring the future of Freemasonry. This inclusive approach is working well. I am keen that it continues.
I will illustrate this inclusive approach with some examples to support this starting with the Board of General Purposes whose nine members include the Metropolitan Grand Master, two current and two past Provincial Grand Masters. They not only bring a wealth of experience but also an understanding of the issues directly facing the Provinces. For your information the latest issue of Freemasonry Today, which has just come out, has an article in which the President of the Board explains how the Board is fully transparent, where every member is an active contributor. He also mentions the increasing professionalism in the way the Craft is run with standards you would expect to find in successful businesses.
I mentioned that this is an exciting time for Freemasonry with several initiatives dealing with both future recruitment and retention as well as business effectiveness in running a large membership organisation. For example the newly formed Membership Focus Group which includes eight Provincial Grand Masters. Their brief is to advise the Board of General Purposes on how best Freemasonry can concentrate the minds of members, lodges, Provinces and Rulers to work in a collaborative and focused manner in stemming the decline in membership and meeting the long term needs of the Craft. Interestingly, they have already identified the high loss of members throughout the first ten years of membership. It is also already clear that the majority of recruitment is carried out by a relatively small number of members.
The Tercentenary Planning Committee is working closely with the Board of General Purposes looking at the overall plans for celebrations in 2017. Although there will be a final event in London towards the end of the year, I am determined that the Provinces and Districts run their own celebratory events throughout the year at times convenient to them. With this in mind two Provincial Grand Masters sit on the Committee with the aim of supporting and coordinating the planning with other Provincial and District Grand Masters. This way, many more members, throughout the English Constitution, will be able to participate in celebrating this milestone in our great history.
I have talked about Provincial Grand Masters being involved with helping to set the strategy as members of committees. But, brethren, wider views are also sought with online surveys which are quick and informative. For example, we have run a survey seeking opinions on communication strategies for the English Constitution. More recently, we have had a survey on potential new branding as we move towards 2017.
There are, of course, many other examples of how well we are all working together. I hold a business meeting for all Provincial Grand Masters the day before the annual Craft Investitures in April each year, and later this year I will be holding my next round of regional meetings with Provincial Grand Masters. These meetings have proved invaluable in the past, openly exchanging views and opinions.
Let us not forget the Districts who form an important part of the English Constitution. Last year, accompanied by the Grand Secretary, I attended business meetings with groups of District Grand Masters in Trinidad, Harare and Lagos whilst the Deputy Grand Master attended the inaugural Asia Oceanic Conference of District Grand Lodges in Kuala Lumpur. In addition I hold a dedicated meeting for all District Grand Masters who attend the Investitures in April to discuss issues that particularly affect them.
So, brethren, we are, as a united English Constitution, working more closely together than at any other time in our history. At a strategic level, I believe that continuing to work together will not only stem the decline in membership but start to increase it to ensure the future of Freemasonry. At an individual level, consider the fact that the more members there are, the better chance Grand Lodge has of keeping the dues down.
Changing tack, brethren, you will all be more than well aware of the appalling conditions being experienced by thousands of people as a result of the winter floods. Whilst the south west has been worst hit, Kent, Sussex and Berkshire as well as parts of Wales are not far behind, in fact there is barely a part of the south that does not have its tales of woe.
It will not surprise you to know that Freemasonry has been to the fore with providing relief funding. The Somerset Community Fund has received £750,000 in all, of which £125,000 has been from various masonic sources. The Provincial Grand Master of Somerset set a target of £50,000 and so, brethren, you can imagine how overwhelmed he is by the support the Province has received, from the Grand Charity, other Provinces (Essex alone donating £40,000) and many Lodges from all over the country, as well as those in his own Province.
The Grand Charity can and does react quickly in these situations and as well as its support of Somerset, it has donated to the Red Cross, Berkshire, Devonshire and West Wales. In all, so far, it has made donations of nearly £60,000.
We should all be immensely proud of the way in which our members respond to emergencies and how well we are able to coordinate our giving. Thank you to all those concerned.