RW Bro Anthony Wilson died peacefully on Monday 14 May, after a long battle with cancer fought with great dignity
He was President of the Board of General Purposes for 13 years, retiring from the role at the end of December 2017, and had been President of the Committee of General Purposes for three years before that.
Anthony was born in 1950, educated at Eton, and subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant. One of the first audits he conducted was for The Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund, which sponsors research fellowships at the Royal College of Surgeons. Some 20 years later he became a Trustee of the charity, which is now known as The Freemasons' Fund for Surgical Research.
Initiated into Tuscan Lodge No. 14 in March 1976, Anthony was appointed Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1997, and served as President of the Committee of General Purposes from 2001 to 2004.
He was appointed President of the Board of General Purposes in March 2004 and was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for purpose. He was promoted to Past Senior Grand Warden in April 2012.
He also played a prominent role in many events throughout our Tercentenary celebrations including the unveiling of the memorial stones to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during World War I, through to the Especial meeting of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall where he was seated in the Royal Box with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
UGLE has sent condolences on behalf of all members of Grand Lodge to his widow Vicky and family.
Read Anthony Wilson’s interview in Freemasonry Today in 2014, where he revealed that modernising the business of Freemasonry was one of his proudest achievements.
Memorial paving stones commemorating the 64 English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross during World War I were unveiled outside Freemasons’ Hall
Roughly one in six of the 633 VC recipients during World War I were Freemasons. Of these, 64 were under UGLE and 43 were under Grand Lodges in the British Empire.
The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, attended the ceremony for the stones’ unveiling and blessing, together with General Lord Dannatt representing the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, the Mayor of Camden, senior officers from the military services, a group of Chelsea Pensioners and representatives from the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association, as well as representatives from the regiments in which the VC holders had served. Specially invited were the families of those being commemorated.
The event was open to the public, with Great Queen Street and Wild Street closed to traffic. The crowd included representatives from many of the service lodges. Music was by the Band of the Grenadier Guards and the North London Military Wives Choir.
Radio and television presenter Katie Derham narrated the first part of the ceremony, which opened with Chelsea Pensioner Ray Pearson reading an extract from AE Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, followed by the then President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson warmly welcoming those attending.
‘The horrors of war were brought vividly to life by Sebastian Cator, who read from the diaries of Major Richard Willis’
Simon Dean OBE paid tribute to his grandfather Donald John Dean, who, at the age of 21, was awarded the VC in 1918. Col Brian Lees LVO OBE, chairman of the Rifles, Light Infantry and KOYLI Regimental Association, and Lt Col Matt Baker, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, The Rifles, paid tribute to Oliver Watson, who was posthumously awarded the VC in 1918.
The horrors of the war were brought vividly to life by Sebastian Cator, a pupil at Harrow School. He read from the diaries of Major Richard Willis, who had also been a pupil at Harrow, in which he described the carnage resulting from landing his men on W Beach at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. For his part in that action he was one of the famous ‘six VCs before breakfast’ of the Gallipoli landings.
The Grand Secretary, Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, gave an exhortation that was followed by the last post, a one-minute silence and reveille. The stones were then unveiled and blessed by the Grand Chaplain the Rev Canon Michael Wilson.
The general public were invited into Freemasons’ Hall to view Rough to Smooth, a showcase of art inspired by Freemasonry past, present and future
The exhibition featured work by the United Grand Lodge of England’s first ever Artist in Residence, Jacques Viljoen, who had been given unprecedented access to objects and spaces throughout the historic Grade II*-listed building.
All of Viljoen’s subjects were painted from life, using traditional techniques and absolutely no photography. His work presents a new look at the world of contemporary Freemasonry, showing intimate moments that might usually go unnoticed. ‘This has been an incredible opportunity to explore an organisation with an intricate and ancient history,’ he said. Alongside Viljoen, nine guest artists were also given unique access to Freemasons’ Hall, working in different media that ranged from oils to photography.
Renowned Norwegian oil painter Henrik Uldalen’s contemporary yet classic figurative art sat next to work by Lithuanian artist Elika Bo, who creates images by endlessly layering objects, while Nicholas Chaundy offered a technical homage to the painting techniques used in the many grand masterpieces that fill the Hall.
Then President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson viewed the artworks and commented, ‘What has struck me, above all else, is the amount of thought and work that has gone into each picture. The artists have demonstrated both an understanding of, and a variety of responses to, Freemasonry, its values and, in particular, our splendid building.’
‘This was an incredible opportunity to go and explore an organisation with an intricate and ancient history’ Jacques Viljoen
In late 2001, Lichfield mason Roger Manning suggested the creation of a masonic memorial to be sited at the new National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Burton-on-Trent
It was agreed by all that the masonic garden should serve in the remembrance of all Freemasons, whether they had died in the service of their country or through sickness, accident or old age. There would be no reference on the site to specific lodges, groups or individuals.
Sixteen years later, following four different Provincial Grand Masters, two architects, more than a dozen designs, planting failures, floods, dozens of detailed reports and many meetings, The Masonic Memorial Garden was finally unveiled on 18 April 2017 to more than 300 brethren and civic dignitaries.
The service was witnessed by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, then President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson and Grand Secretary Willie Shackell.
A welcome to all in attendance was given by local builder and mason Eddie Ford, who had been responsible for the garden’s development over the entire 16-year period. The dedication service was then undertaken by the Provincial Grand Chaplain the Reverend Bernard Buttery.
13 December 2017
RW Bro Geoffrey Dearing to be appointed President of the Board of General Purposes
At today's Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, the Pro Grand Master, MW Bro Peter Lowndes, announced that the Grand Master has appointed RW Bro Geoffrey Dearing as President of the Board of General Purposes in succession to RW Bro Anthony Wilson.
RW Bro Geoffrey Dearing is the Provincial Grand Master of East Kent.
13 December 2017
Announcement regarding the President of the Board of General Purposes
I now have to announce that, at his request, the President of the Board of General Purposes will retire at the end of December this year.
It is with great regret that I have accepted this, and the Grand Master is pleased to appoint Geoffrey Dearing, PGM of East Kent, as President in his place.
Anthony has been President of the Board for the last 13 years and as President of the Committee of General Purposes for three years before that.
He was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for the purpose. At our Quarterly Communication meetings, he always manages to ensure that the Board’s Report is succinct, yet comprehensive, and his presentations cover all the salient points.
Anthony, we will miss your charm, easy manner of address and your wise counsel. On behalf of the Craft we owe you our most sincere and grateful thanks. Enjoy your retirement.
Pro Grand Master
Sunday 3rd September may have been cold and wet in rural Wiltshire, but that didn't stop over 1,000 Freemasons and their families from braving the elements to attend Salisbury Cathedral for a very special evensong service
The Provincial Grand Master RW Bro Philip Bullock welcomed civic leaders including the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire Mrs Sarah Rose Troughton, who was accompanied by her husband Mr Peter Troughton CBE, as well as the High Sheriff Lady Marland who joined Masonic leaders RW Bro Anthony Wilson and RW Bro George Francis PAGM for lunch before the service.
The service itself was the culmination of two years preparatory work by Assistant Provincial Grand Master W Bro Stephen Bridge who worked very closely with Canon Precentor Rev Tom Clammer in organising the event.
W Bro Stephen Bridge said: ‘It was a truly remarkable event - looking down the nave of the Cathedral it was quite incredible to see so many people present and proudly wearing Masonic regalia, which was a moment of intense and humbling delight and something that will stay fresh in the memory for many years to come. It’s at times like these that all of the planning, negotiation and apprehension became worthwhile.
‘We have celebrated the Tercentenary in Wiltshire’s most beautiful and impressive place of worship. In doing so we have not only honoured those Brethren who founded the first Grand Lodge, but also the generations of operative masons who built and maintain such an inspiring building. I can think of no more appropriate place for us to mark such an important Masonic event and I trust we have also contributed to the start of a mutually supportive relationship with the Cathedral, something that can only help promote Freemasonry in Wiltshire and beyond.’
RW Bro Philip Bullock was effusive in his praise of the event and the support it received. He commented: ‘It was a thrill to see the nave of the Cathedral so full. The support was quite amazing and we had Brethren from every part of the Province attending. It was also a particular pleasure to welcome members of the three branches of our Masonic Widows Association.’
By attending a service that was part of the Cathedral’s ordained pattern of worship, Wiltshire Freemasons provided an admirable public window, helping local communities understand the true values of Freemasonry. It is hoped that the service might be repeated in the not too distant future.
Please scroll through the gallery at the top to view photos from the service
Hearts & Minds
For Ray Reed, past Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes and Past Provincial Grand Master of Buckinghamshire, the process of change that he helped to introduce within Freemasonry is only just beginning
What did your early career teach you?
I joined BP Chemicals straight from school and served a five-year apprenticeship as an instrument and electronics engineer before moving on to Reckitt & Colman when I was 23. The next 15 years were manic – two years after joining I was asked to set up and manage a new work-study department, followed by secondment as company negotiator with trade unions, then I became human resources director before becoming general manager.
Each move involved a new discipline and took me out of my comfort zone. I like the challenge of being thrown in at the deep end and rarely get stressed. If I had, I think I would have failed. These challenges opened my eyes to the fact most of what goes on in business management is common sense. Get a great team around you, identify what works, question what doesn’t, create a strategy and focus on improvement.
Equally, I learned that people at all levels love you to listen to and debate their ideas for improvement – it gives them confidence that they are part of the change process and makes them feel valued.
Why did you establish your own company?
By 1980 we were selling off the industrial division. Reckitt & Colman wanted me to stay but I was nearly 40 and wanted a new challenge, something completely different. Close friends thought I was mad.
My old sales director had left to do his own thing, working for an American company in psychological assessment. He asked me if I’d advise him on setting up a business, so I talked him into going to the US. Instead of working for the American company, we bought the franchise for the UK. About three years later, we found ourselves bigger than the US business, so we bought them out.
Family has been so important in the success of the business. My wife Doreen, who was a business partner, has been a vital cog from the outset and, after I retired in 2005, our son Martin has grown the business to become one of the top five assessment companies in the world. We are still a private entity and I continue to serve as a non-executive director.
What drove you to join Freemasonry?
I had been attending masonic social events from the age of 16 and always felt comfortable in the company of members. One day shortly after I married I asked my father-in-law, ‘What’s Freemasonry all about?’ I can recall his exact words: ‘I’ve been waiting for you to ask, I’ll get you a form. I can’t tell you what it’s about, you’ll have to trust me.’ In today’s fast-moving world such an approach would be laughed at, but that was the norm then.
Freemasonry was so popular in those days so I had to wait three years to be initiated, which just made me want it more. I joined Thesaurus Lodge [No. 3891] in North Yorkshire on 11 May 1967. It was the perfect lodge for me: great ceremonial, friendly and very encouraging with new candidates. I realised as a 27-year-old that while my business life was driving me into new areas and becoming ever more demanding, Freemasonry was developing me as a person, giving me a new-found confidence and a better understanding of my values in life.
Did you feel ready to become Provincial Grand Master?
No. Sadly, Lord Burnham died in office in 2005 and I received a letter asking me to take the role – not long after I had been appointed an APGM. There was no training, just a patent that told you to run the Province in accordance with the rules and regulations of the United Grand Lodge of England. And that was it, you were on your own. That suited me; it comes back to being thrown in at the deep end.
We identified member expectations through surveys, set a modernisation strategy that took account of these results, communicated them to members and then monitored the progress. Member collaboration was vital to the process – we set out to make masonic life more enjoyable, to improve our image in the local community and to market the Craft as a power for good within society.
It appears to me that succession planning is as vital at lodge level as it is at Provincial and UGLE level’
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve had as a PGM?
When I became Provincial Grand Master, the Past Pro Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex, Gordon Bourne, suggested I miss out the sweet course and coffee at the Festive Board in order to make time for talking to members. At first I thought, ‘This is a bit stupid’ – but within three months, members were coming up to me with really creative ideas to improve the Province’s image. It was a great success.
Gordon also suggested that at non-installation meeting dinners, I ask lodges to sit me with the five newest members of the lodge. That was magic; few realised the significance of the Provincial Grand Master role, so they talked openly and honestly. I heard their expectations, what they liked and did not like about their lodges and Freemasonry. The insights we collected helped convince Grand Lodge Officers to sit off the top table. It really broke so many historic barriers.
How important is the process of succession planning?
The second highest resignation levels in the Craft are those of Past Masters resigning shortly after completing their year in office. It therefore appears to me that succession planning is as vital at lodge level as it is at Provincial and UGLE level.
While there is no right or wrong approach to succession planning, lodges may well benefit from discussing the future aspirations with their lodge Masters well before they end their year in office. This should be done to ensure commitment and motivation, and in order to take any necessary steps to reduce the likelihood of resignation. One thing is for sure: if a member has an ambition toward a specific discipline – be it administrative, ceremonial or charitable – he is more likely to succeed in that discipline than in a role he has been cajoled into and does not really aspire to.
When did you become a member of the Board of General Purposes?
After a couple of years as a Provincial Grand Master I found myself sat next to Anthony Wilson, President of the Board, at a dinner. We had an enlightening discussion about Freemasonry’s past, present and future. Little did I know I had been recommended to him as a Board member and the next day I was asked to join. It was a complete shock and I embarked on another steep learning curve, but I loved being on the Board. We were all like-minded, giving our time freely and seeking to positively influence both the present and future of the Craft for our members.
How does change occur in the world of Freemasonry?
Historically, change has happened very slowly as we are a bottom-up organisation. Even small change in the past caused the shutters to go up. Members were perhaps fearful that there was a desire to change our traditions, which has never been on the agenda.Over recent years, Freemasonry has created a strategy for 2015-2020. Webinar technology has been tested and rolled out in the Provinces for member training and coaching, which can take place online at home. Even after one year of the strategy being communicated in 2015, membership loss dropped dramatically; indeed, several Provinces increased their numbers. This is a sure indication that members are getting behind the change process. We just need to win the hearts and minds of those who are yet to come to the party.
Craft on canvas
In its Tercentenary year, the United Grand Lodge of England’s first ever Artist in Residence, Jacques Viljoen, gives a fresh perspective on Freemasonry
On 24 June, the general public were invited into Freemasons’ Hall to view a new exhibition, Rough to Smooth: Art inspired by Freemasonry – past, present and future. It featured work by the United Grand Lodge of England’s first ever Artist in Residence, Jacques Viljoen, who had been given unprecedented access to objects and spaces throughout the five-floor Grade II* listed building.
All of Viljoen’s subjects were painted from life, using traditional techniques and no photography. His work presents a new look at the world of contemporary Freemasonry, showing intimate moments that might usually go unnoticed. ‘This has been an incredible opportunity to explore an organisation with an intricate and ancient history,’ he said.
Alongside Viljoen, nine guest artists were also given unique access to Freemasons’ Hall, working in different mediums that ranged from oils to mixed media and photography. Renowned Norwegian oil painter Henrik Uldalen’s contemporary yet classic figurative work sat by work by Lithuanian artist Elika Bo, who creates images by endlessly layering objects, while Nicholas Chaundy offered a technical homage to the painting techniques used in the many masterpieces that fill the Hall.
President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson commented: ‘What has struck me, above all else, is the amount of thought and work that has gone into each picture. The artists have demonstrated both an understanding of, and a variety of responses to, Freemasonry, its values and, in particular, our splendid building.’
Rough to Smooth was just one of the attractions at the Freemasons’ Hall Open Day, with members of the public also able to visit the building’s ornate Grand Temple and the shrine to those Freemasons who lost their lives in World War I. Musical performances from Grand Organist Carl Jackson, the Occasional Strings quartet and the Art Deco Orchestra accompanied visitors throughout the event.
The Open Day was organised by the Library and Museum of Freemasonry. Reflecting on the event, Library and Museum Director Diane Clements said: ‘It was a very successful day, with more than 2,800 visitors enjoying the music, the architecture and the opportunity to see the Artist in Residence exhibition.’
A packed house descended on Freemasons’ Hall yesterday, as the Library and Museum of Freemasonry opened its doors for a Private View of ‘Rough to Smooth’ – an exhibition of contemporary artwork inspired by Freemasonry
Visitors were treated to an exhibition of new artworks celebrating Freemasonry and its continued role and relevance in society today. In attendance was Peter Lowndes, Pro Grand Master, Anthony Wilson, President of the Board of General Purposes, and Jacques Viljoen, the United Grand Lodge of England's very first Artist in Residence, who created the exhibition along with nine guest artists.
The ‘Rough to Smooth’ art exhibition will open to the public during this Saturday’s Open Day, which marks the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Premier Grand Lodge. It will be a day of exhibitions, music and architecture and the chance for visitors to view the new collection of art - many of which are for sale.
Anthony Wilson commented: 'What has struck me, above all else, is the amount of thought and work that has gone into each picture. The artists have demonstrated both an understanding of, and the variety of responses to Freemasonry, its values and, in particular, our splendid building.'
The exhibition continues next week from Monday June 26th until Saturday July 1st. Admission is free and Freemasons’ Hall will be open from 10am to 5pm, with last entry at 4:30pm.