The end of mythology
John Hamill looks back to the pivotal moment in 1984 when Freemasonry had to confront its negative image with a policy of openness
Reviewing the many events that took place in our Provinces and Districts during the Tercentenary celebrations, I was struck by the number that included families, friends and members of the public. As the Pro Grand Master said in his review of the year, those events exemplified our membership’s renewed spirit of confidence and its pride in the Craft. It also reveals members’ wish to share that pride with their communities.
To most of the current members, being so visible in their communities last year was something new. However, like many things in Freemasonry, it was a welcome return to the past. Up to the outbreak of the Second World War, Freemasonry was a very visible part of the community. Meetings at national and local levels were freely reported in the national and local press: two weekly masonic newspapers and a monthly magazine were on public sale. Freemasons regularly appeared in public ‘clothed in the badges of the order’ either laying foundation stones of new structures or taking part in civic processions or those celebrating national events. As a result, Freemasons were both known and respected in their local communities.
A MUCH-NEEDED WAKE-UP CALL
During the war, Freemasonry turned in on itself and, with a shortage of newsprint, much social reporting disappeared from the media. After the war, introversion continued and Freemasonry gradually disappeared from the public consciousness. An unwillingness by Grand Lodge to engage with the media when they misreported Freemasonry allowed a mythology to grow. This was greatly helped by the less scrupulous in the world of journalism who knew they could write what they wished about Freemasonry without any fear of an official comeback from Grand Lodge.
The mythology and its effect on Freemasonry came to a head in 1984 with the publication of the late Stephen Knight’s anti-masonic rant, The Brotherhood: The Secret World of the Freemasons, which, for the first time in English Freemasonry, brought together the strands of anti-masonry in one volume.
In effect, the book was a wake-up call to English Freemasonry. The lead was taken by the Grand Master, who asked the Board of General Purposes to seek ways of better informing the public as to what Freemasonry is – and its place in society – so that they had good solid information against which they could weigh the nonsense appearing in the media on an almost daily basis. That gave birth to what has become known as the Openness Policy, which the Grand Master has greatly supported since its inception.
AND A CONTINUING EVOLUTION
It has been a long process – a perfect example of the old adage that it takes years to build a good reputation, seconds to lose it and years to rebuild it. I think that future historians will see the events of 1984 and what followed as a watershed moment. Since then, Freemasonry has evolved, and taken a long look at what it is and how it should fit with modern society. Today, it is a relevant and contributing part of our communities, without having changed its basic principles and tenets.
After all the positive media coverage that we received during last year’s celebrations, it was more than sad that a reputable newspaper such as The Guardian should put on the front page a story about Freemasonry that contained three major untruths, which a call to Freemasons’ Hall could have corrected. The story, as we know, led to ‘Enough is Enough’, which is reported on in this issue. As you will see, it was not a one-off project to meet an immediate need, but will be a continuing process led from the centre, with the Provinces, Districts and Metropolitan area all having a crucial role to play.
Plans are in place to provide the tools from the centre to bolster and maintain that pride and confidence that was so evident during the celebrations. Having been involved in ‘openness’ since its inception, I am convinced that what is already in place and what is being developed for the future will change attitudes and the public’s perception of Freemasonry. There will always be a minority that will believe the myths and are not open to their minds being changed, but with time they will become an insignificant minority.
‘Freemasonry has evolved, and taken a long look at what it is and how it should fit with modern society’
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.
With vision, energy and, above all, a sense of tolerance, the Duke of Sussex played a pivotal role in shaping modern Freemasonry
The Duke of Sussex, Grand Master from 1813 to 1843, is a towering figure in the history of English Freemasonry. Playing a pivotal role in the unification of the Premier and Antient Grand Lodges to form the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813, it’s impossible to overestimate the importance of his influence on Freemasonry.
Augustus Frederick was born a royal prince on 27 January 1773, the ninth of the 15 children of George III and Queen Charlotte. On 27 November 1801, at the age of 28, he was made Duke of Sussex by the King.
Augustus had a reputation for open-mindedness and was considered the most liberal of his siblings, being something of a social reformer. In opposition to the views of some of his older brothers, in particular the Duke of Cumberland, Augustus favoured Catholic emancipation. He was, despite his devout Christianity, a strong supporter of the Jewish community, too. He also lent his influence to promote various benevolent schemes and was once referred to as ‘the most charming beggar in Europe’.
Augustus was initiated into the Lodge of Victorious Truth in Berlin in 1798 while studying in Germany. He took rapidly to masonry, eventually occupying the Chair of his German lodge. Back in England, in 1800, Augustus joined his brother George’s Prince of Wales Lodge, now No. 259. The Duke joined the Lodge of Friendship, No. 6, in 1806 and Antiquity, No. 2, in 1808. In 1814, he was instrumental in the resuscitation and, later, amalgamation of several lodges to form Royal Alpha Lodge, No. 16 – which was the Grand Master’s personal lodge and remains so to this day.
BRINGING THE LODGES TOGETHER
In 1813, Augustus was elected Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge while his elder brother, the Duke of Kent, became Grand Master of the Antients, and they became involved in the completion of the negotiations for the unification of the two Grand Lodges.
The Articles of Union were finalised at the end of 1813 and on 27 December 1813, the Duke of Kent graciously stood aside for his younger brother to take the reins of the new Grand Lodge. Augustus remained Grand Master for 30 years until his death in 1843. He referred to the union of the two Grand Lodges as ‘the happiest event of my life’.
Augustus was a very hands-on Grand Master, resolving ‘to rule as well as to reign’. He attended meetings of the special Lodge of Reconciliation (1813-1816), personally chaired the Board of General Purposes and was involved in the detail of all of the major Board decisions. The Union did not proceed quite as smoothly as it might appear from our vantage point, 200 years further on. Indeed, Augustus faced significant resistance to the changes necessary to bring together two proud organisations with similar aims and ceremonies, but with important differences.
Demonstrating his independent thinking, he was the first royal to be buried in a public graveyard. After his death on 21 April 1843, and following the instructions recorded in his will, he was laid to rest in Kensal Green Cemetery in North London. Such a humble choice of burial place by a royal prince required the permission of Queen Victoria. He had been the Queen’s favourite uncle and gave her away at her wedding to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840. The Spectator of 29 April 1843 wrote: ‘Her acquiescence in his selection of a place of burial may be received as an indication that she understood as well as loved him.’
Did you know?
The Duke was famed for his open-mindedness and liberal attitude, and he supported people of different religions
Did you know?
He was the first member of the royal family to be buried in a public graveyard – Kensal Green Cemetery in London
Words: Dr Lawrence Porter
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
13 December 2017
A speech by VW Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill, Deputy Grand Chancellor
GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, after a two-year break, I propose to jump-start this presentation by harking back to the Act of Union between the Antients’ and the Moderns’ Grand Lodges, Article III of which provided:
There shall be the most perfect unity of obligation, of discipline, of working the Lodges, of making, passing and raising, instructing and clothing Brothers; so that but one pure unsullied system, according to the genuine landmarks, laws and traditions of the Craft, shall be maintained, upheld and practised, throughout the Masonic World, from the day and date of the said union until time shall be no more.
In order to effect this, the Act provided for the setting up of a Lodge of Reconciliation, consisting of nine worthy Brethren from each of the former Grand Lodges, who were charged initially with settling obligations and subsequently with settling the forms of the openings and closings and the ceremonies, of the three Degrees of Craft Masonry.
At a Special Communication of the Grand Lodge at Freemasons’ Hall on Monday 20 June 1816,
The MW Grand Master stated that he had convened this special Grand Lodge that the Lodge of Reconciliation might exhibit and explain to the Brethren the result of their arrangement. That it was not His Royal Highness’s intention that any discussion should this day take place as to those arrangements; but that at the Quarterly Communication on the 5th of next month he should submit them for the opinion and sanction of the Grand Lodge, so that the Brethren might in the interim have an opportunity of giving them due consideration.
The Officers and Members of the Lodge of Reconciliation then opened a lodge in the first, second and third degrees successively and exhibited the ceremonies of initiating, passing and raising a Mason as proposed by them for general adoption and practice in the Craft.
At the June Quarterly Communication just over two weeks later,
The minutes of the Grand Lodge on the 20th of May last, when the ceremonies and practices recommended by the Lodge of Reconciliation were exhibited and explained, were read, and alterations on two points, the third degree, having been resolved upon. The several ceremonies recommended were approved and confirmed.
I have to admit that I am much taken by the opening words of the Report of the Board of General Purposes:
The Board of General Purposes have to report that during the present quarter there has scarcely arisen anything of importance for them to report upon to the Grand Lodge. (Happy days)
JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, like many special Masonic Committees before and after it, the Lodge of Reconciliation went a great deal further than its original brief of settling the form of the obligations and openings and closings. Before the Union, in both Grand Lodges, the actual ceremonies were very brief: in essence the candidate was introduced, took an obligation and had the signs, words and token of the degree conferred upon him. The manner of instructing him in the principles, tenets, history and symbolism of the Craft was by means of catechetical lectures, normally worked at table. The Lodge of Reconciliation greatly extended the simple ceremonies by including material from the catechetical lectures which, sadly, gradually dropped out of use excerpt in the Emulation Lodge of Improvement where sections of them are worked every Friday evening during the Masonic season. I say sadly because the lectures contain a wealth of information which provides answers to many of the questions that brethren regularly raise about our ritual and practices.
The original aim of establishing perfect unanimity of working was never achieved, for the simple reason that Grand Lodge would not allow the revised ritual to be written down or printed in any form. The Lodge of Reconciliation, once its work was agreed, was continued in being to provide weekly demonstrations of the new system, to which lodges were invited to send representatives. You can imagine, brethren, what happened. The only means of transport to London in those days was by foot, horse, carriage or water. Brethren from the North, the West and Wales would travel for days to get to London, see the ceremonies demonstrated perhaps twice and then irritated the heck out of their companions in the coach travelling home muttering under their breaths to try and remember what they had seen and heard! Arriving home they would call together their brethren and demonstrate to them what they thought they had seen in London. This method of promulgation combined with an unwillingness to give up cherished local traditions has resulted in the richness and variety of working under our constitution, which makes visiting all the more interesting for us.
GFR: At the September Quarterly Communication, RW Bro William Williams, the Provincial Grand Master for Dorset addressed the Grand Lodge and stated that he had been informed that at the meeting of the General Committee held on the 21st of August last (at which he was not present) a Brother whom he now saw in the Grand Lodge had there made against him a charge of the most grave and serious nature, and of which charge if he were guilty he declared that he felt himself unworthy of the name of a Mason and that he ought never to be permitted again to enter within the walls of a Lodge, but feeling himself properly innocent of the crime charged against him, he called upon that Brother now to state it, and he implored the Grand Lodge to allow a Special Committee to be immediately appointed for the purpose of enquiring into its truth or falsehood.
W Bro Charles Bonner then rose and stated that he had at the General Committee mentioned his intention of preferring a charge against the Provincial Grand Master for Dorset for violating his obligation as a Master Mason and which charge he was ready to prove before any Committee the Grand Lodge might think proper to appoint; Whereupon after much discussion as to the necessity and propriety of appointing a Special Committee,
It was resolved that a Special Committee consisting of the actual Masters of the 15 senior lodges now present be nominated to investigate such charge to be preferred by Brother Bonner against Brother Williams.
JMH: William Williams was one of the leading members of the small group of Masonic advisers working with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Sussex, to ensure that the Union of the two Grand Lodges succeeded and to manage the necessary changes it brought about. A man of integrity in response to Bonner’s call for an enquiry he “solicited a Special Committee, because being himself a member of the Board of General Purposes he was unwilling that they should investigate the charge lest it might be imagined from his being a member there should exist even the slightest tendency to look partially towards him; he knew there could not be any fair ground for such an opinion, but he was still anxious to avoid any thing that could give even a colour for such a thought”. Those with long memories will remember our having referred to Brother Bonner on a previous occasion when he fomented unnecessary problems within Grand Lodge!
GFR: At a Special meeting in October the Committee reported to Grand Lodge. It gave Bro Williams a clean bill of health, feeling it appropriate not to let the matter go “without subjoining to their report a few observations.” The observations start:
When your Committee assert that not a shadow of proof was adduced in support of one of the most serious charges that was ever preferred by one mason against another and that the proceedings which they had the pain of witnessing exhibited so far as Brother Bonnor was concerned in them nothing short of a disgusting mockery of the forms of justice the Grand Lodge will judge with what mixed feelings of astonishment, regret and indignation your Committee were impressed when they found themselves compelled by a general conviction of the futility of the charge to impute it solely to a base attempt of the part of Brother Bonnor to assail in the tenderist point the fair character of a Brother mason.
They didn’t mince their words in those days – and it would be greedy of me not to leave to my colleague the opportunity to regale you with some more of their remarks.
JMH: Plain speaking it certainly was! The Committee went on to question the sanity of Bonner adding “unfortunately, however, for Brother Bonner his poisoned shafts have recoiled upon himself” adding that “the only effect of his charge has been to manifest in his own conduct clear and abundant proof of the commission of the very crime which he has in vain imputed to another”. They then drew Grand Lodge’s attention to Bonner’s previous behaviour stating that “They should have hoped that Brother Bonner’s recollection of his own prior and recorded delinquencies and a grateful sense of the indulgence of the Grand Lodge in restoring him to the participation of those privileges which he had so justly forfeited by his misconduct would have operated as a salutary check upon the un-masonic feelings the indulgence of which has a second time led to his disgrace …”.
GFR: At the December Quarterly Communication, Bro Bonner was “introduced between two Grand Stewards”, made a long statement disclaiming any intention to injure the character of Bro William Williams, coupled with an apology to the Grand Master and Grand Lodge, and withdrew while the matter was debated. Nevertheless, it was resolved
That the original offence of Brother Bonner remains unanswered, but that in consideration of his having publicly acknowledged his error, and made an ample apology to the MW Grand Master to the Provincial GM for Dorset and to the Brethren at large, the Grand Lodge do not feel inclined to visit his misconduct with the sentence of expulsion; in order however to mark their displeasure and also their solicitude for the dignity and tranquillity of the Craft do deprive him of his insignia as a Grand Officer, and of all rights derived therefrom, allowing him to remain in possession of his masonic privileges.
That the preceding resolution respecting Brother Bonner be communicated to the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland.
JMH: When the Minutes of the December meeting were put for confirmation on 5th March 1817 they were passed with the exception of the sentences passed on Bonner. It was agreed not to report the matter to Ireland and Scotland but his being deprived of his Grand Rank, after a paper from him had been read out, was again put to the vote and “passed in the affirmative by a very large majority”.
GFR: At the Quarterly Communication of 1 March 1916, after the re-election of the Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master announced three special appointments to Grand Rank. One was the representative of another Grand Lodge at the United Grand Lodge of England, but the other two were Brethren at that time interned respectively in Holland and Germany.
The full justification for the latter two appointments was made clear in the Report of the Board of General Purposes. W Bro Commodore Wilfred Henderson, RN, appointed a Past Senior Grand Deacon, had been instrumental in the formation of a Lodge under the Grand East of the Netherlands for naval officers and men interned at Gröningen. W Bro Percy Hull, appointed Past Deputy Grand Organist, had rendered great service to the English Brethren interned in the civilian camp at Rühleben, Spandau.
JMH: Despite its horrors, the First World War has sometimes been characterised as the last “gentleman’s war” because of the way in which it was conducted and the honourable treatment accorded to prisoners of war, be they service personnel or civilians. As we reported on a previous occasion 112 Masonic civilian prisoners of war interned at Ruheleben had sent Christmas greetings to Grand Lodge in 1914. They were suffering privations in 1916 and 1917 due to food rationing in Germany and were sustained by parcels funded by brethren in England and delivered through diplomatic channels and by the Red Cross. As we shall hear in a moment despite those privations they did not forget the bi-centenary celebrations of Grand Lodge in 1917. The Lodge for whose formation Commodore Henderson was honoured was the Gastvrijheid Lodge consecrated in May 1915 by the Grand East of the Netherlands amongst members of the Royal Naval Division interned at Groningen. It was to be joined in 1918 by a second Lodge, the Willem van Oranje Lodge, again consecrated amongst interned British service personnel by the Grand East of the Netherlands. After the end of the war both lodges transferred to England and became Nos. 3970 and 3976 on the register of Grand Lodge.
GFR: The violent anti-German sentiments expressed in December 1915, by W Bro Col. Charles Cassal, PDepGSwdB, resurfaced at this meeting. The Board of General Purposes had considered Col. Cassal’s proposals put forward at the previous Communication, and had produced a more moderate form of words to deal with the relationship between English Masons and those under Grand Lodges in Germany and its allies, both during and after the War. The Colonel, however, took exception to a part of the Board’s statement and – such was the feeling in Grand Lodge – succeeded in having that part referred back to the Board. Nevertheless the Board substantially got its way over the resolution that arose from its report.
After the rather ill-natured atmosphere and debate in March, the June Communication was altogether more amicable. After the adoption of the Minutes, the Deputy Grand Master delivered a statement:
I am desired by the MW Grand Master to state that, having regard to the unprecedented character of the present War and the intense feelings it has aroused, which show no sign of abatement, the Grand Master has decided that, during its progress and until such time after the treaty of peace has been signed as in the future he may determine, there shall be no intercourse or exchange of representatives between the United Grand Lodge of England and Grand Lodges in enemy Countries. and that such Grand Lodges shall be omitted during that period from the list of bodies in the "Masonic Year Book" recognised as in association with this Grand Lodge.
This appears to have spiked the guns of Bro Cassal, because after the adoption of the Board’s Report had been moved a few minutes later, but before the vote had been taken, he rose to address Grand Lodge – at his usual length – to say, among other things:
I came here… intending, and I informed the General Committee of Grand Lodge of my intention, to move an amendment in the shape of a refere; but, having heard the gracious message of the MW Grand Master, I consider that the position of affairs is entirely altered, and… it is not necessary for me to take up the time of Grand Lodge in criticising the Report of the Board of General Purposes as I had intended to do with a good deal of severity.
JMH: Despite his promise, Brother Cassal, like Brother Bonner one hundred years before him, did take up Grand Lodge’s time with another windy speech which, happily made no difference when the resolution was put. The atmosphere at the March Communication, in which the debate was not only ill-natured but at times un-masonic, was symptomatic of the great wave of anti – German feeling then sweeping the nation at that time, which ultimately led even to HM King George V, in 1917, changing his dynasty’s name to Windsor and other members of the family dropping their German titles and accepting English peerages.
One possible reason for the more subdued meeting in June was the fact that news had reached England that Field Marshal Earl Kitchener, KG, on a mission to Russia, had perished with his staff officers and the Captain and crew of HMS Hampshire when it was torpedoed by the Germans two days before the Quarterly Communication. Kitchener had been a very active Freemason holding office successively as District Grand Master for Egypt and the Sudan and for the Punjab.
GFR: It was at this meeting that amendments to the Book of Constitutions were brought forward to ensure the representation of Provincial Brethren on the Board of General Purposes.
JMH: The lack of Provincial representation “in the counsels of the Craft” had become a very sore point. Whilst there might have been some justification in the past for selecting only London Past Masters, because of their ability to attend Board meetings, the coming of the railway network had made London much more accessible to Provincial Brethren. The new Board was to consist of ex officio members, 8 members appointed by the Grand Master, 12 elected by London and 12 elected by the Provinces.
GFR: In September much of the time of Grand Lodge was taken up with discussion of the new Entertainments tax, which had come like “a bolt from the blue” in the Finance (New Duties) Act 1916. The Board’s Report states:
The Commissioners [of Customs] hold that the duty can be claimed in all cases where musical or other entertainments, other than the making of speeches, follow Masonic dinners, though no specific or separate charge is made for admission, and no fee paid to the entertainers. Concerning the basis on which the duty would be assessed with the least inconvenience, the Commissioners have not yet communicated their intentions; and the Board expresses the hope that they will draw up a form of return to enable Secretaries of Lodges to give the information required for the assessment of the duty.
and the President by way of amplification said:
I was strongly in the belief, and even more strongly in the hope, that the claim would prove unsubstantial, and would break down when fairly examined. I think I have at least as intimate an acquaintance with the ordinary everyday opinion of Parliament as any Brother present, and I knew, and I am still of the same opinion, that not a single Member of the House of Commons dreamed that this enactment could possibly apply to such gatherings as ours. I think, moreover, that…. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and even the Commissioners of Customs themselves, had no idea when this clause was originally drafted that it would have so wide a sweep. But the Commissioners of Customs – and Brethren, the way of the tax-gatherer is hard, especially for those who have to pay him – the Commissioners discovered in the Act something that went far beyond what Parliament intended, but which it is submitted went no farther than Parliament enacted….
I regret to say that the opinion of … distinguished Counsel upon the case laid before them, and after considering the Act of Parliament, was directly adverse to our hope that we did not come within the tax. One point they suggested… that we should have an interview on the matter with the Commissioners of Customs before taking any further steps. That interview was held with the Commissioners, who were extremely polite, but all the same they made it perfectly clear that they intended to have the money.
JMH: In December the President of the Board of General Purposes was able to report that further discussions had been had with the Commissioners of Customs and Excise and agreement had been reached that provided any entertainment at a festive board was impromptu and not pre-arranged it would not be taxable. The Entertainment Tax remained operable until it was withdrawn in 1960 and Grand Lodge had from time to time to remind brethren of its existence.
GFR: The Quarterly Communication in December was notable for a visit, after Grand Lodge had opened, from the Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Connaught, newly returned from the Dominion of Canada. After he had delivered a short speech and invested the President of the Board of Benevolence, the first verse of the National Anthem was sung and the Grand Master retired in procession.
The Board’s Report contained a paragraph about the introduction of musical items into the ceremonies. And after the Report had been adopted the President moved the following resolution:
That Grand Lodge is of opinion that the introduction of instrumental or vocal music during Masonic Ceremonies is not per se objectionable, but that, in regard to the latter, it is essential that the words are strictly in accord with Masonic principles, practices and procedure; that they are not identified with an exclusive form of religious worship; and that they are submitted before use to the Grand Secretary for approval by the Grand Master…. in order to secure that these conditions, preventing an innovation in the Body of Masonry, are strictly adhered to.
Before the resolution could be seconded, Bro George Rankin, PAGDC, rose to propose an amendment
That Grand Lodge is of opinion that the introduction of instrumental music during Masonic ceremonies is not per se objectionable, but it still adheres to its historic desire for more rather than less uniformity in the ritual of Freemasonry. Grand Lodge cannot therefore consent to the insertion of hymns or anthems or other foreign matter into the body of the ceremonies.
As I have a remote connection with Bro Rankin, I will leave it to my colleague to add his comment on this matter.
JMH: Brother Rankin as well as being a member of the Board of General Purposes was also the Senior Member of the Committee of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement. In addition to ambushing the President of the Board by proposing an amendment without notice, he appears to have got the wrong end of the stick! The motion before Grand Lodge was to control the type of hymns and anthems used during ceremonies so that the universality of the Craft would not be endangered. Rankin seems to have believed that the Board was innovating in matters of ritual and trying to introduce new matters into the ceremonies. His amendment was put to the vote and lost.
GFR: The same meeting was also notable for a motion to transfer the hearing of appeals in disciplinary matters from Grand Lodge to a “Judicial Committee of Grand Lodge”; and for a motion by W Bro Freke Palmer (a Metropolitan magistrate) to amend the Book of Constitutions to limit the number of candidates for any one degree to two on any one occasion.
JMH: Both propositions were held over for future discussions resulting in much of Grand Lodge’s time being consumed with the hearing in great details of appeals against decisions by higher authority. In the debate on limiting the number of candidates for any one degree the Provincial Grand Master for Devonshire gave some incredible statistics, stating of one Lodge in his Province “at one meeting there were 2 initiations, 11 passings and 8 raisings; at the next meeting there were 3 initiations, 11 passings and 8 raisings; and at the next meeting 4 initiations, 9 passings and 9 raisings.”
GFR: In March 1917 Bro Freke Palmer returned to the adjourned motion. Much debate ensued, in the course of which amendments were proposed by several Brethren, including our old friend Col. Cassal, but in the end Bro Palmer’s motion was successful and the Book of Constitutions was amended. the Rule surviving, except for its final sentence, to the present day in the form of Rule 168.
JMH: No doubt the passing of the motion was assisted by comments from the President of the Board who stated that one Lodge which he described as having an ordinary membership of 120 in 1916 performed 83 initiations, 86 passings and 82 raisings.
The motion to remove the appeals procedure from Grand Lodge to a Committee was effectively kicked into touch and was not finally achieved until 1963.
GFR: In June, the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, making his first appearance in Grand Lodge for several years, was received with cheers, when he rose at the beginning of the meeting to address the Brethren:
I am extremely fortunate in having this opportunity of visiting Grand Lodge, and I feel that I am doubly and trebly fortunate in being able to carry away with me as I shall, the recollection of your more than kind and generous greeting. Believe me, it is not without considerable diffidence that I have come here…. But I want to thank you with all my heart for having continued to me that friendship and goodwill and kindness to which I owe so much. My resignation was in the hands of the MW Grand Master after the first few months of the war, and I fully expected that the Grand Master would accept it. But he has been pleased to re-appoint me now on three occasions, and that he has done so can only be due to the fact that it is believed to be your wish that I should continue. (Cheers).
Before the Report of the Board of General Purposes was taken, Lord Ampthill congratulated its President on the knighthood he had recently received.
The Board’s Report itself may fairly be said to be packed full of goodies:
After a general exhortation to the Craft to exercise due economy and even abstinence in those troubled times, there was a tribute to the Grand Secretary, Sir Edward Letchworth – the first of the great Grand Secretaries – who had just completed a quarter of a century’s service in that office.
The Report also signalled several changes to the Book of Constitutions which still survive today: the placing of a positive duty on the Master of a Lodge to exercise a casting vote on any equality of voting in a Lodge; the introduction of a Rule prohibiting a Lodge from passing or raising a Brother from another Lodge except at the written request of that Lodge; and the conferment on the Grand Master of the power to form Lodges abroad not under Districts into Groups under what are now known as Grand Inspectors.
JMH: The President of the Board of General Purposes, Brother Alfred Robins, was a major figure in the world of journalism and had received his knighthood for services to the press. As a young Past Master he had regularly raised questions in Grand Lodge, leading to his being elected to the Board of General Purposes. He worked untiringly for Grand Lodge both at home and overseas and did much to publicise the Craft and to build good relations with the press. It was due to his persistence that we are meeting here today as he skilfully managed both the financing and the construction of the present Freemasons’ Hall.
My co-presenter rightly characterises Sir Edward Letchworth as the first of the great Grand Secretaries. A solicitor by profession, though he practised only for a short time having private means, he had been very involved in the growing militia movement, which brought him to the attention of the then Prince of Wales and other courtiers. He also encountered the Prince of Wales in Freemasonry and it was on the latter’s suggestion that he was offered the Grand Secretaryship in 1892 when Col Shadwell Clerke unexpectedly died. Although approaching 60 when appointed he took to the office with relish and quickly established a reputation for his Masonic knowledge and his diplomatic skills. As Grand Secretary he was responsible for the administration of London Freemasonry, then expanding greatly. Were there a Guinness Book of Masonic records he would have earned a place as during his 25 years in office he consecrated nearly 500 lodges and chapters. Much respected and held in affection by the many he came into contact with, he died a few short months after his retirement in 1917 to universal regret.
GFR: Grand Lodge assembled for an Especial Meeting at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 23 June to celebrate the Bi-Centenary of the first Grand Lodge. After Grand Lodge had been opened in due form by the Deputy Grand Master, the Grand Master was received, and after he had been saluted he announced an exchange of telegrams with his Majesty King George V:
Eight thousand Masons are assembling in the Albert Hall this day to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of British Freemasonry in England. I desire on their behalf to take this opportunity of renewing our expressions of loyalty and devotion to your Throne and Person, and to wish you long life and happiness. We pray that victory may crown your arms, and that a just and lasting peace may be the result (Signed) Arthur, Grand Master.
The King had replied:
I have received with much satisfaction the message which you, as Grand Master, have conveyed to me from 8,000 Freemasons, who to day celebrate the 200th Anniversary of British Freemasonry in England. Please thank them most heartily in my name. The traditional loyalty of British Freemasons is a force upon which the Sovereign of this country has ever reckoned, and has been to me a proud memory during the anxious years through which we are passing. (Signed) George, R. & I.
The following morning a service was held in the same venue, with the Lessons being read by the Deputy Grand Master and the Grand Secretary, and an Address by the Bishop of Birmingham, Grand Chaplain. At the conclusion the National Anthem was sung in full.
JMH: With no fire regulations and no health and safety committees over 8,000 Brethren were able to attend the celebration of the Bi-centenary of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall, how different from modern times! In addition to representatives from the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland the attendance included senior representatives from Grand Lodges in the Empire and the United States of America, many of them being serving officers passing through London on their way to the front. Fortunately the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Connaught, who was serving as Commander in Chief in Canada was in London for an Imperial Council and was able to preside at both the special Grand Lodge and the service on the following day.
To mark the anniversary and the part played by the remaining three of the four Lodges who came together to form the Grand Lodge in 1717 the Grand Master announced that in future the collars of their officers would be distinguished by the addition of a central Garter blue stripe. The three Masters were called up and were invested by the Grand Master with their new collars.
Amongst the many greetings and congratulations which had been received was a beautifully illuminated address from the Brethren still held in the prisoner of war camp in Ruhleben, now preserved in the Grand Lodge archives, which the Grand Secretary read out and was met with cheers from the assembled brethren.
Had war not broken out in 1914 it had been the intention to have what the Grand Master described as “a great imperial celebration in London” to mark the bi-centenary of Grand Lodge. Many of those who spoke at the Royal Albert Hall lamented the fact that the war had prevented representatives from overseas, from both our own lodges and from sister Grand Lodges, from taking part in what should have been the largest representative gathering of Freemasons from around the world. It was to be another hundred years before that dream was achieved with our recent celebration of the tercentenary of the formation of Grand Lodge at which almost 150 sister Grand Lodges were represented. But that, as they say, is a story to be told on a future occasion, no doubt by Graham’s and my successors in December 2117!
13 December 2017
Order of Service to Masonry Citation for W Bro Keith Gilbert, PSGD
Bro Keith Gilbert was made a Mason in November, 1972, at the age of 27, in Radius Lodge, No. 5474, in London, and was installed as Master of Skelmersdale Lodge, No. 1380 in West Lancashire in 1984. He has at various times been a member of eight other Lodges and has served as Master of five of them. He was exalted into the Royal Arch in Bedeword Chapter, No. 7274 in Warwickshire in 1976, and served as First Principal of Harpenden Chapter, No. 4314 in Hertfordshire in 1995. He is, or has been, a member of three other Chapters. He remains active in Hertfordshire as Secretary of a Lodge, Scribe E of a Chapter and Immediate Past Master of the Province’s Lodge of Installed Masters.
Bro Gilbert was appointed a Provincial Grand Steward in Hertfordshire in 1995 and held various other offices in that Province before he became Provincial Grand Secretary in 2004. On relinquishing that office in 2011 he was appointed an Assistant Provincial Grand Master, holding that office for four years. Bro Gilbert holds the rank of Past Senior Grand Deacon in the Craft, and Past Grand Standard Bearer in the Royal Arch. He also served as a Grand Steward on the nomination of Globe Lodge, No. 23 in 2014.
In 2015 Bro Gilbert was appointed as the unpaid Team Leader for the Tercentenary Planning Committee, which reported direct to the Board of General Purposes. He was therefore directly responsible for coordinating all the Tercentenary events throughout the Provinces and Districts, as well as linking in and coordinating the requirements of our guests from the many Grand Lodges around the world, and masterminding and planning all administrative matters for the period 29th to 31st October 2017.
He selected and built up a team with great skill and they worked well with him. He planned everything well in advance and in great detail, endeavouring to ensure that nothing was missed. Initially he would spend about two days a week in the office, but that gradually increased until 2017 when he spent most working days at Freemasons’ Hall.
That all the Tercentenary events went so smoothly was down to the outstanding determination and dedication of Bro Gilbert over a three-year period of intense and detailed hard work. For ensuring the success of Grand Lodge’s Tercentenary celebrations, Bro Gilbert is awarded the Grand Master’s Order of Service to Masonry.
13 September 2017
A presentation by RW Bro Bro Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master
Pro Grand Master and brethren, we all have our own view of what we see in masonry. For me, it’s five things:
- We’re all volunteers: none of us have to be masons or do what we do. The magnificent total of £3,100,000 announced at the North Wales Festival on Saturday was all the result of volunteering: voluntary time, voluntary effort, voluntary money;
- What we now call “social inclusion”: bringing together people of different origins, backgrounds, occupations, interests, locations, opinions, faiths; people who would not otherwise meet; in a common activity in which all are fundamentally equal;
- Our purposefulness: when we meet, there’s a purpose, whether it’s a masonic meeting, ritual; or charity or a community project; the best recent example I saw, the Jurassic Coast Youth Adventure organised by Dorset, 200plus children in need from all over the country taken on a week’s healthy activities by the sea. Whatever it is, we want to do it well, and we do;
- The practice of every moral and social virtue: words cited by the Bishop of Worcester, not a mason, at the Provincial Tercentenary Service on Sunday in a sermon that would inspire every mason. Our, if you like, moral code, best illustrated in the Charge to the Initiate, is a huge asset which will play increasingly well with younger generations for whom such things are in short supply;
- The social side: we do do the best parties, don’t we, getting to know each other informally, in friendship, and it works because of the other factors I’ve mentioned.
We all sense a steady move to greater openness: the Sky TV programmes; publicity in the right way for our charity and community activities: the word Freemasons on the London's Air Ambulance; wearing regalia in public: all in the right direction.
Recognising masonry’s good things but sensing that the make-up and profile of our membership – age, number – were going in the wrong direction, the Board of General Purposes – BGP – set up the Membership Focus Group – MFG – under the inspired leadership of Ray Reed to find out what was happening to today’s membership, to assess the likely affect on tomorrow’s and, if we didn’t like that – which we didn’t – to decide what to do.
Deciding what to do is called STRATEGY – YES! The MFG produced, and everyone adopted, Strategy: The Future of Freemasonry 2015-2020, which I know we’ve all read and like.
Thoughts then turned to implementing the Strategy. Ooh, the MFG said, could be difficult – better get someone else to do it, and so was born the Improvement Delivery Group – IDG (I hope you’re keeping up with the jargon, brethren) to Deliver the Improvements which should flow from the work of the MFG.
I was out of the room at the time, so they made me Chairman. Also out of the room was Provincial Grand Master for South Wales and Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones, so we made him Deputy Chairman.
Strategy is no good unless it is accepted, understood and embraced by the membership – remember we’re all volunteers. The IDG had to show it was including Craft and Royal Arch, and all areas of the country, and Head Office. So, in addition to Gareth and me:
- Michael Ward, London
- Jeff Gillyon, Yorkshire North and East Ridings
- Stephen Blank, Cheshire
- Peter Taylor, Shropshire
- Tim Henderson-Ross, Gloucestershire
- Charles Cunnington, Derbyshire
- Ian Yeldham, Suffolk
- Mark Estaugh, West Kent
- Stuart Hadler, Somerset
- Gordon Robertson, Buckinghamshire, who leaves us on retiring as PGM and is replaced by James Hilditch, Oxfordshire
- Ray Reed
...and from Head Office:
- Grand Secretary Willie
- Assistant Grand Secretary Shawn
- ..and now Chief Executive David
Brethren, in light of all they do, I would like all those I’ve named to stand and be recognised. Thank you.
To pick up the work of the MFG we formed Working Groups matching the elements of the Strategy. The Strategy talks about effective governance at all levels; a leadership development programme; the attraction and retention of members; and the sustainability of masonic halls. Thus…
Gareth Jones is leading our Governance Group looking at who and what does what, the roles and responsibilities of each office and body, what they and what they’re not, and how we ensure that people understand what their roles and responsibilities are and aren’t, and what is expected of them. From the esteemed Adelphi2 we have lots of lovely statistics which will help show how Provinces and Districts are doing in terms of membership and help them to direct their efforts where they are needed.
Leadership – Michael Ward – aims to equip office-holders for their roles. Workshop sessions for PGMs and Grand Superintendents; workshops for Deputy PGMs and Grand Superintendents; next week the first training session for secretaries. We now have a UGLE training officer, Andrew Kincaid, to devise and roll-out training roles for all different roles. This not about imposing uniformity – you will do it this way – but helping people to see what’s involved and how to do the job well.
Jeff Gillyon’s Masonic Halls Group have published the Masonic Halls Centres of Excellence Guide, now available, best electronically, and those responsible for the management of masonic halls are strongly encouraged to use it: you will find it very useful. It is now in the charge of John Pagella, Grand Superintendent of Works, who has formed a Steering Group to manage the Guidance Manual and keep it up to date. There will be an annual meeting for all Provincial Grand Superintendents of Works.
The five Provinces in Regional Communications Group 1 – North of England – on the initiative of Gordon Brewis, Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works for Durham, have recognised the need for professionally qualified Provincial Grand Superintendents of Works and arranged for them to meet so that the adoption of best practice can be recommended uniformly across them all.
The Guidance Manual is not a book to be read from cover to cover: it is a reference tool, to be consulted as circumstances lead. It is guidance, support and advice: a guide to best practice. It can’t give definitive advice on, for example, legal issues, because so much depends on individual circumstances.
We want our halls and centres to be at the centre of the local community. Maybe we should refer to them as Masonic Community Centres.
Our Membership Group, headed by Peter Taylor, has circulated for comment the Membership Pathway, the product of several years of devoted effort, and parts well piloted in ten Provinces and 110 lodges Its purpose is to help lodges attract and retain the right members in the right place: to show what we need to do to attract the members we want to join us, stay and enjoy the full masonic journey.
Again, it is not a book, you do not read it cover to cover, you look at the parts you want as and when you need to.
The Pathway will be launched at the Provincial and District Rulers’ Forum – PDRF – on 18 October and then rolled out. So no-one should worry that they will be presented with it and then left on their own. Roll-out will be organised for you: to Regions and Provinces from January to March next year, and then to lodges….and there will be a folding leaflet on the front of Freemasonry Today in December.
There is much demand from masons to know more about masonry, its origin, history and meaning. Stuart Hadler’s Education Group is creating an online store of masonic learning materials, readily accessible in a Virtual Learning Environment. It will be tested later this year, introduced to a number of pilot Provinces in the new year, and full roll-out will be in later in 2018. What the group want is more materials to include, so contributions welcome, please.
In parallel to all this continues the excellent progress of the Universities Scheme, of which I am honoured to be the President. Existing and new lodges, and chapters, here and in Districts, recruit among students at universities and equivalent across the country and outside the UK, and do so very successfully. There are still a number of universities in this country not represented in the scheme, and we are addressing that.
I would like to thank all who are involved in the scheme, all volunteers, for all they do, and in particular the Chairmen: the founding Chairman, Oliver Lodge, now moonlighting as the Grand Director of Ceremonies; Edward Lord, current Chairman who retires after eight distinguished years at the Scheme conference in this building on 4th November; and Chairman-Designate Mark Greenburgh, who takes over on that date, and I would ask them to stand and be recognised too.
Many Provinces and Districts have New and Young Masons’ Clubs, with a wide variety of imaginative names, and those that don’t will. These clubs are an excellent way of those newer to masonry getting to know more other newbies, and building essential camaraderie. The clubs are holding their conference on 14 October in Birmingham under Gareth Jones’ leadership.
All this, IDG and others, is about creating our future, which is in our hands and which we are doing. The figures already show that it is working: in many areas there is a discernible shift in the trend of the numbers, and there will be more.
I have illustrated this talk with scenes from the everyday life of an Assistant Grand Master. Here’s the last one. In his sermon at the Durham Tercentenary Service last Thursday – I’m into clergy this morning, brethren – the Dean of Durham, also not a mason, said he saw masonry as a confident, open and engaged fraternity with strong foundational values.
We can do this, brethren, we can do this.
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.
Responsible for the fabric of Freemasons’ Hall, Grand Superintendent of Works John Pagella encourages a businesslike approach towards the management of every masonic building
What’s your professional background?
I’m a chartered surveyor by training, working for the first five years of my professional life for what was then the Greater London Council. I spent two and a half years doing slum clearance in the East End of London, acquiring properties that were medically unfit for human habitation. I learnt a little bit about surveying but a huge amount about life and social conditions that simply don’t exist today.
I then wanted the challenge of working in private practice. So I joined a firm of chartered surveyors called Montagu Evans, becoming a partner and eventually the head of valuation and professional services before retiring in 2002. Retirement is a bit of a strange term, because I’m now doing as much as I ever did.
What does the title Grand Superintendent of Works mean?
It’s a masonic title – I’m the property adviser or the surveyor, in very simple terms. I’m responsible to the Board of General Purposes and to the Rulers of the Craft for maintaining the fabric of Freemasons’ Hall. When Grand Lodge was first established there was no Grand Superintendent of Works, but they quickly realised they needed a property professional. Sir John Soane was the first, and over the years we’ve had architects, engineers and surveyors filling the post.
In my role I also guide the changes that may be needed within Freemasons’ Hall to help it to function as a building that fulfils the needs of Freemasonry today. Equally important is our property portfolio in Great Queen Street, both as an asset within the investment portfolio of UGLE and also for the income that it produces. This income helps to cushion the organisation from the day-to-day costs of managing an ageing building.
How did you become a Freemason?
My father was a mason and it’s one of my regrets in life that he died before I became one. His – and my – mother lodge, Molesey Lodge, No. 2473, was the lodge for Covent Garden. So the owners of the fruit businesses, the market workers, the local bank manager and the local solicitor were all members. One of my earliest memories was the atmosphere at home when it was the lodge meeting day. He’d be dressed in his masonic clothing with morning suit, and off he went. My uncle, who by then was Secretary of the lodge, said, ‘Come on, I think you’ll enjoy this.’ Eventually, I gave up the unequal struggle and joined.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. I met interesting people and no matter where I went, I felt welcome. I also got satisfaction out of the ritual as I’ve always been intrigued by analysing and understanding why we do what we do as masons. If you put some time and effort into understanding the ritual, it has an awful lot to tell you about life.
'Freemasonry is a craft but managing its buildings is a business’
What are the challenges facing masonic buildings?
One of my mantras is that Freemasonry is a craft but managing its buildings is a business. One of the reasons we have got into difficulties with some of our buildings is that masons have been visiting their lodges for many, many years. They feel comfortable, it’s all part of the tradition of that lodge and they’re reluctant to look objectively at what is happening.
I’m a director of Surbiton’s masonic hall, and a number of years ago, when lodge membership began falling, we realised we needed to complement the income that Freemasonry brought in with outside events. Some people think that’s straightforward, that all you do is put up a sign saying ‘we do weddings’ and it comes to you. That doesn’t tend to work. You’ve got to be professional about the way that you attract outside income.
We adapted the building so that there was a modern, elegant hospitality suite. We had wedding coordinators, we installed a professional kitchen, we created improved bar facilities – everything that a couple who wanted to get married would want.
The approach at Surbiton is only one example of the challenges in managing a building – one solution does not fit all. What we’re trying to do is encourage people to go to the right people and ask the right questions in order to make an informed commercial decision about their building.
How is UGLE helping at a local level?
We cannot do other than encourage common sense and good practice in the way in which lodges decide to use their land and buildings. It’s not our task to dictate. We want to encourage those who own and occupy masonic buildings to pause, sit back and ask themselves whether their buildings are not only fit for purpose today but will continue to be so in 10 or 20 years’ time.
While Freemasonry is about respecting tradition, we also need to be aware that the world is changing. Circumstances are forcing us to think about what we are doing with our buildings. We can either think about this in sufficient time to make an orderly and sensible decision. Or, we can wait until, all of a sudden, circumstances overwhelm us. That is when the problems arise, when people are forced to take critical decisions too quickly.
At the moment I don’t have a lot of contact with the Provincial Superintendents of Works. One of our objectives at UGLE is to try to create some form of forum for discussion
and the exchange of ideas. We can all benefit from the experience we have in different areas.
Is it hard for you to look at any building aesthetically?
It’s a standing joke in my family. Whenever we go into a house, my wife looks at the interior design, and I point out there’s a bit of damp and some shared rights of access that I feel uncomfortable about! I do look at everything through the eyes of somebody whose whole life has been concerned with buildings.
Some buildings are beautiful. Some are appallingly ugly. Since 1948, every building in this country has been through a formal approval process. If you see a terrible building in the wrong place, ask yourself how it came about, because somebody not only sat down to design it, someone else approved it too. Bad architecture should be the exception yet there’s so much of it about.
Do you enjoy your work?
I think I have one of the finest jobs in Freemasonry because I’m able to use my experience to achieve something tangible. By 2020, I hope we will have completed the work needed on our property investment portfolio, leaving us to concentrate on exercising sound management control. If I achieve a change of attitude towards the way we manage masonic buildings generally, I think I will have helped to achieve something worthwhile.