President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson made a statement concerning Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF) at the September Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
Having previously expressed concern over the turbulence within GLNF, the President said the situation has subsequently deteriorated. ‘There appears to be no sign of it improving,’ he confirmed. ‘We cannot ignore the lack of harmony. Nor can we overlook the fact that a significant proportion of the membership of the GLNF apparently no longer recognise the leadership of its Grand Master.’
While the present situation continues, the recommendation of the Board is that relations with the GLNF be suspended. ‘I should emphasise that the suspension of relations does not force any of the brethren who are currently also members of lodges under the GLNF to resign from those lodges,’ he added. Anthony Wilson did, however, draw attention to the possibility that for so long as the GLNF is recognised by UGLE as the sovereign Grand Lodge, any UGLE brethren who are also members of a French lodge that formally repudiates that jurisdiction (even temporary) may find that Rule 176 in the Book of Constitutions requires them to make a choice, in the future, between severing their links with that lodge and remaining members of the Craft in the UGLE constitution.
The full statement by Anthony Wilson, President of the Board of General Purposes, can be found here.
The chapter was founded and named after Rowland George Venables, who became the first Grand Superintendent for Shropshire when the Royal Arch Province was formed in 1913. The day was marked by the exaltation of Kevin Gwilliam, bringing chapter membership to 50.
First Principal David Griffin presented inscribed centenary whisky tumblers to those gathered, while a raffle raised funds for The Royal Arch Masons Bicentenary Appeal 2013 for the Royal College of Surgeons, adding to money already raised from the alms donations for the same cause.
Reach for the sky
Balancing the demands of homework while performing in a West End show, Blaze and his mother Sarah have their work cut out for them. Sophie Radice finds out how Case Almoner Humphrey Ball is helping the 11-year-old fulfil his dreams
Arriving at the South London home of Sarah Porter, I find her deep in conversation with Freemason Humphrey Ball. Since he was appointed the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys’ (RMTGB) Case Almoner for Sarah and her son Blaze just over a year ago, Humphrey has developed a strong relationship with this small family. Today, he has spent an hour talking over 11-year-old Blaze’s educational progress, working out the best approach to allay Sarah’s worries, even offering to go with her to visit his school to discuss concerns with his teachers.
‘What’s the point of just doing the bare minimum?’ asks Humphrey. ‘You might as well not do the job at all if you are just going to do a little bit here and there. I’d rather help Sarah and Blaze as much as I possibly can, even if it is just acting as a sounding board. At the moment we are working out the best plan of action to try and really improve Blaze’s weakest subjects at school.’
Foundations of the Trust
The primary aim of the RMTGB is to help children and young people with a masonic connection to overcome the barriers of poverty and to support their education when their family has suffered distress resulting in financial hardship.
The origins of the RMTGB go back as far as 1788 when Chevalier Ruspini established a school for the daughters of deceased and distressed Freemasons. A scheme for clothing and educating the sons of indigent Freemasons was introduced 10 years later in 1798. In 1982, the separate girls’ and boys’ charities were merged together into the Trust to create a single entity.
Sarah’s son Blaze is the grandson of a Freemason, and his father left home when he was a small baby. Last year he was awarded a full scholarship by a prestigious performing arts school. While this was an amazing feat for Blaze to accomplish, his mother, who suffers from ill health and is unable to work, was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to afford the additional costs, including his daily travel and school uniform.
The RMTGB therefore provided the extra support needed to cover these costs as well as an additional maintenance allowance. This allowance can pay for things such as school trips, extra lessons, sports equipment, travel costs and telephone and internet charges – all of which will help to benefit and improve the child’s or children’s daily lives.
BLAZE AND THE FREEMASONS
Sarah first heard about the Trust through her father, and was thrilled when she found out that the RMTGB was willing to help support Blaze through secondary school. ‘It was very touching to me that my father wanted Blaze to benefit from the Freemasons because I know that it is something that has always been an important part of his life. I wouldn’t have known about this charitable side of the Freemasons if my dad hadn’t told me about it and it has made our relationship as father and daughter closer. The support and generosity of the Freemasons and the RMTGB has really brought us together as a family because we both have the same goal – wanting the very best for Blaze. I didn’t want him to miss out because of our circumstances.’
Sarah and Humphrey are extremely proud of Blaze and it is not hard to understand why. Blaze’s raw talent and passion for performing saw him winning his first West End role in 2009, initially playing a member of Fagin’s gang and then the Artful Dodger in Oliver! at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. Earlier this year he featured in a short film called The Adopted Child, which is to be shown at Cannes Film Festival and he also performed alongside boy band The Wanted and singer Leona Lewis at the launch of Kinect – Microsoft’s motion-sensing game controller – at the Natural History Museum.
REAL RISING STAR
Blaze is currently one of the stars of the West End show Thriller Live touring the UK, playing the young Michael Jackson. With his talent attracting attention, Blaze was recently asked to partake in a short interview on a Dublin radio station and perform two Michael Jackson songs. As Sarah and Humphrey proudly replay a recording of the radio show, it is clear that Blaze is a complete natural, answering questions with ease, cracking jokes and singing beautifully. Blaze’s real interest is in dance, although his acting and singing skills make him perfect for musical theatre. Humphrey smiles as he listens to the interview and describes him as a ‘real rising star’.
Humphrey was initiated into the St Botolph’s Lodge, No. 2020, in 1984, and became Master in 1991. He was also Master in Honor Deo Lodge, No. 3562, in London in 1999, Master in Temple Manor Lodge, No. 8397, in Bromley in 2001 and 2003, and Master in John Carpenter Lodge, No. 1997, in London in 2005. He is additionally an Almoner in a number of lodges and chapters and is a visiting brother in London.
Humphrey had a serious stroke on 10 October 2008 and had to relearn walking, talking, speaking, reading and writing. However, he has been so determined to regain all of these skills that if he hadn’t mentioned the stroke, it would be hard to spot. His speech is full of the easy banter and wit that reveals his background as an export manager, salesman and businessman. When he was nominated to be a Case Almoner by the local lodge just over a year ago, because Sarah and Blaze lived relatively near to him, he jumped at the chance.
POSITIVE EFFECTS ALL ROUND
Elaborating on his decision to become a Case Almoner, Humphrey explains, ‘My work used to involve interacting with people all day and was a very sociable, lively and self-motivated sort of profession. I have a great deal of energy and am always out and about with the other charitable work I do for the Freemasons, but there was something about being personally involved with a family and being able to liaise between Sarah and the RMTGB that really appealed to me. I enjoy seeing first-hand the positive effects and benefits of this kind of Freemasons’ charitable support.’
Sarah is feeling anxious about the prospect of being a single mother in Blaze’s teenage years. She is very grateful for what she sees as the steadying influence of Humphrey and the RMTGB. ‘Just knowing that there are people who care about what he does and the way he responds to his opportunities is very important, rather than it just being me who is telling him what to do. This past year has far exceeded my expectations and it has been such a help to me to have Humphrey to talk to about Blaze’s progress. Humphrey has had a lot of life experience and met so many people and seen so many situations that his opinion and support is very valuable. I feel it is like having a second father.’
|What does a Case Almoner do?
The role of Case Almoner is particularly sensitive and it is important that they are both patient and good listeners. By the very nature of the RMTGB’s work, family circumstances will often be distressing and difficult and there may have been a recent bereavement, marriage break-up or illness that the family is coming to terms with. The Almoner’s relationship with the family will last until the child finishes their education or until their circumstances improve.
The Almoner acts as a link between the RMTGB and the family. They will not only help the family complete the necessary forms and assist the RMTGB in making the right decisions regarding how to best support each child but will also highlight proposed changes to the educational circumstances that might affect their eligibility for support or the level at which support should be provided.
Each year there is a Statement of Financial Position form sent directly to the family. One of the Almoner’s duties will be to visit the family to collect the form and to check that it has been completed correctly and to forward it to the RMTGB. This is vital to make sure that the RMTGB can calculate what support, if any, the family is eligible for during the next academic year and ensures the children or child receive the correct level of support to suit their needs. The Almoners will also regularly communicate with the RMTGB about beneficiaries’ academic or personal achievements and other good news stories.
Geoffrey Aldridge, secretary of Grenadiers Lodge, No. 66, undertook a remarkable sponsorship on behalf of the London CyberKnife Appeal.
Over four days, using just his bus pass, Geoffrey caught a succession of buses from his hometown of Aylesbury to Penzance and back again, using 25 buses and travelling around 700 miles.
Geoffrey’s journey took him to Tiverton in Devon on the first day and then onto Penzance via Exeter, Okehampton and Wadebridge. A fog bank stopped him getting to Land’s End, with the diversion sending him to Helston on the Lizard, and Penzance on the second night. Apart from having to do the St Columb Major to Truro trip in both directions, his return was via Liskeard, Plymouth, arriving in Weymouth on the third night before continuing via Bournemouth and Salisbury to return home on the evening of the fourth day.
Geoffrey has so far raised £3,500 for a machine that can treat tumours without the need for surgery at St Bart’s Hospital in the City of London.
His website is still open for contributions – please visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/GeoffAldridge.
In recent years, the RMTGB has held its AGM in various Provinces away from London. As a result, an increasing number of Freemasons and members of the public have been able to hear about the life-changing charitable support that the RMTGB is able to provide.
This year’s meeting was held at the Langstone Cliff Hotel in Dawlish under the chairmanship of Michael Penny, Provincial Grand Master for Devonshire. The RMTGB’s President and Chief Executive, together with members of Council and staff, explained the work of the charity to over 200 guests, including the Lord Lieutenant of Devon and the Lord Mayor of Exeter.
The presentations highlighted how the RMTGB’s annual expenditure, which this year amounted to over £9 million, makes a positive and lasting difference to more than 1,800 children and grandchildren of masonic families, all of whom have suffered a distress such as the death of a parent or have been adversely affected by unemployment or redundancy.
Talking about Talent
The RMTGB’s TalentAid scheme, which this year celebrates a decade of providing support to those who are exceptionally gifted in music, sport and the performing arts, was also highlighted at the meeting.
During an interlude in proceedings, Clio Williams, a former beneficiary of the scheme, delivered an operatic performance to demonstrate the very high level of ability that TalentAid encourages and supports.
The RMTGB’s ongoing support for those with no connection to the Craft was also promoted at the meeting, including the Choral Bursary and Stepping Stones schemes, as well as the in-kind support provided to the separate charity Lifelites. This charitable organisation supplies valuable entertainment and educational technology to children’s hospices.
Why did you join the Library and Museum of Freemasonry?
I answered the advert in Museums Journal, which is how qualified curators find their jobs. It was visiting the museum before I applied that made me want the post – as someone with a prior interest and specialism in uniforms and regalia, these fantastic collections were something I really wanted to explore. As a non-mason it has been a fascinating journey into the heart of Freemasonry and towards realising what it means to its members and the outside world. I previously worked as curator for HM Customs and Excise so dealing with an organisation that people are prone to misunderstand or have strong views about came naturally.
How have the collections changed since you started working here?
We’ve been looking for the more commonplace. If it’s rare and it’s precious, we’ve probably got six, but if it’s average, we probably haven’t got one because it wouldn’t have occurred to a mason to give it to the Grand Lodge. When we got here, there wasn’t a case showing basic Craft regalia because the assumption was that everyone knows what it looks like – but the public don’t. That process of openness continues today. When I got here, we wouldn’t have had a case on women’s Freemasonry, yet a few years ago we had an entire exhibition on a female grand lodge centenary.
Have the visitors changed over the years?
Things are shifting. We get a younger and more diverse audience who are genuinely curious and don’t have preconceptions. It’s all about making people think about their views on Freemasonry. With all the regalia and ritual, they might find what Freemasons do mysterious, but go back sixty years before the welfare state and every working man, as well as many women, were in friendly societies – it was the only way you got sick pay or death benefits. All these societies had regalia and ritual, so did the trade unions. The profile of the Freemasons and of this Grand Lodge in particular is the last visible bit of what used to be completely understood before the Second World War.
What is the Library and Museum trying to achieve?
The museum was originally designed for Freemasons to advance in their knowledge. The museum therefore presumed visitors knew what was going on. However, in recent years we and our predecessors have been working through the material culture of Freemasonry, using it to build up a picture of masonic life on an exhibition-by-exhibition basis. We’ve done things on masonic dining and sociability; the relationship between Freemasonry and religion; women in Freemasonry; and additional degrees – some Freemasons don’t realise there are twenty additional masonic orders that you can join so there’s the spotters’ guide up on the wall. We don’t have an agenda but we do want people to realise the depth, richness and complexity of the subject matter. We’ve also designed it so that if you are a Freemason, you can use the displays to talk to family members or potential candidates. This is the museum of the Grand Lodge and we should never forget that it is primarily for the members.
How do you decide what to put on display?
For the exhibitions, we look for facets that people wouldn’t know about. I wouldn’t show anything that spoiled the surprise of any of the rituals – for example, an object that is used. However, we are looking to be comprehensive in terms of lodges that come under the United Grand Lodge of England. We want something from every single lodge in the constitution, be it ephemera, lodge history or a jewel.
We have a display of Henry Muggeridge, who was a very famous Victorian mason, and we have the jewel worn by his proposer, his handwritten notes when he was in his eighties and everything in between. We collect people not things. They have a financial value but they’re also irreplaceable historically. We have a gavel made from a rifle captured in battle (pictured above right) and used in masonic meetings in the combat zone, and jewels made in a lodge held in a Japanese internment camp in the Second World War. How do you put a price on those? If the building’s burning down, none of us will head for the gold and silver, we’ll all go for the one-off pieces that tell a story.
How much restoration work do you carry out?
We don’t take things in poor condition unless they’re absolutely vital for the story – we’re not miracle workers. We are working through our collections and looking at things that need conservation, like books and fabrics, but we’re here to archive, we’re a service industry. We do publish academic papers, but primarily we are here to make people aware of the collections, wake people up to the fact that it’s here and hope they ask us questions so that we can start digging around. It’s the same in the lodges – if it weren’t for the fact that lodge archivists have been keeping records and writing histories for the past two hundred and fifty years, so much would have been lost. The things in our museum now are a unique resource.
Where else could I find Freemasonry artefacts?
Apart from the provincial masonic museums, the display of Freemasonry in the UK is next to nil – I think museums are afraid of it and that they might get it wrong. What keeps me here is that, as a curator, I’m doing something that no one else is. It can get a bit lonely but it’s fascinating. We want to point out that the world is moving, that people do have an interest in fraternity in the broadest sense, as well as in Freemasonry, and that maybe the time is coming for it to be displayed in other collections. Museums out there are missing a trick.
Do you show how Freemasonry is interpreted throughout the world?
The main thing is to pick out a core message of the Grand Lodge, like brotherly love, and then find out more about the stories that relate to that core. However, under the surface of what we do there is historical tension when looking at global Freemasonry in all its diversity, against how it was originally created in the UK. While it’s a very adaptable organisation in the UK, especially if you look at how its changed in the last few years, it has still kept its core beliefs of no politics or religion. When this changes around the world, is it still Freemasonry? The public have no idea about regularity or recognition, for them if someone calls themselves a Freemason, that’s what they are. But it’s not that simple, it’s a sensitivity that we’re working on and is an interesting line to walk.
What do you like about your job?
I came here for three years and I’ve been here for twelve. I said I’d leave when I get bored and that hasn’t happened yet. The joy of this collection is that it makes people really think and, as curator, it’s at the root of what I do: to wake people up and make them consider why it is that they hold certain ideas and beliefs.
Thanks to the generosity of Freemasons in the Nottingham area, more than 200 children with disabilities were able to enjoy all the fun of the fair.
Members came from three lodges – Edwalton Lodge, No. 8214, and St Giles Lodge, No. 4316, both from Nottingham, and the Showman’s Lodge, No. 9826, from Loughborough. They worked with The Showmen’s Guild to make this fun day a reality.
Gordon Cowieson of Edwalton Lodge said, ‘The Showmen’s Guild has been really generous once again in opening up the fairground at Bramcote Hills Park a day early in support of children with special needs. In addition to experiencing the rides, the children also get to enjoy the usual hot dogs, beefburgers, candyfloss and ice cream.’
Peter Barratt, also of Edwalton Lodge, added, ‘The lodges involved raise funds throughout the year to cover the cost of running the event and then give generously of their time on the day to make sure it is a safe and enjoyable occasion for all.’
A key supporter of the event was the Nottingham masonic charity Teddies for Loving Care (TLC), which gave a donation towards running costs. TLC also had a stall at the fairground and ensured that every child who attended left with their own teddy bear. Also enjoying the day were the Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire, Robin Wilson, and his wife Margaret, plus the Mayor of Broxtowe.
As well as being an experienced Freemason, Tony has been a national volunteer with The Scout Association for the past 25 years, working in a range of areas including the recruitment and training of adult volunteers. He is also the Provincial Grand Mentor for Derbyshire and Director of Communications for the Derbyshire Festival 2014.
For the past five years, Tony has been the point of liaison between the Kindred Lodges Association and The Scout Association, aiming to promote a better understanding of Freemasonry within Scouting and of Scouting within Freemasonry. As two organisations with similar values and shared challenges, both The Scout Association and the United Grand Lodge recognise the potential that communication between the organisations has for the future and both endorse and support the work that Tony is doing.
In his Prestonian Lecture, Tony will outline the many similarities between Scouting and Freemasonry – as well as some key differences. His research examines the relationship the founder of Scouting Robert Baden-Powell had with Freemasonry and he will also identify some of the many Freemasons who have made a positive impact on the growth of the world’s largest youth organisation.
Tony will additionally describe some of the work that Freemasons are doing to support Scouting today and explain how Freemasonry can learn from an organisation that is growing in membership.
At times entertaining, at times challenging, Tony’s Prestonian Lecture will be of interest to all Freemasons, whether they have a Scouting background or not.
Robin was the oldest among a group of 20 completing the course, and his grandchildren were able to follow his progress online as he had
a tracker attached to his bike. A former Master of Boileau Lodge, No. 6862, Robin raised more than £7,000. He is used to gruelling challenges, being a long-distance runner, and normally takes part in an endurance race at least once a year for charity.