Friday, 07 December 2018 00:00

Meet the UK's oldest poppy seller

Don't let the armchair get you

Aged 103, Wally Randall is the Tyler for three masonic lodges, turned on his town’s Christmas lights last year and is the UK’s oldest poppy seller. Peter Watts meets the legend of Leighton Buzzard

Resplendent in a suit and jacket, Wally Randall sits on a wooden pew with a military bearing that belies his years. He has been coming to this masonic temple in Leighton Buzzard for 53 years, which sounds like a long time, until you remember he is 103.

One of the country’s oldest masons, Wally is also the UK’s oldest poppy seller, something this World War II veteran is particularly proud of. ‘I go to our local Wilko – they let me sit inside,’ he says. ‘People say they come specially to get a poppy off me. It’s amazing how generous they are. A lot of people give even though they already have a poppy. I collected over £1,000 last year.’ 

This year’s Armistice Day had particular resonance for Wally. Not only did it mark 100 years since the end of the First World War, it was also 100 years since the death of his father, who served in that war and died of Spanish flu the day before the Armistice was signed. ‘It was rather tragic,’ he says. ‘It might be one of the reasons I started selling poppies. I thought the Royal British Legion did a really good job looking after people who need it.’

Wally is described as ‘a legend’ by fellow Freemasons Roger Wood and David Cato, who are full of stories about his escapades, such as the time Wally fell on to the garage roof while collecting apples from his tree back when he was a mere slip of a man in his nineties. Then there’s the time the doctor warned him his blood pressure was a bit high. ‘That was just before he turned 100. Wally told the doctor, “Well, I did have to cycle here – you can’t find anywhere to park on a Tuesday,”’ laughs David.

With that track record, a spot of poppy selling once a year is not going to get him too out of breath. What’s his secret? ‘Well, it might be a bit dull, but I’ve never been a drinker and I never smoked either – maybe the odd glass of wine during a lodge dinner but I don’t drink apart from that.’

Wally is careful about what he eats as well. At the festive board, he has the starter and dessert, but takes the main course home for his lunch the following day – the kitchen staff are only too happy to wrap up his meal. David thinks Wally is inspiring, ‘On his 103rd birthday he recited the 15-minute traditional history during the rituals, without any notes to read from. He keeps doing things, and tells us, “Don’t let the armchair get you.”’

KEEPING HIMSELF BUSY

Wally lives alone and still drives. As well as selling poppies and masonic activity, he was an active and enthusiastic gardener up until this summer, but now contents himself with directing his granddaughter around the plot. ‘Well, I tell her what I’d like her to do, but she won’t always do it,’ he grins. ‘She doesn’t like slug pellets, so this year I finished up with one runner bean and the slugs had the rest.’ In keeping with his philosophy of staying active, Wally doesn’t just attend weekly masonic events, but acts as a Tyler for three lodges. ‘It’s important to do stuff, you have to keep busy,’ he says. ‘That’s what like about masonry – being the Tyler, I get to meet the candidates and that’s always nice. It’s very interesting and I enjoy getting them ready.’

LOCAL CELEBRITY

The esteem in which Wally is held can be seen in the anteroom to the Temple. In a prominent position is Wally’s stout wooden Tyler chair, which was a gift from fellow Mark masons on his 100th birthday. Above it is a large framed ‘Where’s Wally?’ poster, a present from the caterers, with Wally’s face hidden among all the cartoon characters. And his celebrity status extends beyond the lodge. In 2017, he was invited to turn on Leighton Buzzard’s Christmas lights. 

Wally became a mason in 1965, but it was only when he retired at 70 that he began to take his involvement up a gear. Wally’s mother lodge is Leighton Cross, No. 6176, but he is also a member of Old Cedarians, No. 8078 and All Saints, No. 8776, the latter of which he founded. ‘When it first started, the subs were only £15 a year,’ he smiles, adding, ‘I really enjoy being with the brethren, we are all very close to each other. They look after me and keep me going.’ 

Having appeared in newspapers and on the BBC, Wally’s masonic contribution as well as his longevity have been widely recognised. ‘I got a certificate of merit after I’d been a mason for 50 years and another saying I’d been selling poppies for 50 years,’ he says, before declaring that he has no intention of stopping any time soon, even if he does need a break every now and then. Having spent a couple of hours in the lodge being photographed and interviewed, Wally remarks, ‘It’s fish and chip day isn’t it, so I’ll go home and have some scampi and then a little snooze.’

‘I really enjoy being with the brethren, we are all very close to each other. They look after me and keep me going’

Looking back

Born in 1915, Wally Randall left school at 14 and entered the print trade, working for the local newspaper, the Leighton Buzzard Observer. ‘I was a comp machinist and I did a little bit of reporting, following the football team and so on. I got halfpenny a line,’ he recalls. After leaving print, he moved into transport, but one winter found himself out of work because the roads were blocked by snow. ‘I cycled to the labour exchange to sign on and there were hundreds of people queueing,’ he says. ‘I didn’t want to wait, so I biked up to Luton to look for a job. I went to the Vauxhall plant and got a job straightaway. I was there for 40 years.’

Wally served as a magistrate and on the local council, and it was a fellow councillor who got him interested in Freemasonry. At around the same time as he discovered the Craft, he started selling poppies, inspired in part by his own experiences during the Second World War. He’d signed up in 1940 and served in North Africa and Italy. ‘I was in the service corps,’ he says. ‘The nearest I got to combat was at El Alamein. The army was getting ready for the push and we took the 4th Indian Division in there. There was an artillery bombardment, it was like fireworks. That was about as close as I got.’

The heart of the hall

With 11 November 2018 marking the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the Library and Museum of Freemasonry looks at how a record of the masons who gave their lives in the First World War came to be immortalised in bronze and stained glass

Walking up the grand staircase in Freemasons’ Hall on Great Queen Street, you may have noticed a casket sitting beneath a stained-glass window. It contains the Roll of Honour for the masonic dead of the First World War and, in the area known as the ‘Shrine’, sits at the heart of this art deco landmark that began life as the Masonic Peace Memorial.

First considered in a meeting of Grand Lodge on 2 December 1914, the Roll of Honour was described a year later by Sir Alfred Robbins as ‘a permanent memorial of active patriotism displayed by Freemasonry in the momentous struggle still proceeding’. The Roll of Honour would give the names of brethren of all ranks who had laid down their lives in the service of their country, based on returns made by lodge secretaries. 

On 27 June 1919, an Especial meeting of Grand Lodge was held at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the peace. A message was read from the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Connaught, in which he appealed for funds, 
to create a perpetual Memorial of its [i.e. the Craft’s] gratitude to Almighty God…[to] render fitting honour to the many Brethren who fell during the War. I desire that the question of the Memorial be taken into early consideration… The great and continued growth of Freemasonry amongst us demands a central home; and I wish it to be considered whether the question of erecting that home in this Metropolis of the Empire, dedicated to the Most High, … would not be the most fitting Memorial.

Following an international architectural competition in which 110 schemes were submitted to a jury chaired by Sir Edward Lutyens, a design by HV Ashley and F Winton Newman was chosen and building work began in 1927. The new Masonic Peace Memorial was dedicated on 19 July 1933, with the theme of the memorial window in the vestibule area outside the Grand Temple being the attainment of peace through sacrifice. Its main feature is the figure of peace holding a model of the tower facade of the building itself. The lower panels depict fighting men from ancient and modern times, civilians and pilgrims ascending a winding staircase towards the angel of peace.

SHRINE TO THE FALLEN

Five years later in June 1938, the Building Committee, in its final report, announced that it had given instructions for a Memorial Shrine and Roll of Honour to be placed under the Memorial Window. At the Grand Lodge meeting on 5 June 1940, by which time the country was again at war, it announced that the work had been completed. 

The Memorial Shrine was created in bronze by Walter Gilbert (1871-1946). Its design and ornamentation incorporated symbols connected with the theme of peace and the attainment of eternal life. It takes the form of a bronze casket resting on an ark among reeds, the boat indicative of a journey that had come to an end. In the centre of the front panel a relief shows the hand of God set in a circle in which rests the soul of man. At the four corners of the Shrine stand pairs of winged seraphim carrying golden trumpets, and across the front are four gilded figures portraying Moses, Joshua, Solomon and St George. 

The Roll of Honour is guarded by kneeling figures representing the four fighting services at the time it was designed (the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Flying Corps). On either side of the Shrine are the bronze Pillars of Light decorated with wheat (for resurrection), lotus (for the waters of life) and irises (for eternal life) with four panels of oak leaves at their base. The Roll of Honour displayed at the Shrine on a parchment roll includes more than 350 names not included in the Roll of Honour book and additional lodge details for about 30 names already known.

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry provides regular guided tours of Freemasons’ Hall, offering visitors the chance to see first-hand the beautiful craftsmanship of the Roll of Honour and the Shrine.

Published in Features
Friday, 07 December 2018 00:00

The football lodge playing for keeps

The perfect match

Whether it’s a World Cup final or Sunday morning kickabout, football permeates our culture. Matthew Bowen finds out how the founders of Football Lodge want to harness this power to breathe new life into Freemasonry

Looking out over the pitch from the hospitality box in a football stadium, you can feel the theatre of what happens on the pitch and in the stands. There won’t be another match until next weekend, but echoes of last Saturday’s chants still linger in the air. The empty ground exudes a sense of limitless potential, much like Football Lodge, No. 9921, which is engaging at a grass-roots level to bring Freemasonry into their community.

Surveying the ground, Lodge founder and Primus Master, David Lallana (Liverpool and England player Adam Lallana’s father), explains the thinking behind forming the lodge. ‘The ‘F’ word was very important to us when we launched the lodge,’ he says. He’s not talking about Freemasonry, or football, but ‘fun’. 

Football Lodge’s quirky take on masonic ritual made headlines after featuring in Sky’s Inside the Freemasons documentary. Members enter the lodge to the sound of the Match of the Day theme tune and can receive a card (yellow or red, depending on severity) for social faux pas. But there’s method to the madness. 

‘We stick to the tenets, but see no point in suffering through meetings,’ says Lodge Secretary Bill Starkey, who’s joined David in the hospitality box. ‘Visitors to the lodge enjoy themselves, and the word is spreading.’ More than 280 guests attended the lodge’s consecration, and meetings regularly attract 100-plus members, who travel to Botley in Hampshire from as far away as Devon.

FOSTERING A TEAM SPIRIT

The popularity of the lodge is no doubt helped by its high-profile members, among whom is former England player and current Birmingham City coach James Beattie. Stars such as this may make the headlines, but the lodge uses its popularity to support the Province’s football community from the ground up. In its first year, Football Lodge granted £100-£150 to each club in the Mid-Solent Youth League to assist with forming under-nine’s teams. They also provided a new kit for Hamble United FC – with a square and compass logo on the breast – after a fire devastated their ground. 

‘We’re proud of our community work and it’s a two-way street,’ says Worshipful Master Leon Whitfield. ‘Some people still see Freemasonry as elitist, but at Football Lodge, we’re just another team.’

To strengthen its presence within the community, the members understand that they now have a responsibility to convert the initial excitement into a lifelong commitment to Freemasonry as they guide the light blues through the ranks. David Lallana is on a mission to take Freemasonry into the 21st century – but he knows he can’t do this without bringing on the next generation.

‘We stick to the tenets, but see no point in suffering through meetings. Visitors to the lodge enjoy themselves, and the word is spreading’

MORE MEMBERS WITH EVERY MEETING

Ahead of each Installation meeting, the Loos Football, which was kicked across no man’s land by British soldiers towards German trenches in 1915 during the Battle of Loos, is transported down to the masonic hall by the Royal Irish Regiment. It sits on a pedestal on one side of the Worshipful Master. On the other side sits an identical football to the one used in the current Premier League season. 

‘As experienced masons, we have a responsibility to create a pathway for junior brethren to take the Chair of King Solomon,’ says David. ‘We hope people aspire to our position, but it’s not about looking up to us, it’s about the future of Freemasonry.’ The lodge has initiated new members at every meeting so far as it looks to build the perfect team who can take it to the next level.

Newly initiated members include referees, semi-professional managers and ex-players, including Richard Appleton, who is an Academy scout for Portsmouth FC. For Richard, Freemasonry has echoes of the team environment he enjoyed when playing high-level football, but it goes beyond that. ‘Football Lodge has changed my perspective on Freemasonry,’ he says. ‘I thought it was a bit stuffy to begin with, but I enjoy the history. I like to get involved in all the parts in the Temple, and think it’s making me a better person’. 

In order to achieve their goals, the founding members know they have to be sympathetic to the time limitations of younger men. ‘We’re very careful to not impinge on anyone’s lives,’ says Leon. ‘If you’ve got time, let us know. If you don’t, sit back, enjoy the meetings and relax. Not every member can make the same commitment, and we fully respect that.’

In addition to being professionally involved with football, Richard also works 14-hour days in construction, commuting to London most days from his home in Portsmouth. ‘I don’t find it easy to commit, but I believe that if you love something you make it work. I’m excited by the challenge of taking on what these guys have started and, along with the other light blues, carrying on our traditions and maintaining the buzz that surrounds the lodge.’ 

NEW SET OF GOALS

It’s clear something special is going on at Football Lodge. Their formula works, but they’re not resting on their laurels. ‘We see the lodge like a football club,’ says Leon. ‘When a club finds success, the hardest thing to do is maintain it.’ He’s keen to form affinities with other lodges to sustain this momentum. Farming out passing and raising ceremonies to other lodges in the Province that are struggling with attendance creates a buzz and, more importantly, an ‘interaction between a wider circle of brethren’. 

If the growth continues, Football Lodge may become just the first in a line of football lodges around the country. ‘People are looking at what we’re doing here,’ says David, who is keen to share the lessons he’s learned, not only with others looking to set up similar lodges, but with Freemasonry as a whole. ‘We’ve adopted a young way of thinking to attract younger members. First and foremost, we want to create something that people enjoy.’

‘We’ve adopted a young way of thinking to attract younger members. First and foremost, we want to create something that people enjoy’

Youth agriculture

Focused on helping secondary school students at risk of exclusion, Jamie’s Farm brings together farming, family and therapy. Alex Smith takes a trip to the charity’s new site in Monmouth to find out how a grant from Freemasons is helping to cultivate change in disadvantaged children

Thirty-five children will be excluded from school in the UK today. Of those, more than 99 per cent will leave without five good GCSEs and so will struggle to be accepted for post-16 apprenticeships or training. Each of these will cost the taxpayer £350,000 during their lifetime. 

The figures come from the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Ministry of Justice, but Jamie’s Farm wants to change the status quo, ‘to enable disadvantaged young people to thrive academically, socially and emotionally’. The charity was founded in 2005 by Jamie Feilden, a former history teacher at Manor School in Croydon. Frustrated with the bad behaviour of some pupils, Jamie conducted an experiment. He brought in some lambs from his family farm in Wiltshire, set up pens in the playground and tasked his students with looking after them. 

Amazingly, the worst-behaved seemed to benefit the most, becoming calmer and more focused. So several months later and helped by his mother, Tish, a psychotherapist who’d worked with children all her life, Jamie’s Farm opened its barn doors for the first time.

Thirteen years on, the charity has grown into a national organisation, with facilities in Bath, Hereford, London and Monmouth – and a fifth opening in East Sussex in April 2019. A lot has changed in the last few years, but according to Ruth Young, education manager and resident mother hen of Jamie’s Farm Monmouth, the curriculum is still the same. 

‘We have three principles: farming, family and therapy,’ says Young. ‘Each school identifies specific objectives for the kids before they arrive. Sometimes it’s better self-regulation, with others it’s better wellbeing or more self-belief.’ 

ROUTINES AND RELAXATION

Once the young people have signed a contract forbidding mobile phones and sugary snacks, the week-long residential begins in earnest. The farm hands start at 7:30am, their first task being to prepare breakfast, often using ingredients from the farm garden. Once they and their teachers have eaten together, they start the first activity, which could be anything from feeding animals to chopping wood. Then it’s time for lunch, followed by an hour-and-a-half walk, dinner, evening entertainment, and finally, bed.

It’s a strict routine, but the children are given time and space to communicate their feelings. This is often done during group sessions, with students giving ‘shout-outs’ to others for commendable actions, such as bravery, or simply doing something they didn’t want to. For more sensitive issues, one-on-one conversations are offered by the farm’s therapy coordinator. They’ll often talk about what’s going on at home; what’s bothering them. This information is shared with the child’s teacher, who follows it up with appropriate parties to provide support. After the residential, there’s a follow-up programme, including visits to the child’s school, to ensure each student achieves their potential.

‘Each school identifies specific objectives for the kids before they come here. Sometimes it’s better self-regulation, for others it’s better wellbeing or better self-belief’

THE POWER OF RESPONSIBILITY

The results have been extraordinary. From 2017 to 2018, more than half of Jamie’s Farm participants stopped being at risk of exclusion just six weeks after going on the residential; 56 per cent showed increased engagement and 66 per cent showed improved levels of self-esteem. And six months later the percentages are even more impressive.

‘It’s about giving responsibility to young people who’ve never had it before,’ says Young. ‘A lot of them have never seen the countryside before, let alone a farm. But they love it,’ she says, pointing to Hannad, a student trying – successfully, in the end – to catch a chicken. 

‘It’s been fun; we eat together and talk about how we’re feeling and give shout-outs to people who we’ve seen doing good work. I was a bit nervous at first, but we’ve all bonded now. I feel more confident talking about myself,’ explains Hannad, a year-11 student at Harris Academy in Battersea, London.

‘Even within the first day, we notice a change,’ says Dave Pearson-Smith, senior visit coordinator at Jamie’s Farm. ‘By the end of the week, the difference can be like night and day. They stand up straighter, they look healthier – it’s extraordinary.’

On a tour of the farm, Young points out the garden, kitchen, equipment shed and woodworking area – much of which has been facilitated by the £39,000 grant from Monmouthshire Freemasons, which came through the Masonic Charitable Foundation. ‘Wellies, overalls, waterproofs, gardening tools – a lot of this is down to the grant,’ says Young. ‘Some young people arrive at the farm without proper clothing, but thanks to the Freemasons, we can say, “We’ll take care of everything.” We’re very grateful for their support.’

‘The grant has paid for a lot of what the young people interact with on the farm. It’s fantastic’

MONEY WELL SPENT

‘It’s made a massive difference,’ says Katie Francis, fundraising and volunteer manager for Jamie’s Farm. ‘The grant will cover all our student activity costs each year, such as games and clothing for the young people, pet food, seeds, art materials, woodworking tools… but it’s also our running costs. The grant has paid for a lot of what the young people interact with on the farm. It’s fantastic.’

Richard Davies, Provincial Grand Master of Monmouthshire, says that supporting Jamie’s Farm was an obvious choice. ‘I visited the farm with the Deputy and the Provincial Treasurer, and we were so impressed with what we saw,’ he says. ‘We pledged that we will give them whatever support we can.’ 

In the last 20 years, Monmouthshire Freemasons have given over £600,000 to local causes, and are always looking for new ways to support their Province. ‘We noticed some dilapidated beehives on the farm,’ says Richard, ‘so we’re funding their replacement and offering training so the staff can maintain their bee stocks, perhaps producing their own jars of honey with the masonic logo on them.’

As for Jamie’s Farm, it will continue cultivating change in children who need it most. ‘When my teacher mentioned Jamie’s Farm I thought, “I’m not going to enjoy this… no phone, no sugary drinks, no TV,”’ recalls Ellie, a year-11 student from Harris Academy. ‘On my first day, I was like, “What am I going to do?” But I’ve enjoyed it so much. Before I came here I always felt like I had someone on my back, but now I feel like most of my worries have gone. I’ll just look at a view and think… it’s all so beautiful.’

For more information and to make a donation, visit www.jamiesfarm.org.uk

Friday, 07 December 2018 00:00

When masons met in a mosque

Brothers beyond borders

A chance discovery of a 100-year-old piece of paper has revealed a masonic meeting in Jerusalem and a fraternal bond that brought together men of all ranks and religions

Found in an old leather regalia case, a typed document has surfaced reporting on how New Zealand Freemasons held a masonic meeting in a mosque on the site where King Solomon’s Temple had once stood. It tells the story of how ‘a great sheikh’ not only allowed the masons to hold a meeting in the mosque, but also that the sheikh was a Freemason. 

The scrap of paper belonged to Thomas Jackson, who had been raised in Star in the East Lodge, No. 650, and the Freemasons mentioned in his story were members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Masonic Association. Formed in France by Colonel George Barclay in 1917, the association’s objective was to hold meetings to promote fraternity among its members, with branches formed in various camps, depots and hospitals. 

MEETING IN TROUBLED TIMES

One branch was formed in Egypt and Palestine in May 1917 by Brigadier-General William Meldrum (1865-1964), with the meeting referred to in Jackson’s account likely taking place in April 1918 in the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem. Standing on Mount Moriah, this is where Abraham is said to have prepared to sacrifice Issac, and where Muhammad ascended to heaven, making it a holy place to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Believed to have been built around 1,000BC on the same site, King Solomon’s Temple has influenced masonic symbolism for centuries. 

More than 100 years after the meeting, the piece of paper was passed to Peter Brooks, Lincolnshire Assistant Provincial Grand Master and husband of Jackson’s granddaughter, Jackie. ‘The Star in the East Lodge is still active, and we sent the paper back to them in Harwich, along with a centenary booklet from 1955 and a summons dated 1934 – all of which they were delighted to receive,’ says Peter.

On conducting further research into his lodge’s archives, Colin Ruffle from the Star in the East found that Jackson was initiated into the lodge on 9 April, 1915, passed on 11 May and was raised on 23 July. The raising was one of dozens of emergency meetings during the First World War, completed outside the usual May to September period to get candidates in before they were posted abroad. ‘We read out the minutes of meetings from 100 years ago at our corresponding meetings and found they did first, second and third degrees at a single meeting, sometimes with multiple candidates,’ says Ruffle. ‘It must have gone on all night!’

For Jackson, the meeting he witnessed in the mosque showed the ‘universality of the order’, bringing together soldiers of all ranks from around the world, and with a great sheikh acting as one of the guards.

Thomas Jackson's report on the masons in a mosque

‘Ancient rites observed on the site of Solomon’s temple

Freemasons in Palistine [sic] have held a masonic meeting on the historic site of King Solomon’s Temple where Freemasonry is supposed to have originated about 1,000BC. This meeting was organised by members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in Palistine. The Mosque of Omar being on the site of the Temple, the Newzealanders [sic] approached the Great Sheikh in charge of the Mosque for permission to hold a meeting. Then occurred an incident showing the universality of the order. The Sheikh listened to what the strangers had to say, and then to their amazement asked if there were any Freemasons among them. The rest was easy. He declared himself a mason and at the meeting acted as one of the guards of the lodge. The place within the mosque where the meeting was held is known as the cave of the Rock of the Dome and is believed to have been the Holy of Holies of the old Temple as it is today of the Mosque of Omar. Soldiers of all ranks were present, and after a lodge had been duly const tuter [sic] and opened, resolutions were passed conveying fraternal greetings and good wishes to the various Grand Lodges in New Zealand and the brethren in France.’

The star in the east

The Star in the East Lodge, No. 650, meets in Harwich, Essex and was consecrated in 1855. The centenary meeting took place two years after a flood had left the masonic hall under six feet of water. The most famous member was Captain Fryatt, who was arrested by the Germans in 1916 after trying to ram a German sub with his ship. He was executed and his body was one of only three to be repatriated after the war, in the same railway carriage that brought Edith Cavell and the Unknown Soldier back to the UK.

Friday, 07 December 2018 00:00

The launch of Solomon

Solomon the teacher: Fostering curiosity – developing understanding

The launch of Solomon, an online learning resource, is making daily advancement a reality in the Craft and Royal Arch

Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master and Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group, wrote in the last issue of FMT that the requirement to learn ritual by rote and then present it without any attempt at providing the most basic of context and understanding fails the candidate, because it overlooks the important messages that lie within.

Member surveys have highlighted learning as a major unmet need and a potential reason why members leave. Solomon has been created as an accessible online resource to stimulate interest and meet current and future needs.

WHO IS SOLOMON FOR?

Solomon will support the wants and needs of at least three groups:

  • Those who want to learn more about their masonry.
  • Those with programme planning or member development responsibilities in a lodge or chapter.
  •  Provincial or District Officers charged with promoting and providing learning resources and activities. 

Solomon will support personal inquiry or study, irrespective of experience or prior knowledge. It brings together material from many sources to help answer common questions and improve masonic knowledge and understanding. The online resource can be accessed on multiple platforms such as smartphones, tablets and computers and currently contains more than 350 items. 

Solomon is also designed to support the interests and requirements of lodges and chapters. The Lodge Mentor or Director of Ceremonies will be able to find material to help a member learn about or understand a topic or issue, or may introduce learning content into regular meetings. Solomon material comprises short ‘nuggets’, papers and demonstrations, as well as longer items for presentation and discussion. A regular presentation of these nuggets at meetings will stimulate a desire to learn more. 

Solomon materials will complement material collected locally by Provinces and Districts and will guide and support them in the advancement of their learning.

WHAT WILL I FIND?

Solomon is devoted to the Craft and Royal Arch. It is organised into three categories:

  • Seek & Learn: for individual exploration or presentation.
  • Share & Encourage: for use by lodges and chapters.
  • Support & Promote: for Provinces and Districts. 

The first two categories have eight modules covering the Craft, the Royal Arch and more general areas, such as symbolism and history. This arrangement will enable users to focus and drill down to individual nuggets, papers and presentations. It will also help to confine the inquirer to those areas appropriate to his masonic progress.

Once registered, you can login and enrol in one or more modules and explore Solomon to your heart’s content. It is intuitive and has been designed to foster curiosity and draw you in to seek answers. You can use various search tools to find and refine your inquiry. You may then read or download as much or as little as you wish. With smartphone access, Solomon can readily provide an answer to a question at a Lodge of Instruction.

Solomon provides a range of interesting material that will complement or even replace a ceremony

HOW WILL SOLOMON BENEFIT A LODGE OF CHAPTER?

Solomon complements the Members Pathway and individual mentoring programmes. These encourage a personalised approach to development. This approach should be extended to develop the interest and enjoyment of all members, enabling them to benefit from a deeper understanding of our ritual and traditions. The result will be improved performance of ceremonies, better mentoring and greater confidence in explaining Freemasonry to others.

Solomon provides interesting and accessible material that, if well chosen and well delivered, will complement or even replace a ceremony. It is designed to be popular, boosting attendance and interest. Ideally, learning activities will become an appreciated and regular feature of lodge and chapter meetings.

A ‘nugget’ is a five to ten-minute item of interest that can be presented by a member. It will easily fit into a meeting; perhaps to set the scene, or to act as a conclusion, or even when the candidate retires. It is also suitable for personal study and can be a resource for lodge quizzes. It may also lead to a presentation that expands on a topic of interest.

While there may be some who feel there is no time at a meeting, it’s hoped that by making time for learning, the benefits will become clear and members will increasingly value time devoted to it. A well-organised lodge or chapter will have a programme that reflects the needs and interests of all its members, one which they enjoy and which encourages them to attend. Learning may also extend beyond the regular meeting to a Lodge of Instruction or special masonic events.

HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?

As the success of the UGLE Learning and Development programme depends on local support, the Programme Support Team wishes to work collaboratively with Craft and Royal Arch Provinces and Districts. Solomon therefore includes resources to support local development. 

In launching Solomon to Provinces, Stuart Hadler, the Programme Lead, emphasised the key importance of presenting and delivering material in an understandable and engaging way. This takes skill and so Provinces are being asked to identify suitable members to be presenters, to develop their skills and to promote their use. The skilled presenter will draw attendance and overcome the negative stereotype of the boring lecture. 

The team also wants to share good examples; these include specialist lodges and working with light blue clubs. A collaborative approach between the Craft and the Royal Arch is encouraged.

Solomon is still in its early stages and will expand in volume, range and diversity. There will always be a need to commission and source new and credible material and the team looks forward to receiving the views and suggestions of Solomon users. For able members eager to write material for inclusion, Solomon provides guidance on the style and other format requirements.

Early feedback on Solomon has been positive from new and experienced masons alike. David Pratt, Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire, West Riding, remarked that the nuggets are ‘solid gold’, packed with interesting topics to educate even experienced Freemasons. ‘They are so easy to access and use. Any lodge member can lead the activity… I shall be strongly supporting and promoting the use of Solomon within my Province.’

To access Solomon, go to https://solomon.ugle.org.uk

Published in UGLE
Friday, 07 December 2018 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2018

From the Grand Secretary

The Grand Secretary’s column is, of course, also the Chief Executive’s column and I would like to give you a feel for what we have been implementing over the past year, and our hopes for the future. As Chief Executive, one of the reasons I was hired was to oversee the modernisation of the organisation in terms of its administration. The Chief Executive and the 90 or so staff at 60 Great Queen Street are responsible for the 180,000 members in England and Wales and some 20,000 members in our Districts overseas, for the upkeep and commercial realisation of the headquarters – a Grade 2* art deco masterpiece – and for supporting the committees which give direction and strategy to the membership organisation. 

Some of the most important changes will not be obvious to you but will help build an organisation capable of delivering the will of the Rulers and the Board and Committee of General Purposes in a manner which serves and supports you, the members. There have been changes in roles and staff as is inevitable with any change management process, but we are moving, at pace, towards becoming a more transparent headquarters whose purpose is understood and appreciated.

Investors in People has advised us on some of these changes as we transform the way we do things, and we have just learnt that we have been awarded Investors in People accreditation. We are at the tail end of a wholesale restructure to ensure that ‘delivering for our members’ is at the heart of everything we do. The Directory of Lodges and Chapters and Masonic Year Book are now living online documents, and you may now book in, and pay for Quarterly Communications and Supreme Grand Chapter online (saving 1,800 man hours for the Secretariat a year). We have also increased the commercial hire of our wonderful building by 30 per cent year on year, without affecting our masonic hires, thereby offsetting the costs we have to pass on to you. New video conferencing suites enable members up and down the country to participate in the decisions being made here in London and we are training more people than ever before – from Provincial Grand Masters to Media Ambassadors, Provincial Grand Secretaries to Almoners and Communications Officers.

From January we will have a Member Services Department incorporating Registration, the Chancellery, and a Department for the Districts to support the Provinces and Districts as well as delivering our renewed focus on attracting new members and engaging our current membership. A new communications structure will focus on getting the positive messages of Freemasonry known, and ensuring the Court of Public Opinion is firmly on our side. Imagine an organisation ‘normalised’ in the public consciousness. Where going to a lodge meeting was regarded in the same manner as going out for a meal, going to watch the rugby or going to the cinema.

Imagine an organisation where writing the same details on different forms every step of your masonic journey was a thing of the past; where clearance Certificates could be obtained at the click of a button; where you could update your personal details in a few seconds and where candidates received information on the ceremonies they had just been through the following morning. Imagine lodges being visible in the community – volunteering to help with what matters to them – and being regarded as an outward expression of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth; where lodge secretaries didn’t spend hours on installation returns, and where Grand Lodge certificates were dispatched with the merest twitch of Bro Secretary’s index finger. These are some of the things the Executive and staff, the various committees, working groups and volunteers are looking at realising over the coming 18 months as we seek to improve how we administer your organisation.

These changes are not, of course, about altering our character or our essence. They are not about changing our rituals or outlook, or imposing faddish political correctness or unnecessary change for change’s sake. The United Grand Lodge of England will always be here to act as a custodian of the values and traditions of Freemasonry that inspire men to lead better lives for the benefit of society. We are here to curate those areas that are precious to us while promoting a straightforward organisation that is supportive, self-confident, welcoming, member focused, friendly and fun, because that is an organisation so many people would want to join, and would never dream of leaving.

Dr David Staples
Grand Secretary

‘Imagine an organisation where going to a lodge meeting was regarded by the public in the same manner as going out for a meal, going to watch the rugby or going to the cinema’

Published in UGLE

Women's rites

With its roots in social reform, the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, also known as Freemasonry for Women, is a force for empowerment, says Grand Master Christine Chapman

What inspired you to become a Freemason?

My father was a mason and he loved every minute of it. He came to it late in life, but made some wonderful friends. It meant so much to him to belong. My mother joined at his behest and my husband was one, too, so I knew quite a lot about it. My mother asked me to join, so I took the plunge and entered the Constance Leaver Lodge, No. 39, in Marble Arch. I’ve now been a Freemason for 42 years. And I’ve never regretted it for a minute! 

You became Grand Master in 2014. How have you found it?

It’s almost 24/7 now. I’m always at the end of my mobile and on social media, looking for opportunities to promote the fraternity. I had quite a rapid rise after a number of years as a ‘pale blue brother’. My first office was as a Grand Steward and by then, I’d made Freemasonry my life and I think they recognised I was dedicated. You can’t take on the responsibilities of a Grand Master without giving yourself to it 100 per cent. 

What are the origins of women’s Freemasonry?

The old myth that it began with inquisitive women being discovered hidden in lodge cupboards, grandfather clocks and under floorboards – and that they were made masons to protect the secrets – is entertaining, but none of these women went on to develop women’s Freemasonry. 

It began in prerevolutionary 18th-century France with the Lodges of Adoption, which were female masonic societies under the adoption of masculine lodges. When the French Revolution arrived, all these lodges were for the chop, at least metaphorically. However, women were coming to the forefront of French intellectual society and Maria Deraismes, a well-known writer and supporter of women’s rights, was invited to become a full member of Loge des Libres Penseurs, working under the Grande Loge Symbolique de France. Her initiation in 1882 caused a schism, so this lodge and nine others seceded to form a new Grand Lodge called La Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise. And a new parallel movement was formed that eventually became known as Le Droit Humain, or the International Order of Co-Masonry. 

Not long after this, the radical feminist Annie Besant travelled to France to join this movement and when she returned to England, she decided to form the British Federation of the International Order of Co-Masonry in 1902, and remained its leader until her death in 1933. However, in true masonic fashion, there was a breakaway by members who wanted their Freemasonry to run along similar lines to UGLE. So in 1908 a new Grand Lodge was formed called the Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry, or HFAM, although they later added The Order of Women Freemasons to their title and are now usually referred to as the OWF. Up until this point, female Freemasons had used the term ‘sister’. But now they decided that as members of a universal brotherhood, it was more suitable to be styled as ‘brother’. 

‘It’s almost 24/7 now. I’m always at the end of my mobile and on social media, looking for opportunities to promote the fraternity’

What type of Freemasonry was practised in the Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry?

For the first five years of its existence, they practised only the Craft degrees, but some members wished to introduce the Royal Arch. And having received the degree from former members of an extant UGLE chapter, they formed one themselves to practise the Royal Arch. But the Grand Lodge of HFAM decreed that the time was not yet ripe for this introduction. 

So on 27 November 1913, Mrs Elizabeth Boswell Reid and her daughter Mrs Lily Seton Challen set up their own Grand Lodge to be known as The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, or HFAF, which is my Grand Lodge. Elizabeth Boswell Reid became our first Grand Master. So in 1913 we had three masonic Grand Lodges admitting both men and women, although women outnumbered the men in both HFAM and HFAF. Eventually these fraternities decided to become single-sex, and by 1933, we had achieved this aim in HFAF.

So HFAF was founded on the wave of social change in 1913? 

We were inspired by the suffragettes and were founded on a streak of rebellion, because we’d broken away from another group. But they were all founded with the same principles – to empower women. We had one suffragette I know of – Helen Fraser, a great orator who inspired women to join the suffrage movement. 

What’s the difference between the HFAF and OWF societies?

The OWF are much larger than us. But we like to think we’re more flexible and can react more quickly to initiatives and seize opportunities. Carpe Diem is one of my mantras and another is that there are no problems, only solutions. Take the consecration of our New Delhi Lodge. We had an Indian lady who came over to the UK, joined a lodge and took her degrees because she was determined to take Freemasonry to India. But she couldn’t get other Indian women to come over to England to take their degrees. So we went out there to make it happen. 

‘We have to fight people who think we’re upset that we can’t join the men. At HFAF, we want to work as women, for an organisation of women, doing things for women’

What are the misconceptions about women’s Freemasonry?

We sometimes come across men who don’t think we could possibly be doing it at the same level as them. So we’ve had to fight that. Nowadays they’re much more supportive and UGLE is in particular. We also have to fight people who think we are somehow upset that we can’t join the men. At HFAF, we want to work as women, for an organisation of women, doing things for women. We have a saying: it’s a bit like football – the same game, the same rules, but different teams. 

How is the relationship between you and UGLE? 

We have a very good working relationship. Take the Gender Reassignment Policy; we worked together on that. Our policy mirrors UGLE’s, so if any of our members want to become a man, they can remain a member. And we have an agreement to accept members from each other’s organisations if they’d feel happier in an organisation filled with members of their new gender. We’ve also been working with UGLE in the Universities Scheme since 2016, as students now demand that women be given the same opportunities to become Freemasons. 

What else are you doing to grow your membership?

Growing our membership is a slow process, because to be honest, as fast as we get new members in, older members either stop coming due to old age, or because they’ve passed on. But although we’re small, we punch above our weight with our initiative and innovation. We have very committed and enthusiastic overseas lodges in Spain, Gibraltar, Romania and India, and next year a lodge is opening in Washington, DC. 

Why do you think a woman should join your fraternity?

I think that even nowadays, women need to feel empowered. Freemasonry offers that by making women confident, self-aware and self-assured. It’s a wonderful system of morality and guidance to help you lead a better life, achieved through allegory and symbolism. Women appreciate belonging to a group of other women. Especially today, when people have hundreds of friends online, but might not have real people who they can connect with. Women take Freemasonry every bit as seriously as the men. I can honestly say that my life has been transformed immeasurably by being a female Freemason and a member of HFAF. And I will defend the right of women to be Freemasons until my dying day.

Published in Features

Choice matters

Donald Taylor, Head of Legal Services at UGLE, explains the thinking behind UGLE’s Gender Reassignment Policy and its practical applications

Why has UGLE developed a Gender  Reassignment Policy?

We wanted to assist members to understand and comply with the law. This is not like other areas of discrimination law, where much of the time what is lawful and what is not is understood. For many of us, gender reassignment is outside our experience and knowledge. The second reason for the policy is that we need to give consistent messages for the media, which often misrepresents Freemasonry. This policy helps to educate the media and the public that many of the prejudices they may hold about Freemasonry are wrong. Freemasons have diverse views on this topic, but should be very proud of the compassion and courtesy with which they treat other people.

What are the main elements of UGLE’s Gender Reassignment Policy?

Equality law impacts the way we operate in two main areas in relation to gender reassignment. First, admission. Lodges under UGLE admit men and only men. Now we need to be precise about what we mean by a man. We must use the legal definition: somebody born a man but also someone whose birth certificate states ‘female’ but has since undergone the legal process of changing gender. If a new member was born female but has changed gender, he is as eligible as any other man, providing he meets the other requirements. 

The second area is retention. Equality law allows bodies like the Women’s Institute and Freemasons’ Lodges to discriminate on gender at the point of admission, but it doesn’t allow them to discriminate after entry. That means a Freemason who becomes a woman is entitled to remain a member of her existing lodge(s).

What should a lodge secretary do if a Freemason says that he is planning to change his gender?

Nothing. We don’t collect information on gender and it is a private matter for the individual. The privacy of the individual should be respected and there will normally be no requirement to inform the Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretary or the Grand Secretary about this change.

Should a Freemason who has switched gender automatically transfer to female Freemasonry?

If an individual requests information about contacting female Freemasonry, we will assist and, if it is desired, support her to transfer, but the secretary has to be led by the individual. No member should be pressured to resign from her lodge simply because she is no longer male. Whether she wants to remain with her lodge or move to female Freemasonry, it’s entirely her choice.

If a Freemason is changing gender to female does she need to inform her lodge secretary?

A Freemason changing gender only has to think about what she wants to do. If the member wants to announce to the lodge that she has changed her name or title, then that is fine, but it should be left entirely up to her. 

What should other Freemasons do if one of their members has changed gender?

This can be a tricky time, when people often need support and sometimes lose friends or family, so if a lodge can offer support it’s a wonderful thing to do. Some people feel uncomfortable with gender reassignment and we respect their views, but a Freemason should always strive to act lawfully and with courtesy to others.

Is this the last word on the issue?

No. The law in this area is liable to change, and policy and guidance may be amended from time to time. But the fundamentals will remain, of masonic values and of being sensitive to anyone affected by this topic, at least until you know them well enough to know which comments and jokes are acceptable to them and which are not. 

What is the thinking behind this policy?

Ultimately, this is a topic that won’t affect many lodges and is no threat to Freemasonry and its values. But we must ensure we apply the law correctly. It’s also an area where we can demonstrate the shared values of Freemasonry to the public. UGLE is not telling anybody what to think or feel, but Freemasons have to act within the law. And no matter how much a Freemason may disagree with somebody, they should still treat them with respect, dignity and compassion.

Published in UGLE

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